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Frei Otto, Occupation with simultaneous distancing and attracting forces, Institute for Lightweight Structures (ILEK), Stuttgart, Germany, 1992

Analogue models for the material computation of structural building forms (form-finding) are the hallmark of Frei Otto's research institute. The same methodology has been applied to his urban simulation work. The model shown integrates both distancing and attractive occupations by using polystyrene chips that cluster around the floating magnetic needles that maintain distance among themselves.

Le Corbusier realised that although 'nature presents itself to us as a chaos ... the spirit which animates Nature is a spirit of order'.15 However, while his understanding of nature's order was limited by the science of his day, we now have the tools to reveal the complex order of those apparently chaotic patterns by simulating their 'material computation'. In this process, parametricist sensibility gives more credit to the 'pack-donkey's path' as a form of recursive material computation than to the simplicity of clear geometries imposed in a single, sweeping gesture.

Frei Otto's pioneering research on natural structures included work on settlement patterns. He started by focusing on the distinction/relation between occupying and connecting as the two fundamental activities involved in all processes of urbanisation,16 his analysis of existing patterns paralleled by analogue experiments modelling crucial features of the settlement process. In a pioneering experiment, to simulate distancing occupation he used magnets floating in water, while to model attractive occupation he used floating polystyrene chips. A more complex model integrates both distancing and attractive occupations such that the polystyrene chips cluster around the floating magnetic needles that maintain distance among themselves.17 The result closely resembles the typical settlement patterns found in our real urban landscapes.18

With respect to processes of connection, Frei Otto distinguishes empirically three scalar levels of path networks, each with its own typical configuration: settlement path networks, territory path networks and long-distance path networks. All start as forking systems that eventually close into continuous networks. In tandem, Otto distinguishes three fundamental types of configuration: direct path networks, minimal path networks and minimising detour networks. Again, he conceives material analogues that are able to self-organise into relatively optimised solutions. To simulate minimal path networks Otto devised the soap bubble skin apparatus in which a glass plate is held over water and the minimal path system forms itself from needles.19 To capture the optimised detour networks the famous wool-thread models20 are able to compute a network solution between given points that optimises the relationship of total network length and the average detour factor imposed. For each set of points, and for each adopted sur-length over the theoretical direct path, an optimising solution is produced. Although no unique optimal solution exists, and each computation is different, characteristic patterns emerge in different regions of the parametric space.

Frei Otto's form-finding models bring a large number of components into a simultaneous organising force-field so that any variation of the parametric profile of any of the elements elicits a natural response from all the other elements within the system. Such quantitative adaptations often cross thresholds into emergent qualities.

Where such an associative sensitivity holds sway within a system we can talk about 'relational fields'. Relational fields comprise mutually correlated sublayers, for instance the correlation of patterns of occupation with patterns of connection. The growth process of unplanned settlement patterns does indeed oscillate continuously between moments when points of occupation generate paths and paths

Otto Frei Path System Minimal Apparatus

Frei Otto, Apparatus for computing minimal path systems, Institute for Lightweight Structures (ILEK), Stuttgart, 1988

The analogue model finds the minimal path system, that is, the system connects a distributed set of given points, thus the overall length of the path system is minimised. Each point is reached but there is a considerable imposition of detours between some pairs of points. The system is a tree (branching system) without any redundant connections.

Frei Otto, Apparatus for computing minimal path systems, Institute for Lightweight Structures (ILEK), Stuttgart, 1988

The analogue model finds the minimal path system, that is, the system connects a distributed set of given points, thus the overall length of the path system is minimised. Each point is reached but there is a considerable imposition of detours between some pairs of points. The system is a tree (branching system) without any redundant connections.

in turn attract occupation. The continuous differentiation of the path network - linear stretches, forks, crossing points - correlates with the continuous differentiation of the occupying fabric in terms of its density, programmatic type and morphology. The organising/ articulating capacity of such relational fields is striking, particularly in comparison with the grid of the modern American city, which is undifferentiated and therefore non-adaptive. Its 'freedom' is now limiting: it leads to arbitrary juxtapositions that result in visual chaos.

