Residential architecture


The main idea of this paper, thus, is a discussion of the application of living criteria and the morphogenetic design strategies to design principle. They include emergent behavior, pattern and any other flexible design method that integrates ecological factors, for example natural wind and sunlight. The objective aims to uncover the problems of standardization system of current residential architecture, which has not been considered to fulfill current variety needs and demands of the residents. In this case, a space use is redundant. Furthermore, the intended design strategies are manipulated to blur the boundary between public and private domain.


The existence of today's standard urban fabric of buildings especially residential spaces was influenced by modern architecture that began in 1922. The modern architectural forms were introduced by Modernists; Le Corbusier, Mies Van der Rohe, in order to provide new design system that is easily produced and built in response to house large number of people. But, as the time goes by, the standard design of modern architecture needs to further develop in order to fulfill the current variety needs and demands of the society. Space needs to be more responsive and flexible to the users in order to optimize the space-use. It has to emerge from the conditions in which we live. On the other hand, society is now living while challenging its social life unconsciously. Four fixed walls and firmly shut doors that surround us were supposed to divide public and private spaces, yet, as the influences of some factors, mainly are human behavior and environment that makes the boundary more and more distinct.

In recent years, the spatial design approach expands in detail. The implementation of other disciplines, for instance Biology that offers ranges of flexible design method, from mobile architecture to modular architecture to repetitious parameter (pattern), to spatial design are highly required in order to move away from standardized design to heterogeneous design, refers to the design that able to adapt to the needs of the users. The living criteria of an organism have been seen as a potential source of differentiated design strategy, including emergent behavior. The objective is to provide adaptive living environment that meets current urban needs and demands and to blur the boundary between private and public space in human habitation.

1. Spatial Behaviors

Over the course of history many different spatial strategies and arrangements have been utilized for the design of human habitat. A wide range of spatial organizations, for instance universal space, interstitial, and cellular room, are the result that introduced by the Modernists. Hence, they overcome an excessively partitioned space that in their constituents, characteristics and effect are both homogeneous and homogenizing in many respects. Thereafter, many of the arrangements have been explored and developed to generate better habitation, though the most significant concern, a space that adaptable to the needs of the inhabitants, has not been established yet. (Hensel 2008)

In the past, modern architecture gained its popularity because of its success-designing in response to the issue of housing numerous numbers of people after the First World War. Modern architecture characterizes the simplification of forms and creation of ornament from the structure and theme of the building and is usually built based on buildings standardization system or uniformity system. The system offers benefits to the manufacturer, as it can be mass produced and efficient. But, the process and the development of modernization had made one unconscious of the essentials lost in modern society. Privacy is the priority therefore the boundary between people becomes more and more distinct. Hence, there is a need to understand the boundary thresholds within human interaction domain in order to blur the distinct boundary without compromising their privacy.

Architecture plays an important role in governing our perception and behavior, including social interactions, within our built environment. (Brebneer 1982. 152)

Behavior is the actions and reactions, both mental and physical, of an organism or object, usually in relation to environment. Human behavior does shape the environment and vice versa. The relationship between individuals and their environment can be analyzed from the way they perceive a space and their reaction. Perception of one's environment is affected by sociological needs, psychological state, and individual differences. It is also influences their social interaction within that environment. Social interaction can be discussed in terms of four concepts: privacy, interaction levels, territoriality and crowding. (Hall 1990)

Privacy is central regulatory human process by which people make themselves more or less accessible to other. In a dwelling environment, privacy may be manipulated through the use of fixed walls which protect the individual from physical, visual and acoustical interruption. The plan of a dwelling unit establishes the privacy level at which the dwell functions. Other environment that apply similar concept can be found in an office environment. Partitions are built in order to create a personal cubical for which allow the users to work on their private documents and to keep them on concentrating on their works.

Definition of an individual's interaction levels is one mechanism used in achieving a desired level of privacy. Besides needing enough space to move about and perform various tasks, each person moves within a domain that expands and contracts to meet individual needs and social circumstances. The size of a space determines perceptions, experiences, and uses of that particular environment. Edward T. Hall (1995) categorized four distinct spaces at which interpersonal transactions normally take place, such as intimate, personal, social, and public.

