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December 26, 2006

Architectural Sci-Fi

reblogged via BLGD BLOG, Thursday, December 21, 2006:

Architectural Sci-Fi

 
[Image: Steve Pike].

I picked up a few books yesterday at Hennessey + Ingalls, including a collection of student work from Unit 20 of the increasingly exciting Bartlett School of Architecture in London. The book is edited by Marcos Cruz and Salvador Pérez Arroyo, and its projects date from 1999-2002.
It's also amazingly interesting.
I can't find any links to it online, however, so I'll just give you a random walk-through of the book's contents...

 
[Image: James Foster].

There's James Foster's "Inhabitable Growthscape," a "series of incubators" which he constructed from vacuum-formed perspex and electronic circuitry; the system's larger architectural applications are pictured above: it's part boatyard, part aeroponic farm for the cultivation of "disease free cloned plants."
There's then a ten-page spread by Kevin Chu illustrating the industrial use of "clustering robots." Chu describes a colony of "mining robots breeding on a lake in Helsinki," as well as a cluster of similar robots "forming a silicon mining factory in Tenerife." These are "small-scale insect-like robots which form a tactile and transformable surface," although "the overall form alters according to the relocation of individual entities." In other words, it's an Artificially Intelligent swarm of robots transforming the surface of the earth into a quarry...
In fact, if I can interject something here, the book is a little preoccupied with insect shapes and machinery – to the point of looking like a deleted scene from Minority Report 2 – so I will say that architectural studios should be wary of turning themselves into machine-development classes; but that's a minor complaint, and a larger discussion.

 
[Image: Lisa Silver].

We then turn to RIBA Award-winner Lisa Silver, whose architecture consists of "alien objects... fused, subverted and juxtaposed to form a unified whole."
Specifically, Silver presents a space defined by "surfaces and meshes of varied transparency," made from roof suspension systems and ramps. The result is a bricolage of car chassis and old farm implements, assembled on the banks of the Mississippi River.

 
[Image: Lisa Silver].

Tom Foster, then, proposes a "swarm of hyper crystallisation submersible robots" that will spend an entire winter underwater in the Gulf of Helsinki, "artificially enhancing the ice sheet from underneath." This – referred to as "ice periphery management" – is done in the service of an "ice suburb" that "will exist [out on the ice] for 5 months of each year." The ice sheet can be strengthened with "coolant filled reinforcement bars," and the ice suburb will generate its own energy "from high winter winds and sea/ice movements."
So you've got an entire sci-fi trilogy, economically compressed into a few renderings and photo captions.

 
[Image: Annika Schollin].

Returning to land, Annika Schollin writes about urban decay, abandoned buildings, and the formation of "micro-jungles within the urban structure."
Concentrating specifically on London's Brick Lane, Schollin describes how the unmaintained city is soon "reeking of rot and humidity." Her project is a way of "[c]elebrating decay," she explains, "as the organic inhabitants of the site begin to take over, weaving through, ambivalently undermining and reinforcing the built structure." The actual architectural proposal appears to involve constructing a kind of permanent exoskeleton around the ruined markets of Brick Lane, complete with "water dispensing ducts" and a "hydro percolating roof."
So – almost literally to repeat myself – architectural design becomes more and more like science fiction.

 
[Image: Annika Schollin].

Other projects have a distinctly biological theme – including open bacteriological collaboration with the microbiology lab at University College London. Steve Pike, for instance, outlines an "algaetecture" of blown glass and high transparency acrylic. Inspired by the industrial manufacture of car windshields, these glass structures look simultaneously deformed, alchemic, and bio-anatomical.

 
[Images: Steve Pike's "vitreous occupational chambers" and "monitor vessel support infrastructure"].

Pike explains how he built glass Interaction Vessels, Monitor Vessels, and Transformer Vessels, studying so-called algaetectural "parallels to human occupation." He has an essay later in the book about contamination, the London Underground, and "non-sterile environments," in which he proposes a catchment mechanism for airborne particles (the illustrations of which look like a scene from Alphaville).
I could go on and on here. I just think the ideas are great (excuse the enthusiasm, if this isn't your thing).
For instance, there's a project by Mark Mueckenheim called "London Urban Farming." Mueckhenheim points out that the decline of farmland throughout the EU will necessitate "bring[ing] farming into the urban fabric." He thus proposes a food processing plant "with a fish hatchery attached to its façade."

