IAAC - Institute for Advanced Architecture of Catalonia
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IaaC Research - Students Research -

Emergent Territories // Radical Region 2013-14

Senior Faculty: Willy Müller, Pablo Ros

Assitants: Jordi Vivaldi

In Collaboration with: Hernan Diaz Alonso, SCI-Arc – Los Angeles

The IAAC works beyond the conventional scales of territorial design, town planning, building or fabrication in designing a multiscale habitat. As in the design of ecosystems, each level has its own rules of interaction and relation, and at the same time must comply with certain parameters that pertain to the system as a whole. The Emergent Territories group works on projects that range in scale from the territory to the neighbourhood.

The idea of Emergent Territories is related to two issues: On the one hand, the IaaC is interested in understanding those countries and cities around the world with emerging economies and cultures that, by virtue of their regional or economic position, can contribute value to the planet as a whole. In recent years we have studied Brazil, Croatia, Taiwan, Romania, Colombia and Tunisia, or in the near future will be studying India and the countries of North Africa, the Persian Gulf and Sub-Saharan Africa. The work done in these countries seeks to identify the particular urban and territorial values of these places in order to construct more intelligent territories anywhere in the world, moving on from the Western idea that there is a single model of city (be it European or American) to work on the basis of more complex and more open values.

The other issue related to emergent territories has to do with the creation of intelligent territories that function in a multiscalar way, in order that the relationship between natures, networks and nodes can foment the ‘emergence’ of an urban intelligence.

To this end we are interested in pursuing what we call ‘Hyperhabitat’ research as aprocess of developing a general theory of the multiscalar habitat that can be applied anywhere in the world and at any scale, as a basis for the construction of complete complex ecosystems.

This group also focuses on Barcelona as a site for ongoing urban experimentation, with a view to contributing to the discussions and refl ections in relation to the urban progress of the city.

Self Sufficient Building 2013-14

Senior Faculty: Enric Ruiz Geli, Mireia Luzàrraga

Assitants: Maria Kupstova, Dori Sadan

Architecture goes beyond buildings. A building is a concentration of activities in a particular location which should be responsive to concrete cultural, social, economic and technological conditions. In the 21st century, the buildings are more than

machines for dwelling in. They should be living organisms, capable of interacting with their environment, following the principles of ecology or biology rather than those of mere construction. In effect, a building should be like a tree, which is able to rooting itself in a particular place, generating its own energy, interacting with the natural networks around it and creating complex ecosystems and landscapes together with other trees.

The Self-Sufficient Buildings group works on scales that range from the macro-building to the individual home developing principles and techniques that serve to organize the materialization of programmatic nodes of activity based on natural rules and principles. As a result, the building goes beyond being a mere interface for the economic activities it houses to being an environment that stimulates its inhabitants and functions as an active part of the ecosystem in which it is inserted.

Buildings also need to respond to specific cultural conditions, and the multicultural global vision that the IaaC represents allows can be applied, via debate and research, to architecture projects anywhere in the world. This group devotes special attention to housing and the new forms of social organization of our time, by way of buildings with shared spaces, or macrobuildings that incorporate all the functions of a city. This group is working to introduce innovative techniques such as local energy generation, the development of self-suffi cient buildings, the incorporation of hydrogen into the building and the use of new materials, responding to each situation with ad-hoc techniques and principles.

Digital Matter // Intelligent Constructions 2013-2014

Senior Faculty: Areti Markopoulou

Assitants: Alexandre Dubor, Moritz Begle

In collaboration with: Mette Ramsgaard Thompsen, CITA - Copenhagen


Today, we are facing a change in paradigm in the field of Architecture. Information Era Technologies and their impacts on architecture are drastically changing, and their relationship calls for new or adapted concepts, where physical space seamlessly intertwines with digital content, and where the language of electronic connections tie in with that of physical connections. 

We are consequently moving towards a different form of “habitats”, where architecture is not merely inhabited, but becomes technologically integrated, interactive and evolutional. If computers were once the size of buildings, buildings are now becoming computers, both performative, on I/O Communication protocols, and programmable, at material-molecule nanoscale, or even operational thanks to self-learning genetic algorithms.

