Architecture and order

The abstract from my master’s thesis is available below. The full thesis text is not currently available online, please get in touch if you are interested in reading it.

Project Title: Architecture and the order of the urban block

Field of Research: Architecture and the digital context, the city and the urban block.

Research Questions:
How has the city evolved as a result of digital infrastructure? How can this change contribute to the resilience and growth of the city today and in the future?

How can the typology of the urban block, responding to multiple architectural issues with a functional adaptability that contributes to the longevity, and hence sustainability, of the block be interpreted to contribute to the changing context of the city today (‘the digital context’) and in the future?

Research Context:
Colquhoun (1981) notes that since the Industrial Revolution the external pressures on architecture have increased and ‘necessitated a change in architectural rules’. These changes led to the creation of new architectures, influenced by the machine age and the technological context of the time; and a new type of city with a focus on vehicular infrastructure – the car not the pedestrian. But ‘context is neither permanent nor passive’ (Scott Brown, 2011) and the flexibility of digital infrastructure is replacing the rigidity of physical road networks, changing how people live and work, and how communities are formed (Barth, 2011).

The urban block, an organising element within the city (Panerai et al., 2004), is a prevalent form that is subjected to these shifts in context. Balancing the continuity and change that the city must accommodate results in ‘structures [that] can devote their exteriors only to formalism and their interiors only to functionalism’ (Koolhaas, 1994). How the urban block can be designed to be most adaptable to these shifts in context is the focus of this thesis.

Research Methods/Summary:
Mapping a digitally connected city – exploring shift from the ‘pedestrian city’ (Nolli’s map of Rome) to the ‘vehicular city’ (Niemeyer’s Brazilia), and speculations on the future, digital city. Drawing relationships between the urban block and the city and how digital infrastructures can enhance this relationship.

Based on research from Steadman (1983), Balmond (2002), and data from The Metric Handbook (Littlefield, 2011), drawings and models to generate an ‘ultra-rational’ urban block exploring spatial layout, ventilation and daylight penetration, structure, and cores and servicing; with functional adaptability based on research from Alexander, et al. (1977) and Yamamoto (2013) to house interchangeable modular spaces.


Selected drawings produced as part of my research are shown below.