by Elif Erdine, Programme Director of the Istanbul Visiting School

10 March 2016
Istanbul, Turkey



The Istanbul Visiting School, a collaboration between the Architectural Association (AA) and Istanbul Bilgi University, took place from 15 – 24 June 2015 in Bilgi University’s Santral Istanbul Campus. The international programme hosted 40 students from Turkey and abroad, instructed by 8 tutors from the AA and Bilgi University. Continuing its expertise in generative design methodologies and large-scale prototyping techniques, the programme investigated material behaviour and its limitations as design drivers. While the toolset of the programme included Rhinoceros, Processing, and Grasshopper, students explored the interrelation between analog and digital design techniques through experimentation with scaled physical models and computational methods. As contemporary architectural processes point to a significant diversion from linear parametric tools towards generative design thinking, the structure of the programme emphasised the design process rather than the final outcome through the employment of computational simulations and digital prototyping. Finally, the techniques employed were tested through the design and fabrication of a 1:1 scale architectural structure.



Front view

The programme of the Visiting School is organised to expose the participants to a systematic and carefully designed structure that includes software sessions, design seminars, studio tutorials, and lectures from internationally known professionals. In 2015, the lecturers included Xavier de Kestelier (Partner – Foster+Partners, Director – SmartGeometry) and Tobias Nolte (Co-Founder – Certain Measures, Director – Gehry Technologies). During the first part of the programme, participants were organised into design teams, working on the shared design brief through design experiments and scaled physical models. The outcome at this stage was directed at identifying the final design proposal according to a set of predefined design criteria. At this stage, students and tutors formed one large design team working towards the fabrication and assembly of the final prototype with a combination of digital and hands-on techniques.

Assembly process

Assembly process

How can we alter the perception of an existing architectural element through intervention? Design explorations revolved around this problematic, whereby the existing architectural element was defined as the entrance façade of Istanbul Bilgi University’s Department of Architecture. The design brief was the creation of a complex partitioning system that acts as a parasitic addition to the façade. This task was investigated by focusing on a combination of structural, morphological, and contextual factors which the design intervention was expected to respond to in order to differentiate its material and geometrical organisation. The main objective of large-scale fabrication was to investigate the prototype as an “analog machine”, whereby participants could examine the transformation of systems they have devised in digital simulations into material configurations embedded with specific types of data. It was crucial to consider real world constraints such as gravity, physical forces, and loads in the digital simulations in order to create analogous correlations between the computational and physical paradigms.


Assembly process

Physical material investigations were based on the use of vacuum-forming techniques with an innovative approach, whereby the principles of this process were transformed into design inputs. This approach enabled the simultaneous inter-relation of digital and physical experiments. For the fabrication of the facade installation, design explorations focused on form-finding techniques with PVC, a material that is durable for external weather conditions, through the implementation of the vacuum-forming processes. The changes in the material behaviour of PVC due to various vacuum and temperature settings were analysed and catalogued. This information served as design parameters for digital design variations.


Lighting pattern tests

Facade installation, perspective view

Facade installation, perspective view

The final installation, which was 9 meters in length and 3 meters in height, integrates basic design parameters such as texture, light, shadows, colours, and light transmittance. While the installation acts a secondary skin during the day, at night it becomes animated with patterns of light, exposing the varying levels of transparency and shadow across its individual elements.


Facade installation, close-up view

For more information:

The upcoming AA Istanbul Visiting School will be from 13-22 June 2016. For more information and details, please visit: http://ai.aaschool.ac.uk/istanbul/ and http://www.aaschool.ac.uk/STUDY/VISITING/istanbul

Programme Director: Elif Erdine
Host School Coordinator: Sebnem Yalınay Çinici
Visiting School Director: Christopher Pierce

Tutors: Aslı Aydın, Cemal Koray Bingöl, Dağhan Çam, Elif Erdine, Alexandros Kallegias, Benay Gürsoy Toykoç , Tuğrul Yazar

Students: Simge Diken, Gizem Akın, Özgüç Bertuğ Çapunaman, Oğuzhan Çokgunlu, İlkan Cemre Acar, Sezen Kıvılcım Sözeri, Deniz Çelik, Esin Bilge Çelik, Pınar Aksoy, Merve Başot, Verda Ayşe Sezgin, Çağla Şaşmaz, Damla Aydın, Berk Ekmen, Merve Boy, Dilara Kayacan, Elif Doğan, Elif Sena Arabacı, Yıldırım Erbaz, Eslam Abd El-Khalek, Doruk Biçgi, Yunus Emre Demirkıran, Bilge Kardelen Bekiroğlu, Burak Ertuğrul Güney, Dilruba Ağaçcıoğlu, Ceren Bilen, Simay Uluca, Lara Alkhouli, Sarah Abu Al Hamail, Samera Taye, İrem Papila, Sara AL Jabi, Song Ren, Elif Beyza Öngüt, Youssef Ibrahim, Levent Özruh, Jing Wei Qian, Ariss Majid, Emine Ece Emanetoglu, Seda Öznal, Ilknur Güngör

Night visualisation

Night visualisation