Professor in Residence, Department of Architecture, GSD, Harvard University, Cambridge MA, USA
Modern and the Site Specific:
The Architecture of Gino Valle 1945-2003
By Pierre-Alain Croset and Luka Skansi
London: Lund Humphries, 2018
250 × 190 mm
100 b/w and 150 color illustrations
£50.00 GBP (hardcover)
This article studies the changing role of line in architecture. The paper argues that digital production has led to a subsequent shift of lines as trace, towards lines as “spatialized” thread. This thread is moving away from orthographic and perspective modes of representation through three embedded modes of conception: the digital model, diagram and notation. These new lines have a long and alternative lineage in architectural ideation. The paper explains each mode in turn, indicating the importance of the model as a line in space embedded since the very inception of western architectural discourse; the edifying role of the diagram as a line of operation clarifying architectural ideas; and the new material ground that links notation to fabrication, and continued actualization in the pursuit of new architectural ideas. By expanding the line in architecture, the digital line better connects emerging representational modes to established architectural thinking and opens new ground to further representational discourse.
In April 2017, the Beijing municipal government enacted a new, three-year urban renewal policy that is aimed to restore and improve the built environment of the 2,435 alleyways located in the historic center of the city. The local implementation, however, has focused on the sealing of doors and windows that led to homes and small businesses for decades. As a result, thousands of businesses that had provided daily services to local residents have shut down, forcing many people to move to other cities. Drawing on archival research and interviews, this article argues that the Beijing municipal government is merely using urban renewal as camouflage for a politically-oriented gentrification project which not only eliminates non-permanent residents, but also deconstructs, as well as reconstructs, “place” at the local level as a means to control social activities and relationships. The result is the creation of a new image of the capital of China, which exhibits the ideas of regularity, singularity, segregation, and authoritarianism.
This paper, based on the author’s new book The Urban Fix: Resilient Cities in the War against Climate Change, Heat Islands and Overpopulation (2019), culminates over three decades of researching, teaching, and writing on American sprawl. One of the country’s biggest and most familiar problems, it could be described as a conspiracy of good intentions: short-sighted desires to live in nature; traffic safety engineers’ preference for wide thoroughfares; fire marshals’ desire to turn around hook-and-ladder trucks at the end of every cul-de-sac, etc. Over half of American homes are single-family dwellings – 69 million out of a total of 132 million. The fatal flaw is that these positive intentions quickly led to very high energy/carbon/ecological footprints per suburbanite – a challenge that is difficult because of extensive, indelible infrastructure. Densifying arterial strips, inserting transit, redeveloping a walkable, bikeable, mixed-use, and human-scaled urbanity is as urgent as it is essential in the nation’s effort to combat climate change.
More than three million Americans experience homelessness annually. Emergency shelter capacity is limited while local governments are unable to provide even temporary housing. Informal housing involving interim self-help solutions are now popular adaptive actions for obtaining shelter, despite nonconformance with city codes. Unfortunately, most informal solutions have resulted in objectionable tent cities and squatter campgrounds where the local response has simply been to move the problem around. Our homeless transition village plan prototypes a shelter-first solution using a kit-of-parts
that can be replicated in other communities. Village design reconciles key gaps between informal building practices and formal sector regulations, creating a permittable solution under most city codes. While informality is traditionally associated with the “topography” of unplanned hyper-growth in developing nation economies — and not with design disciplines or advanced economies— our project highlights informality as a mode for effecting new urban solutions within obdurate regulatory environments. Indeed, the informal has emerged as an important design epistemology in advanced market economies given the polarization of their economies and the need for distributive justice.
Originally, the design for the Canada Pavilion (1958) was developed by the Milan-based firm BBPR from the willingness to achieve an anti-monumental set up, referring to the teepee and translating and expressing its spirit in a modern architectural system. Our goal for the restoration (2014-18) was therefore to preserve the building with a special attention to various themes concerning restoration and, in fact, different solutions were studied for the many details to be able to respond to all institutional representatives: the Italian Superintendence for Historic Preservation, the National Gallery of Canada, the Venice Biennale and the Municipality of Venice. The relationship between nature and architecture was one of the major issues to consider.
The new office building of the A.T.E. Group – a cutting-edge engineering group based in the outskirts of Ahmedabad (India) along the Delhi-Ahmedabad highway – works as an extension to its adjacent existing factory. Diversifying from the ordinary existing factory shed scenery, the building uses technological innovation and landscape as key elements to serve both as an aesthetic surface and a performative office space. Through multiple layers of natural cooling techniques embedded in and wrapping around occupied spaces, the corporate office works in partnership with the seasonal and climatic flows. Indoor and outdoor spaces flow into each other as well as both the existing factory and the new office complex are fluidly embedded within the surrounding landscape. With low carbon footprint and minimal use of active energy, the building creates comfortable environmental conditions while countering the local conditions of extreme heat, dryness, and variations in temperature through the day and year.