 
[Image: One of Mark Mueckenheim's urban farms; again, note the insectile nature of student work produced for this unit].

The rest of the book confronts us with acoustic wind membranes; the city of Chicago as a kind of machine made out of retractable bridges; health clinics and sports research institutes; a hydroponic farm, by Stephen Clements, apparently modeled after the human nervous system; and even a Finnish fish farm, by Natalia Traverso Caruana, where "research labs and fish nets creat[e] a new luminous landscape" in the sea.

 
[Image: Natalia Traverso Caruana's cultural HQ for Texaco].

Caruana's next project is a "cultural branch" for the headquarters of Texaco – it's magnificently colored and practically leaps off the page.
There are strange photographic labs, and elevators that appear to analyze their passengers' DNA. There's even a plastic surgery lounge, or "Body Transformation" complex, proposed for Heathrow Airport, by Jia Lu (something tells me this will actually be constructed). Andy Shaw jumps in at the very end of the book with some robotic machine-space studies for "technical appliances based on the work of Eduardo Paolozzi."
Etc. etc. etc.
In other words, I like the book. Unfortunately, it doesn't appear to exist anywhere online, so you'll just have to take my word for it – or you can visit the Bartlett's various Unit 20 homepages.
Finally, my larger point in citing and describing so many of these projects is to demonstrate, in perhaps exhaustive detail, that some of today's most imaginative artistic, technological, and even literary work is being produced in architectural studios. Whether you like their projects or not, in other words, architecture students are out-thinking, out-structuring, and out-performing novelists, hands down.
It is now architecture that lets us rethink the world anew.
by Geoff Manaugh • permalink

July 27, 2006

Global Warming: Scientist Sets Record Straight

 

Image: Michael Kupperman

via NYTimes:
Op-Ed Contributor
Cold, Hard Facts
By PETER DORAN
Published: July 27, 2006

Chicago
IN the debate on global warming, the data on the climate of Antarctica has been distorted, at different times, by both sides. As a polar researcher caught in the middle, I’d like to set the record straight.

In January 2002, a research paper about Antarctic temperatures, of which I was the lead author, appeared in the journal Nature. At the time, the Antarctic Peninsula was warming, and many people assumed that meant the climate on the entire continent was heating up, as the Arctic was. But the Antarctic Peninsula represents only about 15 percent of the continent’s land mass, so it could not tell the whole story of Antarctic climate. Our paper made the continental picture more clear.

My research colleagues and I found that from 1996 to 2000, one small, ice-free area of the Antarctic mainland had actually cooled. Our report also analyzed temperatures for the mainland in such a way as to remove the influence of the peninsula warming and found that, from 1966 to 2000, more of the continent had cooled than had warmed. Our summary statement pointed out how the cooling trend posed challenges to models of Antarctic climate and ecosystem change.

Newspaper and television reports focused on this part of the paper. And many news and opinion writers linked our study with another bit of polar research published that month, in Science, showing that part of Antarctica’s ice sheet had been thickening — and erroneously concluded that the earth was not warming at all. “Scientific findings run counter to theory of global warming,” said a headline on an editorial in The San Diego Union-Tribune. One conservative commentator wrote, “It’s ironic that two studies suggesting that a new Ice Age may be under way may end the global warming debate.”

In a rebuttal in The Providence Journal, in Rhode Island, the lead author of the Science paper and I explained that our studies offered no evidence that the earth was cooling. But the misinterpretation had already become legend, and in the four and half years since, it has only grown.

Our results have been misused as “evidence” against global warming by Michael Crichton in his novel “State of Fear” and by Ann Coulter in her latest book, “Godless: The Church of Liberalism.” Search my name on the Web, and you will find pages of links to everything from climate discussion groups to Senate policy committee documents — all citing my 2002 study as reason to doubt that the earth is warming. One recent Web column even put words in my mouth. I have never said that “the unexpected colder climate in Antarctica may possibly be signaling a lessening of the current global warming cycle.” I have never thought such a thing either.

