Issue's articles | The Plan Journal
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THEORY
Essay

Urban Autophagy. A New Imaginary for Twenty-First Century Urban Growth

by: Hannibal Newsom VOLUME 7/2022 - Issue 1 , Pages: 37 - 55 published: 2022-06-06

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.

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REFLECTIVE PRACTICE
Project

Tarkeeb Gate House and Garden

by: William Sarnecky , Michael Hughes VOLUME 6/2021 - Issue 1 , Pages: 47 - 67 published: 2021-05-21

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.

 Open Access
EDITORIAL
Editorial

In This Issue [1/2020]

by: Maurizio Sabini VOLUME 5/2020 - Issue 1 , Pages: 5 - 7 published: 2020-06-24
 Open Access
EDITORIAL
Editorial

In This Issue [1/2023]

by: Maurizio Sabini VOLUME 8/2023 - Issue 1 , Pages: 5 - 6 published: 2023-06-27
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Essay

The Right to Housing: Architectural Composition as a Solution

by: Claudio Meninno VOLUME 7/2022 - Issue 2 [The Right to Housing], Pages: 325 - 343 published: 2023-01-25

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.

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THEORY
Essay

The Transparency Trilemma: Interrogating Transparency in Architectural Design

by: Matyas Gutai , Simon Richards , Aris Kafantaris VOLUME 7/2022 - Issue 1 , Pages: 57 - 86 published: 2022-06-06

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.

 Open Access
DIGITAL TECHNOLOGY
Article

Architecture and Soft Kinetics: Scale and Performance

by: Vera Parlac VOLUME 6/2021 - Issue 1 , Pages: 69 - 86 published: 2021-06-14

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. 

 Open Access
Editorial

Out of the Crisis by Design

by: Maurizio Sabini VOLUME 5/2020 - Issue 2 [HEALTHY URBANISM], Pages: 285 - 287 published: 2021-02-02
 Open Access
URBANISM
Article

Blue Urban Commons: A Cross-Examination of Water Bodies an Urban Informality

by: Taraneh Meshkani  VOLUME 8/2023 - Issue 1 , Pages: 7 - 21 published: 2023-07-12

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.

 Open Access
Article

Countering the “Troublesome Unit”: Compensatory Design to Create Equity in Social Housing

by: Christina Bollo VOLUME 7/2022 - Issue 2 [The Right to Housing], Pages: 345 - 361 published: 2023-02-01

Housing scholars have shown that moving has inherent hazards and can create disruption for social housing residents as well as collective disruption within communities. This paper draws from social housing case study sites in the Pacific Northwest of the United States. Analyzing those apartments with the highest rates of turnover, what property managers call “troublesome units,” revealed architectural attributes that influence frequent moves. These attributes are related to apartment size, layout, and location within the building. To reconcile the resultant inequity in apartment design, this paper proposes a theory of compensatory design, in which the architect offsets unavoidable negative attributes with positive elements to equalize turnovers between apartments. Ultimately, architects who see a troublesome unit, not as a lost cause, but as a challenge to excellent design solutions, will better serve their clients, the residents who live in the buildings, and the communities at large through the reduction of lost housing.

 Open Access
THEORY
Essay

The Wall That Articulates: Characteristics and Operability in Space

by: Joana Pinheiro VOLUME 7/2022 - Issue 1 , Pages: 87 - 105 published: 2022-06-21

This essay stems from a dissertation that studies the “architectural wall” from a conceptual point of view. The wall acts in space in different ways and can present the purpose of emplacement, reference, articulation, enclosure or of an inhabitable wall. Among the wall types studied in the thesis, the wall that performs as an articulation agent is described in this paper. For that matter, a group of architectural works, that translate in a definite manner the operativity of this theory, is presented. Through the analysis of these case-studies, the definition of the type, by its determining properties, is reached. Besides considering this research as a scientific instrument in the field of architecture to understand the comprehensive element “wall,” which further interacts with man and its environment, it is also regarded as a didactical means. Through the acknowledgement of the properties given in the tables and diagrams of the type, it is possible along the process of design to identify this architectural element within its complex play of variables, and thereby use it in a more scrupulous and consequent manner.