This article proposes a new approach towards the design and planning of social housing destined to residents living in informal settlements of Brazil. It is aimed at restoring the proximity between the labor and domestic functions within the spatial domain of the house. This need emerges from a field research aimed at addressing the spatial logics emplaced by residents in Brazilian favelas. The integration proposed in the article is meant to be achieved with the combined goal of improving the living conditions of the residents, sustaining also their socio-economic development, while promoting also the economy of the city. Graphic guidelines are shown to the reader after a critical analysis of the main systems of housing currently emplaced for unprivileged people.
In the spring of 2018, the National Center for Smart Growth (NCSG) invited architects at the University of Maryland to engage a project called PRESTO (Prospects for Regional Sustainability Tomorrow). PRESTO is believed to be the first attempt at addressing the long-term sustainability of the DC-Baltimore region using advanced algorithmic modeling and scenario analysis techniques to examine the impacts of fuel costs, technological advancement, and government regulation. This article highlights contributions of the DC-Baltimore Futures: Designing XL to XS studio as it engaged the multi-disciplinary NCGS team on PRESTO, which is described in this article as a geodesign project. The impact of collective creativity as part of DC-Baltimore Futures studio pedagogy is discussed as one of the many ways that the PRESTO algorithms were tested. The article concludes with reflections on the role and potential of collective creativity in open source modes of geodesign and “senseable” city design.
This paper speculates on how new forms of dwelling might be re-conceived as more nimble, flexible components: ones capable of deploying to different sites and atmospheres, while simultaneously providing more broadly distributed access to amenities that otherwise remain limited to the privileged few. Specifically, it examines the notion of a mobile dwelling architecture that could be deployed to various sites across the city - each site being characterized by particular “niche” offerings. Here, rather than dwelling units being considered as static entities within the urban fabric, they are re-considered as nimble, deployable agents - able to relocate to different sites and settings in accordance with different parameters that are customized through individual cost-benefit analyses and feedback dynamics. Accordingly, over time, bottom-up, self-organizing “niches” of fit inhabitation emerge. The paper associates this kind of designed environment with the dynamics of complex adaptive systems - where emergent global features arise from the bottom-up. Here, a kind of “swarm” urbanism is deployed: one adjusting over time in response to atmospheric variables.
This paper describes a participatory development strategy that leverages the cooperative nature of a sharing economy. Three case studies will be explored that provide unique strategies for empowering community. These crowdsourced projects pool resources and expertise in order to design and build projects that resist gentrification, stimulate investment, and build community. Residents utilize the participatory actions of establishing a pro forma, acquiring land, securing financing, selecting professional engineers and contractors, and ultimately constructing the project all as larger components of community building. The models of community development presented here offer an alternative to the traditional designer-client dichotomy and allow the once-clear boundary between architect and client to be redrawn. Also, by sharing resources, community members are able to become active participants in their built environment.
Vandalism is an alternative form of design narrative, a subversive practice of reading architecture and urban systems, and a fundamental way key voices can be heard. Architects, city planners, officials and the public should value such reads as constructive engagement enriching the life of a built work. Architecture usually results from elaborate systems of power, capital, and privilege - though its presence affects everyone in the city. In the periphery of public space, dynamic alternative practices emerge that communicate and critique. Vandalism, especially in areas of contested “ownership” in public space, is an architectural counterpoint, a dissent available to people without conventional means of power. It is intrinsically linked to the pedestrian experience of cities, and therefore opens reconsideration of walking as knowing, especially in an urban terrain vague [empty lot]. Technologies of sharing allow us to broadcast transgressions, track goings on, exploit urban problems for artistic gain, and conduct vandalism in public space. Focusing attention on a public farm building designed collaboratively within an urban park will frame broader discussion of these complex relationships at work, specifically considering vandalism as a form of engagement.
In the nineties, it was widely assumed that, because of the internet and widespread connectivity, the importance of physical space would be greatly reduced. Many prophecies at the time dealt with the “death” of distance, of cities and of offices, among others. While such predictions have not materialized so far, technology is nonetheless having an effect on how we use physical space. In particular, office spaces are undergoing a profound transformation. In this article, we review a recent project from Massachusetts Institute of Technology’s (MIT) Senseable City Lab, which used the analysis of digital data to better understand the use of office space and scientific collaboration on the MIT campus. We then show how some of these preliminary findings can be used in the design of the co-working space at the Agnelli Foundation in Turin, Italy - and how digital data can then provide real-time monitoring of built spaces.
