The Para-Pavilion

Towards a new aesthetics of parametrically designed pavilions

By Anat Stern* 

Extract from article published in: Ionathan Lazovski and Yuval Kahlon, The Human Parameter/Parametric approach in Israeli Architecture, Paragroup-israel, Tel-Aviv


Fig 1. ‘Candela Revisited’, by Zaha Hadid Architects for the China International Architectural Biennial 2013. Photo credit: Xia Zhi

‘When I am working on a problem, I never think about beauty but when I have finished, if the solution is not beautiful, I know it is wrong.’ (R. Buckminster Fuller)


Fig 2. ‘Candela Revisited’, by ZHA for the China International Architectural Biennial 2013. Photo credit: Xia Zhi

In order to understand the proliferation of parametrically designed pavilions in the last two decades, one must comprehend the paradigm shift in contemporary architecture and in information rich environments, which is occurring not only in the design and making processes of designers’ end but also in the users end mode of interactions and potential opportunities for multiple communications. The transition from Computer Aided Design to Algorithm Aided Design has raised questions on new modes of collaboration, new advanced fabrication processes, approach to sustainability, questions of design authorship and most importantly presented the challenge of a new aesthetic.

The Pavilion as a typology, suggests interaction, communality and participation, and as such it inevitably offers a high degree of experimentation and innovation. It fluctuates between a building and an experiment, between the speculative and the pragmatic ₂…

The shift to parametric design, as a rule-based system which can be stimulated and controlled by various parameters, proposes a higher degree of complexity. The design parameters could vary from structural efficiency, environmental suitability, potential for recyclability etc. Furthermore, inherent to the parametric design process is the variability, meaning the designer is able to produce multiple possible variations to the same design, which is essentially in the core of experimentation…

The shift to an information-rich society, where most if not all, social interactions are materialised in a virtual network, has been adopted and embraced by self-organised communities of designers, who operate as an open-source platform. These communities of the algorithm-based designers have developed an open discourse of sharing scripts, exchanging ideas, publishing tutorials and in fact by doing so, introduced a worldwide accelerating debate on current professional issues. This mode of operation on the designer-end has simultaneously expanded to architectural schools, which naturally began to rethink their pedagogical approach. Universities around the world, amongst them the Architectural Association in London and The ICD/ITKE of the University of Stuttgart, developed methodologies of Design Research, exploring a case study of design and construction of a ParaPavilion. For instance, see below ‘Interactive Panorama Pavilion 2013-14 by ICD/ITKE, which was conceived as a collaborative effort between students, architects, biologists, engineers and palaeontologists.


Fig 3. Interactive Panorama: Research Pavilion 2013-14 by ICD/ITKE. Photos credit: ICD/ ITKE University Stuttgart

…these academic pavilions are placed in an urban space … establishing a new order within the surrounding built environment. These objects in the urban realm act as a 1:1 scale prototype, allowing designers to test their ideas on an actual human scale and receive the user’s feedback instantaneously. Like the virtual world, the pavilion offers constant accessibility, a continuous discourse with its users, who are invited to capitalise the space, inhabit it or pass through. The users, who are typically the city explorers (the flâneur), occupy the space randomly and by their diverse arbitrary movements, reorder the space, as a self-organising system, and create unpredictable spatial configuration as well as multiple social interactions.

The fundamental aesthetics of the pavilion typology is of ephemerality and high degree of permeability; therefore the articulation and the tectonics of the envelope are defining features of the space’s experiential effects, as well as of the object’s uniqueness.

Perforations, as an integral component of the enclosure, are essential for light penetration, but even more so, for communication amongst users, which allow a continuous flow between internal and external spaces. In the ParaPavilion, penetrations have transformed to component-based fields and to digital patterns, which can be parametrically controlled, differentiated and customised. Diverse optimisation methods, which can resolve surface panelisation and tiling stacking, distanced designers from the orthogonal grids and shifted the interest towards three-dimensional grids, aperiodic tiling and patterns, which are offering new visual and aesthetic qualities of non-identical complexity.

To name a few pavilions … The Arum installation by Zaha Hadid Architects for the Venice Biennale 2012, is a flower-like pleated metal geometry, presenting the idea of marrying the analogue paper folding and digital methods –Fig 4. Likewise, the pavilion, ‘Candela Revisited’, which was designed by Zaha Hadid Architects for the China international Architectural Biennial 2013 is a three hyperbolic paraboloids opening up in all directions to provide access and a visual focal point with their tips meeting high in the air, creating a full ephemeral affect –Figs 1 & 2.