The methodology of Intelligent Constructions is based on two main paths.

On one hand, Intelligent constructions tackles questions regarding Material Intelligence. Smart materials such as shape-memory materials, piezoelectric, thermoelectric or bio-materials able to adjust their properties to different environmental conditions, allow to programme buildings at a nanoscale, and open up a series of applications on an architectural scale and industrial applications. Furthermore, new composite materials that present preset combinations of mechanical properties or multi-functional properties of non-homogeneous materials in shape and composition across a wide range of scales bring forth the exploration of a shift in design culture, taking us to a new level of material awareness. Material Intelligence in combination with Artificial and Computational Intelligence, simulations, sensors, actuators, as well as with bio-mimetic innovations provide revolutionary ideas on growth, adaptability, repair, sensitivity, replication and energy savings in architecture.

Should we continue constructing rigid and fixed structures?

Or can buildings begin to think?

This brings us to the second path investigated through Intelligent Constructions, that of Digital Fabrication. In design, architecture and many other disciplines, Computer Numerically Controlled (CNC) fabrication equipment has given designers unprecedented means for executing formally challenging projects directly from the computer. Digital fabrication gives us the potential and the ability to design and fabricate building components with varied properties of density, translucency, elasticity and much more. Though, until now, Digital Fabrication tools are used by the designers to materialize their design by accessing materials as a library of consistent and physically homogeneous properties.

The Intelligent Constructions research line wishes to explore how Digital Fabrication goes beyond assigning material properties into rigid construction components. The group works with digital content, information and fabrication for the generation of new techniques generating the production of non-rigid, responsive and multi-functional material and construction systems. Hence generating an architecture that is not just mimicking the living but is roaring into life.

The method of investigation follows a rigorously experimental approach and progresses in complexity from small scale material sampling to the production of 1:1 scale architectural components and prototypes.

Advanced Interaction 2013-14

Senior Faculty: Xavier Gonzàlez, Carlos Gómez

Advanced Interaction Studio focuses on the use of technology within the boundaries of the human habitat exploring this context’s potential. Based on the analysis and design of devices and systems, this research studio generates creative uses of technology for experimental and practical purposes. The learning-by-doing research metho integrates techniques used in design, programming and social sciences towards projects, prototypes and products that define the outer limits of what is possible to do imaginatively with technology today.

Emergent Territories 2012-2013: Radical Region


Assistant: MAITE BRAVO

Guest Tutor: Peter Trummer

What constitutes a radical region? Which design strategies will redefine cities as hybrid terrains embracing the whole built environment, merging traditional boundaries existing between architecture, urbanism, landscape and infrastructure? Can site specific environments be formulated through associative design strategies to increase the relevance of architecture at an urban scale? Could dislocated territories be repositioned as hybrid terrains offering unexpected relationships and fields of experimentation?

Within a highly experimental framework, this studio seeks to radicalize the discourse around the role of architecture as a subversive strategy to redefine the role of segregated territories and ageing infrastructures at the urban scale. The objective is to work with concepts around means of connectedness at a territorial scale,

emphasizing aspects of mobility, infrastructure, environmental strategies, placemaking, energy efficiency and landscape terrains.

Within the regional area of Barcelona, the Besós represents one of the main rivers crossing the regional area of Catalunya, flowing 40 km from the interior to the Mediterranean Sea. Once a productive ecosystem on the outskirts of Barcelona, the intense rate of urbanization in the Regional Area has placed enormous pressure to the Besós Area in terms of pollution, mobility, ecology, to the point of the river currently it appears not only crossing, but severely segregating the territory. However, in recent years the lower Besós underwent an “environmental recovery” with a water treatment plan, and the purification of polluted areas along the river.

Despite all these efforts, the Besós it’s today a complex segregated and fragmented territory, presenting complex problems, such as acute crime and social heterogeneity, diverse morphologies of grids and meshes colliding, a multiplicity of uses, and complex mobility networks.

