Postgraduate Supervision

SIAL PhD’s

Embedded PhDs

Rory Hyde – 2013

Title: Punching above your weight [LINK]

PhD by Thesis (Supported by Project)

Abstract: The title of this work, ‘punching above your weight’, is a phrase native to boxing, where it is used to describe fighting at a level better than is expected of one’s division. It is used here in the context of architecture to describe a kind of practice that embodies these qualities, by delivering trim efficiency and power that would be expected of a larger organisation.  This thesis explores the characteristics that might make up such a practice, by focusing on the dual core aspects of an architectural practice’s working methods: design strategies and organisation structures.


Marcus White – 2010

Title: Informing an Integrated and Sustainable Urbanism through Rapid, Defragmented Analysis and Design. [LINK]

PhD by Thesis (Supported by Project)

Abstract:  Urban design has splintered into increasingly narrow specialist disciplines since the mid Twentieth Century. Traffic engineers, statutory planners, civil engineers, landscape architects and architects each make specific but isolated contributions to urban design frameworks. Predominantly, these documents consist of text and two-dimensional representations, occasionally with specious perspective images produced by a hand rendering specialist. This fragmented and sequential design approach no longer addresses contemporary social aims, practice constraints or the potential of digital design techniques, particularly in light of increasing fears of an imminent environmental crisis and peak oil, and concerns for health, amenity and accommodating an increasing population.

The aim of my thesis is to identify and address disparities between contemporary urban design practice and social aspirations for integrated and sustainable cities. The hypothesis tested by my thesis is that the gulf between social aims and practice can be reduced by developing a ‘defragmented’ design approach that uses rapid, parametric, four-dimensional, digital analysis and design techniques, which build upon software commonly available within the industry.

Bio: Dr Marcus White is an award winning architect and urban designer, co-director of Harrison and White Pty Ltd and lecturer in digital design in architecture and urban design at the University of Melbourne.


Sarah Benton – 2009

Title: The Architectural Designer and their Digital Media [LINK]

PhD by Thesis (Supported by Project)

Abstract: This research investigates the relationship between the architectural designer and the use he/she makes of digital media as part of their design process. My principal research-question is what is the advantage of including digital media as part of the designers’ ‘toolset’ in the early stages of design? The context is a mid-sized Australian architectural practice. The study considers the nature of architectural designing as a creative activity and the extent to which advantages could be gained by including digital media as part of the designers’ ‘toolset’ in the early stages of design.

Bio: Dr Benton is a design architect at Bates Smart, Sydney and lectured in the Masters and Undergraduate Architecture program at the University of Sydney from 2009-2011


Paul Nicholas – 2008

Title: Informing an Integrated and Sustainable Urbanism through Rapid, Defragmented Analysis and Design. [LINK]

PhD by Thesis (Supported by Project)

Abstract: While 3D digital design tools have extended the reach of architectural and engineering designers within their own domains, restrictions on the use of the tools and an approach to practice whereby the architect designs (synthesises) and the engineer solves (analyses) – in that order – have limited the opportunities for interdependent modes of interaction between the two disciplines during the early design phase. While it is suggested that 3D digital design tools can facilitate a more integrated approach to design exploration, this idea remains largely untested in practice.

The central proposition of my research is that that 3D digital tools can enable interdependencies between crucial aspects of architectural and engineering design exploration during the early design phase which, before the entry of the computer, were otherwise impossible to affect. I define interdependency as a productive form of practice enabled by mutual and lateral dependence. Interdependent parties use problem solving processes that meet not only their own respective goals, but also those of others, by constructively engaging difference across their boundaries to actively search for solutions that go beyond the limits of singular domains. Developed through practice-based project work undertaken during my 3 year postgraduate internship within the Melbourne Australia office of the engineering firm Arup, my research explores new and improved linkages between early design exploration, analysis and making. The principal contribution of my research is to explore this problem from within the context, conditions and pressures of live practice.