 Open Access
Editorial

Beyond Performance

by: Maurizio Sabini VOLUME 6/2021 - Issue 2 [The Good Material], Pages: 301 - 303 published: 2022-01-28
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CROSS-DISCIPLINARY STUDIES
Article

Interplanetary Architecture

by: María Asunción Salgado de la Rosa , Belén Butragueño Díaz-Guerra , Javier Francisco Raposo Grau VOLUME 6/2021 - Issue 1 , Pages: 87 - 110 published: 2021-06-11

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.

 Open Access
Opinion

Public Health Themes in Survival Through Design: A Son’s Appreciation

by: Raymond Richard Neutra VOLUME 5/2020 - Issue 2 [HEALTHY URBANISM], Pages: 289 - 295 published: 2020-11-23
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CROSS-DISCIPLINARY STUDIES
Essay

Wellbeing in the Built Environment: Designing Discontinuities Between Function and Semantic

by: Nicoletta Brancaccio , Davide Giacomo Maria Gattoni , Federico Niola , Stefano Rozzi VOLUME 5/2020 - Issue 1 , Pages: 31 - 52 published: 2020-05-21

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.

 Open Access
Editorial

New Paradigms

by: Maurizio Sabini VOLUME 3/2018 - Issue 2 [THE SHARED PROJECT], Pages: 269 - 271 published: 2019-02-13
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HOUSING
Article

Beyond Modernist Housing: Can the Mass Housing Model Accommodate Human Agency?

by: Nadia Shah VOLUME 8/2023 - Issue 1 , Pages: 23 - 43 published: 2023-06-28

The lack of attention paid to the disempowerment of the residents has been a shortcoming of the modern mass housing model. Even today, no policies promote and support the residents’ efforts to continue improving their quality of life through actions involving changing the physical environment. Following a brief history of the origins of mass housing in the West through the discourse in the modern movement, the paper expands on implementing these modern ideas in the post-War non-Western region and how they were received and appropriated there. The article presents the case study from the author’s work on Korangi Town in Karachi, Pakistan, to show that the residents’ changes reflect their active agency. However, it was an unintentional outcome of modernist design and planning. This paper is more than just a critique of the cultural apathy of modernism. It questions what happens to a modernist project after the expert leaves the arena. How do residents adapt to or cope with their physical environment? Moreover, is there a way to include human agency in mass housing?

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Article

At Home from Emergency Shelters to Temporary Living

by: Barbara Angi , Irene Peron , Barbara Badiani VOLUME 7/2022 - Issue 2 [The Right to Housing], Pages: 363 - 380 published: 2023-01-24

The “right to housing” is recognized as a primary right for the realization of every person, as is the “right to mobility,” understood as the right to move to improve one’s living conditions. Today, people with unstable living and working conditions due to a multiplicity of social and/or geopolitical factors are housed in precarious housing located in the city suburbs. This model replicates that used for the management of emergencies such as earthquakes and/or catastrophic weather events. Many of these shelters, despite being able to generate their own “social microcosm,” are in a state of degradation that reinforces social alienation: we could define them as “places of exclusion.” The research presented proposes to go beyond the emergency model starting from some reflections on the “right to housing” in relation to urban regeneration processes observed in some alternative European examples. The research aims to verify whether transitional housing for refugees and foreigners can be located within urban centers, and how they should be part of a broader (urban and social) regeneration project.

