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Design Research

Intramural Built Environment (IBE)

Vertical Urbatecture

A geospatial study of more than 35 million pictures that address the spatial distribution of where people take photos used to define the popular places at global level. Interestingly, in those 25 cities studied not even one inside place (interior shot) is recognized among the most popular placed picked by people to take a photo from. 


New C21st skylines held by thoughtful concepts for elevated communities, are characterized by carrying delightful indoor spaces (with the large portion of) open-to-public, yet safe and secure, convenient, accessible and well-connected to the network of the adjacent communities, vibrant and flexible; among many other socio-cultural and humane characteristics. But the major question is: “In such under-the-roof spaces, would people take pictures of such new terrain; pictures which they potentially wish to add to their personal or family albums?"


If we would rephrase the above question, I would ask: Will the next generation of elevated complex (even if) containing poetic spaces turn into a place; a new typology of (indoor) built environment terrain, where next generation would prefer to pose for a photo?


We have been investigating and researching this subject and its application and still pursuing the advancement of topic under: Intramural Built Environment; in short IBE. We have associated the mid- to low-rise schemes with the term Urbatecture and for the high-rise and tall building containing IBE scheme, Vertical Urbatecture.

Eric Farr

“… If our century’s (C20th) predominant urge to erect high-rise macho objects was nearly spent, I thought we might now be eligible for a fifty-year-long respite of yin, of absorbing and healing and trying to bring our freestanding erections into an inhabitable community.” – Charles Moore

Eric Farr

Urbatecture SuperStudio, Sponsored by NoNames, 2016

Eric Farr

The evolution of the concept has had a heuristic face over the past century. It has moved from one extreme to another; from pragmatic concepts through romantic to idealistic notions; and from totally practical conceptions, through applied, efficient and functional right to megalomaniac constructs. The product (weather unrealized projects or built ones) has been swinging over from buildings based on systemic and mechanical view to those which were supposed to carry post-modern historic values and human beliefs; from hierarchical dystopia to heretarchial utopia.

The new race of building the high-rise projects in middle-east and far-east has pushed the boundaries to some extents. This has initiated the discussion to elaborate the “zeitgeist” of the new realms of design, scientific and socio-cultural debates; specifically when the association of socio-cultural issues with high-rise projects was cast a light on, and even shortly after that when the potential environmental impacts were brought to the attention by socio-environmental thinkers.

Typology of High-rise Schemes based on Capacity of Containing where and how much of Interamural Built Environment

While the era of ‘urban verticality’ is being passed by, the comprehensive coalition of the accounts will have the potentials to coin the new era of ‘vertical urbanity’ beyond the current accounts, which I would call ‘vertical urbatecture’. In this new paradigm, “the network of the grounds” will take place and the users will be in an alternative “city-space.”

Typology of Vertical Organization and Verticality

Eric Farr

Despite the current tall buildings/complexes are seen as individual architectural spaces, Urbatecture as the major trend of high-rise projects thinking expresses a neo-transcendentalism through an urban individualism that would keep the concepts to give birth to coalition, emancipation and equity.

In such projects, the conventional architectural spaces may sit very close to newly defined spaces within such projects and will generate the object-to-object relationship along with challenging horizontality and conventional verticality, hence such projects with this new definition have a very specific level of intervention. At this level of urban intervention, the urban context and communities are taken to the built community inside the building. In other words, the community outside is extended to the inside and the boundary gets blurred if not disappeared, which I would call urbatecture context; it genrates urbatecture fabric consisting of architecture and intramural urban spaces, landscapes, and built environment.


