Standards of Diplomacy, Parliaments for the Indo Pacific Region

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Standards of Diplomacy, Parliaments for the Indo Pacific Region

The projects depicted in this portfolio were developed in the Spring of 2017 at the Rice School of Architecture under the supervision of Urtzi Grau and Guillermo Fernández-Abascal by June Deng, Keegan Hebert, Evio Isaac, JP Jackson, Haley Koesters, Yu Kono, Sai Ma, Isabella Marcotulli, Natalia O’Neill Vega, Daria Piekos, Alina Plyusnina and David Seung Jun Lee.



These proposals for parliaments share a simple ambition: rethink the relation between architecture and political decision making. It is a paradoxical task. Parliaments make puzzling architectural projects in which form and function seem to map each other. As buildings, they host representatives and they represent democracy. And yet form and function never quite align. The aspirational values the building embodies often dissolve in the mundane accomplishments of realpolitik; its administrative functioning appears illegible for those being represented; its symbolic value doesn’t match its everyday functions. This disciplinary disjunction not only brings the parliament to the core of architecture, it also highlights how architecture plays a crucial role in the current crisis of political representation. From the moto ‘they not represent us’ that guided civic uprisings in the south of Europe to the ‘we are the 99%’ of the Occupy Wall Street movement, from the consequences of the Arab Spring to the global rise of right wing populism, events around the world question the validity of traditional modes of representation. In searching for answers to these questions within and without the discipline, parliaments emerge as the ultimate hope for architecture’s relevance.

Aware of the futility of extravagant ambitions, these four responses began limiting the scope of the question. To avoid getting entangled in national riddles, these parliaments are designed to govern a region in the making, the Indo Pacific. To escape discussions on the historical value of specific locations, they have no site. To skip default iconicity and semiotic traps, they barely have exteriority. Instead, they focus on the laboratory-like qualities of parliaments. The structural difficulties of bringing facts into politics mirror science’s reluctance to recognize its socially constructed truths. Politicians and scientists are linked by a lack of self-awareness and reciprocal distrust, yet their quarters aren’t so dissimilar. Laboratories and parliaments are insulated interiors where experts represent and discus real-world conditions before their conclusions are released to the public. The institutional protocols, social conventions and technological enablers that govern these institutions vary, but their constituencies aren’t unalike. These projects propose four reorganizations of the networks that connect —and separate— culture and nature.

The Pixel Parliament

‘The Pixel parliament’ was developed by Yu Kono, Isabella Marcotulli and Seung Jun (David) Lee                                                           

“Pixel” explores the possibility of a radically autonomous representative empowered – and somehow trapped – by the ultimate architectural element of democracy, a technologically enhanced representative’s chair.

The Pixel Parliament is a reconfigurable plenary chamber that choreographs individual and self-sufficient Democratic Pixels to create new stages for political discourse. The Democratic Pixel acts as an apparatus that contains all technical and personal necessities for a representative to disseminate information through multiple media and to survive a parliamentary session of extended length. Supported by telescopic hydraulic pillars, the system edits itself to create the ideal topography for a discussion of any form or size. Transforming from a homogeneous field to a highly specific political stage the Pixel Parliament supports a transnational cosmopolitical parliament able to reconfigure itself into forms that best  emphasizes the performative role of democratic representatives who act in place of their constituents.

The Pixel Parliament_Political Stages

The Pixel Parliament

Back-of-House Parliament

‘Back of House’ was developed by June Deng, JP Jackson and Sai Ma.

Located in no particular place, the Back-of-House parliament for the Indo-Pacific region is situated within an infinite, generic interior that lacks a proactive means of negotiating the programmatic organization. Originally a Wal-Mart, the site is a field of overlapping technical systems that operate in careful fluctuation to produce a stable and homogenous environment. The parliament challenges the need to redesign the chambers and instead focus on the back-of-house space that allows informal decision-making to be productive. Here, traditional chamber footprints serve as placeholders that acknowledge the visible, permanent and symbolic features of existing parliaments. The objects in plan, behaving like architectural elements, embed conditions of acoustics, lighting and privacy in a way that define political process, organize the space and shape the circulation of the warehouse typology. The back-of-house elements are thus considered as a consistent field of fixed arrangements and flexible outcomes, reinforcing various hierarchies of power and address.


