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A System of Residence Space Construction. Variability, Emergent Properties and Developmental Procedures in an Integrated Building System.
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A System of Residence Space Construction Variability, Emergent Properties and Developmental Procedures in an Integrated Building System This presentation includes material from the diploma project of L. Virirakis and G. Bourkas, supervisied by Professor S. Charalambides. The project was presented in NTUA, Department of Architecture, in October 1985 The presentation includes pictures originated from the website www.flickr.com. Each one of these pictures is presented with reference to its original URL. Click your mouse to continue, or use the keyboard arrows to move forward or backward in the slide show
Conventional design considers the user of the built space as an abstract entity derived by averaging over a usually ill defined set of individuals. As a consequence, a set of simplistic easy-to-handle specifications is extracted from rather unreal "user's needs". The designer combines these specifications with general organizational and aesthetic design principles, according to his/her own ability to process design information. As this ability is not unlimited (even for expert designers), the variability of the design—a property intuitively expressing the possibility to reach many different design structures—can be seriously constrained. However high variability is required if the design has to satisfy various small-scale user-specific needs.
Villa Savoye: http://www.flickr.com/photos/72068645@N00/91012113/ Reduced variability—viewed as a response to simplistic specifications—has been considered as an aesthetic principle by the modern movement, and has been expressed by either simplistic architectural forms…
Paris 130: http://www.flickr.com/photos/lhuber/58609326/ Reduced variability—viewed as a response to simplistic specifications—has been considered as an aesthetic principle by the modern movement, and has been expressed by either simplistic architectural forms…
Unite d’habitation http://www.flickr.com/photos/sputnik57/120432881/ … or simplistically structured repetition of identical modules
La Cite Radieuse: http://www.flickr.com/photos/sauseschritt/131223373/ … or simplistically structured repetition of identical modules
In many cases low variability constitutes an expression of a linear mechanistic-deterministic approach to design, which has consequences on the level of integration of different systems of a building construction. Different systems of the construction (support, electrical, plumbing system etc), as well as the construction-environment system, areconsidered as independent to each other. This specifies all processes associated to either the design or the construction or the functionality of different systems as additive or even (in most cases) antagonistic. The failure of the independent systems to work together as an integrated self-consistent system significantly increases the cost of the construction. Respectively, the failure of the construction-environment system increases the dependence of the construction on expensive large scale urban infrastructures. As a consequence, the total cost of the built space can be enlarged by orders of magnitude.
Santorini, Greece: http://www.flickr.com/photos/25001294@N00/154310456/ A completely different situation concerns some cases of built space production, occurred under different historical conditions. In these cases the built environment results from asynchronous actions of many different agents. These agents are not design experts but, being usually users themselves, they have a very clear picture of their particular needs. Information processing during the built space construction is localized and distributed. Interactions among construction activities occur as the product of the work of each agent constitutes part of the environment where the work of other agents has to adapt. Larger scale urban properties emerge in a bottom-up mode by smaller scale spatial properties.
Santorini, Greece: http://www.flickr.com/photos/seanalex/87403539/ The total amount of information processed in this way largely exceeds the potential of any design expert working in isolation, while the result could be a high-complexity built environment satisfying numerous small-scale user-specific needs. Both the construction process and the functionality of the built space are also supported by synergistic procedures evolved during a historical process.
Santorini, Greece: http://www.flickr.com/photos/samuelbernof/57225555/ We shall refer to this approach by the term "systemic", emphasizing to net-organization, bottom-up, emergent, synergistic features of the built space production and functionality, as opposing to the centrally controlled, top-down, additive, antagonistic features characterizing the conventional approach.
Favelas, Brasil: http://www.flickr.com/photos/simspix/117824956/ Unfortunately, present cases of built space production that exhibit "systemic" properties apply under conditions of poverty.
Favelas, Brasil: http://www.flickr.com/photos/fiftyfeet/70353929/ This is due to historical reasons: poor communities, unable to afford the "expensive" resources of the dominant production system (not only materials and infrastructures, but also designers are included in these resources) have to create their own residence space.
