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University of Florida | Journal of Undergraduate Research | Volume 12 Issue 3 | Summer 2011 1 OPERABLE TECTONICS AS AN ARCHITECTURAL LANGUAGE Robert Lyons and Lisa Huang College of Design, Construction, and Planning University of Florida Architectural vocabulary consists of the components and construction practices used by designers to assemble a built entity. Movement in architecture (defined in this study as physically animate components) is historically present in even the most pr imitiv e of structures. The concepts of collapsibility, foldability, and transportability were all main components in many Native American and nomadic structures. Many similar ideas regarding movement are re emerging in modern architectural practice s as architects begin to introduce operable tectonic components as signature and practical elements in their designs. Tectonic adaptability and augmen tation have become responses to the ever changing needs and desires of occupants as well as the environment How do contemporary architects utilize the concept of augmented space as a new vocabulary in order to foster an adaptable architectural solution for a multi variable design challenge? How do these elements become a language tha t accentuates and magnifies an architectural solution in order to step above the most economical answer to a problem? INTRODUCTION Architectural vocabulary consists of the components and construction practices used by designers to assemble a built entity. Movement in architecture (defined in this study as physically animate components) is historically present in even the most primitiv e of structures. The concepts of collapsibility, foldability, and transportability were all components in the earliest of architectures, specifically Native American and global nomadic structures. These qualities not only served a practical purpose but a lso in turn, their daily lives. Many similar ideas regarding movement are re emerging within modern architectural practice s as architects begin to introduce operable tectonic components as signature an d practical elements in their designs. Tectonic adaptability and augmentation have become necessary and poetic responses to the constantly changing needs and desires of the modern occupant, diversified programme and the environment. How do contemporary architects utilize the concept of ever changing, augmented space as a new vocabulary in order to foster an adaptable architectural solution for the modern multi variable design challenge? How do these elements become a language that accentuates and magnifies an arc hitectural solution in order to both step beyond the most economical answer to a problem, as well as fulfill it ? PRECEDENT Operable architecture and coinciding concepts appear throughout the annals of architectural theory. primitive hut (Figure 1) was in its own right a temporary structure constructed of tree limbs and natural materials. The is no doubt one of structura l and programmatic or ganization; however it can be extrapolated that the impermanent semblance of the structure is the first example of a structured yet modifiable architecture. the main principles of an architectural constructio n 1 More modern examples come from the architect Le Corbusier, 2 suggests a state of mechanical architecture that fulfills the basic needs of the human condition Expectations of a static, inadaptable building typology cannot be stretched to fulfill the ever changing, radically complex needs of the modern occupant. Ignasi de Sola architecture Figure 1 Frontispiece of Marc Antoine Laugier: Essai su l'Architecture 2nd ed. 1755 by Charles Eisen (1720 1778). Allegorical engraving of the Vitruvian primitive hut.
ROBERT LYONS & LISA HUANG U niversity of Florida | Journal of Undergraduate Resea rch | Volume 15, Issue 1 | Fall 2013 2 3 His concepts of weak architecture discuss architecture without grounding although mostly in a cultural sen s e referencing a lack of ties to an absolute reference In a way, operable tectonics allow s architecture to operate along this periphery. Instead of a direct architectural affront, both the form and underlying reference are constantly modified and in a way weakened. The space becomes more about what occupies the space created, rather than the space itself as a descriptive form Operable tectonics cannot possibly be studied without examining the work of the architect/engineer Santiago Calatrava. Throughout his thesis Zur Faltbarkeit von Fachwerken (On the Foldability of Space F rames ) he describes the need to classify movable components into a 4 although highly stylized and specific provides an excellent base by which to study the complexities of architectural movement. Consequently, became the basis for this study. The work embodies an incredible juxtaposition between operation on the periphery and a highly technical precision. periphery (with media such as watercolor, ink, paint) subsequently constructed with technical prowess. This process brings about a sense of ethereal incomprehensibility th at can be attributed to view Operable buildings on a bewilderment around them. The technology required to facilitate operation is usually un designed and hidden in service space, whereas the tectonic expression and work. The earliest reference of this phenomenon can be found at the Temple by Hero of Ale xandria 5 (Figure 2) where a system of pneumatic doors opened the temple doors automatically at times of important ceremonies. In a architecture, utilizing an advanced system of technology not yet comprehe nsible or understood STUDIES Goals Four main goals were present at the initial time of study: To investigate operational typologies in conjunction with operational tectonics. To consider the implications of each typology and determine/implement them at a scale. To develop a design solution emerging from an initial operable tectonic proposal. To analyze the successes and faults of the proposals at their given scale and typology. The goals were designed to facilitate projects directly influenced by the design of operable tectonics. The design proposal would respond to the design problem with an operable tectonic solution, and subsequently adapt that solution to fit the developed parameters (site /occupation/etc.). Methodology The classification of each movement type came from analysis of current precedent project on many scales. Scales from entire buildings down to operable shade devices and doors displayed a wide range of usages and typologie s. It became most fit ting to classify each of the types mainly by scale, as each scale was usually articulated with similar goals within their respective design proposals. The following categories were developed and further defined. Category 1 consisted of movement utilized on a small scale, usually repetitiously. Category 2 consisted of a medium scale modular element within an intervention usually a singular element which modulated interior space. Category 3 classified projects identified by operable qualities before its static ones, projects where the architecture was almost entirely impermanent and reconfigurable. Each project was the result of further typology analysis, followed by an architectural application that best displayed the typologies benefits and attributes. THE PROJECTS Category One The first category of tectonic movement was studied at the smaller scales of operable elements. These elements included items similar to the scale of screens, window shading devices, doors, and windows. At this scale, the elements usually are identical, or at the very least similar, in form, type, and construction. The interplay between these items and their operational nature allows their repetitions to become valuable within the realm of operable tectonics. Many items at this scale are either controlled by an automated system of some kind (for example building Figure 2. Temple by Hero of Alexandria Diagram of Pneumatic Systems
