Summer Workshop at Confluence

Much has been written on the convent of Sainte Marie de La Tourette (1959, Evreux, France) designed by architect Le Corbusier and his then assistant, mathematician and musician, Iannis Xenakis. It is indeed an architectural masterpiece, fit for its usage. Anyone can, looking at photographs, appreciate the masterful use of light, color and the undulatory façades that bring joy to ascetic living. Yet, one needs to experience what I come to call a *friar’s habit*, a garment barely comfortable, insulating and quiet, adjusted to monastic activities: the study of religious texts and philosophy, the prayers before each meal, and meditation. When the building material and volumes amplify the sound of the worship service, light sublimes it.

It is also space where silence is obliged—any other sound is very much a disturbance as one can hear a whisper or the alarm clock of their next-door neighbor. With the concrete at times so thin and so old that it cracks, without any insulation except maybe for few rooms under the planted roof, the habit (the word translates as ‘clothe’ in French) intimates us to silence and sensory engagement.

It has been a pleasure to experience the building along with summer school students of the Confluence Institute for Innovation and Creative Strategies in Architecture. We felt extremely privileged to be given access to the rooftop and the crypt:

On the rooftop. Photograph: Yara Tayoun

We spent a couple of days producing sensory maps of a section of the building—we chose to map the corridor linking the church to the dining hall. A section of this corridor slopes up when you come out of the church highlighting the fact that we are in a “higher state of mind” as Nathalie observed—physically ascending as we are spiritually elevated!

We were trying to make sense of sensory data collection, meaning and representation:

Students collecting sensory data.

The process of mapping luminance by Nathalie Bellefleur transforming image data into a pattern using Grasshopper.

Map capturing the elements which contribute to rhythm our walk through the walkway, activating our body-memory. Work by Kailin Jones and Yara Tayoun.

Thank you Confluence for the invitation and everyone for the wonderful work!


Virtual Reality as Architectural Design Tool

As an architect exploring the meaning and design of fluid spaces, I have been curious about the potential of VR for representing and creating ambiances—not only visualizing but also feeling and testing spatial variations/spaces of affect. In 2017 and 2018 at l’Ecole des Ponts ParisTech, I have supervised the VR-related work of two wonderful students enrolled in the Advanced Master in Design by Data:  Keerthana Govindarazan (2016-17) and Bonny Nichol (2017-18). Both have been investigating how VR can be used as a design tool.

On one hand, Govindarazan developed a “rudimentary web VR system” to “user-test architectural design for behavioral patterns”. To conduct her experiment and test if behavior in VR environments were similar to expected behaviors in real life, she started by modeling a space based on an architectural principle devised by design theorist and practitioner Christopher Alexander (author of A Pattern Language, 1977):

Figure above: The time spent by the same user in each clicked location is visualized in this image for scene 1. The more time spent, the bigger the radius of the circle and the warmer the color. [Keerthana’s edited caption]

On the other hand, Nichol focuses on the concept of “attention”. She is aims at translating eye-tracking and EEG inputs captured during VR spatial experience as design data.

The Cartography of Ambiance

The paper entitled “The Cartography of Ambiance” that I wrote for the Third International Congress on Ambiances that happened in Volos from September 21 to 24th semester gives a glimpse of my current research on mobility.

Abstract. This paper explores the cartography of ambiance as a means to parametrically generate ambiances that enable “wayfounding”, i.e. the ability to “keep your bearings” in contemporary hypermobile environments. It presents a process of architectural experimentation led by the author at the Ecole Spéciale d’Architecture (2013-2015) and the Ecole Nationale Supérieure d’Architecture de Paris-Malaquais (2016) in France and Kyoto Seika University (2015) in Japan, that explored the cartography of ambiance as a spatial practice through iteratively “practicing the landscape” (Thibaud, 2015), drawing from memory, gathering data, decoding and encoding parameters of ambiance.

Keywords: Cartography, Ambiance, Liquid Architecture, Wayfounding, Psychogeography, Parametric


Generative Mapping Workshop, Kyoto Seika University, Japan

Got selected to conduct, as visiting professor, an architecture workshop at Kyoto Seika University in Japan. Thank you to Prof. Takayuki Suzuki and the entire team at Kyoto Seika University for the warm welcoming.

The workshop aimed at exploring the architectural process by investigating generating and parameterizing ambiances through mapping mobile and sensory data. An ambiance results from the physical features, sensory data (humidity, smell, etc.) and the movement of people within (with different backgrounds and moods) space.

On a sunny day of early October, students conducted their observations in the Kyoto Station designed by famous architect Hiroshi Hara (1997).

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Teams observed for example that people waiting for others chose particular spots in the station, against a wall, nearby a column, protected from the wind as shown on the map below, which reveals the architecture without showing it (Map recorded by Maho Okada, Libai, Daiki Yanagihara and ESA exchange student Juliette Champêtre).

Map Maho Okada - Libai - Daiki Yanajihara - Juliette Champetre

Others recorded movement in space and the “ballet” of people going around obstacles and created an animation – maps are dynamic! On the bottom right of the picture below, what looks like a wool ball represents the space taken by an individual waiting for someone.

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These observations led to ambiance-based architectural parameters (“architectural attractors” for example) that students could use to generate/parameterize new ambiances expressed through study models.

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