Modernism was founded on the concept of universal space. Parametricism differentiates fields. Space is empty. Fields are full, as if filled with a fluid medium. We might think of liquids in motion, structured by radiating waves, laminal flows and spiralling eddies. Swarms have also served as paradigmatic analogues for the field-concept: swarms of buildings that drift across the landscape. There are no platonic, discrete figures or zones with sharp outlines. Within fields only regional field qualities matter: biases, drifts, gradients, and perhaps conspicuous singularities such as radiating centres. Deformation no longer spells the breakdown of order, but the inscription of information. Orientation in a complex, differentiated field affords navigation along vectors of transformation. The contemporary condition of arriving in a metropolis for the first time, without prior hotel arrangements and without a map, might instigate this kind of field-navigation. Imagine there are no more landmarks to hold on to, no axes to follow, no more boundaries to cross.

Frei Otto Occupying And Connecting

Marek Kolodziejczyk, Wool-thread model to compute optimised detour path networks, Institute for Lightweight Structures (ILEK), Stuttgart, 1991

Depending on the adjustable parameter of the thread's sur-length, the apparatus -through the fusion of threads - computes a solution that significantly reduces the overall length of the path system while maintaining a low average detour factor.

Marek Kolodziejczyk, Wool-thread model to compute optimised detour path networks, Institute for Lightweight Structures (ILEK), Stuttgart, 1991

Depending on the adjustable parameter of the thread's sur-length, the apparatus -through the fusion of threads - computes a solution that significantly reduces the overall length of the path system while maintaining a low average detour factor.

Parametricist urbanism aims to construct new field logics that operate via the mutually accentuating correlation of multiple urban systems: fabric modulation, street systems, a system of open spaces.

Parametricist urbanism aims to construct new field logics that operate via the mutually accentuating correlation of multiple urban systems: fabric modulation, street systems, a system of open spaces. The agenda of deep relationality implies that the fabric modulation also extends to the tectonic articulation. Both massing and fenestration, if each in its own way, might be driven by sunlight orientation, producing a mutual enhancement of the visual orienting effect. Thus local perceptions (of the facade) can provide clues to the relative position within the global system of the urban massing. The location and articulation of building entrances might be correlated with the differentiated urban navigation system,21 a correlation that might even extend to the internal circulation. This concept of deep relationality might also operate in reverse so that, for example, the internal organisation of a major institutional building might lead to multiple entrances that in turn trigger adaptations within the urban navigation system. It is important that such laws of correlation are adhered to across sufficiently large urban stretches.

Implementing Parametricist Urbanism

The urban implementation of parametricism is still in its infancy. However, Zaha Hadid Architects was able to win a series of international masterplanning competitions with schemes that embody the style's key features. The projects include the 200-hectare (494-acre) One-North Masterplan for a mixed-use business park in Singapore; Soho City in Beijing, comprising 2.5 million square metres (26.9 million square feet) of residential and retail programme; the mixed-use masterplan for Bilbao including the river's island and both opposing embankments; and the Kartal-Pendik Masterplan,22 a mixed-use urban field of 55 hectares (136 acres) with 6 million square metres (64.6 million square feet) of gross buildable area comprising all programmatic components of a city.

Zaha Hadid Archiects, Kartal-Pendik Masterplan, Istanbul, Turkey, 2006

Maya hair-dynamic simulates minimised detour net. The path network was thus generated with a digital wool-thread model. The set-up registers the multitude of incoming streets and bundles them into larger roads affording larger parcels.

Zaha Hadid Archiects, Kartal-Pendik Masterplan, Istanbul, Turkey, 2006

Maya hair-dynamic simulates minimised detour net. The path network was thus generated with a digital wool-thread model. The set-up registers the multitude of incoming streets and bundles them into larger roads affording larger parcels.

