Essay Title - Artificial Intelligence Architecture
Its focus is how anything digital, mechanical or biological, processes information, reacts to information and changes or can be changed to better accomplish the first two tasks. (Kevin Kelly)
If I were to divide Cybernetics into its main elements, then I could simply describe it as the study of the successful collaboration of the natural, the artificial and the intelligence, to produce a more efficient and effective system.
If I applied the idea of the natural, the artificial and the intelligence to architecture, then it could be expressed through this quote by John Frazer, in An Evolutionary Architecture. “Architecture is considered as a form of artificial life, subject, like the natural world, to principles of morphogenesis, genetic coding, replication and selection. The aim of an evolving architecture is to achieve in the built environment the symbiotic behaviour and metabolic balance that are characteristic of the natural environment.”
Cybernetics is a very broad field and encompasses many different areas such as Computer Science, Artificial Intelligence, Robotics, Biomimetics, Bioengineering; these are just a few examples. Cybernetics is becoming more & more important today, since its introduction in the 1940’s, and this is due to the developments in computer ability.
Many things can be achieved using the ideas of Cybernetics, such as the recent developments in the gift of movement for paraplegics. There is also a lot more research and development that can and is being done in combining the natural, the artificial and the intelligence to enhance and exceed humans and their environments.
However, the problem is that even though the UK is the leading centre for scientific research, it does not have a dedicated Cybernetics research and development base, whereby it can fully contribute its intelligence and many intellects, in the growing field of Cybernetics.
So the proposal for my thesis project is to design a Cybernetics Research Office, which will be based on an ideal site in the South East of England, where there are clusters of intelligence, which can be taken advantage of to research and study the idea of the natural, the artificial and the intelligence and create groundbreaking developments in the field of Cybernetics.
Nonetheless, looking into the idea of a Cybernetics Research Office, I realised there is a more fundamental problem that needs to be tackled, which is the poor design of research and lab based offices and business parks, in the UK.
Generally, office buildings and business parks in the UK are criticised for their unattractive, unfriendly, unapproachable and disconnection with its environment and urban fabric. They are normally places where many office buildings are packed onto a cheap site and then sold off to lots of different types of businesses, commonly creating an unpleasant and unstimulating environment for its occupants and visitors. They are also, nearly always cut-off from the public, therefore not allowing knowledge exchange and insight of the local companies to the city, thus creating segregation and social inaccessibility.
As well as the lack of connection to its landscape and the public, the offices and business parks are not a desirable place that highly valuable intellects would be attracted to work at. In a highly advanced and high-tech research based office, I would need the office and the environment to attract and retain these intellects, by providing them with a desirable working environment. This is because the intellects and their minds are the most valuable and important element of the whole system, without them you wouldn’t have a Cybernetics Research Office, well at least not until intelligent human replicates are developed!
3.1 Site Introduction
As I previously mentioned, the site for the Cybernetics Research Office will be located in the South East of England. This is to take advantage of the already existing intelligence clusters, which are made up from universities and science parks within the area.
There are many high-tech companies in the field of Information Technology and Biomedical Technology that have located within this area, and this is due to the great transport and communication links as well as the accumulation of knowledge in the surrounding universities and companies.
An established knowledge cluster area is around Oxford; it has a world-class university and has a close proximity to London, therefore an ideal situation for high-tech companies to locate. Many of the companies have been either setup by university graduates or researchers, or by large international companies that want to benefit from the knowledge pool.
In my site analysis, I will take a logical step by step approach to find the best possible site for the Cybernetics Research Office. I will start off by looking at the larger scale and then concentrate on the more detailed aspects of the chosen site.
3.2 UK Transport Network
The diagram shows the UK transport network system, it highlights the motorways, railways and airports. It shows how well the South of England is connected to the rest of the UK and also the rest of the world, via its airports and the channel tunnel.
3.3 Commuting Distribution
The diagram is the Office of National Statistics commuting distribution map. It basically shows the areas where there is a large amount of inflow of commuters and where they are coming from.
