Sunday, February 8, 2015

Complex Buildings Research Studio 500 2014/2015. Systems thinking to Increase Social Capital in Midland

Ph.: Curtin University, Perth WA

This international collaborative project is based in the Department of Architecture and Interior Architecture - School of Built Environment (SoBE) Curtin University (Perth, Australia) and Department of Architecture – Politecnico Di Torino (Torino, Italy).

This Perth-Torino Think Tank joint design research studio is envisaged as having shared objectives, organisational structures and modus operandi at both locations – in Italy and Australia.

Both Torino and Perth are epicentres of social, cultural and economic activities. Perth-Torino Think Tank considers Torino and Perth as knowledge centres where there is great opportunity to develop collaborative research in architecture and urban design. Identifying potential areas of research will begin with the 2014 Torino-Curtin Design Studio.
This International Masters Studio, that includes international tutors together with Curtin Faculty, will be supported on the web with an Interactive NewsBlog on Wordpress and a digital diary accessible to participants only.

The first Perth-Torino Think Tank joint design studio will examine the possibilities of the Midland area to the east of central Perth. It is recognized that Midland has a strategic role in demonstrating how Greater Metropolitan Perth can grow compact. Midland has all the qualities that could make it both an urban hub and a regional centre as it has important links to surrounding employment, residential areas, a town centre precinct, rail connection to Perth City and ready access to the food basket of Perth. Enhancing agribusiness in Midland has the potential to provide a unique and exciting identity to the regeneration of Midland

Back Ground
(extract from Draft Midland Master Plan (MMP) 2014 prepared by Hassell)1
The Master Plan for Midland has been prepared to ensure Midland’s ongoing regeneration. Six clear objectives have been articulated in the Master Plan. These are:
To build a sense of place
To promote economic wellbeing
To promote urban efficiency
To enhance connectivity
To promote social inclusion
To enhance environmental integrity

The Challenge
This project will be considered as part of the overall development of the Helena precinct designated in the MMP 2014 with particular focus on the Railway workshops precinct. The intent is to explore the possibilities of creating an intelligent, ecological appropriate design that respects the site’s cultural and built heritage through adaptive reuse and innovative new uses. One of the key challenges is to minimize building footprints and maximize the regeneration of an urban greenbelt.

Using your understanding of the historical/cultural background of Midland and a responsive systems approach to building design you are to design a tertiary educational science hub, commercial food research facility, including an innovative food processing facility for local produce, and urban farming provisions. Bodies such as the Agricultural Institute Australia, the Australian Institute of Horticulture, Department of Agriculture and Food and Landmark could be involved as occupants of such a facility.

In addition short term accommodation that can be used by visitors associated with education/research facility or with the needs of the new nearby hospital is required. The new design is to utilize the existing railway workshop closest to the Helena River (Locomotive and Railcar building). At ground level a landscaped greenbelt with public facilities is to be used in creating an urban public realm that melds the un-meldable - from the proposed new railway station, around the historic railway workshops to the Helena river greenbelt.

Building requirements

The following enclosed areas are suggested:
Food research/food processing 3,000 m2
Tertiary education science hub 10,000 m2
Residential 80 residential units

These functional areas (which will be over numerous levels) are to form the basis of the design. However other complimentary uses may be included should they form a part of your design strategy. The actual areas (m2) are a guide only.

It is important that the design engages with the heritage building both in context and function

The process
Prior to commencing your design, the following range of GROUP activities will need to be undertaken to fully inform all students of site specific issues, constraints and opportunities. As you would all now recognize design is a collaborative process and discussion of your projects with others is valuable.
All of the activities/deliverables will form part of your folio.