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The Kartal-Pendik project requires the design of a subcentre on Istanbul's Asian side to reduce pressure on the city's historic core. The site is being reclaimed from industrial estates and is flanked by the small-grain fabric of suburban towns. Respecting the parametricist taboo on unmediated juxtapositions, the adjacent context, in particular the incoming lines of circulation, was taken as an important input for the generation of the urban geometry. Maya's hair dynamic tool achieved a parametrically tuned bundling of the incoming paths into larger roads enclosing larger sites such that the resultant lateral path system exhibits the basic properties of Frei Otto's minimising detour network. The longitudinal direction was imposed via a primary artery with a series of subsidiary roads running parallel. The result is a hybrid of minimising detour network and deformed grid. At the same time, Zaha Hadid Architects worked with two primary fabric typologies, towers and perimeter blocks, each conceived as a generative component or geno-type that allows for a wide range of pheno-typical variation. The towers, conceived as cross towers, were placed on the crossing points to accentuate the path network. The perimeter block inversely correlates height with parcel area so that courtyards morph into internal atria as sites get smaller and blocks get taller. Blocks split along the lines of the secondary path network, which together with the accentuating height differentiation, allows the block type to be assimilated to the cross-tower type. 'Pseudo-towers' are formed at some crossing points by pulling up the four corners of the four blocks that meet at such a corner.

opposite top: Global Maya model. The model features the interarticulation between cross towers and perimeter blocks as well as the affiliation to the surrounding fabric. The correlation of global width to global height can also be observed. below: Scripting calligraphy block patterns. Various scripts were developed that configure the perimeter blocks depending on parcel size, proportion and orientation. The script also allowed for random variations regarding the introduction of openings within blocks. bottom: New cityscape. The Kartal-Penkik plan incorporates a vast quarry that becomes the largest item in a system of parks that are spread throughout the urban field. The rhythmic flow of the urban fabric gives a sense of organic cohesion.

Thus, an overall sense of continuity is achieved despite the entire process having started from two quite distinct urban typologies. In terms of global height regulation, and aside from local dependency of height on parcel size, the project correlates the conspicuous build-up of height with the lateral width of the overall site. Parametricist applications thus allow the rhythm of urban peaks to index the rhythm of the widening and narrowing of the urban field. The result is an elegant, coherently differentiated cityscape that facilitates navigation through its lawful (rule-based) constitution and through the architectural accentuation of both global and local field properties.

It may well be possible to implement this design for the Kartal-Pendik project assuming the imposition of strict planning guidelines using building lines and height regulation. Political and private buy-ins are also required. Moreover, all constituencies need to be convinced that the individual restrictions placed upon all sites really deliver collective value: the unique character and coherent order of the urban field from which all players benefit if compliance guidelines can be enforced. Ordered complexity here replaces the monotony of older planned developments and the disorienting visual chaos that marks virtually all unregulated contemporary city expansions.

To go further. In terms of the concept of deep relationality, Zaha Hadid Architects must extend its involvement from urbanism to architecture; only then can the desired accentuating correlations be intensified by involving the systematic modulation of tectonic features. For instance, in terms of the 'calligraphy blocks' (a third perimeter block variation that has been designed both to open up the interior of

parcels and to cross parcels), a continuous facade differentiation that leads from the street side to the courtyard on the basis of an initial distinction between external and internal facades is used. Other moments of deep articulation are the coordination of landscape and public spaces, and the correlation of the secondary path system with the disposition of internal navigation systems.

