Been playing around with a design for a home in the forest for a while. While it is a fairly simple design, it features hyperbolic paraboloids, which is not just supporten by revit. For this reason, i started drawing the project in revit, and has the intention of linking it to 3ds max to test the updating capabilities. This is the first base test render
In the process of learning the life of the tectonics, we were to choose a detail that we liked.
My optics instantly went to Snøhettas Norwegian Reindeer Pavilion. As an architectural studio with a nordic realm, i think that they create contemporary tectonic architecture. This is my thoughts on the pavilion supported by some sketches.
Tectonics through detail in contemporary architecture
analysing of the Wooden Core in Snøhetta’s Norwegian Reindeer Centre Pavillion
Morten B. Kristensen Stud.polyt 1. semester MSc. Architecture & Design, Aalborg University, DK
ABSTRACT The detail of the wooden core in the Norwegian Reindeer Centre Pavilion is analyzed with the goal to reflect and reveal its tectonic quality in comparison to the scale of the architecture. The analysis results in an exposition on how the detail strengthens and embraces the tectonic in the architectural whole.
In the younger part of my life, details in the everyday life always caught my attention and my utter dedication. Later establishing a forging relationship with architecture, the same dedication to details keeps capturing my attention. And as I over time have understood, it’s not easy to make architecture tectonic. This paper is the result of a theoretical understanding of the course Studies and Experimentation in Tectonic Culture at Aalborg University, and an attempt trying to find qualities and principles that form tectonic architecture.
The aim of the course and paper is to get an understanding of what tectonic culture and quality is through a critical analysis of a spatial detail, through relevant theories, architectural movements and physical experimentation of the tectonic studies. (MSc01-ARK F2012 Study Guide: 18)
The chosen spatial detail is the wooden core in the Norwegian Reindeer Centre Pavilion, designed by the architectural studio Snøhetta.
As a methodological approach, Analysing through scale, developed by Marie Frier Hvejsel in her dissertation INTERIORITY – a critical theory of domestic architecture and introduced though the course, is utilized. This seems suitable to the spatial detail, as it is a mix between architecture and furniture (Hvejsel 2010: 72, 81). Furthermore the tectonic theories of Kenneth Frampton and Gottfried Semper is utilized and discussed to get the required understanding of the tectonic culture through the analysis of the spatial detail. The question I stumble upon, and hope to find an answer to through the paper is as follows:
Is it possible for an architectural whole to be tectonic, when the interiority is build on perceptional experience rather than structural transparency?
3 ANALYSING THROUGH SCALE
In the Norwegian Reindeer Pavilion the Wooden core is a part of the overall function to provide shelter and dwelling to behold the nature and the wild reindeer (Snøhetta 2011). In a more analytical sense, this means, making the infinite, ever expanding scale of nature comprehensible to the human scale.
By clearly defining the spatiality of the pavilion in the nature, almost as a surgical incision, it seems as a human made mark in the surface (Lootsma 2009: 4). The contrast between the inner warm organic shape, and the edged cold outer shell, creates a human recognition, which is in accordance with Sempers definition of the human spatial idea, where there is an urge for dividing inner life from outer life (Semper, 2004: 248). Furthermore the organic shape is articulated is such a way, that it furnishes the outside and inside of the pavilion with interiority, thus creating the function of pausing and sitting. The massive spatial perception of the wooden core and the contrast in the lightness of the outer shell of the pavilion creates direction in the space, making the main function of the pavilion – framing the view with a distance, making the scale graspable.
Approaching the pavilion through the raw and rugged landscape, the contrast of the outer shell and the inner wooden core, both covers and reveals the inside, creating an enigmatic feeling, and a desire for revealing the inside (Lootsma 2009: 4).
When entering through the small opening in the wooden structure, the edges of the window capture the nature, almost as a structural easel holding the art. Semper articulates this, as he describes not the structure as the primeval perception of space, but the details between, original as woven enclosure, as the spatial concept (Semper, 2004: 248). Focusing on the wooden core and its sweeping milled form, there is created a cave that makes shelter for the visitor. And as Werner Geissberger states: “The man is a nest-making creature. His original home is the sheltered cave.” (Blaser, 1985: 7). This makes the structure seem safe and makes it identifiable to the human spatial conception of home.
