RCAT - Research Center for Architecture and Tectonics

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[2014 - ongoing]


Prof. Dr. Michael U. Hensel, Asst. Prof. Søren S. Sørensen


Prof. Dr. Michael U. Hensel, Asst. Prof. Søren S. Sørensen, Asst. Prof. Joakim Hoen, Asst. Prof. Sofia Martins da Cunha, Sareh Saeidi

At the research center we address governmental calls regarding the need to emphasize consideration and inquiry into increasingly complex societal and environmental developments and problems. To this end we utilize master- and PhD-level research by design based inquiry and collaboration with practice partners, governmental agencies and research organizations. This includes themes such as, for example, design for demographic change, correlated questions of societal and environmental sustainability, and also smart societies.


Studio Fall 2016: 24-Hour Oslo - Architecture and Demographic Change

Studio Staff: Prof. Dr. Michael U. Hensel, Asst. Prof. Søren S. Sørensen, Asst. Prof. Joakim Hoen, Research Fellow Sareh Saeidi, Sofia Martins da Cunha [Snøhetta],

Arduino Workshop: Bjørn Gunnar Staal [Void]

Performative Envelopes Workshop: Research Fellow Sareh Saeidi

External Examiner: Kjetil Trædal Thorsen [Snøhetta]

Students: Karen Maria Eiken-Engelgård, Léa Guillot, Simon Heidenreich, Matteo Lomaglio

Oslo Convergence
Matteo Lomaglio

Research Oslo Award 2017

The research-by-design project 24-Hours Oslo: OSLO CONVERGENCE is based on detailed multi-modal and multi-objective computational analysis that sheds new light on how to obtain a more detailed understanding of urban demographic change and use of the city by its diversifying population. The analysis is taken forward into a speculative design project that addresses the programmatic needs of a changing urban demography and proposes a mixed and multiple use building that combines institutional and public functions in a dynamic and adaptive manner over 24 hours of the day, thus catering for the needs of different parts of society, with emphasis on a multi-cutural youth. In so doing the project addresses population growth and change, and multi-cultural community as an opportunity for the city's economic, social, cultural and environmental development; culture and architecture as driving forces in the city development; innovation, value-creation and the city's ability and willingness to attract and manage talents and knowledge communities.

Design is used as a mode of speculative and projective research that produces a tangible result, which can become a basis for dialogue in itself and that is capable of engaging the stakeholders that are addressed in the project. The project itself is developed through an associative computational model that is also presented as an immersive experience through advanced virtual reality visualization. In so doing the project can be adapted in dialogue with the stakeholders in steps to follow. As such this approach demonstrates how the development of the contemporary city can not only respond to urban change but also involve the agents of change and the various stakeholders in a transparent and participatory process. In this way the designer can become an orchestrator of dialogue while transporting an urban and societal vision that is co-developed with the citiziens of the contemporary city on its route to increased diversity.

The design projects a 24-hour multifunctional building at the North-eastern corner of the Palace Park in Oslo atop of a reused underground train station. The project is located at the edge of the Park at a much used circulation route and the continuous spiralling surface of the project seeks to tap into this flow while distributing public programmes and activities along its spiraling surfaces. The activities are correlated with the multiple envelope strategy of the scheme, which provides fully enclosed, transitional and exterior spaces. The integrated associative model serves to ensure that the open interior space without subdivision is making suitable provisions for its intended public and collective activities and sets out a vision for architecture that is driven by demographic changes and diversifying needs of Oslo’s citizens.

OSLO CONVERGENCE explores the concept of time as a flow, that continues with different interactions translated into the physical space where the rigidity of the regular relationship between walls and slabs give way to a continuous extended walk-able surface where it is impossible to define a start and an end, where horizontality meets verticality (rheotomic surface), where interior meets the exterior (layered envelope). The spatial experience as experience of time, of a flow, with extreme possibility of circulation, where the path is always different and leads every time to different points. Along the continuous path of the project there is a succession of activities that are selected based on the detailed site analysis. This includes walk-by kiosks, displays and other items from the proposed new underground train stop to the ground floor, thus collecting and attracting different flows of movement. Further up a publicly accessible cooking school and an extension of the nearby music school are located together with a succession of exterior spaces to extend activities during the warm season. Located at the top of the building is a public garden. There are numerous choices of paths and experiences up and down the building that make it interesting to visit the project multiple times during the day as activities and there relations change over 24 hours. In so doing the project pursues an innovative approach towards attracting and managing talents and knowledge communities by way of 24-hour activities that emphasize a strong element of learning and exchange within a public setting. This makes it possible for typically more removed and controlled access activities to be exposed and more open to participation, distributing knowledge though experiences to a wider and more diverse public.

