The trajectory of my research and teaching to date has been underpinned by a conviction that architectural design theory and practice have a significant contribution to make to contexts beyond the built environment. I have also looked to move past technological speculation in areas such as digital technology and Synthetic Biology to develop and explore experimental prototypes, seeking to ground speculative discourse in practical reality. Through the development of core research programs in technology and scientific areas such as Synthetic Biology, my aim is to develop a rigorous intellectual engagement with new types of material systems and practices.
I have published more than 20 peer reviewed publications including the book The Architecture of Information (Routledge 2011) and received more than £400,000 in research income working on projects which span architectural design and digital technologies. My research group ArchaID is the basis form both my research and teaching and more information can be found here.
I am always keen to talk to promising prospective PhD students in areas of Architectural Design and Computation and Architecture and Synthetic Biology. I have a particular interest in design and emergence through computational and biological systems.
My main interests lie in the relationship between architectural design and computation in two specific areas:
Through the study and development of ‘architectonic systems’ which can, in contrast to ‘linguistic systems’, be see as the way in which the spatial environment and our articulation of it are used to communicate information. My research examines the broad culture of architecture and knowledge representation from mnemonic architecture through to the origins of storehouses of knowledge such as museums and libraries and I apply this knowledge to the design of computational systems, whether hardware or software, which use space (physical and virtual) as a way of articulating information and knowledge.
Through studying the relationship between the design and engineering of biological systems and material practices in architecture and other fields of design. Specifically this has involved collaborating with Molecular Biologists, Computer Scientists, Materials Scientists and Experimental Anatomists on morphogenesis and biomineralization with the aim of exploring new material possibilities for architecture. To this end I am also an advisor for Newcastle University’s iGEM (international genetically engineered machines competition) team.
Vitruvius suggested in his texts On Architecture that ‘architecture is an imitation of nature' but what happens when architecture becomes nature and we begin, through the design of biological systems, to become architects of nature? This project has been initiated through a series of pilot studies on Biomineralisation and Morphogenesis of new biological materials using calcium carbonate inducing bacteria. These experiments have been used as the basis for an application for a £170,000 AHRC fellowship (currently being reviewed) to lead a pioneering pilot project involving anatomists, molecular biologists and materials scientists; combining Lab and Studio practices to develop a design framework to build a ‘synthetic shell’ by creating a self organizing cellular system capable of the patterning the distribution of calcium carbonate crystals to form a macro scale (visible to the naked eye) self supporting structure. Such an object would be unprecedented in being designed and manufactured through rules held within its material construction.
The Architecture of Information and PATINA
My book entitled ‘Architecture in the Information Age’ was published by Routledge in Spring 2011 with the aim of standing against the tide of accounts of digital media which, uncritically and with revolutionary zeal, celebrate the separation of information from its material means and, in the tradition of Remediation (Bolter et al. 2000) and Understanding Media (Manovich 2001), it seeks to place Digital Media into its appropriate historical context. This book provides the foundation for the architecture of information by significantly extending its discussion beyond the pragmatics of organising and presenting digital information and into architectonic systems which are defined as fundamental types of representation which are media independent but which have a particular place in the design of digital media. This research led to a 1.4 million pound EPSRC funded project called PATINA (Personal Architectonics through Interactions with Artefacts) which builds on the ideas developed in The Architecture of Information by examining the relationship between physical and digital research spaces. The project will finish at the end of 2013.
I am currently Director of the MSc. in Digital Architecture. I have made significant changes to the program and will re-launch it as a new program in September 2013 called the MA in Design and Emergence (MA_DE). This has involved creating a new curriculum and three new modules:
ARC8028 Programming for Design
Introducing students to the principles and practices of software creation in design with a particular emphasis on creative application through the use of programming environments such as Processing and Grasshopper.
ARC8018 Research through Design
A research methods course based on using design as part of a research methodology. The course will include a spectrum of topics from material practice in scientific experiments to experimental practices in creative arts.
ARC8039 Interaction Design
A project/studio led module covering the principles involved in designing digitally augmented material systems, with an emphasis on prototyping and testing human interactions.
Current Teaching for 2012-2013
ARC8015 Architecture in the Information Age (Module Leader)
Lecture and seminar based module for Stage 5 and other post graduate students on principles and philosophies of architecture in the age of digital methods and media.
ARC8027 Interactive Space Design (Module Leader)
Masters level design based module for Stage 5 and other post graduate students introducing the foundations of interaction design in architectural and urban contexts.
ARC8060 Stage 6 Design (Studio Leader)
Stage 6 Thesis studio consisting of a themed primer project and supervision of MArch students’ final thesis projects. This year’s theme was Architecture and Synthetic Biology.
ARC1016 Digital Media and Communication (Module Leader)
Stage 1 project module (BA Architectural Studies) introducing core skills in Computer Aided Design and digital media as well as graphic design and communication.
ARC1001 Stage 1 Design (Module Leader)
ARC8068 Linked Research Project (Project Leader)
Developed a Stage 5/6 research studio based on the theme of Architecture and Interaction Design
Additionally I have been a guest tutor and reviewer for projects throughout the undergraduate and graduate design programs and a dissertation supervisor. I have also been nominated by my students for two Student Union led university wide awards for teaching innovation.
Complete PhD supervision as primary supervisor:
Dr. Reham Abdelatif – Design Reviews in Second Life – Completed June 2012
Ongoing PhD supervisions as primary supervisor:
Abdelatif El-Allous – The urban effects of digitisation of municipal services in Tripoli (to complete September 2013)
Luis Hernandez – Architectural tether objects in physical interactions with digital technologies (to complete 2015)
Carolina Figueroa – Synthetic morphologies in architecture (to complete 2015)
PhD examined as an internal examiner:
Dr Islam Abohela – Effects of Roof Shape, Wind Direction and Building Height on the Position of Roof Mounted Wind Turbines.
Dr Amina Batagaraw – Assessing the Thermal Performance of Phase Change Materials in Composite Humid/Hot Dry Climates: An examination of office buildings in Abuja – Nigeria.