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Qualitative Affects of Building Life Cycle: The Formation of Architectural Matter

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Cities for Smart Environmental and Energy Futures

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Architectural design essentially organises matter as built form. Designers would therefore benefit from taking a more active approach to material formation; where matter is not perceived as inert, but instrumentalised for numerous designed agencies (Stuart-Smith 2011). The incorporation of generative design principles within pragmatic aspects of architectural production and consumption offers an alternative to engineered reductions in architectural expression often promoted for the sake of design efficiencies, and suggests an expansion of the domain that architectural design operates within. The Architectural Association’s Design Research Laboratory (AADRL) has been exploring the design of qualitative architectural affects through the rethinking of building life cycles as a design opportunity. Beyond quantifiable methods of building life cycle analysis, new strategies are emerging that challenge our assumptions about building life cycles; redefining relationships of matter and energy within aspects of architectural production.

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  1. 1.

    Objet’s 260 Connex 3d printer can include up to 14 different materials within a single printed part with a resolution as accurate as 16 μm in dimension (Objet 2011).

  2. 2.

    Michael Braungar utilizes the term “Cradle to cradle” to describe design solutions that consider the full life cycle of their constituent products and how they these continue to be of value and harmless to people and the environment throughout their cycles.

  3. 3.

    The AADRL is an abbreviation for the Design Research Laboratory. A post-professional Masters program in Architecture and Urbanism at the Architectural Association School of Architecture in London. The program runs for 1.5 academic years and the international body of students undertake their research project in teams within a design studio. Robert Stuart-Smith runs a design studio in the program titled “Behavioural Matter”.

  4. 4.

    AA.DRL project CastonCast. Students: Povilas Cepaitis, Lluis Enrique, Diego Ordonez, Carlos Piles. Supervisors: Yusuke Obuchi, Robert Stuart-Smith.

  5. 5.

    AA.DRL project MicroFarmX: Xin Guo, Walee Phiriyaphongsak, Bo Thammwiset, JunJie Zeng. Supervisors: Yusuke Obuchi, Robert Stuart-Smith.

  6. 6.

    AA.DRL project SWAP. Students: Wandy Mulia, Paola Salcedo, Ashwin Shah, Yue Shi. Supervisor: Robert Stuart-Smith. Studio consultants: Knut Brunier, Tyson Hosmer.

  7. 7.

    AA.DRL project Softkill. Students: Nicholette Chang, Gilles Retsin, Aaron Silver, Sophia Tang. Supervisor: Robert Stuart-Smith. Studio consultants: Knut Brunier, Tyson Hosmer.

  8. 8.

    Topological structural optimisation attempts to reduce the amount of material and therefore self-weight from a structural element by iteratively undertaking structural stress analysis and removing material from regions that are not under large amounts of stress. By progressively removing material, the final material product becomes substantially lighter and perforated, increasing its strength to weight ratio.

  9. 9.

    An agent here refers to an autonomous individual entity capable of making its own decisions amongst a larger population of individuals. In Kokkugia’s work, this typically refers to a scripted individual who has rules relegating it’s behavior relating to design intent. In agent based systems the emphasis is on the collective behavior indirectly controlled from many agents individual decisions Snooks and Stuart-Smith (2004).


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Correspondence to Robert Stuart-Smith .

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Stuart-Smith, R. (2014). Qualitative Affects of Building Life Cycle: The Formation of Architectural Matter. In: Rassia, S., Pardalos, P. (eds) Cities for Smart Environmental and Energy Futures. Energy Systems. Springer, Berlin, Heidelberg.

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  • Print ISBN: 978-3-642-37660-3

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