Magnus Larsson‘s Thesis project at the Architectural Association is not so new anymore and probably many of you have seen it a while ago on BLDG BLOG or on Wired. However I don’t remember having seen the TED video on any of those sites and I therefore wanted to publish it here.
With this project, Magnus Larsson attempts to respond to the issue of desertification of Africa and the extension of the Sahara desert by introducing a bacteria on its border that dry the sand into stone. Controlled well enough, this bacteria allow to create a troglodyte city that prevent the desert from spreading any further. One can probably regret the “geometry” of this new sand/stone architecture that gives to phenomenological ambitions what it would have been probably more interesting to dedicate to pragmatism; nevertheless, this project remains very interesting and Larsson’s presentation very clear and concise:
For its thirtieth birthday, the Princeton Architectural Press is re-editing some of its past book including the beautiful OneFiveFour by Lebbeus Woods which was first published in 1989.
This book is actually a collection of eleven projects drawn by L.Woods from 1984 to 1989. However, I feel that it is more interesting to consider the ensemble of drawings and models as one single project which constitutes his vision of a city somehow lost in time, driven by an ambiguous technology that recalls the steampunk of William Gibson and Bruce Sterling (The Difference Engine).
The following text is an amazing excerpt from Woods’ introduction about his project Underground Berlin (see previous article) that creates a metaphorical and romanticized city out of the situation of Berlin in the 80′s:
What is happening in this city is much more than political unification. What is happening is acclimation of people to new conditions of life. Beneath the surface, within the planetary mass of the earth, a new climate of forces exists geomechanical forces that issue from deep within the earth -gravitational electromagnetic, and seismic forces that come to shape the forms and relationships comprising life in the underground city itself.
From the subtly vibrating planetary mass of earth come seismic forces that move the inverted towers and bridges in equally subtle vibrations. The inhabitants of the city feel them, perhaps in a way we would call subliminal because the structures they build are of metal sheets -steel and aluminum and bronze and copper. These living and working places vibrate and resonate in the great civic spaces of the city. Like musical instruments, they vibrate and shift in diverse frequencies, in resonance with the earth and also with one another.
A way of living is in this way formed. The builders of the city have sought political independence by going beneath the earth, under the Wall, subverting the designs of occupying political rivals, and have found something unexpected: a new world, a world of seismic wind and electromagnetic flux, a world of constant and not unpleasant temperatures, but also of continuous change. Their structures, built to connect inversely with the world above, are instruments of this change, measuring both the life of the inanimate planet and the corresponding changes of those living within.
Lebbeus Woods. OneFiveFour. New York: Princeton Architectural Press, 1989.
I just took advantage of a short trip to Boston to accomplish an architectural pilgrimage that led me to visit the Government Service Center, built in 1971 according to a design by the great Paul Rudolph.
This building’s concrete brutalism made it elected “ugliest Boston’s building” which won’t disappoint anybody as architects seem to be always more interested in beautiful ugliness than in ugly beauty. The Government Service Center is a piece of city in itself similarly to the amazing Barbican in London. It proposes piazzas and courtyards above a car park protected by the “body” of the building which allows accesses in a more or less porous way. An accentuation on its labyrinthine scheme could have even led it to acquire the spatial complexity of a third brilliant piece of brutalist architecture, the housing complexes of Ivry sur Seine (Paris) and Givors (Lyon) by Jean Renaudie (see previous articles 1 & 2)…
To go further, see the very rich data bank about Rudolph on the Library of the US Congress’ website
Michael Vlasopoulos, Greek Architect at Harvard recently published on Abitare a very interesting (sci)-fictitious Manifesto for Tokyo’s Nakagin Capsule Tower designed by Kisho Kurokawa and built in 1972. His narrator speaks at the first person and develops an ambiguous praise of his life conditions since he moved in one of the tower’s capsule.