In the South of England it shows there is a large amount of commuters going into the London area and also to the West of London, from the surrounding areas. Therefore the most employment opportunities and skills availability are located in these areas.
3.4 M4 Corridor Diagram
The diagram shows the M4 corridor, which is the area bordering the M4 motorway, which runs from London to Wales. The M4 corridor is described as the UK’s equivalent of Silicon Valley. It is where the majority of high-tech industries and companies are located, due to the good links to London and Heathrow Airport. This may also explain the previous commuter distribution diagram, showing the large amount of inflow to the area west of London.
There are many large and small high-tech companies located in the area, forming high-tech clusters, as shown on the diagram. Some examples of the companies located in this corridor include Microsoft, Vodaphone, Oracle, Sharp’s Labs, and LogicaCMG. These are only a few examples of the international companies in the area.
3.5 City Choice - Reading
Fig 4 shows the amount of research investment in the different areas of the UK. The South East and West of the UK are the areas where most investment occurs and as previously show it is also the area where many high-tech companies are located; this is also where the city of Reading lies.
As shown in Fig 5, Reading has a close proximity to both London and Oxford. London has all the great transport links and future development, whilst Oxford is an established knowledge centre. Therefore the linking element between them both is the city of Reading, making it an excellent location for my site.
3.6 Science Parks & Research Institutes
This diagram shows the proximity of Reading to existing high-tech clusters of science parks and research institutes. It especially highlights the computer and IT based companies located in the area.
As shown in the diagram, there are many good existing companies and universities in the areas of Oxford, London and Reading itself. Therefore, this being an ideal area for a further development and addition to the high-tech IT based cluster zone.
3.7 Reading Transport Links
Fig. 10 shows how well Reading is physically connected to both Oxford and London, by means of its excellent railway and motorway links. This physical connection is still very important, even today in this modern day where companies are connected worldwide via a global internet communication network.
These new methods of communication are great ways of being connected to a larger network; however it doesn’t replace the face-to-face formal and informal interactions that can only occur if you are located in an area where there are chances for these interactions to occur, such as a knowledge cluster zone.
3.8 Face-to-face Communication
Looking into the idea of face-to-face interactions and communication in more detail strengthens the idea of locating the Cybernetics Research Office in an already existing knowledge zone.
There has been some current research done by various people including the Economist newspaper and the CIO magazine, which looks into the importance of face-to-face meetings and communication, over the ever increasing electronic forms of communication.
They believe that traditional face-to-face communication is being taken over or replaced by electronic methods. Rather than assisting and enhancing certain types of communication, people are relying on it for all types of communication. It should only really be an addition to face-to-face interaction and communication. In Chuck Martin’s article for the CIO Magazine, he writes ““Personal discussion is the foundation of communications, once this foundation is established; it enables all of the other forms of communication. Having a personal connection builds trust and minimizes misinterpretation and misunderstanding.”
Formal face-to-face interactions can occur through arranged meetings and informal interactions can occur through social interactions or chance encounters. Both forms are very valuable in the knowledge industry, as it allows for a greater amount of direct knowledge exchange.
3.9 Site Location
Fig. 10 shows where the site is located. It is in-between the River Thames and the Thames Valley Business Park, to the north east of Reading’s city centre. It illustrates the proximity to the Business Park, city centre, train station and Reading University. Reading University has the leading Robotics and Cybernetics department in the UK and the Thames Valley Business Park contains many IT based companies. Therefore, locating in close proximity to these two knowledge resources would be very beneficial.
3.10 Thames Valley Park Extension
The Cybernetics Research Office will be an extension of the Thames Valley Park, where interactions, communication and collaborations will occur between the academics and the industry. The extension of the business park would not follow the traditional design of business parks and it also has the advantage of being located on a beautiful site that is well connected within the city and regionally.
3.11 Thames Valley Park Companies
Fig. 15 illustrates the land-use of the Thames Valley Park, it shows the different companies that area situated there and also where they are located on the park site.
