“How can you design spaces of transaction which facilitate the possibility of enhanced translatability of people’s sentiments, their perspectives, their affect, their ways of seeing things?”
- AbdouMaliq Simone

The Architecture + Adaptation: Design for Hypercomplexity Research Initiative examines the intersections of extreme environmental circumstances and creative architectural production. Focusing on highly-dense urban locations that face the regular and damaging occurrence of inundation, the project will document the constituent forces and effects that pose challenges to normative architectural production. Relying heavily on situated research and observation through visual production, we conduct intensive site-based research and produce visual documentation and analysis of inundation effects on urban and architectural compositions.

The primary aim for the research initiative is to locate potential moments for architecture to intervene, as a mediation, adaptation, or coordination with ecological circumstances that operate at such a large scale and level of complexity that architecture tends to be disregarded as a potential agent of influence. As architecture struggles to find ways to exercise agency through socially and environmentally responsible practices, and as the discipline attempts to reorganize its commitments in the face ecological collapse, Architecture + Adaptation mobilizes collaborative, engaged, situated research to advance the pedagogical model of architecture education beyond the studio, and to build new connections for architecture research today. In general terms, this research will work to define architecture’s agency within metropolitan and environmental hypercomplexities, seen as the compound instability brought about by climate change, human migration, failing infrastructure, population, and capitalist political economic forces, among other factors.

Our research initiative is driven by primary site specific research, seminar and studio course development, publications and exhibitions. The first in a series of research courses - INUNDATION Jakarta/Bangkok - is described in greater detail below.

INUNDATION 1 Jakarta + Bangkok research and design proposals are on Tumblr
INUNDATION 1 Jakarta + Bangkok documentation of the studio and site research on our Flickr

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INUNDATION 2 Course Brief

The INUNDATION 2 Spring Travel Course presentation will take place on 28 January, 2013, 12PM, at the Taubman College of Architecture & Urban Planning.

As Southeast Asia’s most populous and most dense metropolitan conurbation, and the second largest urban footprint in the world, JAKARTA, Indonesia, is a city of hypercomplexity. Recent trends in weather intensification, sea level rise, extreme river pollution, river flooding, and coastal inundation, through multiplicative effects, make it one of the key sites for researching architecture’s agency among 21st century hypercomplexities.

Following the success of the 2012 INUNDATION 1 research studio, JAKARTA’s shifting coastline will again be the primary site of investigation during our collaborative design research workshop with Hong Kong University and Universitas Indonesia, where our goal is to identify the localized effects of inundation and to produce proposals among the megacity’s unstable geography of water.
Prior to this design research workshop, students will participate in a design charrette with StudioMake and intervening critic, François Roche in BANGKOK, Thailand. This one-week project in collaboration with students from Rangsit University, will introduce comparative urbanisms for the studio’s collective research into inundation and its ecological, social, and spatial consequences in Southeast Asian cities. Additional site visits during the research studio include: BOGOR, KRAKATOA, YOGYAKARTA, PRAMBANAN, and BOROBUDUR.

What can architecture do – as a method for research and as a practice of intervention – among the complicated compositions that shape the experience of climate change in Southeast Asian megacities? How will architecture adapt to respond to 21st century metropolitan ecologies? How can architecture find renewed purpose and meaning among current transdisciplinary efforts to confront the environmental and social consequences of the anthropocene?

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_ Adam Bobbette, Meredith Miller, and Etienne Turpin, editors. Jakarta: Architecture + Adaptation (Depok: Universitas Indonesia Press, forthcoming 2013).

_ Etienne Turpin and Meredith Miller, "On the Informal Urban-Archive: Precarity, Design Research, and Tendentious Practice," lecture for the Woodbury School of Architecture, Los Angeles, forthcoming 7 February, 2013.

_ Adam Bobbette, Meredith Miller, and Etienne Turpin, “Jakarta: Design Research and the Futures of Hypercomplexity,” in MONU #17 – Next Urbanisms, Fall 2012, 56-63 [pdf]

A review of the issue is available at Archinect.

_ Etienne Turpin with Meredith Miller and Adam Bobbette, “Inundation Jakarta: Designing for Hypercomplexity,” presentation to the 49th International Federation of Landscape Architecture World Congress – Landscapes in Transition, Cape Town, South Africa, September 2012.

_ Meredith Miller and Etienne Turpin, “Architecture + Adaptation: Emergent Territories of Inquiry,” lecture for the Faculty of Architecture, The University of Hong Kong, May 2012.

