Block 21: Discrete (X)L
Rather than borrowing models from nature, Unit 6 argues for an architectural ontology based on sharpening the tension between architecture and its parts. Increased computational capabilities are able to push the initially modernist understanding of architecture as an assemblage of prefabricated, discrete elements into an unexpected new domain of previously unachievable detail, materiality, structure and aesthetics.
In current architectural formations and construction standards, we can assume that the majority of building elements are prefabricated in discrete elements; these elements are subsequently cut and sliced to fit a specific form. The elements themselves do not impose a specific constraint or design agency; and give rise to arbitrarily assembled, generic buildings. Continuous fabrication processes on the other hand have intrinsic problems with fundamental issues such as speed, structural performance, multi-materiality, tectonics and reversibility.
Unit 6 will focus on discrete or “digital” fabrication processes, which are based on a small number of different parts connecting with only a limited number of connections possibilities. The design possibility, or the way how elements can combine and aggregate is defined by the geometry of the element itself – which leads to a “tool-less” assembly. The geometry of the parts being assembled provides the dimensional constraints required to precisely achieve complex forms. This relationship of part to whole and the relations of part to part within a whole is referred to as “mereology”. Given the framework of discrete fabrication, where the geometry and definition of a part generates the whole, mereology becomes an important concept to progress the idea of heterogeneous digital assemblages. We are looking into large scale elements which in themselves consist of other elements exploring spatial and structural opportunities.
Conceptually, the unit will start speculating on these new Discrete Spatial Assemblages in order to produce heterogeneity and differentiation through serial repetition of pre-fabricated, non-customised elements. These elements will be found yet abstract and scale-less objects. We will look for those objects in sculptural disciplines, visual arts. The objects should display high variety of spatial differentiation, materiality. Examples could be found in classical 20th century sculpture (Henry Moore, Barbara Hepworth, Naum Gabo, El Lissitzky). Those initial precedent studies will be put together through large scale model making and via digital tooling. At the same time there will be a specific focus on site and landscape, we are interested in ideas like the pedestal, square, landscape, courtyard so to put more focus on the contextual relationships an object could have to its environment. In order to do so we will push large scale manufacturing techniques (robotics
The context in which students will be launching their design developments is located in post-socialist Belgrade, Serbia. The country is populated with a vast history of modernist “discrete” architecture. Simultaneously the unit will be working on a fictional competition brief in New Beograd. An example of modernist urban planning. Students will propose and intervention in Block 21. We are interested in mixed used program with social agency interacting with the predominantly housing schemes or housing blocks. Students will decide upon which part of the block they want to work so to create a mix of programs and scales.