The business park has two large international companies, which have their headquarters located there, these are Oracle and Microsoft. The other companies are also mostly computer based companies.
3.12 Site Analysis
Now that a site has been chosen, I am going to go into more detail and in-depth on the particular site area. This will be done as a series of studies explaining different issues concerning the site.
Fig. 16 shows the site area and the immediate surrounding areas. It illustrates the whole site size as being 9.55 hectares and it shows the surrounding uses, buildings, roads and footpaths.
The pictures and photos in figures 17 – 20, allow you to appreciate the natural beauty of the site. It is a green flat site on the flood plain of the River Thames, facing surrounding countryside and lakes. The site has lots of potential, making it an ideal site.
Fig. 21 shows the site boundaries. The site has the boundary of the river to the north, the stream and trees to the east, the Thames Valley Road to the south and the existing buildings to the west. However, the site is very large and has few physical restrictions, therefore allowing lots of different possibilities on the site.
Figure 22 show the highly public area of the site, which is along the river front, and the more private part which is the Thames Valley Park area.
It also shows the different circulation routes on the site. There is the main footpath to the north of the site and the road to the south of the site; these two are connected by link paths allowing people to cross the site.
As you can see from figure 21, the site has very little shadowing. This is because it is a large open site, with only trees as vertical elements that would cast any shadows. The surrounding buildings are too far to cause any problem of shadowing; therefore the site has good access to daylight throughout the day.
Figure 22 shows the different soils that converge on the site; it is mainly made up from clay, loam and gravel. Therefore it is very fertile land which has been made up from nutrient rich alluvium over many years.
Fig. 23 maps out my observations of the site flora, which is mainly located on the boundary between the river and the site edge. I also found that the trees on the site are predominantly oak and field maple.
The diagram of the flood map illustrates the flood risk on the site. It shows that the risk is significant; this means that the chance of flooding each year is greater than 1.3%, or 1 in 75 years. Typically, building on flood risk sites are avoided. However, this could be an interesting challenge to design a building which is flood resilient and makes use of this beautiful site.
3.13 Site History
Fig. 25 shows how the area used to be predominantly agricultural, with a small brick works on the flood plain. The Western railway ran straight past the main site area, giving it great access to London.
Fig. 26 shows how the brick works became a farm and that the flood plain was used for agriculture alone. The area south of the railway was used by Sutton Seeds to establish a seed trail ground, this was mainly due to the lands fertility and proximity to the city centre.
Fig. 27 shows how there was a large residential expansion of the city towards the south east of the site area. It also shows that agriculture had been taken over by industry, by building a factory on the flood plain. The Gasometers were also built close to the site area; they are a predominant figure of the landscape. In Fig 28 you see further expansion of the industry on the flood plain, also the Sutton Seeds main building moved to this site. To the north of the site there was a gravel pit and Iron Age swords were found here. It is said that there is evidence of man using this area for agriculture since the Stone Age.
By 1995 (Fig. 29) the gravel pit had extended and when disused it had become a nature reserve. The Sutton Seed company moved their site to Devon and in its position warehouses were built. Also the land south of the River Thames was cleared and prepared for a further transformation to become the Thames Valley Business Park.
So the site area had gone from manual labour (farming & brick works), to machine labour (factories) and then to mind labour (business park). Today in 2007 (Fig. 30) the Thames Valley Park has been completed and is fully occupied and the nature reserve has also become a marina and Olympic training lake.
3.13 Site Summary
In conclusion, the site analysis proved that the chosen site of the area adjacent to the River Thames and the Thames Valley Business Park is an idea site for the Cybernetics Research Office.
The site itself has a lot of potential, as it is not restricted in many ways; it is very flat with no over-shadowing, it has great views of the river and surrounding countryside, it receives plenty of light, it is close to the city centre and University of Reading as well as being on the door step of many large IT based companies.
The site is a beautiful fertile site that has undergone many transformations and it has a lot of history. The only issue about the site is the flood risk; however this could also become an interesting aspect of the design.
