Karma Mashrabiya

Date:   Winter 2015
Course:  Advanced Topics Studio
Institution:  UCLA M Arch I
Critic:  Georgina Hulgich

This “glamping” resort designed on the remote Indonesian island of Gili Meno, features seventy hotel pods of varying scale. Designed with guidance from Karma Resorts owner John Spence, this project combines the business savvy of luxury hotel design with the geometric potential of Fumihiko Maki’s research on Group Form.   

Glamping and Group Form

In the 1964 text, Investigations in Collective Form, author and architect Fumihiko Maki argues that the theory of architecture has naturally evolved towards creating a perfect single building.  He argues that are accustomed to conceiving of buildings as separate entities and therefore we suffer from an inadequacy of spatial languages to make meaningful environments.  In his text, Maki introduces the notion of Collective Form—for him this is not simply a collection of unrelated individual buildings but collections of buildings that have reason to be together.  Further, Maki proposes three major approaches to Collective Form: Compositional Form, Megastructural Form and Group Form.

First, Maki describes Compositional Form as being comprised of elements that are preconceived and predetermined separately (individually tailored buildings).  Megastructural Form, by contrast, is composed of several independent systems that are capable of expanding or contracting.  Though systems are engaged in contact, each maintains it’s identity and longevity as it engages with other systems.  By contrast, Maki’s proposition of Group Form is defined as a more flexible urban organization as it is based on the scale of the human body where “parts” and “whole” are reciprocally autonomous and also connected through various associations. 

Maki’s definition of Group Form, in the context of architecture, asserts the possibility not only of aggregation but near aggregation and or complete disaggregation as a formal system.  In extreme versions, formal clusters challenge long-held notions of part to whole relationships in architecture—rather than the whole being made up of many parts, there may be not just one but several wholes.  The potential autonomy of each whole object (shape, form, outline, disposition) in relation to a larger cluster of objects, suggests potential for a formal ontology that is contemporary in its thinking and also classic in its posture.

As urban developments in cities grow at a rate never seen before throughout history, our discipline of architecture fails to produce any underlying theory that can grapple with that which is not urban.  Rem Koolhaas argues, however, that it is precisely in the countryside, or the “rural” environment where some of the most progressive and innovative aspects of our culture are being developed.  

While the idea of the “island” may be slightly different than Koolhaas’ definition of the “rural,” in it’s insularity and remoteness of the island implies a literal territorial or geographical disconnection from a mainland; as well as culture and identity.  The following design project proposes an island development that introduces notions of architecture that incorporate form, landscape, and territory, so as to introduce a sort of “second nature”–a man-made ecology able to be integrated within the larger geography yet autonomous and self-sufficient from it.


Group Form on Gili Island

On the island of Gili Meno, a site strategy is initiated that employs group form to produce a legible and variable landscape of elements that can be read both as discrete entities and as contributing to local (cluster) and regional (neighborhood) effects. Through the sequential repetition of formally related elements, a grain pattern is established on the site that implicates both directionality and a hierarchy of activities within the extents of the site. 

An underlying skeleton of intersecting grid lines guide growth and establish a grain pattern on Gili Meno.  Grid lines are first inscribed and rotated in plan to provide direction for the extrusion of pitched-roof profiles.  At points of intersection, the shared spaces of extrusions are isolated to generate form.  Both individual and accumulated elements are extracted to make up what, overall, can be described as a field composition.  Frequency and orientation of grid lines in combination with subtle scalar shifts in the extruded profiles ultimately produce a variable set of elements that, though rarely identical, share common proportions and read as a legible formal sequence. 

Strategic subtraction of elements from the field further allows for the carving out of functional paths through the site and strengthens perception of adjacencies and linkages between elements in the field.  Though the overall field composition is initiated in plan, (bird’s eye view) formal qualities are set in motion in elevation (at eye level). Articulation of the ground plane in particular directs travel through the site and makes clear linkages between elements, clusters and regions. Intermediate elements of accumulated form and voids too create meaningful interruptions in the grid sequence and allow for perception of the field to shift.  In this manner while the entire field remains legible from above, it also takes on a sort of dynamism as formal density, scale and angle of view continuously introduce instances of difference.