Michael J. Ostwald

Michael J. Ostwald
UNSW Sydney | UNSW · UNSW Built Environment

BSc, BArch (Hons1), MPIA, PhD, DSc

About

296
Publications
273,956
Reads
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1,812
Citations
Introduction
Michael J. Ostwald is Professor of Architecture at the University of New South Wales (Australia). He was previously Professor and Dean of Architecture at the University of Newcastle, Professorial Research Fellow at Victoria University Wellington, Visiting Professor at RMIT, an Australian Research Council (ARC) Future Fellow, and a visiting fellow at ANU, MIT, HKU, UCLA and the University of Pisa. Michael has a doctorate (PhD) in architectural history and theory and a higher doctorate (DSc) in design mathematics and computing. Under the auspices of the Byera Hadley international fellowship he completed postdoctoral research at the CCA (Montreal) and at the Loeb (Harvard). In 2016, the Australian Institute of Architects awarded him the Neville Quarry Medal for Services to Architecture.
Additional affiliations
June 2018 - present
UNSW Sydney
Position
  • Head of Faculty
January 2001 - December 2007
The University of Newcastle, Australia
Position
  • Head of School
January 1991 - June 1992
The University of Sydney
Position
  • Lecturer

Publications

Publications (296)
Chapter
The frontispiece of the thirteenth century Bible Moralisee conserved in Vienna portrays a Christ-like figure leaning over a primordial world and using a pair of compasses to measure and inscribe its limits (Fig. 3.1). Titled ‘God as architect of the world’, it depicts the use of a mathematical instrument to determine the functional, symbolic and ae...
Book
Fractal analysis is a method for measuring, analysing and comparing the formal or geometric properties of complex objects. In this book it is used to investigate eighty-five buildings that have been designed by some of the twentieth-century’s most respected and celebrated architects. Including designs by Le Corbusier, Eileen Gray, Frank Lloyd Wrigh...
Book
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Shape grammar and space syntax have been separately developed but rarely combined in any significant way. The first of these is typically used to investigate or generate the formal or geometric properties of architecture, while the second is used to analyze the spatial, topological, or social properties of architecture. Despite the reciprocal relat...
Article
Purpose In the 1947 article, The Mathematics of the Ideal Villa , Colin Rowe famously compared the spatial and geometric properties of buildings by two architects: Palladio and Le Corbusier. Many of Rowe's observations in this article have since been extensively debated but not rigorously tested. This paper examines Rowe's proposition that Palladio...
Article
The famous modernist architect Richard Neutra argued that movement through, and understanding of a building could be choreographed by controlling the visual stimuli that is available to a person. These claims are tested by quantifying the lines of sight and intelligibility of five of Neutra's residential designs. A computational method, weighted ax...
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This letter from the editors commences by reporting on Nexus 20/21, the 13th international, interdisciplinary conference for architecture and mathematics. This event took place in July 2021 as an online conference. From over 50 presentations at the conference, the Scientific Committee nominated a series of works for potential inclusion in two speci...
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Frank Lloyd Wright, one of the world’s most famous architects, produced several masterworks in his career, possibly the most celebrated of which is the Kaufmann House, better known as Fallingwater. One of the common arguments historians make about this house is that it is unique in Wright’s oeuvre, as it is not similar to other designs he produced...
Article
Past research in design typically postulates a relationship between divergent thinking and ideation, but little or no empirical evidence is available to critically assess the connection between the two. Using protocol analysis of 35 design experiments, this paper constructs a detailed investigation of the ways divergent thinking and ideation occur...
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Natural hazards can have substantial destructive impacts on the built environment. Providing effective services in disaster areas is heavily reliant on maintaining or replacing infrastructure; thus, post-disaster reconstruction of infrastructure has attracted growing attention. Due to the complex and dynamic nature of infrastructure recovery projec...
Article
Purpose Frank Lloyd Wright's famous house Fallingwater has been the subject of enduring scholarly debate centred on the allegedly clear parallels between its form and that of its surrounding natural setting. Despite these claims being repeated many times, no quantitative approach has ever been used to test this argument. In response, this paper use...
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The Hawkesbury-Nepean Valley, Australia’s longest coastal catchment, is spanned by a river system of more than 470 km, that runs from Goulburn to Broken Bay, covering a total area of over 2.2 million hectares. This region has remained prone to flood events, with considerable mortalities, economic impacts and infrastructural losses occurring quite r...
Article
A Justified Plan Graph (JPG) method uses graph mathematics to measure the connectivity properties of an architectural plan, providing insights into how a building may have been used, or how it differs from other buildings. The standard JPG method has several practical limitations that are evident when it is used to study relatively simple planning,...