I also believe that Reading, the chosen city for the site is a great location. This is because of its direct links to Oxford and London and its existing knowledge pool, which needs to be taken advantage of. It has one of the highest highly-skilled employee rates in the UK; it also has excellent universities and companies within Reading or surrounding Reading. It is at the centre of the knowledge clusters, on the M4 corridor, close to London and Heathrow airport.
I have the possibility of creating a beautiful building on a beautiful site, in a perfect location. The site is ready for further transformation and growth all that is needed now is for the seeds to be planted and to allow them to grow.
4.1 Aims and Obejectives
The aims of my design thesis are to create a space whereby the scientists or Cyberneticists in this case, have the opportunity to work in a beautiful building that incorporates and integrates the scientists with their landscape, with fellow colleagues and also the public, therefore allowing greater knowledge exchange in a very pleasant, social and dynamic working environment, unlike many traditional offices.
The building will be physically, visually and socially accessible to different users, especially to the public. Therefore, allowing the site to retain its public characteristic, rather than privatising it like many business parks.
The building will be a user-friendly building, which is site specific and user specific, allowing the scientists to develop and grow on such a fertile site taking full advantage of the beauty and diversity of the site.
I also would like to achieve a sense of transparent identity, maybe by introducing ideas of Cybernetics to the design of the building, looking at the idea of the natural, the artificial and the intelligence, in relation to the site and building.
I will hope to create an extraordinary working environment for the valuable scientists to work in, which draws and retains the best minds in the scientific field of Cybernetics.
To achieve all these aims, I first need to decide on where my building will be located on the site and also how much of the site it will take up.
I can approach this in two different ways; one is to look at the site as a whole and to place the building in the middle of the site, therefore not allowing for any other developments or growth on the site. However, with this option the scientists will have a large site especially for themselves, which could be fully used by them, allowing for large areas of external space (Fig. 32).
On the other hand, the site could be divided up into different phases, much like a traditional route for business parks. This allows the Cybernetics Office to possibly grow and expand onto the rest of the site, in the future or for other similar or spin-off companies to locate (Fig. 33). However, this doesn’t give the scientists as much open external area, but I believe that the site is large enough to allow for other phases whilst still providing the scientists with the adequate amount of external space and importance.
Now that the site area has been chosen I need to decide on the location of the building within the chosen site area.
Looking back at the site circulation routes and the highly public and private parts of the site, I would like to create a convergence between these two. Therefore, the building will be placed in the middle zone between the highly public area & the private area, where the linking circulation routes are. It will act as an interaction zone for academics & industry, as well as creating a convergence between public & private spaces. It will create a new type of office space which has a mixture of private, privileged & public areas, therefore allowing knowledge exchange between all people.
4.2 Office Organisation
The first logical place to start is to research into office design, as my building is essentially a research office.
I looked into the research and work of DEGW, which are a well known design consultancy firm that focuses on workplace design.
Andrew Laing and Frank Duffy from DEGW have created four metaphors to describe organisational patterns of work. Typically most organisations are made up from more than one work pattern. The work patterns are described below (Fig. 34).
CELL – This pattern is used for individuals in concentrated work with little interaction, with enclosed or highly screened workspaces.
HIVE – This pattern is the most common pattern in the past, it is associated with individual process work with little interaction and low levels of autonomy.
DEN – This pattern will become increasingly important in the future; it is associated with group work. The worker is interactive but not necessarily highly autonomous.
CLUB – This pattern will become increasingly common in the future. It is mainly for knowledge work, which is both autonomous and interactive.
Also, I looked into the most recent research by Andrew Harrison from DEGW. He has looked at the idea of a new model looking at the building as a Node of Network or a Hybrid Work Environment. He has introduced new organisational work patterns, which are the PUBLIC - Coffee Bar (informal space), PRIVILEGED - Club (teamwork space) and PRIVATE - Cloister (concentrated work space).
