The book The Architecture of Failure (Winchester: Zero Books, 2012) written by Douglas Murphy is a reading of architecture history from Crystal Palace (1851) to our contemporary ‘parametricism’ through a very corrosive filter as the title could suggest. However, what this same title fails to describe is what is being really criticized by D.Murphy between his lines, not so much the architecture that creates a new paradigm by its very existence and narrative, but rather the movement that emerges consecutively to the birth of this new model. The first part of the book is dedicated to the second part of the 19th century’s reign of iron and glass engaged in a technological progressism along the various spectacular World Exhibitions hosted in Europe. He then skip the first part of the 20th century, probably acknowledging the multitude of discourses critical of modernism already existing, and write our contemporary architectural history starting from the 1960s and what he calls ‘solutionism’.
Although critical of the manifesto architecture that the Pompidou Center embodied, he is more waspish towards the movement that followed its creation including one of its architect, Richard Rogers, and his alter-ego, Norman Foster as their own self-caricature that offered a new architectural embodiment for capitalism when it was originally though in opposition of it:
Prairie House – Fibrous strand chunk / Kokkugia | Roland Snooks with Texas A&M
Today is Roland Snooks‘ turn to be a guest writer for the Funambulist as he generously accepted to be part of this series. His essay Fibrous Assemblages and Behavioral Composites articulates the digital research that he has been developing with his office Kokkugia and in the various schools where he taught with an investigation about the technological means to actually fabricate the output of this same research. Athough I remain critical of how the vanguard algorithmic architecture has been translated into a disarticulated mainstream in many schools of the world because of some opportunist followers, I consider that Roland’s discourse can trigger the strong interest of many of the Funambulist’s readers for several reasons.
The first one consists in the simple fact that Kokkugia’s research constitutes one of the most consistent and creative body of work in this domain.; not only it explores the current limits of this experimental field, but it actually gives itself the means to acquire a materiality submitted to the rules of reality. The second one is that what many of us consider mainstream – for having encountered it in a certain academia – remains something inaccessible to many people because of the educational environment they are being trained in. In many schools of the world, such architectural approach are often chosen as an act of resistance against the weight of a rearguard who has been teaching year after year with no interest whatsoever for any form of innovation. Of course, this approach is far from being the only one to embody progress in architectural education and practice, but it undeniably proposes a path to emancipation in the various schools of the world which are not done mourning post-modernism (if not modernism itself) yet. A third reason finally consists in the fact that Roland Snooks has been interested for a long time in the notion of swarm that regularly comes back in this blog’s articles (see a recent one about Rimbaud for example). Three years ago he already answered a small interview (with bad questions from my end) about this research, as did François Roche and Valerie Chatelet. I am therefore very happy to curate and host his essay that immediately follows this introduction (illustrations can be found at the end of the text):
Fibrous Assemblages and Behavioral Composites
by Roland Snooks
Excerpt from Safe Area Goražde by Joe Sacco (2000)
During the Bosnian war (1992-1995), the small city of Goražde was surrounded by territories under the Serbian army’s control and had to organize its daily life in a self-sufficiency that was supplemented by a UN enforced humanitarian corridor. This self-sufficiency includes the power supply that was lacking at a systematic level. Goražde inhabitants had therefore to cope with this status off the grid and individuals and neighbor groups undertook to tinker various machines amongst which those micro hydro power plants strike us for their ingenuity. Both the drawings of Joe Sacco in his documentary graphic novel Safe Area Goražde (see also The Fixer in a previous article), and the photographs taken by Zobrazit during the war constitute rare witnesses of their historical presence on the Drina River.
Whether or not we like Björk‘s music (I personally do a lot !), we are obliged to recognize that she always knows who to work with in order to continuously push the limits of the musical field. The last example of this great sense of collaboration is the conception of new instruments for her album Biophilia, and more specifically the design and realization of what she called Gravity Harps.
In order to achieve those giant musical pendulums, she worked with Andy Cavatorta who designed a what we could call a robotic string bell mixing something as simple as gravity with high technology of sensors and mechanical operators. In an interview for The Creators Project, A.Cavatorta explains:
There are four pendulums, each with a cylindrical harp on the end. As each pendulum swings through its lowest point, a single string on its harp gets plucked. The harp is cylindrical and can rotate, so any one of its eleven strings can be played by facing it to the plucker. There is also an ‘empty’ string position for playing rests.
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.
The New Non Standard is the thesis project of Jonathan Enns at Princeton University‘s Graduate School of Architecture (tutor: Axel Killian) in 2010. This project introduces a workshop building whose structure is composed by trees that have been manipulated by a CNC machine. Rather than idealizing the trees, Jonathan defines the essence of his project on the consideration of various typologies of trees and multiple arborescences to compose the posts’ extremities The rest of the tree is being used as the main components of the posts, rolled into thin layers that uniquely work in compression (see the video at the end of this post.)
This project has been published in the most recent issue of Architectural Design Magazine [AD]
I very recently bought Farshid Moussavi‘s (FOA) very interesting book The Function of Form (edited with Daniel Lopez, Garrick Ambrose, Ben Fortunato, Ryan Ludwig and Ahmadreza Schricker for Actar & Harvard publishers 2009) that establishes an inventory of structures by analyzing historical and contemporaneous case studies categorized as following:
- Grids and Frames
- Folded Plates
- Tensile Membranes
- Pneumatic Membranes
is one of the associate of CTRLZ architectures
we already published here
; he also works for Hugh Dutton Associes
in Paris and take part of the blog Complexitys
related to this office. He recently asked me to answer to a short interview
concerning the relationship between engineering and architecture. The original version in French follows the translated one.
