Professor: Robert Stuart-Smith, Weitzman School of Design   |  University of Pennsylvania
Engineering Guest Lecture:  Prof. Masoud Akbarzadeh
TAs: Yi Dazhong , Mariana Righi, Mostafa Akbari, Yuntao Xu

636 M.Arch Core Technology Course

Students: 2nd Yr M.Arch

Material Formations introduces principles of generative design into the discipline of architecture, providing opportunities for architects to synthesize multiple performance criteria within design that leverage organizational principles, in order to negotiate relations between architectural form, structure and material across a number of scales, with robotic production and material dynamics also explored as active agents in design rationalization and expression. Lectures covering technical and research/project case-studies will be supported by practical tutorials that focus on the incorporation of simulation, generative computation and robot fabrication concerns within design and in partnership with structural analysis. While production is traditionally viewed as an explicit and final act of execution, the course also explores the potential for aspects of building production to participate within the creative design process, potentially producing performance and affect. Students will develop skills and experience in computer programming, structural form-finding, physics-based simulation, and robot motion planning. A design research project for an additively manufactured shell-structure canopy will be undertaken through a number of discrete assignments that facilitate the development of a design synthesis between form and material considerations alongside robotic production constraints. The course will explore design as the outcome of materially formative processes of computation and production, and investigate methods of representation suitable for Industry 4.0 architectural production.

Intrinsic Matter: Space, Structure and Ornament

Studio Robert Stuart-Smith, Weitzman School of Design   |  University of Pennsylvania
Engineering Consultant:  Wolf Mangelsdorf ( BuroHappold )
TA: Nicole Bronola
602 M.Arch Design Studio

Students: Yinying Chen, Sien Hang Cheng, David Forero, Ian Hoi Yin Lai, Hongyu Lin, Akarsh Sabhaney, Chengyang Wang, Tsui-Lun Wang, Xinyu Wang, Jiachang Ye, Tian Zhang, Neng Zhu,

Recent developments in material technologies and robotic fabrication have enabled the design of novel hybrid objects that integrate performance and aesthetic conditions in complex ways.  This challenges the designer’s approach to the scale and variability of geometry within building design, and the relationship between structure, material use, and design expression. From monolithic on-site construction to the prefabrication of elements or formwork, architecture cannot be designed in the same manner as a product such as a shoe —  architectural order must rise to additional challenges posed by the scale and complexity of the built environment. Architecture has been conceived historically as a composition of elements. Classical architecture expressed elements and proportions that were not necessarily a direct expression of their component parts (a column is typically an ensemble of stone modules) yet conveyed a unity across the scale of a building.

 Pier Luigi Nervi extended these considerations into architectural parts, recast as bespoke elements, each with their own design criteria and expression and ranging in scale from columns to entire roof shells. Nervi’s Isostatic Slabs provide a seminal example of designs that are both structurally performative and highly articulated.  Nervi’s slabs are a recognition that design expression may be developed in a multitude of highly ornate ways, and still embody structural principles. Matter comes partially before yet also in dialogue with structure, as opposed to arguing for an optimal structure to impose a singular form. Nervi’s relevance today is re-enforced by the recent proliferation of Topological Structural Optimization (TSO) methods which allow designers to consider the organization of matter at multiple scales within buildings, and to design geometry in such a way as to align structural and design concerns. This does not imply that structural solutions necessarily dominate design decisions, but rather that a messy dialogue can be explored, where both might contribute towards meaningful design and aesthetic goals. 

 Intrinsic Matter explored the integration of space, structure and ornament within design proposals that investigated a variable scale and intensity of design articulation within both element-scale and building scale conditions.  This design exploration was pursued adjacent to one of world’s most ambitious works — the Statue of Liberty.  Designed by French sculptor Frédéric Auguste Bartholdi, the statue was a gift to the US from France as a gesture of friendship, in recognition of the US’s successful War of Independence. The statue is a building-scale sculpture, structurally engineered by Gustav Eiffel, it is arguably one of the largest bespoke and most formally articulated works of architecture, and a suitable neighbor to the studio’s designs. This year a new visitor’s centre will open on Liberty Island.  Designed by FX Collaborative the centre will house the original liberty torch and provide an educational experience of the Statue of Liberty.  The studio explores alternative solutions to the visitor’s centre by rethinking the role and design of Liberty Island itself, the removal of its cluttered support buildings, and the establishment of a dialogue between the new centre and the Statue of Liberty.