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A growing majority of people living in Residential Care Facilities (RCFs) for older people have dementia. Yet the implementation of evidence-based Dementia Design Principles (DDPs), known to reduce symptoms and improve wellbeing, remains limited. This paper reports on the development and application of Plan-EAT, a floorplan-based method of assessin...
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The fourth industrial era, known as ‘Industry 4.0’ (I4.0), aided and abetted by the digital revolution, has attracted increasing attention among scholars and practitioners in the last decade. The adoption of I4.0 principles in Disaster Risk Management (DRM) research and associated industry practices is particularly notable, although its origins, im...
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Integration of the lean and resilience paradigms has attracted increasing attention among scientists and practitioners. In an interconnected world, the need to be resilient involves increased readiness to deal with risks from both outside and inside an enterprise, and to be lean involves maximizing value while minimizing waste. The combination of t...
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An important “architectural type” in Iranian history is the Yazd courtyard house. This historic building type features a walled boundary that contains a complex pattern of open (to the sky), semi-enclosed and enclosed spaces. The planning of the courtyard in these houses has typically been interpreted as either a response to changing socio-cultural...
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Purpose The independence and well-being of people with dementia can be significantly influenced by the design of the physical environments around them. Several assessment tools exist to evaluate the dementia design quality of existing residential aged care facilities but, to date, none have been formally identified as suitable for use during the de...
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Since architect Nicholas Negroponte first proposed a vision of responsive architecture smart environments have been widely investigated, especially in the fields of computer science and engineering. Despite growing interest in the topic, a comprehensive review of research about smart environments from the architectural perspective is largely missin...
Article
In recent decades, there has been an increase in online learning in many disciplines including architecture. In 2020, this situation accelerated as architecture programs world-wide transitioned to online learning. This paper uses surveys and semi-structured interviews to evaluate the effectiveness of online teaching for architecture courses. A tota...
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The design of a building façade has a significant impact on the way people respond to it physiologically and behaviourally. Few methods are available to assist an architect to understand such impacts during the design process. Thus, this paper examines the viability of using two computational methods to examine potential visual stimulus-sensation r...
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In an increasingly globalised world, design educators face challenges of complex linguistic and cultural differences in their studios and critique systems. While general issues relating to globalisation and education have been discussed in past research, this paper is focused on improving the teaching and learning environment created by design educ...
Article
Andrea Palladio's Renaissance villas are amongst the most famous and widely studied examples of domestic architecture ever produced. The majority of past research about Palladio's architecture employed historical, mathematical and computational methods to analyse their complex proportional systems and rules. In contrast, this paper examines three o...
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Decision-making in design is a cognitive process wherein alternatives are generated and evaluated, potentially enabling a more creative design process. In recent years parametric design’s heightened capacity for automatically generating and evaluating options has been celebrated by researchers and designers, but it has also placed an increased emph...
Chapter
This chapter uses the results of two studies to develop an understanding of different types of design strategies and their connection to creativity in design. Two sets of experimental data are used to capture these strategies and then correlate them to readings of novice or expert practices, and the production of conventional or creative designs. T...
Chapter
This chapter investigates cross-national aspects of design thinking, with a focus on three themes: design cognition, complexity and spatial language. The chapter uses a new method, a dual-coding system (design cognition and language) for protocol data combined with linkography. This system formally captures cognitive and linguistic characteristics...
Chapter
The final chapter in this book reflects on the findings, models and frameworks presented previously. The first part, “creative design thinking” revisits the results of two cognitive studies (Chap. 2) and the qualitative analysis and quantitative measures of complexity developed for design thinking (Chaps. 3 and 4). The second part, “collaborative d...
Chapter
Past research has theorised that high levels of individual cognitive complexity may result in heightened design thinking and creativity. The precise relationship, however, between cognitive complexity and creativity in design remains largely unexplored. This chapter develops two measures of cognitive complexity in design: content complexity and str...
Chapter
This chapter examines two cognitive issues in collaborative design: team cognition and communication. It commences with a detailed review of past research, before developing a new framework for design team cognition. This framework is built around an understanding of individual, team and distributed mental models and cognitive behaviours, including...
Chapter
This chapter presents a detailed analysis of the actual, rather than theorised, relationship between cognitive activities and creativity in design. Focussing on parametric design, the chapter uses protocol data developed from four cognitive activities—changing parameters, perceiving geometries, introducing algorithmic ideas and evaluating geometrie...
Chapter
This chapter investigates the relationship between language and cognition in design. This is a critical topic for supporting effective multi-national design teams, and it also illuminates assumptions about design’s capacity to function as a type of universal language. The chapter reports on the results of a design experiment where 23 participants f...
Chapter
Because design thinking is contextual, insomuch as it varies depending on the tools being used and the environments that support it, there is a need to understand the cognitive impacts of any new platforms that are developed. The focus of this chapter is design thinking in digital, interactive and collective platforms. Drawing on past research, mod...