Fig 4. The Arum installations by Zaha Hadid Architects for the Venice Biennale 2012. Photos credit. Sergio Pirrone.

As Heinrich Wölfflin, says in his ‘Prolegomena to a Psychology of Architecture’ – ‘To interpret spatial form aesthetically we have to respond vicariously through our senses, share in it with our bodily organisation….’ ₆ Being a culture of virtual worlds, where knowledge and information exchange is in its core, there is great importance to constantly providing the city with ever-changing physical spaces, pavilions, pop-ups and installations, which engage directly with all human’s senses and allow the user to make a meaningful aesthetic judgment of the built form. ₇ 

This platform for new experimentation, resulting in new aesthetics of the ParaPavilions, is clearly only possible due to generative parametric tools and new interaction modes, while deepening the synergies between architectural articulation, engineering logic and fabrication constraints. The discourse, which incorporates the collective open resources of the designers’ community, the specific designer, the engineer, the fabricator and the user, is enhanced by proliferation of built ParaPavilions but, beyond all considered parameters, it is crucial to allow the space for intuition and for the human creative act, which will always precede the digital act.


[2] Frank Barkow & Regine Leibinger, ‘Between the Speculative and the Pragmatic’, in ‘The Pavilion, Pleasure and Polemics in Architecture’, Edited by Peter Cachola Schmal, Hatje Cantz Verlag, Ostfildern, DAM, Frankfurt am Main, 2009. p171

[6] Heinrich Wölfflin, ‘Prolegomena to a Psychology of Architecture: 1. Psychological Basis ‘, in Empathy, form and space: Problems in German Aesthetics, 1873-93, Getty center for the history of Art & Humanities, Santa Monica, CA, 1994

[7] Martin Self , ‘Making Visceral’, in ‘Making Pavilions’ Edited by Martin Self & Charles Walker, AA Agenda no.9 ,Architectural Association, London,2011. p47


* Anat Stern is an architect and a researcher, currently working as a Lead designer at Zaha Hadid Architects, being involved in international projects at all scales across Spain, Russia, China, Abu-Dhabi, and the UK.

She graduated from Betzalel Academy in Jerusalem with Honours List and achieved her MA degree at the Architectural Association, in the DRL – Design Research Laboratory programme in 2003.  Her MA thesis work on Responsive environments was published and exhibited across Europe.

Her Academic work includes teaching at the Architectural Association, teaching as a visiting lecturer at the University of Westminster, lecturing in London Metropolitan University and in several universities across Israel. She was an invited as a guest critic for final students’ reviews at the Architectural Associations, London MET, RCA, University of Westminster, University of Greenwich, and in universities across Israel.  


Could our daily interactions and social scenarios with in the city be enabled to restructure our environments through collective interaction? 

What if our everyday local interactions and behaviors were allowed to construct communities and social fabric as living environments that would operate through a collective intelligence that is adaptive and can evolve?



Emotive City, Minimaforms 2015

Emotive City is a framework to explore a mobile and self-organizing model for our contemporary city. Models of the past have proven limited and should not operate, as blueprints for our urban future, a new generation of design enquiry by necessity must address the challenges of today. The fixed and finite tendencies that once served architecture and urbanism have been rendered obsolete. Today the intersections of information, life, machines and matter display complexities that suggest the possibility of a much deeper synthesis. Within this context, architecture is being forced to radically refactor its response to new social and cultural challenges with an environment of accelerated urbanization.


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Emotive City, Minimaforms 2015

We propose a framework that participates and engages with the information-rich environments that are shaping our lives through a model of living that we call an adaptive ecology. Interaction within this project enables communication and real-time reorganization on multiple scales of engagement. Our interactive model is scenario based and asks what if our living environments were durational, mobile and energy producing could we conceive of a model of city organization that is not tied to infrastructural but would be governed locally through neighborhood relations.

Minimaforms_Emotive City Models_01

Minimaforms Emotive City square format series 001_low

Emotive City, Minimaforms 2015

The model proposed is an alternative experiment to planning that acknowledges the limited capacity of systems that segregate architecture, infrastructure, urbanism and the inhabitants. Our prototype examines a model structure through engagement and social interaction that within mobile and flexible infrastructure can dynamically address issues of latency and the unknown. As a response to Nesta’s Future of Machines theme -at FutureFest, where the installation was first presented- we felt that our living environments by necessity should be part of the conversation as we actively move towards an understanding of the human machine ecologies that are forming around us. The emotive city uses interaction as a fundamental communication model to create ecologies of mobile and self structuring habitual environments, a new nature of human machine interactions that are structured through behaviors.