(nb there are four other interviews on Complexitys with people coming from very various backgrounds)
Francesco Cingolani: In your vision, what is the relationship between architecture and engineering?
Léopold Lambert: In order to answer to this question, it is important to define what we understand by engineering. If I define here engineering as the discipline that tend to rationalize, diagrammatize, optimize space so then, in my vision, architecture has to try to evolve to the opposite side of this discipline.
Of course, architects would always have to do concessions to technocracy, however to resist to it -and probably resist it with its own language, its own symbols- seems to me as a important attitude.
The Basento Viaduct
is a bridge built in 1969 in Potenza (Italy) whose structure is assured by a continuous surface that minimize its area while maximizing its structural function.
Its engineer, Sergio Musmeci
thus managed to create a magnificent concrete surface whose aesthetics directly derived from its optimization. The beauty of this bridge also emerges from the experience for people to walk on this surface as a second functional layer. Continue reading
Our friend Daniel Fernandez Pascual
recently published two very interesting articles involving very cheap processes of construction.
The first one
introduces La Havana’s Barbacoas
(unformal mezzanine added illegally to the old colonial buildings of the city) and Andiamos
(scaffolding preventing buildings to collapse), the second ones inviting (or suggesting) the first ones to exist in a beautiful ambiguity of decay and urban appropriation.
It was brought to my attention that in 1997, Thomas Heatherwick
designed a project for King Cross (London) that would have probably been the first fully glass bridge
working exclusively in compression. This nice piece of engineering is interesting in the mechanical system it implies on the two banks (800 tons of pressure on each side). The pressure would have been so important than there was no need for mechanical fixing between the 1334 glass sheets of 12mm thick composing the bridge !
I have no idea if somebody is still working on this idea currently (the renderings are certainly not from 1997 !) but it seemed interesting enough to be spoken of.
Few more pictures of K.Wacshsmann work about structure network that show his amazing skillz to create beautiful structure jonction, I discovered that six month ago thanks to Ed Keller. Wacshsmann as bucky Fuller was comissioned by the US Air Force (plane hangar) to develop some of those structures.
Project by Konrad Wachsmann in the 50′s for an universal structure system which does not use any joint.
Look what Marksor and Delpolo found in Rochechouart (Haute-Vienne / France) ! This church owns one of the hundred crooked spires (Clocher tors in French) in Europe. You can find a complete article on French wikipedia here. There are 66 crooked spires in France and some others in Germany, Austria, Belgium, Switzerland, England and Denmark.
Si vous connaissez quelque peu le Loiret, vous avez peut être aperçu cet ouvrage quelque peu surprenant traverser les champs en ligne droite.
Il s’agit en fait des ruines d’un projet des années 60-70 qui incarnait pourtant à l’époque le summum du futurisme de type “en l’an 2000….” Ce projet est celui de l’aérotrain. Dès 1964, soit trois ans seulement après le dépôt de brevet du coussin d’air, le projet se met en route. En 1969, est construit 18 km de voies près de Orléans et le prototype atteint la vitesse de 420 km/h (pour info bien que le tgv ait récemment atteint la vitesse record de 570km/h, la vitesse normale ne dépasse jamais 320km/h).
Ce projet aurait pu être généralisé mais il est abandonné en 1977 pour diverses raisons allant du lobbying ferroviaire en faveur de ce qui deviendra le TGV, aux conséquences du premier choc pétrolier.
Un certain nombre de linéaire de la ligne d’Orléans fut détruite à l’aide d’une pince assez impressionnante (voir photos et vidéo) mais il subsiste néanmoins plusieurs fractions.
Dernièrement Raphaël Zarca (professeur à l’ESA) et Vincent Lamouroux ont conçu le “pentacycle” qui permet un déplacement dont la lenteur relative chamboule le souvenir de la très grande vitesse du train historique.
Aujourd’hui EDF projette d’y installer des panneaux solaires.
NB: L’aérotrain qui fonctionne sur coussin d’air n’est pas à confondre avec le train à sustentation magnétique allemand, que l’on peut observer à Shanghai sur des rails quelques peu similaires. Ce dernier fonctionne en effet grâce à une répulsion continue provoquée par la même polarité des pôles train et rail
La Carte Dymaxion (DYnamic MAXimum tensION) est une invention de Richard Buckminster Fuller possédant la particularité d’être une carte (en 2D donc) patron du globe terrestre. En gros, les distances mesurées sur celle-ci sont exactes et non déformées. Comme vous le constatez, cette carte est composée de triangles, figure permettant la composition d’une sphère parfaite comme a pu l’illustrer Fuller, nottamment avec le pavillon américain de l’Exposition Universelle de Montréal en 1967.
Ceux qui étaient à la conférence organisée au Palais de Tokyo par Valérie Chatelet, professeur à l’ESA (et accessoirement notre chère directeur de mémoire) et présentée par Antoine Picon et Michael Hays, tous deux professeurs à Harvard, auront eu le plaisir d’en connaître un peu plus sur “Buckie”
Here is a poetical monument to engineering. Brandon Morse creates videos of structures submitted to a series of forces which deforms them and make them collapse for some of them. It makes me think of the softwares that the Pentagon uses in order to simulates destruction of buildings as Eyal Weizman pointed out in his last work: Forensic Architecture. (in this lecture, the targeted buildings were the one in Iraq which were hosting important personalities to assassinate for the US Army.)
see Morse’s work Moving Things
found on PYTR75