Back Of House


‘Environments’ was developed by Haley Koesters, Natalia O’Neill Vega and Daria Piekos.

The Political Climates Parliament legislates climate change policy for the Indo Pacific Region. It demonstrates that our current environment is at risk while also highlighting how climate change has real responses on humans and animals. The parliament creates a dangerously alluring reality, a place where different microclimates seem to exist in “relative harmony” with a collection of plants and animals that wouldn’t necessarily exist under, what we understand as, “natural” conditions. Within the infinite interior month long forums are coordinated through careful calibration of mechanical systems, which include the mediation of elements such as water, dust, smog, sounds, CO2, temperature, and humidity. 413 parliament representatives, 1 from each autonomous coastal region of the Indo Pacific, attend two different types of meeting – demonstration meetings, where effects of climate change are demonstrated, and policy meetings, where a series of line items are discussed and decided on.



‘Cognition’ was developed by Keegan Hebert, Evio Isaac and Alina Plyusnina

The parliament’s general purpose is to apprehend regimes of cognition and perception of human and nonhuman subjectivities. It’s task is to deepen and intensify the relationship between human and nonhuman subjects, generating empathy between entities.

Two perceptual regimes coexist and are intertwined; imaginations of a possible future are reified, or validated. The parliament – a network of laboratories – synthesises a constellation of scientific facts, translates and disseminates this knowledge.

The form of the parliament is such that phenomena can be enacted and represented in order for legislation to emerge as something secondary to the observation, demonstration, and ethical discussion/negotiation of fact. This format creates a rupture in political discourse that begins to reconcile the voice of science with the humanist biases of political rhetoric. In that way, politics (and by extension, science) might be rendered more capable of greater inclusivity by advocating for non-human subjectivities.

Cognitive Parliament2

Cognitive Parliament



What graphical references did the students look at? 

Our drawing style came from observing and reinventing ways of representation common to atmospheric and environmental conditions. We looked at scientific modes of representation such as graphs, and maps as well as the work of architects such as Sean Lally, Phillip Rahm, Ishigami, and Amid Cero9. Although we referenced these architects for ideas, we sought to reinvent the representation our own way, relative to the specific atmospheric qualities the project required. In order to do this we looked and listened to political, climatic and environmental discussions and attempted to represent these discussions through the use of our own drawing technique.


All students seem to explore the proposals through an extended and advanced exploration of the line drawing- is there a general unit aesthetic or was this self-driven? What defined the use of the line drawing as a tool to explore the project?

The decision to use the line drawing was self-driven. By using this medium, we could represent many technical ideas with precision while also creating a playful, ephemeral world through illustration-like representation. The line drawing also facilitated legibility, as we used the medium to portray many layers of information at once while using line weights, color-coding and labelling for added clarity.



Environments_Site Map

The work is developed in groups, how does this effect the way images are constructed? Does each person work on one image or is it a collaborative effort?

All the drawings were done in collaboration. All three team members worked on all the drawings together to make sure we all agreed on both the subject matter and representation. We began with group discussions about the drawing’s concept. A person would be designated as the drawing’s leader but we would constantly trade the drawings amongst each other, and follow up with extensive group redlining sessions. For us, it was important that all six drawings were consistent to have the narrative-like format of the project read convincingly.


What defined the types of drawings the students represented the proposal through?

For our project, it was extremely important that the drawings read as part of one consistent narrative, with each individual drawing referencing a different time in the overall sequence of interrelated events. Our project deals with creating legislature about our current environmental crisis. The parliament’s interior is a machine that produces environmental conditions based on the decisions being made during the parliamentary meetings. Through this system of governance, the members become more accountable, and in a way more aware of, the direct results of their decisions.

