MEUDON (FR) - EZCT's competition design was geared to achieving a constant level of natural light.
In Meudon, a south-western suburb of Paris, lies the former country estate of André Bloc (1896-1966), an avantgarde architect, sculptor and sometime publisher. L'Architecture d'Aujourd'hui, the magazine he launched in 1930, is still going strong today. In the 1960s, Bloc built two 'habitacles' – enigmatic hybrids of sculpture and architecture – in the grounds of his estate.
Nowadays the estate is occupied by the family of art collector Natalie Seroussi. Last year Seroussi organized an invited competition for the design of a house-cum-exhibition pavilion that was to be in a similar vein to Bloc's 'habitacles'. Elias Guenoun, the curator appointed to oversee the competition, invited six young international architectural practices to submit a design: Biot(h)ing; EZCT Architecture & Design Research, Gramazio & Köhler, DORA Design Office for Research and Architecture, IJP and Xefirotarch. Interestingly, all six firms use scripting and programming to guide the design process. At the opening of the exhibition of the submitted designs in the La Maison Rouge gallery in Paris, it was announced that EZCT had won the competition. The feasibility of the extremely well thought-out design was a decisive factor in its selection by the eight-member jury (which included Andrea Branzi, Bart Lootsma and Claude Parent).
EZCT's aim was to design a building with a constant, year-round level of light (200 lux, the ideal light level for exhibiting art) and to this end they collaborated with Marc Schoenauer, a leading researcher in the field of evolutionary computing, to develop a software program that would allow them to do this. Rather than starting from scratch, they elaborated on a program that had been developed for the design of a contemporary chair. It calculated the maximum amount of mass that could be removed while still satisfying the structural requirements of a chair – a sort of computational minimalism. The chair is currently on display in the Centre Pompidou's permanent collection.
The design of the pavilion began in a similar way with a maximum possible building volume. First the required functions (living room, bedroom, storage, etc.) were placed in the volume as separate points and assigned their own volume in accordance with an arithmetic formula. Random points/volumes were then added, generating hundreds of models from which the 'best' (i.e., those that satisfied the most requirements) were selected. These were in turn tested for year-round natural lighting levels using a very complex simulation program. Once again the most suitable models were selected in what is in fact a simulation-based design method, driven by evolutionary computing.
The end result is a single form that satisfies all the preconditions and which also looks attractive: a complex design which the architects alone, without the aid of the computer and the many specialists, could not have created in such a short space of time.
March | 2008 | France | Emiel Lamers