Towards a human machine ecology
Our architecture will enable.
Our architecture will play.
Our architecture will sense.
Our architecture will self-structure.
Our architecture will learn.
Our architecture will be self-aware.
Our architecture will stimulate.
Our architecture will get bored.
Our architecture will anticipate.
Our architecture will interact.
Our architecture will be emotive.

Minimaforms: Theodore and Stephen Spyropoulos
Team: Ilya Pereyaslavtsev, María Paula Velásquez, Fanos Katsaris, Octavian Gheorghiu, Hitesh Katiyar, Flavia Ghirotto Santos, Mostafa El Sayed , Iris Jiang, Pavlina Vardoulaki and Houzhe Xu.

Minimaforms was founded in 2002 by brothers Stephen and Theodore Spyropoulos as an experimental architecture and design practice. Using design as a mode of enquiry, the studio explores projects that enable new forms of communication. Embracing a generative and behavioral approach the studio develops open systems that construct participatory and interactive frameworks that engage the everyday. Their work has received international attention which have included nominations for the International Chernikhov Prize in architecture, named one of the top ten international public art installations by the Telegraph for their work Memory Cloud and most recently they were awarded best idea / creative work in the 5th Chinese International Beijing Biennale.


Ana Rajcevic: ANIMAL

ANIMAL: The Other Side of Evolutionby Ana Rajcevic is a collection of pieces of personal adornment that introduces ‘a new breed’ of precious objects. Stepping out of the traditional jewellery/ accessories context, Rajcevic offers a collection that can exist and be exhibited both on their own and attached to the human body.

ANIMAL: The Other Side of Evolution (fiberglass, polyester resin, 2012), Ana Rajcevic

ANIMAL pieces are inspired by the anatomy of animals, in particular, by skeleton structures. Attached to the human body these pieces ‘appear as natural properties of the body, suggesting strength, power and sensuality’, says Ana Rajcevic. Merging the human and animal anatomies, Rajcevic presents us with a new body, one that -through this manipulation- appears to be more directly immersed within the context of natural life.

ANIMAL: The Other Side of Evolution (fiberglass, polyester resin, 2012), Ana Rajcevic

‘All the objects –of the collection- were handcrafted creating multi-part master holds, using gelcoat, fibreglass, resin and silicone rubber’, explains Rajcevic. The materiality and fluid morphology of ANIMAL collection present similarities with some of the most contemporary architectural and design propositions of our times. An example of these propositions being the Chanel pavilion by Zaha Hadid Architects, showcasing a skin manufactured from Fibre Reinforced Polymer.


Mobile Art Chanel Contemporary Art Container, 2010, Zaha Hadid Architects

Making use of contemporary material technologies and exploring fluid natural forms as means to re-define the way in which the human body is presented, Rajcevic’s work certainly joins the avant-garde section of contemporary designers that operate trans-disciplinary towards the re-definition of our the cultural and physical environments.


ANIMAL: The Other Side of Evolution (fiberglass, polyester resin, 2012), Ana Rajcevic

*ANIMAL: The Other Side of Evolution was awarded MA Best Design Award 2012, University of the Arts London and Accessories Collection of the Year, International Talent Support 2012 Italy

The complete ANIMAL collection is available on:

TOMÁS SARACENO: Perpetuating delight

By Malca Mizrahi *


Fig. 1. Tomás Saraceno: In Orbit at Kunstsammlung Nordrhein-Westfalen, K21 Ständehaus, Düsseldorf 2013 © Photography by Studio Tomás Saraceno, 2013


Fig. 2. Tomás Saraceno, Cloud Cities at the Salar de Uyuni, Bolivia, 2006 © Tomás Saraceno, 2006

The Pampas, its un-specificity and abstraction, has always been seen a fertile soil for invention in Argentina. The excessive extension of a line that draws no incidents or figures in the landscape creates a powerful terrain to rehearse new potent definitions of space … Its vastness has the disruptive ability to arise sublimity. In the same way, the space that Tomás Saraceno creates is able to arise the feeling of the sublime.