Favelas, Brasil: http://www.flickr.com/photos/oneillci/54630135/ They have to do so by making best use of available low-quality resources, where "best use" means covering basic residence needs by minimizing the consumption of resources. This makes a "systemic" approach necessary.
It is an interesting question whether the present technological framework could support a "systemic" approach to the design, the construction and the use of built space. This approach could promote social values, such as satisfaction of user-specific small-scale needs, reduction of the costand improvement of the quality of the built space, adaptability, sociality, and user participation in the formation of his/her own space.
Prefabricated buildings: http://www.flickr.com/photos/amtsleiter/57989653/ Modular industrial building systems, which aim to the rapid construction of large scale building projects, are known to exhibit very low variability, while they provide poor integration of different systems of a building construction. In addition, they depend on specialized factories, which seriously affects their cost.
Key Worker Housing: http://www.flickr.com/photos/andy-howell/4802037/ Modular industrial building systems, which aim to the rapid construction of large scale building projects, are known to exhibit very low variability, while they provide poor integration of different systems of a building construction. In addition, they depend on specialized factories, which seriously affects their cost.
Habitat 67: http://www.flickr.com/photos/rezendi/152860690/ Modularity does not necessarily result in low variability. A relatively small number of module types combined under appropriate rules could exhibit remarkable variability producing complex built space.
Habitat 67: http://www.flickr.com/photos/gersmann/17105847/ Variability is only one aspect of the "systemic" approach. A building system that adopts the "systemic" principles should satisfy the following specifications:
Specifications of a "systemic" building systemdesign - Support high variability of the design of the built space Variability could be defined as the size of the set of possible system-consistent designs, given a project’s specifications. - Allow variability to apply in different design scales The distinction between different system-consistent designs depends on scale-dependent criteria (e.g. designshaving different small scale featuresmay be considered as similar in a larger scale). As a consequence variability tends to decrease with the design scale. The possibility to maintain high variability in different design scales makes possible for the system to satisfy needs and specifications concerning these scales. Variability at a design scale should not be heavily reduced due to constraints posed at a larger design scale. However such constraints are needed if they represent design knowledge that affects the system’s efficiency. - Retain integration of different systems of the construction Different systems of a construction (e.g. support, electromechanical, plumbing or energy system) should work together in a synergistic mode: the performance of each system should be enhanced by the function of the other systems. • Promote emergence of desired properties of the built space through interactions of the system's units Desired properties should occur rather as a consequence of the system’s function than as a result of project-specific design. This can be achieved through the proper design of the system’s units, which also includes their interactions. The particular approach promotes also user participation in the production procedure, as the role of the expert designer degrades. This allows a distributed production procedure which makes possible various forms of emergence. - Promote "developmental" production procedures based on information reusability The "developmental" paradigm specifies a recursive bottom-up creation process where larger-scale, complex, specialized structures are composed from lower-scale, simpler, less specialized ones. During this process information is reused as different specialized structures inherit the same information produced at a previous composition phase. - Reduce the social cost of the built space The social cost could be defined as the total amount of human time that has to be spent in work concerning either the creation or the use of the built space. This also includes the work necessary to obtain all the construction and use resources. - Reduce the informational cost The informational cost constitutes part of the social cost: it concerns the information productionwork performed during either the creation or the use of the built space, as well as the obtainment of the respective resources. - Reduce the material and energy resources consumption The creation and the use of the built space consume both material and energy resources. Reduction of the necessary resources of this kind results in reduction of both the social cost and the environmental implications. - Make built space modifications easy The built space should be easy to modify. This would make the system adaptable to versatile conditions, while would encourage user-made modifications resulting in satisfaction of small-scale dynamic needs. - Exploit existing industrial production possibilities Even the best possible building system would be unattainable if it could not be implemented in the current technological framework at a cost lower than the cost saved due to the system’s application. Ideally, a building system should make best use of existing production possibilities which otherwise would remainpartially or totally idle. - Offer high quality architectural space The quality of the architectural space depends on both the quality of the material resources provided by the system and general spatial attributes characteristic of the system. To a large degree, architectural quality constitutes an emergent property.