Multifarious Matter: Les Halles 2030

Studio Robert Stuart-Smith, Weitzman School of Design   |  University of Pennsylvania
Collaborating Partner: Cemex Global Research HQ, Switzerland
TA: Musab Badahdah
701 M.Arch Design Studio

Students: Yunzhuo Hao. (Celia), Jonghyun Park, Qiaoxi Liu (Josie), Daniel Hurley, Khondaker Rahman (Onie), Mariana Righi, Hasan Uretmen, Ruochen Wang, Yuwei Wang, Yuhao Wu, Yi Dazhong, Xing Zhang, Shiling Zhong

Urban retail is undergoing a significant transformation due to the rise of online shopping. Amazon Go is the first supermarket to allow customers to walk out without paying at a register, while a suite of new fashion boutiques utilize virtual assistants to deliver clothing to change rooms at the touch of a button. Beyond novelty, these applications of technology transform not only the experience of shopping, but also the square footage, fit-out, staffing, security, supply and delivery logistics. Apple’s park-bench and tree-scape interiors, or Nike’s half-court basketball facilities have become a destination in themselves. Extending beyond merchandise, experience is ultimately part of their product, producing a fuzzy edge to public space, capable of enhancing our urban experiences.

Inspired by Levi Bryant’s Democracy of Objectsand Stan Allen’s Field Conditions, the studio operated through both object and field, embracing all site objects and actors as active participants in design expression and considering them as integral to architecture. Materialconsiderations were also investigated through the designing of affects strategized through fabrication methods developed within a collaborative workshop at Cemex’s Global Research Centre in Switzerlandduring Travel Week. 

Reacting to Uber’s recent €25 Million investment into Paris Air-Taxi research, the studio explored a speculative near-present future, a post-human retail and public space in the context of emerging autonomous transportation infrastructure including e-scooters, air-taxis, autonomous cars and delivery bots in one of central Paris’s most important transportation and retail hubs; Les Halles.  Les Halles functioned as a market until a central and suburban railway station and shopping centre was constructed in 1971. The development was ambitious yet is considered a socio-political failure, entrapping suburbanites within its interior rather than facilitating their integration with the city, and became appropriated by fast-food venues and drug addicts. Its inadequacies were addressed by the recent construction of a new retail centre. Berger Anziutti Architects’s “La Canopée” enlarged the park, physically connecting it to a pedestrian concourse that crosses central Paris through to the Pompidou Centre in Beaubourg. While La Canopée is an improvement, it did not challenge our existing concept of retail. An opportunity remains in re-considering the nature of urban park and retail as a Posthuman entrepreneurial proposition, which may involve a downsizing, up-sizing or a redistribution of space for shoppers versus goods and entertainment or wellness vs retail. While Paris has been the site of seminal urban park concepts, Bernard Tschumi and OMA’s competition proposals for Park de la Villette are now 35 years old. The rise of Industry 4.0 may be potentially destabilizing to urban space as is currently known, yet it offers new opportunities for establishing complex and dynamic relationships between a park’s myriad of occupants, from human gatherings to autonomous garbage disposal vehicles. The studio explored alternative concepts for re-casting public space adjacent to new models of retail in this socio-political and economically charged Parisian transportation hub.

P2P Site-less House — Sculpture Habitacle: The design, robotic fabrication and construction of a pre-cast house

Studio Robert Stuart-Smith, Weitzman School of Design   |  University of Pennsylvania
Collaborating Partner: Cemex Global Research HQ, Switzerland
Guest Professor: Dr. Masoud Akbarzadeh
TA: Ramon G Pena Toledo, Workshop Assistant: Mohammed Bholsanni
701 M.Arch Design Studio

Students: Musab Badahdah, Ce Li, AahanaMiller, Madelyn Moretta, Kunil Paik, Yunxiu Peng, Mary Stephens Swysgood, Ali Tabatabaie Ghomi,  Yijia Wang, Morgan Welch, Xiaoyu Zhao,

P2P Site-less House — Sculpture Habitacle enabled students to gain first-hand experience in robotic manufacturing within Penndesign’s new Robotics Lab while collaborating with concrete company Cemex on the use of robotic hot-wire cut EPS foam as formwork for the casting of ultra thin, complex cavity concrete. Students developed ideas for a robotically fabricated precast concrete house that will be continued into the Spring Semester as a technical fabrication seminar, allowing the work to be further developed into the construction of a 1:1 prototype house that will be constructed later in the year.

 Conceptual design proposals aimed to orchestrate geometrical, formal and material affects that were developed in parallel through hands-on experimentation with Robot Hot-Wire cut EPS foam. House designs were constrained to 350 square feet. At such a small scale, the equipment and technical functions of a house are disproportionately large relative to architectural space, and can easily be too influential in many design decisions. The studio countered this by exploring design through the lens of Andre Bloc’s Sculpture Habitacle (Habitable Sculpture) questioning the functional and formal typology of the house and advocating for a non-functionalist architecture that leverages robotic production processes for design expression.

