Think Tank Post

Urban Metamorphosis

w/ Dimitra Gavrilaki

Course Overview

The Urban Metamorphosis studio is designed to simultaneously research and develop multi-scaled urbanization proposals based on the following principles:

- The city as the main character in a narrative which serves as a framework built upon complex structured links. - The city as a cultural construction of constant metamorphic changes due to active multi-condition dynamics (scale, territory, place and network). - The city as a network of social-political enterprises representing a site and a client. - The building as a cause effect artifact emerged from the internalization of urbanization processes.


The studio is based on both group and individual discussions (desk crits) with students to enhance and perfect the arguments behind their stories. In all reviews, students will be asked to represent all factors which contribute to clarify and promote questions from their narrative constructions. We ask students to start at the end (writing the story), move frontwards (defining the characters of the story) and analyze existing urban fabrics and their origin to induce possible evolutionary scenarios over and over.

These are the methodological steps:

- Create a title and write a story with the given site as the main protagonist. (Analyze the site as territory, place, scale and network as a planetary urbanization) - Rewrite the story as we comprehend the conditions depicted in our plot. (Site Vs Data: Community, GIS local database, world accessible database). - Rewrite the story again after understanding the main urbanization “agents” implicated. (Readings of living urbanization conditions: Processing, Pachube, Grasshopper, etc). - Repeat step one, two and three… The story ends when the new conditions reconfigure an urban complexity unlinked from its original recognition and the story coherently questions the present urban scenario.

General Context

Cities today contain more than 50% of the population of the world and this figure is expected to reach 70% by 2030. This statement in itself is almost meaningless. We must question culturally constructed boundaries within cities and understand urbanization as a variation of the urban fabric in terms of density. Furthermore, without a deeper comprehension of the urbanization processes taking place we cannot formulate problemsolving protocols in either local or global urban configurations nor can we even determine what the specific problems are. The reality of this fabric is complex and we ask students to understand its complexity as they formulate alternatives to the acknowledged system. The course explores the means of the city as a multilayer data structure with infinite conditions for variations or metamorphosis. In our story, architecture is conceived as an artifact dependent on urban typological urbanization processes. Architects need to

understand the constantly driven metamorphoses that construct informational grids within cities. In an increasingly data-driven urbanization reality, the discourse has evolved around how architects manage, select and manipulate all this information.

Four main challenges are proposed to students:

- Understanding the city as a “moment” of urbanization protocols with no clear boundaries. - Accessing and representing data. - Predict urbanization structures with associated data responses. - Engaging community and site representatives.

The proposed course aims to apprehend Urban Metamorphosis through an attempt to bridge the accuracy of data spatialized through GIS with computational and behavioral parametric-driven software (Processing). These tools deal with information in both raster and vector graphic digital formats by carrying endless possible attributes to all elaborated visual data ion the one hand, and by multiplying data tables which are still missing visual definition on the other. By combining mapping and analytical characteristics of GIS and the parametric computational capacities of Processing, the course aims to redefine the way future architects should perform, design and think about the city and the architecture shaping it.

Site Specific

A specific site is proposed as a starting point. All students will include this site in one way or another. The way students zoom in or zoom out in relation to the given site will depend on their conceptual approach. They will be encouraged to include their scenario specificities at various scales (planetary / world / transnational / city / neighborhood / building / inhabitant) to nourish their story accordingly. Students will make use of several meetings with a community group to receive a site-specific value at the beginning of the semester and to promote and explain their results as potentials for the city at the end of the semester.

Reading List

Boeri, Stefano. (2003). USE: Uncertain States of Europe, MIlano: Skira.

Branzi, Andrea. (c2006). No-stop city: Archizoom associati. Orléans: HYX.

Castells, Manuel. (1998). End of millennium. Malden, Mass.: Blackwell Publishers.

Henri Lefebvre, (1991). The production of space. Cambridge, Mass.: Blackwell.

Hughes, J, & Sadler, S. (Eds.) (2000). Non-plan: Essays on freedom participation and change in modern architecture and urbanism. Boston, Mass: Architectural Press.

Isozaki, Arata. (2009). Arata Isozaki. (K.T. Oshima, Ed.). New York, NY: Phaidon.

Jacobs, Jane. (1961). The death and life of great American cities. New York: Random House.

Martin, Reinhold, & Baxi, Kadambari. (2007). Multi-national City: architectural itineraries. Barcelona: Actar.

Mike Davis. (2006). Planet of Slums: Urban Involution and the Informal Working Class. New York: Verso.

Mostafavi , Mohsen & Doherty, Gareth & Harvard University Graduate School of Design. (Eds.). (2010). Ecological Urbanism (1st ed.). Baden: Lars Müller Publishers.

Rossi, Aldo. (1982). The Architecture of the City. Cambridge: The MIT Press.

Saskia Sassen. (c2001). The global city: New York, London, Tokyo. Princeton, N.J.: Princeton University Press.

Simmel, Georg. (1903), The Metropolis and Mental Life. Dresden: Petermann.

Wirth, Louis.”Urbanism as a way life” The American Journal of Sociology. Chicago: The University of Chicago Press, 1938. Vol. 44, No. 1, pp. 1-2.

Wolch, Jennifer, & Dear, Michael (1993). Malign Neglect: Homelessness in an American City. San Francisco: Jossey-Bass.

Zardini, Mirko. & the Canadian Centre of Architecture. (Eds.). (2006). Sense of the City, An Alternate Approach to Urbanism. Baden: Lars Müller Publishers.

Fiction References

Calvino, Italo. (1974). Invisible Cities. Retrieved from

García Márquez, Gabriel. (1967). One Hundred Years of Solitude. Retrieved from

Huxley, Aldous. (1932). Brave New World. Retrieved from

Kafka, Franz. (1924). The Castle. Oxford, New York: Oxford University Press.

Moorcock, Michael. (1976). The Dancers at the End of Time. Retrieved from

Orwell, George. (1949). 1984. Retrieved from Skinner, B.F. (1948). Walden two. Retrieved from

Wells, H.G. (1895). The Time Machine. Retrieved from

Zamyatin, Yevgeny. (1921). We. New York, NY: Penguin Books.

Film References

Berlin: Symphony of a Great City (1927), Walter Ruttmann

BicycleThieves (1948), Vittorio De Sica

The Third Man (1949), Carol Reed

The Tokyo Story (1953), Yasujiro Ozu

La Dolce Vita (1960), Federico Fellini

The Trial (1962), Orson Welles

The Battle of Algiers (1966), Gillo Pontecorvo

Serpico (1973), Sidney Lumet

It was a date (1976), Claude Lelouch

Sans Soleil (1983), Chris Maker

Qatsi trilogy (1983-2002), Godfrey Reggio

Hatred 1995), Mathieu Kassovitz

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