Mathematics of the Equatorial Villa

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Peter Ortner

The proposition surprises us: a villa. What is this, 16th century Italy? The idea of a space that exists purely for pleasure carries with it the reek of hedonism. In the data-driven city we architects work as optimizers- as happy agents of efficiency! Only in extremis are we faced with purely aesthetic quandaries. But with this problem the apparent solidity of quantitative method fails us. How can we design the superfluous…* shudders* … the beautiful?

Of course, the two-thousand-year history of our profession might suggest to us methods for working with aesthetics. Those who dare delve into this (justifiably forgotten) ancient lore would come upon the quaint notion that mathematics could produce aesthetic arrangements of form and space. The names Rowe, Palladio, Corbusier would present themselves in a confusing and anachronistic jumble as players of a three-dimensional game of interpenetrating volumes, rhythms of solid and void, expressed and suppressed axes. All of it purportedly producing… beauty?

We may even begin to wonder if with these aesthetic tools the apparatus of the data-driven city, its data-pools and algorithms, could be subject to a detournement and the flood of data instrumentalized by a mathematics of architectural aesthetics. We might propose an architecture equatorial in its relation to its position on our spherical world, but also in its mediation of the logics of exteriority (landscape, site) and interiority (form, proportion, rhythm).

What will we do?

We will design an ultra-light microvilla for a site on Coney Island in Singapore. (This will not be another Sentosa mansion.)

How will we do it?

Each student will propose their own architectural system of proportion, iteration, and interpenetration/ transparency as the basis of the villa design. We will rely on historical precedent, some algorithmic tools, and our intuition.

We will map the landscape and micro-climate of our site on Serangoon/Coney Island. Data will be collected by hand, using digital sensors, and from open data sources including Singapore open data.

Each student will adapt their villa system to the site, producing meaningful, contextual form.

Is there a trip? 4

Yes- let’s go hiking/ biking on Coney Island!

[Image Attribution | Paul Rudolph. Walker Guest House. Image Ezra Stoller. | Mies van der Rohe. Farnsworth House. Image | Made In. Villa Chardonne. Image Walter Mair, Joel Tettamanti. | Le Corbusier. Villa Savoye. Image unknown googleuser. | Jean Prouve. Maison Tropicale Brazzaville. Image unknown. | Geoffrey Bawa. Jayawardene House. Image Sebastian Posingis. | John Lautner. Chemosphere. Image Julius Schulman. | OMA. Villa dall’Ava. Image Peter Aaron/OTTO. | Buckminster Fuller. Dymaxion ‘Wichita’ House. Image unknown.]