Hybrid Systems


Yasmin Vobis

Heterogeneous Constructions

Heterogeneous Constructions is a research project that examines hybrid construction in relation to its relevance for contemporary architectural thought through a series of historical case studies and experimental construction prototypes. The case studies are taken from a wide range of building eras and cultures, including from vernacular and early industrial traditions, and engender a set of techniques and construction attitudes that combine multiple, complementary materials towards functional and expressive ends, often in response to the specific material constraints of a region. Heterogeneous construction is markedly different from today's prevailing paradigm of discrete material performance, where each material is responsible for a separate function (such as structure, cladding, insulation, etc.), and provides a model for rethinking material use in architecture in terms of both its technical performance and its expressive potential. 

The research explores both the opportunities and the challenges of this hybrid approach in our contemporary context. Many of the examples studied were developed empirically over generations, and as a result, would be difficult to replicate or rationalize clearly enough to meet modern building standards. As a result, any contemporary approach to material heterogeneity must be reimagined through contemporary construction standards, engineering processes, material availability, and cultural and labor conditions. 

Within this context, steel - due to its relative strength - holds tremendous potential to hybridize with other, potentially weaker or 'imperfect' materials that are more abundant in a given context, or may be preferable due to their lower embodied carbon, or for other performative qualities. In addition, steel, as a well-understood and predictable material, gives assurance in calculating hybrid constructions, where the performance of natural or hybrid materials may be more difficult to quantify. In addition to presenting heterogeneous construction as framework for construction, this talk will highlight both historical examples and structural prototypes that hint at the architectural potentials of combining minimal amounts of steel with other materials.




Yasmin Vobis is an Assistant Professor of Architecture at UC Berkeley and co-founding principal of Ultramoderne with partner Aaron Forrest. Ultramoderne is an architecture and design firm that creates buildings and public spaces that are at once modern, playful, and generous. The principals believe that design is not a luxury, but rather fundamental to the construction of all aspects of the built environment. Vobis studied architecture at UC Berkeley and Princeton University and has practiced and taught architecture on both coasts of the US. In 2017, Vobis was awarded the Founders-Arnold W. Brunner-Katherine Edwards Gordon Rome Prize in Architecture.

Friday, June 7