Speciation + the Architecture of Micro Icons

This studio is part of a continuing series dedicated to furthering the evolution of the techniques and concepts of algorithmic architecture. In this instantiation the primary ambitions of the course are: – To test the proposition that the concept of architectural speciation is more robust, open and productive than typology. – To create an intimate feedback loop between material and digital investigations and experimentation, leading to projects-as-proof of new architectural possibilities and their extended cultural implications.
Proposing an alternative to the singular building as Icon (Sydney’s Opera House or Bilbao’s Guggenheim as prime examples) this studio asks for the design of a population of smaller public insertions that would define and collectively contribute to Detroit’s public identity. The precedents for this kind of swarm branding might be the yellow cabs in New York, London’s double-decker buses, Paris’ iconic subway entrances or even the activist initiated distribution of red tents for the homeless by Medecins sans Frontiers, also in Paris. This plural approach is both more flexible and more inclusive, allowing for the adaptive addition of elements as they are needed to serve the diverse desires of the city’s residents and visitors. In order to tie all of these ‘micro-icons’ together it is necessary to devise a common design vocabulary with a high capacity for variation in response to diverse contexts and programmatic or infrastructural demands. We will employ and develop computational design and robotic fabrication methodologies to face and celebrate these challenges.
Students, working in pairs, are to design and produce: – An urban siting and staging strategy for a population of micro-icons including a description of the range of proposed programs. The scale can range from that of a bus shelter to that of a pedestrian bridge or mono-rail station.
– A formal and constructional vocabulary with a high degree of consistency of character across a wide variety of performative possibilities demonstrated through a catalogue of possible outcomes. – Three highly resolved case study projects with different sites and different programs selected from the overall population.
– Detailed fabrication and assembly drawings of the construction system.
– A series of experimental physical prototypes evidencing intelligent design evolution.
– A high finish quality 1:1 built portion of the final building system at least 8ft high x 8ft wide.
Primary issues that will be discussed and explored through the studio are:
– The understanding of the city and in particular its public domain as a collectively owned and created system.
– Branding and iconography as they relate to culture.
– The questions of form, meaning and representation in architecture.
– The potential ambiguities of structure and ornament.
– How? vs. Why? vs. What?, Form vs. Content, Post-programming vs. Post-forming.


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