Chapter
Building Information Modelling (BIM) is an approach to computer-enabled multi-disciplinary collaboration, communication and coordination. A BIM model is a consolidated digital data repository of a design, which facilitates seamless information exchange between stakeholders during a project lifecycle. BIM is the industry standard in the design and c...
Chapter
This chapter provides a background to the concept of “design thinking”, as it is defined and used in the field of design research. Thereafter, the chapter introduces three themes in design thinking—creativity, collaboration and culture—which have become increasingly important in the last decade. It briefly describes the content and structure of the...
Article
Architectural historians describe Adolf Loos’s 1928 Moller House as having an interior spatial arrangement that constructs unequal or asymmetrical visual interactions between inhabitants, putting some on display and positioning others as observers. However, there is disagreement about the specific way the Moller House creates these relationships. T...
Article
This paper develops a statistical approach to measuring and guiding grammatical applications using a descriptive shape grammar, ‘Murcutt Grammar’. Normalised Distance (ND) is proposed to identify the level of disparity of each design instance. Alternative design instances are generated using rule transition paths that illustrate the transition sequ...
Data
This chapter uses a combined syntactical and grammatic method to analyse nineteen of Frank Lloyd Wright’s Prairie houses. The purpose of this analysis is to illuminate the formal and social properties of Wright’s early architecture. The data developed through this process is used to provide mathematical insights into the topological and geometric p...
Data
This chapter introduces three Space Syntax techniques – axial line analysis, convex space analysis and visibility graph analysis (VGA). Conventional applications of the axial line technique typically range from domestic buildings to urban environments, providing a quantitative understanding of spatial configurations. Convex space analysis is typica...
Book
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This book presents new ways of facilitating design thinking, through the combination of cognitive design strategies and information technologies. It provides readers with an in-depth understanding of the traditional and digital design processes and activities that are employed in architecture, computational design, communication design and graphic...
Article
Geometry plays a number of fundamental roles in architecture: as support for structure, as an enrichment of experience, as a powerful design tool, as an endower of beauty. Such additional factors for the examination of geometry—including the impact of perception, representation, construction and reception—are crucial for understanding architectural...
Article
This paper investigates the cognitive design processes of three groups of architectural designers from different cultural and linguistic backgrounds. At the core of the research is a triple-coding system for protocol analysis, which formally captures both cognitive and linguistic characteristics in architectural design. The results of the experimen...
Article
One of the most widely accepted theories about Frank Lloyd Wright’s domestic architecture is that he employed a recurring pattern of spatial and visual relations in his planning, to control the experience of movement through his houses. Known as the ‘Wright Space’, this theory has recently begun to be tested using computational and mathematical mea...
Article
Cognitive complexity is a psychological concept that is used to analyse different approaches to problem solving, activity prioritising, information clustering and abstraction. This paper develops a combined approach utilising protocol analysis and linkography to measure the cognitive complexity of parametric design processes. The approach is select...
Article
A traditional Chinese private garden (TCPG) is a historically important spatial type of garden that is well-known for its rich experiential properties. Although several theories have been used to explain the creation of these experiential properties, little evidence exists for any of the current explanations because TCPGs are complex environments a...
Article
This paper presents a cognitive study that evaluates design creativity in parametric design environments, in relation to more conventional geometric modelling environments. The study correlates the results of design outcome evaluations and design process analysis. To achieve this comparison, a combined method of jury evaluation and protocol analysi...
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Drawing on the theory of semiotics, this research measures the differences between a non-expert web crowd and an expert design group, when communicating using varying forms of digital representation in a web-based environment. Using an online tool to capture the interactions in each group, the paper analyses how they independently engage in a desig...
Chapter
In architectural research, debates about the development, function, or appropriateness of building forms have traditionally been dominated by qualitative approaches. These have been common in the past because the full geometric complexity of a building has proven difficult to encapsulate in any single measurement system. Even simple buildings may b...
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This “Letter from the Editors” begins with reflections on frameworks for research and development of architectural knowledge. Drawing on the both old and new ways of thinking, the editors show how two forms of knowledge—observational and propositional—have figured in the identification of two types of architects: architectus ingenio, the observer a...
Chapter
This chapter provides an overview of Space Syntax theory and its associated analytical techniques, four of which are used in later chapters to examine various arguments about Modern architecture.
Chapter
Part II of this book examined a series of twenty Modernist villas using a range of mathematical techniques for testing well-known claims about form, function and intelligibility. The focus of Part III is on the analysis of various elements or features in the domestic architecture of Frank Lloyd Wright which have previously been linked to particular...
Chapter
The famous Modernist axiom, ‘form follows function’, suggests that the programmatic needs of a design, its function, should both precede and take precedence over decisions about its aesthetic expression or form.
Chapter
Chapter 8 describes a dominant theory about the spatio-visual characteristics of Frank Lloyd Wright’s domestic architecture and the way in which these features allegedly shape emotional responses.