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_ Smart City: The Next Generation, Focus South-East Asia
A project by Aedes East - International Forum for Contemporary Architecture e.V.
curated by Ulla Giesler
18 May - 4 July 2013
Aedes am Pfefferberg
Christinenstr. 18-19
D-10119 Berlin
Phone +49 (0)30 282 70 15

The N.P.O. Aedes East, under the direction of the curator Ulla Giesler, presents an exhibition as part of the Asia-Pacific Weeks Berlin 2013, with the title ‘Smart City.' For the first time, the regional focus will be on South-East Asia. with particular emphasis on the formative up-and-coming generation. The exhibition concentrates on the search for intelligent solutions within an urban context.

The project is exciting and highly relevant not only for architects and urban planners but also for 'city makers' in the widest sense: urbanites, artists, activists, environmentalists, but also institutions, universities, policy makers, investors, engineers and scientists.

The exhibition discusses innovative “smart city” projects from South-East Asia: buildings, planning, urban interventions, initiatives and visions for the future from internationally known experts as well as young architects from Thailand, the Philippines, Cambodia, Malaysia, Singapore, Indonesia and Vietnam, who are making the cities more intelligent, effective and above all improving the quality of life for their citizens.

More information about the exhibition is available here.

_ Futures of Hypercomplexity
24 Jan – 28 Feb 2013
A. Alfred Taubman Gallery,
Taubman College of Architecture and Urban Planning,
University of Michigan, Ann Arbor, USA

The exhibition – Futures of Hypercomplexity – responds to several urgent questions: What is the agency of architecture in megacities that are facing severe inundation? In what forms do architecture and design “appear” within compositions of hypercomplexity? And, what are the variations of architecture and its operations among cities with a common crisis? The exhibition argues for tendentious solidarities and new strategic alliances between designers and the urban poor. Our contention is that the future of hypercomplexity in Southeast Asian megacities will witness either a reification of political economic divisions between the extremely affluent and the neglected urban poor, or, as our work suggests, begin to develop new affinities between urban researchers, architects, landscape architects and the urban poor to challenge the inequalities of resource availability, unequal exposure to environmental risks and benefits, and urban health and well-being.

Organized by Meredith Miller and Etienne Turpin
Exhibition design by Sara E. Dean with Jono Sturt
Exhibition production by Sara E. Dean, Jono Sturt, and the students of INUNDATION 1 studio

Funding Support
Center for Southeast Asian Studies, University of Michigan
International Institute, University of Michigan
Taubman College of Architecture and Urban Planning, University of Michigan

A Press Statement for the exhibition is available here.

Future of Hypercomplexity - EVENTS - Friday, 15 February, 2013

Design and Spatial Politics in Southeast Asia
A Workshop with Dr. Abidin Kusno
2-4PM, Taubman College Gallery

Jakarta and the Dilemma of Our Time
A Lecture by Dr. Abidin Kusno
(free and open to the public)
6PM, Taubman College Lecture Theatre

Space is a social and ideological apparatus which has the capacity to influence social change. Such change is related to the ways in which time is represented, understood, experienced. This time-space coordination is central to the question of spatial and environmental justice. In this lecture, Dr. Kusno considers the question of "spatial justice" by analyzing three interrelated layers of times that historically structured the space of Jakarta: the time of everyday life; the time of memory; and the longue duree of historical capitalism.

Abidin Kusno is Associate Professor at the Institute of Asian Research at the University of British Columbia where he holds Canada Research Chair in Asian Urbanism and Culture. He is the author of Behind the Postcolonial: Architecture, Urban Space and Political Cultures in Indonesia (Routledge, 2000) and The Appearances of Memory: Mnemonic Practices of Architecture of Urban Form in Indonesia (Duke, 2010).

Futures of Hypercomplexity Exhibition
(free and open to the public)
Following the lecture, Taubman College Gallery

_ Navigating the Postnatural
17 November – 10 December, 2012
Salt & Cedar 2448 Riopelle St. Eastern Market Detroit
organized by Etienne Turpin, Meredith Miller and Farid Rakun,
with the students of INUNDATION 1 studio

The INUNDATION Bangkok/Jakarta research studio was organized through the tool of the field guide, originally produced during a workshop at Salt & Cedar in Detroit. With this tool, our research aimed to develop an image of both city’s hypercomplexities and unstable geographies of water, while specifying the localized effects of the problem to act on them through design.

 The exhibition – Navigating the Postnatural – returns the field guides, along with additional visual documentation and artifacts, to the Salt & Cedar Gallery as a means to reconsider the role of the field guide as an open-source/book-tool and to share some the research collected.