Bio: Dr Nicholas is founding practice partner of MESNE, architecture and urban design studio and joined the Center for Information Technology and Architecture (CITA), Copenhagen as adjunct Professor in 2011.


Dominik Holzer – 2009

Title: Informing an Integrated and Sustainable Urbanism through Rapid, Defragmented Analysis and Design. [LINK]

PhD by Thesis (Supported by Project)

Abstract: Dr Holzer researched routes to improving understanding between collaborators in the early stages of architectural design. He was embedded in the engineering firm Arup where he investigated different design and consulting disciplines for a period of three years. This research into transdisciplinary design and the resulting identification (and definition) of “Optioneering” in architecture has provided a seminal contribution to the field. This will benefit future architectural research and practice as opportunities increase for real time decision making through advances in digital design technologies.


Drew Williamson – 2012

Title: Communicating cost: challenging cost barriers to innovation in architecture. [LINK]

PhD by Thesis (Supported by Project)

Abstract: The central proposition of the thesis is that design computing allows architects to gain a better understanding of how their virtual ideas are realised with innovative approaches challenging traditional delivery and construction methods. By improving the shared understanding of the design idea, digital processes can alleviate much of the uncertainty that causes the addition of cost premiums in the estimation of construction costs.

Digital processes cannot achieve this alone however. They need to be augmented by a reconsideration of the roles and responsibilities of the professions delivering design services for construction. In reformulating the rules of engagement for project delivery, the requirement for transparency and accountability in the delivery of public projects needs to be addressed. The key to improving the management of others’ perceptions of risk is fundamentally one of communication, consultation and involvement in decision-making. My research therefore explores how restructuring professional interaction and project delivery using digital processes enhances innovation in design. The thesis therefore proposes an active role for the architectural designer in harnessing cost constraints as a design parameter.


Andrew Maher – 2011

Title: Designing the design: establishing boundary conditions for designing parametrically. [LINK]

PhD by Project

Abstract: The 40 year period since the computer was introduced to architectural praxis has produced a number of histories of its development and use, spanning the technical and social. A common and much discussed topic amongst these histories, has been the remarkable resistance computing has met to its adoption in architecture. During the past two decades, the use of the computer has become well entrenched within architectural practice. Many tasks such as office administration and project management have been accommodated through the use and adaptation of common business software. Architects and especially students of architecture have also made use of the software that revolutionised the printing and pre-print industries, for display and presentation of their work. However, the core practice of architecture, that of designing and describing buildings has only partly been aided through the introduction of computers and software which runs on them.

More recently another form of software in which form is indirectly controlled through the definition of parameters and application of constraints is being adopted in architectural design. It is known as parametric software and with its history in mechanical engineering and originally developed for the aerospace and manufacturing industries, in architecture it offers as many challenges as opportunities in its use. In fact one of the pioneers of computing in architecture, Charles Eastman has said ‘The expertise regarding rules for parametric boundary conditions is not widely available and will become a growing area of research’ (Sacks, Eastman & Lee 2004)
The aim of this research is to establish some of the boundary conditions for designing parametrically in architectural praxis.


Tim Schork – 2012

Title:  Transformations: A Project-Based Investigation Into The Impact Of Creative Design Computation On Architectural Practice [LINK]

PhD by Project

Abstract: This PhD responds to a twofold problem with the status of existing predominant design software within architectural practice. The first part of the problem is philosophical. It is centered around the discrepancy between a new worldview, based on emergent relational phenomena, dynamics and behaviours, and the state of existing design software tailored for the profession, based on determinacy, statics and geometry. Proposing these inter-relations and their interdependencies as an important novel paradigm of design, this research argues that it is paramount for the design profession to adequately engage with and respond to a world defined by constant flux. This engagement requires the development and deployment of different set of techniques and design tools to those traditionally employed in the design field. The second part of the problem is cultural and concerns artistic creativity and design innovation. What can designers do when existing tools fail to grow with artistic ideas and designers reach the limits of readymade software? A possible solution to this problem is for designers to
actively engage in the design of bespoke design software.