Circles of Proxemics

o Intimate space is the closest domain surrounds one's body, usually acceptable only for closest friends and intimates.

o Personal space or casual space is the domain which one feels comfortable having personal conversation. It's within 1.5 - 4 feet.

o Social space is the domain for interacting with acquaintances

o Public space is the domain which one does not expect to have direct contact with others.

Territoriality refers to an intention to achieve a level of privacy. It involves individual or group manageable space circumscribed. Crowding occurs when external social contact is on its unmanageable state; usually it is displeasing and temporary. Forasmuch as a role of designer in blurring the distinct boundary between people, there is a need to have a good consideration of creating a ‘generous' space, by means of comfortable environment that triggers social interaction, smart treatment of wall partition, opening and enclosure that balances the visual boundary and ventilation of a space. The perforated wall (2006) by students from Gramazio & Kohler Architecture and Digital Fabrication, Zurich shows the simple treatment of wall partition that integrates different angle and the size of opening, which is a potential approach to blur the boundary threshold.

Perforated wall (2006) by students from Gramazio & Kohler Architecture and Digital Fabrication, Zurich

In recent time, new modes of engaging urban and spatial design have emerged. Spatial design has been in the process of development to serve better living, both functionally and aesthetically. Based on current investigation, the presence of other disciplines, such as Biology, in spatial design strategy is definitely support the objectives and offers interesting result. The subject of concern within Biology is only dealing with the study of organism that is complex, vigorous and capable to generate heterogeneous interior environment and spatial organization.

It becomes part of accepted wisdom to say that the twentieth century was the century of physics and the twenty-first century will be the century of biology. Two facts about the coming century are agreed on by almost everyone. Biology is now bigger than physics, as measured by the size of budgets, by the size of the workforce, or by the output of major discoveries; and biology is likely remain the biggest part of science through the twenty first century. Biology is also more important or by its effect on human welfare. (Dyson 2006)

2. Biological intervention in spatial design is the drifter towards heterogeneous environment.

What is the characteristic feature of life? When do we say about a piece of matter that it lives? If it ‘does something', move, stands in a metabolic connection with its environment, etc, and when it ‘does' this for longer time than it would be expected from lifeless matter under similar conditions. (Ganti 2003)

Biology is the study of life. An organism or object is defined as alive if it fulfills four basic criteria of life such as metabolism, reproduction, growth and adaptation. Metabolism is a biological term that refers to a process occurs within an organism, often involves chemical reaction in order to avail energy for maintaining life. For example, the photosynthesis process which converts sunlight and carbon dioxide to carbohydrates and oxygen. When metabolism concept is applied to spatial design, the design approaches are to make use of the flow of resources, energy and waste in favor of maintaining the space system.

However, a Japanese architect, Kisho Kurokawa, expands his understanding about metabolism and deals with the phenomenon of metamorphosis. Metamorphosis is nothing more than a process of growth and change in a dynamic balance. It manifests itself in the development process from disorder to order, or from the simple collection of cells to complicated life forms-emergent behavior. Metamorphosis arises in intermediary spaces-the intermediary space of transitoriness, the zone between interior and exterior space, the zone between humans and nature. In this way, facades become membranes-half permeable, multilayered, with the ability, of bringing together heterogeneous element to the whole and allowing intermediate space to arise in the process. Kisho Kurokawa's Nakagin Capsule Tower (1972) is the first example in the world that implements the ideas of “metabolism”, “exchangeability,” and “recycling” as a prototype of sustainable architecture. Each capsule was synthesized to the concrete core shaft which enables the units to detach and replace. The capsule is designed to cater to the individual in the form of living and working space, and by connecting units; they can also accommodate a family. This project aims not only to reduce cost by mass producing system, but also to consider one architectural entity as a group of many smaller entities. Such a way shows emergent behavior which will be discussed in the last part of the paper. Nakagin Capsule Tower (1972) also demonstrates architecture as open system, capable of accommodating new addition at all time according to the user's needs or in other words, it was an affirmation of “responsive architecture” and “architecture that grows”. (Kurokawa 1972)

An organism is available to reproduce after going through a process of metabolism. Reproduction means a process by an organism to make a copy, to duplicate or to produce one or more offspring. The intended process is applicable to spatial design insofar as it means reusing a space (conservation), or executing identical design-to duplicate. Identical design may simply not satisfy the multiple and contrasting needs of its inhabitant, but, the remedy can be found by understanding design as ecology that involves dynamic and varied relations and mutual modulation between macro- and micro- environment and individual and collective inhabitation, as well as suggesting alternative spatial strategies.