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Diagram of season-specific activities, communication and circulation in the inner-city area around the selected project site.

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Birdseye view of the Oslo Convergence project at North-eastern corner of the Palace Park in Oslo.


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Diagram of the integrated associative model of the Oslo Convergence project. Clockwise from the top: geometry definition, structural analysis, envelope system, programmatic layout, sunlight analysis, radiation analysis, and slope analysis.

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Left to right and top to bottom progression of rendered axonometric of the interior including surface articulation and program and activity distribution.

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Detailed sections showing the continuous surface articulation of the project.

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Rendered view of the Oslo Convergence project.

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Rendered view of the Oslo Convergence project.

Studio Spring 2015: Living Bridges - Multi-functional Nodes as Urban Incubators

Studio Staff: Asst. Prof. Søren S. Sørensen, Prof. Dr. Michael U. Hensel, Asst. Prof. Joakim Hoen, Research Fellow Sareh Saeidi, Rikard Jaucis [Snøhetta]

Arduino Workshop: Bjørn Gunnar Staal [Void]

Virtual Reality Workshop: Asst. Prof. Joakim Hoen

Robotics Workshop @ Snøhetta: Sigrid Bell-Cokcan and Johannes Braumann [Association for Robots in Architecture]

External Examiner: ...

Students: Sigurd Gjeste Berge, Karen Maria Eiken-Engelgård, Magnus Kvalheim, Eskil Landet

During the spring semester 2015 the studio pursued the design living bridges across the river Akerselva. The bridges were designed as incubators to invigorate their respective neighborhoods. The projects were exhibited as part of the 'Multi-functional Buildings - The Return of the Living Bridges' Exhibition at Galleri AHO.

Ordered Chaos Bridge

Sigurd Gjeste Berge

The design for this living bridge was inspired by two main precedents: [i] the historical organic house/bridge hybrids with their diagonal columns supporting the houses cantilevering off the sides of the bridges and [ii] the living bridges deep in the rainforests in the Indian state of Meghalaya. The bridges of Meghalaya are in fact living, grown bridges consisting of tree roots and supporting a stone walkway. The dendritic approach to the primary and secondary supports is a combination of these two systems. The organic optimization of the real living bridges where living vines and roots create a latticework is mirrored in the apparently disordered expression of the bridge project, where the white beams/columns make up the supports and primary structure, all part of the static system, carrying a concrete walkway made to connect seamlessly with the surrounding infrastructure.

The wish for an apparently disordered structure with good structural capabilities and a non-hierarchical construction demanded a parametric approach. The structural engineering firm Bollinger and Grohmann created Karamba as an integrated node to Grasshopper, an associative modelling plug-in for the 3D application Rhinoceros. In order for the bridge construction to make sense, several parameters needed to be optimized concurrently. In order to achieve optimized results of several parameters at once, a multi-objective optimizer was needed. One such optimizer is Octopus, another integrated node for Grasshopper. Octopus utilizes an evolutionary algorithm inspired by biological evolution where generations of iterations are “reproducing” the best results, combining them and recombining them making the next generation. While each generation performs better, there is no optimal result, but a set of Pareto optimal solutions one can choose from.

Combining the structural analysis of Karamba with the multi objective-optimization of Octopus was instrumental in arriving at the placement of the supports and the distribution of points within the primary structure. A dendritic approach to the interconnections between the superstructure, railing and walking surface has been optimized to minimize deflection of the elements, and the biggest possible walking surface within the design parameters. All beams/pylons are steel, 100mm diameter round profile, 4mm thick, all interconnections done with rigid ball joints. The walking surface is cast in situ, with a concrete retarder used on select surfaces to make it blend with the surrounding materiality, with the purpose to have a surface that is in material terms continuous with the walkways in the area.

In terms of computational visualization the design process benefitted from the extensive and detailed use of Virtual Reality. Numerous VR visualizations were produced at different stages of the project to examine the spatial experience the bridge provides and the way it is related to its surroundings. Overall the design workflow incorporates computational associative modelling and analysis, with computer-aided 3d printing of models and VR visualisations into a rich visual design environment.

