Urban Quotient

Research Institute for Complexity Science

Philadelphia, PA
Advanced Graduate Research with Cecil Balmond (2009)
Other Team Members: Axel Vansteenkiste & Zhang Tao

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Initial sketch of fractures in space as they propagate

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Relationship of program to voids

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Result of algorithm at successive stages of repetition

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Result of algorithm at successive stages of repetition

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Result of algorithm at successive stages of repetition

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Raw result of algorithm in context

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Early studies of building geometry

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Diagrams explaining how the agent-based search tool functions. First, the voids between the planes are converted to solids

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Next, a network is established connecting the centroids of all solids

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All possible connections are searched for specific qualities, defined by a combination of proximity, volume, angle, verticality, and more

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A series of potential connections

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One catalog of results

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This project was completed as part of a post-graduate program in architectural design & applied theory at the University of Pennsylvania. The premise of the studio was to research complex phenomena and to investigate methods of applying their logic to architecture through advanced computational methods.

The initial concept for this institute came from studying the propagation of cracks through different materials. Drawn from the underlying mechanics of fracture in dried mud and the spatial qualities of fracture in slot canyons, the building was conceived as an intensification of field conditions in the landscape with a fundamental pattern connecting the urban, structural, spatial, and ornamental qualities at all scales. A series of algorithmic rule sets were generated from this initial concept, given inputs based on site conditions, and set to act within the urban context. The nested set of relationships inherent in the algorithm’s pattern revealed different parts of the architecture at different scales. At one scale, the building form is found. At another scale, topography and paths are selected, while at a smaller scale, spatial voids and structural elements are generated. These voids are repeatedly generated and tested against programmatic requirements and evaluated for spatial qualities.  The architecture, then, is one of many possible solutions, just as the exact pattern of fracture or the exact spatial qualities of a slot canyon crystallize from the same materials into unique formations from identical generative rules.