Archive for April, 2011

Architecture generated by computer programs definitely seems a futuristic way to deal with architectural design. It is entirely probable that the design studios of the future would comprise of computer programs that accomplish most of the logical, calculative and repetitive tasks replacing the manpower. The architect only have to intervene when a subjective decision is to be made which can be conceived only by the human mind, such as aesthetics.

These ideas finally lead us to Program Generated Architecture ( PGA ) by the Japanese Architect Makoto Sei Watanabe. Watanabe uses PGA in his Induction Cities projects in a variety of ways including programs to place building blocks based on sunlight exposure, program to plan the streets in a city, program to create towns according to the relationships between different necessities, program which does structural optimization etc. In this post, I aim to explore one program in particular – the Program of Flow.

Makoto Sei Watanabe used the Program of Flow to design the facade of Kashiwanoha-Campus station. The design process involved two parts- the human part and the program part. The human part feeds a graded design input into the program which the program then analyses and  produces an output which it believes to be a better design. The designer grades the output and feeds it back. This process is iterated till the desired “best design” is produced.

This also leads us to the concept of genetic algorithm. Genetic algorithm basically represents the algorithm in which a living organism propagates. The steps in genetic algorithm represent steps in biological evolution such as natural selection, cross breeding, survival of the fittest etc. In the beginning, the design produced is a primitive one. After each iteration, the program develops an artificial intelligence and becomes able to differentiate a good design from a poor one. A new generation of design is developed after each iteration which consists of the best qualities of the previous generation. In this way the design evolves, like a living organism.

Below is an example of how the Program of Flow works :


A very interesting example of futuristic architecture in India would be the “Cybertecture Egg” coming up in Mumbai.Architect James Law practices a new school of architecture which he calls “cybertecture” which denotes a fusion of architecture and cyber technology. James Law says,

“In the 21st Century, buildings will not be created by just concrete, steel and glass as in the 20th Century but with the intangible materials of technology, multimedia, intelligence and interactivity. This enlightment gives rise to a new form of architecture  – “Cybertecture””

The Cybertecture Egg is believed to become an iconic structure in Mumbai with its environment friendly design and intelligent control systems. The building comprises of 33,000 sq.m. of office space stacked stacked in 13 stories with highly intelligent building management systems. The diagrid exoskeleton accounts for the large column free spaces inside the egg.

Photovoltaic cells are integrated into the facade whose glazing will also exhibit various tints and shades with respect to the orientation of the sun. About 20% of the water consumption of the building is recycled through rainwater harvesting, sewage treatment and wetland cell systems. The building’s air conditioning is done by naturally cooled water from an underground reservoir. The building management systems installed ensures reduction in energy usage in less utilized and less occupied spaces.

I have explored more works of Vincent Callebaut in this post.”Coral Reef“, “Dragonfly” and “Landscript” contains some of the same innovative concepts and eco-friendly approach that we have already seen in the Lilypad. While taking inspirations from natural forms similar to the likes of Antonio Gaudi, he has tried to resurrect nature friendly architecture in a more recent and technology oriented context which gives him a distinctive style.

Coral Reef aims to build prefabricated passive housing in the 2010 earthquake devastated Haiti. A basic module includes 2 housing units interlocked in duplex around a horizontal circulation unit. The overall form represents 2 large waves which can accommodate 1000 Haitian families. The housing units are stacked over one another in staggered rows ensuring that each roof gets a garden space to cultivate its own food.

Dragonfly is a project based on the emerging concept of vertical farms ( ie., farms grown along vertical direction like in skyscrapers, rather than taking up large horizontal extents of land). The project also consists of houses, offices, ecological laboratories etc. whose inhabitants would cultivate the vertical farms. The form is inspired by the transparent dragonfly wings, which exploits the solar energy for the farms.

Landscript project tries to reinvent a 220 hectare industrial area in Geneva into a denser and greener urban area. The main ideas behind this project is to maximize the vegetation cover since the existing site is almost devoid of vegetation, integration of water into urban space via ducts and creation of other natural spaces in the form of cocoons, atolls and mountains.

When we think about architecture of the future, our minds almost instinctively imagines hi-fi technology controlled buildings in a neo digital era. Digital technology might most certainly be the major factor governing future architecture, but it can indisputably claim climate and environmental factors as one of its parent influences. While searching for examples based on these parallel themes, I came across an amazing project called “Lilypad” by Vincent Callebaut Architect and was convinced that this would be the perfect topic to start this blog.

Lilypad is a floating city project which addresses the ever increasing crisis of Global Warming. The architect foreseeing the inevitable rise in sea level all over the world, conceived this project to create a habitable space over water. This prototype of an “amphibian ecopolis” would travel along the water line of oceans from the equator to the poles. This city claims to accommodate 50,000 inhabitants and aims at developing biodiversity around a central lagoon created by the purification of rainwater.

The design inspired from the great lilypad of Amazonia Victoria Regia aims at bringing closer interaction between human and nature in the future where it is difficult to distinguish between real and virtual. The double skin is made of polyester fibres covered by a layer of titanium dioxide. which by reacting to the ultraviolet rays enable to absorb the atmospheric pollution by photocatalytic effect.

This project also utilizes renewable energy resources such as solar, wind, tidal, osmotic and biomass energy production. This project represents a symbiotic relationship between the built environment and the oceanic ecosystem by recycling CO2 and wastes, purifying and softening the used waters and integrating aquaculture fields and biotic corridors on or under its body to meet its food requirements.