You will be required to develop the following:-

Precedence Studies
A detailed investigation of similar international exemplar projects and their relevance to this project
_ Deliverable: This is to be presented to the studio via electronic presentation (10 slides)

Heritage Study
The site (and precinct) has a rich social, cultural and built form heritage that will contribute to, and inform your design solution.
_Deliverable: This will be a desk top study of the site history and the remaining heritage buildings on the site. This is to be presented to the studio via electronic presentation (3 minute video presentation)

Site Analysis
This involves an analysis of different aspects of the site and its immediate surroundings. Ie topography, existing structures, roads, services, service points, access ways etc
_ Deliverable: diagrammatic drawings with notation (1 x A1 sheet)

Urban Design Strategy/modelling
Develop an understanding of the social, cultural, physical, historical, social, and environmental influences in the broader precinct .How will those influences inform an Urban Strategy for your design proposal.
_Deliverable: diagrammatic drawings (with notations) (2D or 3D optional) (1 x A1 sheet)

Opportunities and constraints
Graphical analysis of the sites environmental, physical, historical, social and cultural opportunities and constraints
_ Deliverable: diagrammatic drawings(2D or 3D optional) with notation (1 x A1 sheet)

INDIVIDUAL design activity will commence with the identification of an aspirational focus.

Aspirational focus/Design Strategy
Focuses on the objectives of the project expressed in MMP (2014) and acquired information from the group submissions, the desired outcomes and the enablers of those outcomes - “this is what the research has identified as being of major importance” and “a range of design principles that will guide and inform your design”. (a design approach or design strategy)
_Deliverable: A1 diagrammatic and written submission (2D or 3D)

Concept Design
1. Master planning - site spatial /planning studies that respond to your Design Strategy, Site Analysis and Opportunity and Constraints analysis.
2. Concept design work that investigates the functional relationship of spaces both vertically and horizontally; volumetric studies (blocking and stacking), planning studies, servicing etc. 
Graphically explore the ideas that support and underpin your “Design Strategy” along with a range of preliminary landscape ideas. _Deliverable: diagrammatic - plans; 3D studies; preliminary landscape plan, preliminary sections, design strategies (3 x A1 sheets)

Schematic Design
Detailed development of the concept design phase providing clarity and context to your “Design Strategy” using developed planning diagrams, elevations, sections, block modeling, photographs, 3D imagery. 
The level of presentation should be suitable to enable a client to full understand the project and the strategies and ideas that underpin the solution.
_Deliverable: diagrammatic - Developed plans and sections, 3D studies. This material should be suitable for a client presentation (6 x A1 sheets)

_Deliverable: The format of the folio is at the discretion of each student. The folio should be compiled to optimize and illustrate your work over the semester. The material contained within the folio should be both written and graphical. In addition to the semester’s “Deliverables” the folio should contain an appendix containing sketches, research, design processes and presentations that contributed to your design process.
This folio also requires photographs of a 1:500 styrene block model of the area from the new railway station to the Helena River to demonstrate the massing and urban design approach.

End note

1) The Master Plan should be read in conjunction with the following: 
_WA Planning Commission’s Directions 2031 and Beyond: a strategic planning strategy that guides Perth’s growth and urban form;

_WAPC’s State Planning Policy 4.2: Activity Centres for Perth and Peel;

_City of Swan’s Midland Activity Centre Master Plan (2013); and

_MRA’s Strategic Plan 2014-2018.

Saturday, February 7, 2015

The Curtin/Turin Poly Midland Think Tank Scopes and “mission”.

New Midland a vision for future Perth: a narrative.

The Midland Think Tank is a joint urban design, visioning and research venture established between Curtin SOBE (Curtin School of Built Environment) and Turin Poly DAD (Dipartimento di Architettura e Design, Politecnico di Torino).
The “mission” of the Midland Think Tank is to research and study through specific design experiences, visions and concepts for a “new city”.
The cross cultural venture will allow an innovative approach to problems and develop documented urban design solutions, new architectural visions and innovative technology applications.
Turin/Perth: Turin has a history of two thousand years of medium/high density urban design successes and failures. Perth has an urgent need to envisage an urban design culture that extends beyond bungalow housing - a culture able to thrive and meet the complex challenges of the 21st century. Both SOBE and DAD have the specific qualifications, as schools of architecture with strong technical backgrounds, to interact to create vital innovative propositions.

