RCAT - Research Center for Architecture and Tectonics

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Prof. Dr. Michael U. Hensel + Asst. Prof. Søren S. Sørensen


Asst. Prof. Joakim Hoen, Sofia Martins da Cunha [Snøhetta], Research Fellow Sareh Saeidi


Bollinger and Grohmann


OCEAN Design Research Association

Collaboration with Snøhetta

Studio Teachers: Sofia Martins da Cunha [2016-...], Rikard Jaucis [2015_02]

External Examiners: Kjetil Trædal Thorsen [2016_01], Eli Synnevåg [2014_02, 2016_02], Sofia Martins da Cunha [2015_02]

Workshops: Robotics in Architecture [2015]

Lectures: Robert Greenwood [2016], Julian Preiss [2016], Jorunn Sannes [2016], Håvard Vasshaug [2016], Peter French [2016]


The RCAT | ACDL Studio commenced in 2014.


The ACDL master-level studio is hosted by the Research Centre for Architecture and Tectonics and the Advanced Computational Design Laboratory at AHO. The primary goal of the studio is to pursue the development of intensely local urbanism and architectures. The aim is to seek for approaches to architectural design and densification models that do not replicate the generic and homogenizing global trend.

The first series of exploratory research-bt-design projects focused on Oslo's eastfjord, including its urban, industrial, landscape, inforastructural and suburban areas. Here the aim was not to develop projects that take the existing conditions into consideration and incorporate them to different degrees in the design. The second series of projects focus on the river Akerselva. A series of multi-purpose bridge projects act as local incubators for reinvigorating and rearranging the wider neighborhood of each project and the areas in between. The third series will focus on the theme "Re-dressing Oslo" and address the role of the building envelope in organising a spatial interface between private and public and exterior and interior, while serving a series of specific activities engendered by the envelope.

The current ACDL PhD candidate Sareh Saeidi is embedded in the studio and its research-by-design agenda.

Methodologically the studio advances its research-by-design agenda by integrating computational design, analysis and visualisation methods and tools into an advanced data-driven design process. This includes frequently the collection of life data from the specific sites of each project and the utilisation of the data in the design process. The aim in so doing is to accomplish a closely knit relation between architectures and environment.



Studio Staff: Asst. Prof. Søren S. Sørensen, Prof. Dr. Michael U. Hensel, Asst. Prof. Joakim Hoen, Research Fellow Sareh Saeidi, Sofia Martins da Cunha [Snøhetta],
Arduino Workshop: Bjørn Gunnar Staal [Void]
Performative Envelopes Workshop: Research Fellow Sareh Saeidi
External Collaborators:
UniFI - Department of Agricultural, Food and Forestry Systems:
Prof. Federico Preti, Prof. Mauro Agnoletti, Prof. Daniele Penna, Research Fellows Andrea Dani and Enrico Guastini
Fattori di Lamole: Paolo Socci
External Examiner: Eli Synnevåg [Snøhetta]


Today the vast amount of architectural effort is focused on urban environments and little attention is given to rural areas that have been cultivated for generations. As the latter are falling into disrepair invaluable resources, insights and knowledge is lost. Much can be learned from the way such landscapes are traditionally articulated so as to be able to yield crops in quality and quantity that otherwise is not possible. The studio will engage with such a productive landscape through carefully designed architectural projects that are embedded within the landscape. In this context the studio will focus on how architectures can be designed for and integrated with these landscapes on multiple levels. The primary question focuses on how cultural landscapes may be understood in their capacity to be productive and how they can be augmented with clearly defined architectural projects. In turn the architectural designs are expected to employ local resources and materials and be strongly integrated in the landscape and utilize similar passive means for modulating micro-climate. The design task is a visitor center with work / research facilities and accommodation for 6 staff members that can be converted into a vacation home of up to 6 family members. The project will comprise of 200m2 of which ca. 1/3 is to be designed as transitional space between exterior and interior. In order to address the architecture, climate and agriculture interaction this site of observation must be extended well beyond the architectural object. This includes an area of at least 10m around the interior and transitional space.

The project site is Fattoria di Lamole in Chianti, Tuscany, Italy.