Doubts may be experienced when confronted with the possibility of designing an urban field of up to 6 million square metres (64.6 million square feet) gross area with a single design team. Are we overstretching our capacity here? The answer is, no. The more often we are confronted with the task of designing large-scale developments of this kind, the more confident we become that the tools and strategies we are deploying under the banner of parametricism can indeed deliver something that produces a decisive surplus value when compared with the usual alternative of uncoordinated, arbitrary juxtapositions. The contemporary choice of typologies, construction options and styles is simply too wide to expect the underlying pragmatic logics to become legible. The result is a cacophony of pure difference. Parametricism is able to further coordinate pragmatic concerns and articulate them with all their rich differentiations and relevant associations while the danger of overriding real-life richness is minimised because variety and adaptiveness are written into the very genetic make-up of this new style. 4

opposite: Calligraphy blocks - tectonic detail. The articulation of the facades is a function of the location within the urban field. The exterior of the blocks is given a heavier relief than the interior. Where a block opens up and the public space flows into the private courtyard, a semi-private zone is articulated via the gradient transformation between the outer and inner articulation. below: Close-up of cross towers. The cross towers produce the urban peaks. Through their ground-level articulation these tower complexes participate in the creation of a continuous urban fabric that frames the streets and occasionally widens the street space into semi-public plazas. This is achieved while maintaining total continuity between the podium-like ground fabric and the shafts of the towers.

Notes

1. ZHA and AADRL together form just one node within this fast-growing network.

2. Also, we should not forget that the desire for an architecture marked by a complex, fluid, nature-like continuity was clearly expressed before the new digital tools had entered the arena: see Zaha Hadid's work of the late 1980s and Eisenman/Lynn's folding projects of the early 1990s. (This point also indicates that we are confronted with a new style and not merely new techniques.) Since then we have witnessed a conceptual radicalisation and increased formal sophistication along the lines previously set out, leading to the emergence of a powerful new style.

3. The credit for coining this key slogan goes to Greg Lynn and Jeff Kipnis.

4.For a pertinent concept of elegance that is related to the visual resolution of complexity, see Patrik Schumacher, 'Arguing for Elegance', in Ali Rahim and Hina Jamelle, AD Elegance, Vol 77, No 1, Jan/Feb 2007.

5. This interpretation of styles is valid only with respect to the avantgarde phase of any style.

6. It is important to distinguish research programmes in the literal sense of institutional research plans from the meta-scientific conception of research programmes that has been introduced into the philosophy of science: whole new research traditions that are directed by a new fundamental theoretical framework. It is this latter concept that is utilised here to reinterpret the concept of style. See Imre Lakatos, The Methodology of Scientific Research Programmes, Cambridge University Press (Cambridge), 1978.

7. Parametricism involves a conceptual shift from part-to-whole relationships to component-system relationships, system-to-system relationships and system-subsystem relationships. Parametricism prefers open systems that always remain incomplete; that is, without establishing wholes. As the density of associations increases, so components may become associated in multiple systems. The correlation of initially independent systems implies the formation of a new encompassing system.

8. 'Parametric figuration' featured in teachings at the Yale School of Architecture, the University of Applied Arts in Vienna and in the author's studio at the AADRL.

9. 'Parametric responsiveness' was at the heart of our three-year design research agenda 'Responsive Environments' at the AADRL in London from 2001 to 2004.

10. 'Parametric Urbanism' is the title of our recently completed design research cycle at the AADRL, from 2005 to 2008.

11. Le Corbusier, The City of Tomorrow and its Planning, Dover Publications (New York), 1987, p 5. Translated from the French original: Urbanisme, Paris, 1925.

14. Frei Otto might be considered as the sole true precursor of parametricism.

16. Frei Otto, Occupying and Connecting - Thoughts on Territories and Spheres of Influence with Particular Reference to Human Settlement, Edition Axel Menges (Stuttgart/London), 2009.

18. Within the AADRL research agenda of 'Parametric Urbanism' we too always started with material analogues that were then transposed into the domain of digitally simulated self-organisation.

20. Marek Kolodziejczyk, 'Thread Model, Natural-Spontaneous Formation of Branches', in SFB 230, Natural Structures - Principles, Strategies, and Models in Architecture and Nature, Proceedings of the 2nd International Symposium of the Sonderforschungsbereich 230, Stuttgart, 1991, p 139.