OPERABLE TECTONICS AS AN ARCH ITECTURAL L ANGUAGE U niversity of Florida | Journal of Undergraduate Resea rch | Volume 15, Issue 1 | Fall 2013 3 integrated systems that open/close exterior windows), or become operable by the occupant within the building. This particular scale provides opportunities that many of the other classif ications do not possess : for example, the ability for direct occupant interaction between the component and the individual. Many components within the works of Carlo Scarpa would fall into this category Details, joints and fittings become increasingl y more important (and subsequently call for greater amounts of design) at this level because they are highly expressive and exposed opportunities much of the time Human interaction aside, the scale of these elements provides another very unique opportunity, that of patterning. The study was in no way heavily devoted to the explored the issue as far as basic scale and modified repeated elements. The project developed from this analysis (Figure 3 ) was that of an o perable building faade, which was located on a residential tower in an urban setting. Conceptually, both the pattern and the interaction between the occupant and the operable device were considered to be vital issues. The device had to serve as a mediator between the interior and exterior and as a weather control device (wind/water/sun) and also had to be aesthetically pleasing to the resident. The design resolution became a foldable accordion panel on the exterior of a mediating roof deck (Figure 4) Eac h panel was constructed of a steel frame sheathed in a transparent metal fabric. The benefit of the accordion panels included the varying sizes of apertures created, when compared with a swinging panel. It also allowed for fins to exist along the facade, b ringing in a vertical shadow casting element, to vary the patterning (as compared to a sliding panel). The faade as a whole created a random, uncontrolled (and unexpected) patterning that could not be constrained by anything but the parameters of the movement. Figure 4. Faade Street View Implicit within the occupational nature of the intermediate space (between the screen and the interior faade) was the ing through the interactions on the fa ade. Activities and attitudes of the occupants were now immediately expressed along the faade to the rest of the city, engaging them with the faade and its occupants. Category Two The second category explored was that of the medium scale element s, which usually exist as singular, multifunctional components that seek to create a variable space through their different positions. Operable wall, ceiling, and floor components would fall unde r this categorization. Elements at this scale organize and reorganize the spatial dynamics within a given frame. Medium scale elements also tend to have a visual and tectonic weight and scale, making them integral pieces (and usually highlights) of their respective architectures. a space modifying element (Figure 5). Figure 5 Tom Kundig Chicken Point Cabin 6 Figure 3 Operational Faade Diagram
ROBERT LYONS & LISA HUANG U niversity of Florida | Journal of Undergraduate Resea rch | Volume 15, Issue 1 | Fall 2013 4 The operation of the main focal wall completely changes sequence. The change is simple, from a closed wall to an open wall, but the impact on both the space and the interaction between occupant and the arc hitecture is extraordinary. The simple diagrammatic modulation found in this work is at the core of operating at this particular scale. Scale of the element and its individual operations and articulations must be carefully choreographed in balance. The breaking down of the medium element through motion had the potential to disassemble the component into too many pieces, losing the weight and scale of the el ement. This had to be carefully avoided and tested through in order to preserve the categories main identities. The second project was derived f rom the scale of a storefront window. The task was to work within the intermediary zone between the st reet edge and the interior space of the shop A standard static architectural response would have required the selection of an expressed opinion on the store faade ( D oes the faade display with transparency? D oes it mask with opacity? Or does it reside somewhere in between?) The operable tectonic response allowed for all of these possibilities to occur on one storefront. Specifically installed was a singular, foldable wall that dominated the entire front of the store (Figure 6). F igure 6. Operable Store Faade (from street) Motions of the front wall were developed through simple diagram as two The closed condition displayed nested transparent display boxes through the otherwise solid wall. This stage allowed an equal level of transparency and opacity at the static level. Opening the front faade to the outside provided for a shading structure, a signifying gesture to the street, along with erasing the physical boundary between the shop and the street. Folding into the interior space allowed for a modulation of the interior space by means of the roof, permitting different display types and floor layouts. Figure 7. Faade Operation Diagram Category Three Category three consisted of projects defined by their usage of operable tectonics. The projects responses, or challenges to an architectural problem were in some way resolved with an operable system that reacted through physical modulation of component s. Scale at this le vel becomes rather questionable because some projects can be entirely defined by an operable solution but are very small in scale. T he examples here however, are mostly selected for their large building scale operations. This category seeks to modulate space within the project in a defining way : usually the occupant experiences the motion as an architectural event, not just a singular stage at a singular time. The concept of sequencing becomes incredibly important; experience of the component at a singular time is very different from experiencing several stages of motion over a singular encounter. The Wyly Theater by REX/OMA pr esents an ideal case of sequencing. The programme of theater was challenged by the implications volume. Each type of theater (proscenium, thrust, flat floor, etc.) can be created and reassembled wi thin the space. The 7 developed an idea of seq uence within the architecture. Performa n ces in theory can be scripted by moving in and out of the theater, returning each time to a different interior setup and reacting to a change in the performance.