I copy the text here, but it could be read directly on Abitare associated with beautiful decontextualized photos of the cells (by M.Vlasopoulos himself maybe ?) and a ton of hyperlinks:
DAY ZERO I never forget the day I bought my capsule. The money could buy me a Toyota car but, instead of a breeze on the face, in a seat of a sports-car, I decided to claim a stagnant volume of air as my own. I left behind my movable furniture, along with my family’s history ingrained in them. Everything had to fit inside two suitcases; this is the maximum volume of stuff my capsule can handle. Unencumbered by the weight of old lifestyles, I engage in a new one. SLEEP The ascetic kernel of my new home gives me the perfect excuse to live my city as lavishly as I always wanted -with clear conscience. I can now flow freely in the generic space of consumption of the urban outside, having already reserved a point of return. As long as the city sustains my eccentricities, my desires, my food habits and my plastic impulses, my house constitutes a purgatory for my sleep. Sleep has become a secular version of confession, an act of neurological purification of memory in a mass consumption culture. Oblong, because it is designed for the horizontal of the lying body, the capsule is endowed with a white plastic rigidity. During the unconscious faze of sleep, the bed is the only tool we keep wrapped around or attached to our dormant bodies. It can always be seen as a cave, a suit or a cryogenic shelter for the sleeping body. It is the only stasis a nomad can afford. Inside the capsule I become whole again, another complete cyborg; it’s the same kind of disciplined comfort that I find in my suit and tie. Outside, I’m another nude animal.
Five years after the beginning of the construction, the new beautiful public space in Seville, Metropol Parasol designed by Jurgen Mayer is almost finished and will be celebrated this Sunday.
It’s interesting to observe that, although this rib-design is now seen everywhere from students projects to competitions via industrial design, this building is, as far as I know, the first one to reach this scale with this technique that consists in simulating a smooth volumes with perpendicular two dimensional extrusions.
See more pictures on archdaily.
Francois Roche was recently invited to give an exhibition and a lecture at Sci-Arc about R&Sie(n)‘s work, starting on April 6th. However he just canceled both of them and made public the reasons in an open letter which text is the following:
I have no other way than to cancel the Sci-Arc exhibition in the Gallery (scheduled in May 25) and the lecture (scheduled the April 6-2011)
The gap of point of view, and the lack of interest for politics and attitude, reducing the architecture process to a unique design agenda cannot fit with our scenario of production and scenario of speeches.
Our works and attitudes are toxic, animal, dangerous, regressive, politic and computational.
Architecture is mainly an affair of resistance and self-defense, against hypocrisies and “in”voluntary servitude, to quote La Boetie. It cannot be reduced to a design goal, exclusively dedicated and trapped by tooling. I disagree on the way the knowledge is framed by and for predictable professional, without any potential to corrupt and desalienate through educational procedures the “coming out” of neoplagiarism and neocopism, which remind me the Beaux Art symptom and syndrome. I ‘m French and know perfectly the stickiness of this sliperring addiction.
I just want to precise that this voluntary abandon, cannot be understood as a “tantrum or capriccio” against the Sci-arc students pool, but it is at the level of Sci-Arc staff arrogances and ignorances, which seems to shrink architecture purpose to a simple affair of design agenda.
F Roche /
PS Speaking and writing are done, here, in my Frenchglish dialect / I let you the opportunity to translate it in the Shakespeare “mayonnaise”.
Beside the pleasure I can have that my favorite architect is tackling one of my less favorite, Eric Owen Moss (see the article I wrote a bit more than one year ago about his abject aesthetization of the US/Mexico border), I think that it is rare enough to observe an ideological debate within the education system to look a little bit closer to the problem.
Every (rare) times I am in front of one of Hieronymus Bosch‘s paintings (in Belgium, at the New York MET or at the Barnes’ Foundation in Philadelphia), I can spend an hour trying to discern the multitude of details that compose his fantastic narratives.
In this spirit, I would like to propose here a non exhaustive series of details extracted from Bosch’s two most famous tryptichs: The Temptation of Saint Anthony and The Garden of Earthly Delights.
The paintings in high definition are “manually” explorable after each series (it might take a bit of time to load though):
picture: Four Birds Mixed media on paper (Catheryn Austen)
The following essay comes from the website Fractal Ontology created by Joseph Weissman and Taylor Adkins which attempt to develop a multi-disciplinary discourse based on philosophy, psychoanalysis and science. This text, Warning, Hive Meltdown Imminent compares the work of Michel Serres, Gilles Deleuze and Reza Negarestani (even before Cyclonopedia was published)around the notions of Noise, Pestilence and Darkness:
Openness only comes in the imperceptible recesses of infection: A faceless love. (Reza Negarestani)
Michel Serres never fails to remind us of something simple and indispensable. It is that all relationships are founded upon noise. In the beginning, there is noise, not silence. Even the simplest words arrive much later; and, at any rate, our words are still noise. The din and clamor of the many is sometimes frightful; and Serres’ work can be singularly terrifying. But Serres’ reminder is highly rational, even a joyful reconsecration of science.