Midland, 20 km North East of Perth CBD, is a challenging area with huge potential. It is characterized by underutilized historic industrial buildings, abandoned commercial buildings, large expanses of parking lots and bungalow housing. It is one of the few suburban areas in Perth still surrounded by food producing land. Midland provides rail services to the east and north east as well as a regular train service to central Perth. It is an area ripe for change. However without a radical “new comprehensive urban vision” Midland is almost certainly doomed: little residential appeal, little commercial appeal, no economic draw card.
This is why Midland has been chosen for the first Think Tank exercise: to demonstrate how the strengths of a location together with design inspiration can attract people to want to live, work, learn and play in this compact Perth suburb.

A “new urban paradigm”
The exercise will be an in-depth exploration of a “new urban paradigm”. Higher densities, pedestrian- friendly streets, minimal long distance commuting, high percentage of local jobs, child-friendly urban environment, appealing residential architectural design… walking trails, vertical gardens, urban farming, alternative energy generation and grid integration.
Not a “dormitory” suburb: a full time living experience, residential, working, studying, entertainment, permanent education, new professions, senior citizens care.
A place to go and a place to live.
Any new urban paradigm must consider long term sustainability from socio-cultural, environmental and economic perspectives.

The new Midland vision will include socio-cultural sustainability by:
_revitalizing Midland to support a strong local community
_reusing existing building stock,
_providing new jobs associated with an enhanced food industry
_providing a new approach to indigenous food culture.

Environmental sustainability will come about through:
_reducing urban sprawl
_maintaining and enhancing agricultural land
_using the latest technologies to create low energy, low waste buildings

Economic sustainability will occur through investment in all aspects of the agri-food arena.

Technologies could include:
Climate responsive systems, passive heating and cooling, solar thermal, solar PV, wind turbines, sophisticated energy storage systems (such as latest generation fly wheels with high speed rotation, magnetic suspension in vacuum containers)

Jobs could include:
Slow food, Zero K food, local food processing, gourmet restaurants, food/health culture services, quality catering for schools and social institutions.
University and professional training in catering.
Food for the new hospital: 1200 people (staff, patients & relatives) will require 3600 meals a day ($2 M a year business) procurement, packaging, processing, delivery, waste recovery and waste processing, organic recycling: a full cycle.

New Midland would become a permanent urban design testimonial and urban management teaching structure. The University of food, professional training, permanent teaching structures and labs.

Sponsors Campaign
Target: 10 sponsors for $10 K each. Total target $ 100.000.00
Sponsors will be sought among
Small medium industries:
Food processing, Catering, Packaging, energy technologies, solar thermal, solar PV, wind generators, building components, advanced food production, individual mobility devices.
Local authorities:
Midland Municipality, MRA, City of Perth, Government of Western Australia, Western Australian Planning Authority,

What will the sponsor get
Advanced knowledge, technological innovation, know how, design competence, design vision, green buildings technicalities, qualified image, high public visibility, contacts, networking, cultural status, political status and technical credibility. A two part Report –Part 1 Building technology, Part 2 Agri-food.

Cash value of the results
15 “New Midland” Urban Projects for a total of 2160 student hrs plus 320 hours of critical thinking of Curtin SOBE/Turin Poly DAD faculty.
Total time approximate worth: $ 150 000.00

Knowledge value of the results: priceless.

Thursday, February 5, 2015

Andrea Terranova, Understanding the Concept of“Slow” (1). The “Right” the “True” and the “Good” in Design Communication

Architectural design today is “self centered”:  the defining issues do not take into account the need to communicate the beauty, the resources the technology but above all, do not care about the users.  Designers please themselves with forms, technology, materials, energy wisdom but, generally, neglect the people. A “user centered” design is lacking:   The requirements of those who live in the designed spaces should be the main scope of design. In the following short comment I try to define the features of a “user centered design” process.