Eric Farr
Eric Farr

Urbatecture SuperStudio, Sponsored by NoNames, 2016

On Network (in, of, and in-between Things)


The computer has changed the nature of us, as human beings, our communication, our understanding, our business, our learning and almost all of our dealings and interactions radically compared 2-4 decades ago. The rise of the internet, as an invisible network of data, information and knowledge flow, has, in return, changed the nature, tasks and functions for which computer had been designed. This, obviously is heavily relying on and been facilitated through access to technology. However, the theoretical discourse which has led us to where we are at this point in time, needs and can be decoded so that it can offer a more informed, intellectually comprehended and systematically applied impact on how our architectures of contemporary take shape as an intellectual artifacts (or to some extents artifice), a consequence of our thought processes. 


Social Theory has experienced several turning points in its history of which probably of the most significant ones has been in late 1980s when nonhumans—microbes, scallops, rocks, and ships—presented themselves to social theory in a new way, as Latour (2005) suggests. It was then that it was felt that ‘social’ and ‘social explanation’ may be in need of a new, rather unfamiliar definition, so was felt a need for a new social theory which is adjusted to science and technology studies; where non-human actors (or actants) were granted a role similar to human actors (or actants). The Actor-Network-Theory (ANT) was born.


The much recent concept of ‘Internet of Things’ will probably give a new boost to the ANT as it advocates and thrives on embedded communication in non-human actants so that flow of data and information between human and non-human actants can be facilitated.

Eric Farr
Eric Farr

Urbatecture SuperStudio, Sponsored by NoNames, 2016

Apart from the very recent developments in computer science and technology which have reshaped the worldwide web, and together with novel advancements in sociology and social theory, have given the notion ‘network’ a unique connotation as it has never experienced before, the world of architecture and in particular, architecture theory, are not unfamiliar with radical or alternative, to say the least, readings of ‘network’ as a concept above and beyond its immediate and unswerving semantics.  


Henri Lefebvre, for instance, writes, in The Production of Space (1974):

As we shall see, the straight line, the curve (or curved line), the check or draft board pattern and the radial-concentric (center versus periphery) are forms and structures rather than textures. The production of space lays hold of such structures and integrates them into a great variety of wholes (textures). A texture implies a meaning—but a meaning for whom? For some “reader”? No: rather, for someone who lives and acts in the space under consideration, a “subject” with a body—or, sometimes, a “collective subject.” From the point of view of such a “subject” the deployment of forms and structures corresponds to functions of the whole. Blanks (i.e. the contrast between absence and presence) and margins, hence networks and webs, have a lived sense, which has to be raised intact to the conceptual level.

Where networks and webs can be assumed to have been elevated to a ‘livability’ level.


Manfredo Tafuri in Toward a Critique of Architectural Ideology in 1969 attempts to tie the disruptive urban locus with a network of (its contradictory) values:

For Antolini, on the other hand, the restructuring of the city must be achieved by introducing a disruptive urban locus, capable of radiating induced effects that resist all contamination, into the network of its contradictory values. The city as a universe of discourse or system of communications can be summed up, for Antolini, in an absolute, peremptory “message.”


He also suggests another connotation of network which although different, it is not mutually exclusive with what he previously suggested. In, L’Architecture dans le Boudoir: The Language of Criticism and the Criticism of Language, he writes in 1974:

Fossati writes of the “metaphysical” De Chirico using words that could also be applied to the architecture of Rossi: “The play of contradictions and suspensions of meaning from the network of common relationships by and of objects is not just an ordinary technical expedient: it is the expedient par excellence, the ritual, with its preparatory and evocative minute details, the epiphany as sublimation, its healing and miraculous effects. Sublimation, par excellence, the play hides the game, and each slowly and deliberately reveals the other, with painting as a thing in itself, as a counterpoint to the crisis between appearance and substance, and as an alternative as well… The line having been severed between reality and its objects, the game is completed; faith in making, in knowing, in concealing, becomes an object more objective than the real objects at stake with which it should concern itself, a truth truer than actual exigencies and relationships, a thing in itself” (Paolo Fossati, La pittura a programma: De Chirico metafisico [Venice: Marsilio, 1973], pp. 24–25).