Of the processes that look introspectively and validate the relevance of experience to produce lyrical qualities in space, Saraceno’s is one of the best I have found … Each of his installations is a contribution to architecture … and the following paragraphs discuss how the experience of the sublime becomes the content of his ‘speculative urbanism’.

By the end of our architectural education in the late 1990s in Buenos Aires, Saraceno and I were introduced to other approaches to the practice of architecture that invited us to look for ‘materials’ that would inform poetically the design project. Since then, critical and sensitive observation has been essential to the process of designing architectural space. But more significant to Saraceno’s later work would be the development of an obsession: the materialization of a light and complex architecture, defiant of gravity that is not only inhabitable but ‘transportable’. A flying city that would make its inhabitants post-national citizens of the world, aerial travellers across all geographies and landscapes, experiencing daily the sublime feeling of living among the clouds.


Fig. 3. Tomás Saraceno: Cloud Cities at Villa Manin, Centre for Contemporary Art, Italy. 2005 © Photography by Studio Tomás Saraceno, 2005


Fig. 4. Tomás Saraceno, Cloud Cities (2011), Hamburger Bahnhof, Berlin © Photography by Studio Tomás Saraceno, 2011

His ongoing project, Cloud Cities (Figs. 3, 4 and 9) presents a floating nomadic urbanism composed of inhabitable lightweight cells that can make up a city above ground… And Cloud Cities is inspired as much by Buckminster Fuller’s structures as by the ideas of Argentine artist Gyula Kosice who, in 1971, designed ‘La ciudad hidroespacial’. His nomadic urbanism, flotation, and inhabitable lightweight cells were all there in Kosice’s Manifesto.

In 2006, in Salar de Uyuni, Bolivian Andes, Saraceno found a revealing depiction of the idea of living among the clouds and the sublime feeling it arouses. During the rain season, a salt lake, flooded with a thin layer of water, produces a disorientating phenomenon: the horizon disappears and the continuous reflections of the sky over the water create a vision of infinity. This reflection, provoked by the extensive salt- lake ‘mirror’, gives the illusion of ‘being inside the sky’. This image of the body in suspension, in limitless space, drives the spectacularly ambitious art installations he has been building since he left Argentina in 2000.

Series made in Salar de Uyuni (Figs. 2 , 5 and 10) focuses on achieving the sublime feeling that arises when the body experiences infinity. The materialization of this sensation, of lightness and ‘being hung on air’, is found in all his art projects … It started with Towards the Flying City and developed into an obsession to achieve a floating inhabitable space where a new and parallel biosphere can develop.


Fig. 5. Tomás Saraceno, Cloud Cities at the Salar de Uyuni, Bolivia, 2006 © Tomás Saraceno, 2006

Saraceno’s ‘speculative urbanism’, experience and the body

Saraceno’s architectural image carries the promise of achieving physicality, sensuousness and innovative materiality. To experience his ‘architecture’ means to touch, see, hear and to be inside it. It also demands rational investigation into the technology to make his ambition possible. His work offers us the complete process: from the initial conceptual ‘incompleteness’ in the Bolivian Salar de Uyuni—because it only shows us what we will see if we were suspended inside his floating cells—to the physical and material rehearsal of sophisticated inflatable structures that can be built inside galleries, or floating figures suspended outside gardened palaces.1 OSpace Time Foam (Figs. 6 and 7), is a 7,000 m3 air-sculpture accessible by the public and made of three layers of film. The light structure is suspended from a very high ceiling and allows visitors a floating-like experience. But because of its three levels it also shows the ‘interdependency’ of the visitors’ movements positioned at different heights inside the inflatable space. When the visitors below move, Saraceno says, they generate internal ‘destabilizing waves’ that provoke unexpected shifts of the visitors above and viceversa.2

This experience of interconnectivity, provoked by movements by visitors at different levels of an installation … makes us lose our capacity to refer to space and our sensory stimulus is enhanced by this loss.

As we are invited inside Saraceno’s gardens, cities, airports, domes and giant webs, we become aware of a twenty-first-century baroque drama materializing: the body consciously embraced by an alien environment aspiring to become a natural sphere to live in.


Fig. 6. Tomás Saraceno, “On Space Time Foam” at Hangar Bicocca, Milan, 2012. Curated by Andrea Lissoni. Hosted by Hangar Bicocca Foundation © Photography by Alessandro Coco, 2012


Fig. 7. Sketch by Tomás Saraceno, 2012 © Tomás Saraceno, 2012

Linguistically and technologically complex, Saraceno’s floating spheres propose a new rationale, one that retains the baroque principles of visual intensity and sensuous immersiveness but merged with technological rigour and audacity.

