Something somewhere for somebody
Bastien Belloche, arch. DPLG
This paper summarizes my thesis defended in February 2004 at the Brittany School of Architecture under the supervision of M.P. Corcuff. The main objective of the thesis was to integrate the tools of generation of form into the design process of an architecture project.
Generally, the first data-manipulations initiated the formulation of the project namely “three characters”, something, somebody, somewhere. Then, different explorations of these characters gave the definition of its stake, which in turn introduced the third part : a first expression of the project by data-processing generation.
1 - FORMULATION
a - something
The first data-manipulation (with scripts written in autolisp on autocad) refered to the standard processes of generation of form: process of Von Koch, fractal dusts, cellular automata. The main topics were retained : a) self-similarity as a tool for appropriation of space and b) complexity as a source of potential richness of space. Overall, the field of generation of form, linked to a certain approach of Nature, was considered as means of enriching our way of being.
b - somebody
The program chosen for the project refered to these main topics in other ways. The reflection finally brougth about a new place for Butô dance practice. During meetings with M. Iwana, master of the "House of White Butô" (Réveillon,61, FR), the Butô practice and the way of life in the house were discussed : Body of Butô dancer is in perpetual tension between the inner-being and the environment. Movements emerge from this energy exchange. Thus, Nature is essential in Butô practice and natural elements as a source of inspiration. On the other hand, the way of life (training courses are organized there) is based on a multiple, individual and spontaneous appropriation of place. As a result, the project demanded a variety of space to accomodate this kind of appropriation.
c - somewhere
The choice of the project’s site supported this approach. The territory selected (in Basse Normandie, FR) is characterized by rural landscapes of hills and a dense hydrographic network. The study of these network characteristics allowed to locate a singular place : a field marked by a depression and in a viewpoint situation. Its identity was consequently characterized by scale shifts between closeness and distance, and by traces and presences of water (depression, well, sources, fogs).
The three "characters" of the project were so defined. They were linked by two themes namely, Nature approach (by processes of simulation, energy exchange, physical influence) and concept of scale (fractal infinity, the relationship between the inner-being and the environment, and the relationship between closeness and distance). The objective of the second part of this work was the exploration of possible relations among them.
2 – STAKE
a - crossings
These explorations were carried out in an empirical way. The stake of this research appeared progressively. Among these multiple approaches : a) the data-processing generation of "cadavres exquis" (from a list of 600 words defining the preceding works) in which atmospheres and situations emerged but not forms; b) forms from environment (hedge division patterns...) made complex by the process of Von Koch, in which architectonic interpretation was difficult to develop; c) an attempt to break the relations ground/closed/cover by fractal dusts (in 3d with various levels of complexity), in which no resonance with the site was worked out.
b – influence
A new site study permitted the affirmation of intentions of establishment : models initiated tensions between place/site/territory and oriented place practices (alley-walk, depression-threshold, viewpoint-place of life). These models were transformed by fractal dusts but they resulted in a snag : the generated form remained included in the initial form model such as the use of a formal model was too determining. In consequence, processes used and forms of the models were not kept; only their influence were imported. The influence would orient spreading out without limiting it.
c – spreading out
A new approach in exploration began by considering the point as the initial, irreducible element. The point could evolve proceeding by connection (definition of lines and plans), by substitution (of “cadavres exquis”, formal elements). The adopted process generated a fractal growth of point patterns. It worked as follows : by considering the pattern’s centre of gravity, the production rule instituted that each point of the initial pattern became the centre of gravity of the reintegrated pattern successively. Enriched by transformation rules about parameters of orientation and size pattern establishment, the process produced a gush of complex fractal forms exploring space. Moreover, this process could integrate many accommodations from site and program data (quantitative informations, limiting influence, volumetric density...).
d – parameterizing
The musical topic of the first Gymnopédie by E Satie, heard during a Butô solo, inspired the definition of the initial points : By note-encoding, each bar was reduced to three numbers which corresponded to the coordinates of a point in space. A weighting adapted this isotropic five point-pattern to the measurements of the place. The depression, the centre of gravity of the place, was selected to be the data-processing centre of the universe of the project.
The site was numerically mapped in order to parameterize the intentions of establishment. For example, water elements became the points of attraction, moments of shift were zones of pattern replication and so on. Similarly, few words of Mr. Iwana were parameterized : number of trainees, places of joint life, withdrawal or gathering of places, measurements of the studio and so on.
Place identity and the interpretation of the "butô" data, integrated in the adopted process, founded the project on a water history. By successive growths, the project would be developped from a territorial scale to individual ones.
3 – DEVELOPMENT
a - first growth: water landscapes
A first growth of points was set off; in progress, a definite number of points were retained according to certain conditions (of situation, vicinity). Modules which would be considered as potential water rooms were substituted to the retained points.
These rooms were connected by a simple repetitive process : each one was connected to its nearest neighbour, its closer second ... until having a satisfactory layout.
These links (lines and plans) served the intention to start processes of flow, retention, micro-landscapes of water oriented towards the pond. Other incidences were considered : the dance studio would be attached to the more southern water room.
b - second growth: micro-territories
Twelve families were defined : summer, winter, residence, dance... They were qualified by number of module, type of module, fitting of module and then parameterized. The process of growth was restarted : each water room became the centre of a family, of a new universe. And therefore, new constellations of points, new modules.
Singularity of each family could orient later generation of “cadavres exquis” and qualification of particular materials (summer: fresh air environments: perforated materials).
The water rooms were reconsidered in terms of dimensions and forms taking into account “family antecedents” and situation. They became for instance gardens of season, for the studio basin for light reflection.
A wrapping delimited each new group of modules. These kind of boundary lines created thickness between the inside and the outside, between the modules and the environment. They opened fields for future appropriation. The modules were generated at different heights. Ground modelling and ground treatments with different materials would enrich the identity of each micro-territory.
c - third growth: individual territories
The last generation involved the individual scale. New constellations gave smaller modules which were grafted with preceding modules according to their own qualities. By Boolean transformations, these new modules became openings, outgrowths, notches, shifts, connections and so on.
At this point, spaces were outlined. Dialogues were established. Walks took shape. The imaginary had free rein...
The last step of this work was concluded by connecting these computer generated forms to generated “cadavres exquis “. Situations emerged as premises of possible living elements :
the western wind sweeps in through the crampedness of the outside