Feeds:
Posts
Comments

Archive for the ‘Sustainable Design’ Category

hypernatural

Hypernatural / Princeton Architectural Press

All living creatures employ technologies to gain evolutionary advantage. For example, bats have evolved the use of echolocation to find their way as well as things to eat. A tortoise has evolved a shell to protect itself. There are countless examples. These technologies are tools for survival. Humans are equally a part of nature and now harness new “hypernatural” tools to “amplify, extend, or exceed natural capabilities.” Novel approaches are resulting in advances in the most essential technologies: shelter, or, in its cultural form, architecture. These new hypernatural forms be the “very aim of evolution itself,” write University of Minnesota architecture professors Blaine Brownell and Marc Swackhamer, in Hypernatural: Architecture’s New Relationship with Nature, their brilliant new book.

Although, they add that “evolution is a complex, messy process.” Hypernatural architecture, with all its technological advancements, is then subject to the same evolutionary development processes facing all new tools: these technologies will duke it out with others in a long-term struggle to see which is the most resource-efficient and cost-effective, which give individuals and communities the most advantages, and perhaps which benefit humanity the most. Furthermore, climate change, the loss of biodiversity, and reduced freshwater resources, among other environmental challenges, create a new set of conditions that will further shape the evolution of these human tools. New environmental conditions will evolve technologies, just as they will evolve new environments. But the whole goal of designing with nature — instead of wrecking havoc on nature in pursuit of profit — is to create a relationship between the environment and our tools that is more sustainable.

Perhaps the primary value of Hypernatural is that it organizes all the projects that relate to “nature-focused movements,” like geo-design, bio-engineering, and bio-mimicry, creating a clearer understanding of how architects, interior designers, artists, and others are “designing with biology.” They delve into all the ways projects incorporate biology, explaining the difference between behavioral, genetic, and epigenetic (environmental) projects. And they organize the array of new projects — some of which are truly mind-boggling — into broad groups that follow the founding domains of life: the geosphere, atmosphere, and hydrosphere. There are also examples that relate to the microbial, botanical, and zoological biospheres, as well as a final chapter on the “noosphere,” the domain of purely human thought, which Brownell and Swackhamer argue is also a legitimate “natural sphere.” (Another plus of this book is will serve as a useful refresher of all that introductory biology that has been forgotten; there are also tons of interesting factoids about the earth and its natural systems).

Here are just a few examples from the book:

In the geosphere section, which focuses on how humans can better harness the rock cycle, which works like the water cycle but just on a much slower scale, we learn about Radiolaria, created by Shiro Studio in 2009. This project learns from the “slow system of deposition found in the geological process of sedimentary rock formation,” but speeds it up with the use of 3-D printing technology. Radiolaria is actually the “first successful use of architectural-scale printing with natural rock dust.” A 953-cubic-foot “freestanding pavilion” was constructed out of sandstone and inorganic binder. “It effectively transforms marble dust, sand, or rock particles into a solid mineral with micro-crystalline characteristics that are chemically neutral and easily recyclable.”

radiolaria

Radiolaria / Shiro Studio

For an example of a project that highlights the atmosphere, Brownell and Swackhamer show us Windswept, a project by artist Charles Sowers, which was created for the Randall Museum in San Francisco in 2012. Windswept features a field of “vertical wind instruments to map not just the general wind direction but the intricate movements of air across a building facade.” The pieces makes visible the invisible movement of a natural force. Some museum visitors described it as reminiscent of a “field of undulating wheat or a rippling school of fish.”

windswept

Windswept / Bruce Damonte

The hydrosphere section has many intriguing projects, but one that particularly leaped out was Bubble Building by DUS Architects, which was created in the Netherlands in 2012. In a pavilion in Rotterdam, the architects composed 16 hexagonal, shallow pools filled with a thin layer of soap and water. “By lifting metal rings that circumscribe these hexagons, membranes of glassy, rainbow-colored film stretch to form temporary pavilion walls.” While architect Frei Otto and others have long been inspired by bubbles, this project actually uses them to build something, albeit temporary. It disappears when unoccupied.