Employing a research methodology of research through design this PhD first provides an introduction to the conceptual framework and then tests this claim by reviewing relevant literature and critically examining a series of case-studies that involved the development of bespoke computational design tools that enable dynamic modeling, collaborative and transdisciplinary processes as a means through which time-based complex systems can be ‘made present’, engaged with and designed through. The research concludes with a discussion on the transformative effects and its implications for future creative design practice.


M. Hank Haeusler – 2007

Title: Spatial Dynamic Media System – Amalgam of form and image through use of a 3D light-point matrix to deliver a content-driven zone in real-time. [LINK]

PhD by Project

Abstract: The core project within my PhD research has been the development of a system as an extension of existing media facades that allows me to test the representation of information and ideas as ?form? within space that is constantly generated and regenerated as a result of fresh input. The hypothesis of my PhD is that this real time reconfiguration of space using light offers a variety of new perceptions ranging from information sharing to public art never experienced previously. During my research, I have established an extensive body of evidence that points to a growing scholarship around the details and impacts of media façade technological developments and the content displayed on them. In the thesis I define the boundaries of these technology shifts and enhanced content combinations limited to 2 dimensions. In my research I consider the technical and media implications of extending conventional 2D screens which are limited currently to architectural cladding into a 3D matrix or voxel facade thereby causing an alteration to spatial perception through the content animating the voxel matrix.


Errol Tout – 2010

Title: Spatial Representation in Architecture: Spatial Communication Through the Use of Sound. [LINK]

PhD by Project

Abstract: My personal motivation for this PhD is this: I am interested in architecture. I am interested in space. I am interested in architectural representation. I am interested in music. I am interested in sound. This PhD examines sound as a carrier of information about space.

I have been a registered architect for 22 years. I have been interested in music since I learned to breathe. I have worked as a musician for 24 years and have recorded 16 albums of my own instrumental guitar based music.  In 2001, I completed a Master of Architecture, ‘Music and Architecture–the Connection between the Constructs’. It concerned itself with translating the ideas employed in the composition of a piece of music to be then used to design a piece of architecture.

This PhD concerns itself with sound and not music. There is a difference. I suggest that music is what we can make when we take sounds and direct them toward an objective. Sound can be organized in a certain way to create music; sound being the raw material that we manipulate to create the music. Music including commercial/classical/popular is normally considered to possess a structure, verses, choruses, harmony, melody, and so on, whereas sound does not. There is a slight blurring between music and sound in that digital technology is effecting how music may be constructed, notated and performed. The manner in which samplers can change a sound and direct it toward a musical end3 is one example of such blurring. The sound pieces made for this PhD are not captured in standard notation and they do not exhibit any of the standard western compositional forms of pop song, dance, symphony, or sonata. They are not to be approached as pieces of music they are aural representations of space.

This PhD is in accord with Rasmussen’s (1962) thoughts as published in Grueneisen (2003) Can Architecture be heard?


Peta Carlin – 2013

Title: On Semperian Surfaces: Interweavings between the Mid-Twentieth Century Curtain Wall and Harris Tweed, a Study Mediated by Photography.

PhD by Thesis (Supported by Project)

Abstract: In the images that compose urban Fabric lay dormant webs of Harris Tweed in the midst of facades of melbourne’s mid-twentieth century corporate architecture, recalling architecture’s purported textile origins. Through the photographic capturing of the buildings’ likenesses, and removal from their streetscapes and surrounds, their physiognomic features gain prominence and the patternational of their weave becomes distinguishable, summoning the Hebridean check to the light, each, the building type and the tweed renowned for their endless variation and its repetition. Photographic images, mobile surface renditions, interweave between city and country, between the Outer Hebrides and Melbourne, as we ourselves routinely weave through the city streets we inhabit collecting its traces like threads, its fabric both clothing us and enclosing us, latent images revealing amidst the everyday, the unplumbed richness of place through association and connection. Shifts between scales, movements between locales, translations between media, variation in application, weaving in between, all the while dressing.


