Course syllabus

The studio will investigate the development of EPFL Middle East in the demanding desert climate of the United Arab Emirates and in the wake of the global economic downturn which leaves the plausibility of existing planning uncertain. The campus is intended to be a cutting-edge international research facility focused on energy, environment, construction, and information technology.
Our investigations will take place over two semesters, instrumentalizing digital media and computational methodologies to:

  • analyze the existing forces affecting the site for potential patterns of adaptive growth;
  • simulate campus development over time and with the capacity to respond to anticipated and unanticipated future scenarios;
  • design integrated landscape and building forms that address the simultaneous needs for environmental performance and typological invention.

Course hypothesis

Conventional master plans which propose either a single static ‘end’ condition, or several landmark phases en route to a fixed solution are incapable of responding to changes in the factors which regulate development over time. Frozen in an outmoded context, such strategies deliver ineffective planning in the short-term and require extensive recapitulation in the long-term.
By examining existing environmental forces computationally and employing bottom-up design strategies, the studio proposals will achieve performative characteristics that are independent of the global system’s scale and extents. Using this performance as feedback and employing mechanisms for adaptive growth, the studio will generate dynamic and robust systems informed by mutable circumstances and yet continue to be effective.

Course content

The course will cover organicity in both theory and production, presenting material in workshop, critique, and lecture components. The fall semester will examine the campus scale in two complementary phases:
The first phase is dedicated to analysis of the site and context, acquisition of cultural and technical facility, schematic explorations, and conceptual definition of the design project. Each week will feature an intensive workshop in computational design and simulation planning. The phase culminates with a mid-term review in Ras Al-Khaimah at which students will present their dynamic analyses as animated maps.
In the second phase, students build upon these analyses to develop a planning engine for the development of the campus over time. Guest lecturers will present materials and run workshops to assist in optimizing the performance of each proposal. Students will present their work in reviews in the middle and at the end of the phase.
Students will compile their work from both phases for publication at the conclusion of the year-long study.

Notes On The Workload
This studio is very demanding. You are given many assignments, the freedom to pursue your own interests, and, most importantly, the responsibility to synthesize your work as a productive body of research. That said, the teaching staff understands that you have other courses and personal responsibilities and is therefore very accommodating so long as genuine effort is being made.

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