Read more about the show by Farid Rakun on Archinect.

Farid Rakun and Sigrid Espelien during install at Salt & Cedar.

Exhibition ready for opening; image courtesy of Farid Rakun.

Saturday 17 November, 6-8PM
Emergent Navigation Techniques: Operating Among Postnatural Ecologies

a conversation with
Director, Center for Postnatural History

Adjunct Professor, Sound Department, School of the Art Institute Chicago

Associate Professor, Architecture, School of the Art Institute Chicago

moderated by MEREDITH MILLER
Salt & Cedar 2448 Riopelle St. Eastern Market Detroit
cheap & good food & drink

_ Bangkok + Jakarta: Cities of Hypercomplexity
14 September - 15 October, 2012
Center for Southeast Asian Studies,
International Institute,
University of Michigan.

The exhibition – Bangkok + Jakarta: Cities of Hypercomplexity – responds to the urgent issue of inundation in Southeast Asian megacities by provoking the question: what is the agency of architecture within megacities and their various compositions of hypercomplexity? The exhibition presents research from the INUNDATION Bangkok/Jakarta studio which aims to produce an image of both city’s hypercomplexities and unstable geographies of water, while specifying the localized effects of the problem to act on them through design.

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INUNDATION 1 Bangkok/Jakarta Research Studio

_ Principal Investigators
Assistant Professor Meredith Miller
Sanders Research Fellow Etienne Turpin

_ Research Coordinator
Farid Rakun

_ Student Research Team
David De Cespedes
Jared Heming
Joshua Kehl
Catharine Pyenson
Andrew Kaczmarek
Allen Gillers
John David Ewanowski
Geoffrey Salvatore
Lucas Peter Bartosiewicz
John R Hilmes
Elizabeth Nichols
Nathan Oppenheim

_ Research Funding
Taubman College of Architecture and Urban Planning,
University of Michigan

Center for Southeast Asian Studies,
University of Michigan

International Institute, Experiential Learning Fund,
University of Michigan

_ Research Partners and Affiliates in Thailand

Professor Danai Thaitakoo (Chulalongkorn University)

Dr. Waew Chittawadi Chitrabongs (Chulalongkorn University)
and Chusak Voraphitak

Matthew Maudin, Assistant Vice President, Sales and Marketing Department, PACE

David Schafer and Im Schafer, StudioMake

Professor Nilay Mistry (Chulalongkorn University)

Chuta Sinthuphan, Site-Specific/E.A.T

_ Research Partners and Affiliates in Indonesia

ruangrupa artists' initiative

Kemas Ridwan Kurniawan, PhD, Chair of Department
& Herlily, M.U.D., Vice-Chair of Department
Universitas Indonesia, Faculty of Engineering, Department of Architecture

Professor Rina Priyani, Institut Technologi Bandung

Photograph of submerged Honda car factory in the Rojana industrial district, Ayutthaya province, central Thailand, during 2011 flood; courtesy of the Big Picture (Sakchai Lalit/AP).

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For architecture students to advance an understanding of hypercomplexities, they cannot be treated as abstractions or experienced through mediated means; in order to begin to apprehend the material and spatial reality of Bangkok and Jakarta’s ongoing negotiations within an ecological and political economic contexts seemingly so distant from our own, this project positions situated research as its key methodology.

The INUNDATION Bangkok/Jakarta studio places architecture students from Taubman College into an interdisciplinary exchange with Assistant Professor Adam Bobbette and his landscape architecture students from Hong Kong University, as well as colleagues and students from the University of Indonesia. Collectively, we will be studying the hydrological infrastructure of Bangkok and Jakarta’s metropolitan regions. The objectives of this collaboration is to produce an image of the city’s hypercomplexity and unstable geography of water and secondly, to specify the localized effects of the problem to act on them through design.

What is the agency of architecture in cities that fighting inundation? In what forms do architecture and design “appear” within compositions of hypercomplexity? And what are the variations of architecture and its operations among cities with a common crisis?

Photograph of Jakarta courtesy of Adam Bobbette.