The area offers distinct zones, such as the Forum, La Mina, or Collserolla Park, and it’s currently agglomerating 4 Municipalities, making it an excellent testing ground for the study of new ideas, models, strategies and radical transformations.

The studio will develop tools for analysis, diagnosis and strategies at a territorial scale, to later formulate proposals on specific points. Students will identify and explore diverse scales, from urban formations to the definition of singularities such as buildings, units, or components that may create new conditions of urbanity for the 21st century.

Therefore, students will work at an urban, building, and a smaller scale, to finally develop physical prototypes of components.

Directed by a some of the most radicals voices of our generation: Hernan Alonso(SciArc LA), Willy Muller (Iaac Bcn) and Peter Trummer (Innsbruck, Austria), this studio will be held concurrently with students from SciARc.

Self Sufficient Building 2012-2013

Faculty: Enric Ruiz Geli, Mireia Luzàrraga


Nowadays, architecture causes 40% of the CO2 emissions and it is one of the main causes of the global warming. Our aim is, following the ideas of Jeremy Rifkin, to turn this number around and project buildings as power plants, smart buildings that will provide use with the energy we need, and be an activists of the Third Industrial Revolution.

In orther to achieve this we will follow the thesys of bringing nature to the cities. We will study natural behaviours in order to be more efficient in terms of energy saving, and apply them to our buildings.

We will bring fauna and vegetation to the cities in order to have a better standard of living and to reduce CO2 emissions and our echological footprint.

Our projects will be placed in two different urban voids in Barcelona, one of them in the seashore, and another one in Poblenou.

We will work on them as socialactivists, we will regenerate the areas by introducing mixed use programs, and by implementing urban agriculture to the district.

At the same time, we will be travelling to the most beautiful and biodiverse Natural Reserves in Europe, and bringing all the knowledge we aquire to the city (Timanfaya, Urdaibai and Cap de Creus). By travelling to these privileged areas, we will be concerned about our fragil balance in the world, and have Environmental Energy Experiences towards Empathy (EEE towards E).

Back in the studio we will translate and blend all these environments to particles. Particles make no distinction between objects and products, buildings and landscape, sea and mountain, but understands reality, and therefore the architectural project, as performing particles, thus entering into an empathetic understanding of a society in which human beings and

Nature speak a common language, that of Particles Architecture.

The natural environment for working with particles surpasses proprietary software, and introduces environments that are more generic. They are managed by the use of free programming environments (Processing) through intelligent behaviour over time, thus progressing from the exterior morphology of the project to the performance of its parts or internal composition.

Digital Tectonics 2012 - 2013: Fabrication Ecologies

Faculty: Claudia Pasquero, Marco Poletto 

‘Social ecosophy will consist in developing specific practices that will modify and reinvent the ways in which we live as couples or in the family, in an urban context or at work, etc [...] Instead of clinging to general recommendations we would be implementing effective practices of experimentation, as much on a micro social level as on a larger institutional scale. ’

GUATTARI, F. The Three Ecologies. Continuum, London 2000.

The Fabrication Ecologies Research Studio embraces a radical attitude towards digital fabrication by experimenting new eco-systemic fabrication protocols; our core ambition is to embed the mechanisms of digital fabrication within specific design milieu, manufacture related 1:1 design prototypes and trigger the emergence of speculative architectural scenarios.

Within this design framework digital fabrication expands beyond the technical domain and becomes an instrument of polemic that can be tuned to contribute to a wider debate; in particular the studio discusses the role of digital design technology in:

-supporting the transition from a system of mass production to one of mass customization

-engaging contemporary environmental concerns

-defining the emergence of a new socio-economic figure, the digital craftsmen.

The studio’s disciplinary contribution is articulated through:

-the parallel advancement of both technical and cultural paradigms of digital fabrication in architecture.

-the invention of new digital fabrication techniques involving an innovative use of programmable robots.

-the development of new 1:1 scale architectural prototypes and related design scenarios.

This year our material research focuses on natural fibrous systems; in particular we will start form hemp, which in the 20th century has been the extraordinary protagonist of a controversial industrial war. Once the most diffused material in the world, in the early ‘30s hemp became the key competitor of the growing petrochemical industry, which then took control of the market until today; the studio will plot a surprise comeback by inventing new hemp based components and related fabrication protocols.

