Structural Design – the next chapter
We are faced with fundamental global challenges – climate change, growing inequality, and the need to design for rapid urbanization in a human centric and sustainable way – to which architecture has yet to develop consistent answers. Shaping those will be an exciting journey. The design process is becoming more complex. It requires more transdisciplinary collaboration and at the same time strong design leadership. Questions of material, structure, shape, organization, cultural value, and formal expressions will need to be redefined. Structural Design plays a key role in this.
Using a combination of research, focused studies, and on-project design work, the Structural Design department is exploring and shaping the structural engineering aspects of this next chapter in the development of architecture.
The Department of Building Construction operates at the interface between the architectural idea and the tangible building, between the digital and the physical construct.
Building construction is taught integratively, i.e. embedded in architectural design. Students acquire and deepen technical knowledge while working on their own projects. On the one hand, this involves the development of constructions that catalyze the design idea through their logical connection with the overall concept: Constructing is understood as an opportunity to develop and strengthen the key project ideas. On the other hand, it is more important than ever to use resources intelligently and to make the most of their potential.
Therefore, a predefined form cannot be imposed on any material. Rather, the concept should be inspired and informed by materialization principles as much as by the context and conditions of the project. The research and teaching area “Circular Strategies” also addresses this issue and, in particular, the reduction of the excessive consumption of raw materials, energy and land in the building industry. The principles of avoidance and reduction, reuse and recycling must be consistently implemented in architecture, both in material and spatial terms. This obligation not only requires a critical reevaluation of building practices, but it also implies opportunities for innovation. In the future, our creativity must be directed above all towards the intelligent use of spatial resources and the further development of existing building fabric. For new buildings, we must plan ahead for their adaptability so that they remain usable under changing circumstances and aesthetically inspiring in the long term. The demand for healthy, recyclable materials and reusable components will lead to an increased focus on detachable connections (“design for disassembly”), bio-based and biodegradable raw materials, and waste-free construction methods, and thus also to a new construction culture.
Energy Design – saving the planet
Buildings and mobility are responsible for up to 75% of resource and energy consumption. In terms of land use, this number could possibly be even larger. Architects and urban planners thus need to develop strategies, techniques and solutions that help reduce land consumption, decouple energy consumption from non-renewable systems, and erect buildings and cities as energy producers, energy stores, and CO2 sinks.
Just as the weather is a deterministically chaotic system, sustainable design is a highly complex task: the environment – human activity included – is a complex system. One main challenge in studying and teaching ‘sustainability’ lies in the fact that there is no final or generally acknowledged evaluation scheme for the ecological compatibility of buildings and urban developments. Yet, there is a sufficient number of – necessarily – imperfect assessment systems that can be used as inspiration – coupled with a good portion of skepticism. The Energy Design department supports students in asking the right questions. These questions are also aimed at their own designs.
The contribution of architects to sustainability lies in a fundamentally correct arrangement of form and matter. This arrangement must become an integral part of the entirety of architectural challenges, from structural engineering to functionality and sociological questions, producing art as an answer. The responsibility of the designers differs significantly from purely technical responsibilities, due to the cultural nature of architecture.
The genome-like integration of ecological concerns into any design strategy is thus the key to environmentally responsible architecture. In order to do justice to the complexity of this task and to be able to recognize and develop new approaches, it is necessary to acquire physical knowledge and techniques.
This appropriation and embedding of scientific knowledge in the artistic design process is the core mission of the Energy Design department – both in research and in teachings. Students must be able to implement correct decisions from their clients in the future and to fulfill politically given demands.
Digital Design and Digital Production
The Digital Design and Production Lab is a department that was set up in 2014 within the Institute of Architecture which explores the manifold possibilities of methods and tools in the field of digital design and production.
The lab shifted from being a traditional wood workshop to a research facility within the domain of digital fabrication and representation. In addition to courses that enable students to operate prototyping machinery, the DDPLab explores the reciprocal relationships between design, science and industry.
