Professor in Residence, Department of Architecture, GSD, Harvard University, Cambridge MA, USA
Today’s waste landscapes derive from nineteenth-twentieth century materials extraction, processing, and disposal practices by which certain landscapes are sacrificed for the construction of others. Long term impacts of material byproducts from these industries may be understood as technofossils—new materials shaped into artifacts that will likely be preserved as geological deposits. This article explores shifts in cultural attitudes and approaches towards waste materials and landscapes by focusing on two types of extraction-based industries that create technofossils: brick, in which desired materials such as sands and clays are extracted and manipulated, and dredged sediment, in which undesirable materials, such as sands, clays, and soils, are extracted from shipping channels and stored in landfills of land. The tension between these industries reveals opportunities for rethinking linear models of materials extraction, processing, and disposal as cyclical and integrative. Historiographic, archival, and case study research are used to investigate these industries. Speculative mapping and a design research studio explore these material legacies, and their potential ecological, socio-economic, and cultural values.
Traditionally buildings are not designed to adapt to the dynamics of fluctuating environmental conditions or changing user needs. Even though today’s technical capabilities for kinetics have advanced significantly, the integration of stable and kinetic elements still presents challenges. The project described in this article integrates “soft” and “hard” elements to produce a dynamic material system that is self-supporting, pliable, and kinetic. It explores a kinetic and formal potential of integrating custom-made soft robotic muscles into a component-based surface. The developed prototype is a light modular construct, with components and patterns of aggregation that work in unison with the silicone muscles to produce a dynamic structure. The proposed material system can be used to construct a kinetic and “programmable” architectural skin that can be integrated with existing or new façade systems. The project is informed by
a history of pneumatic structures, the technology of soft robotics, and a kit-of-parts design strategy.
We received and we gladly publish this conversation among distinguished theorists and scholars on an important topic, also aligned with the cross-disciplinary mission of our journal. [MS]
ABSTRACT - The article offers a multi-author conversation charting the future of architecture in light of the apparent tension between Baukultur, which combines the culture of building and the building of this culture, and the rapid changes brought about by digital technology, embracing cybernetics and artificial intelligence. The article builds on a discussion of Baukultur to debate in what sense buildings are “machines for living in,” then examines neuromorphic architecture wherein cybernetic mechanisms help buildings sense the needs of their occupants. It closes with an example of a building complex, Kampung Admiralty, that combines cybernetic opportunities with a pioneering approach to building “community and biophilia” into our cities. This article interleaves an abridged version of Michael Arbib’s (2019) article “Baukultur in a Cybernetic Age,” 1 with extensive comments by the co-authors.
We received and we gladly publish this contribution by distinguished designer and theorist Ian Ritchie, as an example of that bridging research and practice which our journal intends to promote and disseminate. [MS]
ABSTRACT - The design and engineering development of two apex connected square woven flat surfaces, each constrained at ground level by three anchors and lifted to form a 3D gridshell whose theoretical geometry is modified by the small sectional profile of the rectangular members made of wood. The warp and weft of the weave are of identical section and made from Italian red oak. The process of artistic investigation is explained and then taken into theoretical designs, computed, and is then tested iteratively through choice of wood, a 33% physical model which is laser surveyed and fed back into the computer model and FEM (Finite Element Method) analysis, and finally followed by a partial full scale mock up, before realising the sculpture at the Arte Sella environmental art park.
The “Tarkeeb Gate House and Garden” is part of an ongoing series of design-build explorations focused on enhancing the lives of under-served people through small projects located in oft-overlooked places. Through the revision of a leftover and ill-conceived workspace the new security booth augments and enhances existing campus infrastructure with new architecture that provides pragmatic functions, promotes community equality, and exhibits a social and environmental conscience. Located in a region where service personnel endure long shifts under challenging circumstances, the project seeks to elevate basic human comforts while simultaneously imparting exuberant delight from small-scale design opportunities.
Since man first walked on the Moon, humanity has imagined inhabiting other planets, a dream fueled by fiction, architecture and folk art. Currently, there is a real commitment to begin exploring Mars in the next decade. In creating these expectations, the contributions of writers, architects and film directors have been necessary, all of whom have imagined these new cities beyond our planet. We will review the germinal proposals that have contributed to the construction of current space ideology, comparing them with recent proposals. The objective is to analyze these architectures in modern context, recognizing their contribution in the development of new ideas.