bubble

Bubble Building / DUS Architects

In the microbial section, we come across a wondrous yet also disturbing project called Radiant Soil created by Canadian architect and professor Phillip Beesley in 2013. Radiant Soil is a “suspended, responsive ceiling system that behaves like biology.” The piece responds in real-time to the “movement and proximity of people by lighting itself along LED-lined arteries, moving its biochemical fronds to generate air currents and releasing unique odors into the air through scent-emitting glands.” Brownell and Swackhamer say it has “profound implications for a new dialogue between humans and their built environment.”

radiant

Radiant Soil / Philip Beesley Architect Inc.

While the focus is on buildings in Hypernatural, there are enough great ideas to interest any designer focused on the future of design and biology. If there are any criticisms, it’s some of the botanical examples fail to impress: it seems natural botanical forms are still far more interesting than hypernatural ones. And too many of the projects are one-off artistic or architectural experiments that don’t seem particularly scalable or accessible, unless they have been explained to you. But, then again, didn’t so many innovations we take advantage of and so many aesthetic movements we appreciate today start out the same way, misunderstood in some lab or studio? Fast forward a hundred years into the future and it will be fascinating to see what small glimpses of the future displayed here will be mainstream.

Read the book.

Read Full Post »

Miller’s Court in Baltimore, Maryland / Courtesy of Billy Michels via Metropolis

Miller’s Court in Baltimore, Maryland / Billy Michels via Metropolis

From a pool of applicants from 40 communities in 26 states, Miller’s Court in Baltimore was awarded the Rudy Bruner Award for Urban Excellence (RBA) gold medal and a $50,000 prize. Four other projects were awarded silver medals and $10,000 each.

Since 1987, the biennial award has recognized “urban places distinguished by quality design and contributions to the social, economic, and communal vitality of our nation’s cities.” The 2013 gold medal was awarded to Inspiration Kitchens in Garfield Park, Chicago.

This year’s winning project, Miller’s Court, is a “renovation of a vacant historic tin can manufacturing building, into an affordable and supportive living and working environment for school teachers and education-focused non-profits.” Located in an economically and culturally diverse neighborhood near Johns Hopkins University’s Homewood campus, the project, which was conceived and developed by Seawall Development Company with Mark, Thomas Architects, was completed in 2009.

The LEED Gold-certified complex includes “40 rental apartments and 30,000 square feet of office space and shared meeting rooms with contemporary, loft-like interiors.” Other features include a teacher resource center and a cooperatively owned independent café, which has become a popular meeting place for teachers, tenants and even President Obama, who visited in January.

miller's court

Miller’s Court / Seawall Development Corporation

One of the project’s crowning achievements is generating additional investment in the surrounding community. At the urging of several building residents, Seawall purchased and renovated 30 vacant neighboring houses to create Miller’s Square. Baltimore public school teachers and police officers are eligible for $25,000 grants toward homes there. Read more about the project in Metropolis.

Renovated row houses at Miller’s Square / Courtesy of the Bruner Foundation

Renovated row houses at Miller’s Square /
Bruner Foundation

Four other projects were recognized with silver medals and $10,000 each:

Located in the center of downtown Greenville, South Carolina, Falls Park on the Reedy is an urban oasis thanks to the transformation of a forgotten 40-foot tall waterfall and overgrown river valley into a 26-acre park. Development of the park, which opened in 2006, included replacing a four-lane vehicular bridge built directly over the falls with a pedestrian suspension bridge designed by Rosales+Partners. The bridge appears to float above the river, offering a dramatic overlook of the falls. Learn more about this project at Metropolis.