It is possible today to assume and propose criteria and practices that can bring back “right, true and good” to design communication.

In such a framework the “privilege of users” must be acknowledged, i.e. of those who receive the communication, as opposed to those who produce it. 

To respect the user we must know him.

The knowledge of the user rejects standard paradigms - good for any situation - since producer and user must stand on equal ground: which necessarily implies achieving a stronger communication capability.

In this way communication will retrieve its original meaning - still embedded in the etymology of the term - to put in common to share.

Communication as “sharing” implies an active, equal relationship between user and producer; a space between the two will be made available which does not belong to either one of them, a democratic space of dialogue.

A space of mutual loyalty to face the “right, the true, the good” implies four basic conditions: clarity, lightness, depth, respect.

Clarity in the communication mode, avoiding the unnecessary use of foreign terms, ambiguities, innuendos, unaccountable promises.

Lightness requires a minimal mental and environmental impact to process content and form.
Depth chastises banality, superficiality, haste and poor communication.

Respect of cultural, social, political and religious conventions and symbols.

(1) “Slow” as in the  the concept of Slow Culture, an idea and a practice proposed and implemented by Carlo Petrini (Slow Food Movement).

Tuesday, December 30, 2014

Lorenzo Matteoli, "Some “pensierini” about the technologies"

Here attached some “pensierini” about the technologies.
Consider seriously and check the feasibility of the Great Green Pensile Boulevard over the railway tracks: cost comparison between the GGPB and diverting the tracks, time involved, profitable activities to be placed on the GGPB.
Also the idea of the Fly Wheel Storage needs a serious feasibility check.

*   *   *


The complete “passive” catalogue: cooling in the summer and heating in the winter.

Energy model of the settlement: space, time, ed entalpy.
Electricity demand, thermal demand > 100° C < 100 °C
Food processing heat demand: hot water, pressurized steam.

Solar thermal: mandatory coverage for Domestic Hot Water
Hot water demand > 100°C o steam for food processing
Solar PV and wind energy: to be associated with local storage Fly Wheels
Thermal hot water storage: for each single residential unit

Explore wave energy cfr

Solar stack effect chimneys for undercroft areas ventilation.

Light ducts for undercroft areas day lighting.

Electricity storage:
Go for the fly wheels!
Fly wheels, study scale possibilities check

(YBCO = Yttrium Barium Copper Oxide superconductor compound material)

The Great Pensile Boulevard (linear park?) above the train tracks.
This could be a great feature for the whole urban design of the New Midland!
Cost comparison between new track line construction and displacement of the tracks and the cost of the structural covering platform.
How and where to cross it? Underpasses? Coaxial ramps?
Examples of pensile parks on elevated train tracks (Paris, New York) cfr:

Commercial structures or services on the Great Pensile Green Boulevard: tennis courts, basketball courts, bocce, cycle path, skateboard ramps or bowls, BMX bowls, volley ball, mini-football, minigolf, tracks, kiosks, cafès, restaurants, …what else?

The “piazza”? Or the “piazzas”…

Palassis Architects, "Conservation Plan for Block 3 at the Midland Railway Workshops"

Historical image of Block 3. Courtesy

By following this link you can download the Conservation Plan prepared in 2014 by Palassis Architects for Block 3 at the Midland Railway Workshops.

The purpose of this Conservation Plan is to:
_identify the cultural heritage significance of the place within the context of the Midland Railway
_provide guidelines for the future use, care and management of the place within the context of
the redevelopment of Midland Railway Workshops (fmr); and,
_provide a prioritised schedule of conservation works and a program for ongoing maintenance
at the place.

