fluid totality … at least surprise!

fluid totality, the latest book documenting the amazing student design research work of Studio Hadid Vienna at the University of Applied Arts from 2010 to 2015, will be launched on June 20th. it will not only showcase every student project conceived during that time, but will also feature a number of texts and essays by distinguished architects, academics, and critics, such as Aaron Betsky, Mario Carpa, Joseph Giovannini, Evan Douglis,, Ali Rahim, Hani Rashid, Jesse Reiser and Jan Willman, framing the studio’s work in a wider contemporary architectural context. Find below my personal text contribution to fluid totality:

Download this text via academia.edu.

 … at least surprise!

Robert R. Neumayr (Vienna), 2015.

 “Let us […] regroup the contemporary elements along a spiral rather than a line. We do have a future and a past, but the future takes the form of a circle expanding in all directions, and the past is not surpassed but revisited, repeated, surrounded, protected, recombined, reinterpreted and reshuffled. elements that appear remote if we follow the spiral may turn out to be quite nearby, if we compare loops. Conversely, elements that are quite contemporary, if we judge by the line, become quite remote if we traverse a spoke.” (Latour, 1993: 75)

Four years is the standard duration of a typical academic contract in one of Vienna’s universities. Sufficient time to gather initial academic experience and to make (in our case) a first contribution to the field of architecture, but hardly enough to develop and systematically explore an architectural problem.

The angewandte, however, allows its studio heads and their research and teaching staff to steadily work on their studio’s continuous research agenda for much longer, enjoying the freedom of unlimited contracts. In studio HADID this contributes significantly to the creation of a rather unique environment, in which within the last fifteen years, one could witness the gradual evolution of Parametricism, as a theory, as a style, and as a way of conducting design research.

In the eight years, in which i had the opportunity to teach in Zaha’s studio, I saw Patrik Schumacher’s Parametricist Manifesto grow into a fully fledged architectural theory (and some critics claim his theory is much more all-encompassing). But my history with Zaha and Patrik is much longer than that. In a manner of speaking, the three of us and Parametricism have grown old together. As a student in the AA’s design research lab in 2001 we had first conversations about Patrik’s ideas of the Autopoeisis of Architecture, working with Zaha in London gave me the opportunity to first test these concepts in a professional practice and teaching in Innsbruck with Patrik allowed me to investigate how to carry out the same parametric research agenda in a totally different academic environment.

This parametric tour de force throughout the years also taught me this: design research is most efficient and productive when conducted simultaneously in different institutions, such as technical universities, art schools, and professional practices, in a joint effort under various external preconditions and constraints.

In the beginning studio briefs were programmatically devised to rethink traditional architectural design strategies, concepts, forms and media, to simply perforate the boundaries of architecture. But once Zaha’s and Patrik’s ideas started to consolidate into one precise theoretical direction, fields of research started to spiral around that trajectory, being reiterated and reformulated over the years, always building upon previous design research and borne by a constantly unfolding theoretical background, systematically testing parametric design strategies in various scales of architectural and urban experimentation, from urbanism and high-rise clusters to building components, interior design and fashion accessories, thus yielding vastly different results.

Using a changing set of tools and techniques throughout a period of more than ten years Forms of Metropolitan Living, New Urban Geometries, Parametric Urbanism and Ubiquitous Urbanism all explore the understanding of a city as a complexly networked system of different interactive layers of information, reflecting our dynamic understanding of the urban condition.

Over the years the studio’s design research has co-evolved with the theoretical framework, shifting its agenda from “[exploring] a space rich enough so that all the possibilities cannot be considered in advance by the designer” (de Landa, 2001) to strategically integrating more and more complex layers of information into increasingly intricate digital systems. The most recent studio briefs, such as The Semiological Project,Parametric Semiology, Tectonic Articulation and Kinetic Morphologies intend to broaden the field of research in order to address the contemporary architectural discourse by integrating related fields such as structural engineering and energy design more directly into the design process or by trying to find adequate answers to current societal issues by means of exploring semiological and interactive environments.

Manuel de Landa once said that “[…] only if what results shocks or at least surprises” (de Landa, 2001) digital design tools can be considered useful tools. Looking back at fifteen years of experimental design research, that have come to an end now, I think it is safe to say that the studio’s work never fell short of this claim. And this book certifies to this.

de Landa, Manuel. Deleuze and the Use of the Genetic Algorithm in Architecture, 2001.
Latour, Bruno. We Have Never Been Modern. Pearson Education, Essex: 1993. ISBN 0-7450-1321-X.