IMAGE 1 Falls Park Signature Image

Falls Park on the Reedy in Greenville, South Carolina / Rosales+Partners via Metropolis

Grand Rapids Downtown Market is a new public space in one of West Michigan’s most challenged neighborhoods. The market “promotes local food producers, entrepreneurship, and education about nutrition and healthy lifestyles” by linking urban communities with the 13,000 farms in 11 surrounding counties and attracting a diversity of customers to the southern edge of downtown Grand Rapids. The state-of-the-art facility, designed by Hugh A. Boyd Architects, is the first LEED Gold–certified public market in the country. Learn more about the market at Metropolis.

dm3

Grand Rapids Downtown Market / Grand Rapids Downtown Market

Quixote Village, in Olympia, Washington, is a two-acre community of tiny houses that provides “permanent, supportive housing for homeless adults, including people suffering from mental illness and physical disabilities and recovering from addiction.” Since its completion in December 2013, Quixote Village has attracted the attention of many interested in tiny houses including nonprofits and private developers, as well as The New York Times. Learn more about the project at Metropolis.

nytimes quixote village

Tiny house in Quixote Village / Courtesy of Jeremy Bittermann for The New York Times

Located three miles south of downtown Cleveland, Uptown District is the “redevelopment of a corridor that links surrounding neighborhoods with art, educational, and healthcare institutions, producing outdoor gathering spaces, retail shops and restaurants, student and market-rate housing, and public transit connections in the process.” The development has transformed two previously underused city blocks between two of the city’s most iconic cultural institutions into a “community gateway.” Learn more about the project at Metropolis.

uptowndistrict

Uptown District in Cleveland, OH / Stanley Saitowitz, Natoma Architects Inc. via Metropolis

The 2015 RBA selection committee included: Mayor Mark Stodola, Little Rock, Arkansas; Rebecca L. Flora, Sustainable Practices Leader, Ecology & Environment, Inc.; Larry Kearns, Principal, Wheeler Kearns Architects; India Pierce Lee, Program Director, Cleveland Foundation; Mia Lehrer, FASLA, President, Mia Lehrer + Associates; James Stockard, Lecturer in Housing, Harvard Graduate School of Design.

Learn more: A blog series on Metropolis’ web site is chronicling the 2015 RBA process and case studies of the winning projects.

Read Full Post »

designed-cover

Designed for the Future / Princeton Architectural Press

“What gives you hope that a sustainable future is possible?” In Designed for the Future: 80 Practical Ideas for a Sustainable World, Jared Green — the same Green who edits this blog, and, full disclosure, was my boss when I was a communications intern at ASLA — offers 80 thought-provoking and frequently inspiring answers to this question from landscape architects, urban planners, architects, journalists, artists, and environmental leaders in the U.S. and beyond. The book’s tone is highly conversational and reflects the voices of the book’s contributors. Each passage is the result of an interview with Green, who serves largely as curator for this reading experience.

To those in the field, the names are like a who’s who of respected leaders in these professions. But while professionals will certainly enjoy it, this book is aimed squarely at the public, as it’s as scrubbed-free of design jargon as possible and offered in bite-size pieces easy to pick up for a few minutes at a time or read entirely through on a weekend afternoon.

It’s largely successful in this aspect, capturing the essence of the ideas at the core of each real world example without losing the reader in technical terms and excess detail. However, in a few cases, the description is so sparse as to leave uncertain exactly what the project is about.

Some of the projects feature new technologies applied in innovative ways. Lighting designer Leni Schwendinger, now with Arup, is inspired by Illuminate, a three-year research program in six European countries showing the way to the future of light-emitting diode (LED) lighting in public spaces. The study examined not only at energy savings and carbon reductions, but also the quality of light in terms of brightness, color temperature, and color rendition (whether the object illuminated looks true to life). It’s the artificial nature of these latter qualities that tend to sway many designers away from LEDs, despite their energy savings, but this study shows they are being improved, and LEDs may soon be able to use “intelligent controls to create malleable lighting” in our parks, plazas, and museums.

luminance1luminance2luminance3

luminance4

Luminance Map, Belfast / Guilio Antonutto

Jonsara Ruth, a professor at The New School / Parsons, discusses Mushroom Board from the firm Ecovative, a product that uses mycelium, the “roots” of mushrooms, to literally grow an organic Styrofoam replacement. Styrofoam is an incredibly polluting material, but Mushroom Board, a cutting-edge use of bioengineered materials that can be grown to almost any shape and size, is completely biodegradable. Imagine appliances coming packed in Mushroom Board or homes insulated with mushroom in the walls instead of spray-in foam.