In September 2016 the studio installed a network of measure-stations on site in Lamole for a period of one year in order to obtain micro-climatic data that facilitate a more nuanced understanding of the terrace and environment interaction, which faciliates the production of red wine at an altitude of 600 meters. The purpose of these measurements in terms of architecture is to understand what range of micro-climatice conditions the proposed architectures need to operate within and be able to privide.

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Studio Staff: Asst. Prof. Søren S. Sørensen, Prof. Dr. Michael U. Hensel, Asst. Prof. Joakim Hoen, Research Fellow Sareh Saeidi, Sofia Martins da Cunha [Snøhetta],
Arduino Workshop: Bjørn Gunnar Staal [Void]
Performative Envelopes Workshop: Research Fellow Sareh Saeidi
External Examiner: Kjetil Trædal Thorsen [Snøhetta]

Students: Karen Maria Eiken-Engelgård, Léa Guillot, Simon Heidenreich, Matteo Lomaglio

24-hour Oslo
Matteo Lomaglio

One example for integrating programmatic, spatial, structural and environmental associative modelling is a design for a 24-hour multifunctional building at the North-eastern corner of the Palace Park in Oslo atop of a reused underground train station. The project is located at the edge of the Park at a much used circulation route and the continuous spiralling surface of the project seeks to tap into this flow while distributing public programmes and activities along its rising route. The activities are correlated with the multiple envelope strategy of the scheme, which provides fully enclosed and transitional spaces between the exterior and the interior. The integrated associative model serves to ensure that the open interior space without subdivision is making suitable provisions for its intended public and collective activities and sets out a vision for architecture that is driven by demographic changes and diversifying needs of Oslo’s citizens.

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Multi-functional Buildings – 24-hour Oslo: Diagram of the integrated associative model of of the Oslo Convergence project by Matteo Lomaglio. Clockwise from the top: geometry definition, structural analysis, envelope system, programmatic layout, sunlight analysis, radiation analysis, and slope analysis.

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Multi-functional Buildings – 24-hour Oslo: Top: sections showing the continuous surface articulation of the project. Bottom: Still from the VR-visualization of the the Oslo Convergence project by Matteo Lomaglio.

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Multi-functional Buildings – 24-hour Oslo: Left to right and top to bottom progression of rendered axonometric of the interior including surface articulation and program and activity distribution of the Oslo Convergence project by Matteo Lomaglio.

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Multi-functional Buildings – 24-hour Oslo: Rendered view the VR-visualization of the Oslo Convergence project by Matteo Lomaglio.


Studio Staff: Asst. Prof. Søren S. Sørensen, Prof. Dr. Michael U. Hensel, Asst. Prof. Joakim Hoen, Research Fellow Sareh Saeidi, Rikard Jaucis [Snøhetta]
Performative Envelopes Workshop: Research Fellow Sareh Saeidi
Arduino Workshop: Bjørn Gunnar Staal [Void]
Virtual Reality Workshop: Asst. Prof. Joakim Hoen
External Examiner: Sofia Martins da Cunha [Snøhetta]

Students: Karen Maria Eiken-Engelgård, Kaia Kristine Giltun, Jørgen Joacim Høy, Karlis Jaunromans, Harri Kaplan, Yue Ma, Milja Malika Tuomivaara

During the fall semester 2015 the studio pursued the design of a small building to be implemented in two sites, first in Skansen as a pavilion for the Oslo Architectural Triennial 2016 and, subsequently, on Langøyene island as an environmental research centre / information pavilion that addresses the issues of landfill and pollution of the island. In addressing two sites the design approach locates itself between the positions of the universal prototype and the one-off tailor made approach to a singular site. This mobility and specificity within a range addresses the thematic of the OAT 2016 entitled ’After belonging’. The studio utilized the theme of multiple building envelopes as the means to organize space and to modulate environment and continued its investigation into data-driven context-specific computational design. One team set out a design system consisting of a climate enclosure consisting of a range of transparent materials and an outer envelope made from textile membranes that modulate the climate in the transitional space between the two envelopes and also that of the enclosed interior. The design system was in each case arranged so as to meet programmatic requirements, as well as associated interior climate demands and was subsequently further elaborated based on computational analysis, and life data feed of environmental data measured on site, as well as data collected from scaled physical models placed on site.

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Design System: building-scale. Development of a design system, consisting of multiple envelops, for adaptation to specific settings within a determined range of conditions. This approach enables an alternative to either universal prototypes or one-off bespoke designs.