21. This is what Zaha Hadid Architects imposed within the urban guidelines for the Singapore masterplan.

22. Zaha Hadid Architects, design team: Zaha Hadid, Patrik Schumacher, Saffet Bekiroglu, Daewa Kang, Daniel Widrig, Bozana Komljenovic, Sevil Yazici, Vigneswaran Ramaraju, Brian Dale, Jordan Darnell, Elif Erdine, Melike Altinisik, Ceyhun Baskin, Inanc Eray, Fluvio Wirz, Gonzalo Carbajo, Susanne Lettau, Amit Gupta, Marie-Perrine Placais, Jimena Araiza.

Text © 2009 John Wiley & Sons Ltd. Images: pp 14-17, 20-3 © Zaha Hadid Architects; p 18 © Frei Otto; p 19 © ILEK Institut für Leichtbau Entwerfen und Konstruieren, Universität Stuttgart, Germany

Experiments in

Associative

Urbanism

Spatial Architectural Images

'There has never been a more crucial time to challenge, reassess and propose alternatives to conventional urban masterplanning and its associated conventions, types and standards.' TOM VEREBES

describes how the Design Research Laboratory (drl) at the Architectural Association in London has employed a parametric approach to urbanism that investigates how associative design systems can control local dynamic information flows through interactive systems, spaces and interfaces.

Ancient cities were developed, updated and retrofitted primarily in relation to military and civic infrastructural requirements for their sustenance. Whether exemplified by Hausmann's boulevards of Paris, or the 20th-century expansion and widening of the ring roads of Beijing, urban infrastructure has been designed to impress - and even to control - its citizens and would-be invaders by its efficient infrastructural and military network. During the Cold War, the freeways of American cities were planned to not only link new suburbs to the pre-existing city centres, but also to provide a national network for a get-away plan should their centres be the target of a nuclear strike. Contemporary urbanism continues to be organised by networks of interrelated systems, and this relational paradigm assumes the city to be a living expression of the parametric systems deployed in our modern world.

Masterplanning strategies that seek an enduring final state of urban completion tend to lead to dysfunctional cities with limited capability to adapt and change. The DRL's design research work on relational forms of urbanism has sought alternatives to conventional urban masterplanning based on stable typologies and teleological final states, instead working towards designing an evolving city with capacities of adaptation to future contingencies. Given the current instability of global urbanisation, there has never been a more crucial time to challenge, reassess and propose alternatives to conventional urban masterplanning and its associated conventions, types and standards. Cities today may still be made from mineral and geological matter, but they are shaped by the embedding of invisible informational control systems, whereby the augmented cybernetic apparatus manages the quotidian fluxes, flows and pulses of the city. In this sense, the city is alive, rather than dead and inert, which is also evident in the ways in which cities evolve and adapt to dynamic contextual conditions.

The vehicles inherent to our understanding of contemporary urbanism are design techniques capable of managing the immensely complex qualities of interaction, communication and exchange that characterise 21st-century urbanism. Our parametric approach to urbanism addresses the ways in which associative design systems can control local dynamic information to effect and adjust larger urban life-processes by embedding intelligence into the formation, organisation and performance of urban spaces, uses, activities, interfaces, structures and infrastructures.

Not limited to the scale of urbanism being always and already relational, this position implicitly seeks to formalise coherent yet heterogeneous and differentiated forms of architectural, structural and systemic organisation and expression. The repercussions of parametric design may indeed surpass the mere shaping of a new style, and today's fascination with complex, curvilinear form is increasingly propagating and consolidating earlier 20th-century experiments by Mendelsohn, Kiessler, Saarinen, Gaudí and others. Differing from the soft, plastic, materially driven experiments of these deviants of Modernism, whose place in the official histories of architecture is awkward, at best, and more often excluded and branded as Expressionism, our current obsession with algorithmic design marks a profound paradigm shift. The creative enterprise now rests less with the individual gesture, and instead in the refinement of code-based design methods whose design outcomes oscillate from the accidental to the intentional. These new algorithmic methods clearly intensify the interaction of the designer with a digital model-space, yielding not only one singular designed object but, rather, where each design scheme is now just one instance of a multiplicity of possible outcomes.