The project was meant to be both alluring and dangerous – showing both the positive and negative repercussions of our climatic discussions. The architecture itself creates a destination for policy-makers that is attractive for viewers – bringing the topic of climate change to the forefront. At the same time, the design itself demonstrates how humans and non-humans are constantly privy to the changing, precarious conditions of our current environment, through the changing environmental conditions of the space.


To what extent was the drawing addressed as project rather than mere method of representation?

Our drawings became the project. The Climatic Parliament dealt with representing constantly changing environmental conditions. To do this, it was important for us to show time lapses. As the decision-making process evolved, it would feedback into the design of the drawings themselves, thus requiring another drawing to complete and further the project and its narrative.


‘Back of House’

What graphical references did the students look at? 

Pedro Pitarch, Junya Ishigami, Enric Miralles

All students seem to explore the proposals through an extended and advanced exploration of the line drawing- is there a general unit aesthetic or was this self driven? What defined the use of the line drawing as a tool to explore the project?

The line drawing is self driven. Our team was particularly interested in the exploring the capacity of the floor plan to convey not just space, but also movement, parliamentary procedure, social relations and human behavior. The end result is not only an instruction manual for the configuration of the space, but also a documentation of the traces that participants of the parliament leave behind. The line drawing is the most effective means of communicating the layers of information we hoped to express.

The work is developed in groups, how does this effect the way images are constructed? 
Does each person work on one image or is it a collaborative effort?

Throughout the design process, each design opportunity was also evaluated based on our ability to efficiently manage a workflow. Ideas that were difficult to coordinate were sometimes second guessed. Before we even began the drawing, we had to make sure that we were on the same page conceptually, otherwise the representation could have easily ended up fragmented. In the end, our project is essentially rendered as a single drawing. We split the drawing into sections so that we can work independently, then rotated the drawings amongst ourselves, almost in an exquisite corpse fashion. This strategy allowed us to develop the drawing cohesively.

What defined the types of drawings the students represented the proposal through?

Our projection of the future of parliamentary decision making informed our choice of drawing types. As the “Back of House” parliament, the intent was to unveil what is unseen in decision making. Thus in order to produce the same number of sheets as the rest of the studio yet increase the total square footage explored, our plan spans 10 sheets (the site plan spans the remaining 2 sheets). We also increased the scale and added section and elevation details to the plan, which ended up giving the drawing a mechanical aesthetic, appropriate for representing the back of house. Because we also wanted to include information such as the movement of scaled figures, annotated scenarios, alternative furniture configurations et cetera, the plan was an ideal drawing type that helped us maintain clarity.

To what extent was the drawing addressed as project rather then mere method of representation?

To a very large extent the drawing is addressed as a project, not just a form of representation. The representation is the result and the finished product of the project. Every layer of information in the drawing is an effort to understand and challenge the norms of parliamentary decision making. And that in itself is an ambitious project.


What graphical references did the students look at? 

As a team, we looked at a variety of visual resources. Early on, it seemed like we were looking at the representational techniques of OMA but when we became interested in sensor fusion and sensory confusion, we looked to Hejduk and Eisenman. Later, I feel like we started looking at the work of Common Accounts and Space Popular and when beginning to negotiate how to use point clouds as architectural matter, we looked at Liam Young.

We were trying to produce ambiguities and misreading between plan and axonometric views by rotating plans to 45 degrees and using a 45 degree axonometric projection. We were rigorous in the use of axonometric projection, using it to zoom between bigger and smaller scales. The effect was a sense of continuity across drawings and negotiation of detail which explored how the parliament could work.

Cognitive Parliament

All students seem to explore the proposals through an extended and advanced exploration of the line drawing- is there a general unit aesthetic or was this self driven? What defined the use of the line drawing as a tool to explore the project?

We were really interested in trying to exploit the properties of line drawing to create several readings and misreading drawing attention to perceptual regimes and challenge cognitive expectations.

The work is developed in groups, how does this effect the way images are constructed?  Does each person work on one image or is it a collaborative effort?