The capability of growing by an organism is a natural phenomenon increasing both the number and the size of it. The Seed Archive's architecture project (2008) by the Brittany Bell Design displays the growing concept in architectural design. The project influenced by Santiago Calatrava, Zaha Hadid, Sarah Schneider and Chris Cunningham, draws an inspiration from a growing cytoskeleton of plant to the extent of executing the form. The project is proposed to house and preserve native plants for future generations in the Pacific Region. As the advancement of today's technology, computer software has been able for visualizing the capability of architecture to adapt to the unpredictable environment without human presence. This house works like a plant. It grows towards sunlight and adapt to prevailing wind and rainfall. Though, in reality, such architecture is still unbuildable. Another growing idea is developed to expandable method that has been implemented in architectural design and furniture design hitherto for example the expandable Rek bookcase (2009) by Reiner de Jong and Soft Shelf (2008) by Lateral architecture.

Since adaptable architecture as mention in Seed Archive's project is hardly possible to build, adaptable architecture that has been successfully used can be found in nomadic dwelling, for instance. Adaptation refers to the ability of an organism or object to transform its structure or function in order to survive. In spatial design approach, adaptable space offers flexibility to both the parameter and the users. Adaptive design can be explained in two different types of spatial characteristic, mobile and immobile. Flexibility in mobile architecture may refer to a compact multifunctional space; while in immobile architecture it refers to the spatial design structure capable to be manipulated for many different purposes. The projects that represent the idea range from utilizing of simple material, such as tent, to future mutative architecture.

Flexibility in architecture and design is definitely challenging the rigidity, static, and uniformity notion in space and time. One of the keys to be more flexible and establish varied manner is to design in higher level of abstraction- being apart from concrete realities, specific objects, or actual instances- and be more responsible to changes. The best example is the nomadic culture in the past that brings about the idea of mobile architecture. Mobile architecture privileges the principles of transporting, adapting, combining, assembling and disassembling, folding and unfolding, wearing and carrying.

“Sometimes, simple containment is enough”. (MVRDV 2000. 145) Container is the main concern of Container City (2000) by MVRDV, as they are quick and easy to install. This project demonstrates the idea of stacking, space-saving and multifunction. The basic shape of the container makes it easy to stack and the certain formation of the stacking container gives a possibility to establish a new space within.

The other advantage of the container is it performs back to its original function when it is not being in use. Another type of mobility is TurnOn (2001) by Alles WirdGut named that was inspired by hamster house. Its every rotation creates space with different purposes. The way it is being used is efficient. The project Refuge wear (1998) by Studio Orta certainly illustrates how wearable architecture can really work. The lightweight material that is used known as Carbon fiber amateurs. The system of pocket and zips is to build and to erect the structure of a tent. This project actually is to tackle the issue of urban homeless and to provide the needs of adventurous nature lovers. It also reflects the sensitive dwelling that respond to changes and as a guide towards contemporary variegated design.

On the other hand, flexibility in fixed structure as opposed to mobile design occurs in the spatial organization. It embraces the design elements, space planning, and purposes. Design elements are established by manipulating the interior fixed structure in order to blur the distinct boundary between circulation and access point. They must be carefully considered as to avoid the excessive usage of materials and spaces, in which, it aims to minimize the boundaries and size of current standard buildings. This point describes the action towards promoting social interaction and space-saving. In 1983, Steven Holl Architects began to experiment with the concept of “hinged space”, particularly in housing. “Hinged space” is generated by walls that “participate” in the creation of interactive environments with the human beings who inhabit them. By pushing, pulling and physically manipulating the separators and surfaces, people re-order their home to their liking-the space they have become contingent on the space they need. (Frampton 2003. 134) Other example exhibits the similar concept is a residential space, Transformer by 1+ decoding in Hong Kong, China (Hung 2008. 278). This residential space has a flexible partition wall that makes the space multifunction. The user also can control the room size for different proposes according to his desire. It also exhibits an optimized use of a space, and when a space is optimized, there will be less wastage presumably.

