ARCHITECTS MUST BEWARE THAT NEW TECHNOLOGY DOES NOT DEVALUE THEIR SKILLS
Computers are transforming the way we design and build, as two projects featured this week demonstrate. Mangera Yvars' Villa Valldoreix in Barcelona (see the Building Study on pages 25-35) and a Foster/Buro Happold City Academy in Peterborough (see Technical & Practice on pages 4043) have movement at their heart - in uidity of form and the way we engage with the buildings.
In a subtle folding of space, Mangera Yvars' Valldoreix emerges out of the landscape. Built and unbuilt space - both exterior and interior - merge into one another with a uidity impossible without the use of the computer. The site literally wraps the house as a path, with gently asymmetrical steps leading us up a ramp to the roof. Inside, joinery merges with walls to create stairs and kitchen work surfaces. Routes through the house yield unexpected relationships and views, which, together with careful handling of light and deployment of sensuous materials, makes this an architecture of visual delight.
At Fosters + Partners' Thomas Deacon Academy, movement of students has been a key concern. Complex people-movement modelling by Buro Happold has enabled refinement of public circulation to maximise safety, minimise bullying and, of course, achieve 'value for money'.
Sophisticated modelling will only increase with the spread of BIM (Building Information Management), and design teams are becoming integrated in the life of a project earlier and earlier. While this may be good news for engineers, architects must beware that it does not devalue their skills. Architects must adapt quickly, not only to keep pace with changes, but to maintain a controlling eye on projects as they go through iterations of computer modelling.
The attention to sensual delight which is possible in a suburban villa is not appropriate to a vast secondary school, but neither should that delight be sacrificed in the pursuit of firmness and commodity through the computer.