Please, if you use some elements of this Plan we ask you to quote "Palassis Architects".
Thanks !

Monday, December 29, 2014

Luciano Pia, "Considerations on façades and masterplans"

Luciano Pia, "25 Verde", Torino, 2007-2012. Image:

Our towns are the portrayal of our ways of life, habits, culture and social relations.
We live in urban , suburban, rural and alpine environments that we built through history, as history passed by, adapting the built-up areas to our needs and technological development. We have adapted the environment to those different visions of society we have conceived in the centuries; the way we move, by cars, trains, ships or planes has deeply transformed the landscape with roads, railways, harbours and airports. 
Commerce has shifted from small shops to big surfaces transforming the commercial network of our towns by removing the nearby points of sale which were often located not far from the place where products were made, in favour of a more  impersonal commerce, in areas at the edge of towns , in order to satisfy the need for large parking lots for many people and goods which are essential to shopping centres.
A change in the producing system and the ways we manifacture and exchange goods, informations, knowledge and culture has widely modified the image of our towns.
Towns and more in general all the built environment do represent who we are, what we think, our values and ambitions: they are the image we have about our present time.
If we analyze the  different ways of building towns  through  time and think  at the transformations they  have undertaken,  we see that they follow the changing ways  of thinking life and therefore they adapt  to new usages and customs: the major radical changes ( from handicraft to industry, for example) replaced and wiped out the former  dwellings. 
When we are asked to develop a  urban project, we analyze the build-up areas to get information on our way of life, dwelling models and economic development, there we live and are part of it, so it is difficult to have both a general and total vision, while a distance in time would certainly help.
The  designers of contemporary cities know that any planning choice at any scale has correlated effects on all activities and functions that will occur eversince.
If we compare the old Medieval towns which were entranced for reasons of defence and control to the Renaissance towns  open to arts, research and technical developments, we can learn a lot about the ways of life that were carried on because of totally different urban spaces . They  persecuted similar basic aims but both the urban systems offered to their inhabitants different opportunities of development and perception of the present and future.
If we compare a town with a density of 1 mq/mq, I am thinking to Renaissance towns, to a town with a density of 10mq/mq like most of today's vertical towns, we know that different conditions  made it possible and the result is a way of inhabiting towns which in its turn influences people's life.
Because of the complexity of our present time, it is getting more and more difficult to project our living space.    Nevertheless,  we feel  the responsability for trying to correct all those glaring mistakes which are due to a lack of a forward -thinking planning,  in order to build up areas according to our expectations and future needs.
For these reasons , when we draw a masterplan indipendently from its extension and formulation, we are carrying out a task that will deeply condition the future development of the area. From the way of organizing functions depends everything will grow in that context, for example services and their quality, people’s interplay and life quality.
Our cultural models and the vision we have of our society, interactions among people and among people and Institutions is converted into an image of town, in its local and volumetric organization that is what we expect from a plan of urban development.
Since we know that the living space affects thoughts and behaviors, then the masterplan is one of the main elements in the development of our society and sets the fundamentals of wellness and life quality.
The organization of built-up areas shows our way of life and behaviours, leeds choices and limits possibilities.
The masterplan gives a shape to towns and a framework to people’s interactions, while the image we give to our buildings acts as an intermediary between ourselves and the others: the masterplan represents the image of society as a whole but our image as individuals is given by the “skin” , once called façade, of our buildings.
We understand other people mostly by the way they present themselves and by their behaviours , similarly the “skin”of the buildings tells about both the designers and developers of those buildings and their users.
We immediatly associate a façade to a specific use of the space which means to precise social and economic circumstances, cultural attitudes and trends.
The arrangement of the façades witnesses the sensitivity and attention to a sustainable development or to speculative choices. Today we are all able to design efficient buildings that contribute to a general improvement of our habitat, but there are often heavy economic restrictions which endanger the quality and performance of the buildings.
The built-up areas are a mix of buildings which are often private and inscribing a private place behind an external “skin” which marks the boundary between what is private and what is public so the image of public places is largely featured by the skin of private buildings.
The quality of our towns is made by the total of the different ways of life of the people whose buildings overlook public spaces such as squares, museums, libraries, parks……
Our communities are the sum of each personality, similarly a urban environment is the sum of the images of the ways its inhabitants live.