DRL Craft_Id team (Tutors: Patrik Schumacher and Christos Passas; Students: Victoria Goldstein, Xingzhu Hu, Ludovico Lombardi and Du Yu), Parametric Urbanism 2, DRL v.10 2006-2008

Aerial view of the masterplan, indicating the post-Shanghai Expo proposal for the site, developed with three primary architectural typologies - fields of differentiated towers; low density yet permanent Expo and cultural facilities; and landscape spaces, also reserved for further development.

Grasshopper Parametric Urbanism

DRL Craft Id team (Tutors: Patrik Schumacher and Christos Passas; Students: Victoria Goldstein, Xingzhu Hu, Ludovico Lombardi and Du Yu), Parametric Urbanism 2, DRL v.10 2006-2008

above: Series of diagrams describing the design development of initial fluid simulations in Maya, followed by successive stages of design development and post-production scripting and modelling, increasingly resolving and refining the model as a design proposal informed by other spatial, structural and circulatory parameters. right: Design development of a prototypical high-rise tower, demonstrating the relational spatial systems deployed as a non-extruded model, including solid envelopes, curved curtain walls revealing floor strata, and atrium voids.

Although the current generation of architects continues to be euphoric about complex architectural spaces, as well as the potential to manage the integration of engineering, fabrication and site operations via building information modelling (BIM) and construction delivery systems which facilitate the updating of ongoing dynamic information during design and construction stages, the ramifications of these new design and production tools for urbanism have remained untheorised and nor have they been exercised in practice. The potential to update, revise and alter a masterplan in real time, over durations of months and years, sees to revolutionise the discipline and profession of urban planning. In addition, non-standard file-to-factory methods can be conceived beyond the polite scale of bespoke, one-off buildings, to question, and even depose, the hegemony of repetitive production on the scale of the city. Proposed here is the mass-customisation of urbanism, where coherent formations acquiesce uniformity for the numerical control of information-based, differentiated urban order. The DRL's design teams have been developing such proposals for a variety of scales, demonstrating the relational logic of urbanism, architecture and smaller-scale building systems.

Concluding nine years of urban research on various sites in London, the first cycle of the Parametric Urbanism project (DRL v.9 2005-2007) deployed a palette of advanced parametric tools in the development of multiscalar proposals for the Lea Valley and Thames Gateway in and around the London 2012 Olympic site. Located in the birthplace of the Industrial Revolution, where pre-Victorian technology transformed the Lea Valley, the site is now post-industrial brownfield wasteland, quickly being transformed by the regenerative force of the Olympic and ancillary developments. The DRL Flotsam team's proposal for the International Broadcasting Centre/Media Press Centre (IBC/MPC) for the London

DRL Flotsam team (Tutor: Yusuke Obuchi; Students: Oznur Erboga, Lillie Liu, Theodora Ntatsopoulou and Victor Orive), Parametric Urbanism 1, DRL v.9 2005-2007

Urban site diagram demonstrating how the three-dimensional network of the oscillating architectural surface organisation is integrated into the context of Stratford and the Olympic Park. Key contextual connections and destinations are indicated.

DRL Flotsam team (Tutor: Yusuke Obuchi; Students: Oznur Erboga, Lillie Liu, Theodora Ntatsopoulou and Victor Orive), Parametric Urbanism 1, DRL v.9 2005-2007

Urban site diagram demonstrating how the three-dimensional network of the oscillating architectural surface organisation is integrated into the context of Stratford and the Olympic Park. Key contextual connections and destinations are indicated.