Saraceno’s design process is one of discovering qualities that emerge from the experience of architecture … It shows that to create space, to go through the process that aims to complete, concretely and sensuously that initial and inner image of architecture, demands an introspective exploration that probably started when we were students and continued with his artistic development in Frankfurt and Venice.

Saraceno’s work is not concerned with simulation, scale models, or digital manipulation. He allows us to experience the ‘real thing’, addressing all of our senses. His work aspires to show, experiment with, and materialize the stimulation that an unusual and intense spatial situation induces in our perception like that experienced at Salar de Uyuni. His immense and immersive art installations can be interpreted as an act of recovery, a powerful act to conquer an image of space that embodies an intense sensory stimulation.

Photography by Studio Tomás Saraceno, © 2013

Fig. 8. Tomás Saraceno: Poetic Cosmos of the Breath, 2013. at Mobile M+: Inflation!, Hong Kong, China @ Photography by Studio Tomás Saraceno, 2013

Saraceno’s aerial, global and moving figures travel through a landscape conceived as a tabula rasa that communicates the limitlessness of the Pampas, whose desolation and solitude surrounds his inhabitable biospheres. They communicate a notion of space that addresses the body and, ultimately, aims to provoke a self-dissolving condition that allows the sublime sentiment to arise. Salar de Uyuni acts as the persistent image, almost the unattainable figure that drives Saraceno’s conquest of a new inhabitable realm; an epic struggle against gravity to raise the entire population of a city to the sky.

Each new installation, like Cloud City  (Fig. 9) on the roof of the Metropolitan Museum in New York, contributes to his conception of inhabitation, experience and emotion as interrelated aspects of spatial and urban design. For Latour ‘there is no overall container to [Saraceno’s] work … every container or sphere is either inside another local one or “inside” the network of outside connections.’3 This description recaptures another aspect of the baroque spirit but also defines a type of space that transcends borders … Linguistically, it illustrates the notion of baroque excess. Ideologically, Saraceno’s idea of trans-national living-voyaging marks a new interpretation of the modernist utopian principle of a universal home replicated across borders, only now addressing the body and the arousal of an aesthetic-affective response induced by a sensuous experience of space.


Fig. 9. Tomás Saraceno: On the Roof: Cloud City, The Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York, NY, 2012 © Photography by Studio Tomás Saraceno, 2012


Fig. 10. Tomás Saraceno, Cloud Cities at the Salar de Uyuni, Bolivia, 2006 © Tomás Saraceno, 2006



1. For example, his Poetic Cosmos of the Breath (2007), Gunpowder Park,Essex. Fig. 8. Also, late projects of Tomas have indeed flown some of these inflatable sculptures in various locations, or presented them in scientifically inquiring sculptural works. For these, please look at and

2. Saraceno talking about On Space Time Foam:

3. Latour, ‘Some Experiments in Art and Politics’. Bruno Latour, ‘Some Experiments in Art and Politics’, E-flux Online Journal,2011.


*Dr Malca Mizrahi is an architect, researcher and writer. She graduated from the Faculty of Architecture, Universidad de Buenos Aires and has a Masters Degree in Architectural Design from The Bartlett School of Architecture. She was recently awarded a PhD degree with Distinction at UCL, for her Thesis on contemporary art practices engaged with the production of space and architecture. She taught architectural design at the University of Buenos Aires and at The Bartlett School of Architecture at Diploma Level. She practiced architecture in Buenos Aires, where she established MTMN architects, Madrid and London, where she worked for Zaha Hadid Architects. Her writing and visual work explores the production of space from an interdisciplinary approach, interweaving visual and literary strategies of fictional construction; it has been exhibited in London, Venice, Madrid, Mallorca, Rotterdam, Vienna, Sao Pablo, Santiago de Chile and Buenos Aires.

Tomás Saraceno: Perpetuating Delight is an extract from Dr Malca Mizrahi’s UCL PhD Thesis: ‘Lyrical Space: The Construction of Space in Contemporary Architecture, Art and Literature in Argentina’ 2014. 