It is necessary to deploy all our knowledge and planning skills to project urbanized places in coherence to a sustainable development and able to meet those requirements which depend on the values embodied in the society we are aiming at.

Luciano Pia

Luciano Pia, "Considerations on Residential Landscape"

Since we are aware of being part of an infinite living organism which is constantly self regulated, a fraction due to the conjunction of elements, we also know that humanity won't survive to the natural evolution and to the constant changes of the “organism” as a whole, unless we act as to avoid damaging ourselves and, consequently, the complex system that by selfregulation enables our lives.
From this perspective, we can serenely deal with the fundamental questions about what is really essential to our lives and ways of living and what are our real needs.

Our cities have grown at a frantic speed, thus causing enormous operating problems and, likely, a lower quality of life together with the rising of social costs which sometimes have become unaffordable.

Today in a global economy, we deeply feel the need for a new tight relation with nature and a better quality of life to be achieved also through an environment which shouldn't be built in accompliance with a will of mere exploitation of the land. Today we know that social tensions worsen in deteriorated build-up areas which have a part in leading to the escalation of violence in a spiral of general decay.

We have realized that we can't go on growing endlessly and thus destroying more and more land. We are part of nature and without the natural environment our lives are inhuman, cold and fruitless. We can't deeply modify our megalopolis, which have overspread regardless of the fragility of the territory, but we can minimize the negative impact that improperly built-up areas have on our souls by a riappropriation of a direct relationship with the natural landscape.


For centuries we protected the countryside being conscious that it was our source of life and sustenance. But with the Industrial Revolution and the shift from a rural economy to an industrial one the distance between Man and nature, cities and land obviously grew deeper.

Where do cities end and the natural landscape start? What is the boundary of that landscape and how do we act upon it? What do we do to blend the built-up with the natural landscape? Which landscape are we aiming at recreating for our towns? These are the basic questions which need new answers to recreate an urban environment where the green plays a fundamental role for our wellness. There are scattered signs of a new Renaissance where Man and the quality of life are the core of our thoughts.
From this perspective architects should conceive their projects as the prosecution of the natural lanscape, when possible, and the projects should be fully integrated with the green.

Today there is an interest in enhancing a process opposed to the one which led to the morphology of contemporary cities resulting from a progressive consumption of soil. It is important to re-use dismissed sites making them be part of the natural environment once more. Landscape planning means complementing and merging with the urban architectural design as to lead to a single integrated project where both aspects are indivisible.

Not long ago, the green was sometimes a kind of camouflage to projects defaults, but it is becoming the pivotal element round which building projects are to be conceived.

There are residential projects aiming at melting with the natural surroundings, the choice of materials and shapes is more organic and the relation between the interior space and the exterior space becomes the most relevant element.

It is a radical change in attitude where buildings are part of a natural process: we are part of nature and everything we build cannot be unlinked or regardless of the landscape.

Moving from the first attempts of making “green” buildings by bidimensional green elements (vertical green), today there is a new trend for a more substantial and tridimensional green, I would say a “less designed” green in favour of a more natural green as a result of a new sensibility.

When we work in “unurbanized” areas, it is certainly easier to integrate the project into the natural landscape in order to prosecute the work of nature by using local materials, by saving energy, by respecting both proportions of what is built and its surroundings in a humanscale. We should be fully aware of our responsabilities in saving the environment and its resources .
In conclusion “context generates form”: a respectful relation with the landscape fosters better spaces which can positively modify our way of living and thus our daily life.

Luciano Pia