Remembering Marco Frascari’s terminology of comparing architectural details to a sentence, concluding that as words define the sentence, so do the architectural details define the architecture (Frascari 1984: 3), the wooden core seem as a binding detail in the architectural whole’s identity in the nature, as the form resembles the wear from the harsh climate (Snøhetta, 2011). Further stated by Frascari, an architectural detail is always a joint, being the encounter of materials or a formal porch connecting the inner and outer space (Frascari 1984: 2), the wooden core is truly a detail, as the warmth of the wooden core is meet by the coldness of the steel shell, and the shell being the formal connection to the outer space of nature.
As exemplified in Dimitris Pikionis’ work, and later by Steen Eiler Rasmussen, it is crucial that the experience of the detail supports the gesture of the architectural whole, and this is done in the wooden core through its scale and materiality, making it more comprehensible in comparison to the nature (Frampton, 2011: 9). By making the wooden core an experience for not only the eyes, but all the senses, with the clear contrasts in materials and scale, a direction is created which is needed for the human body in the way we experience space (Frampton, 2011: 11).
The pavilion is placed in the spectacular nature of the outskirts of the Dovrefjell National Park, elevated 1250 meters above sea, looking at the Snøhetta mountain massif.
The Dovrefjell is a sanctuary for wild reindeer. The land is also consciously important for Norway. The area is even a part of the Norwegian constitution, therefore the realm of the pavilion is not just psychical but also, and very important, cultural (Snøhetta 2011).
If we zoom out on the realm of the architectural studio, the use of breaks, distinctions, differences, paradoxes and contrasts, as in the pavilion, is a way of working that Snøhetta adapts to make their architectural whole clearer. With a precise attitude Snøhetta realise that the cultural architectural scale exceed human capacity, and that the way of making their buildings a mark in the world, is to have pin pointed contextual awareness, and to develop the outputs with electro-technologic tools (Snøhetta et al. 2009: 189-190). The pavilion is a direct applicable example on this way of processing contextual data through technological tools (Snøhetta 2011), and the result of this is what I would call modern craftsmanship, which is a key element in the tectonic architectural whole (Frampton, 2011: 4).
If we zoom further out, we come to a point, where we can see the big picture of this kind of typology. The pavilion framing nature seems as a more and more global phenomenon. This comes out to the question. With the need of a structure to translate nature for us, have we as humans lost our connection to nature? Or is it a need of dressing the body’s nakedness? (Semper 2004: 247)
The pavilion consists of three kinds of materials, steel, glass and wood. The steel is the material of the sides and ceiling, while leaving the front of the building in glass, together creating the outer shell. The wood is the inner core that is logs milled out and placed on a scaffold beneath. This contrast in materiality creates in the spatial conception what Frascari defines as a negative joint, which makes the gesture clearer, that it is the detail and scale in nature that should have the full attention (Frascari 1984:11). This is also the only obvious joint, and it is articulated with the dramatic contrasts to emphatize the gesture. By not revealing that the inner core is build with a scaffold beneath, it perceives a great massiveness in the wood logs materiality, and becomes the perceived supporting part in the building. According to Semper this kind of building technology have existed in statues since ancient times, and he even states that the wall merely is the underneath support. The true wall is the artfully decoration hereof. (Semper 2004: 248-249) This structural scaffold would not please Frampton. But in another way, the perception of the structural system is intact, with no contradictory elements, as Frampton frowns upon (Frampton 2011: 19-21). The real hidden structural system is steel columns and beams in the outer shell, with slabs ensuring transversal stability. The solution is the result of economy, where the cost of a massive wooden core construction would be much bigger than what the construction in steel costs. It is also a result of the urge to build with highly contextual awareness, and an archetypal Snøhetta parameter – utilizing the modern technology (Snøhetta et al. 2009: 189-190).
In the retrospective of the analyses, the nectar of the spatial detail is revealing. Some scales exceed the human capacity, resulting in not really being able to see their potential without help. By humanizing the detail in form, scale and materiality, and stage it with piercing contrasts and paradoxes, the beyond-human-capacity scale suddenly becomes graspable, and even enjoyable.
In this architectural whole, it is the experience that determines if the tectonic exists in the spatial detail. Even though the structural transparency isn’t accurate, the utilization of technological development has made it possible to sustain a structural perception that embraces the architectural whole, and enhances the furnishing gesture. This is in my opinion the contextual, successful tectonic solution with the economic pressure.