Commoning describes the social and psychological process that individuals and collectives are involved in as they establish and manage space and life shared in common. The values that underpin commoning can be adapted by spatial and urban designers to privilege and encourage more inclusive and shared social, civic and environmental conditions and disrupt existing models and economic forces that currently organise private and public space. Commoning produces spaces and social relations through participation, developing in the protagonists a sense of agency over their lives. Design practitioners with interests in the processes of commoning can engage with those values to interrupt the homogenization of communities and the cauterization of spatial imagination by commercial imperatives. Drawing on design precedents, theorists and activists involved with various aspects of contemporary commoning, this paper proposes how designers can be informed and guided by the interrelated spatial and social modes of productions that are integral to commoning. Through a commitment to commoning, spatial designers can encourage and support commoning and proliferate values capable of transforming the future.
Why is sharing important to our civilization, our cities and the earth? It is critical, even essential to our survival, because without it, we will overconsume the planet’s resources and overheat it. It is of paramount importance that we find ways to increase prosperity without economic growth, or better yet, to achieve degrowth. Sharing our assets, our services and places, even our activities and experiences may be our best hope to reduce the human ecological, energy and carbon footprints. Whether a reformed version of capitalism or a fundamentally new economy, the sharing city and no-growth ethic form a large, profound and open question. In any case, from an energy use and emissions point of view, doubling energy and technological efficiency or doubling the intensity of asset use though sharing have much the same impact - whether it is cars, transit, homes, equipment, offices or workshops. This realization opens up a huge new opportunity for reforming or replacing neo-liberal capitalism with longer-term thinking and more humane economics.
This paper outlines the use of videogame simulations as a representation of the complex interactions of resources within an urban neighborhood. The research advances the use of videogames as a mechanism for the production of design patterns for the city, in the hands of its inhabitants. By establishing a real-time feedback loop between players and an ecological simulation of the city, a user can learn and make decisions that could be shared with a community. This paper will mainly discuss the research developed through the videogame Block’hood, a project developed by the Author at the University of Southern California School of Architecture and the Plethora-Project research that attempts to critically address the use of mass media technology for collective organization and value production.
This is the continued research and development that derived from the original doctoral research “Whose Digital Property,” probing into the ramifications brought about by the new business model of the “sharing economy,” and the concerns raised behind the issues of access, ownership and distributed rights among policy, economy, design and architecture, of digital and physical property law research. The doctoral research was defended in 2017 at the Harvard University Graduate School of Design with the Harvard School of Law as a partnering department. The discussion developed in this essay tries to show how several examples and trends suggest architecture and architecture-related software programming will likely become even more collaborative in the future and will necessitate a more strategic, articulated and multi-pronged cooperation between designers, companies and users.
To mark the hundredth anniversary of the New York City’s zoning code, we propose the next dimension of zoning, a four-dimensional hypercube that “un-crams” Manhattan’s second- and third-dimensional congestion into a fourth-dimensional model of sharing (space). By projecting the grid’s coordinates into a large hypercube - the fourth dimension in mathematics -, we developed a typology that falls between the scale of a city block and a building. A city in a city. Located at the water-edge of the East River, this becomes a new terminal building, a domestic/commercial hybrid that takes the notion of sharing to a new level. This waterfront site gives not only access to the new Second Avenue Subway, but also to the new water ferry and the airport water taxi. Sharing economy - this four-dimensional framework - will re-activate Manhattan’s forgotten East Side. Sixty percent of the Hypercube is a public and shared program (park, pool, terraces), while 40% percent is occupied with mixed-use space. Inhabitants are encouraged to share domestic appliances and tools, creating a new social network. This new social economy distributes the allowable 10 Floor Area Ratio (FAR) into the Hypercube, and with elevated parks it creates a new way of shared city living.
This paper details the design solution awarded at the 2017 international call for ideas for the design and implementation of fifty “innovative schools” launched by the Italian Ministry of Education and Research (MIUR). The project expands an ongoing personal research, focusing on the class layout in relation to the educational curriculum proposed inspired by the principles of Social Constructivism and with the final aim of providing continuity among nursery, infant and primary schools. The “School of Tomorrow” designed for the MIUR has no traditional desk, but modular tables of different sizes. There is no teacher desk, but an educator who moves among students, both in class and in the communal areas. Instead of the traditional class, there are size reconfigurable areas according to subjects taught and students’ needs. This school offers labs, ateliers and workshops. It has no corridors, but connective spaces equipped with poufs, sofas, soft seats and carpets. These areas become the functional and symbolic heart of the school - the Piazza and the Learning Street - hosting parties, assemblies, student works exhibitions and theatrical performances. The school of the future will stay open beyond school hours and will play the role of a civic center.