Space is relational. How many relationships can occupy a space? How do they work? These are both interesting questions that we would like to answer. We know that we interact with space and that its configuration affects us: we can be aggregative while experiencing it, rather than competitive. Space has considerable power in influencing our brain. Essentially, our actions are somehow manipulated by what we see and what we touch. How does our space (peripersonal space) interfere with another’s? The idea of interaction within space (or social space) and space of selfhood thus becomes an essential subject for architecture and cannot be simply parameterized in a geometric manner. Physical space must, therefore, allow solitary or cooperative movement without alienating the individual. We base our judgments on movement, culture, personal psychical characteristics, memory, and personal experience. Taking these elements as our base, we gave a new perspective for designers to draw from the semantic, which can be rhetorical and disconnected by the function.
Tens of millions of Americans became food insecure during the COVID-19 pandemic as independent farmers dumped millions of tons of food due to economic lockdowns. Yet contract growers looped into vertically integrated monopoly supply chains escaped system breakdowns. Food provisioning is often seen as polarized between local scale and continental/global market scale. Food supply and consumption are functions more of market structure than scale. Farmers reliant on direct sales to local restaurants, schools, universities, and hospitals saw their markets evaporate overnight. This Food Away from Home market constitutes 54 percent of food consumed nationally yet is vulnerable since direct-to-consumer sales lack supply chain structure. Urban food hubs dotting American cities before their eclipse by agrifood monopolies could have maintained supply. The food hub was a resilient public supply channel (a food commons) organizing a plurality of local and global providers alike. To address food insecurity our food planning effort for the State of Hawaii is premised on building similar missing middle market structure featuring a food hub, a food innovation center, and farm base yard processing facilities.
This article presents a project vision whose aim is to underline the necessity to completely change the current world narrative and start a new one, fully compatible with the protection of the planet and all its inhabitants. The authors started from the meaning of “device” and its role in this new narrative: a new salvific “ark,” an ecological living machine able to restore the balance between the forms of anthropization and the planet. The New Arks replace the current crystallized devices, unable to efficiently answer to the needed shift, in order to preserve the human systems, attacked by new social, ecological, and health diseases. In this vision, within the New Arks human beings regain the “lost paradise” through changes such as the implementation of green areas and biodiversity, less housing density, eco-friendly mobility, energy supply and technologies, and sustainable agricultural production. The outcome of this vision suggests the birth of a “Neoland,” a transformed world system in which the union between the natural accident and the anthropic genesis leads to the start of a new ethical and ecological narrative.
The increasing production of robust, information-laden, parametric architectural and urban models has outpaced a critical evaluation of the ethics of contemporary modeling and visualization practices which, rather than reflecting reality, are transforming it. This essay exposes the logics of the expropriation of architectural and urban models in a decade-old RAND Corporation endeavor to envision a comprehensive digital counterinsurgency strategy. To encourage professional and cultural agents, as well as unwitting civilian agents, to populate databases with urban and environmental data, RAND proposed weaponizing open-source, big-data urban models and participatory platforms to create multicultural, user-friendly interfaces. Conceived to appear like an exercise in open-source digital democracy and participatory knowledge-sharing that would spark emotive responses such as pride and fear, RAND focused on the cognitive and affective side of digital participation and information sharing to wage a counterinsurgency in the minds of civilians and insurgents. When the models that architects build can be weaponized to ends other than realizing buildings and cities, when they become instruments for influencing behavior and facilitating warfare, there is an urgent need for an ethics of visualization.
Sea-level rise and its effects on low-lying territory posit a rethinking of urban environments. Drawing on green infrastructure concepts and resiliency principles in urban design, this study examines how these urban environments could evolve. The study describes the challenges that coastal cities face and advances a cross-disciplinary research approach to a specific coastal site. The site location is Fort Lauderdale, Florida. The study adopts a transformational strategy that directs the development of an urban design inclusive of hydro-patterns, vegetation, building mass, and its orientation. The strategy foregrounds nature’s role in the conceptualization of changing conditions and the built morphologies at the scale of territory and neighborhood. By exploring these relationships, the project highlights the dynamics of the natural environment as a frame for reconfiguring public space as permeable and adaptive networks, enabling an open and indeterminant understanding of urban commons.