_ Site-based Learning

The site of the research is the dual construct of the city and its ecological milieu. Differing from environmental science or ecology, architectural research in this area emphasizes the particular and synthetic interactions of built form, social patterns, and natural systems. In general terms, this research will work to define architecture’s agency within metropolitan and environmental hypercomplexities, seen as the compound instability brought about by climate change, human migration, failing infrastructure, population concentration, among other factors. In this regard, the research initiative is designed to achieve two important aims: first, to analyze the circumstances of impending disaster through inundation that make this problem central to South East Asian coastal cities; second, to render this condition explicit and spatially specific to sites in Bangkok, Thailand, and North Jakarta, Indonesia, that will be experienced first-hand. The ability to apprehend this these emergent forms of hypercomplexity is a precondition for architecture to have agency within and among them.

Working with NGOs, specialists, and researchers at sites along the shorelines of Bangkok and North Jakarta, students will create a conceptual and spatial armature along which we will organize our daily interactions and site visits. As a single line on the map, students will examine how the shoreline represents a complicated fiction in that its reality is much less clearly defined and demands closer engagement. Along this organizing structure, we have identified particular sites of interest such as the flood-control infrastructures and a new large-scale land reclamation project. We’ve also engaged various individuals and organizations to consult (from local NGOs such as the Delta Alliance and Jakarta Water Advocacy), as well as representatives of private interests (developers from the Cipta Cakra Murdaya company and builders in the flood-prone and affluent Pluit neighborhood). These are a few examples that represent the wide range of perspectives that will contribute in distinct ways to our larger picture of the inundation and adjacent water-related issues in Bangkok and Jakarta.

Notably, the problems of inundation have general features, but are also highly specified according to the history of cities and their resource use practices, waste water management, environmental issues, cultural practices, illegal settlement patterns, etc. Understanding these consequential difference is a key goal for the research studio. INUNDATION Bangkok/Jakarta will begin to introduce these aspects of comparative urbanism with site visits organized to parallel research in both cities. Working with researchers, water specialists, municipal planners and NGOs in Bangkok will allow students to develop an understanding of the complexity and specificity of inundation through a comparative urbanism approach. Future phases of the research initiative will alternate between Jakarta, Indonesia, Bangkok, Thailand, and Manila, Philippines.

Photograph of Jakarta courtesy of Adam Bobbette.

_ Course Philosophy

With an emphasis on observation as an active design methodology, a large component of this work is the result of collaborative research design with the student team. Through the structure of the Spring Travel Courses offered by Taubman College of Architecture + Urban Planning, the student research will be led by Professor Miller and Dr. Turpin, but the research and design effort with be one of collaborative and mutual dependence – each student will rely on each other to produce base maps, core research components, and site models.

As architects, observation is an active practice, closely linked to visual representation. Throughout our fieldwork in Bangkok and Jakarta, we will use the production of various visual artifacts (maps, drawings, diagrams, photographs) as tools for documentation and analysis. But the nature of our research topic and the “sites” of inundation are in themselves resistant to fixed representations, such that our work will invent new methods of recording and classifying our observations. This aspect of the work is not simply a creative exercise but an important means to remaining open to new arenas of architectural concern that do not fit easily within conventions of drawing and other familiar forms of spatial representation. The students will come to value drawings not just as visual artifacts or conclusions to a conceptual process, but as an important tool for “seeing.” In this case drawing are a means of “seeing” the circumstances of inundation that could only be produced from an architectural standpoint.

Students cannot learn about the potential agency of architecture from studio course work or lecture theatres alone. The impact of field research, on the ground collaborations, site-based and intensive analysis, and first hand site investigations cannot be overstated for the improvement of student learning. While architecture has recently witnessed the emergence of incredibly powerful computational tools for modeling, scripting and projective design research, these tools cannot replace immersive, experiential, and collaborative learning practices.

Photograph of Jakarta courtesy of Adam Bobbette.

_ Course Production

In addition to the immersive, site-based pedagogy, the INUNDATION Bangkok/Jakarta studio encourages engaged student learning through the practice of collaborative exhibition and catalogue. The development of material for publication and exhibition, in addition to the engaged, on the ground approach, enables students to have a direct connection with both the site and the results of their research, making a tremendous impact on both the overall value of the course for students and the pedagogical commitments the course advances.

As the repository for field observations, the field guide is an invaluable form for the dissemination of research. As the product of Phase I of the Architecture + Adaptation Research Initiative, we will work with students to produce the A Field Manual for Postnatural Inundation: Jakarta. This research document will consolidate the constituent forces of inundation into a legible visual project, making this research available to our colleagues Taubman College, as well as to those whom we worked with in the field. A Field Manual will serve as both a record for the urban investigations but also as a source of information and conceptual basis for subsequent research in the Architecture + Adaptation sequence.

Photograph of Jakarta courtesy of Adam Bobbette.

