ross mcleod and nicholas murray


The modernist abandonment and discrediting of the geometry and motifs of pattern as a representation of societal values have unfortunately left many of our buildings and cities rationalised, sterile, alienating and meaningless. Now in the age of global mass consumerism and electronic media we find ourselves inhabiting buildings that are unadorned while we are bombarded by the graphic repetitions of the advertisers message. The studio sought to address this situation by exploring the design potentials inherent in an engagement with pattern identification and generation and by exposing the cultural landscape in which design presides at the beginning of the twenty first century.

We spent the semester developing an understanding of the techniques used in the creation of pattern. We looked at ideas within of the foundations of geometry, the implication of meaning via motifs, the play of the visual and the tactile and the implications of structural pattern. These formal elements of design were set against an in depth analysis of the patterns of organisation and occupation which define our modern cities.

The exploration of the foundations of pattern generation as witnessed in the natural world and formalised in mathematical principles such as translation, rotation, repetition and self similarity led to an appreciation of Islamic architecture and the evolving non-linear geometries of complexity. Students developed an understanding of techniques used in the production of complex geometries, developing methods of patternmaking and the interwoven potentials that lie within the idea of the symbolic.

Using the architectural engineering principles of Antoni Guadi, Frei Otto and Frank Gehry as a guide the students speculated on the possibilities of translating two dimensional pattern into three dimensional structural diagrams. Students constructed models out of elastic string which was weighted to test members in tension and compression, creating spatial volumes out of the geometry of an established pattern. These diagrams were then constructed as rigid frame models that were free standing and self supporting to which cladding systems were developed with thought to the peripheral structural layers which interface with both the structure and the skin.

While these geometric foundations of pattern are essential in the creation of design their is also another dimension to pattern recognition which goes hand in hand with formal studies, the world of sensorial experience. The manipulation of optic, haptic, aural and sensory stimulus forms a fascinating field of contingent phenomena which subtly affects our experience of space. The studio discovered the way pattern emerges visually from the overlapping of solid and translucent layers to create visual affects which seem to flicker, switch and change as we view them from different angles; the way in which the realm of the haptic engages our sense of touch in both a tactile and visual way to produce surfaces with depth, texture, materiality and inherent warmth; and how the dynamic acoustics of a space are modulated by the softness and hardness of geometrically patterned surfaces. Students developed their awareness of these environmental phenomena and created notational techniques for the defining of these qualities for use in the design of specific types of spatial experience.

The studio culminated in the design of a cultural complex within a 'typical', gridded and columned modernist building in an urban centre. SYN CITY was seen as a complex multi-function polis which operates 24 hours a day seven days a week. The complexes functions included Cafe, Gallery, Cinema, Convention space and Nightclub. Each students specific vision of the theoretical base and programmatic purpose of the complex informed the type of interaction of the various functions and shaped the sensorial field recognition and pattern generation used in its design.

Ultimately students wrestled with the creative leap from patternmaking to solid design development, identifying ways of thinking about the design project as a developed response to the programmes multi- layered demands. Each individuals overriding vision for SYN CITY sought to inform the project at all levels, from the shaping and refining of the brief to specific spatial configurations and detailed designs. These issues were then combined in a seamless integration of aesthetic, function and structural logic to create a complex pattern language of interior architecture.