Jerome Frumar – 2012

Title: Computation and Material Practice in Architecture [LINK]

PhD by Project

Abstract: His research explores whether computation and CNC manufacturing can
support more informed design methods and better integrated production
processes in architecture. He identifies the critical factors involved in
pursuing this goal and elaborate on an integral computational
methodology capable of enhancing the bond between designing and making
in architecture. His hypothesis proposes that digitally mediated design and
manufacturing can strengthen the relationship between intention and
execution by enabling closer engagement with fabrication during early
design exploration, and by supporting more informed decision making
via dynamic design representations with embedded material
intelligence.

This hypothesis is developed and tested through project-led research.
As a group the projects contribute towards a better understanding of
how digital technologies might be employed by architects to enhance
and expand design to production processes, and shed light on some of
the technical, cultural and philosophical implications of a deeper
engagement with materials and processes of making within the
discipline of architecture.

His research concludes that new kinds of interactive simulation and
evaluation tools, as well as access to digital fabrication
technologies, enables an accelerated generation, evaluation and
calibration process during early design exploration. This mutually
informed digital-material feedback loop makes it possible to rapidly
develop acute material intuition, and consequently to conceive new
kinds of architectural systems and materialisation strategies, which
could lead to better use of available resources, more innovative
design and a stronger bond between intent and outcome through more
streamlined design to production processes.

The digitally supported materially informed methodology that he outlines
encourages a shift in design process and attitude, away from a
visually driven mode of architectural composition towards material
practice – an approach in which the self-organising logic of materials
and the logistics of materialisation are used to actively inform
design exploration, refinement and construction processes.


James Gardiner – 2012

Title: Exploring the Emerging Design Territory of Construction 3D printing – Project Led Architectural Research [Link]

PhD by Project

Abstract: 3D printing techniques (also known as additive fabrication) are maturing and increasingly being used as an alternative means for niche product manufacturing. These fabrication techniques are now being scaled up and adapted for full-scale fabrication within the construction industry. While it has been suggested that construction 3D printing (fabrication of construction elements using scaled up 3D printing machines) could lead to significant advances within the construction industry, there are currently few examples of how such advances could be achieved at a building scale.

Although there has been significant effort invested in the development of construction 3D printing techniques, little detailed architectural design exploration has been published to establish methods for its application within the construction industry. My central proposition is that further detailed architectural exploration, focused on design for construction 3D printing combined with off-site fabrication methods and digital design tools, is necessary to tease out the potentials and limitations of construction 3D printing techniques.


Elif Kendir – 2014

Title: Learning from the construction site: an epistemological investigation of stonemasons and architects in action [LINK]

PhD by Thesis 

Abstract: Making buildings is first and foremost a situated activity: it is on the site of construction that the abstract design concept comes into contact with the messy world of matter. In order to observe and analyse the interplay between material entities, physical environments and human actors in situ at the resolution stage of the design process, this thesis adopts a post-humanistic stance, where inanimate things as well as human actors are considered to possess agency. Using insights gathered from Actor-network theory (ANT) to direct the investigation, the thesis highlights the role of physical sites as active agents in the generation and accumulation of architectural knowledge.

In the data gathered for this thesis, the site is found to operate in the design process in three key ways: as repository – a provider of design knowledge coded within the existing built environment; as resource – a provider of materials and skills; and as the observation platform for the assessment of the built artefact unfolding in time, interacting with natural elements and patterns of use.

Although most of the work in this thesis centres on the accounts of the practice of human actors, the findings contest the notion of humans being completely in charge, and reveal the vital impact of a non-human actor, the site, that literally and metaphorically grounds the design process by acting as a framework for the generation, assessment and handing down of architectural knowledge.


Daniel Davis

Title:  Parametric Schemata: The architecture of parametric design.