Once a clinical cure for COVID-19 is found, which infection prevention practices – both social and spatial – might remain, and what long-term impacts will they leave? This article examines the interrelationships between airborne diseases, social practices, and the design of physical and digital infrastructures for cities. Historically, infectious diseases have left long-term imprints on cities, from plumbing to hospitals. Spatial practices to prevent infection, such as clear physical barriers and car-free streets for socializing, must be implemented with a close examination of impacts on the mental, social wellbeing of both individuals and the broader community. Prevention practices examined include the use of transparent barriers that separate and connect people, the increased use of open windows, the adaptation of sidewalks and roads for physically distant socializing, and spatial negotiation and trust-building that occur in public spaces. As cities make design and policy changes to protect their citizens from the invisible virus, they must be mindful of the imprints the physical, social, and policy changes have on comprehensive wellness and equity for all people.
This paper argues that the rise of architecture as a unique discipline and the conquest of the American continent are not just chronological coincidences but interdependent variables of the same process of modernization. Traditional scholarship in architecture has not entertained those parallel developments at all. The field of architectural history and theory still treats the spatial occupation of the Americas as a consequence of the Renaissance and European modernization, despite a few decades of scholarly literature in related disciplines questioning such assumptions. (Fanon 1961; Said 1978; Dussel 1980; Bhabha 1987; Escobar 1994). Such scholarship demonstrates that the encounter of 1492 and the territorial occupation that followed played a central role in the development of Western culture in general, allowing the extrapolation of the same logic to the architectural discipline in particular.
The research detailed in this paper revolves around an ecological and spatial exploration for a derelict coastal area in Lebanon. It frames the possibility for an agile ecological approach to design, one that builds upon the latent derelict aspects and persisting disconnections in this specific area and that reimagines a potential new reality intermeshing the natural with the human and the infrastructural with the architectural. Within the format of a research undergraduate studio, the approach and work discussed here present possible synthetic scenarios for coastal developments in Lebanon, and suggest alternative production, programmatic, and ecological strategies.
“New Urban Paradigms: Healthier Futures” presents innovative propositions from three Parsons School of Design architectural design studios that address issues of public and environmental health and social justice. Through primary and secondary research in New York City, USA, and Lagos, Nigeria, where the studios are sited, design projects are used as research platforms to investigate public and planetary health and, alongside faculty research, to formulate new fundamental architectural principles for design that prioritize health. In a direct response to the isolation imposed by the coronavirus pandemic, students consider innovative ways to create new ecosystems, cohabitate and connect communities, to be “alone together,” and to shift human health, building health, and urban health to the center of design proposals. In this article, we propose a set of new design principles, a manifesto for our time, meant to guide and inform architectural pedagogy and professional practice.
Much historiographical research has been produced on the post-war CIAMs, demonstrating the importance of the CIAM Grid, proposed as a “thinking tool” for representing the town planning projects at the CIAM 7 in Bergamo (1949). This essay proposes a new critical and epistemological examination of the CIAM Grid based on new archival documents and on a rereading of the exact words used by Le Corbusier, who proposed to consider the Grid as an “interlocutor.” Seventy years later, we propose to go beyond the failure of CIAM 7 and to elaborate a “new Grid,” with the name of “Second Life Grid,” as a critical tool for discussing exclusively projects related to the new paradigm of recycling and reusing buildings and urban spaces. Beginning with the question of the critical legacy of the CIAM Grid, our intention was to think of a Grid conceived no longer as an instrument of dogmatic and normative thought, but as an instrument of dialogical criticism which has been tested through an open call for projects and an international conference held in Bergamo in October, 2019.