Inasmuch as the idea of flexibility in architecture has been developing over time and by the influenced of the advancement of technology and computer-aided software, an extraordinary, uncommon, and unconventional creation is possible to create. Though, most of the projects are still categorized as experimentation and unbuildable.

Thus, within the criteria of life, the process of development always occurs from simple to complex system. The best illustration is human cell that working aggregately to form tissue, organ and then system organ. The implication of biological paradigm in design displays variable design approach, as well as the engagement to the environment. Though, how does living criteria assemble the form? Further analysis of this paper aims to find the principle of morphogenesis that offers efficiency, flexibility and robustness to spatial design strategy.

2.1. Morphogenesis.

The waves of the sea, the little ripples on the shore, the sweeping curve of the sand bay between the headlands, the outline of the hills, the shape of the clouds, all these are so many riddles of form, so many problems of morphology, and all of them the physicist can more or less easily read and adequately solve. (Thompson 1992)

Form is a group of organisms within species that differs in trivial ways from similar groups. In the context of biology, morphology is a branch of knowledge or study dealing with form, structure and configuration of organisms which includes aspects of outwards appearances (shape, structure, color, and pattern) as well as the form and structure of internal parts like bones and organs. Johann Wolfgang van Goethe (1807) stated ‘when something has acquired a form it metamorphoses immediately into new one.' (p. 306). But, how does form emerge and continually differentiate, transform and perform in relation to its specific environment?

Developmental biology is one of the branches of biology that studies the processes by which an organism grows and develops. The study differentiates into three major interrelated scopes as cell growth, cellular differentiation and morphogenesis. Cell growth determines increase in both the number and the size, while cellular differentiation explains the processes of the embryonic phase which cells and tissues are formulated and introduced towards specific functions. During the process of differentiation, significant changes occur in the morphology of cells. Morphogenesis concerns the processes that control the organized spatial distribution of cells which arise during the embryonic development of an organism, producing the characteristic forms of tissues, organs and overall body anatomy. The idea of morphogenesis in design strategy is a form finding method that is controlled by stimuli. Within morphogenetic design strategies, there are unpredictable way - emergent behavior and predictable way - pattern to achieve the objective of this paper.

2.2.1 Emergence behavior as form finding technique in morphogenetic design.

Emergence is defined as the appearance of new properties or species in the course of development. In biological paradigm, Emergence principle refers to an understanding of how collective properties arise from the properties of parts or the composition of interconnected parts that perform one or more properties aggregately - collective behavior. It is also known as Emergent property or behavior. Emergent structures usually found in nature, for example a school of fish, colonies of ants, and the outcome is varied and unpredictable. The implication of emergent behavior in design strategy is definitely possessing many potential configurations of form. The idea of Emergence in architecture can be found in Stockholm City Library (2007) by Architect Tom Wiscombe. The design concept of the project is based on the principal of cellular tectonic or the architectural of cell. By understanding the cells characteristic in terms of the way their aggregate performance and their potentials for generating emergent structural and organizational effect. The building is designed not only by simply duplicating the center of the exterior façade. It exists by the observation of natural system that evokes a non-linear geometry. As cells vary in scale, thickness, and density, it provides opportunities to various types of inhabitation, from individual reading pod to group study spaces.

In Emergence, there are three main points which define the strategies for spatial design. The first point is the overlapping relationship between form finding techniques - for stable and dynamic material forms - and the application of scientific techniques - in constituting the emergence of both forms and behavior from the complex systems of the natural world. The second point is figuration through complex geometry, pattern and behavior of spatial design elements including the materials, and the third point is the adaptability of spatial material systems (Wiscombe 1999)

The practice of three spatial design strategies as mention above requires critical analysis of form and behavior in natural systems. A German architect's, Frei Otto, proved one of his significant aspects of interest in natural systems, by drawing relationship of experimental models to geometry and repetitive element. He is particularly interested in the natural processes of self-generation of forms, and in the structural behavior of those forms. In his studies, he included the experimentations of producing pressure-loaded vault forms by reversing tension-loaded suspended forms, soap-film experiments for producing minimal surfaces and experiments for investigation of optimized path systems and branches constructions. “I was interested in the form-making processes in nonliving nature, such as clouds or sand waves are formed. It was obvious to me that these processes can be directly used for building.” (Otto 1975. 20)