Our study did find that 58 percent of Antarctica cooled from 1966 to 2000. But during that period, the rest of the continent was warming. And climate models created since our paper was published have suggested a link between the lack of significant warming in Antarctica and the ozone hole over that continent. These models, conspicuously missing from the warming-skeptic literature, suggest that as the ozone hole heals — thanks to worldwide bans on ozone-destroying chemicals — all of Antarctica is likely to warm with the rest of the planet. An inconvenient truth?

Also missing from the skeptics’ arguments is the debate over our conclusions. Another group of researchers who took a different approach found no clear cooling trend in Antarctica. We still stand by our results for the period we analyzed, but unbiased reporting would acknowledge differences of scientific opinion.

The disappointing thing is that we are even debating the direction of climate change on this globally important continent. And it may not end until we have more weather stations on Antarctica and longer-term data that demonstrate a clear trend.

In the meantime, I would like to remove my name from the list of scientists who dispute global warming. I know my coauthors would as well.

Peter Doran is an associate professor of earth and environmental sciences at the University of Illinois at Chicago.

May 17, 2006

Reclaiming the Land @ the Vera List Center

 

Panel Discussion
Reclaiming the Land: Conversations on Collaboration

Wednesday, May 24, 2006, 6:30 PM
The New School, Theresa Lang Community and Student Center
55 West 13th Street, New York City

Admission: $10; free for New School students and alumni with ID 

Acknowledging the conditions arising from harmful past land uses and evolving methods to address them, landscape architects, artists, scientists, educators, engineers, lawyers and civic leaders have embarked on efforts to reclaim and reuse polluted lands. This conversation will address such topics as toxic pollution, waste disposal, reclamation design, public lands and urban renewal, looking at the potential for innovative collaborations that engage in contemporary land patterns and processes.
    
Participants
Alan Berger, Associate Professor, Harvard Graduate School of Design; author of "Reclaiming the American West"

Chris Reed, Stoss Landscape Urbanism, Boston

Mierle Laderman Ukeles, Percent for Art-Artist of Fresh Kills, New York City, and Artist-in-Residence, NYC Department of Sanitation

Moderated by Niall Kirkwood, Professor and Chair, Department of Landscape Architecture, Director, Center for Technology and Environment, Harvard Graduate School of Design

This event is part of the Vera List Center's year-long theme "Considering Forgiveness."

TICKETS:  Reservations can be made by email to: boxoffice@newschool.edu.  Tickets can be ordered by phone with a credit card (212) 229-5488; in person at The New School Box Office, 66 West 12th Street, main floor, Monday-Thursday 1-8 p.m., Friday 1-7 p.m.

INFORMATION: 212.229.5353, specialprograms@newschool.edu www.generalstudies.newschool.edu/specialprogram

 

April 07, 2006

Freeman Dyson, the heretic's heretic

 

Bruce Sterling writes in one of his recent Viridian Notes

One of the weirdest things Freeman Dyson ever wrote,
among a mighty stock of very weird things:
http://www.technologyreview.com/articles/05/03/issue/magaphone.asp
(((Freeman Dyson is the heretic's heretic and the
visionary's visionary.  In this speech, Dyson opines
that climate science is too reliant on brittle
computer models and isn't paying enough attention to
the facts on the ground:  that the warming is indeed
very real, but simply not as threatening to us as
certain other challenges our civilization faces.
I really hope this old gentleman is right.  I've seen
him be right before.  When I'm as old as Freeman Dyson
 is now, and I somehow find myself putting my stocking
feet up during balmy winter nights when everything else
is just peachy, man, that prospect will be grand.
I won't be  one bit embarrassed or ashamed that I
howled about a wolf that time revealed to be a small,
friendly pup.  I'll just apologize at equal length
and volume to anyone who will listen. I'll be really
grateful to have been that mistaken.)))