I invite every French speaker to listen to the recent interview of French architect Patrick Bouchain by Philippe Simay on Metropolitiques.
Bouchain is not so internationally famous but he is one of the most interesting architect I know. He worked for two decades in the shadow of other artists such as Daniel Buren, Claes Oldenburg or Bartabas (a famous horse trainer in France), worked with film directors and even the Minister of Culture, Jack Lang during Francois Mitterand’s second mandate as President. He has been designing and building architecture for more than twenty years now, without being registered to the Architects Order and claims for a status of architect/developer (which is forbidden in France).
His main thesis is to involve as many people in the process of building architecture. One could associate this ideal with the 60′s experiments of people choosing on a little model where the walls of their apartment would stand, but Bouchain’s creative process is much more interesting than that. With him, architects, clients, workers and citizens are all involved in the building process (His office’s name is Construire which is the French verb for Building). Two very simple applications of such a will is the visit of construction sites by primary schools and the set up of a restaurant on site for both workers and neighbors to exchange.
In the third video (see below), Bouchain questions in a quasi-philosophical (he is also a very good friend of the Philosopher Michel Onfray) way the Civil Code about how is defined property. Using a deep knowledge of the Law in order to create a more democratic architecture makes me instantly recall Santiago Cirugeda in Seville (see previous article).
I feel sorry that neither this interview nor the book Construire Autrement (Building Differently) has been translated in English as many readers would probably appreciate a lot Bouchain’s propositions for a more immanental and hedonist architecture.
Article by Michel Onfray in Construire Autrement that I translated in October 2008.
Articles about EXYZT, Bouchain’s young proteges that I’ve been publishing regularly on this blog: 01, 02 and 03
Article in English on Spatial Agency
Videos of the interview after the break.
For those of you who would like to help the Japanese evacuees from the disaster they just experienced and who would like to donate for a project more specific than the Red Cross or the Unicef, you can visit Shigeru Ban‘s office’s website who organizes partitions kits to set up in the big gyms and other rooms where hundreds of people have to share a shelter after they loose their homes.
Here is the link towards this project’s page.
I recently published the post-professional thesis project of my good friend Martin Byrne, Feral Garage. This beautiful Ballardian architectural project is actually associated with a short story written by Martin as a parallel medium to describe the narrative of a building which, by a dysfunction of its technological system develops a feral condition that the narrator of this story experiences.
As I wrote in this previous post, the project that applies the conclusions of his research starts from the observation of IBM recent advertising for “a smarter planet”, full of sensors and interactivity. One understands easily how IBM can be economically interested to propose such a vision of the world and also how the various institutions can see in this program a new way to control a bit more society. Martin’s building is thus a garage and a server tower in Mid-Town Manhattan (in front of the Apple store from all places !), that dialogues with each other. Both have been designed for IBM and the server tower remains a pristine universe but the over-magnetic charge of the sensors in the garage building made the latter go back to a feral state, in which unexpected forms of life starts to develop. Humans are then invited to negotiate with their own fear to enter this building that developed its own form of uncontrol.
(He does not have a publisher so if somebody want to talk to him about that, I’d be happy to transmit the message !)
UNTITLED NARRATIVE # 002
by Martin Byrne
April is the cruelest month.
Sitting rigidly at the far end of the thick clear plastic conference table – enameled and embossed with desaturated flickering figures, charts, and graphs – nervous little Eli Warring was sweating under the weight of the expectations recently laid upon him. Only six weeks a freshman at the firm, he had yet to witness such a large and encompassing responsibility delegated to someone as unsullied as himself, regardless of the sufficiency of the intellect within. Wiping the moisture from his palms onto his Bergdorf-patterned knees, he tried not to look at the flexing, intelligent walls streaming with data like rivulets of pixilated water – wary that they may register some sense of the fear he was attempting so desperately to hide. Continue reading
I have always been annoyed by Tadao Ando‘s self seriousness which always pushes him to develop only an architecture of solemnity, reserved to the gods rather than the humans. HOWEVER, I just discovered (it was about time probably !) the library he designed for the Shiba Ryotaro Memorial Museum in Osaka (2001) and I was very much seduced by it, so much that it made me forget any kind of grief I used to have against him !
Too many architects, when designing a library, accomplish beautiful works (I am thinking of Toyo Ito’s Tama Art University Library or Louis Kahn’s Phillips Exeter Academy Library) but tend to forget to include the books are essential generator of their architecture. On the contrary with Ando here, the shelves compose a magnificent vertical wall and each book require an important effort to access, as if they needed to be deserved in order to be read.