The tectonic theories exist in many versions, all with an opinion justified by other theories, but as the polychrome discovery of classical architecture falsified neoclassical architecture, you could proclaim that the answer to tectonics is ever-changing. And as Blaser acknowledge we are in a time of rapid change due to new materials, cultural changes and technological improvement (Blaser 1985: 7) which points out the need of evolution in tectonic theories over time.
This is the modern legacy, and by fusing the context with technology, it’s my opinion that the experience of the architectural whole is making the spatial detail indispensable and the building tectonic.
It is certainly a fact that the world venture with the battle of sustainability in diversified definitions. To grab the backbone of sustainability, the expositions of the diverse sustainable architectural approaches is seen through, and my personal opinion to sustainable architecture is exposed.
Coming from the industrialisation, a time with more progress than conscience, a tsunami of guilt suddenly washed up a panic-struck optic on our world when the Brundtland Report was published in 1987. Surely the world had seen hints insinuating the situation with the oil crisis in ’73 and ’79, and probably also with the Chernobyl incident in ’86, but the report declared the first academic proof of the circumstances we brought onto ourselves. This rather serious pickle gave birth to the expression sustainability. An expression put onto earth with the intention of saving the world and with the grandeur of the human mind this seemed indulging to find the key answer to, and so it has been tried in multiple ways throughout history. (Hansen 2013: 5)
When speaking about sustainability, the different theories seem to come to an agreement about the overall perception of sustainable architecture. The definition is stretching over four areas – the social, the environmental, the economic and the climatic sustainability. Whilst each area works with different optics, it is the symbiosis that constitutes the fifth element, namely sustainability.
(Hansen 2013: 3) (Thiis 2013)
With the general definition in mind, and the realisation of sustainability being an extensive substance, my definition of sustainable architecture is chased more in-depth with the point of departure in the Nordic understanding. First of all, in the Nordic the home is a feature imprinted in everything. We are connected to the precise place we live in and therefore the connection to the site in a Nordic context is crucial. (Kristensen et al. 2012)
If we look at how the types of sustainability has evolved throughout the last half-century, the differences lie very much in this connection to the site. The first response to the industrialisation, and the need to improve the architecture, was the Self-sufficient architecture. Lead by a pioneer Sir Richard Buckminster Fuller, the prediction of the need to stop wasting the resources of the world was giving long before the rest of the world woke up and realised the situation. Working intensively with rethinking the functionality, the architecture was independent and self-reliant, which gave an almost futuristic aesthetic expression to it. (Steele 2005, Baldwin 1996, Krausse and Lichtenstein 1999)
With the predilection of having self-reliant societies, the architecture from my point of view has the tendency to be a response to the environment, but not having any particular connection to the specific context within it is situated. Even though it has the sympathetic intention of creating minor societies that are self-reliant it lacks the connection the site. This is of course seen as a potential from the pioneers point of view, the ability to evolve concepts that can be spread everywhere in the world.
The diametric dimension of self-sufficient architecture is found in the ecological architecture. Originating from the 1960’s it dealt with the relationships between the occupants and their surroundings. Focus was more on the total impact on the environment, meaning that it was not only a way of building, but also a way of living. Attracting self-builders, the type evolved into very low-tech solutions, with renewable energy and materials. (Steele 2005)
I see this all-important relation to the surroundings as crucial for the connection to the site, and the local context suddenly not only determines but also contributes to the sustainable solutions utilised. But even though this was a reality fifty years ago, it is an antipole to the urban dense city, which is the future way of living. (City mayors 2012)
This is where green architecture is trying to be sustainable in a larger scale. Attempting to contain the architecture into more controlled parameters, the green architecture, has focus on environmental preservation and protection, where the architecture directly adopts the nature into the sustainable solutions. (Wines 2000, Steele 2005, Jodidio 2009)
I see the intention of adopting the nature into the sustainable solutions, as easily implemented in the dense city. Though it also presuppose that the sustainable is directly linked with greenery. This way of introducing sustainability as the face of green seems seductive, but it lacks the fact that sustainability is more than nature. There also seem to be a field of friction of green in the vertical direction both in technical and perceptual terms.
