Aleatoric Neo-Vernacular
University of Westminster
Final 5th Year Project

This year of study began with a some what diversionary route via the strange landscapes of silence, avant garde music and chance operations. Inspired by the composing techniques of the twentieth century musician, John Cage, the design brief incorporated an engagement with the ancient Chinese Book of Changes, a 5000 year guide for living, otherwise known as the I Ching. The premise involved nearly every part of the architectural project to be generated through these chance, or aleatoric processes.
In the same manner that Cage assigned values of timbre, duration, tone and volume to the I Ching symbols (hexagrams) as means of composing music through chance, the brief initiated the same with architecture and programme. Scale, function, material, form, detail, use and site were all to be determined by chance, and chance processes of our own design. Unusually for a Masters architectural project it required an abandonment all existing values, tastes, preferences, preconceptions and rationalizations, in other words, to recognize that you know nothing, in order to embark on a sometimes exciting, sometimes boring and sometimes scary voyage of discovery through the architectural subconscious.

The proposal instigates an interpretation through chance techniques of the land use, construction, informality, variety and participation developed in the design of the Marrakech Medina to redevelop a more imaginative and socially effective urban environment than the conflicting and existing site condition.
The design of the new dwellings, workshops, restaurants and souks throughout the site are primarily left to the future inhabitants and fabricators. The architect’s role is reduced to the development of aleatoric design processes, led by referrals to the prophetic writings of the I Ching. The chance generated framework, into which the proposed programmes, materials, layouts and specifications situate themselves are all subject to even further chance interpretations by the proposal’s inhabitants and visitors.

The project was situated within the south west corner of Marrakech’s medina in an area of land which differs dramatically from the tight urban environment which surrounds it. The site consists of what appears to be a relatively modern development of low rise, 2-3 storey, apartments sparsely arranged on a grid structure of spacious roads with ample pavements. Each building is separated from its neighbour by large green spaces. In contrast, the rest of the medina is a tight labyrinthine arrangement of narrow streets and dead ends, surrounded on all sides by a continuous ‘terrace’ of 2-3 storey shops, houses, restaurants and workshops. In response to this one of the project aims is the reinvestigation of the seemingly natural vernacular conditions prevalent in Marrakech and surrounding the site. Through embracing chance processes and aspects inherent to the local self build traditions the proposal aims to reverse the apparent selfish urbanisation of the site and retrofit the large, single dimensioned housing programme, with the complex local socio economic systems through a new self built housing estate. In creating chance affected self building systems the proposal aims to redefine relationships to the broader medina framework, gradually adding individual built forms, historically vernacular urban density and diverse cultural practices

Catalogue 04 – Project Blueprints. This documentation, in both a graphic and written format, provides the proposals programmatic, material and design moments. Alongside the previous documents and their spatial constructions, this documentation provides the outline of deired programmes that insert or intersect the generated forms.

Catalogue 01 – Site intervention. Outlining which areas of the site are demolished and initial spatial structures on site and their relationships with the existing forms. Plans ambiguous in their legibility and subsequent action becomes partly a product of user interpretation and misconstrued information.

The design exercises throughout the year generated several techniques through which both the design and implementation of the design were accomplished. Subconscious production, chance durations, interpretation, addition-reduction, planned obsolescence and non linearity were all used in the production of the architectural programme, design and construction. The proposal is mainly developed around instructional manuals that individually outline very broad aspects within more specific themes.

Catalogue 02 – Habitation Index. This catalogue of spaces acts as templates from which occupants can choose for their individual dwellings depending on their needs and aspirations for the architecture.

Catalogue 03 – Material Specifications. In combination with the programmatic documentation the material specifications outline the available material pallet available to the construction of the project.