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algaeBRA: algae / architecture / energy / oxygen / soft cladding / waterMay 30, 2011

Artistic behavior, once considered characteristic of small marginalized groups foreign to the businessworld, has now gained a new centrality in the social economy. While traditional forms of business, typicalof the age of the machines, were defined by strong, stable and centralized organizational models, artisticbusiness proliferate following fields of an energy that is more relational than productive.Profit in this new model is produced through a renewed capacity to expand the network of relations andplatforms of interaction. Such a socio-economic model actualizes in the urban territory like a form ofweather, constantly agitated by the changes in the gradients fields of estate market, service connectivity,and social exchange. The creative entrepreneur reads the city as an experiential rather than as a formalreality, his space filled with products able to generate open and temporary systems, sensorial andperceptive structures; artificial clouds providing atmospheric and operational re-fictionalization of space inreal time.This matrix exceeds traditional architectural typological and scalar segregations empowering the creativeentrepreneur in its process of constant re-description of its social role, its business model and its physicalengagement with the urban landscape.The project seeks to provide the Benetton Group with a site specific building prototype able to givematerial consistence to such a renewed model.A big design opportunity is found in the “recycling” of past Iranian architectural models and prototypesthat are still deeply rooted into the culture of the place and are, at the same time, providing solutions thatperfectly fit local microclimatic conditions. However the contemporary business models demand anarchitectural and material reinvention of those traditional models to accommodate the new spatial andper-formative requirements as well as communication/ branding potentials.The main local models recycled in the project are: the geometric Islamic patterns and ornaments,employed as organizational principles for the plan, facade and structural systems; passive coolingtechniques, turned into an innovative system of solar control and screening as well as passive ventilationand ground cooling; thermoregulatory systems using the thermal mass of the building envelope and theground, reinvented in a new “deep facade” system using water as thermal storage and heat regulator.These local models have provided the project with a palette of solutions where per formative qualities areinextricably related and embedded into the architectural and spatial effects they produce; this model ofsymbiotic development of architectural prototypes fits perfectly the contemporary experiential andecologic sensibility.The hybridization of these models into a new proto-system has been achieved by introducing a set ofnew components/technologies: fully developed parametric and associative modeling of the entire building, allowing a direct real time manipulation of form and internal organization in relationship to microclimatic,structural and programmatic requirements; an innovative approach to materials and systemsengineering, where thermal mass, radiation control, cooling and on site carbon sequestration andrenewable energy generation has been embedded in the architectural fabric of the building; this has beenachieved by introducing the technology of algae farming directly in the facade and partitioning system ofthe building. This technique allows for real time adaptation of the skin properties; the facade will be anever changing living system negotiating seasonal weather patterns and interacting with programmatic andsocio-economic developments. The same model extended in the interior of the building has allowed for aflexible and adaptable subdivision of spaces; layering and internal climatic differentiation is substitutingpartitioning and space segregation. Gradients of natural light, color and coolness spread in the interiorsdifferentiating zones and promoting an adaptive usage of space; a partitioning system constituted ofvertical fibrous struts and ETFE foils allow for circulation control and privacy without compromising thediffusion of light and color effects. The fibrous adaptive model is extended to the algorithmic design of thestructural matrix, completing the conception of the building as a new “artificial ecology”.

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