Week 9 | Critical Thinking

A key aspect of critical thinking is the ability to discard or change an idea when needed. Often as designers it can be easy to attach oneself to an idea/design concept/etc and as the process moves along it can be difficult to realise that these ideas need to evolve, to develop or to be put to the side. The design process is an evolving path and refinement comes from evaluating ideas and steps along this path and limiting undue emotional attachment certainly helps to move between phases towards a synthesized design.

Critical evaluation requires a variety of methods and sticking to one form of design development limits the understanding of the concepts. Physical models, digital testing, hand drawing, collages, etc are examples of development tools which encourage ideas and an understanding of where the design is at. Evaluating a range of mediums encourages a depth of critical thinking.

A knowledge of what’s happening in the world of architecture is also essential, by viewing architectural examples the brain learns to review and builds a subconscious library of design examples which will help to generate ideas for your own projects.

There are many considerations and influencing factors within the design process and this obviously creates something of a “juggling act”. A designer must respond to these factors appropriately and an example of this is logic versus creativity. Too much logical thought and the design may became stale and ideas difficult to generate while too much creativity may compromise functional requirements. Critical thinking is the ability to weigh up the effects and needs of the different factors involved. Ultimately the concept of critical thinking is a broad one and the best way to effectively apply it is through continual practice. Each person will have differing opinions and it is advisable for everybody to find their own methods for critically evaluating their designs. An example that I have used is a physical model to test shadow effects for a facade idea:

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Week 6 | Meaningful Findings

I have looked at a number of aspects during the course of my site analysis but there are a couple of conditions which appeal to me and which I will focus on. They are:

  1. Context buildings – Southbank has a number of key architectural exemplars such as the Queensland Performing Arts Centre (QPAC), Gallery of Modern Art (GOMA), the State Library and more recently the ABC Headquarters and the new Convention and Exhibition Centre. Each of these buildings has its own distinctive architectural characteristics and between them there is a wide range of design attributes including form, materiality, climate response, etc. I think this variety and the individualism of these buildings adds depth to the area, it adds interest. Southbank and close suburbs (e.g. West End, South Brisbane) are cultural precincts and encourage a strong community atmosphere and while variety and individualism are inherent in communities, their success comes when the parts fit together to service the whole. The planning structures and connections between the buildings are elements which help to connect these to create a functional whole. So while there are examples of design variety, these examples still respect the context in which they lie so that the community as a whole may function together. 
  2. The site, positioned in close proximity to these precincts has strong connections on a wider scale but on a human scale these relationships are weakened by factors such as lack of visual access, distance to walk may put off some potential visitors, etc. Therefore, while there are still plenty of pedestrians passing by the site, as a community engagement center virtual networks could dramatically improve the buildings involvement with the wider community.

These two conditions are the most interesting to me and are the influencing force for my design concept.

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Week 5 | Urban Informatics

Accessed from: http://www.australianscience.com.au/news/urban-informatics-interview-with-marcus-foth/ March 29, 2013.

The progression of information technology has been so quick that undoubtedly it’s opportunities and potentials are nowhere near fully understood. The last few years has seen a dramatic improvement of mobile technology which has opened up an unprecedented level of access to information and entertainment. At any time and in any place (obviously provided your not in the wilderness) smartphone owners can answer questions or pass away time by reaching into their pockets. While mobile devices and the internet in general offers obvious benefits, such as freedom, opportunities to learn or entertainment (to name a few) there are some arguable drawbacks. For example, some argue the popularity of social media is resulting in reduced face-to-face interactions as people spend more time communicating via a screen.

The earlier mentioned characteristics of freedom of information, entertainment, feedback, discussion, etc all have the potential to influence architecture in a unique way. A building is by nature a tangible construction, it exists in the physical world even though many characteristics of its architecture are intangible (e.g. programming, sense of place, etc). Often a great deal of a building’s success is in its relationships with its surrounds; its context, both macro and micro. Architecture has always had relationships with culture, with the community in which the building sits and it is along these lines that I believe the virtual world of technology can create interesting opportunities. Virtual networks and the communication of both information and between people, businesses, organisations can offer relationships with the building. People who may never even visit the site could interact with it. For example, a transport building may receive traffic condition updates from people sitting on roads; people who pass accidents and want to let others know. This information could then be displayed on the buildings facade for example.

Weather services could be monitored and the data could be used to inform mechanical devices within the building; adjusting openings, shading devices and the like to provide better climatic responsiveness. These are two quick examples of how the virtual infrastructure could provide a level of connection and interactivity between people and architecture. Technology continues to improve and as it does so will other uses become obvious and as the integration of technology and architecture will offer new and exciting opportunities.

Week 4 | Evolution of the site

QPAC history

The Glenelg St site as a part of the wider South Bank and South Brisbane area has seen its function and identity evolve greatly throughout its history. The area was first colonized by European settlers c. 1825; the main purpose being a convict settlement. This beginning marked a change for the low-lying swamp land that had previously been used as a meeting place for two tribes of aborigines (Turrbal and Yuggera) and some conflict between the new and old inhabitants ensued.

Twenty odd years later saw the progression from convict to free settlement. Development continued and the South Bank area played a major role as the port and business district for Brisbane; receiving ships and exporting goods produced throughout Queensland (e.g. cotton, wool). The 1870s – 1930s marked a boom period in the commercial and industrial activity of Brisbane and as a result of this, hotels, restaurants and pubs had established themselves.

Despite the positive growth of industry during this early period, the South Bank went into a period of decline during the 20th century and adopted a reputation for disrepute and undesirables. The CBD had since been moved to the North Bank to avoid flooding and despite the construction of the Queensland Performing Arts Centre (QPAC) in the 1970s the area remained in poor standing.

Expo ’88 was the turning point for this neglected site. This event began a transformation of identity and post-Expo ’88 plans for a parkland were considered from a few different architects. Southbank Parklands opened in 1992 and has continued to evolve in the years since to become a major entertainment and leisure centre which draws people from a variety of demographics. Educational institutions are also present as are some industrial elements (e.g. Pauls factory).

The South Bank area has evolved significantly since its early days; from convict settlement to booming commercial and industrial hub, to a rough and ready area of ill-repute, to a community based leisure precinct drawing both locals and tourists. The topography has shaped planning (flood prone areas were originally working class residences while higher land was home to the upper class) and given recent natural disasters the area will continue to evolve respective of these influences. This is a site with a rich history but one who’s current face reflects little of it’s past.

Southbank map