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Pavlos Fereos, Konstantinos Grigoriadis, Alexander Robles Palacio and Irene Shamma, Urban Reef, Design Research Lab (DRL), Architectural Association, London, 2009

Urban Reef addresses the problems of localised ground discontinuity and programmatic and physical isolation within a larger urban area by proposing a highly connected 3-D network of housing integrated with commercial and recreational uses for the Hudson's Yard area of New York. Working to a brief for 3,000 housing units, the normative isolated high-rise building type is replaced by a series of mid-rise buildings that incline to minimise structural spans and interconnect in order to maximise the area for housing development.

Lindsay Bresser, Claudia Dorner and Sergio Reyes Rodriguez, 123, Design Research Lab (DRL), Architectural Association, London, 2009

123 challenges the proliferation of haphazard urbanisation and incoherent architecture resulting from the accelerated globalisation of the Gulf region via research on the algorithmic and geometric principles inherent in traditional Arabic patterns. This algorithmic approach constitutes the basis for a new scripted morphology generating variation and difference across urban fields, clusters and architectural systems. The proposal aims to create diverse, interactive metropolitan spaces that challenge the generic and disconnected qualities of the current Dubai model by offering flexibility within a repetitive coherence.

Lindsay Bresser, Claudia Dorner and Sergio Reyes Rodriguez, 123, Design Research Lab (DRL), Architectural Association, London, 2009

123 challenges the proliferation of haphazard urbanisation and incoherent architecture resulting from the accelerated globalisation of the Gulf region via research on the algorithmic and geometric principles inherent in traditional Arabic patterns. This algorithmic approach constitutes the basis for a new scripted morphology generating variation and difference across urban fields, clusters and architectural systems. The proposal aims to create diverse, interactive metropolitan spaces that challenge the generic and disconnected qualities of the current Dubai model by offering flexibility within a repetitive coherence.

For some time now, digital technologies have had a substantial impact on architectural design. From the use of standard drafting packages to the more experimental use of generative design tools, they have come to play a major role in architectural production. But how might these digital technologies help us to design cities? It would seem that we are now entering a new threshold condition, as the application of these tools has begun to shift up a scale to the level of the urban. This issue tracks these developments, and considers the real potential of using these tools not only to design better cities for the future, but also to understand and analyse our existing cities, and navigate them in new ways.

Patrik Schumacher opens the issue with an impassioned plea for 'parametricism' as a new style for architecture and urbanism. Challenging Le Corbusier's celebration of the orthogonal, he argues instead in favour of the parametric, citing the form-finding research of Frei

Otto and illustrating his argument with a series of large-scale urban projects by Zaha Hadid Architects.

The theme of parametricism is continued in Tom Verebes' article on the research into urban design undertaken at the Design Research Laboratory (DRL) at the Architectural Association in London. Verebes offers an overview of a series of large-scale urban projects that pursue the design agenda of 'parametric urbanism'.

The work of Hernan Diaz Alonso and François Roche has often been compared, and here the two offer their own idiosyncratic and personal visions of the city of the future, drawing upon a sense of the science-fictional that characterised much of the early exploration into the potential of digital design. Hernan Diaz Alonso's vision is articulated through a visionary movie about the future of Los Angeles. Chlorofilia presents a utopian/dystopian vision of a post-apocalyptic LA that has adjusted to the flooding of the city and developed a self-sustaining environment, where cells have become the new bricks and can reform and recombine based on intelligence feedback loops. Roche's vision is equally provocative: 'I've heard

The world of philosophy, it would seem, can still offer incisive insights into the increasingly technological landscape of today.

about ...' is a habitable organism - a biostructure - that develops its own adaptive behaviour based on growth scripts, open algorithms and impulses of human occupation. It is built by a construction engine - the Viab - that secretes the landscape through which it moves.

The question then arises as to how these digital tools can be used at a larger scale to generate and model cities. Michael Batty considers the possibility of 'breeding' cities using fractals, cellular automata and so on. But Manuel DeLanda is more cautious in his approach. For him, it is a question of not looking at form itself, but at the decisionmaking processes that lead to the generation of form. Only then will we be in a position to simulate convincingly the growth of actual cities.