mushroom

Mushroom Board by Ecovative / Jonsara Ruth

Many projects feature materials and infrastructures from the past that have been given new life to serve contemporary needs. Landscape architect Thomas Woltz, FASLA, Nelson Byrd Woltz, describes how Braddock, Pennsylvania, is in the process of transforming much of its abandoned and toxic industrial lands, re-envisioning them as a place for urban farming and healthy community initiatives.

braddock

Braddock, Pennsylvania / Kristen Taylor, Creative Commons, Flickr

And Peter Harnik, Hon. ASLA, director, Center for City Park Excellence, Trust for Public Land, describes how Midtown Greenway in Minneapolis is a railway that has been converted into one of the most successful trails for cyclists and pedestrians. Built in a trench to not interfere with auto traffic, it’s a delight for its users who can go for long stretches without having to negotiate intersections and vehicle conflicts.

midtown-greenway

Midtown Greenway, Minneapolis / Ed Kohler, Creative Commons, Flickr

One overarching theme is the need to further connect social, environmental, aesthetic, and economic benefits that have been considered for too long in isolation. For decades, we’ve known, in theory, that achieving quadruple-bottom line benefits is essential for sustainability. These existing projects show how multiple benefits can be achieved in the real world, and the positive impact they can have on communities and the environment.

Green offers a lovely quote in his introduction from science fiction writer William Gibson: “The future is already here, but it’s just not evenly distributed.” Environmental advocacy and action can so easily just focus on the negative or emphasize only the compromise and sacrifice necessary for “saving the planet.” The examples in Designed for the Future show that not only is our future not all doom and gloom, but there’s plenty to be excited about here and now. The future is here. Now let’s start spreading today’s successes around as widely as possible.

Read the book.

This guest post is by Yoshi Silverstein, Associate ASLA, founder and lead designer-educator at Mitsui Design.

Read Full Post »

china

Heavenly Water Service Center / DuoCai Photography

Amid Drought, The West Is No Place For a Lawn, As Nevada Has LearnedThe Los Angeles Times, 5/1/15
“When Gov. Jerry Brown ordered that California rip up 50 million square feet of lawns to conserve water amid the West’s deadening drought, the Golden State gasped. Meanwhile, the Silver State yawned. Desert denizens have already been there and done that — since 1999, in fact.”

Sprawling Wetland Structures by HHD_FUN Host Chinese Horticultural Show Dezeen Magazine, 5/5/15
“Beijing-based architecture studio HHD_FUN undertook two landscape architecture projects on the vast 23,000-square-metre site in Qingdao, a region in the eastern Chinese Shandong Province. The site was part of the International Horticultural Exposition, which was held between April and October last year.”

An Architectural Tour of … Parklets?The San Francisco Chronicle, 5/6/15
“Say what you like about Parklets — and there are detractors as well as devotees — they are now an established part of the scenery not only in San Francisco, but beyond.”

New Plan Would Revamp Heart of Downtown – The Baltimore Sun, 5/12/15
”New designs for McKeldin Plaza would fuse the brick space to the Inner Harbor promenade, transforming one of the busiest and most prominent intersections in the city into a 2.8-acre park, with grassy slopes and a curtain-like translucent fountain.”

An Incredible Time-Capsule View of One Downtown’s DevelopmentThe Atlantic, 5/13/15
“Exactly 50 years ago, Fresno was celebrating the inspiring opening of Fulton Mall. Can tearing up a noted artistic zone be a path to civic success? City leaders say yes, while some of their citizens say no.”