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Design System: building-scale. Adaptation of the design system to site 1 in central Oslo as an exhibition pavilion for the Oslo Architectural Triennial 2016.

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Design System: building-scale. Adaptation of the design system to site 2 as a field research laboratory and information pavilion for Langøyene Island in the Oslo fjord.

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Design System: building-scale. Top: Purpose made measure-stations based on Arduino technology for collecting data on solar exposure of the site and for the purpose of analysing scaled models. Centre and bottom: various instances of analysis of interior light conditions resulting from the site-specific orientation and configuration of the design system.

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Design System: building-scale. Right: Sun-path diagram for site 1 in December. Centre: daylight values measurement on scaled models. Computational daylight analysis based on Grasshopper plug-in Ladybug.


Studio Staff: Asst. Prof. Søren S. Sørensen, Prof. Dr. Michael U. Hensel, Asst. Prof. Joakim Hoen, Research Fellow Sareh Saeidi, Rikard Jaucis [Snøhetta]
Arduino Workshop: Bjørn Gunnar Staal [Void]
Virtual Reality Workshop: Asst. Prof. Joakim Hoen
Robotics Workshop @ Snøhetta: Sigrid Bell-Cokcan and Johannes Braumann [Association for Robots in Architecture]
External Examiner: ...

Students: Sigurd Gjeste Berge, Karen Maria Eiken-Engelgård, Magnus Kvalheim, Eskil Landet

During the spring semester 2015 the studio pursued the design living bridges across the river Akerselva. The bridges were designed as incubators to invigorate their respective neighborhoods. The projects were exhibited as part of the 'Multi-functional Buildings - The Return of the Living Bridges' Exhibition at Galleri AHO.

Ordered Chaos Bridge
Sigurd Gjeste Berge

The design for this living bridge was inspired by two main precedents: [i] the historical organic house/bridge hybrids with their diagonal columns supporting the houses cantilevering off the sides of the bridges and [ii] the living bridges deep in the rainforests in the Indian state of Meghalaya. The bridges of Meghalaya are in fact living, grown bridges consisting of tree roots and supporting a stone walkway. The dendritic approach to the primary and secondary supports is a combination of these two systems. The organic optimization of the real living bridges where living vines and roots create a latticework is mirrored in the apparently disordered expression of the bridge project, where the white beams/columns make up the supports and primary structure, all part of the static system, carrying a concrete walkway made to connect seamlessly with the surrounding infrastructure.

The wish for an apparently disordered structure with good structural capabilities and a non-hierarchical construction demanded a parametric approach. The structural engineering firm Bollinger and Grohmann created Karamba as an integrated node to Grasshopper, an associative modelling plug-in for the 3D application Rhinoceros. In order for the bridge construction to make sense, several parameters needed to be optimized concurrently. In order to achieve optimized results of several parameters at once, a multi-objective optimizer was needed. One such optimizer is Octopus, another integrated node for Grasshopper. Octopus utilizes an evolutionary algorithm inspired by biological evolution where generations of iterations are “reproducing” the best results, combining them and recombining them making the next generation. While each generation performs better, there is no optimal result, but a set of Pareto optimal solutions one can choose from.

Combining the structural analysis of Karamba with the multi objective-optimization of Octopus was instrumental in arriving at the placement of the supports and the distribution of points within the primary structure. A dendritic approach to the interconnections between the superstructure, railing and walking surface has been optimized to minimize deflection of the elements, and the biggest possible walking surface within the design parameters. All beams/pylons are steel, 100mm diameter round profile, 4mm thick, all interconnections done with rigid ball joints. The walking surface is cast in situ, with a concrete retarder used on select surfaces to make it blend with the surrounding materiality, with the purpose to have a surface that is in material terms continuous with the walkways in the area.

In terms of computational visualization the design process benefitted from the extensive and detailed use of Virtual Reality. Numerous VR visualizations were produced at different stages of the project to examine the spatial experience the bridge provides and the way it is related to its surroundings. Overall the design workflow incorporates computational associative modelling and analysis, with computer-aided 3d printing of models and VR visualisations into a rich visual design environment.