Eric Farr

Urbatecture SuperStudio, Sponsored by NoNames, 2016

Martin Steinmann concurs with Tafuri, when he writes, in Reality as History: Notes for a Discussion of Realism in Architecture (1976), that:

If architecture makes reference to itself in this way, then history (to continue the thoughts of Reichlin and Reinhart) is not merely a vast depository of experiences already made, but is rather the place where the meaning of architecture defines itself. “Understanding the meaning of a work of architecture implies situating it in a dense network of relationships.”

Georges Teyssot’s reading (1980) when he elaborates on Foucault’s theory of heterotopia, and goes on to contend with both Tafuri and Steinmann is not radically different but distinct enough as it moves its focus from relationship, which is rather passive, to interaction, which has a more active, participatory intonation as he emphasizes on ‘various levels’ of both ‘action’ and ‘transformation’:

Architectural discourse is not enough in itself to explain the appearance of specific forms, the derivation of typologies and the whole concatenation of a spatial genealogy. And the reason for this is that the discourse only makes itself felt within a context that is provided by a network of interactions combining various levels of action and transformation.


As unwanted heritage of an ever-dominating modernism, it is however, of paramount importance to keep a safe distance from some pitfalls attributed to the concept of ‘network’. In The Status of Man and the Status of His Objects: A Reading of The Human Condition [by Arendt], Kenneth Frampton (1979) asserts:

Where in the nineteenth century the public institution was exploited as an occasion on which to reify the permanent values of the society, the disintegration of such values in the twentieth century has had the effect of atomizing the public building into a network of abstract institutions. This dissipation of the agora reflects that mass society whose alienating force stems not from the number of people but from “the fact that the world between them has lost its power to gather them together, to relate and to separate them.”


Massimo Cacciari, in his 1980’s Eupalinos [Engineer(ing)]or Architecture, expands on a concept of network adjoining nodes at distinct positions, which he found in Foucault’s essays, and provides an interesting account of the evolution of urban space:

We are in an era, says Foucault, in which the world is perceived as a network that simultaneously joins juxtaposed and distant points. This space alienates the “pious descendants of history,” for whom the world was like a large street, which developed different “meanings” through the different ages. Neither does this space resemble the hierarchical space of the medieval city, where the juxtaposition of places referred to the “value” of their respective functions. The present-day space of the metropolis is made up of the non-hierarchical flow of information connecting disciplines and functions, of discrete, aleatory currents, whose movements are not teleologically comprehensible but only stochastically analyzable.

Urbatecture SuperStudio, Sponsored by NoNames, 2016

Any new or alternative form of network, however, needs to take into account the nature of society and its history, even in its very traditional classical examples as Michel Foucault in Space, Knowledge, and Power, an interview with Paul Rabinow in 1982:

…a new aspect of the relations of space and power were the railroads. These were to establish a network of communication no longer corresponding necessarily to the traditional network of roads, but they nonetheless had to take into account the nature of society and its history.

And of crucial importance to any network, conventional or otherwise, is the change that the aspects, dimensions or phenome of the society, its constituent and users will start experiencing or showing almost immediately after that network is introduced to the context, as Foucault goes on to elaborate on as follows: In addition, there are all the social phenomena that railroads gave rise to, be they the resistances they provoked, the transformations of population, or changes in the behavior of people.

Alberto Perez-Gomez has an interesting reading of network and its role in defining spatiality in his Introduction to Architecture and the Crisis of Modern Science (1983) where he refers to network as an intention (which may or may not yet have come to realization) of human’s innate being – as an inner experience/existence, to Lebenswelt – the world of lived experience, which may or may not be similar or identical to the world as an independent existence; what was impacted by what he frames as ‘an epistemological revolution introduced to geometry’, which in its own is a very interesting observation: The “spatiality” that referred to the immediate network of intentions relating man’s embodied being with the Lebenswelt, and that allowed for the apprehension of his place in a hierarchical order, could now be replaced by geometrical space [as a result of epistemological revolution geometry was introduced to by Galileo’s speculations in early 17th century].