On March 28, 2019, on the occasion of Ludwig Mies van der Rohe’s 133rd birthday, the Illinois Institute of Technology’s Mies van der Rohe Society displayed an exhibition at S. R. Crown Hall entitled “Stories from the Archives” as part of the larger event theme of “Bauhaus Descendants” in the year of its centenary. The exhibition proposed connections between the Bauhaus and IIT’s school of architecture through a display of archival materials related to the work of the former Bauhäusler Ludwig Mies van der Rohe, Ludwig Hilberseimer, and Walter Peterhans who founded the modernist school at IIT. This paper provides a deeper investigation of the exhibit’s proposed connections and the relationship between the Bauhaus and IIT’s architecture school through the lens of three enduring student exercises: the court house problem, the planning sequence, and visual training exercises. Considering these three exercises in relation to the curriculum that was developed at IIT shines light on a philosophy of architectural education which started in Europe, matured in Chicago and continues to evolve into the future.
Since the eighteenth century, the healing arts have included open-air treatments, with the field hospital at the Royal Sea Bathing Infirmary near London being one of the earliest medical care facilities on record to successfully treat patients in this manner. Florence Nightingale began applying the principles of open-air treatment to architecture when she proposed an open-ward hospital design as a means to provide pure air to the sick. Her perspective would directly influence nineteenth- and early twentieth-century hospital design, which increasingly had to address the rising incidence of infectious diseases in cities. However, hospital design in the twentieth century began to rely on mechanically conditioned air rather than open-air spaces to provide filtered ventilation and reduce particulate contamination. In the twenty-first century, even as the world faces the public health crisis of the global COVID-19 pandemic, the Open-Air-Space Project conceptually revisits the open-air spaces of hospitals. The project basis is the “open plan,” whose structural origin is in part the Maison Dom-Ino system by Le Corbusier.
The rejection of “boredom” fueled the midcentury reaction against modernism, but little is known about the complicated presence of this mood in the architectural discourse. Far from being a mere rhetorical tool, the quip “Less is a bore” is part of Robert Venturi’s larger interest in boredom and was influenced by his reading of a book referenced repeatedly in Complexity and Contradiction in Architecture (1966): August Heckscher’s The Public Happiness (1962). A liberal writer and political activist, Heckscher situated boredom at the core of modern humanity’s alienation. While the concern with boredom was explicitly addressed in the humanities, I suggest that it was taking shape in midcentury architectural polemics under the influence of writings from other disciplines, as well as the emerging artistic practices that were deliberately embracing the “aesthetics of boredom.” Specifically, I will examine Venturi’s reading of Heckscher through two of his (unbuilt) civic projects that directly engage the issue of boredom: Three Buildings for a Town in Ohio (1965) and the entry for the Copley Square Competition (1966).
The purpose of this paper is to contribute an inclusive insight into the debate of type (Typisierung) and individuality in the Deutscher Werkbund. The debate is widely discussed on the dichotomy between art and industry in the historiography of modern architecture. This paper aims to show that both camps of the debate wanted to constitute the synthesis of art and industry, but the methods that they used were different. This paper considers the debate as a referent of the contested nature of modernity. Modernity oscillates between the desire to give the modern world new modes of structure, order, regulation and to accept modernity with all complexities. This article claims that while the notion of type represents the former one, the notion of individuality represents the later one in the realm of architecture. This article unveiled the control mechanisms in the discourses of defenders of Typisierung. It found the concepts norm, organization, system, standardization, which were the reflections of the Enlightenment. On the other hand, it pointed out the reactions of the individualists against these discourses.
The essay critically addresses several solutions and strategies for tackling urban inequalities to uphold the recent “right to the ‘healthy’ city” spatial paradigm based on early social science works by Emily Skinner and Jeffrey R. Masuda (2013) and then developed as a urban planning component by the interdisciplinary research group Barcelona Lab for Urban Environmental Justice and Sustainability (2019). The authors propose a transdisciplinary approach in dealing with city renewal-regeneration and the safer use of its spaces. The interrelation between urbanism and architecture, including environmental design, mobility, and social relations, among others, would merge to imagine a more ecologically and socially balanced urban milieu. The paper analyses four specific case studies assumed as proper approaches in dealing with the pandemic, critically reflecting on the application of “Superblocks,” “Tactical Urbanism,” and “15-minute City” concepts by illustrating and comparing their application in three global cities (respectively Barcelona, Beijing, and Milan). In a nutshell, the authors demonstrate that these policies have their crucial feature in being effective applications formulated for different contexts, proposing successful strategies to overcome health, environment, and mobility issues in all the contemporary global cities.