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Changing architecture – the DETAIL research Forum at BAU 2019

In the Forum at BAU 2019, DETAIL research presented top-class speakers on fundamental topics relating to future construction on all six days of the trade fair.

All DETAIL research events aim at building a bridge between theory and practice. By focusing on this interface, the effects that practice-related and interdisciplinary research results have on future architecture are illustrated. With this in mind, DETAIL research once again presented a rich and varied programme on the topics of city, material, light, serial construction and digitalisation at the BAU 2019 Forum. In addition, the winners of the DETAIL Prize 2018 were also allowed to present their award-winning designs in detail.

A mirror of society
Urban planning developments always reflect social processes – migration to urban conurbations, migration from rural areas, the increase in single-person households due to increasing numbers of unmarried individuals on the one hand and an ageing society on the other, and increasing land consumption and a disproportionate increase in property costs – to name just the most important aspects. On the first day of the fair, Monday 14 January, under the topic of Resource : City, the speakers presented their ideas and solutions to the questions of whether and where there are still resources in cities. How can these be made usable, and can elements in the city perhaps serve as resources themselves?
Tuomas Hakala, a team manager and architect from Helsinki, opened the forum with his vision of a sustainable and smart city. For almost ten years, a future-oriented urban quarter has been a reality in the city's former Kalasatama harbour area. In her talk, Karin Schmid, professor at the Munich University of Applied Sciences, paid particular attention to the quality and general usability of public space. Especially in the new, highly densely populated quarters, she explained, open spaces within cities are becoming increasingly important. Tobias Nolte, co-founder of Certain Measures, pursues a completely different approach. He posed the question of whether new potential and resources in architecture and urban planning can be achieved by reversing the design processes through a hypothetical working method.

Material becomes smart
In addition to their specific properties, the appearance and feel of materials also play a decisive role for architects. But the materials of the future can do even more. The presentations on Tuesday, 15 January showed how future construction can become more cost-effective and resource-saving through the use of innovative structures and materials. The spectrum ranged from traditional materials/techniques that can be reinterpreted, through biological materials that can be used to replace conventional building materials, to the possibility of producing low-tech with high-tech processes. The afternoon started with an enthralling talk by Markus Holzbach from the Institute for Material Design at the HfG Offenbach on the materiality and shape of envelope structures. Holzbach explained the characteristics of materials both from the architect's perspective and from that of the materials and process engineer. Brian Cody from the Institute for Buildings and Energy at the Technical University of Graz in his contribution illustrated an exciting cross-section of building shapes, materials used and the forces acting on them. His credo is that only with the triad of reduced energy consumption, optimal room conditions and high-quality architecture can the best possible solution be achieved. Finally, Hanaa Dahy from the BioMat research department at the University of Stuttgart used the example of the wood and biocomposite research pavilions to show how product design and digital production methods can be skilfully combined to produce ecological materials and building systems.

Viewed in the right light
After presentation of the winners of the DETAIL Prize 2018 on Wednesday, 16 January followed by the traditional networking party in the evening, on Thursday, January 17 the DETAIL Forum focused on the topic of light with four different talks. The mixture of different areas, such as daylight and artificial lighting planning, and LED technology and media lighting scenarios, was particularly successful. The top-class speakers, including Ulrike Brandi, Planungsbüro Ulrike Brandi, Wilfried Pohl from Büro Bartenbach as well as Thomas Schielke from Erco/arclighting and Michael Elstner from Interpane, gave interesting and detailed insights into their project work, reported on the current state of LED technology and digitalisation and presented various initiatives. The subsequent panel discussion, moderated by Emre Onur (editor-in-chief of LICHT), showed once again how important the exchange between the disciplines of artificial light and daylight and between clients, planners and industry is.

Serial and yet individual?
High-quality architecture and creative individuality in serial construction are by no means mutually exclusive. This was the thrust of the talks by the three speakers on prefabrication on Friday, 18 January. For Christian Schlüter, professor at the Bochum University of Applied Sciences, it is crucial that flexible floor plans are used for planning and that construction processes are resource-saving. Only in this way can the necessary flexibility and adaptability for the coming decades and generations be achieved, he believes. Jürgen Bartenschlag from Sauerbruch Hutton also focused on resource conservation and presented a number of current projects – in particular in wood composite construction. He has been pushing building with wood for years, but not at any price. Transport routes that are too long, for example, are in his belief not ecologically justifiable. Dirk Hebel, professor at the KIT in Karlsruhe, considers a paradigm shift in the construction industry to be necessary. In future, he stated, the construction industry must function like a cycle in which recyclable materials and resources are to be incorporated. Attention should therefore be paid to reusability, recyclability and biological cycles such as composting. Serial construction, he claimed, can offer numerous advantages in this respect.

Digital design and manufacturing
On Saturday, 19 January, it finally became clear that digitalisation is not going to stop at construction. And there are already many (digital) tools that increasingly influence architecture, design and manufacturing processes in planning and on the construction site. For Arnold Walz of Design to Production in Stuttgart, these are tools that help transfer analogue data and information into a digital world. Whether this happens via BIM or other processes is not decisive. Architects and planners simply need tools, he stated, that make their work easier in the long term and simplify communication between specialist engineers. Hannes Mayer of Gramazio Kohler Research, ETH Zurich, in his talk focused on digital manufacturing technology. Robots, he explained, can now do much more than simply build walls. Research at ETH Zurich is increasingly moving in the direction of reversible construction methods using robotic processes. The Rock Print Pavilion had shown, for example, how load-bearing structures carrying several tonnes of load could be created using just gravel and looped string – a design idea that innovatively interpreted production, load-bearing structures and composite materials. Mitchell Joachim from Terreform one in NYC focused on the definition of new and unexpected architectural qualities. His biological planning approaches are exemplary for a symbiotic and social coexistence of nature and man. Design and production are linked in a sustainable way in order to preserve cities worth living in for future generations.

We would like to thank all the speakers and our partners, BAU 2019, AGC Interpane and the Zukunft Bau research initiative for the informative and varied programme, and look forward to further dialogue on the future of construction – at the latest in the Forum at BAU 2021.


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