OPERABLE TECTONICS AS AN ARCH ITECTURAL L ANGUAGE U niversity of Florida | Journal of Undergraduate Resea rch | Volume 15, Issue 1 | Fall 2013 5 The third and final project was seen not only as an exercise of large scale, operable component based architecture, but also as a culmination of the concepts of the previous two typologies. Sequencing the movement of the structure became of paramount importance and an understanding of the space over time became as rigorous a study as the project itself. The project began somewhat scale less, as physical operations were formed into spatial volumes over time. Diagramming the transitions between movements became a methodology for exploring the spatial conseq uences of operable action ( F igure 8 ). Each component left traces into its theoretical set ting, creating a structure. The programmatic classification of the project became and was to take advantage of the eroded and modifiable qualities of the prior studies. Figure 8. Transition Diagramming The element of water was introduced into the project as a means to highlight not only the operational components and allow for unique performance types, but also to incorporate itself into the traces left behind by the operable components. Virtually eve ry s urface is considered operable ( F igure 9 ) from the ceiling that contains theater mechanics and storage to a complex underground system that allows for many different types of staging, from fully aquatic to fully dry and all ranges in between. The space between both the roof and the ceiling is modified by the change in theater typology consisting of operable seating elements and balcony components. The theater is intended to be sequenced by using the eroded landscape. A performance would consist of movements between the performance volumes and the exterior landscapes, where the return would not neces sarily be the same as the exit. This theater is seen as an adaptable response to what occurs within it: the performance no longer need s to conform to the venue in which it is placed but the theater now adapts entirely to the performance. Modifiable components on this scale allow for a new link between architecture and occupant, by allowing the intervention to become pl astic and susceptible to its environment Figure 9. Theater Section
ROBERT LYONS & LISA HUANG U niversity of Florida | Journal of Undergraduate Resea rch | Volume 15, Issue 1 | Fall 2013 6 CONCLUSION Operable tectonics present opportunities for architectural responses as varied as their initial inputs. In a world dominated by technological advances and connectivity, the appropriateness of a non rigid architecture of diverse response becomes more widespread. Operable components are compatible in response to almost any scale, and allow for a greater connectivity between the occupant and its architecture. The spatial modulations inherent within this architecture not only allow for a more successful incorporation of the physical occupant, but also a symbiosis of the programmatic nature of the space and the architecture that contains it. Through study these components and typologies can be studied to create new and intriguing uses for operable tectonics. Variable architectural responses have the ability to challenge the inherent nature of static programming, in an attempting not only to super activate the architecture, but the programmatic experience as well ENDNOTES 1 Alex ander Tzonis and Liane Lefaivre, Movement, structure, and the work of Santiago Calatrava (Boston: Birkhauser, 1995). 2 Le Corbusier and Frederick Etchells, Towards a new architecture ( United States: BN Pub, 2008 ) 3 Ignasi Rubi and Sarah Whiting, Differences : T opographies of contemporary architecture ( C ambridge, Mass: MIT Press, 1997). 4 Zur Faltbar Space Frames, Ph.D. dissertation, 1981), as reproduced in Alexander Tzonis, (Basel, Switzerland: Birkhauser Verlag, 2001). 5 Tzonis and Lefaivre 6 Benjamin Benschneider, Chicken Point Cabin found in: Dung Ngo, Tom Kundig: Houses (New York: Princeton Architectural Press, 2006). 7 Rex Architecture, "AT&T Performing Arts Center Dee and Charles Wyly Theater." Accessed March 12, 2013. http://www.rex ny.com/work/wyly theatre/.