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Ordered Chaos Bridge: rendered view from the South

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Ordered Chaos Bridge: rendered view from the North

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Ordered Chaos Bridge: rendered view from the East

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Ordered Chaos Bridge: incubator for market activities connecting neighborhoods and activities across the river

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Ordered Chaos Bridge: bridge dimensions in relation to stall size and market activities.

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Ordered Chaos Bridge: Rapid Prototype Model

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Ordered Chaos Bridge: still from the VR-Visualization

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Ordered Chaos Bridge: still from the VR-Visualization

Mallard Bridge

Karen Maria Eiken-Engelgård

The proposed new bridge acts as a programmatic incubator for the neighbourhood that utilises what is available on site. A small market is placed on top of the bridge, which serves to create awareness of local wildlife and produce. Located under the pedestrian bridge is one for ducks, which is inspired by Berthold Lubetkin’s Penguin Pool in the Zoo of London. The prevailing duck species, the Mallard, gives the bridge its name. The duck bridge consists of a curved concrete slab that dips under water in the middle of the river, thus allowing the ducks to enter from the water. On the sides of the slab there are shelters for the ducks. Together the two bridges provide safe-zones, as well as meeting points between humans and ducks. The market is intended to sell duck related merchandise such as eggs, downs, and meat, as well as produce from the wider neighbourhood, such as vegetable and fruits. This serves promoting awareness about health and environment. Here the bridge ties into a wider scheme for what might be called a distributed urban farm composed of elements that already exist (such as the nearby allotment gardens and the food-hall) and new ones to be implemented (planting areas in the parks adjacent to the bridge along the river and the reactivation of a building on site as the central hub for urban farming). The proposal combined various knowledge fields and a productive use of the urban landscapes that transcends the typical exclusively picturesque role of urban parks. In its multidisciplinary outlook this project proposes a unique and at the same time real proposal for Oslo.

The pedestrian and the duck bridge consist of concrete slabs, structures and a shell-like shelter that were developed through topology optimization. The bridge is large enough to support a small market with walk path in the middle of the bridge and is sheltered by a shell that provides shelter not unlike the canopy of a tree. The duck bridge is located next to and partly beneath the pedestrian bridge. It is lower closer to the ground for easy access for duck. The bridge is divided into three parts. A safe area is located on the side of Mathallen where humans and other animals can't easily reach. Here the concrete slab is slightly bigger in order to provide surface for the ducks to rest. The design is based on the dimensions of adult ducks and provides surface for approximately 50 ducks.  In the middle of the river the bridge dips under water to prevent access by predators towards the safe area. The second part is close to where the duck feeding area is located.  At the end the bridge lifts rises up from the water. Like the first part, this part is designed to stay above water even during flooding, making this the second safe area. However this would not be an ideal nesting place as humans are too close.

The main driver in the design of the bridge was topology optimization, which is a type of form-finding technique that seeks to optimize material with in a given design space. The material is subjected to different types of loads and supports and will work towards an optimal structure to meet the requirements given. In order to start defining the design space, the site had to be analysed. The height and width of the bridge had to be established, as well the programs as the bridge would receive a small market, crowd, self-weight and wind pressure. After exploring topology optimization by using Millipede, a plug in for grasshopper I moved on to Topopt to fully understand the concept. Here I could explore topology optimization in 2D and 3D. After establishing the main loads the bridge would experience worked commenced with Solidthinking Inspire 2014. This software helped developing the design through analysis and realistic loads and supports. By figuring out the different loads the bridge would be subjected to, it was possible to define the design space more accurately. With the bridge only supported in the ends, the topology optimization began to evolve a branch-like structure.In order to stimulate this “natural growth” the design space was more or less extruded from the surface of the bridge.  With the objective of maximize stiffness, several optimization runs with different mass target were pursued by slowly working the design space down from 50% of total design space volume to 5%. At 5 % the organic shape started to appear. Separate optimisation runs were made for a structure made from steel and another made from reinforced concrete, the later being the intended material for the bridge. Since the software was written with a default material choice of steel it needed to be recalibrated for the use of concrete, which constitutes a considerable task and accomplishment.

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Karen Maria Eiken-Engelgård / Mallard Bridge view from the south


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