Read Full Post »

eco1

eco2

Pollinator Pathway One (Before and After Planting), 2011 / © Sarah Bergmann

EcoDistrict planning and design can accelerate local efforts to improve sustainability. EcoDistricts offer a framework through which communities can discuss, prioritize, and enact initiatives that address climate change — by providing clean energy, conserving wildlife habitat, and encouraging low-impact development — and also social equity. If more neighborhoods begin to adopt the EcoDistrict model — wherein a range of partner organizations work in concert — we could see stronger bottom-up pushes toward city-wide sustainability.

Since 2011, the Capitol Hill EcoDistrict in Seattle’s Capitol Hill neighborhood, which is funded by the Bullitt Foundation and led by Capitol Hill Housing, has sought to improve the sustainability of the community and the equity of its constituents. This EcoDistrict is partnering with the Seattle 2030 District, a high-performance business district in downtown Seattle, that aims to reduce carbon emissions 50 percent by 2030. In 2015, Seattle’s City Council formally passed a resolution recognizing the EcoDistrict.

In the past few years, the EcoDistrict has made progress: Capitol Hill Housing and Seattle City Light started the first community solar project on an affordable housing building in Washington State. Participants in this program can “subscribe” to receive the benefits of solar via the systems built and maintained by Seattle City Light on the rooftop of the new Capitol Hill Housing, the Holiday Apartments, which houses 88 new apartments for low-income families, artist spaces, two theaters, various community organizations, and street-level retail spaces.

Also, innovative building projects are being encouraged to update the city’s outdated land-use code, using a process of design review. As an example, The Bullitt Center helped launch the city’s Living Building pilot program.

The EcoDistrict aims to address urban ecosystem fragmentation and the loss of tree canopy and open space. To do this, Capitol Hill Housing is partnering with interdisciplinary designer Sarah Bergmann to create the second certified Pollinator Pathway in the U.S. Each Pollinator Pathway connects two or more green spaces, following a set of scientific criteria, and is created through commission or partnership.

Bergmann’s first project, Pollinator Pathway One — a mile-long, 12-foot wide landscape first developed seven years ago — connects Seattle University’s campus with Nora’s Woods, a small forested area a mile away, through a series of connected gardens (see image above). The second project, Pollinator Pathway Two, will run through the heart of the Capitol Hill EcoDistrict and will connect two Olmsted-designed parks and Seattle University.

More knowledge sharing among EcoDistricts around the country will help lead to a more replicable model. Already, a few high-profile EcoDistricts are joining together: In 2014, the Portland, Oregon-based EcoDistrict organization launched a program called Target Cities, a two-year partnership with ten projects across eight North American cities.

This guest post is by Katy Scherrer, Student ASLA, master’s of landscape architecture candidate, University of Washington.

Read Full Post »

The Greenway would help make the Brooklyn waterfront more resilient - We Design / The Architect's Newspaper

The Greenway would help make the Brooklyn waterfront more resilient – We Design / The Architect’s Newspaper

Rethinking the WaterfrontThe Architect’s Newspaper, 2/17/15
“Earlier this month Brooklyn Borough president Eric Adams announced the release of Stormwater Infrastructure Design Guidelines, which have the potential to generate exemplary landscape design and benefit all of New York City. The Design Guidelines propose to integrate green infrastructure techniques with a 14-mile continuous corridor for bicycles and pedestrians along the Brooklyn waterfront.”

Plan for Obama Library in Chicago Must Respect Frederick Law Olmsted ParksThe Chicago Tribune, 2/21/15
“Maybe it’s time to erect temporary, ‘proceed with caution’ signs at the entrances to Chicago’s Jackson and Washington parks. The signs would be directed not at drivers, but at President Barack and Michelle Obama, Mayor Rahm Emanuel and the Barack Obama Foundation.”

Survey Open to Help Residents Choose St. Pete Pier DesignThe St. Petersburg Tribune, 2/23/15
“For the next two weeks, city residents may join in a survey to rank the seven remaining proposals to redesign the Pier and the iconic inverted pyramid that has anchored its far end since 1973. The Pier Selection Committee will use the survey rankings and send the top three design choices to Mayor Rick Kriseman and the City Council for final selection.”