_ Preliminary Readings


AbdouMaliq Simone, “Towards an Anticipatory Politics: Notes from the North of Jakarta,” City Life from Jakarta to Dakar: Movements at a Crossroads (London: Routledge, 2009), 61-116.

Michel Foucault, “Space, Knowledge, Power,” in Power: Essential Works of Michel Foucault, edited by James D. Faubion, translated by Robert Hurley et. al., (London and New York: New Press, 2001), 349-364.

Thomas Markussen, “The disruptive aesthetics of design activism: Enacting design between art and politics,” Nordic Design Research Conference, Helsinki (, 1-8.

Yates McKee, “Haunted Housing,” in Grey Room 30 (Winter 2008), 84-113.

Isabelle Stengers, “A Cosmopolitical Proposal,” in Making Things Public, edited by Bruno Latour and Peter Weibel (MIT Press, 2005) 994-1003.

‘Understanding Urban Risk: An Approach for Assessing Disaster and Climate Risk in Cities,’ Urban Risk Assessment: Jakarta, World Bank, 2011.


AbdouMaliq Simone, “Securing the Majority: Living through Uncertainty in Jakarta,” International Journal of Urban and Regional Research (2011), 1-21.

Anna Lowenhaupt Tsing, Friction: An Ethnography of Global Connection (Princeton: Princeton University Press, 2005), 80-170.

Johannes Nieuhof, Voyages and Travels to the East Indies, 1653-1670.


Rudolf Mrázek, “Bypasses and Flyovers: Approaching the Metropolitan History of Indonesia,” from Social History Vol. 29, No. 4 (Nov., 2004), 425-443.

Abidin Kusno, The Appearance of Memory (Durham and London: Duke University Press, 2010).


Mike Davis, “Planet of Slums,” New Left Review Vol. 26 (March-April 2004), 5-36.

AbdouMaliq Simone, “On Intersections, Anticipations, and Provisional Publics: Remaking District Life in Jakarta,” 2009 Urban Geography Plenary Lecture, Urban Geography 31.3 (2010), 285-308.

Rudolf Mrázek, Engineers of Happy Land: Technology and Nationalism in a Colony (Princeton: Princeton University Press, 2002).


Matthew Gandy, “Rethinking urban metabolism: Water, space and the modern city,” in City, Vol. 8, No. 3, Dec. 2004, 363-379.

Peter Brosius, Anna Lowenhaupt Tsing, and Charles Zerner, “Representing Communities: Histories and politics in community-based natural resource management,” Society & Natural Resources: An International Journal 11 (1998), 157-168.

Tim Forsyth, “Industrial Pollution and Social Movements in Thailand,” in Liberation Ecologies (Second Edition), edited by Richard Peet and Michael Watts (New York and London: Routledge, 2004), 383-398 .


Indonesia in the Soeharto Years: Issues, Incidents and Images (Lontar/KITLV, 2007).

AbdouMaliq Simone, City Life from Jakarta to Dakar: Movements at a Crossroads (London: Routledge, 2009).

Ann Danaiya Usher, Thai Forestry: A Critical History (Silkworm Books, 2009).

Dipesh Chakrabarty, “The Climate of History: Four Theses,” in Critical Inquiry 35 (Winter 2009), 197-222.

Denis Cosgrove, “An Elemental Division: Water Control and Engineered Landscape,” in Water, Engineering, Landscape, edited by Denis Cosgrove and Geoff Petts (London: Belhaven Press, 1990), 1-11.

Yates McKee, “Spectres of Art,” Art & Education Papers, available online.

John McPhee, “Los Angeles Against the Mountains,” in The Control of Nature (New York: Farrar, Straus, and Giroux, 1999), 183-272.

Eyal Weizman, “Political Plastic,” Collapse: Philosophical Research and Development Vol. VI, Geo/philosophy, edited by Robin MacKay (January, 2010), 257-303.

Photograph of Jakarta courtesy of Adam Bobbette.

Confronting Colonial HIstory

As we engage in the research, we are confronted with Indonesia's colonial history and the role of representation in the dissemination of Batavia as a Dutch settlement.

Portrait of Nieuhof from Johannes Nieuhof, Voyages and Travels to the East Indies, 1653-1670.

Image from Johannes Nieuhof, Voyages and Travels to the East Indies, 1653-1670.

Map of Batavia from Johannes Nieuhof, Voyages and Travels to the East Indies, 1653-1670.

Images below from Johannes Nieuhof, Voyages and Travels to the East Indies, 1653-1670.