Our design method includes several steps from the initial creation of a “hemp garden”, to experiments in material self-organisation, digital simulation and robotic fabrication; each step is supported by dedicated seminars and design workshops. In the 3rd term each group of students is required to manufacture a 1:1 architectural component and describe a related design scenario.


Introductory Studio 2012-13



By Nuri Choi, Zeynep Birgunol, Elif Gongur, Roopa Sharma, and Youssef Hassan Rashdan.

The approach of the project focuses in a behavioral and sociological transformation; throughout a series of one-on-one surveys and live experiments, data was extracted from users to map out .activities and behaviors.

The thesis was based on how to provide the users with tools to reach their needs, how to design mechanisms to let the user choose rather than imposing a solution.

The current state of the street is a static place filled with readymade elements. If every user had the choice to create their own need the street would become a dynamic pulsating mesh of activities, a self-made street.

OTF 2012 - Mataerial: Petr Novikov & Saša Jokić + IAAC + Joris Laarman Studio

MATAERIAL – a brand new method of additive manufacturing. This patent-pending method allows for creating 3D objects on any given working surface independently of its inclination and smoothness, and without a need of additional support structures. Conventional methods of additive manufacturing have been affected both by gravity and printing environment: creation of 3D objects on irregular, or non-horizontal surfaces has so far been treated as impossible . By using innovative extrusion technology we are now able to neutralize the effect of gravity during the course of the printing process. This method gives us a flexibility to create truly natural objects by making 3D curves instead of 2D layers. Unlike 2D layers that are ignorant to the structure of the object, the 3D curves can follow exact stress lines of a custom shape. Finally, our new out of the box printing method can help manufacture structures of almost any size and shape.

MATAERIAL is the result of the collaborative research between Petr Novikov, Saša Jokić from the Institute for Advanced Architecture of Catalonia (IAAC) and Joris Laarman Studio. IAAC tutors representing Open Thesis Fabrication Program provided their advice and professional expertise. During the course of the research we developed a brand new digital fabrication method and a working prototype that can open a door to a number of practical applications. The method that we call Anti·gravity Object Modeling has a patent-pending status.

Emergent Territories 2011 - 2012: Urban Metabolisms - From Data to Architecture

Faculty:  Willy Müller, Maite Bravo
Technical Experts: Alex Posada, Luis Fraguada, Edouard Cabay, David Dalmazzo

The scale, complexity and relevance of problems affecting contemporary cities of the 21st century are bringing forward new levels of urban interventions that arguably constitute the most significant design agenda for architects of this century. Within this context, the territory of architecture could be redefined as a hybrid terrain embracing the whole built environment, merging the traditional boundaries existing between the disciplines of architecture, urbanism, landscape and infrastructure.

Emerging design agendas today are able to explore the symbiotic relationship between buildings and the urban environments they in-form based on fields of fluctuating data, developing morphologies capable of adapting to real time information. This studio brings forward fundamental concepts related to the importance to propose symbiotic systems of organization based on real time data, that can be further articulated into responsive systems and metabolic organizations, where small decisions can have a large impact at urban scale. The need to investigate the capacity of the city to interact, give and receive information and invent new devices capable of monitoring in real time what is happening in the city in terms of traffic, waste, CO2 emissions, and energy use, it’s being investigated by a science that combines urbanism and robotics: Urbiotica. The fluctuating data collected thru sensors provide detailed information of minimums and maximums, instead of the traditional rigid design approach based on averages. This information may be used to design adaptive systems able to create a relationship between programmatic, formal, spatial, and structural decisions.

According to these parameters, projects will be developed on a varied urban scale, from large interventions to intelligent buildings to small devices or components that may create new conditions of urbanity for the 21st century. Students will identify and explore diverse scales, from urban formations to the definition of singularities such as buildings, houses, or components. Therefore, students may decide to work at an urban scale, or maybe at a building scale, or perhaps into a smaller component scale.

Emergent Territories 2011 - 2012 Projects Archive