4.3 Office Precendent Studies
I will look into a series of research lab based office buildings as precedent, which have used the ideas from DEGW to create more stimulating workspaces.
The first two case studies are by the architects Behnisch Architekten based in Germany, which are world renowned architects, working with DEGW to produce high-quality workplaces.
The first building is the Terrance Donnelly Centre in Toronto, Canada 2006 (Fig. 35). It is basically a new campus building to symbolise the connection that physically bridges the academic community, the medical community and the public. They tried to achieve this by expressing ideas of transparency and connectivity.
The emphasis of the design focused on designing the building on the functions within, therefore creating a user specific building. There is a central large atrium space, which is landscaped and creates relaxing spaces for the visitors and employees. They also tried to emphasise environmental sustainability and the connections to the surrounding urban context.
The second building is the Genzyme Centre in Cambridge, USA 2004 (Fig. 36). This is the headquarters for the Genzyme Corporation. The important ideas were that they wanted to create a workspace to encourage people to meet, mingle and trade ideas. The building also has a large atrium at the centre of the building, it acts as a giant light conductor allowing light to flood into the office spaces.
It also connects all the different floors together as well as the internal garden spaces. To enter the office you have to first walk through the ground floor internal garden spaces and up some large stairs to the mezzanine reception area. The architects believe that many informal interactions can occur whilst passing people on staircases, that is why they have given so much space to them.
The Max Planck Institute in Germany, designed by Heikkinen-Komonen Architects, is a lab research based office building situated at the edge of a university campus adjacent to a river (Fig. 37). It is basically a working community for scientists and has been specifically designed to allow for interactions between the employees. The director of the institute, Kai Simons said that “the key to science is communication”. He wanted his researches to interact and communicate to each other every day, rather than to be just locked away in a lab.
The building has a linear plan, due to its site, with six laboratories that are 1100 sq m. All the labs connect to a larger central social space, which has cafes and restaurants in it. The labs and social space have great views over to the river.
The Schlumberger Research Centre, in Cambridge UK, designed by Hopkins Architects, is similar to the previous one (Fig. 38). It too is a research based office building on a natural site. It is a building for the research of oil drilling technology. The building is primarily made up from two office and parallel lab wings separated by a 27m wide covered space which is covered by a suspended fabric roof.
The central covered space contains the drilling test rig and the social (winter) garden spaces. The majority of the office and social space are able to enjoy the great views of the landscape. The individual spaces are connected by circulation or informal meeting spaces. The high-tech company uses a high-tech building technique of the suspended fabric roof, to express its modern identity.
There are two interesting case studies from Clive Wilkinson Architects. They are the design for an advertising company in London called Mother (Fig. 39), and the other is for a charity fundraising company in Los Angeles (Fig. 40).
Mother is a unique example of office design, as it doesn’t have individual workstations or offices; instead it has one continuous concrete table where the employees plug into different spaces every week. The table which runs through the different levels, also become the staircase as well as the shared desk.
The Pallotta Teamworks office built in 2002, is basically an office within a shell. The shell of the building is an unconditioned area and the actual office spaces are conditioned, to save on heating and cooling costs. The office spaces are made from old shipping containers and have a ‘tent like’ structure above them providing the services. They produced the sense of streets and neighbourhoods within the office space, creating an informal workspace that allows information to flow freely.
Table 1 and 2 are summaries of the precedent studies that I have looked into for the research on office design. The tables break down the information into useful sections such as the size, type, space and work pattern. The work pattern that were the most common from the studies, were a combination of the Club and Cell patterns.
The diagram below (Fig. 41) basically shows the key elements that I have taken from all of the precedent studies, which I would like to incorporate into the design of the Cybernetics Research Office.
4.4 New Work Patterns
I would like to use the ideas of the new work patterns, devise by Andrew Harrison, when designing my office. I believe that they share the same qualities that I would like to achieve from my office building. So the Cybernetics Research Office will be divided into these three work models, to create a research office that is accessible to intellectuals, industry & the public. It will also create shared communal spaces for the business park & have incubator spaces for new high-tech businesses.
