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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

April 07, 2006

Perpetual (Tropical) Sunshine and other projects

 

Christophe Guignard is an architect based in Switzerland. He created fabric | ch, an electronic architecture studio, along with Patrick Keller (architect), Christian Babski (computer engineer) and Stéphane Carion (telecomengineer). Here are some projects that demonstrate their approach to weather and contemporary architecture:

Perpetual (Tropical) Sunshine, 2005 - http://www.fabric.ch/pts
Composed of 300 infrared light bulbs, Perpetual (Tropical) SUNSHINE transposes the state and image of a summer sun on the 23rd South parallel, thanks to live information transmitted by a network of weather stations all over the Tropic of Capricorn and around the globe. Standing in this space built on dimensional handling, out of sync both temporally and climactically, the spectator can constantly experience an abstract and never-ending, planetary form of day and of summer.

RealRoom(s), 2005 - http://realrooms.fabric.ch
RealRoom(s) is an experimental architectural project for the Nestlé World Headquarters in Vevey (Switzerland). This project proposes to insert a series of spatial entities into the air conditioned spaces of the building: The RealRoom(s). These RealRoom(s), informed by atomic clocks, luminosity, heat, pressure and humidity sensors, are distributed in a regular framework across a space representing the entire globe (one RealRoom per time zone, on 0°, +/-30°, +/-60° and +/-90° latitude). They recreate, in an artificial but perceptible way, a kind of global "terrestrial spatiality". spatiality".

i-weather, 2001 - http://www.i-weather.org
i-weather is the first artificial climate which aims is to satisfy the metabolic and physiological requirements of a human being in an environment completely removed from all earthly influences. i-weatheracts as a kind of personalized artificial sun, oscillating over a 25-hour period between a maximum light intensity of 509 nm and a minimum intensity close to that of ultra-violet. In collaboration with Rahm & Décosterd, architects

February 12, 2006

Beyond Green: Toward a Sustainable Art

Allora & Cadzilla
Under Discussion, 2004-05 (detail)
Single channel video projection with sound

Beyond Green: Toward a Sustainable Art
A traveling exhibition co-oraganized by the Smart Museum of Art, University of Chicago and iCI, New York. Curated by Stephaine Smith

On view:
February 2 – May 7, 2006
Museum of Arts & Design
40 West 53rd Street
between Fifth and Sixth Avenues
New York City

http://www.madmuseum.org
http://www.ici-exhibitions.org
http://www.smartmuseum.uchicago.edu

Sustainable design has the potential to transform everyday life through an approach that balances environmental, social, and aesthetic concerns. Beyond Green: Toward a Sustainable Art is a traveling exhibition that examines some of the ways in which contemporary artists are exploring a socially and environmentally conscientious – in other words, sustainable – way of living and working. This emerging strategy emphasizes the responsible and equitable use of resources and links environmental and social justice. By doing so, it moves past a prior generation of more narrowly eco-centered or ‘green’ approaches to architecture and industrial design. Enacted around the world in large and small ways by architects and designers, as well as, a growing numbers of activists, corporations, policymakers, Beyond Green ventures into the fertile new zone of sustainability in the arena of contemporary art.

Beyond Green, curated by Stephanie Smith of the Smart Museum of Art, explores the ways in which sustainable design resonates in the work of an emerging generation of international artists hailing from cities in the United States and Europe, including Brooklyn, Chicago, San Francisco, Copenhagen, London, San Juan, and Vienna. The exhibition’s thirteen artists and artists’ groups combine a fresh aesthetic sensibility with a constructively critical approach to the production, dissemination, and display of art. They embed environmental concerns within larger ethical and aesthetic explorations, building paths to new forms of practice that go beyond green.

Artists in the exhibition
Allora & Calzadilla
Free Soil (Amy Franceschini, Myriel Milicevic, Nis Rømer)
JAM (Jane Palmer and Marianne Fairbanks)
Learning Group (Brett Bloom, Julio Castro, Rikke Luther, and Cecelia Wendt)
Brennan McGaffey with Temporary Services (Brett Bloom, Salem Collo-Julin, Marc Fischer)
Nils Norman
People Powered
Dan Peterman
Marjetica Potrc
Michael Rakowitz
Frances Whitehead
WochenKlausur
Andrea Zittel 

Itinerary

February 08, 2006

The Snow Show 2006

 

(left) Jaume Plensa and Foster and Partners, ‘Where are you?’,Courtesy of Fung Collaboratives and ALBION PROJECTS
(right)Yoko Ono and Arata Isozak ‘Penal Colony’, Courtesy of Fung Collaboratives and ALBION PROJECTS

       

THE SNOW SHOW 2006
03 February - 19 March 2006.
Sestriere, Turin


via e-flux:

The Snow Show 2006, the third to be curated by Lance Fung, will be presented prior to the opening of the XX Winter Olympic Games in Turin in February 2006. The event will bring together six new collaborative examples of snow-built cutting-edge contemporary art and architecture. The teamed participants include Kiki Smith and Lebbeus Woods, Yoko Ono and Arata Isozaki, Carsten Höller and Williams & Tsien, Daniel Buren and Patrick Bouchain, Paola Pivi and Cliostraat, Jaume Plensa and Norman Foster.