Image ©Tyler Stevermer

“Preposthuman:  An Architectural Propaedeutic for the Digitally-Enhanced”

by Tyler Stevermer


Image ©Tyler Stevermer

In the 1980s, theorists in the humanities and technology sciences envisioned a new stage in human development: the Posthuman.  They saw the Posthuman as a type of cybernetic organism—a cyborg—in which physical and intelligence-based modifications are co-produced with machines.  With the technological developments of the 2000s, many of their predictions started coming true.  The recent near-ubiquity of personal internet devices and oncoming wearable technologies bring the posthuman closer, and less like science-fiction.  This thesis imagines a fictional architecture that trains its occupants  towards a posthuman existence.


Image ©Tyler Stevermer

For humans to complete their transition into the posthuman the architectural environment must become a training apparatus, a type of propaedeutic, where our built developments simultaneously develop us. This project fashions waste, ingestion, lounging, and bathing environments as components of our posthuman training grounds.  Within posthumanism, singularity does not occur—we do not transcend our anatomy into some type of digital non-space.  Despite our advanced technology, our bodies remain legitimate.  Spaces remain legitimate.  As posthumans we will use our environment and our bodies as medium, mediator, and modifier to filter, flavor, and fashion our information.  Boundaries blur, consciousness becomes augmented, and architecture and the body act as symbiotic prosthetics not only for each other, but socially and ecologically.  Here is a land where telepresence meshes with corporeality—where the digital is also sensorial. Automation and autonomy are no longer antonyms—and our sentience is allowed to flicker between the various realities to which it is tethered.  Here, architecture serves as the suture between our digital and physical lives, creating a truly networked body from the scale of the global to the microbial.  Buildings can no longer be the wire mothers of Harry F. Harlow’s psychological experiments on attachment.  Rather than attempting to chill occupants into humanist superiority, architecture must become the cloth mother, which we posthumans nuzzle, in order to truly connect.

As a posthuman you recognize that your body can be architecture… and your architecture can be body.


Image ©Tyler Stevermer





Models & Images ©Tyler Stevermer




Images ©Tyler Stevermer

Master of Architecture Thesis

Massachusetts Institute of Technology

Fall/Winter 2014/15

Thesis Committee:

Caroline A. Jones, Brandon Clifford

Mark Jarzombek, Ariane Lourie Harrison

Jenny Sabin: Architecture of Performance


myThread Pavilion, Nike Stadium NYC, Jenny Sabin 2012

Jenny Sabin has long been concerned with bio architecture, in particular, with the possibilities that science and technology bring us today in relation to the application of human body data to the generation of innovative material structures. In her ‘myThread Pavilion‘ project, developed for the Nike Flyknit Collective, Sabin applies biological data related to body movement, to the design of a lightweight knitted structure.

For most sports and fashion lovers, the latest developments in Nike shoes’ design are no news: knitted trainers that appear all too fragile at first glance. However, less apparent is the fact that the intricate knitted webs of these pieces of footwear form a complex structure able to fit performance. Jenny Sabin’s collaboration with Nike takes these ideas further into architecture’s experimental realm, by aiming to develop a material structure capable of responding to issues of performance and adaptation.


‘myThread Pavilion’ was developed within a 3D modelling environment, where geometry and material were generated from the manipulation of movement patterns identified within a sample of motion data. This sample was generated by a group of runners aided by Nike+ FuelBands, a technology able to track and gather information related to body movement. The result was a lightweight material construct that responded to a form-fitting question related to body performance.


myThread Pavilion, Nike Stadium NYC, Jenny Sabin 2012

Sabin’s research into the possibilities of bio architecture and performance of our own bodies to form-fit and enhance architecture, is further developed in her new ‘PolyThread pavilion’ -currently on view at the Cooper Hewitt, the Smithsonian Design Museum in New York City. This newly developed project, explains Sabin, integrates structure within the knitted fabric: each individually knitted element works in tension with a bending armature. This development within Sabin’s project allow for her research to be further tested into the built environment: “I can see this as a permanent large outdoor pavilion or structure that could operate well in a park or an outdoor environment”, says Sabin.

‘myThread’ and ‘PolyThread’ pavilions are exciting materialisations of a research process that join the larger architectural community research into knitted and fabric structures, another example being the work carried out by Achim Menges, such as for the ICD/ITKE Research Pavilion 2013-14. However, while in Menges’ work the performativity of knitted pieces is clearly defined -in structural terms in this case- in Sabin’s work this is an open matter. What kind of performativity human performance can generate for architecture? Sabin’s strength lies in her questions. Opening up channels of research Jenny Sabin’s work brings us to new ways of thinking, about the future and the discipline of architecture.