The privileged areas of the building are the shared spaces where knowledge exchange occurs between academics & industries. E.g. conference rooms & resource centres
The public areas of the building are the open-access areas where social activities & knowledge exchange to the city occur. E.g. cafes, restaurants and exhibition spaces.
The private areas of the building are the spaces with restricted access where individual or group work occurs. E.g. office & lab areas
4.5 Sustainable Precedent
An issue that will be important in the building design will be sustainability. I would want the building to be carbon neutral, if possible. There are many ways of achieving a sustainable building. This is a precedent study showing various methods of being sustainable; it is one of the examples that I have looked at.
The Building is the CSET building (Centre for Sustainable Energy Technology), part of the Nottingham University campus in China. The site for the building is on a meadow alongside a stream.
The building form resembles a small lantern, as the building is completely clad in a double skin of glass, glowing in the day and the night. The research building provides space for laboratories, offices and accommodation for seminars.
There is a large opening in the rooftop, which allows natural light to filter into all the different levels within the building as well as creating a flu effect for natural ventilation.
Nottingham University have help to design the new research building, they have said that “This building has been designed to minimize its environmental impact by promoting energy efficiency, generating its own energy from renewable sources, using locally available materials with low embodied energy, storing rainwater and re-using grey water where appropriate, and attempting to develop its own ecology and biodiversity within the site.”
4.6 Flood Resiliant Architecture
As previously stated in the site analysis, the site is located in a flood risk area, therefore this needs to be considered in the design. As shown in Fig. 43, the site can flood up to 1.5m high, flooding the entire site and part of the adjacent Thames Valley Park site.
There are two types of methods that I have looked into, which could be applied to this particular site, they are:
- A Raised flood-proof building - This is a building that is raised above the ground to allow the land below to flood without disturbing the building. This could create a sense of privacy, importance & inaccessibility.
- An Elevated floodable building – This is a building which is still connected to the landscape but has the ability to allow the lower level to be flooded, without causing damage to building. This allows the building to maintain its accessibility to the public & surroundings.
A precedent study that I have looked at for an example of a raised flood-proof building is the Aluminium Forest building, by Architectenbureau Micha de Haas in the Netherlands (Fig. 44).
The building is a showcase of aluminium, as the building is predominately made from this material. It is situated on a flood plain and partially over a river.
The building is essentially a large mass that looks as if it is hovering over the river; it has been described as “an alien amphibious creature teetering on the edge of the water” (Horsley, C). The building is actually raised up by 368 slender aluminium columns, which vary in size and function. The columns not stabilize the structure but they also act as services for the building.
I have also found a very good precedent study for an elevated floodable building; it is the River and Rowing Museum, in Oxfordshire by David Chipperfield Architects (Fig. 45).
The building has been slightly elevated off the ground as it is located on a water meadow that periodically floods. The ground plane is constructed as a concrete elevated slab that rests on exposed concrete piles.
The building has a large elevated public terrace that can be accessed by the ramp or stairs. It is effectively a ground plane that extends outside the building to create a timber platform, which acts as the main entrance and has a cafe, shop and restaurant off it.
The building is very sympathetic to the surrounding landscape, architecture and flood issues.
4.7 Accomodation & Sizes
To work out the accommodation and sizes, I can first look at the actual office space the building would require.
The office area of the building will need accommodate around 200 staff, so to work out the office space required I need to research individual workstation sizes, assuming at this point the scientists will have traditional individual workspaces.
Net Office Area (NOA) = The Net Internal Area (NIA) minus the primary circulation routes, but including the secondary circulation within the workstation area.
This is a sketch of standard workstation sizes for an individual person, with a desk, table & file.
Net Area = 2700 x 1650
= 4.45 sq m
NOA = 4.45 x 200
= 890 sq m
This is a sketch of a more generous workstation, with a desk, table, file & storage; more space would create a better more pleasant working environment.