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TECTONICS
Article

Solar Technology Integration on Building Façades

by: Jong-Jin Kim VOLUME 7/2022 - Issue 1 , Pages: 107 - 130 published: 2022-07-06

Skyscrapers are disproportionate energy consumers and major sources of carbon emission in urban areas. To curtail carbon emission in cities, new ways of designing tall buildings must be developed. As a way of enhancing energy efficiency and reducing carbon emission, this study analyzes energy production potentials of alternative designs of building integrated PV systems. For the purpose of assessing the energy self-sustainability of the alternative PV systems designs, the current state of energy demands of high-rise buildings was investigated. The amount of solar energy that can be harnessed from PV panels installed on the roof and eight different configurations of PV integrated on the south façade of a 30 story building in New York was estimated, and its energy self-sufficiency was analyzed. It was found that, with the current level of energy consumption and PV efficiency, building integrated PV systems can meet about 6.8 % of the tall building’s energy self-sustainability and 11.2 % electricity self-sustainability. Significant reduction in energy demand is a prerequisite for moving toward near-zero or zero energy skyscrapers

 Open Access
Position Paper

Human Time as a Resource: Twelve Strategies for Re-thinking Urban Materiality

by: Anupama Kundoo VOLUME 6/2021 - Issue 2 [The Good Material], Pages: 305 - 322 published: 2021-11-30
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SUSTAINABILITY
Article

Cut|Fill: Technofossil Waste Narratives of Brick and Dredged Sediments

by: Catherine De Almeida VOLUME 6/2021 - Issue 1 , Pages: 163 - 196 published: 2021-05-11

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.

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Project

Magic Circles: The New Arks

by: Alberto Francini , Fabrizio Mangiaveti VOLUME 5/2020 - Issue 2 [HEALTHY URBANISM], Pages: 297 - 310 published: 2021-01-13

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.

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CRITICISM
Essay

We are All Counterinsurgents Now

by: Britt Eversole VOLUME 5/2020 - Issue 1 , Pages: 53 - 70 published: 2020-06-24

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. 

 Open Access
CROSS-DISCIPLINARY STUDIES
Article

The Urban Forum Dialogue Tool: Reflecting on a Designerly Approach to Transdisciplinary Research

by: Sonia Curnier , Per-Johan Dahl , Lisa Diedrich , Andrea Kahn VOLUME 8/2023 - Issue 1 , Pages: 45 - 67 published: 2023-06-15

With a view to working toward urban sustainability goals, two Swedish research platforms, SLU Urban Futures at the University of Agricultural Sciences in Alnarp (SLU) and the Urban Arena at Lund University, launched Urban Forum, a transdisciplinary dialogue format, in 2019. Designed to foster exchange between practitioners and scholars in the spatial design fields the Forum convenes actors from practice and academia working on matters of shared concern to increase their interaction and defuse preconceptions against each other. The initiative recognizes that academic and non-academic design actors are equally needed to build transformative capacities and reflects two related convictions: that siloing practice and academia is unproductive and that synthetic encounters can serve to reimagine roles and retool mindsets currently hampering mutually beneficial knowledge exchange. This article analyzes a series of Urban Forum events from 2019-21 to extrapolate procedures for overcoming entrenched notions of the practice/academia dynamic; identify criteria for productive knowledge exchange; suggest ways to design transdisciplinary dialogues; and highlight the benefit of involving designerly knowledge and working methods into the transdisciplinary methodology toolbox. 

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Article

The Watershed House: A Water Harvesting Prototype for Vulnerable Communities

by: Dahlia Nduom , Martín Paddack VOLUME 7/2022 - Issue 2 [The Right to Housing], Pages: 381 - 397 published: 2023-01-17

A potential answer to the call for a human right to sustainable and equitable housing, water access, and environmental justice may be found in the wings of a desert beetle. This paper presents a housing prototype integrating various water harvesting strategies and biomimetic solutions derived from the Namib beetle. An exploration of issues at the intersection of water access and equitable housing is presented through a literature review that demonstrates how housing conditions, access, and affordability are linked to a lack of infrastructural services, including water, which has subsequent health implications. The paper reviews both passive and active water harvesting opportunities for architectural integration. The paper concludes with a description of the prototype through a case study addressing the housing and water access needs of colonias communities in Texas, and sheds light on water access and housing affordability challenges, proposing architectural and policy strategies to address these issues. The speculative housing prototype integrates water harvesting solutions using a prefabricated kit of parts approach allowing for flexibility and adaptability across various communities where centralized infrastructure is technically or economically not feasible.  

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