Professor in Residence, Department of Architecture, GSD, Harvard University, Cambridge MA, USA
To the observer, the building industry strives to develop the most optimized construction materials to build faster, better and cheaper, which has created an expanding pallet of increasingly complex, highly specific product systems. As a result, it is assumed that buildings are comprised of an established collection of parts, selected from a catalogue, and have the consequence of a one-time useful lifespan. This does not suggest that we have abandoned technological development; however, we suspect this approach will stall in its ability to address environmental challenges and create healthy, quality spaces because the sum is not greater than its parts. What if we use and assemble materials in a way that they can serve multiple functions at one time? The 2 in 1 – design strategy is a playful process that assembles materials so one material can incorporate several functions at a time. By finding synergies between well-known, standardized construction elements we can create a positive effect on the quality of building and reduce the carbon footprint.
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 a contribution by distinguished author Prof. Botond Bognar. [MS]
ABSTRACT - The essay introduces the development of Sou Fujimoto’s architecture as it has been influenced by various sources and experiences leading to his recently completed and highly recognized major project, the House of Hungarian Music in Budapest. Among these influences the contemporary economic and political conditions in Japan and beyond, as well as the nature-inspired work of prominent Japanese designers are discussed. Touching upon the seminal work by Tadao Ando and Toyo Ito, the essay also highlights the contrasts and occasional similarities between the so-called “White School” and “Red School” in contemporary Japanese architecture, in referencing nature as the primary source of their designs. Today, these “schools” are best represented, respectively, by the activities of SANAA and Kengo Kuma. Although Fujimoto’s architecture is clearly derivative and part of the radically minimalist White School, the House of Hungarian Music reveals an intimacy and richness
in articulating its relationship to the surrounding natural environment, which quality, if perhaps momentarily, points beyond the minimalism of the “Whites.”
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.
While housing could be described as one of the basic forms of architecture and one of its main responsibilities, if not today’s most crucial task, architecture has largely ceased to rethink established forms of living and the politics and economies that surround it. Escaping the pervasive models of profit-based home ownership in the West seems increasingly difficult when housing is dominated by neoliberal market values. Already at the beginning of the twentieth century, however, some architects struggled with similar conditions within the metropolis. Ludwig Hilberseimer’s proposals for new types of living for a new kind of liberated individual are particularly instructive today as they rethought housing as a right, allied with unions in order to rethink its financial models, and learned from activists in the Women’s Movement to question the dominant narratives around heteronormative family structures and domestic labor. In our time of ballooning housing costs, stagnant wages, failed trickle-down economics, and shortages of affordable housing, these urgencies have not lost but only gained momentum.
The human, environmental, and political impact of raw material resourcing throughout the global supply chain is a critical facet of any plan to confront accelerating climate change in the twenty-first century. Invoking the work of biologist Dr. Rhonda Patrick on autophagy, a mechanism through which mammalian bodies consume their own dead and dying cells to promote health and longevity, this essay explores the imaginary of Urban Autophagy as a mechanism through which the city can consume itself in order to grow. This essay presents a novel understanding of the limits of our natural resources and proposes a major shift in how we conceive of standard practices for sustainable development. First, this essay defines the model of Urban Autophagy; second, it surveys already-existing practices that support the model of Urban Autophagy; third, it presents a methodology that can be developed and expanded in order to introduce Urban Autophagy into standard practice; and finally, this essay argues for the implications of this approach toward a more ambitious stewardship of the environment and the health and longevity of our cities.
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.
Housing is one of the main themes related to the creation of the city and plays a central role in the definition about how people live together. The development of new living strategies face many different fields of interest: urban planning, economy, social sciences, ecology, sustainability, technology. Architectural composition plays a central role in the definition of how all these matters can coexist and how it is possible to increase urban density and people’s quality of life. The analysis of Louis Sauer’s work on low-rise high-density houses outlines a solution useful for a variety of situations. Higher urban density makes it possible to increase real estate income from investments and, consequently, to increase the architectural quality of the buildings as well as the urban landscape. It gives a tangible answer to many aspects related to urban sustainability making the city more compact, reusing brownfields instead of greenfields, facilitating pedestrian cycle mobility or the use of public transport instead of private cars, and thus helping to reduce urban pollution and the use of natural resources.
In light of emerging dialogues on the negative environmental impact of glass buildings that culminated in the glass building ban proposal in New York City, this paper reinterrogates the meaning and potentials of transparency in architecture. This is done by introducing the concept of the “Transparency Trilemma,” whereby glass envelopes are believed to be unable to provide thermal comfort, environmental sustainability, and optical transparency at the same time. By re-evaluating transparency from technical, spatial, and semantic viewpoints, this paper presents a comprehensive new Transparency Framework for the overall assessment of buildings on these grounds. The use of this framework can facilitate a more holistic evaluation of glass buildings across the full range of their potential meanings and applications, which would support better design and understanding of the role of transparency in contemporary architecture.
This study uses the “urban water commons” lens to examine the intricate interplay between urban informality and bodies of water. Case studies from Jakarta, Beirut, Medellín, and Dhaka are analyzed, each illuminating a unique array of challenges. Themes of environmental degradation, involuntary displacement, and infrastructural deficits are prevalent across these urban contexts. The paper stresses the urgent need for comprehensive urban planning strategies that safeguard equitable access to and shared stewardship of urban water resources. It underscores the necessity of government policies that prioritize community involvement, environmental sustainability, and the integration of informal settlements into the wider urban fabric.