FunctionLab is the research arm of Farshid Moussavi Architecture (FMA). Its core purpose is to critically examine the discipline of design, its tools and concepts on an on-going basis, to ensure they remain relevant within the constantly changing built environment.
FunctionLab’s research projects are developed in tandem with FMA’s building commissions in order to create a feedback loop between practical questions raised in practice and research carried out in a projective manner. Projects so far include: the potentials for a new approach to ornament in blank retail typologies; the potential to reinvent different structural systems by using digital design tools and fabrication techniques; and alternatives to the ‘white cube’ gallery in contemporary art museums to cater for increasingly diverse contemporary art forms.
FunctionLab’s research projects are also developed through research conducted by Farshid Moussavi through her studios and seminar series at the Graduate School of Design, Harvard University. To date, these include: ‘The Function of Tessellation’ (in the context of an airport terminal as well as a high-rise building); ‘The Function of Roofs’ (in the context of a shopping mall); ‘The Function of Time’ (in the context of a contemporary art museum); ‘The Function of Ornament’ (in the context of blank typologies); and ‘The Function of Form’ and ‘The Function of Style’.
In addition to architecture-specific research projects, FunctionLab acts as a platform for FMA to engage in direct and indirect collaborative projects with experts from fields including science, art, philosophy, politics, economics, mathematics, computing, music, fashion, food, and others on topical issues. These collaborations take different forms, including regular in-house seminars, short pamphlets and the series of ‘Function books’, which are disseminated via its online platform.
720 is a pamphlet series published online by FunctionLab. It is named after the numerical identification for Architecture in the Dewey Decimal System. 720 pamphlets are produced by experts from different fields who share the opinion that there is no ‘thing in itself’ with inherent meanings that is non-revisable and universal; every idea is a multiplicity, capable of taking up different forms.
The Function research series, which is directed by Farshid Moussavi and investigated through her teaching at the Harvard Graduate School of Design, focuses predominantly on how architecture involves the intellectual assembly of matter, providing each built form with inherent affects and sensations. Following from Gilles Deleuze’s work on affect, the premise of this research series is that the affect of built forms play a critical role in the daily experiences of individuals and the cultures that develop from them. Like active forces, built forms influence patterns of thinking and behaving. In order for culture to evolve, architects need to produce novel affects. It is not what built forms represent, but how they function affectively that makes architecture a critical cultural practice.
The Function series to date include ‘The Function of Ornament’, ‘The Function of Form’ and ‘The Function of Style’, all three of which investigate the role of affect in architecture.