This very short TED lecture (TED’s format is only 20 min) allows the musician David Byrne to establish a filiation between music and architecture. In an assumed provocative way, he claims that architecture creates music and not the other way around:
As his career grew, David Byrne went from playing CBGB to Carnegie Hall. He asks: Does the venue make the music? From outdoor drumming to Wagnerian operas to arena rock, he explores how context has pushed musical innovation. (TED)
Two very interesting symposiums are coming up respectively at Columbia University and Yale School of Architecture.
Registrations are open for the very expected Permanent Change Symposium about Plastics in Architecture and Engineering at Columbia. Guest speakers include Francois Roche, Greg Lynn, Hernan Diaz Alonso, Mark Goulthorpe, Beatriz Colomina, Mark Wigley etc. Those very interesting lectures will occur between March 30th and April 1st.
A week earlier, Yale is organizing a symposium entitled Fugitive Geographies that has for ambition to consider the built environment envisioned by a fugitive as both accomplice and obstacle. The schedule allows to consider the various lectures that will occur within this frame. As examples I can distinguish the lecture Fugitive Ontology: Alain Badiou’s ‘Excrescent’ Situation by Becky Vartabedian or The Walls of the War Prison, Reconsidered: Enclosure, Control, and U.S. Military Detention by Richard Nisa.
Never Let Me Go is a 2010 film directed by Mark Romanek and adapted from the novel by Kazuo Ishiguro.
It appears to me that there are two types of good science fiction movies. Those which visually invents a world either speculative or metaphorical which strike us for its inventivity; and the others that do not allow any kind of special effects, and introduce a plot within our world which thus moves us for the proximity of this depicted society. Never Let Me Go is part of this last category, probably the hardest and mastered, in my opinion, by Fahrenheit 451, the Francois Truffaut’s adaptation of Ray Bradbury’s novel of the same name.
The film starts in the 1970′s in a country school boarding school separated from the world. Classes and the general atmosphere is similar to what we know of boarding schools at this time, except that we very quickly understand that all those children do not have parents and are destined to become organ donors until they complete (die) after a certain amount of donations. The story thus follows three of those children in their youth, experiencing love and friendship just like any other human being.
The others are actually very rarely present in this movie, and one could see in this fact, the lost of humanity in those who created, in order to serve them, un-humans who end up being the only representatives of humanity. This film illustrates the institutionalization of the production of exclusion in which Michel Foucault was eminently interested and that he investigated in several of his books like The Birth of the Clinic in 1963 and The History of Sexuality in 1976. In this case, the exclusion is even more vicious as it is re-included within the system in an absolute scheme of exploitation from one category to another. It is interesting to see that this same exploitation is integrated and accepted thanks to a shift of terminology. Those donors do not die, they complete and they are said to donate their organs as if they actually chose it. Of course, the fact that this society does not necessarily implies a new architecture seems to be less interesting for architects; however this shift of terminology interests us as citizen as this occur on a daily basis in our current society; also one should be careful about the way architecture is dealt with in this film. It is very subtle but the heterotopic Victorian Boarding School to the austere (yet really intriguing I have to say) post-modern concrete hospital via the typical English coastal houses reproduced several time along the street, without being inherently linked to this specific system, carry very appropriately the dehumanized space of this society .
Back to the classics, the Living Pod is an inventive project by David Greene in 1966 for Archigram. This nomadic dwelling has the characteristics of being represented by a lot of amazing documents produced by Greene in the 60′s. One has to reconsidered that in the context of a very strongly framed Academic milieu (Architecture was still taught in the Beaux Arts in France for example), Archigram’s work was perceived as truly revolutionary.
Paradigms: Trailer homes, ‘Prefabs’, etc. Development: The ‘house’ is regarded here as consisting of two major components: a living-pod and attached machines.
Part One, a Pod … Colour, bonded white. Twelve support nodes (six tension, six compression). Four apertures (25 per cent surface). one access aperture, all with vacuum fixing seals, inner bonded sandwich of insulation and /or finish. Multi-purpose inflating floor 45 per cent area.