Eigenshells

DRL Flotsam team (Tutor: Yusuke Obuchi; Students: Oznur Erboga, Lillie Liu, Theodora Ntatsopoulou and Victor Orive), Parametric Urbanism 1, DRL v.9 2005-2007

below: Series of scripted attractor diagrams in Maya, and their associated abstract, prototypical spaces, which served as the generative basis of the later design development of the proposal. opposite: View of the pedestrian approach to the International Broadcasting Centre/Media Press Centre building, from Stratford station, indicating the integration of circulation, facade panellisation and building structure.

Ebook Frei Otto Parametric

2012 Olympics distributes more than 100,000 square metres (1,076,391 square feet) of cellular spaces in a network organisation channelling movement between Stratford and the Olympic Park. As an alternative to the large black box, the project's porous plan embeds the building in an urban landscape. Its machinic design methodology deploys point-clouds generated algorithmically in simulations of strange attractors, giving rise to both a vertical and a horizontal interweaving of private and shared spaces. Given that these iterative design techniques can perform the same operation at different scales, the project can simultaneously address architectural and urban issues.

As a seemingly natural extension of the international make-up of the staff and student population of the programme, DRL v.10 2006-2008 then shifted towards the design of innovative forms of accelerated urbanisation for the Expo 2010 site in Shanghai, one of the fastest expanding and densifying cities in the world. The Expo proposals were briefed with direct consultation by the masterplanning team of Expo 2010, in a workshop with Studio 6 from the Urban Design and Planning Institute, Tongji University College of Architecture and Urban Planning. Far from a celebration of impermanence and ephemerality, the Craft_Id team dealt with questions of environmental, economic, cultural and social endurance within the particular context of China's showcase of rapid urbanisation. Using computational fluid dynamics as a tool for achieving highly integrated, coherent systems, the project explored alternatives to the urban grid in the site for the Shanghai Expo. Density, verticality and vast open spaces are correlated as parametrically generated patterns of self-similar figures for a variety of programmes, landscapes, infrastructures and Expo pavilions. Behavioural patterns and information embedded in fluid dynamics are integrated into the composition of spaces and forms. Based on gestalt principles of multiple latent readings, these perceptual patterns install variety within the elements of the proposed cityscape while maintaining an overall sense of order.

These kinds of coherent, rule-based forms of distribution were initially observed in the flow of viscous fluids spreading across a surface, and the urbanism that emerges from these observations aims to optimise the configuration of the entire site alongside specific local conditions.

The Drl Egloo Team

DRL Egloo team (Tutor: Theodore Spyropoulos; Students: Pankaj Chaudhary, Jawalant Mahadevwala, Mateo Riestra and Drago Vodanovic), Parametric Urbanism 2, DRL v.10 2006-2008

Top: Material experiments of glue behaviours in Petri dishes, relating single, double, triple and quadruple nodes, and their associated branching organisations, distributing glue and air. Bottom: Series of diagrams assessing the neighbourhood qualities of integration and segregation of spaces, using space syntax software, in relation to hierarchies of varied routing widths.

Associative Urbanism

Aerial view of the final post-Expo 2010 masterplan. The coherent, sinuous massing diagram was generated from an associative model of urban circulation and interior architectural circulation, organising neighbourhoods with differential integration and segregation.

In another project for a large-scale mixed-use housing zone for Shanghai, also for the Expo 2010 site, the DRL Egloo team developed a proposal with an algorithm simulating growth in natural forms. Space syntax software was then applied in the analysis of the performance of branching systems. These kinds of coherent, rule-based forms of distribution were initially observed in the flow of viscous fluids spreading across a surface, and the urbanism that emerges from these observations aims to optimise the configuration of the entire site alongside specific local conditions. Between them, self-organised systems control the relation and distribution of varied densities, programmes and orientations.

Aerial view of the final post-Expo 2010 masterplan. The coherent, sinuous massing diagram was generated from an associative model of urban circulation and interior architectural circulation, organising neighbourhoods with differential integration and segregation.