Sestriere, in the Italian alps, has a unique topography that will allow the six new projects to take advantage of the varied settings, providing different levels for vantage and entrance points for each of the projects. As the event coincides with the Winter Olympics, the participants have taken into account the implications of sport and incorporated it into their design, bringing architecture and contemporary art to an international and mainstream audience of millions.

For full information on The Snow Show 2006 please have a look on the website, http://www.thesnowshow.com

 

 

From the Curatorial Statement (Lance Fung, Chief Curator of The Snow Show, ca. 2002): 

Throughout human history, shelters and constructed environments have been key manifestations of civilization. The act of making places for ritual use is the earliest form of the human need for expression. Whether natural or manufactured, shelters were transformed into architecture through purposeful use and demarking them as special (and sometimes sacred) places. As time passed, inhabitants accentuated their dwellings through various forms of marking for story-telling purposes, which later evolved into a form of narrative decoration. On every continent human ritual has spawned acts of architecture and art. As society developed, human activity diverged and specialized. For art and architecture this created a rift between fields that share common roots. The condition in the twenty-first century shows our society is becoming increasingly complex-and hence problems can no longer be easily separated and resolved through a single discipline.

The Snow Show provides a unique opportunity to reexamine the ritual spirit, through the collaboration between the worlds of art and architecture. This method of working illustrates the interconnected origin, knowledge and the character of problem solving in these adjacent fields. The Snow Show will be a first-of-a-kind exhibition of artist/architect collaboration that is realized on a significant scale, consisting of thirty structures made of natural materials. A ritual is formed between paired artists and architects that will be manifested in snow and ice. By replacing materials that are both familiar and permanent with ones that are freshly unusual and ephemeral, the curators hope to neutralize initial fixity of ideas. This partnership of artists and architects in a unique setting will encourage a freeing flow of communication that allows an overlap in their individual interests and expertise. Practitioners of both disciplines will utilize their critical approaches to determine standards of quality, and illustrate their ability to work together in creating works that are both intellectually challenging and beautiful (as are the most successful works of public art or architecture).

The pivotal power of The Snow Show is that it's a laboratory for the collaboration as a productive direction for the visual and practical arts. Since September 11th, the arts community has confronted the question: Where is the new art, and how do recent events affect the arts? The curators of The Snow Show respond with "collaboration" as an alternative to the typical (and romantically individualistic) view of the individual artist working away, isolated in his studio. "Global Art" has been championed as the "new art form", yet as a concept it often falls short to our expectations. Global Art is so "global" that art from around the world can begin to look the same. Cultural and personal distinctiveness are what should make art worthwhile. [read on...]

February 07, 2006

Andrea Zittel: Critical Space

 

via Artnet (2/7/06):

A THORN TREE IN THE GARDEN
by Jerry Saltz

Andrea Zittel, "Critical Space," Jan. 26-May 27, 2006, at the New Museum, 556 West 22nd Street, New York, N.Y. 10011

The year 2005 was the hottest on the planet in recorded history; there is open water for the first time ever at the North Pole; the snows at the top of Mt. Kilimanjaro will probably disappear within 25 years. A power grid the size of Houston is being added to China every month; the United States, with only four percent of the world's population, emits more than 20 percent of the world's carbon. "Fifty years from now," a noted scientist speculates, "you may be living in a world where you don't go outside between one and four in the afternoon." In short, our increasingly brutish country, with its end-time mentality and barbarian attitude toward the environment, would gladly trade the last frog for cheaper gas prices.

The gypsy-visionary, social-scientist, explorer-architect, eco-rogue, control-freak artist Andrea Zittel will not be able to stop any of these things from happening. But her circuitous journey away from New York to what she calls her "High Desert Test Site," 40 acres of parched land two and a half hours east of Los Angeles and two hours south of Las Vegas -- as Zittel puts it, "23 miles past the sign that says 'Last Service for 100 Miles'" -- where the weather is brutal, the snakes are poisonous and the water is trucked in, is a glimmer of selflessness, creativity and fearlessness in the face of a technologically advanced culture flirting with geo-meteorological suicide. Zittel uses HDTS as a part-time studio and a site for other artists to execute ideas. Its existence is a reminder that chaos is a choice breeding ground for art -- an unknown zone and mental garden that can produce new thought patterns and exotic artistic fruit.

