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December 27, 2006

Leaving empty space behind

reBlogged via Eyebeam:
(Originally spotted at Kosmograd).
Originally posted by Geoff Manaugh from BLDGBLOG, ReBlogged by Paul Amitai on Dec 26, 2006 at 11:58 AM
 
 
[Image: From At This Rate, by Giles Revell and Matt Wiley].

Logging roads in tropical rainforests expose whole landscapes to disease, fire, drought, longterm human settlement, and uncontrolled future deforestation.
"Every second we lose an area the size of a football pitch," Giles Revell and Matt Wiley write, describing the ecological motivation behind their new photographic series, At This Rate. "Every day we lose an area larger than all five boroughs of New York City... Every year we lose an area three times the size of Sri Lanka."

 
[Image: From At This Rate, by Giles Revell and Matt Wiley].

Revell and Wiley produced At This Rate for a publication by the Rainforest Action Network; the project is "aimed at increasing awareness of the rapid destruction of our rainforests. If this destruction continues, half our remaining rainforests will be gone by 2025 and by 2060 there will be absolutely nothing left."

 
[Images: From At This Rate, by Giles Revell and Matt Wiley].

However, what at first appear to be satellite images of obliterated rainforests are actually lone photographs of disintegrating leaves.
These "resemble maps of cities, emphasising the rate of deforestation," fellow architecture blogger Kosmograd writes.

December 26, 2006

Geography of Nowhere

 


Bruce Sterling writes:

    I never realized that James Howard Kunstler, prophet
    of suburban oil-peak doom, is a painter.  The guy is
    a pretty darn good painter, actually.

Here's a snippet from the interview and some info on his '93 book, Geography of Nowhere:

An Interview with James Howard Kunstler
Bring It On Home

by Mark Givens

James Howard Kunstler has written four books on Urban Design and Suburbia including the ground-breaking "Geography of Nowhere" in 1993. He has also written nine novels, the newest of which is entitled "Maggie Darling" and it's a doozy. He is a passionate author, a painter, an insightful social critic, and a sharp-witted observer. His latest book is called "The Long Emergency" and it talks about life after "peak oil" - or, as he describes it in this interview, "the cheap oil fiesta of the late 20th century". His "Clusterfuck Nation" is loaded with his commentary on our social condition and his "Eyesore of the Month" serves to remind us, with wit and sincerity, of the horrible things we're doing to our surroundings. But most of all, James Howard Kunstler gives voice to the uneasy feelings that bubble up within us, from the discomfort and confusion regarding our current urban environment to the uncertainty regarding our future post-cheap oil.

MungBeing: Your background is not in urban planning or architecture. Where does your passion for urban design come from?

James Howard Kunstler: Well, I've had to live in the shitty environments of daily life here in America for half a century, and I have strong feelings about it. The books I wrote represented to a large extent a personal struggle to understand why we could do such damage to our civilization.

MB: What attracted you to New Urbanism?

JHK: When I was writing "The Geography of Nowhere," I went up a lot of blind alleys. I talked to a lot of people who were, in fact, part of the problem -- for example, "star" architects like Bob Venturi and Denise Scott-Brown, who thought all the suburban crap was wonderful, playful, marvelous. When I finally encountered Andres Duany, I realized I had finally come to the right source. That very year, 1993, Andres along with his wife Lizz Plater-Zyberk, Doug Kelbaugh of the U of Washington, Peter Calthorpe, Stefanos Polyzoides, and a bunch of other dissatisfied architect / urbanists were organizing the official group that came to be called the Congress for the New Urbanism  -- the name was supplied by it's founding director, Peter Katz. These guys knew the score. I had found my way home.

[read on...]

The Geography of Nowhere:
The Rise and Decline of America's Man-Made Landscape (Hardcover)
by James Howard Kunstler
303 pages
Simon & Schuster (June 1993)
ISBN-10: 0671707744
ISBN-13: 978-0671707743

From Library Journal
In this spirited, irreverent critique, Kunstler spares none of the culprits that have conspired in the name of the American Dream to turn the U.S. landscape from a haven of the civic ideal into a nightmare of crass commercial production and consumption.

Kunstler strips the bark off the utopian social engineering promoted by the machine-worshiping Modern movement of Gropius, Le Corbusier, and Frank Lloyd Wright and skewers the intellectual camps (e.g., Venturi) that have thrived on making academic glory of the consumer wasteland.

With the fervor of an investigative reporter and in the vernacular of a tabloid journalist, Kunstler exposes the insidious "car lobby" and gives case studies of landscapes as diverse as Detroit, Atlantic City, and Seaside, Florida, to illustrate both the woes and hopeful notes.

The ideas in this book are not new (Jane Jacobs and William H. Whyte Jr. were bemoaning the loss of civic life a quarter-century ago), but Kunstler gives their case an urgent, popular voice. An eminently relevant and important book; highly recommended.

- Thomas P.R. Nugent, New York
Copyright 1993 Reed Business Information, Inc.

Worldchanging: User's Guide

reblogged via NEWSgrist, 10/26/06:

User's Guide for the 21st Century

Worldxing_1
New Book:
Worldchanging: A User's Guide for the 21st Century
by Alex Steffen, Al Gore (Foreword), Bruce Sterling (Introduction)
Hardcover: 608 pages
Publisher: Harry N. Abrams, Inc. (November 1, 2006) [Link]
ISBN: 0810930951

via Bruce Sterling's Viridian Notes 00477 email:

If you are into cybergreen issues you can't call yourself informed without WORLDCHANGING.  Furthermore, the people involved in this effort are the absolute salt of the earth. They're bright, fluent, capable and they genuinely get it.  They don't merely "get it," they are inventing that which it is necessary to get. These are people you need to know a lot more about.

via Amazon : [links courtesy of ng]

Worldchanging is poised to be the Whole Earth Catalog for this millennium. Written by leading new thinkers who believe that the means for building a better future lie all around us, Worldchanging is packed with the information, resources, reviews, and ideas that give readers the tools they need to make a difference. Brought together by Alex Steffen, co-founder of the popular and award-winning web site Worldchanging.com, this team of top-notch writers includes Cameron Sinclair, founder of Architecture for Humanity, Geekcorps founder Ethan Zuckerman, sustainable food expert Anna Lappé, and many others. Renowned designer Stefan Sagmeister brings his extraordinary talents to Worldchanging, resulting in a book that will challenge readers to personally redefine the conversation about the future.

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