Archive for November, 2017

November 20, 2017

SURFACE | 2017

by yannis zavoleas

netcans closeup

Undergraduate Design Studio, 2nd year, The University of Newcastle, Australia 

Course Coordinator: Yannis Zavoleas

Academic advisors: Mark Taylor, Peter Stevens

Tutors: Rebecca Boyle, Andrew Donaldson, Annemarie Dosen, Josephine Vaughan, Kerry Clare, Lindsay Clare, Tom Dufficy, Tania Papasotiriou, Kalyna Sparks, Peter Stevens, Mark Taylor and Yannis Zavoleas

Online training resources: IDDA

This course focuses on the notion of surface in architecture. References drawn from a large pool of precedents of natural origin combined with advanced computational tools have offered new meaning and ways of appropriation of surface in architecture. First, the course draws upon manifestations of surface in nature in order to revisit common conceptions assuming architectural surface to be a flat element of same consistency and constant thickness and a consequence of standardising geometric norms, as these were founded in the modern aesthetics and construction techniques. With the new possibilities that have emerged due to digital technologies primarily related to CNC fabrication, it is generally conceded that geometricism, i.e. the analysing of complex forms to simple Euclidean shapes, soon may no longer be a prerequisite to construction. Such a prospect invites towards a complete turn in defining architectural surface from a fixed element to a malleable topological entity produced through its dynamic interactions with agents and data inputs defining a project.

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Prototype structures fabricated at full size

November 19, 2017


by yannis zavoleas

vaneych_sellotape comp

Left: Aldo Van Eyck, Municipal Orphanage, Amsterdam, 1955-1960.

Right: Brandon Decosterd, Seamus Cahill, Claudia Smith, From Force to Form, UON, 2017.


Architecture is more than grid versus topology, analogue versus digital, pencil versus computer, rulers, T-squares and lines, concrete, steel, wood or plastic, machines, networks, cybernetics, technology, ratios and aesthetics, and the infinite number of -isms created to categorise its works; as each of these could be viewed as being separate from its broader context.

Architecture is about social engagement, spatial quality, inclusion, respect to nature and the sum of values that have outlined its humanistic scope.

Whatever means, tools, concepts, theories, materials, techniques, ideologies, ideas or references architects may appoint to express and to meet their goals, these cannot speak on behalf of the field’s higher purpose.

Sure, we as educators need to teach such things as means to achieve higher efficiency in setting and meeting design goals, but always in an open manner and while never confusing their role (and our students) by proposing their de facto pertinence in reaching such goals. A so-called good theory, means, or technique may produce bad architectural results (and there may still be value in discussing them), but the opposite may be true too, as a proposal may reveal a new potential of a forgotten or up-to-then dismissed input. Means should not set criteria in assessing architecture, but they may facilitate and provide better control of the design process and therefore they have an impact in the outcome, which is not to say they are ultimately responsible for it.

As educators, an important part of our role is to equip our students with a wide armament of means in dealing with design questions, also with a critical, exploratory attitude that should remain open to external influences and with increasing proneness to introduce novelty in the design process, in so doing, never causing any prejudice, or bias; the other important part of our role, one of major importance too, is to update architectural discourse, as the two parts meet each other in an aim for an architecture that redefines its purpose by reflecting its time.

The above fallacy has arguably caused the field to shrink in the broad consciousness of the academic and social mindset over many years, and it has been responsible for a great amount of waste of energy during harmful and unnecessary internal conflict. It is up to us as architects and primarily to the educators to put an end to it and to not transfer it to the next generations.