As the design and fabrication tools extended the ability to operate on non-standard forms, the protocols that constitute design changed accordingly. Typical media like blueprints have been extended with computer-generated imagery and animation, real time environments, database models (BIM), scripted parametric definitions, data sets controlling fabrication machines, physical simulations, etc. These specific non-uniform representations of one and the same artefact are rooted in a core data set – the 3D model – which is conceptualized, modeled and maintained by the architects.
The ability to formalize procedures within the production of prototypes enables the students to design and organize building components accordingly within a larger scale.
The DDPLab is closely linked to the three design studios as well as to research programs, reflecting their needs by providing proven tools and exploring and introducing new technologies to inflect into design practice.
Performing experiments with models provides the basis for insights into circumstances in reality. With the ever-increasing capacities of modern computers, the importance of digital simulations is growing in many fields of knowledge, as the effort required to create computer simulations is relatively low compared to that required to perform physical experiments. This also gives digital experiments a new significance in the context of creative processes: similar to thought experiments, they can be used to add the level of what is possible to reality. Rather than in the execution of the experiment, the difficulty now lies in the generation and parameterization of the digital model.
The Digital Simulation department of the IoA is dedicated to the discovery and formulation of computer-based models in the field of architecture. The basis is an interdisciplinary approach that is aimed at making modelling techniques and methods from other scientific disciplines usable for the architectural design process. In addition to digital simulations with physical backgrounds, those from the human sciences are also covered. Rather than the purely quantitative optimization of the properties of individual systems, our main focus is on the search for new qualities in the field of digital design.
Theory of Architecture
Modernity as we have known it has come to an end – not due to social revolutions, or to ideological proclamations, but due to its inherent unsustainability and to a global pandemic. In 2020, the modern model of industrial mass production, based on economies of scales, standardization and global transportation, has been drastically brought to a standstill by the Coronavirus pandemic. But the Coronavirus tragedy has also proven that a technical alternative to the modern, industrial way of making, living, working and building exists, and may be viable. The alternative lies in the digital mass customization of post-industrial products, and in the electronic transmission of information and data (replacing the mass transportation of people and goods). None of this should come as a surprise to the design professions – digitally intelligent designers have been experimenting with a new, computational way of making for more than 30 years.
In the 1990s, digital tools for computer-based design and fabrication had already prompted the rise of a new techno-social paradigm, based on the customized production of non-standard variations at no extra cost. Modern factories needed standardized mass production to achieve economies of scale; digital fabrication is not affected by economies of scale, hence needs no global standards. The post-industrial economy of computation is a flat marginal-cost economy; an economy without scale.
Furthermore, second-generation computational tools are now adopting new methods of quantitative problem-solving that are utterly alien to the methods of modern science. These new post-scientific methods, only partly related to vintage artificial intelligence, are based on heuristic search and brute force calculation – simple arithmetics performed at unimaginable speeds. Of no use to humans, these methods are very effective when used by today’s electronic computers. The combination of digital mass customization and computationally driven, adaptive automation is poised to upend the way we produce, consume, exchange, assess and judge almost everything.
For at least the last 30 years, the design professions have been remarkably successful at understanding, utilizing and giving visible form to the new digital technologies for design and fabrication. To this day, the design professions are among the most alert interpreters and the most sought-after specialists of all things digital and computational. These competences are even more necessary today, as new social, economic and environmental challenges threaten the very foundations of the world in which we live. Many of the global issues we are confronting today, from the disappearance of industrial jobs to the crisis of political representation, from global warming to the global pandemic, from climate change to viral change, are, at least in part the consequence of botched up or mismanaged technical change. The design professions are uniquely positioned to reassess, reimagine, and redesign technology and the built environment. As the techno-social paradigm of industrial modernity ends in disorder and in disaster, the global pandemic will oblige us to re-invent a world where we can live. We have never really been post-modern; from now on we shall have to be.
