The research project has brought forward the Semester Two studio project, this being, housing for a co-operative housing group in Bray, Co. Wicklow. The scheme was designed within an existing natural landscape and the research investigates how the architecture responds to trees both above and below the ground. A drawing process was developed that charts tree growth, varying proximity, council policy, seasonal changes in trees and movements in the ground over time. Traditional methods of architectural drawing as well as projective, layered and experimental forms of representation are used in order to test the responsiveness of the original design. These drawings were developed in order to pre-empt shifts in spatial configurations, make adjustments to building forms and other design elements altered, in response to the proximity of trees to buildings in the scheme. This analysis determines how the design process may change if these types of drawings were developed in early design stages or if a tree-responsive building system could evolve for this particular site that could be re-applied to established natural landscapes elsewhere.
Research Summary Diagram
The subject area of interest is responsive architecture. The design project undertaken in the previous semester sought to uphold Common Ground Community Led Housing’s desire to live amongst nature while also maintaining a connection to the seaside town of Bray, Co. Wicklow. Responding to nature regulated the housing and built forms as the stronger governing presence on the site. All existing trees and hedgerows were retained and building forms morphed around them.
The final review of Semester Two included a key drawing to capture the connections and responses between nature, people and architecture. The design project led me to think about how one could document and understand the ever changing state of a site’s existing natural landscape and design responsive architecture for it. Much of the Semester Two design work included drawing up technical details. Drawings were made to assess how the foundations met the ground, how they could adapt to moving ground conditions over time and where additional supports could be added. Fixed and bearing joints were utilised in connecting bridge structures between housing clusters so the architecture could respond accordingly.
This area relates to Stewart Brand’s ‘How Buildings Learn: What happens after they’re built’. Brand discusses the importance of time in the realm of responsive architecture: ‘buildings are layered by different rates of change’ (Brand, 1995, p.11). It can be argued that the transience of the tree in relation to the building is also fundamental to the building’s life in time and design. architect Cesare Leonardi in ‘The Architecture of Trees’ describes the appeal of landscape architecture, how trees and time go hand in hand and ‘it forces you to look ahead and have a stake in the future (Leonardi, 2019, p.8). It became clear that there was a lack of research in this area of how to represent this time element effectively in traditional architectural drawings. Sociologist and philosopher Bruno Latour highlights ‘how irritating it is for us not to be able to picture, as one continuous movement, the project flow that makes up a building... and how architecture is ‘not a static object but a moving project’ (Latour, 2017, p.80). Architect and design theorist, Christopher Alexander provides a similar opinion. Alexander qualifies that "there is real misunderstanding about whether buildings are something dynamic or something static".
Brand states that ‘Architects talk about "daylighting as formgiver" and "sun lighting as formgiver"’ and poses the question: ‘what kind of buildings might reflect "time as formgiver"?’ (Brand, 1995, p.218). If responsive architecture is also time sensitive, this leads one to think, how knowledge may be gained in using Stewart Brand's and Francis Duffy's ‘Shearing Layers Diagram’, first introduced as part of the Semester One studies. It could be used as a way of thinking about the various speeds at which different parts of the building move, change and respond. The two more static elements in their shearing layers diagram, site and structure, are assumed to be relatively stable, in the Semester Two proposal, these are also responsive. A drawing mode that could track the different speeds of responsiveness might also track the slow adaptation of structure to site (and site to structure).