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sgArticles for sg2012 were edited by Jonathan Rabagliati and Hugo Mulder.

"power of the air all worked out with counting…"

by Sam Wilkinson, 16 April 2013

The inventor of the barometer, Evangelista Torricelli, once wrote that we live submerged at the bottom of an ocean of air. This ocean extends leagues above our heads where it dissolves into space, is dragged around by the spinning earth, and pushed about by density differentials caused by the heat of the sun. In the lower atmosphere surface friction from mountains, trees and cities causes largely unpredictable turbulence. Turbulence remains one of the great unsolved complexities in physics as there is no known theory to fully describe the phenomenon (Clay Mathematics Institute, 2000). So how can we build in an environment we do not fully understand, and make predictions of the future in the face of theoretical, methodological and design uncertainties? And, more practically, how can these different types of uncertainty be reduced to improve performance today and in the future?

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Levels of Uncertainty in Design

by Sean Hanna, 3 April 2013

We live in a globally interconnected world in which unforeseen events have unprecedented impact, and uncertainty seems to be a defining trait of the age. While newsworthy events testify that economic instability, disease epidemics and natural disasters present a world of great risk, the case is equally relevant for architecture, which has to build in this world. Speaking historically, the design of buildings (the design of anything, really) has been essentially conservative. Innovation has always existed, but in manageable quantity, and with a strong background of tradition that could be relied upon for generations at least and modified. Now, this is much less the case. We are forced to deal with rapid changes in technologies of construction. Our design teams are bigger than ever before, and often coordinate work across continents and time zones. Longstanding traditions may be at odds with one another. The speed of growth is faster than ever.


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Polymorphic Matter:

A post-mechanistic material approach

by Manuel Kretzer, 15 March 2013

New visions on architecture and urbanism were often accompanied or driven by radical technological developments, material innovations or dramatic changes in politics, society and economy. Based on their manifestation and visual character they are implicit in various architectural styles, each more or less representative of a certain period over the course of time. Today's society however, and especially the self-expression of the individual, be it in fashion, music or art, is extremely diverse, profound and interminable and therefore difficult to be classified as a single and defined image of our era. Similarly the abundant availability of information, the rapid emergence of new technologies, the great variety of available materials and the inconsistency in combining these to create new spaces for a rapidly growing and evolving population leads to a confusion of architectural styles, which do not manage to reflect recent technological developments.

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Inside Smartgeometry:

Expanding the Architectural Possibilities of Computational Design

by Brady Peters and Terri Peters, 10 March 2013

Inside Smartgeometry can be seen as a retroactive manifesto for SG, examining and contextualising the work of the SG community: the digital spaces, prototypes and buildings designed using bespoke tools created in response to architectural ideas. From interactive crowd-sourcing tools to responsive agent-based systems to complex digitally fabricated structures, it explores more than a decade of advances that have been influential for architecture.

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sg2012: The art of engineering nothing (or what we can do to ‘design’ porous ceramics)

by Kevin Plucknett and Brian Lilley, 19 March 2012

Ceramics have a wide range of performance advantages when compared with other materials. They invariably exhibit higher hardness and stiffness than metals or polymers, have significantly better resistance to wear and corrosion, and generally are of lower density. As a consequence, ceramics are employed in a diverse variety of applications, from simple building materials through to space shuttle thermal tiles, wear resistant coatings and automotive turbocharger rotors.

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sg2012: Shape cheap, Materials Expensive

by Julian Vincent, 09 March 2012

It's always interesting how abstract ideas interact with reality. Physics went through a very productive time about 100 years ago, when Einstein wondered whether he could see his reflection in a mirror if he, and the mirror, were travelling at the speed of light. Could the light catch up with the mirror? It's thoughts like these which, developed along practical lines, can open up whole areas of understanding. Einstein dreamt up his theories of relativity. I can't claim anything so general, but I still have my dreams . . .

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sg2012: Building Genotypes

by David Andreen, 8 March 2012

Design is the pursuit of performance – the performance of objects, structures and processes. Whether that performance is structural, economic, aesthetic, artistic or social matters little; the job of the designer is to balance the outcome for the task.

In the realms where architects and computational designers mostly operate, performance is derived from the organisation of material. Over the centuries, we have learned what we can expect from a multitude of materials and how to manipulate these according to our needs. When one material fails to deliver all the desired properties, we create assemblies composed of multiple materials in predictable, homogeneous and discrete arrangements. Better performance has come to mean more complex assemblies and more exotic materials.

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sg2012: Photobioreactors as adaptive shading devices

by Jan Wurm, 3 March 2012

Mike Davies concept of the polyvalent wall from 1981 uses multiple coated glass panes that integrate electrically and chemically active layers and has no mechanical components. The polyvalent wall is able to adjust the transparency to internal requirements and external conditions. Is there a smarter solution for adaptive shading devices based on fewer components and material combinations? The utilisation of bio-chemical processes represents one alternative.

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sg2012: Biomimetics - smart geometry at work

by George Jeronimidis, 24 February 2012

Organisms have been fine-tuned under evolutionary pressures over millions of years, a small step at a time. These time-scales may be different from ours but design constraints and objectives are very similar. Functionality, optimisation and cost-effectiveness—or more appropriately—energy-efficiency are the primary drivers. In order to survive, plants and animals have been particularly smart in exploiting materials and geometry.

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sg2012: A new material practice

by Martin Tamke, Paul Nicholas, Mette Ramsgard Thomsen, 2 February 2012

The first generation of digital architecture was fascinated with the extension of digital possibilities into the physical world. Today, we are seeing the emergence of a new material practice. This practice is focusing on a design and production process that is seeking an understanding of the aggregated behavior of matter in an environment. Advances in material science and in computational tools are creating new opportunities within architectural design. However, these approaches are challenging the current practices of design and representation.

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sg2012: Scale matters more than matter

by Salmaan Craig, 12 January 2012

For millennia we have sought to gain mastery of new substances. Each new disclosure by nature revealed powerful new material properties - new behaviour not exhibited in the material palette of the day. Yet a recent breakthrough forecasts a change of emphasis. We know now that the behaviour of materials depends foremost not on substance, but on scale.

The dependence is most evident when the scale is that of nanometers. With the advance of tools capable of manipulating matter at the atomic level, it is now possible to build things the way nature does it: atom by atom, molecule by molecule. We can now practice architecture on ultra diminutive landscapes, repeating the activity of design as we move up the ladder towards scales which are more familiar. But a warning: To brave this ascent, our designerly intuition needs reprogramming. Down there, things do not behave as they ought to.


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sg2012: Intensive and Extensive differences

by Christina Doumpioti, 05 December 2011

In their book ‘Atlas of Novel Tectonics’ the architects Reiser and Umemoto, point out the necessity of a new perception of a matter and energy relationship, one where the architecture plays a significant role in becoming the mediator between the environment and material expression. They argue for an architecture that is not literally animate, but an architecture that ‘its substance, its scale, its transitions and measurement will be marked by the dilations and contractions of the energy field.’ The primacy of architecture consequently becomes not the ‘myth and interpretation’ but the ‘material and formal specificity’.


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