Frei Otto (1925) identified form finding as design instrument in his work based on empirical processes that utilize the self-organizational method under the influence of external forces. Self-organization is an independent, developmental, and irreversible process of the internal organization of a system, usually leading to the emergence and differentiation of complexity in non-linear system. The variety of options and definitions of certain conditions that takes place during form-finding process determine the range of possible forms. Starting from the beginning of the design process to full-scale construction, the combination of structures is capable to form-find certain kinds of structure at all stages. The Multihalle in Mannheim, Germany (1975) was the first built grid-shell structure. The grid-shell system shows the rectangular lattice that allows great flexibility for the structure to bend into desired curvature. In fact, the flexibility of the system is one of the potential methods for designing adaptable dwelling unit as it can be form according to the users' desire.

Michael Hensel (2004) introduced his idea of expanding the form-finding process and techniques that are adaptable and dynamic. The idea is utilizing the concept and principles found in natural system that are independent. In this case, the system focuses on the collective behavior of simple units that interact with each other to form complex system. When the complexity is increases, there is the time when heterogeneous is emerge and complexity increases when the variety and connection of parts are also increases. The process of increasing variety is called differentiation, and the process of increasing the number or the strength of connections is called integration. These understanding necessitates a dramatic shift in focus of the aim of spatial design from producing uniform and rigid objects to the generation of variation and responsive to both the inhabitants and the environment.

A main focus of biology as a material practice in spatial design is the way in which organisms and built and natural environments interact to satisfy the various demands of urban fabric in a way that is user-friendly, sustainable, and exciting. Therefore, the assemblage of variation in the context of spatial design is essential. And in order to establish variegated design, there is a need to understand emergent behavior and self-organization as form-finding techniques as have been noted. The other essential element that generates responsive habitation within morphogenetic design is in predictable manner define as pattern.

2.2.2 In fact, pattern is one of the drifters towards heterogeneous design.

The etymology of pattern is from the Latin pater, or patronus, meaning father, patron, god or master, from which it derived the notion of pattern as a model, example, matrix, stencil or mould. (Pattern. 2007) The contemporary concept of pattern is a sequence, distribution, structure or progression, a series or frequency of a repeated/repeating unit, system or process of identical or similar elements. Synonyms and related concepts include configuration, organization, arrangement, tessellation, process, duplicate, texture, and system. This multiplicity of meanings points to the manifold roles of pattern in creation, reproduction, evolution and processes of space.

Patterns are a fundamental feature of spatial design. They are commonly emerging from the multiple interactions - between physical world and our bodies. The contemporary development of patterns has been used in many disciplines ranges from two dimensional printed objects to furniture to architectural building. The Modernist patterns - hygienic, rectilinear, legible, navigable, functional and rational - have been further developing to heterogeneous, fragmented, disorientating, chaotic, formless and disembodying ones. Patterns are produced at a number of different dimensional, temporal and scalar levels, including the spectrum of natural and man-made patterns. As process (method, technique) and as product (object, material form), patterns suggest flexibility and variations in spatial design, concepts and effects.

Patterns have served historically as instruments of description and construction. Varied pursuits of designers have wrestled to construct systems that perform and communicate through patterns. An influential science writer, Phillip Ball (1999), reminds us that ‘many of the most striking (pattern) examples that we encounter around us are evidently the products of human hands and minds - they are patterns shaped with intelligence and purpose, constructed by design'. Through the advancement of technology, alternative spatial design is possible to be explored. These explorations have employed generative patterns to examine architecture and design as an emergent social and spatial system.