The next two articles pursue the theme of generating urban designs through digital techniques, and draw on the relevance of Gilles Deleuze's thinking to this field. In my own article on 'Swarm Urbanism' I go on to explore the potential of 'swarm intelligence' in urban design, and look at how we can use Deleuze's concept of the 'rhizome'

to better understand the relationships between users and the physical fabric of the city. Peter Trummer then looks at the potential of using associative design principles to model cities in a morphogenetic fashion, articulating his argument through the Deleuzian term, the 'machinic phylum'. The world of philosophy, it would seem, can still offer incisive insights into the increasingly technological landscape of today.

The theme of generating designs is taken further in the section on digital towers, which explores the potential of new digital tools to design architecture at the level of the individual building. The featured towers have been designed by a range of students and practising architects. None has been constructed, but together they offer us an overview of a new approach towards designing large-scale urban buildings harnessing increasingly popular digital techniques.

Such digital tools, though, may also be used to understand and analyse the operations of cities. One of the leading pioneers in using digital tools to model cities and understand the way that they operate has been Space Syntax Ltd. Alain Chiaradia outlines the principles behind the logic of Space Syntax, illustrating them with a study of Tower Hamlets in London.

Praneet Verma, Yevgeniya Pozigun, Rochana Chaugule and Ujjal Roy, SineCity, Design Research Lab (DRL), Architectural Association, London, 2009

This proposal for the newly developing emirate of Ras Al-Khaimah is formed on the basis of a critique of Dubai. The project aims at developing a series of prototypes that would integrate the sprawl and high-rise typologies. In order to describe possible scenarios of city growth over 20 years, an adaptive density tool based on changing floor area ratio and programmatic distribution was developed. On the urban scale the system is organised through mathematically controlled operations with sine curves, which give rise to a hierarchy of infrastructure and urban blocks and at the same time modulate the water's edge in order to maximise it.

Britta Knobel, Arnoldo Rabago and Khuzema Hussain, Interconnected Fragmentation, Design Research Lab (DRL), Architectural Association, London, 2006

London has a history of increasing density within defined boundaries. This has always been a space-filling system of politics and economy. The lack of adaptive growth strategies has resulted in a multitude of irregular-shaped voids. Here a new space-filling system is designed to embrace different sites and programmes and to react according to its context. This new technique would follow the logic of a fractal and therefore recursively densify void spaces. As a testing scenario the system was implemented in one of the densest parts of the City of London where there is a real need for more space.

Annie Chan and Yikai Lin, Ant Urbanism, MArch, University of Southern California, Los Angeles, 2009

This project creates a radically new urbanism for an inner-city area of Taipei currently occupied by an airport. Pathways are generated using 'swarm logic' processing techniques based on the principle of the pheromone trails of ants. Rhino scripting and Grasshopper are then used to generate the building themselves.

Equally, the city itself has also been transformed by digital technologies. The contributions in this issue from Vicente Guallart and Benjamin Bratton explore the question of how we are hooked up within a digital information superhighway. Guallart introduces 'Hyperhabitat', an installation that posits the need to reprogram(me) the structures with which we inhabit the world via the introduction of distributed intelligence in the nodes and structures with which we construct buildings and cities. Meanwhile, in his 'iPhone City' article, Bratton explores the potential of the connectivity afforded by global mapping systems, and looks at how they allow us to navigate the city in new and inventive ways.

Together these articles offer an important overview of a certain crucial moment in time when digital technologies began to have a significant impact on the way that we design and think about our cities. Back in 2002 there had been so little engagement with these technologies at an urban scale that Andrew Gillespie was forced to comment: 'We are left to conclude that planners have yet to develop the awareness, let alone the expertise or appropriate policy intervention mechanisms, that would enable them to influence the spatial development of a digital society. Somebody might be "planning" the future digital city - the telecommunications companies perhaps? - but it certainly doesn't seem to be planners!'1 As the first decade of the 21st century draws to a close, however, there is evidence of a breakthrough. As this issue demonstrates, a number of key architects, planners and theorists have begun to engage with the question of the digital city in a highly insightful way. 4

Note

1. Andrew Gillespie, 'Digital Lifestyles and the Future City', in Neil Leach (ed), Designing for a Digital World, John Wiley & Sons Ltd (London), 2002, p 71.

Text © 2009 John Wiley & Sons Ltd. Images: pp 6-11 © Architectural Association, Design Research Lab; pp 12-13 © University of Southern California

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