PolyThread Pavilion, Cooper Hewitt, the Smithsonian Design Museum NYC, Jenny Sabin 2016


Philip Beesley: Human Nutrients


Trondheim MetaMorf Epiphyte Grove, Philip Beesley

Living in the northern hemisphere at this time of the year, one feels particularly well positioned to understand Philip Beesley’s installation “Epiphyte Spring”. Springtime is the season of blossoming, ripeness and exuberance; a time in which life is perceived all around us, awakening, unfolding. Beesley’s installation immerses us in this world, not only as spectators, but as active participants of this vital moment of nature.

The name “Epiphyte Spring” suggests that Beesley’s installation is inspired by epiphytes, commonly known as air plants’. Epiphytes grow harmlessly on other plants such as trees, and obtain their nutrients mostly from the air and rain around them. In “Epiphyte Spring” human presence and touch become the nutrients that ‘activate’ epiphyte-like formations, triggering the development of a breathing architectural ambient of intimacy. Beesley explains:

This works in quiet ways, setting out ghost-like crystalline forms following diagrids and textile forms in order to make lightweight, resonant scaffolds. Networks of simple computational devices and sensors allow viewers to be tracked, offering small increments of gentle muscular movements that register our own presence.


Hylozoic Series Microwave installation in progress, Philip Beesley

“Epiphyte Spring” is part of a series of works by Beesley that share the conceptual base of ‘hylozoism’, broadly characterised by the belief that all matter has life. In describing this series Beesley points out:

The most recent generations of these works  feature interactive lighting systems and kinetic mechanisms that use dense arrays of microprocessors and sensors. Chemical protocell metabolisms are in the early stages of development within many of these environments. These works contemplate the ability of an environment to be near-living, to stimulate intimate evocations of compassion with viewers through artificial intelligence and mechanical empathy.


Aurora at Simons Edmonton, Philip Beesley

Offering visitors the opportunity to physically interact with their surroundings, Beesley’s work impacts us on both cognitive and sensitive levels. While contributing to architectural research focused on understanding natural behaviour,  Beesley’s installations place us in a relationship of reciprocal caressing between humans and natural-like organisms. Is the construction of this relationship that seems to be one of the greatest achievements of these works, as becomes the propelling force that precedes all commitment to the development of a more sustainable built environment.

QUAYOLA: Matter and Form





Captives #1 {2013} Sculpture Triptych High-Density EPS – CNC Milling 205cm x 140cm x 68cm, Quayola

The articulation of matter and form seems to be at the core of some of the most striking works of Quayola, in particular the ongoing series of digital and physical sculptures “Captives” and the time-based digital sculpture “Matter”, completed by Quayola in 2012. Using as starting points Michelangelo’s unfinished series “Prigioni” and Rodin’s sculpture “Le Penseur” respectively, form and matter are explored in these two works of Quayola through the articulation of –geometrically reconstructed- raw matter and human form.

In “Captives”, Michelangelo’s articulation of matter and form is recreated and iterated potentially endlessly through the use of computer run mathematical functions and processes. The use of contemporary computation power, thus not only allows the reproduction of “Prigioni” but at the same time alters the work, by enabling the materialization of multiple variations of the boundary between matter and form.

In “Matter”, the variation of the boundary between raw matter and human form is displayed as a process in time. The incorporation of ‘time’ to Quayola’s sculpture transforms this boundary into a dynamic field that fluctuates between revealing the codified –human form- and retaining or becoming uncodified –matter.

The unidirectional process of ‘revealing’ form by subtracting matter implicit in Michelangelo’s and Rodin’s methods of sculpting is enriched in Quayola’s works by being simultaneously paused and reversed. Form and matter become aspects of the same entity, where human form has the potential to ‘return’ to a state of matter.





Matter {2012} Audiovisual Installation 1ch 4k projection | 2ch sound Dimension Variable, Quayola

Quayola’s virtuoso recreation of the tension between matter and form adds a contemporary expression to the human qualities of strength, sensuality and introversion so exceptionally conveyed in Michelangelo’s and Rodin’s sculptures. The nature of this contemporary expression seems to lie within the power of its medium: computation. While as works of art Quayola’s pieces trigger the imagination of realities that may appear to be hypothetical, the state-of-the-art computation increasingly renders them as possibilities.