Abstract: It is difficult to create a parametric model that remains flexible throughout an architectural project. This hinders the application of parametric models, causes delays to projects and remains a problem despite the widespread adoption of parametric modelling in architectural practice. The aim of this research is to articulate the characteristic structure of flexible parametric models. It proposed three alternative model structures and, using a research through practice methodology, evaluates these in relation to incumbent methods. Case studies are nearing completion and the durable record is beginning production.


Sascha Bohnenberger – 2013

Title: Material exploration and engagement: Strategies for investigating how multifunctional materials can be used as design drivers in architecture [LINK]

PhD by Thesis (Supported by Project)

Abstract: Since the early 2000s, primarily research-based projects have focused on the use of new materials such as shape-memory alloys, light-emitting diodes (LED), film-encased photovoltaic cells and thermochromic paints. These materials offer a wide range of outstanding possibilities to the construction industry through their capacity to sense and respond to external environmental stimuli.

However, the advent of smart materials – multifunctional materials that are designed by chemists, physicists and biologists – pose challenges for design practices exploring such innovations.

Given the rich potential of these emerging materials and technologies for architecture, I was intrigued to know: what is necessary to introduce these materials in architecture?
In this thesis, I report on design strategies that involve extrinsic and intrinsic material properties. My research strategies included the use of digital design tools, physical computing and haptic-intuitive workflows in order to bypass a lengthy iterative design and analysis process through rapid intuitive feedback.

My research demonstrates the necessity of both a digital and physical interaction with previously little- or un-used engineered advanced materials, if the use of those materials is to drive change in the overall material system.

This proposition is developed and tested by practice-based research and design explorations. Centred on the idea of material-driven design processes, my research addresses the work of architects, engineers and materials scientists and locates opportunities for working together within a trans-disciplinary environment. Having direct interaction with materials and their behaviours generates an awareness of the material possibilities that enables architects to engage with engineers and materials scientists. In considering both theoretical and practical implications, my research contributes to the discussion of multifunctional materials as they emerge and their applications within architecture.


Alex Peña de Leon – 2014

Title: Separation of Concerns: strategies for complex parametric design modelling [LINK]

PhD by Thesis (Supported by Project)

Abstract: This thesis considers the extent to which conventional parametric technologies
de-augment the traditional process of design delivery. The design delivery process
aided with parametrically enabled technologies can allow architectural practices
to manage higher levels of complexity, stricter design guidelines and tighter
design schedules compared to the design delivery process unaided by parametric
technologies. But while the benefits of these technologies are higher than their
drawbacks, this enhanced delivery process is not devoid of risks and imperfections.
This thesis deals with strategies to manage these inflexibilities through
the use of existing technology and knowledge available to design professionals
today.

The adoption of parametrically enabled technologies by design professionals
is a necessary step into advancing design practice to more complex project work,
but the adoption of these technologies must be taken with caution.
The introduction of parametrically enabled technologies into the design practice has the potential to introduce an unwanted creative “bottleneck” during crucial
decision making moments of an advanced architectural project.

For these reasons parametric design modelling alone will not be sufficient
in supporting designers through the delivery process of geometrically complex
buildings. Parametric design software and its associated design protocol impede
architects in the flexible management of changes throughout the lifetime of a
project. This thesis will explore and compare two strategies to overcome the
inflexibility of parametric modelling systems. These strategies have been developed
through the use of a mixed-methods research methodology which combines
the action research method with the case-study method.


Khoo Choi

Title: Designing Soft Responsive Kinetic System for Architectural Morphing Skins

PhD by Project

Abstract: This research discusses the issues of designing dynamic architectural skins that are able to adapt to changing conditions. To achieve this architectural vision many designers focus on developing ‘hard’ mechanical joints, components, and systems for actuation and kinetic transformation. However, the unexplored ‘soft’ approach using lightweight elastic form-changing materials provides an opportunity for designing responsive Architectural Morphins Skins (AMSs). This research aims to develop elastic modular systems that can be applied as ‘second skin’ and used to retrofit existing buildings. The use of the ‘second skin’ in existing buildings can facilitate better building performance in various climate conditions and provides a visually compelling surface. This approach is evaluated for its potential to serve two fundamental purposes: Communication and Comfort. This is investigated through four project-based modules. The significance of this research is that it offers a novel practical method for designing responsive AMSs to moderate air ventilation, manipulate sunlight and act as an active shading device. This research develops an early framework for AMSs with a mix of passive and active design strategies.