Part Two: Machinery, four automatic self-levelling compression legs for maximum 5 feet of water or 40-degree slope. Two transparent sectionalised sliding aperture seals with motors. Transparent entry seal with ramp and hydraulics. Two wash capsules with electrostatic disposal, air entry, and total automatic body cleaning equipment. One only with total body water immersion possibility. Two rotating silos for disposable toilet and clothing objects, etc. Vertical body hoist. Climate machinery for temperate zone (with connections to inflating sleep mats and warm section of inflating floor). Non-static food dispenser with self-cook modifications. Non-static media, teach and work machine with instant transparent cocoon ring. Inflating screens to sleep mats.
The Urban Borders Competition I was evoking in my last post, is indeed one of the rare competitions that rewards the most interesting projects. Here is the second prize, Bauci Outlet Mall City designed by Leonardo Zuccaro Marchi and that stands almost more in its very evocative text than its small amount of pictorial documents. This Italian architect proposes in fact a narrative in which Rem Koolhaas and Elia Zenghelis’ Exodus has been indeed built in London and so has been Superstudio’s Continuous Monument in New York. His project is a reinterpretation of this megastructure in order to allow a Venice rebirth as a second level of Manhattan and to name it Bauci as an homage to Calvino’s Invisible Cities (which are all a poetical vision of Venice).
This idea recalls a bit a project I have been publishing a long time ago, the beautiful Manhattan Oneicritica by Frederic Hellberg.
The following text is a fictitious New York Times’ article from 2035 written by Leonardo Zuccaro Marchi:
The New York Times, Tuesday February 8, 2035 «2035…finally our Generation lost. Sustainability was considered a joke and now we have no more opportunities to live as our Fathers did. No more Fresh air, no more sane food….Cities sunk and the Solar light has become dangerous instead than helpful. Traditionalism, the loss of trust on progress, finally has become the most powerful Religion in XXI Century Architecture, a dangerous religion for our souls which have turned our contemporary cities in a old William Blake tale. Thus in Berlin the Smithsons Hauptstadt has been totally destroyed, in London the built Exodus of R. Koolhaas has become a platform for single houses farms, Tange Tokyo Bay and Kurokawa Helix City have been transformed in small Italian style towns,….
Demotown is the winner project of the Urban Borders competition by Think Space (Zagreb Society of Architects)(check out also my friends Kyriakos Kyriakou and Sofia Krimizi’s project that reached the third place) . This very beautiful vision of a feral Detroit that recalls another friend’s project by Martin Byrne, has been created by Jesse Honsa & Gregory Mahoney. Demotown introduces an hybridization of the city of Detroit by nature and human occupation in which each program is organized in strata.
Here is their text related to the project:
Utopian megaprojects of the 20th century, from Le Corbusier’s Ville Radieuse to Paulo Soleri’s Linear City, are too often negated by their megalomaniacal, individualistic plan for the future. With the tabula rasa as their method for organization, such projects lack the contradictory, contextual, democratic, “organic” process of city building. Contextual, yet admittedly still megalomaniacal, this project uses the city of Detroit as a found object (rather than a blank canvas), forming the basis for a retroactive arcology that redefines urban density and circulation.
Good news for the non New Yorkers or people could not be at Parsons this Friday for the first Cyclonopedia Symposium, Leper Creativity (see the previous article I write about it with the links about Cyclonopedia on the Funambulist) organized by Ed Keller with Nicola Masciandaro and Eugene Thacker around the amazing book by Iranian Philosopher Reza Negarestani, there will be an online streaming live and (probably archived) on the following link.
Evolo just released the winners of the 2011 Competition and as often the interesting projects are more to be searched in the Honorable Mentions (and I know some more that did not even made to this step and that’s a shame) as I would like to illustrate here. I also would like to add that making people pay 65$ to participate in a digital competition is simply outrageous and should really be reconsidered at every levels.
Three projects of those mentions are extremely interesting:
- Coastscraper by Gary Kellett (UK) introduces a gigantic and fantastic machine that scrapes the English cliffs, using the chalk to fight against the acidification of the oceans. The level of details of his project and the beauty of his drawings makes it one of the very best project I have seen for this competition for the last six years.
- Iceberg Autonomy: Oil Recovery by Akram Fahmi (UK) proposes a symilar narrative by designing a gigantic vessel that accumulates huge quantity of ice in the poles and releases its minerals in the warm waters to stimulate the marine life (nothing is said about the sea levels though).
- Fish Tower by Hsing-O Chiang (Taiwan) presents a modernist tower skeleton hosting several enormous aquariums used for aquaculture. The dialogue between the two architectural languages and the beauty of his sections makes it a very beautiful and interesting project.