Sutro Performance: An Exploration of Performative and Vernacular Ornament


The project starts with a rigorous examination of two artifacts found in museums, investigating into the materiality and characteristics of them. The first one is the hammock in Guyana which demonstrates the versatility of ropes and showcases spatial possibilities of fibrous materials. Another artifact, Japanese contemporary vase, its rich ornamentation derives from the floral behaviours, elaborating the aesthetics of nature. These observations lead to a series of digital testing, resulting in deeper research into the spatial performance of the artifacts.

Taking inspiration from the key features of the artifacts, Stigmergi©hair mimics biological movements to optimise structural capacity and material efficiency of ropes. The chair is woven through following the trajectory of swarm movement, articulating poetics of collaborative behaviours in nature and flexibility of fibrous system with high resolution.

The next stage begins with a study on science fiction space as science fictions often provide us with speculative narratives in the future. Thus, the objective of the research is to look into the spatial potential of sci-fi space, resulting in more imaginative scenarios in design proposal. The subject is Giger Bar in Switzerland which is decorated by alien-like components. Through modelling the space, the Giger language can be better understood. However, compared with other sci-fi places, the bar is rather‘lifeless’ as its architectural elements are less dynamic, interactive and performative.

To inject the bar with new life, alternative tectonic components and structures are developed which stem from the previous exploration in Stigmergi©hair. Furthermore, Performative Theatre also aims at addressing some constraints in architecture in terms of spatial arrangement and flexibility. It introduces the concept of “form follows behaviour”, contributing new relationship between human activities and environment.

Sutro Performance continue exploring performative and vernacular ornament through implementing atmospheric devices which elaborates environmental narratives. The performative ornaments regulate environment through the exchange of fluid and showcase the mesmerizing behavior in nature to prototype a sustainable paradigm in San Francisco.


What prompted the project?

The passion in exploring materiality and digitality drove this project. The project is an experiment which bridges the physical and digital world in post-digital era.

What questions does the project raise and which does it address?

The proposal aims at prototyping the new type of vernacular ornament in the contemporary society. Through researching into the advanced technologies and computational techniques, the site-specific and performative ornament can be invented in a rigorous way.

What drew you to these two artefacts?

The interest in the ephemerality of the material properties in the ropes made me investigate into the hammock. Also, I was intrigued by the articulation of natural behaviours in the intricate vase. I thought it might be an opportunity to develop a responsive structure based on these points.

You talk about rigorous research and digital testing, could you expand on these notions and processes further?

The examination of the artifacts enhances my design-thinking skills as the details of the artifacts demonstrate the functional, aesthetic and even cultural values themselves. Then I compute the way they are fabricated which results in the methodologies in the design proposal.

What programs did you use to develop and articulate the project?

The primary program is actually an alternative bathhouse followed by a regenerative scheme. The bathhouse, inspired by the curatorial methodology of Cabinet of curiosities, acts as a living museum that exhibits the environmentally-responsive ornaments.

How and to what extent did the software affect the 'final' design/space of the bar?

The overall typology of the building was generated through adopting the scripts developed in the phase one. However, in order to materialise the geometries and create the bathhouse with high spatial resolution, the adjustments have to be done manually in Rhinoceros.

How does it account for and respond to the idea of form follows behaviour?

The bio-canopy is positioned to provide shading as well as receiving enough sunlight to cultivate the algae. The pipelines in it also mimics the network in nature to ensure the supply of water and air is sufficient.

How is the human aspect accounted for and considered when using these technologies?

The technologies used in the project are crucial in terms of regulating environment to create space for human activities. And, the pure air and water are essential elements in a proper bathhouse that provides atmospheric and therapeutic experience to the visitors.

What is the ultimate objective of the project?

The goal is to reinvent an iconic ornament in San Francisco that elaborates its poetic environmental narrative. The ornament not only praises the human accomplishments but also embraces the harmonious relationship between human and nature.

What is for you the architect's most important tool?

To me, being observant and sensitive is the most critical thing to be an exceptional architect. We cannot discover, think and create without it.


Tzu-Jung (Dexter) Huang is a graduate who completed his bachelor at the Feng Chia University and now studying at The Bartlett School of Architecture, UCL MArch (ARB/RIBA Part 2).

His works mainly focus on prototyping, narrative architecture embedded within cultural patterns and the notion of sustainable development. He is passionate for exploring the intersection of social complexity and natural phenomenon which you can see in the projects. Tzu-Jung’s works have been awarded for international architecture prizes such as Rethinking The Future,Asian Contest Of Architectural Rookies Award and LafargeHolcim Awards.