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Sigurd Gjeste Berge / Ordered Chaos Bridge View from the South
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Sigurd Gjeste Berge / Ordered Chaos Bridge View from the North
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Sigurd Gjeste Berge / Ordered Chaos Bridge View from the East

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Sigurd Gjeste Berge / Ordered Chaos Bridge Rapid Prototype Model

Mallard Bridge
Karen Maria Eiken-Engelgård

The proposed new bridge acts as a programmatic incubator for the neighbourhood that utilises what is available on site. A small market is placed on top of the bridge, which serves to create awareness of local wildlife and produce. Located under the pedestrian bridge is one for ducks, which is inspired by Berthold Lubetkin’s Penguin Pool in the Zoo of London. The prevailing duck species, the Mallard, gives the bridge its name. The duck bridge consists of a curved concrete slab that dips under water in the middle of the river, thus allowing the ducks to enter from the water. On the sides of the slab there are shelters for the ducks. Together the two bridges provide safe-zones, as well as meeting points between humans and ducks. The market is intended to sell duck related merchandise such as eggs, downs, and meat, as well as produce from the wider neighbourhood, such as vegetable and fruits. This serves promoting awareness about health and environment. Here the bridge ties into a wider scheme for what might be called a distributed urban farm composed of elements that already exist (such as the nearby allotment gardens and the food-hall) and new ones to be implemented (planting areas in the parks adjacent to the bridge along the river and the reactivation of a building on site as the central hub for urban farming). The proposal combined various knowledge fields and a productive use of the urban landscapes that transcends the typical exclusively picturesque role of urban parks. In its multidisciplinary outlook this project proposes a unique and at the same time real proposal for Oslo.

The pedestrian and the duck bridge consist of concrete slabs, structures and a shell-like shelter that were developed through topology optimization. The bridge is large enough to support a small market with walk path in the middle of the bridge and is sheltered by a shell that provides shelter not unlike the canopy of a tree. The duck bridge is located next to and partly beneath the pedestrian bridge. It is lower closer to the ground for easy access for duck. The bridge is divided into three parts. A safe area is located on the side of Mathallen where humans and other animals can't easily reach. Here the concrete slab is slightly bigger in order to provide surface for the ducks to rest. The design is based on the dimensions of adult ducks and provides surface for approximately 50 ducks.  In the middle of the river the bridge dips under water to prevent access by predators towards the safe area. The second part is close to where the duck feeding area is located.  At the end the bridge lifts rises up from the water. Like the first part, this part is designed to stay above water even during flooding, making this the second safe area. However this would not be an ideal nesting place as humans are too close.

The main driver in the design of the bridge was topology optimization, which is a type of form-finding technique that seeks to optimize material with in a given design space. The material is subjected to different types of loads and supports and will work towards an optimal structure to meet the requirements given. In order to start defining the design space, the site had to be analysed. The height and width of the bridge had to be established, as well the programs as the bridge would receive a small market, crowd, self-weight and wind pressure. After exploring topology optimization by using Millipede, a plug in for grasshopper I moved on to Topopt to fully understand the concept. Here I could explore topology optimization in 2D and 3D. After establishing the main loads the bridge would experience worked commenced with Solidthinking Inspire 2014. This software helped developing the design through analysis and realistic loads and supports. By figuring out the different loads the bridge would be subjected to, it was possible to define the design space more accurately. With the bridge only supported in the ends, the topology optimization began to evolve a branch-like structure.In order to stimulate this “natural growth” the design space was more or less extruded from the surface of the bridge.  With the objective of maximize stiffness, several optimization runs with different mass target were pursued by slowly working the design space down from 50% of total design space volume to 5%. At 5 % the organic shape started to appear. Separate optimisation runs were made for a structure made from steel and another made from reinforced concrete, the later being the intended material for the bridge. Since the software was written with a default material choice of steel it needed to be recalibrated for the use of concrete, which constitutes a considerable task and accomplishment.