Analogy, Niccolo Casas

The architecture of Niccolo Casas has been largely engaged with the idea of decadence, and in particular with the process of Catabiosis, which concerns the aspects of growing older, aging and physical degradation. Casas explains,

Decadence is a process of disintegration of the whole where the particular acquires autonomy and incrementation of visibility by shirking from the functional subordination of the whole. It is about the process of decomposition of an organism, of a society or a culture and, more generally, it concerns the process of fragmentation of a system of relations.

It is within this process of fragmentation of a given system that Casas researches what he calls a potential aesthetic of (high) entropy. At the core of this search, we find the belief that in the dynamic transitions that take place within decadence, there is the very seed for renewal.


Ferrofluid dress, Iris Van Herpen + Niccolo Casas. Photo credit: Rommy Kuperus

Casas’ design efforts are thus focused on exploring the possibilities of simulating the process of decadence, which he currently carries out through the manipulation fractal geometries. For Casas, if we consider decadence as a state of dynamic transition leading to the fragmentation of the whole, it is the fractal geometry that articulates this process.

To develop his research Casas makes use of state-of-the-art computation, which allows him to calculate the infinite process of self-similar repetition characteristic of fractal geometries and to simulate the development of these theoretically endless shapes that only computers can reproduce. Furthermore, the use of computer aided manufacturing techniques such as 3D printing have allowed Casas not only to materialize his research, but also to slowly overcome the state of experimentation.


Magnetic Motion, Iris Van Herpen + Niccolo Casas

A current testing ground for Casas has been the clothing industry, where he has arrived to through collaborations with fashion and product designers who have given their industries’ first steps in the use of 3D printing. In this respect, Casas’ ventures join the broader contemporary design avant-garde practice where the use of 3D printing as manufacturing technique has bridged disciplines that were once apart.

Disciplines are merging and reconfiguring thanks to emerging of new technologies, this allows for highly fertile and productive multidisciplinary approaches to take place. In this context, Architects often operate in roles once considered far from the discipline; the advantage is that they develop new skills, knowledge and aesthetic sensitivities, Casas points out.

In particular, Casas’ incursion within the fashion industry has provided him with a testing scale for architecture, the body, and as counterpart his projects open up questions about the scale and nature of architecture. In communication with Casas he emphasises the unpredictability of research; in fact, what these skins and their embedded logic can bring to the materialization of our future environments is still uncertain. However, we look very much forward to see.

Jinhyun Jeon: Sensitive Code


Tableware as Sensorial Stimuli & Sensory Appetizer, J I N hyun Jeon

Tableware as Sensorial Stimuli project by Jinhyun Jeon involves a series of cutlery pieces designed to enhance the experience of eating. Under the belief that ‘cutlery should do more than merely placing food in our mouth’ Jinhyun Jeon looks at the world of synaesthesia as a means to inform and bring her design work to a different level. Synaesthesia -as explained by Jeon- is a neurological condition where stimulus to one sense can affect one or more of the other senses. With this phenomenon underpinning her design process, Jinhyun Jeon’s pieces are created following ‘tasty’ formulas that combine the 5 elements of temperature, colour, texture, volume/ weight and form.


J I N hyun Jeon explains in her website: ‘The materials in the design currently compose of metal, plastic and ceramics. Each material possesses its natural temperature, which works in harmony with the intent of the design. From the thickness of the handle to the volume mass of the spoon, it evokes a different effect. Weight distribution changes according to the thickness and the volume affects the sound vibration.’ Images: Sensory Appetizer & Tableware as Sensorial Stimuli, J I N hyun Jeon

Crafted to engage with and stimulate different senses, Jinhyun Jeon’s cutlery is an example of design work that responds to and interacts with the human body for which it is designed. The intended performativity of Jinhyun Jeon’s work distances her pieces from design that is based on aesthetic decisions only, and defines a language that is justified by its performance. Furthermore, by allowing more than only our taste buds to engage in the act of eating, Jinhyun Jeon enriches and expands the repertoire of what tableware can do, thus producing an innovation.


Tableware as Sensorial Stimuli & Sensory Appetizer, J I N hyun Jeon

Beyond the achievement of a particular performance, Jinhyun Jeon’s innovation represents the materialization of a vision, and as such the success of creative work. Tableware as sensorial stimuli proposes a disruption of pattern, a channel within our lives to a multi-sensorial experience. Through her proposal Jinhyun Jeon reminds both designers and users alike of the richness of physical experiences; crucially in times in which the visual and virtual seem to outweigh them.