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Towards a socio-spatial parametric grammar for sustainable tall residential buildings in hot-arid regions learning from the vernacular model of the Middle East and North Africa

Al-Jokhadar, Amer 2018. Towards a socio-spatial parametric grammar for sustainable tall residential buildings in hot-arid regions learning from the vernacular model of the Middle East and North Africa. PhD Thesis, Cardiff University.
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In the Middle East and North Africa (MENA) region, high-rise buildings could be considered as a hallmark of the contemporary cityscape, and a solution for the continuous urbanisation. Many benefits, such as preserving natural and green spaces in the city, and increasing the access to views, light, and air at height could be achieved. However, several impacts of such buildings could affect the social life of residents. The social dimension in recent developments has considerably less attention than economic and environmental dimensions. This research aims to develop a method for addressing the social aspect in the design of high-rise residential buildings, which could enhance the social life between neighbours, and improve the well-being qualities, such as privacy and security. Computation, as a tool for manipulating ideas, managing design parameters, and solving problems, is adopted to create synergies amongst a community’s cultural, social, and environmental aspects. Currently, the main focus of computational models is primarily limited to building performance, optimisation, and functional requirements. Yet, qualitative factors, such as social, cultural and contextual aspects are also important as they. The study aims to offer architects a computational tool that guides the emergence of sustainable solutions for high-rise residential buildings, and leads the building to be in harmony with the context and preferences of users. According to social survey conducted by the researcher in the study area, through distributing questionnaires to families from 17 countries, results of 173 responses showed that there are lower levels of social interaction between neighbours in contemporary buildings due to the lack of gathering areas. Moreover, the excessive use of glazed facades, and the sudden transition from public to private zones, destructed the privacy of the family and the specifics of the cultural context. On the other hand, the survey exposed potentials and impacts of vernacular houses and neighbourhoods on residents that could have effects on social interaction between families and their privacy. Yet, the vernacular model might not be compatible with the requirements of modern constructions while employing the latest technologies and materials. The study adopted a critical regionalism approach that creates a balance between tradition and the importance of progress and development. A systematic model of analysis, which combines ‘spatial reasoning’ and ‘space syntax’ methods, was suggested to discover the morphology of vernacular houses and neighbourhoods, and explore spatial topologies that have social or experiential significance. The model added new aspects, such as hierarchy of spaces, orientation, type of enclosure, shared surfaces, and geometric properties of spaces, to the justified graph of Hiller and Hanson, as a representation of formal and social realities. A total of 13 social indicators, with different units of representation, such as numbers, diagrams, and textual descriptions, were identified, and used to define spatial parameters,rules, and constraints. Results extracted from the analytical process for historical cases showed that courtyards, public spaces, and hierarchy of spaces are major features that have potentials to create a balance between social interaction and privacy. These results were combined with principles of shape grammars, and transformed into spatial rules that are associated with parameters and descriptions. Grammars that address the design of vernacular houses and neighbourhoods, were combined with requirements of high-rise buildings, and used for the construction of a parametric computational tool for the design of vertical residential developments. The developed tool supports the recognition of the design brief for high-rise residential buildings, with the possibility of changing geometric and spatial parameters. Moreover, it offers an alternative method for implementing strategies of social sustainability and maximising the connection with the context, culture, and people. The tool was used by the researcher, in addition to professionals and architecture students through an experimental study, to generate different solutions for high-rise residential buildings. The analysis of new alternatives showed that most cases achieved successfully principles of social sustainability. Moreover, usability evaluation for the tool that assesses the efficiency of the tool in the early stage of the design was conducted through distributing a questionnaire on the same participants. Results of the evaluation process showed that the developed interface offers designers a tool to investigate a class of satisfactory design alternatives that are not expected rather than a single best solution. It gives the user a flexible way to capture the relationship between public and private zones, and insert a series of public courtyards distributed on the different levels of the building, with the possibility of generating a private courtyard inside each apartment. Such a process, which is managed by a set of predefined social and spatial rules, confirming the design process as a balance between creativity and rationality. Moreover, it is a transition from standard mass buildings to contemporary-vernacular projects that respect the cultural context, climate, and people.

Item Type: Thesis (PhD)
Date Type: Submission
Status: Unpublished
Schools: Architecture
Uncontrolled Keywords: Socio-Spatial; Parametric; Sustainable; Tall Residential Buildings; Hot-Arid Regions; Vernacular Model; Middle East; North Africa
Date of First Compliant Deposit: 1 June 2018
Last Modified: 30 Mar 2021 12:46

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