Net Area = 2800 x 2500
= 7 sq m
NOA = 7 x 200
= 1400 sq m
As well as the 1400 sq m workstation space required for the 200 people, I need to allow for other spaces in the office area.
- Circulation Space (about 15% of the total net office area)
- Toilets (about 10 per male & female)
- Concentrated workspaces
- Confidential work rooms
- Support areas
- Project space
Including all of these office spaces, I will allocate 2000 sq m for the total gross office area.
4.8 Schedule of Areas
Tables 3 – 5, show the accommodation schedule. I have divided up the spaces into three sections, Privileged, Private and Public. The tables show the spaces required in each section, the sizes and a brief description.
In total, including all the Privileged, Private and Public spaces, the building is 10,000 sq m. This is quite large for an office building alone; however this will not be an ordinary office building, as it will be more of a knowledge transfer centre.
Figure 47 is a scaled spatial diagram to represent the sizes and spaces and also it is divided up into the three different sections.
5.1 Initial Ideas & Configurations
The initial stage of the design process would be to transfer my spatial diagrams onto the site, so that I can investigate how large the building would be in relation to the site. This would also allow me to look at the configuration of the different elements that make up the building and also to look at their relationships.
The first sketch is the simplest configuration of the different blocks, in a linear arrangement facing the river. The long plan makes use of the views to the north & sun from the south. However, the building will create a barrier between the river & the business park; it cuts off the existing circulation on the site. This is the opposite of what I want to achieve, I would like to reinforce the link between the business park and the river.
The second sketch, allows the public section of the building to be placed in the public area of the site. All of the different sections of the building are all connected in this configuration. But, the entrance would be through the Privileged part of the building, I would prefer if the entrance was from the Public section of the building.
Sketch three shows a configuration that allows the Public section to be the main entrance and it also allows the circulation routes to be retained. The different sections of the building are all connected through the public section.
These images are of a study into the massing of the previous sketches on the site. It looks at the opportunity for different levels in the building.
5.2 Cybernetics & Neural Networks
Cyberneticists are inspired from the natural world and biological systems, they mimic them by building an artificial system, so that they can learn & enhance the processes and functions, making them more efficient and effective.
It is also said to be the study of the structure of complex systems, especially communication processes, control mechanisms & feedback principles.
One of the most powerful biological systems is the brain (Biological Neural Network). The neural network system works by using simple processing elements called neurons, there are billions of these neurons, which are all connected together, to create a complex system, which is highly connected.
This is a simplified artificial neural network, which is a series of connected inputs, processes & outputs.
If I apply this model to my building I could divide my building into a series of inputs, processes and outputs, creating an extremely well connected building inspired from neural networks.
The Neurons act as Nodes, which could be seen as the different building elements. The connections are called Synapses, which could be seen as the circulation routes & bridges between the different elements.
If I literally apply the structure of the neural network to my buildings organisational strategy, I can say that the Private elements are the inputs, the Privileged elements are the processes or middle layers and the Public element is the output (Fig. 51).
This creates an organisation strategy that has high levels of connectivity between all of the different nodes, therefore allowing many interactions and greater collaboration to occur.
The previous organisational strategy follows the ideas of neural networks, which is a feedforward network. If I look at the ideas of 2nd order Cybernetics (Fig. 52), where feedback is very important, then I can develop the idea further.
By moving the Public element (Output) to the centre of the network it allows for greater amounts of feedback to occur & allows connectivity back to the Private elements (Inputs) as well as the Privileged elements (process) as shown in figure 53.
I took the connected feedback organisational strategy and modelled it on the site, to look at the relationships in 3D. There are three different configurations that I looked at (Fig. 54 – 56).
Figure 56 is a site plan, which uses the ideas that I have explored so far.
Site circulation routes are maintained but are drawn through the landscaped building area which has the cafe on the ground floor, creating an indoor-outdoor feel. The buildings are all regular shapes, which is more energy efficient and cost effective. They are also raised or elevated off the ground to allow for flooding on the site.