Peter Eisenman in The End of the Classical: The End of the Beginning, the End of the End (1984) casts a shadow of doubt on reason and likens process (of knowing) to a network (of value-laden arguments), where he writes: At this point in the evolution of consciousness something occurred: reason turned its focus onto itself and thus began the process of its own undoing. Questioning its own status and mode of knowing, reason exposed itself to be a fiction (Kline, 1980). The processes for knowing—measurement, logical proof, and causality—turned out to be a network of value-laden arguments, no more than effective modes of persuasion. Values were dependent on another teleology, another end fiction, that of rationality.

But his pure account of network is not as radical as his doubts about reason and sits somewhere probably between those of Teyssot’s, Tafuri’s and Steinmann’s.

Paul Virilio in The Overexposed City (1986) illustrates the evolution of the grid to the network and attribute it to a departure from physical to virtual, from a diachronic to a synchronic, by means of specifics: The city of the future is the pleasure of the interval (Shinohara, 1991). And when the interval is light, mechanically proximate space yields to electromagnetic proximity (simultaneous and instantaneous) and the city grid to the informational network; immediate practice is displaced by ‘teleaction,’ and geopolitics by chronopolitics.

This is perhaps the closest one can find at the crossroad of ANT and Internet of Things, if one wants to attempt to ontologically tie them up together. He then goes on to suggest: Today, it is more than likely that the basis of so called urbanism is composed/decomposed by these very systems of transfer, transit and transmission, the transportation and transmigration networks whose immaterial configurations renew urban organization and the building of monuments. If “monuments” in fact exist today, they are no longer visible, in spite of the revolutions and convolutions of architectural grandioseness.

What seems to matter most now, is the question of how to make this invisible, visible again after such a transmigration, which has taken place in the concept of network from a physical connotation to a non-physical implication, rather more subtle than blatant.

Jacques Derrida writes in Point de folie—Maintenant l’architecture (1986): Regardless of mode, period or dominant style, this [archi-hieratical] order ultimately depends on the fine arts. The value of beauty, harmony, and totality still reigns. These four points of invariability do not adjoin. They delineate the chart of a system from the angles of a frame. We will not say only that they come together and remain inseparable, which is true. They give rise to a specific experience of assembling, that of the coherent totality and continuity of the system. Thus, they determine a network of evaluations; they induce and inform, even if indirectly, all the theory and criticism of architecture, from the most specialized to the most trivial.

What is particularly important in Derrida’s account is the push it has given to the concept of network by associating it into evaluation, a post-production, aftermath activity, not to form but to read and reflect and what has been as opposed to what should or would be.

Jeff Kipnis in Twisting the Separatrix (1991) rightly points out, in a mild criticism of Derrida for his compulsive pursuit of his quarry, le trait, with an icy calculation; what often causes his readers to shiver with excitement, but also with dread and revulsion, and also critiques deconstruction, for: Having dogged and disrupted the separatrix, deconstruction can then inquire into the hidden agendas that underlie its efficacy of simple difference. It thereby recovers, and gains respect for, the undecidability that this mark represses so as to make decision possible. Thus, for example, deconstruction deconstructs the project of radicality as well as that of conservatism by destabilizing the network of separatrices that construct the simple directionality's  inclusions, and exclusions of either project, of any project as such. Other than in this sense, deconstruction has no project.


We are therefore, required to concentrate on the high-rise project, introducing the concept of intermural built environment with a special focus on ‘inter-high-rise network’ to redefine the notion of land and ground (raised/elevated ground), introducing different layers of legal, sociocultural, political, spatial, information, communication and exchange, etc. networks embedded into the design and by challenging the traditional and conventional concept of a high-rise through liberating it from its very inherent characteristics of horizontal slabs, bridges, vertical access, as we traditionally know it, and also the spatial-cultural arrangement of the space into a place of unconventional.

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