Over the last three years, Architecture Association Design Lab Research (DLR) has pursued its ‘Adaptive Ecologies' agenda as part of its focus on parametric urbanism. The research has been exploring model of living through collective behavioral patterns found in nature, examining the role of singular in the collective. According to Patrick Schumacher of Zaha Hadid Architects, in the context of architecture, patterns act as one of the most effective elements to formulate facades. Architectural patterns thus have a broad and deep lineage, and one should not expect them to have defined, unitary function. Patterns might serve purposes of decorative enhancement, feature accentuation, camouflaging, totemic identification, semiotic differentiation, or any combination of these. It often emphasizes a building's ordering of symmetry axes as well as triggers the most powerful feature, for instance, a form. (Schumacher 2001)

Another powerful opportunity of patterns is the adaptive differentiation that varies widely according to the orientation of the surface. The variety of form and function of patterns are negotiated. The fluctuation of an evenly sunlight, for example, is altered into an ever-changing silhouette of the embodiment of the patterns frame. Civil Courts (2007) by Zaha Hadid is architecture with the environmentally adaptive façade. It shows how architecture is formed by being guided by the environment. The façade components are modulated in adaptation to the gradually changing sunlight exposure. The opening size and the penetration of the shading element vary accordingly. The intended characteristic of pattern also offers the flexibility that, indeed, can be applied to establish adaptive dwelling.

Simple man-made patterns may be based on repetition and periodicity; however, this is not the case with all patterns and certainly not with most natural ones. In his seminal books The Self-Made Tapestry: Pattern Formation in Nature, Phillip Ball (1999. 9) describes patterns as ‘arrays of unit that are similar but not necessarily identical, and which repeat but not necessarily regularly or with a well-defined symmetry.' In contrast to pattern, Ball posits form ‘loosely as the characteristic shape of class of objects. Like the elements of a pattern - objects with the same form do not have to be identical, or even similar in size; they simply have to share certain features that can be recognized as typical.'

2.2. Though, repetition strategy utilizes generic or perhaps standardizes components, it forms various outcomes, for instance the manipulation of module.

‘The modern architect inhabits a challenging environment.' (Brule 2007. 10)

Modularity in design is an approach that uses a range of standardized sizes of small components (modules) to form a space, both the exterior and the interior. Module can be independently created and allows many configurations. Modular design, indeed, benefits both the users and the manufacturer as it is easily installed, reproduced (in massive amount), and flexible. It is flexible because the system can offers new solution by adding new module without affecting the others. The method of modularity is generic but when it is used and arrange for particular function and purposes, it becomes non generic. Moreover, when a set of modules that are arranged based on the users' desire, surprisingly, the form will vary.

Modularity in design project rages from architecture to interior spaces. Modular design is flexible because of its generic components that capable to work aggregately to form a space. For instance, the Theodore Café Bistro by SO architecture (Young 2009. 278) shows the flexibility of modules that enable to configure in many different manner for various purposes. Modules served as structures within the space and function as furniture system. Therefore, the usage of module in spatial design offers the privilege and freedom to the users to build its own space.

Theodore café bistro by SO architecture

In spite of the fact, heterogeneity without being controlled will result negative impact too. Design outcome will be merely symbolic and result in uncomfortable manner for the users. In a set of variegated structures, standardization acts as the controller. Standardization here refers to the performance of proportion within a space. Proportion of a space is mainly based on the user ratio. Hence, the key to going varied is basically understands sameness and going beyond the references draw from nature, with a sensitivity to ecological changes, and examination of organism behavioral action.

The foregoing research has shown the significance of relationship between human and ecology, and that biological intervention as design strategy for contemporary design has always resulted in differentiation. Differentiation in spatial design is needed forasmuch as to fulfill the various demands and needs of the users in current urban context, as well as, to enhance the quality of space. Spatial design is developed through the existence of similarity or uniformity which was influenced by Modernism. Standardization does not always seen as negative as it benefits future spatial design, for example the infinite grid system and modular structures that helps in justifying spatial design proportion. Standard system also acts as the controller of differentiation strategy. Another differentiation approach is by further developed patterns that have been existed for decades. The development of patterns provokes meshing system that allows flexibility in the structure.

Thus, in order to fulfill today's variety demands of urban landscape, adaptability and flexibility of spatial design is highly required. The strategy that has to be set within current standardized system's issue within urban living and neighborhood is the one that offers variety of components that enables to meet the needs of the inhabitants. Through the understanding of biological sciences, patterns, human ecology and modularity that trigger redundancy and differentiation system, the establishment of uncommon spatial design and heterogeneous environment can be achieved. In furtherance, it enhances the spatial function.


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