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Karen Maria Eiken-Engelgård / Mallard Bridge view from the south

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Karen Maria Eiken-Engelgård / Mallard Bridge Topological Optimization


Studio Staff: Asst. Prof. Søren S. Sørensen, Prof. Dr. Michael U. Hensel, Asst. Prof. Joakim Hoen
Virtual Reality Workshop: Asst. Prof. Joakim Hoen
External Examiner: Eli Synnevåg [Snøhetta]
Densely Private
Elena Krasteva

This project constitutes both a design system for highly dense and low-rise suburban fabric in a location where land-division based densification of the built fabric reached its limit. The scheme initially questions whether in such instances further development should be prevented or whether a system change might yield new possibilities. Based on the latter the suburban fabric of Ormøya is entirely rethought. The natural terrain is cleared and subjected to minimized impact by raised above-ground highly dense suburban fabric. Thus the natural terrain becomes entirely public. The intersection of the above-ground built fabric results in a network of semi-public / semi-private spaces for circulation and social communal activities. The scheme is set up in an associative computational manner and can be varied with respect to density, directionality, degree of intersection and interconnectivity, hight above ground, etc. Overall the scheme presents a compelling alternative articulation of suburban fabric that overcomes the typical limits of contemporary suburbia.

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2014 / Oslo Eastfjord
Connected Envelopes
Eskil Landet

This project constitutes design system for low-rise high-density settlement as an alternative to urban sprawl and / or high-rise developments for Oslo, as well as a specific scheme that seeks to showcase how such a project can be articulated in relation to its specific local setting. The steep slope and specific water regime and sensitive areas of vegetation on the site, as well as path inclination analysis for circulation were key input parameters for the associative model set out for the project. Surface water run-off maintains existing trajectories and preservation spots for vegetation and listed buildings, and lowest-inclination pedestrian circulation paths are maintained and implemented. The highly dense residential fabric is interspersed with communal spaces and provisions (such as shared greenhouses and office spaces for hot-desking to avoid extensive commuting), as well as commercial and social provisions. In the conception of this project a new extensive public surface emerges both as a landscape above the built volume and as social communication and circulation space. As such the project favours a fabric that evokes organic growth. The units that constitute this fabric can be used individually or combined according to need. Each unit was further evaluated in terms of accessibility, daylight and thermal exposure and other parameters. In this way the design can unfold top-down from the settlement pattern to the individual units and bottom-up from the individual units to the settlement pattern. Evolutionary algorithms could be deployed to evolve different arrangements that were analysed and rated. This could be done either for the overall settlement, or alternatively, for portions of phased development so as to accommodate change over time.

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Design System: settlement-scale. Rhino / Grasshopper workflow and integrated model, including water run-off, driveable surfaces, pedestrian path inclination, architectural units, envelope specification and solar impact analysis.

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Design System: settlement-scale. Rhino / Grasshopper integrated model. Top: easiest pedestrian path analysis according to inclination of path. Bottom left: all analysed paths that satisfy the set circulation criteria. Bottom right: existing and auxiliary surface-water runoff trajectories.

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Design System: settlement-scale. Left: Surface (top) and program (bottom) allocation. Centre: analysis of connectivity of individual units relative to circulation paths. Right: analysis of solar impact on individual units due to terrain inclination and stepping of build volumes.

2014 / Oslo Eastfjord
Associative City Maker 1.0
Sigurd Gjeste Berge

This work introduces a different way of designing the fabric of cities by setting out an associative computational process that enables the urban design (and other participants) to establish base criteria for the layout and articulation of city fabric and, subsequently to produce and evaluate variations of the principle organization. Variations can be produced prior to construction or in staged phases to accommodate for the impact of economic and demographic changes in the municipality. As such the work establishes both a method and a tool for generating and analyzing urban design variations in a visual manner that is accessible to a wider public. The work is displayed in such a manner that it is possible to vary its parameters and to see the immediate effects. Overall we may see here the future of (participatory) urban design.

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2014 / Oslo Eastfjord
Environmental Research Center
Kristoffer Sekkelsten

This project innovates a new type of program: a architecture and ecology interaction research center located between the nature reserve of Ekeberg and the Fjord. The project overcomes the problem of the automotive infrastructure that transects the site by proposing a landform building that provides an extensive  ecological surface that can be claimed by the specific local ecosystems. Moreover the scheme utilizes the tide in staging a varied interaction between the built and the natural, allowing part of the spaces and infrastructure to be flooded and transformed over time. This constitutes a radical shift from the predominant approach to minimize the impact of both the physical and biological environment in architecture and suggest altogether a different thinking about sustainability with focus on staging and managing processes between the man-made and the natural.

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