Degree Project at the Pratt Institute School of Architecture
Degree Project Professors: Philippe Baumann and Michael Su

HMS497B Professors: Dena Al-Adeeb

Assessment Committee Professors: Lou Goodman and Anne Nixon

Class of 2015 Design Teams : Nubia Garcia + Valeria Mazzilli, Young Hoon Park + Chang Yong Choi, Julia Nasti + Emma Colley, Gamal Osman+ Unjae Pyon, Han Min Cho + Austin Eifler, Julian Anderson + Chia Wei Lee, I Ting “Rita” Tsai + Wanling “Joan” Li, Siman Huang + Freddie Sotelo.

The Integrated Circuit (IC) was invented by Jack Kilby and Robert Noyce in the late 1950’s to overcome the intrinsic “Tyranny of Numbers” of trying to build ever more complex, and ever denser, electronic circuits.

Our section title follows from the name given to the seemingly insurmountable problem with electronic circuits in the 1950s, when the nascent electronics industry was stopped cold by the physical limitations of hand wiring ever more complex transistor circuits. Although the transistor’s invention made possible the design of complex, ever more capable circuits, the actual production of these circuits with any degree of reliability proved impossible. Even rudimentary circuits required hundreds of hand soldered connections, while sophisticated circuits like memorizing calculators required miles of wiring and tens of thousands of connections. This problem became known as the Tyranny of Numbers, a term we have adapted to the exponentially increasing scales and complexities of our urbanizing cities.

The relatively recent, but rapidly increasing, rise in the ratio of urban to rural populations worldwide, with over 200,000 people moving into urban areas every day, has been burdening our cities to an unprecedented degree. (China, for example, anticipates an 80:20 urban majority by 2020.) As a result, the architectural and planning problems facing our growing cities, e.g. – cultural disintegration, resource scarcity, infrastructural overload, erosion and/or militarization of public spaces, and the ever-present housing shortage, have escalated in scale and complexity, or numbers, beyond those formerly addressable by architects and planners. Instead, ever more scalable, adaptable, and interdisciplinary design strategies are urgently required at every stage of the design process.

We believe a crucial means of formulating these strategies is that of shifting the domain of design from hardware to software. That is, following the model by which the “tyranny of numbers” was overcome some 50 years ago, we believe it is only by distinguishing between the architecture of the city as its visible, physical hardware and the urbanity of the city as its invisible, ephemeral software, and then addressing the design contingencies of both, that we can overcome the “tyranny of numbers” intrinsic to our rapidly urbanizing cities.
Our section begins with the close study of 2 rapidly urbanizing cities, Maputo and Cairo, with the aim of developing scalable, adaptable, and interdisciplinary design strategies for specific sites, programs, and clients in each city. We will develop these strategies though the familiar device of the architectural competition. Throughout the Fall 2015 semester, students will study precedents, procedures, and outcomes of notable architectural competitions in parallel with developing their own, fully characterized, thoroughly documented, architectural competitions in both cities. Students will thereby establish concisely their task for the Spring, design studio semester, for which they will propose real architectural solutions to real problems in real cities.

In the Fall 2015 semester, our Degree Project section will investigate the urban “complications” of Cairo and Maputo, i.e. – the Disintegration of cultures and communities, Scarcity of material and immaterial resources, Overload of infrastructures, Erosion of public spaces, and Shortages of housing in each of these cities. Our goal was for our students to collect and process the information necessary for them to identify sites and complications for them to specifically address in their final, Degree Projects in the Spring 2016 semester.