In a similar manor, the bioclimatic architecture finds the solution in the climate. By working with and not against the nature, in a site-specific manor, the architecture addresses the fact of having different climatic zones. (Olgyay 1963)
This does in my optic resolve the connection to the site in terms of the climate, but still neglects the social aspects of the sustainable architecture, and this must be, by all reasons, the first reason of all architecture. While it is the people, us that in a very intuitive manor choose the places we like to be situated within, the social innovation of the sustainable architecture must be background noise in every decision. Taking point of departure in the social innovation, the connection to the site can’t be neglected, as the site, the way it is used and the occupants constitute the backbone of the social relations, which in the end defines the place.
CHALLENGES IN SUSTAINABLE ARCHITECTURE
All fields of sustainable architecture battles with their own areas of weakness, but the main challenge is the occupants. (Bruunsgaard 2013)
As I see it, the crack in the ice is becoming bigger, growing every time the demands for sustainability are raised. Lowering the total energy impact, the static envelope of architecture has adapted itself to actually contain itself within the aim. This has brought the static envelope of architecture to a gaping abyss, where optimisation is impossible within a static dimension. If we look at architecture, the outside, the environment is dynamic, and inside, the occupants are dynamic – but the residual adaptor, the architectural envelope, is maintaining static. This points out the crack in the ice of sustainability that needs to be solved. Actually, the adapting to the given conditions is not a thing rare to us. The nature has solved the equation, over billions of years of evolution – and we need to do this in hyper speed. (Foged 2013)
Down the hallway I do see sparks of light, that start to realise what is right in front of us. Abandoning the intention of making everything having zero impact on the environment, the solution reveals itself by switching optics from micro to macro. Having the energy balance on a bigger scale, where different initiatives even out each other, the system in my eyes start to understand that the importance of sustainability lies within the acceptance of loss, and the innovation of potentials. While letting initiatives do what they potentially are good at, the sustainability reveals itself. A glorious example of this lies within the simple brickwork in the University of Virginia. To minimize the usage of material, the simple gesture of introducing a serpentine shape to the walls, allowed it to be slender and material saving, and at the same time introduced social advantages of pockets, which invites for stay. (Thiis 2013) In spite of the simplicity of the solution, this does from my point of view outshines even the most high-tech, orientation-changing, energy-producing initiatives. Just by letting something do what it is good at. (Petersen 2013)
Serpentine walls – letting potentials do what they area meant to
To manage this in the hyper speed of today, the process of architecture needs to be holistic. The fact that we are moving from a more experience based design process, to a knowledge and information based calls for the integrated design, where no potential is overlooked, and everything is linked together.
The potpourri of sustainable architectural approaches calls for a process, which enhances the holistic picture of sustainability. As I understand that the importance of sustainability lies within the acceptance of loss, and the innovation of potentials, the keystone for social innovation is placed, and the point of departure of sustainable architecture is ensured.
Hansen, Hanne Tine Ring. 2013. Lecture 2: Methodological approaches to sustainable architecture found in theory. Architectural Concepts in integrated design, Aalborg University, AD:MT
Hansen, Hanne Tine Ring. 2013. Lecture 3: Methodological approaches to sustainable architecture found in practice. Architectural Concepts in integrated design, Aalborg University, AD:MT
Thiis, Lars Juel. 2013. Lecture 4: A multifunctional architectural environment. Architectural Concepts in integrated design, Aalborg University, AD:MT
Bruunsgaard, Camilla. 2013. Lecture 9: Inhabitants in Low Energy Housing. Architectural Concepts in integrated design, Aalborg University, AD:MT
Petersen, Mads Dines. 2013. Lecture 11: Space, Environment and architecture. Architectural Concepts in integrated design, Aalborg University, AD:MT
Foged, Isak Worre. 2013. Lecture 14: Environmental Tectonics. Architectural Concepts in integrated design, Aalborg University, AD:MT
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Krausse, J. and Claude Lichtenstein. 1999. Your Private Sky ‐ R. Buckminster Fuller. USA: Lars Müller Publishers
Wines, James. 2000. Green Architecture. Köln: Benedikt Taschen Verlag GmbH Jodidio, Philip. 2009. Green Architecture Now!. Cologne: Taschen GmbH
Olgyay, Victor. 1963. Design with Climate – a bioclimatic approach to architectural regionalism. USA: Princeton University Press
Hawkes D. and Wayne Forster. 2002. Architecture, Engineering and Environment. London:Laurence King Publishing
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City mayors. 2012. Urban population growth etween 1950 and 2030. http://www.citymayors.com/statistics/urban-population-intro.html
Stud.polyt MSc2. Architecture & Design, Aalborg University, DK