Tutors: Barry Wark , Richard Beckett & Levent Ozruh
Students: Xingnan Wang, Simiao Qi, Jingjing Zhang, Haochong Wang
As we look towards designing future cities that are healthy and resilient, architecture must urgently pursue a paradigm shift in the way that it produces and uses materials to build. It is crucial however that this must also align with a similar philosophical shift in how we conceive and inhabit our urban and built environments in the 21st Century.
At the material level, starch-based biopolymers offer several advantages for an architecture within this agenda. Practically these advantages include renewability, low cost production, non-toxicity, biodegradability and availability. Alongside this, ease of fabrication, coupled with the emergence of the designer as material maker allows for engagement with contemporary design agendas of multimateriality and performance alongside contemporary computational design and fabrication methods.
Yet while these approaches have been successful across other design fields at small scales, they have had limited impact at the architectural scale - either in the way we construct buildings or in the way we conceive to inhabit them. This is in part related to the challenges of working at the larger scale with non-conventional materials which are neither inert nor static and so do not fit the modernist prototypical way of thinking and fabricating based on standardisation and serial production. It is also in part limited the contemporary conception of the prototype as a full-scale representation of a fixed typology with no longitudinal consideration of material agency.
Through our research in to what we call bioplastic typologies we pursue a contemporary development of the prototype that operates at the scale of the component. This approach challenges the huge cost of mass customised industrial production methods and instead pursues an architecture that is adaptable and variable through multiple reconfigurations of the component. It is one that calibrates itself as operating between the fourth and the fifth industrial revolutions, utilising technological advancements but in consideration of the ethics and impact that emerging technologies are having on the world.
In this manner, the approach is conceptually and typologically resource efficient, sensitive to the metabolism of material resources, but also is driven by multilayered contextual parameters including the availability of local expertise and technologies. Here the prototype is seen less as a serially produced product but instead becomes an embryonic prototype which permits and expects change or adaptation and can be varied according to different environments. These changes, driven by factors including hydration levels, decay, growth of secondary agencies, ageing and failure can then be remapped, then removed, re-formed or re-assembled.