Malte Wagenfeld – 2013

Title: Aesthetics of Air [LINK]

PhD by Project

Abstract: This research project questions the now widespread practice of controlling and standardizing interior climates, the consequence of which has been the construction of interior spaces that are hermetically sealed from their atmospheric geography and related phenomena, and largely neutralized in terms of any complex physiological experiences. The origins of this practice and the prevailing notion of ‘comfort’ are interrogated and alternative approaches, and relationships to climate and interior atmosphere, contemporary and from across history and cultures, are discussed. The project then proposes how we can form an alternative relationship to interior atmospheres and the design challenges and opportunities such an approach presents.

A key hypothesis is that the qualities of air we experience in a ‘pleasurable’ outdoor environment hold important clues as to how we can shape interior atmospheres. Through a series of projects, atmospheric phenomena and our physiological and psychological relationship to atmosphere is explored. Revealed is a surprisingly complex and dynamic atmospheric system of phenomena, which is in constant flux. It is argued that it is precisely these transient and highly randomised phenomena carrying perceptual effect that are the key to designing interior atmospheres, which are sensuous, pleasurable and engender delight.


Rafael Moya – 2015

Title: Wind analysis in the early design stage: an empirical study of wind visualisation techniques for architects [LINK]

PhD by Project

Abstract: The aim of this research is to investigate, through empirical wind visualisation studies and architectural explorations of windbreaks, the CFD-PST and other techniques for rapid wind visualisation, in order to evaluate their efficacy for architects’ practice in the early design stage. The results of this research present an evaluation of these wind visualisation technologies as a clear hierarchy of efficacy for rapid feedback, regarding requirements of visualisation complexity and extension of generation process. In addition, the study suggests architectural protocols for rapid visualisation and feedback in design process workflows. Finally, this research examines design rules of aerodynamic features, through rapid wind visualisation, to improve architectural exploration of windbreak design, for outdoor microclimatic control.


Anthony Pelosi – 2015

Title: Distance: A framework for improving spatial cognition within digital architectural models [LINK]

PhD by Project

Abstract: In this exegesis, I investigate the need for improvements to navigation tools and locational awareness within digital architectural models so that users’ spatial cognition can be enhanced. Evidence shows that navigation and disorientation are common problems within digital architectural models, often impairing spatial cognition. When a designer or contractor explores a completed digital architectural model for the first time, it can be a progressively frustrating experience, often leading to the creation of an incorrect cognitive map of the building design. In this exegesis, I use a reflective practice research method across three project-based design investigations. I draw on aspects of architectural communication, human–computer interaction, and spatial cognition. The first investigation, Translation projects, explores the transformation of two-dimensional drawing conventions into three-dimensional interactive digital models, exposing the need for improved navigation and wayfinding. The second investigation, a series of artificial intelligence navigation projects, explores navigation methods to aid spatial cognition by providing tools that help to visualise the navigation process, paths to travel, and paths travelled. The third and final investigation, Distance projects, demonstrates the benefits of productive transition in the creation of cognitive maps. During the transition, assistance is given to aid the estimation of distance. The original contribution to knowledge that this research establishes is a framework for navigation tools and wayshowing strategies for improving spatial cognition within digital architectural models. The consideration of wayshowing methods, focusing on spatial transitions beyond predefined views of the digital model, provides a strong method for aiding users to construct comprehensive cognitive maps. This research addresses the undeveloped field of aiding distance estimation inside digital architectural models. I argue that there is a need to improve spatial cognition by understanding distance, detail, data, and design when reviewing digital architectural models.

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