 The studio explored the idea of a Peer-to-Peer shared home that can be adapted to a range of uses. The suburban house has changed little since Levittown’s construction in 1951. Levitt & Sons Inc’s first suburb offered a model of housing grounded in a social, economic and technological past, one that leveraged mass production and advocated industrial and social homogeneity. While Levittown was designed for the nuclear family (a married couple with children) who privately owned their house and car, today only 24.1% of households in the US support nuclear families. With the immanent rise of driverless car technologies and google-maps satellite navigation, the importance of the physical street address has diminished, with a ‘pin’ now providing sufficient information for one to arrive successfully at any destination. Such effortless mobility challenges existing urban models of housing by de-emphasizing location, and instead prioritizing travel time and serviceability. Providing a house can receive serviced deliveries, it could be located anywhere. With urban, suburban, rural and wild land-use constantly in flux, there persists a substantial quota of under-utilized land available at any one time. There is a social and economic opportunity for on-demand real-estate to make use of this land, providing such ventures can operate without long-term ownership or utility arrangements that would involve substantial site-specific investment. A relocatable house might help alleviate temporary housing short-falls and by its nature could also provide a seminal example of sustainable design through its re-use of wasted space, and a Design-For-Disassembly approach to architectural tectonics. While the motor car is historically considered an external object separate to the house, the studio also speculated on the role and integration of driverless cars in the home and looked for symbiotic relationships between the house and the car: operationally, formally and spatially.

Multifarious Futures: Transit in the age of Post-Humanist Commerce

Studio Robert Stuart-Smith, Weitzman School of Design   |  University of Pennsylvania
TA: Joseph Giampietro
704 M.Arch Design Studio

Students: Yuhan Ian, Ruiyi Chen, Aaron Stephensen Dewey, Bosung Jeon, Wan Jung Lee, Matthew Wood Lewis, Ke Liu, Katie Ann Mcbride, Yue Peng, Kai Tang, Benita F Trenk

Post-Humanist Commerce: In 2008, communication between things exceeded communications involving people. By 2020 the “Internet of Things” will incorporate 50 Billion things. This technological shift has given rise to “Industry 4.0”, where manufacturing has become a highly interconnected semi-autonomous enterprise, increasingly urban yet, decreasingly human. Architecture is historically an anthropocentric discipline with no means to address this shift. Aligned to Humanist ideology, the discipline has upheld the human as the agent and concern of architectural space. Humanism in its varied forms however, has failed to describe the complex interactions that operate in a universe which includes a multitude of non-human agencies. Post-humanism attempts to offer a more open view that upholds a respect for not only humanity, but for everything living or non-living. The Speculative Realist philosopher, Levi Bryant provides a constructive framework for architectural consideration, advocating for a “flat ontology”, where the human is considered an object, positioned on the same plane as any other object. Multifarious Futures explores a non-anthropocentric future commerce and transport terminal that is concerned with a multitude of object occupants and object relations.

 Amazon 2034: On-Demand Manufacturing, Distribution and Transit Centre: The immediacy of digital content is raising expectations for immediacy in physical content delivery. In addition to their existing Kiva robot warehouse operations and autonomous delivery vans, Amazon now wishes to implement Patent No. 9305280: airship supply and delivery. The acquisition of Shapeways Inc in 2034 enables Amazon to develop a distributed network of factories each able to manufacture products on-demand. No longer requiring vast storage spaces, these factories can be small, located centrally in highly populated areas, and directly connected to Hyperloop rapid-ground transport for material supply, with a bi-product of human transit offering additional income revenue.

 Monolithic or Multifarious: It is envisioned that Amazon is able to additively manufacture its own buildings in-situ, utilizing its own infrastructure. 3D printing allows for designs of increased intricacy, detail, and geometrical complexity. Not requiring assembly, the compartmentalization or expression of discrete tectonic elements is not practically necessary.  This enables a fuzzier, more awkward set of relationships to be explored that need not privilege a totalistic expression of assemblage, repetition, juxtaposition, continuum or gradient. A formal and material order will be developed that operates through shifting relations, providing distinct design characterization, and tailored relationships between spatial, urban, and aesthetic concerns. Designed to oscillate between object and field, these will be exploited to take on diverse, strange, and varied relationships at varied scales. 

 Malaysia Biennial 1OOYC  —  Medini Future City: The studio is participating in the 2017 Malaysia Biennale 100YC - Medini Future City curated by Tom Kovac.  Medini is a $20 Billion public-private partnership development to be constructed in the next 15-20 years. Envisioned as a “smart city," Medini will operate as the new Central Business District of Iskandar Puter. The studio will speculate on the incorporation of a new Amazon ‘Manufacturing, Distribution and Transit Centre’ within Medini’s masterplan.  The proposal will incorporate an on-demand factory with a Hyperloop rail terminal and airship delivery center.