Sahra Team Parametric Urbanism

DRL Sahra team (Tutor: Tom Verebes; Students: Saif Almasri,

Suryansh Chandra and Peter Sovinc), Parametric Urbanism 3, DRL v.11 2007-2009

Four different scenarios of urban growth and development of Ras Al-Khaimah in the UAE - biasing tourism, finance, local housing, and all three programmes equally - played out in a parametric scripted model of massing, and their associated open spaces and circulatory networks, generated from dynamic colour fields driving Grasshopper, a plug-in for Rhino. This approach to urbanism assumes a variability and adaptability of a masterplan (and its systems) to changing future criteria.

Sahra Team Parametric Urbanism

Morphing transformations of massing diagrams, generated in Maya, demonstrating the potential to order space with coherent yet differentiated systems. This approach argues for a vast array of architectural difference, while maintaining a legible, negotiated density, open-interior massing ratio and varied floor area ratio (FAR).

Parametric design systems which bias transformation of components, rather than their mere repetition, as applied to the design problem of generating diverse yet coherent facade patterns

Global urbanisation is developing at unprecedented rates, scales and densities, with over half the world's population living in cities. In the third and final cycle of Parametric Urbanism, DRL v.11, which was concluded in January 2009, the DRL explored global urbanisation and the diverse contingencies of four sites located in New York, Moscow, Sao Paolo and Ras Al-Khaimah in the United Arab Emirates. The studios investigated diverse strategies for radical urban development and transformation, aiming to progress from familiar models of emblematic internationalism towards new iterative organisational models for high-density urbanism, specified and differentiated to local contextual forces in four cities in four continents. Ras Al-Khaimah has been competing with Dubai and Abu Dhabi in the race for rampant urbanisation, shaped and driven by the abundance of oil, vehicular urbanism and air conditioning, with little consideration for pedestrians, public transportation or the environment. As a critique of this globalised form of urbanisation, the Sahra team's project proposes a gradient of massing and movement figures, densities, proximities and interconnectivities, on a site stretching from the seafront to the inland desert. A vast catalogue of architectural morphologies, along with their respective systems - envelopes, structures, floors and atria, and cores and circulation - are generated through vector-based climatological and urban parameters (sunlight, wind, view, programming and routing), managing the penetration of natural light in a super-deep and dense built environment.

The projects featured here - just four out of a total of 33 that have focused on the Parametric Urbanism research agenda - highlight some of the salient design outcomes and discoveries that have resulted from the DRL's research. From 2005, the lab's design teams began importing associative design tools and systems to investigate their implications on problems, briefs and locales of urbanism. Rather than assuming contemporary urbanism requires parametric tools, the teams quickly understood how cities have in fact always been relational expressions of social, political, economic, geographic and topographic conditions and contexts. Parametric Urbanism is not a new concept; rather, it is a new computational form that is yet to be built. 4

The Architectural Association's Design Research Lab (DRL) is an open-source, post-professional MArch design laboratory dedicated to a systematic exploration of new design tools, systems and discourses. Understanding design as a vehicle of research, through the ways in which design projects are conceptualised, developed and documented, the DRL emphasises analytic, process-oriented forms of design experimentation guided by longer-term research agendas. This research-driven mode of architectural experimentation emerged concurrently in a decade which has seen the embedding of digital design and communications networks into the architect's design studio. The application of new forms of associative logic have been applied towards the conception and materialisation of comprehensive design proposals, focused on three major design research agendas over three cycles of students since 1997. Between 2005 and 2009, four parallel design studios, totalling 121 masters' students in 33 design teams, distributed in four studios, have worked collaboratively on the Parametric Urbanism agenda, led by Yusuke Obuchi, Patrik Schumacher/Christos Passas, Theodore Spyropoulos and Tom Verebes, and supported by a team of workshop and technical tutors.

Text © 2009 John Wiley & Sons Ltd. Images © Architectural Association

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