Tour Philly’s Future Reading Viaduct with the Designers Behind the Visionary Linear ParkThe Architect’s Newspaper, 2/23/15
“We begin with a tour of Philadelphia’s Reading Viaduct, an abandoned rail line that advocates hope to transform into an elevated park, a grittier take on Manhattan’s celebrated High Line. With the city and state pledging millions toward the project, the Viaduct park is moving closer to reality.”

Canadian “Freezeway” Could Let Residents Skate to WorkBBC, 2/23/15
“With an average temperature of -12C (9.5F) in the heart of winter, and home to seven city-owned outdoor skating rinks, Edmonton, Alberta is no stranger to the cold. Unlike other cities in the US and Canada that have banned activities such as tobogganing because of insurance costs, Edmonton has no such laws.”

“Lost Gardens” of New England Unearths Forgotten GemsThe CT Post, 2/25/15
“New England’s great gardens always have been linked to the value of the land from which they spring. Many have been subdivided for building and housing developments or paved over for parking lots. The region’s rich garden-design history is the subject of ‘Lost Gardens of New England,’ a traveling exhibition from the nonprofit Historic New England preservation organization.”

Read Full Post »

IMG 002

Fourth annual Vortex competition / UVA

Hundreds of students walked down Ivy Road in the middle of January, marking the kickoff of the fourth annual Vortex competition at the University of Virginia. Undergraduate and graduate students from all disciplines at the School of Architecture gathered together for a week-long design workshop to envision a new academic commons along the Ivy Road corridor, an underused entry to the university. Focusing on improving connectivity to new student and faculty housing, the workshop examined how to bring academic and residential culture together in a new urban environment.

Thirty student teams, each advised by a faculty member, developed innovative approaches to the design problems: how to improve accessibility, connectivity, and sustainability. Using university founder Thomas Jefferson’s “academical village” concept — which called for deep interactions between students and scholars — as the basis for dialogue, teams also focused on how to further this relationship and extend it city-wide.

This year Sylvia Karres, founder of Karres en Brands Landscape Architects, which is based in the Netherlands, led the design workshop and served as the primary critic. With her expertise in campus planning, Karres called for using sustainable campus design approaches, wherein a balance between learning and living conditions is produced, enabling a holistic student experience. Desk critiques continued through the week as Karres extended the dialogue to university sprawl and the poor connections with the Ivy Road corridor.

IMG 003

Karres listens to a student presentation / UVA

The final charrette was held at Sunday morning, bringing the week-long chaos to an end. Students, faculty, and community members were all in attendance.

Team 2, which was led by landscape architecture professor Julie Bargmann, won the public, student, and faculty awards. The team envisioned connecting the community and university with Ivy Road by making the road an academic, environmental, and commercial hub for the western edge of Charlottesville. Using an existing culverted stream under the site as an organizational element, the proposal included a pedestrian mall, multi-level housing, and a bridge in memory of Morgan Harrington, a Virginia Tech student, who disappeared there in 2009. The team sought to create a place of empowerment and community.

FINAL BOARD

Team 2 proposal / UVA

Team 26, led by architecture professor Peter Waldman, won the main prize, given by Karres, with their development of a campus collage. The team’s proposal focused on merging the various layers of university life and better connecting the community through public transportation and pedestrian and bicycle infrastructure. The team proposed placing several more train stops along the existing railroad. Taking cues from the existing historic sites, railroad organization, and cultural points of interest, the proposal also links this area with new housing and public spaces.

IMG 006

Team 26 proposal / UVA

In a single week, the competition took a creative discussion beyond the walls of the School of Architecture into the Charlottesville community. This year, students acted as their own client, designing new models for sustainable academic life at the University of Virginia.

This guest post is by Jasmine Sohn, Student ASLA, Master’s of Landscape Architecture candidate, University of Virginia.

Read Full Post »

cosmo

COSMO / Andrés Jaque’s Office of Political Innovation

The ingenious winner of this year’s Young Architects Program (YAP) at the Museum of Modern Art (MoMA) PS1 in Queens, New York City, is COSMO, a mobile, transparent, and artful system for purifying wastewater. Designed by Andrés Jaque’s Office of Political Innovation, the machine makes visible the process of cleaning dirty water, exposing the value of this vital natural resource in the process.