History of Architecture
Environmental (and architectural) design will shape the future, based on today’s expectations and knowledge, which are in turn based on the experience of the past. Therefore it is an indispensable task to investigate the reasons why our contemporary environment appears the way it does, and how this came about. Which mistakes of the past should we not repeat? And which simple and clear, tested and proven solutions of briefs and problems still are valid? This also includes an open-minded, ‘evolutionary’ attitude towards aesthetic issues, based on the assumption that concepts of beauty change, even when architects throughout history have tried to impose certain traditional or freely invented standards on their contemporary building culture. The history chair’s teaching, consulting, and research program aims to create awareness of a ‘history of problems’ by pointing out and analyzing key examples of exemplary historic and contemporary solutions.
The teaching program provides two lecture courses (one in English, one in German) on general and Austrian architectural history. The respective documentary material is accessible on www.architekturgeschichte.at. In addition, a seminar course is offered for the integration program which can usually be chosen in the penultimate semester of the architecture master curriculum from all technical and theory subjects (serving also as a diploma seminar for non-architecture students). This integration course typically consists of a research program in the respective studio design projects’ type history and is completed with a 20-page research paper. Tutoring of and consulting on PhD projects are offered in a PhD seminar. The chair’s research program deals with the history of modernism from the 19th century to the present and includes focuses on modernism in Austria and contemporary architectural production resulting in a wide range of publications in different media.
[applied] Foreign Affairs
[applied] Foreign Affairs is a trans-disciplinary lab investigating spatial, infrastructural, environmental and cultural phenomena in rural and urban Sub-Saharan Africa, and the Middle East, established by Baerbel Mueller in 2011.
Each lab project centers on a distinct question or clear mission and culminates in field trips and residencies through which (applied) research, mappings, rural and urban growth patterns, urban prototypes, imaginary (art) spaces, and relational physical interventions are produced. A series of talks introduces students to the spatial diversity and cultural vibrancy of the contemporary condition of the respective project context, followed by workshops that focus on the status and potential of a specific region and interest. The process of relating and making is conceptualized in a reactive and slowed-down manner. Conditions of uncertainty and fragility are embraced. The outcome of each lab is presented in different formats and contexts.
[a]FA is performed in (experimental) collaboration with international guests, partners, and partner universities. [a]FA is commissioned by cultural institutions, artist collectives, communities and individuals. A selected number of students from both IoA and the respective project context can participate after application. Partial scholarships are available. Field work and residencies take place during semester breaks. Students of related disciplines are most welcome.
Special Topics in Architecture
The main agenda of the Special Topics in Architecture program centers around questions of sustainable, inclusive and synergetic urban development. Organized as an experimental studio, the program focuses on urban change and the role of architecture within this process of transformation. Since cities in general are condensed descriptions of urban life, consequently they are focal points of global challenges, too. Looking into our collective urban future, the program takes on urgent global issues: water shortage and energy scarcity, climate change, global poverty, inequality and refugee crisis – and most recently, the coronavirus disease. Being at the forefront, cities are playing a central role in the global response to ongoing crises, raising fundamental questions about urban development within social, cultural, economic and environmental dimensions.
Discussing multiple urban futures, student projects and doctoral research addresses the impact of technological, economic and social change. Aimed at advancing the state of knowledge in the field, our main research involves theoretical as well as empirical approaches, speculating on how global challenges will impact and shape future urban development. This includes issues of computation and simulation of environmental concerns, analyzing and predicting evolutions of urban form – from innovative solutions to entirely new urban formations.
Studies conducted in this field are aligned with current research interests of the department, and will therefore be closely linked to ongoing PhD investigations at the Special Topics in Architecture department. Thus, the department provides a PhD forum that serves as an exchange platform between research and teaching activities. Moreover, applied transdisciplinary research introduces knowledge from other departments of the University and is supported by international University cooperations.
Any manipulation of the built and seemingly non-built environment entails far-reaching consequences within an existing, complex system of interdependencies. Accordingly, architecture and any other interventionist, spatial, and planning discipline are inconceivable without strategically questioning these interdependencies. Here, conventional concepts of spatial categorization and terminology must be critically questioned in order to be able to confront the present and future ways of thinking and acting in architecture and urbanism.
