3D + Identity = Should ornaments still be a crime?
We have asked ourselves this for a while now. Not only at Kanozi Arkitekter, but many others of the guild as well. This is a relevant question not only within the realm of physical construction, but also concerning identity and expression of our built environment. Can the sense of identity, within neighbourhood and city, be strengthened once again (like pre-industrial times) introducing ornamental and varied visual expressions? What are ornaments and expression today and how will they adapt to advancing building techniques? A bit of a recap regarding two large movements which deal with ornaments and expressions within architectural history:
Modernism: a building style made possible by industrialized building methods, influenced by the new possibilities of efficient and large-scale building techniques. The ideology that “form shall follow function” where established.
Post-modernism: a reaction against the strict ideals of modernism, influenced by the rich use of ornaments in the pre-modernistic buildings. Postmodernism used ornaments without any constructional use, in direct opposite of the modernistic ideology.
Our built environment, pre-industrial times, was dominated by local craftsmanship and knowledge of the context. With industrialization came a shift in knowledge, from many local crafts to a few dominating construction praxes. This shift marks a great development in many ways, like increased safety, hygiene, and affordable housing. It however decreased variation of local architectural expression. The industrialization enabled the beginning of Modernism: an architectural style that developed by new technical possibilities. But also, a style of which icon Adolf Loos famously assessed ornaments of pre-Modernist times as “a crime”.
We at Kanozi Arkitekts believe that ornaments and expression can and shall differ between different contexts. We believe that a buildings expression is at its best when it responds to the context that its placed in. Hajen & Reijndorp explains in their report ”In Search Of The New Public Domain”, that “themes” can be used to create spatial meaning to inhabitants of the city. In our interpretation, themes can enhance the feeling of belonging to a certain neighbourhood and increase the feeling of local identity. A ”theme” as we interpret it, can quite literally be the expressive theme of a built structure.
“I live in the area with all the nature inspired facades, the colourful ones!”
“Let’s go to our spot in the park, the one with the bumpy cave ceiling!”
Additive fabrication, Subtractive fabrication & Robotic manipulation
Additive fabrication: Building by layering material, a fluid or powdered mass is layered into a desired shape. Usually called 3D-printing.
Subtractive fabrication: Shaping a from by carving out material of a solid block. CNC milling and laser cutting are common example of this.
Robotic manipulation: Building or shaping by using a robotic arm. This tool has a wide range of possibilities, folding, bending, weaving for example. Equip the robotic arm with the right tools and the possibilities are endless.
We live in post-industrial times. It is strongly coloured by cutting edge communication technology, new asset types such as crypto-currency and the entrance of hyper-personalized medicine. However, some industries change slower than others. The reasons are many. A low-risk investment mentality, heavy regulations or low direct consumer influence can be some key parameters. The building industry is one example of a slowly changing industry, were we still see a wide use of old innovations (such as precast concrete elements, an invention from the early 1900s).
Alternative construction methods have however emerged following the industrialized building methods of the modernist era. The technique used for 3D-printing was introduced for the first time by Hideo Kodama (Japan) in 1981 and the CNC-machines emerged as early as the 1940s (John T. Parsons, MIT, USA). Robotics as we know them today, is already quite an old industry with the first digitally controlled robot being developed in the 1950s and first day of work for an assembly line robot taking place in the 1960s (GM, USA).
For the last 20 years, we have seen numerous built structures emerging from mixed construction (both standardized and digital, in a merge) or digital fabrication alone. Famous examples are DFAB HOUSE (2019), WinSuns 3D-printed concrete houses (2014) and MX3Ds 3D-printed metal bridge (2018). Many of the initiatives come from academia or specialized manufacturers.
At Kanozi Architects, we believe that digital fabrication can bring many new possibilities to our built environment. Especially the possibilities of mass customization, like our built environment in pre-industrial times. We hope it is an opportunity to further develop site-specific architecture which shows local tradition and/or expression.
With this exhibition, we take the opportunity to investigate the notion “is ornament a crime?” by proposing a themed and expressive project for the young inhabitants of our city, Malmö.
The play environment seen over the “bend” of the ramp. Here you are in the “safe zoon”, meant for younger children.
We propose a themed environment, showcasing pedagogical play for the young inspired by the marine identity of the area. This takes place in the harbour of Malmö at Smörkajen. This is a part of the old and current industrial harbour which is slowly transforming into new cityscapes.