You might not know this from her current survey at the temporary headquarters of the New Museum. While expertly organized by Trevor Smith and Paola Morsiani, the exhibition, though fascinating, is so cramped it looks like Ikea. Perhaps "Critical Space," as the exhibition is called, should have been postponed until the museum is located in its new building. But never mind. This is New York, space is always at a premium, most of the artist's key works are here, and the show is a chance to sample Zittel's art and to ponder what it's about.

The Chinese "Book of Changes," or the I Ching, talks about "limitation" in terms of "ruthless severity" and as "leading to freedom." These ideas fit Zittel to a tee. Her rage for rules and protocols is ever present, as is her attraction to Constructivism, Bauhaus design and modernist architects like Richard Neutra and Rudolf Schindler, not to mention artists like Dan Graham and Robert Smithson. You can see this in the plain but subtly sexy "uniforms" Zittel has designed, made and worn for over 15 years. It's in her "living units," "eating terrains," and "cleansing chambers," each made to organize an aspect of one's life. "I love rules," Zittel says. "The only way that I can think of to be free from external rules is to create your own personal set of rules that are even more rigid. Rules are a way of liberating oneself."

In 2000, Zittel followed these rules to their logical and illogical extremes and found herself in the desert, a place that is ruthlessly rule-less. Here, Zittel's work perked up. After living in a trailer, she built several small structures, including a studio made of three contiguous shipping containers in a horseshoe configuration. As many as 14 people have slept on her front patio at once, or out back in the brush. HDTS is run on what she calls "no budget." It receives no funding, and seeks none. Thus, connections to Donald Judd's extraordinary kingdom of minimalism in Marfa, Texas, don't hold. Zittel, 40, is as possessed as Judd, but she's more ephemeral and investigational. She is exploring the place where art, entropy and self-sufficiency fuse. She'sRobinson Crusoe and Mad Max by way of Walden Pond, St. Augustine and Greenpeace.

Zittel contends that in today's art world it is "necessary to find new ways to convey meaning and create experience." She says, "The desert opens enough thinking space to reimagine all sorts of parallel new art worlds." Artist Pierre Huyghe concurs and talks about this "parallel world" as "a kind of counter-place that is outside other places but that also includes them." The desert's total lack of structure and its indigenous chaos combined with Zittel's utopianism and American gumption creates what she calls "gaps in which invention or change can happen." Curator Lynn Cooke eloquently refers to such places as "a position of elsewhere," by which she means artists like Zittel create situations "where like-minded people can go somewhat informally to work." Zittel's art is bigger in the mind than it is in person. This is not a failing. Her project entices the imagination and is a resonant example of a kind of thinking and acting that, with luck, will become more prevalent.

 

The Internal City
One of the more intriguing things about Andrea Zittel is her name, or rather her initials. Clearly she knows this. Her company is called "A–Z Administrative Services." These initials are a sort of philosophical readymade or hieroglyph that signifies completeness (from A to Z), incrementality (A, B, C), generic corporateness, the personal and the public. Aloud, they also sound like Aziz, the Muslim doctor in E.M. Forster's A Passage to India.

In Foster's book, Aziz takes two English women, longing to see "the real India," to the mysterious Marabar caves. There, amidst the thundering never-ending echoes of caverns that multiply the sound of the self until the self is annihilated, the older woman has a sort of existential seizure and glimpses her own death; the younger believes she has been molested by Aziz. This triggers a chain reaction in which Aziz is imprisoned, tried and eventually released.

The connection to A-Z is not only in the echo of the name, but in the metaphor of the cave, which for Zittel is the desert. The cave, like the desert, is elemental and has been there since the beginning. It is a place to contend with the chaos of the world, to confront nothingness, and understand one's scale; there, the cycles of life supersede all else. The Earth Mother/Sacred Womb aspect of the cave is present in the way Zittel talks about the desert as "a place to create a new organism." In this way, it's a kind of reverse garden, a symbolic image of the universe where reincarnation and the overcoming of death are thrown into high contrast. Zittel's desert is a place where tire tracks, dilapidated shacks, burned out trailer homes, broken down windmills and art merge; where science fiction, archeology and esthetics blur.

Passage to India ends with the brutal realization that England must vacate India for the two cultures to co-exist. Zittel's insight is that for art to thrive, sometimes it needs to go elsewhere.

More about Andrea Zittel:
Andrea Zittel: A Place Outside the Art Basel Herd, NEWSgrist (2/2/06)