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Mediatheque: Interfacing People, Technology and Nature

Part 2 Project 2002
Donovan Soon
Adam Quinn
National University of Singapore, Singapore
The mediatheque is a hybrid of a media center (in terms of content) and a bibliotheque (in terms of intent). It will harness the appeal and currentness of new media together with the pedagogical and public aspect of the library. The mediathque will promote media literacy and increase the public’s appreciation and mastery of new media by providing not only the necessary technical infrastructure (facilities, equipment and expertise) but also the social infrastructure needed to build a thriving media community and public space.

The thesis re-looks at a relationship that has become extremely pertinent today- that between information technology and social interaction. It examines how architecture can be activated to precipitate the reconciliation of these apparent opposites both physically as well as conceptually. Traditionally technology has always been perceived as the sterile and cold antithesis to humanity. However, today technology is becoming increasingly ubiquitous- the servant rather than the master, creating new ways for people to interact and express themselves, freeing us to enjoy nature and each other. The thesis explores this new paradigm, one where technology and social space are interwoven to create a space for both people and IT. In the process, the design seeks to arrive at a holistic solution that utilizes and integrates the forces of concept, site context and climate in the broad design responses as well as in the details.

On the urban level, the site was chosen also features contrasting qualities, facing Orchard Road, Singapore’s premier shopping street, on one side and the green lung of Somerset beyond. This presents a unique opportunity to explore the issues above in the context a compact urban site. The building taps both aspects of the site. The Orchard Road façade is designed to be a transparent and ephemeral skin that reflects the content of the building (media) and acts as an iconic structure that attracts people from Orchard Road. In detail this façade is a double skin. The outer skin is a porous weather-shield composed of operable glass louvers. They create the effect of a shimmering multi-faceted surface that changes from every different view and angle of sunlight. The glass louvers comprise low-e fritted glass panes, which helps to cut out solar heat while maintaining the conceptual transparency required by the design. The inner skin acts as the weather-seal. Within the cavity there is a service ledge and an integrated colorful fabric screen, which addresses both the aesthetic concept as well as climatic concerns. A special fiberglass composite fabric was used to reflect and absorb up to 90% of the sun’s heat before it reaches the inner leaf of glass. Heat within this cavity is then exhausted by exterior wind. A Building Management System computer monitors the temperature and opens/closes the louvers accordingly to weather conditions. This translates to up to 25% savings in air conditioning costs. The screen also works to cut out glare while filtering daylight in and allowing a view of Orchard Road. At areas where a/c is not required, the inner glass layer is removed allowing wind to move across the cross-section of the building. This happens at many voids across the entire façade of the building creating in effect a ‘breathable building’. The same detail that acts conceptually for ‘display’ also works as an intelligent climatic filter, forming a buffer against solar radiation where air-conditioning is required and allowing for cross ventilation where it is not. Users within the naturally ventilated space can control the degree of cross-wind by manipulating the angle of the louvers through a simple switch.

The Somerset façade comprises a vertical green of hydroponics planting that responds to site context (continuing the green from Somerset up the building), climate (thick ‘skin’/ environmental filter against the northwestern sun) and concept (creating a more hospitable and textured space to balance the ethereal quality of media).

The vertical green is then pulled out from the massing of the building to create an intermediate space that lies between inside and outside, and amongst the green, which acts as an informal space for activities to flow out. In this way it mediates between the controlled environment required for technology/computers and a more conducive space for people and social interaction. Grills are used to for transparency and to allow light to infiltrate and give the feeling of an attractive outdoor space. The interior finishes are flushed with the grilled space to remove the traditional threshold between inside and outside and to allow people to move freely between the two. This is where ephemerality of IT meets the rooted, textured quality of green and landscape to create a space for both technology and people. This space weaves fluidly up the building, changing in depth and height as required and acts as the interface between the two façades of the building, conceptually forming the ‘interlocking hands’ that bind them together. It also acts as a circulation corridor creating more opportunities for chance interactions. Furthermore this grilled ‘exterior’ space is not considered GFA, increasing the efficiency of the building. The stairway within this interaction space is expressed as a second ‘facade’ of people amongst the green, reflecting the mediathque’s public, social and environmental agenda. This relationship is cemented by allowing the greenery to infiltrate the sanctity of the controlled computer space through a series of modular hydroculture planter trays integrated with the a/c system. This bio-filtration system is specially designed to purify air to combat Sick Building Syndrome. In this manner the green is activated not only conceptually and aesthetically but also environmentally in order to improve the conditions of the interior space.

Donovan Soon
Adam Quinn

This student envisaged his thesis, Mediatheque, as a hybrid of media center in terms of content and a bibliotheque in terms of intent. It is designed to provide the social infrastructure alongside the technical infrastructure to foster a thriving media community.

This thesis has a very clear and exciting concept and very well executed. It deals with information knowledge and digital culture as ‘information is the currency of the future’. His thesis hypothesizes a departure from the common belief that information technology would inevitably lead to less human contact and everything remotely processed and controlled through new technologies. To this student the all-important human factor can never be replaced and hence his emphasis on the social agenda. The proposed mediatheque is intended to be the ‘place’ for a diverse group of people to meet, discuss and exchange ideas or even just to hang out.

The student has arrived at a very simple and well-articulated architectural form. It composed of two slab blocks placed at right angle with junction cleverly forming the entrance to both the mediatheque as well as the adjacent Mass Rapid Transit Station. The design capitalizes on the two key features of the site: that is the busy commercial front along the premier shopping street and the quieter, greener edge facing the greenery on the other side.

The front façade is designed for ‘display’ with a media ribbon along the urban edge and a double skin system of glass louvres and a layer of colourful fabric screen for the tower. Such an assembly will enhance the building as an iconic marker along the trendy Orchard Road with the enigmatic skin. On the other side away from the commercial front the building is cleverly set back to create a condusive square for the people, taking advantage of the volume of human traffic and the adjacent greenery. The rear façade of vertical green is a climatic filter as well as a device to balance the effect of digital environment and the virtual quality of media. The most exciting space to me is the fluid interactive space created behind the vertical green. The sky lit layered space also serves as the circulation area and the interface between the two façades.

Ii is commendable that the student has also very competently explored the sustainable aspect of architecture in this thesis. This is highlighted through the introduction of the vertical green filter, the double skin assembly, the many voids to induce cross airflow, the integration of services and the incorporation of a ‘bio-filtration system’ for air purification.

This student clearly stands out as the best among all his peers. Not only is his design excellent, his graphic presentation and the thesis report are also equally outstanding. I would strongly recommend this thesis be considered favourably.

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