The Department of Urban Strategies is dedicated to the role of architecture as spatial discipline within the immanently multidisciplinary thematic complex of ongoing urbanization processes and their underlying mechanisms and far-reaching consequences in economic, political, social, cultural and ecologic dimensions, all of which affect the quality of living spaces in a large variety of scales.
Embracing the ongoing changes between theory and practice, the imaginary and reality, future and present/past, the modes of thinking and reasoning are indispensable tools for innovative approaches. Didactically and methodologically teaching and research at the department evolve around the means, and formats of knowledge production, whereby trans-scalar and non-linear spatio-temporal approaches are put to the fore, in order to explore the possibilities and limits of textual and visual articulation techniques with regard to their respective descriptive, analytical and speculative potentials.
Applied Geometry and Mathematics
Georg Glaeser: The lecture is about theory and the numerous applications of geometry. The practical portion delves deeper into the subjects of the course. Students have the chance to select several of these subjects, to research them further, and to present their results. A special emphasis is put on the ability to express oneself using geometrically correct terminology, on the clarity of the ideas presented, and on the style of the presentation itself. This is good practice for aspiring architects and designers, who will eventually have to present ideas convincingly, and in a scientifically correct context.
This lecture is different from standard lectures about mathematics.
Its aim is primarily to solidify A‑level mathematical knowledge and to be able to put theory into practice. For this reason, it will not include the typical definition – theorem – proof strategy.
The book “Math Tools – 500+ Applications in Science and Arts” (German version: “Der mathematische Werkzeugkasten – Anwendungen in Kunst, Natur und Technik”) offers accompanying material for the lecture. The introduction (in German) is available at http://sodwana.uni-ak.ac.at/math/einleitung.html
Building Information Modeling
The course will introduce students to office level project development and BIM. Therefore, each student is asked to develop a small scale project. Each seminar is structured in three parts: The first part consists of a short lecture giving insights to all planning phases, from competition to construction. During the second part, all aspects will be put into the context of BIM. Design methods, work flows, calculation and evaluation tools will be explained. The third part of the seminar gives students time to apply the acquired knowledge on their individual designs right away.
The course explains the possibilities of computer-controlled manufacturing equipment and processes, and also describes applications from the fields of architectural model making and prototype construction. The different CNC technologies will be explained and compared. CAM software is then taught and 3D molds are produced on a CNC milling machine, as well as 3D printers and 2D molds on a laser cutting machine.
This seminar gives an overview on management skills necessary when realizing a project and running an office. Starting from time management, over cost estimation to calculating an architect´s fee essential tools and information is presented.
Design with Artificial Intelligence based processes
This course covers the application of artificial intelligence in the design process. The use of AI in the creative industry is an emerging field, where the use cases are investigated but not widely documented yet. Though these algorithms bring a new approach to design creativity where the interaction between humans and computers results in the emergence of novel design variations. However, such a new methodology requires a precise understanding of technology and the calibration of the design methods for the developing applications of AI.
This course aims to train the students on the topics of artificial intelligence, providing them with a theoretical and practical framework on this new technology, and its impact in the field of design. The students will be familiarized with different algorithmic strategies and corresponding parametrization models.
In this course, students will be working in groups of 3 – 5. At the end of the semester, all groups are asked to present their work as well as write a 3000 – 5000 word scientific paper, that is documenting their semester work.
Legal Conditions of Architecture
The course covers the essential legal matters that are relevant to architects and provides with practical tools and guidance to mitigate and avoid legal problems. The main focus of the course are the applicable laws on administrative procedures and services that (also) apply to architects, tort law, the respective liability issues – especially by Austrian Law.
Strategy of Communication
Most Architects just open their mouths, and nobody understands what they are talking about. Do you know that kind of experience? This seminar and workshop will help you to learn how to express yourself in different situations talking to different target groups such as architects, clients, investors, tenants, kids or local citizens. You will have the opportunity to practice building up a structure for short and long presentation runs. And you will be given some helpful tools how to put your message into a nutshell and how to catch your listeners’s attention. Did I catch yours? If so, I am looking forward to working with you!