By bringing the private area of the building out into the highly public part of the site, it makes it more visually accessible to the public. Also, all the elements of the building are all connected by circulation bridges, which allow more interaction & collaboration to occur.
5.3 Engineering Encounters
By mixing uses, such as the Public, Private and Privileged work environment uses, I could allow a greater number of chance encounters to occur between occupants, academics, researches, other businesses & the public.
I could mix the uses both vertically & horizontally to create a dynamic working environment that creates interactions that may not necessarily occur normally, rather than separating the different uses, which would segregate the different people.
5.4 Engineering Encounters Precedent
I looked into precedent studies, where they have used a similar idea of mixing uses to create more encounters.
The first precedent is the Salk Institute in California, by Louis Kahn 1965. Kahn explains “I separated the studies from the laboratory & placed them over gardens. The garden became outdoor spaces where one can talk. Now one need not spend all the time in the laboratories.”
The building creates a welcoming and inspiring environment for the scientists. It consists of two six storey buildings flanking the courtyard, & each building has a long bay of laboratories, a set of smaller courtyards and a row of short towers with offices protruding into the courtyard.
Kahn wanted to break up the space & to separate the labs & offices, connecting them with open staircases and walkways, letting light and air in & allowing views onto the courtyards.
The second precedent is the exciting new building by Will Alsop, the Blizard Building in London 2005 (Fig 59). Will Alsop explains the aims of the building “Our aim has been to create a space that avoids the traditionally sanitised environment of laboratory research buildings - here the very fabric of the building speaks about science and is conducive to better science by bringing researchers together.”
They had two main concepts for the building; they wanted to promote integration of the science disciplines and to broadcast its purpose to the public. This is similar to the ideas for my building.
400 scientists work in one open plan work environment to encourage communication and the exchange of ideas. There are two main very transparent structures that are built around a central public street. You enter via the link bridge into the interior of the glass pavilion where pods that house learning, social or shared facilities, are suspended above the open laboratory floor. The building is very transparent & open, allowing interactions between staff & the public.
These are some sketch designs taking into consideration the creation of chance encounters and also trying to create a stronger link between the river and the business park.
5.5 Site Qualities
I have explored the issues of the spatial organisation, flooding, connectivity, massing, engineering encounters and strengthening the link between the river and the business park. However, I need to make my building work with the qualities of the site.
In my site analysis I concluded that the site was a beautiful natural site, which had a lot of potential. One of my aims was to integrate the scientists with their landscape, especially as this is such a magnificent site; it needs to be taken advantage of.
I believe that I am not currently doing this, so the next set of sketches and models are to explore the site qualities in relation to the building.
Possible ways of achieving this is to make use of the great views from the site and also the natural light. I could also look at incorporating site specific public uses, to further strengthen the idea of knowledge exchange between all people.
I could include a fishing and tackle hire shop, which would allow the public and the scientist to use the river. It could also be a way of having informal meetings ‘Fishing Meetings’, or to give the scientists a chance to relax and contemplate. There could also be a boat house, with a boat that can be used for relaxing and contemplating, during or after work. I could also make use of the river for a more practical reason; I could introduce a River Bus, which will take workers to and from the train station via the river.
The IBN Institute for Forestry & Nature Research, by Behnisch Architekten, in the Netherlands 1998, is great example of a research office that takes advantage of its natural surroundings (Fig. 67).
They have created a human and environmentally friendly building which is functional yet in harmony with nature and the environment. Behnisch explain that “their desire was to provide a habitat – a home, protection, and peace - for staff members as well as for many plant and animal species.” They planted many native trees and plants within the building, creating a peaceful outdoor feel. The building also expresses a clear identity.
In the briefing document I have essentially explained my aims and objectives, studied the site qualities, looked at precedent studies, developed a project brief and explored the possible options for the site.
This will allow me to further develop the ideas, using all the information acquired from the investigations and research that I have done, to create a finished building that follow the initial qualities and ideas from this document.
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