Chapter
As the previous chapters reveal, a recurring argument offered by historians and critics is that Frank Lloyd Wright’s domestic designs employ a distinct combination of spatial and formal features to evoke a sense of emotional wellbeing in visitors.
Chapter
While Richard Neutra is conventionally celebrated as the archetypal Modernist architect, his designs were only superficially indebted to the tenets of European Functionalism and the aesthetic values of the International Style. He was instead profoundly influenced by scientific theories that sought to measure and predict the way the human body would...
Chapter
The idea of examining the spatial characteristics of Modernism for the purposes of investigating selected social, cognitive and experiential properties of architecture is not a new one. As Chap. 1 shows, multiple attempts have been made to draw attention away from debates about form, style and aesthetics in Modernism, and towards a discussion of sp...
Chapter
Isovist analysis offers a way of geometrically describing the spaces and forms of a building which can be seen from a particular position. As such, it combines a consideration of both fixed, building-related factors, such as space and form, and temporal, experiential ones, such as visibility and the impact of movement. Isovists are part of a larger...
Chapter
This chapter investigates three spatial properties in the domestic architecture of Mies van der Rohe. All three are associated with Mies’s rejection of the type of cellular, hierarchically-structured planning found in traditional and pre-Modern housing. In its stead, Mies proposed a ‘free’ or ‘open’ plan, with only a minimum of physical divisions,...
Chapter
The previous chapter described the origins of contemporary syntactical analysis and introduced the established techniques for investigating the properties of spaces, paths, points and vision. In each case, the theoretical or conceptual foundation of the techniques was introduced, along with a discussion of its application and any specific findings...
Article
This ‘Letter from the Editors’ introduces two theories about the role of play in culture and society. Drawing on the work of Roger Caillois, the editors identify two types of play, broadly aligning each to the concerns and approaches taken in the two parts of this issue of the Nexus Network Journal. Thereafter, they introduce the papers that make u...
Article
In 1977 Christopher Alexander and his colleagues from the Centre for Environmental Structure published A Pattern Language, an innovative design guide aimed at restoring life and beauty to the built environment. Since then, A Pattern Language has become one of the most widely read architectural treatises ever published. However, despite its populari...
Chapter
Fractal geometry is a product of fractal theory, a mathematical approach that describes the way space is filled by figures or objects. A fractal geometric figure is one that can be iteratively subdivided or grown in accordance with a series of rules. The overall fractal figure then has parts, which under varying levels of magnification tend to look...
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A Pattern Language by Christopher Alexander is renowned for providing simple, conveniently formatted, humanist solutions to complex design problems ranging in scale from urban planning through to interior design. This text is also believed to be the most widely read architectural treatise ever published. Despite this, there is also little acknowled...
Article
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Background Visibility Graph Analysis (VGA) is a space syntax method for quantifying some socio-spatial properties of the built environment by mapping the floor plan into a grid. Presently, VGA mainly relies on mean values of the measures while the individual room-to-room (“interspatial”) relations are not considered or achievable by the common VGA...
Article
This paper traces the rising and falling significance of twenty-two topics in digital architectural research. These topics, which are divided into seven primary themes, are examined using a longitudinal analysis (1995 to 2017) of research in the CumInCAD database. This database, which indexes more than 12,000 publications spanning the last four dec...
Article
This paper presents a method that combines visibility graph and isovist analyses to investigate the spatial and social properties of architectural plans for aged care facilities. The potential of the combined method is examined by measuring the properties of three sets of plans for residential aged care facilities. The first set is a pair of hypoth...
Chapter
Traditional Chinese private gardens have unique cultural significance for the world’s architectural and landscape heritage. To compliment the existing qualitative understandings in the field, this chapter presents a computational approach to unpacking the DNA of this important cultural heritage—capturing and applying the essential spatial character...
Article
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Maintaining or creating a visual relationship between the form of a building and its surrounding natural landscape is often cited as a crucial factor in producing designs that support psychological comfort or environmental sustainability. While multiple methods for the analysis of nature and architecture have developed over time, only a handful of...
Article
In 1981 Koning and Eizenberg famously developed a shape grammar for Wright’s Prairie architecture that appeared capable of capturing its complex formal properties. However, since then, multiple researchers have argued that the underlying social and functional properties of Wright’s architecture—which were excluded from Koning’s and Eizenberg’s anal...
Article
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The Co-Editors-in-Chief of the Nexus Network Journal introduce the contents of vol. 19, no. 1 (2017).
Conference Paper
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A great deal of the façades of the city, whether with particular elements or deformable element, are apparently apathetic and looks neuter. And it seems that architects are making efforts to raise human emotions, not scientific. And this subject that high-rise buildings are Obvious and specific elements at the city is more manifested. Failure to ex...