The industrial use of the area is being replaced with sustainable housing, leisure, and commerce. The planning documents from the municipality describes that these functions and its attributes need to take “soft values” into consideration when designing the area. The document mentions:
- Use the sea as a resource.
- Place activities close to nature.
- Prioritize children (but the document also recognizes that the increased need for green areas might inflict on the need for hardscape for children to play on)
In the marine assessment of the area, one can read that the re-modelling of the harbour will increase the amount of eelgrass, macro algae and common mussel on the sea floor in the ocean close to Smörkajen. Vegetation that gives great nurseries for baby fish. We chose to establish the theme of our proposal based on this development. An opportunity to enhance the marine identity of the Smörkajen, as well as introducing a pedagogical hardscape for children to play on. A natural position for such a design is upon the industrial car-ramp, which will stay in the neighbourhood park for historical reasons. It is a great structure, but it lacks human scale. It can, in our opinion, benefit from an addition of objects in smaller scale to make it more embedded in the environment.
We propose a marine cacophony of expressions and structures to create an exciting environment for children to play in. The fabrication methods will vary depending on typology. Some can be made with 3D-printed concrete, others with robotically bend and welded CNC-cut metal sheets. In the playground we showcase the great variety of ornamental expression which can be achieved by digital fabrication – the design is playful, boundless. It should be view as a conceptual idea at this stage (further development of safety requirement, fabrication etc should be taken into consideration in later stages).
The layout is loosely based on Boverket play area zooning: “The safe zone”, “The wild zone” and “The vast zone”. Such zooning is widely used over Sweden and information is available via Boverket. It can be summarized that play areas benefit from a range of different intensity and these different zones are example of that.
View over the play area. The light pink illustrates the “safe zone”, “the dark pink illustrates the “wild zone” and the orange illustrates the “vast zone”.
The concepts, from left: Eelgrass+Macro algae, mussels & radiolaria.
As mentioned, the typologies of the play area take inspiration from the growing creatures in the surrounding sea. Marine floras bind carbon dioxide and macro algae especially is currently investigated as a potential climate change mitigator. We believe that their biological qualities are worth highlighting and therefore serve a grate pedagogical purpose. We have based the structures of different floras and faunas that represent the local sea. Eelgrass & Macro Alge, Mussel and Radiolaria.
Eelgrass is an aquatic plant that grows mainly in the seas of the Northern hemisphere. It is half a meter to a meter tall and can be used as fodder for cattle as well as fertilizer. Eelgrass is not a seaweed, but rather a plant species. Macro algae, on the other hand, is a collection name for thousands of types of seaweed. Seaweed can also be used as fodder and fertilizer.
Our interpretations of eelgrass and seaweed are conceptual and scaled up. We imagine a wild experience for children, where they can run through an underwater forest-like environment and play hide-and-seek. The seaweed-like columns could be built by small components, ca 20*20*0,5 cm laser-cut steel plates, robotically welded together into massive structures. We imagine them rusting over time and becoming habitats for climbing plants.
The common mussel, in Sweden known as “blåmussla” is an invertebrate which can be found on both Swedish shores. The mussel enhances the biological diversity in the ocean and filter the excessive nutrients. The mussel can live above water level at low tide and below water level at high tide. The fasten themselves to their habitat with thread like structures called byssal threads. We have chosen to emphasize these threads in our interpretation of the common mussel, as you can see in the diagrams above. We imagine the mussel-structures to be cast or printed in concrete (possibly coloured), whilst the byssal threads are 3D-printed in ceramics which are later glazed in colours of the historical industrial ceramics of the site.
Radiolaria are very small (diameter of 0.1-0.2mm) sea-organisms, can be broadly described as single-celled eukaryotes. They can be found as zoo-plankton through the global ocean. Radiolaria play an important role in regulating global climate by exporting photic zone carbon into the deep ocean through their consumption and aggregation of phytoplankton. They produce amazing mineral skeletons, with a seemingly boundless variety of intricate patterns and shapes. Our interpretation of radiolaria is heavily influenced by the drawings of Ernst Haeckel. The pattern inspires the shapes of our benches and fencing structures, printed out of sand and resin, post-processed for outside use.
View from the vast zone, running by the eelgrass.
Materials which derive from the industrial context. Concrete, glazed ceramics, rusting steel with visible welds and processed sand.
To conclude our investigations, we would like to invite all to partake in this discussion of re-introducing ornaments and local expression.
By re-introducing local expression, we believe, one can invigorate local identity!