We produced the plan as a group and used the plan to negotiate the spatial and operational hierarchies and organizations. After each iteration of a drawing, one or two group members took responsibility for updates and coordination. Ultimately, one group member took responsibility for a set of up to 4 panels.

What defined the types of drawings the students represented the proposal through?

The plan acted as a generator for our cognitive parliament. We used the plan to map cognitive auras and insinuate perceptual regions. After the decision to rotate the drawing by 45 degrees, axonometric projection became an important accomplice. The purpose of our parliament, very broadly, was to see how the voice of science could be reconciled with the voice of politics, or how policy could become a negotiation between humans and nonhumans. For that reason, it was important to explore nonhuman representational techniques and try to find reciprocity between human and nonhuman representations of space, objects, and movement. We used a point cloud rendering and animation to translate nonhuman representation for human constituencies. To that end, the project became about drawing through the types of representations that would allow debate and legislation to emerge as something more inclusive, that produces encounters with voices that are normally not part of parliamentary debate (but that deserve to contribute to how decisions might be made).

Pixel Group

The Pixel Parliament largely drew from 1960s neo-futuristic architecture references for both drawing and concept. We looked closely at the drawings of Prada Poole, Archigram, Reyner Banham and Cedric Price. Through line drawings, we could break down the “Pixels” and their choreography into architectural components, therefore suggesting fantastic plausibility.

The Pixel Parliament_Pixel Democracy (1)

The parliament was presented in three scales: the singular “Democratic Pixel” and its technological components, the interaction of immediate pixels, and the overall plenary configurations. At the scale of the single pixels, plans, sections and elevations of the technological components we utilized to specifically describe the mechanics. The interaction between pixels were explored in section, where the immediate grade changes portrayed different uses. Lastly, at the chamber scale an axonometric was used to show both changes in plan and elevation, details were abstracted and replaced with the implications of the explored forms.



Urtzi Grau is an architect, co-founder of Fake Industries Architectural Agonism (FKAA)and Director of the Master of Architectural Research at UTS. Grau graduated from the School of Architecture of Barcelona in 2000, was awarded Master Advanced Architectural Design by Columbia University in 2004, and is currently completing his Ph.D. at Princeton University on the 1970’s urban renewal of Barcelona. After 2 years as project leader at Coll-Leclerc, he work in leading firms such as Ateliers Jean Nouvel and David Chipperfielsd Architects before founding his own practice. Since 2006 as founding partner of FKAA has develop an successful international urban and architectural practice through private commissions and international competitions such as the new indoor velodrome in Medellin, Colombia, the finalist entry for the Guggenheim Helsinky or the OE house.  Grau has taught Cooper Union, Princeton University, Columbia University and Cornell University. His work and writings have been published in various international journals such as AV, Bawelt, Domus, Kerb, Log, Plot, Praxis, Spam, Volume or White Zinfadel and exhibited in la Bienal de Buenos Aires, P! Gallery, RMIT Design Hub, Shenzhen Biennale, Storefront, the Venice Biennale and 0047.


Guillermo Fernandez-Abascal is an architect, academic and founder of GFA. He studied at the ETS of Architecture in Madrid, Tongji University and he is currently a MoRE candidate at UTS under La Caixa fellowship. In 2010 he joined FOA, where he worked in Birmingham New Street station. Following FOA’s demerger, GFA became a member of AZPA, currently AZPML. He continued his involvement in the BNS project, while leading the London office in various projects and several international competitions such as Antonino and Cinia Foundation (First Prize), Montreal Biodome (First Prize), Austro Control Zentrale Wien (First Prize), Kirchberg Housing Complex (First Prize) and Bellinzona Bridge (First Prize) among others. Since 2016, as partner of GFA  has leaded on several projects highlighting the winning entry for a school in Madrid, a mixed-used development in Sydney and the 2016 Global Architecture Political Compass, co-authored with Zaera-Polo. Guillermo has taught at UTS and RICE university. His work and writings have been widely published in media sources such as El Croquis, ArchDaily and exhibited in Reina Sofia Museum.




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