Ghina Zeid Technological Ornamentation Lebanese American University Digital tools are creating new ornamentation in a valuable way

Ghina Zeid
Technological Ornamentation
Lebanese American University

Digital tools are creating new ornamentation in a valuable way. Technology is becoming a part of many buildings. For example, Zaha Hadid, Norman Foster, and Jeanne Gang used digital tools successfully to create designs that turned to be remarkable landmarks. In my paper, I will argue that ornamentation generated by the digital tools can effectively be valuable especially when informed by other social, environmental, and contextual factors. In order to clarify my point of view, I am going to give Aqua Building as an example.

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One of the marvelous designers in the world of architecture is Jeanne gang. Aqua Building in Chicago identifies Gang. Gang was smart and creative in implementing technology to create ornamentation. She did not depend on technology alone to create the parametric form; she inherited the digital tools and made modifications to create this interesting look.
When creating the visuals of aqua, gang considered environmental, communicational, and urban issues. The balconies show the context and the purpose that gang wanted to demonstrate. Then the balconies are not just a décor for this architectural sculpture. It is the concept, the ornament, the identity, and the whole meaning of this skyscraper.
Aesthetic and urban value:
One of the questions Gang proposed, “What’s missing in tall buildings?”. After searching, it was concluded that skyscrapers do not have outdoor spaces (Gang, 2015). It is challenging yet interesting and incredible to have such undulating patterns on the façade, especially that she used the concrete for these stretched balconies. They were stretched in various ways so that each unit is connected to a certain spectacular view in the city such as the “Bean” at Millennium Park. Despite the fact that computer modeling was used to generate these visuals, certain calculations were done for each unique slab. It is rare to find a high-rise building with balconies all along. Technology allowed Gang to create “the 26809707112000look of a multi-layered Lake Michigan rock formation” (as cited in Glancey, 2009) -wavy concrete balconies that are attached to the structure. It also helped in giving the aesthetics a soft, airy, fragile, and fluid look at the time it is hard and heavy. The white balconies and the colored glass give the impression of water falling down. Thus, a great relationship between nature, cuture, and the city was illustrated. Then, “the need to keep architecture from turning into a digital echo chamber hermetically sealed from the culture at large” is obvious (as cited in Hawthorne, 2010).

Social value:
Technological ornamentation was exploited to serve a social function. Aqua is a multi-used building which contains apartments, commercial spaces, hotels, and condominiums. It seems to be a sustainable solution for the overpopulated world. The attractive design and the various views captivates visitors and tourists to experience this place which in turn creates economies. Jeanne succeeded in converting a community from being in horizontal dimension to vertical one. The way the balconies were distributed, creates a social community. The irregular exterior façade served as social space where the neighbors are able to see each other and communicate. Another way that Jeanne used to strengthen human interaction is the organic garden on the rooftop of aqua. Then, the design of Jeanne Gang is simply a humane one.

Environmental value:
When using technology to create these visuals, gang considered the weather conditions. The Gang team studied the wind with digital simulation. So, these visuals are adapted to deflate the energy of the wind and this was effective. First, it prevents wind from distracting people on the balconies, which allow them to enjoy the scenes more. Second, less resistance against the wind was needed. Then, the mass damper (costly device), which is usually found at the top of a skyscraper, was eliminated. The balconies are shaped in a way that shades the below balconies. However, the areas that lack balconies are made up of reflective glass that control solar access. Both cases block heat in summer, which reduce the energy used for air conditioning. The form of the balconies work as effective rainwater collecting system where it helps in draining water. In addition, they facilitate passive heating in winter. Her admiring of birds, made gang to think of them while designing the digital visuals. According Hawthorne (2010), one of the purposes of the complex irregular glass façade is to protect birds from hitting.
Architecture has no effect if it was not connected to culture through a concept. In order to be meaningful, architecture has to consider the structural, functional, physical, political, and the other issues, which shape the society. This can be done through ornamentation. Ornamentation is the created visual that is justified and serves a certain function for the construction; it is the essence of a structure. Each culture has a certain way to show these visuals with different materials. The importance of ornamentation is reflected in the extent that the concept is revealed and the design is evaluated. When ornamentation was first introduced in architecture, it was connected to labor; it was handmade ornamentation; however, nowadays the emergence of technology has changed what ornamentation used to be. Computers allowed design disciplines to create different patterns and grids that separate the interior from the exterior in a way that suits the nature and culture. Then, a new architectural language in form and details finding arrived, and it can be developed in many possibilities using to the digital tools without letting them dominate over human.

The Aqua building is good example of a sustainable design in a technological world. It addresses what technological ornamentation has to be in order to be meaningful and valuable. In this case, Technology was used to serve not only the silhouette of the building but also certain purposes. The specialties -of this building’s visuals- including water collection systems, energy efficiency, and money saving(less materials are used in construction), awarded it the LEED Certificate.

Today, no architect depends on handcraftsmanship to create the ornaments of an architectural sculpture; all is done depending on digital tools. How and why technological ornamentation is applied determines its value. The mentality of Jeanne in working proves that technological ornamentation id effective. Then, designers can use technology to create their visuals such that their individuality and target is preserved. The use of technology in design disciplines- especially architecture- had started as an exploration; exploration in combining software. This exploration has to stop; otherwise, the environment will get much affected because of the excessive use of energy, materials and money without benefiting humanity. There should be collaboration between design and technology considering labor, environment, and sustainability. Design is supposed to be humane. So, if technology is fabricating design without the interference of human, what is then the aspect of being human?

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