Here’s a description of Jaque’s invention: “An assemblage of ecosystems, based on advanced environmental design, COSMO is engineered to filter and purify 3,000 gallons of water, eliminating suspended particles and nitrates, balancing the PH, and increasing the level of dissolved oxygen. It takes four days for the 3,000 gallons of water to become purified, then the cycle continues with the same body of water, becoming more purified with every cycle.” The system uses no electricity, just sunlight and gravity to accomplish all of this.

See a wild video that explains how the system works:

As architect Bjarke Ingels and others have long argued, sustainable design should not only be an improvement on the status quo but also be fun, not a drag. Taking that idea to the nth degree, Jacque believes the process of using natural engineering to clean water can actually be transfixing. Here, clean water is the life of the party. “The stretched-out plastic mesh at the core of the construction will glow automatically whenever its water has been purified. In the stone courtyard of MoMA PS1, the party will literally light up every time the environment is protected providing a dynamic backdrop for the Warm Up summer music series. It will gather people together in an environment as pleasant and climatically comfortable as a garden as visually textured as a mirrored disco ball.”

Once the partying and water purifying is over, COSMO will be dismantled, its parts redistributed, the plants used in its cleansing processes given to PS1’s neighbors.

Andrés Jaque sees his machine as a prototype for a new mobile system for cleaning water. His team will offer detailed instructions for how to create your own COSMO online.

PS1 has been using its summer installation series as a way to highlight how architecture can be designed to give back environmentally. Last year, Hy-Fi, the 2014 YAP winner, aimed to push the boundaries of bio-design, creating a 100 percent organically-grown and fully compostable structure. And in 2012, Wendy highlighted how architecture could be used to clean the air. Its spiky arms were covered in “nylon fabric treated with a groundbreaking titania nanoparticle spray to neutralize airborne pollutants.”

Read Full Post »

hualien

Hualien Hills / BIG

The dynamics of BIG, one of the world’s hottest architecture and urban design firms, are laid bare in a new exhibition at the National Building Museum and companion book. Taking on increasingly ambitious projects all over the world, BIG, at its best, shows how building and landscape can be merged, creating novel experiences in the built environment. Much like Weiss/Manfredi and other firms with a multidisciplinary approach, BIG wants to create hybrid places. Bjarke Ingels, the founder of BIG, joked at the exhibition opening that he wanted to call the show, “BIGAMY: you can have it both ways.”

Offering another way to understand the work, Ingels dismissed the one-size-fits-all solution of Modernist architects, aligning his projects with a long history of vernacular architecture that responds to local conditions. Just as the ancient temples at Angkor Wat used long passageways and buildings with apertures to stimulate air flow and create natural air-conditioning in the blistering heat of Cambodia or arctic igloos minimize thermal loss through their round form, BIG’s buildings are designed to “respond to existing conditions.” BIG particularly emphasizes the role of climatic conditions in their work, organizing the entire exhibition around the world’s temperature zones, with the theme “Hot to Cold.” The exhibition wraps around the entire second floor of the museum, showing the “journey across the planet’s climate in 900 feet.”

Just as buildings respond to the climate, they also shape it as well. Our buildings, as Ingels explained, account for a huge share of the world’s energy and therefore carbon emissions. “With climate change, buildings must now perform more intelligently.” Given a “good and bad building costs about the same,” Ingels argued, “it’s about how the ingredients are put together.” Buildings can either adapt to their environment and make a positive contribution to climate change or do the opposite.

As you loop around the second floor of the museum, you see BIG’s tactile models hanging from above, floating in each archway. Below the models are interactive explanations, often with videos. The high-tech, and most likely expensive, exhibition was financed by the Danish government and a Danish design non-profit.

Projects that leaped out really seek to integrate building and landscape. For example, the gorgeous Hualien Residences project in Taiwan features buildings created in the shape of limestone mountains, all covered in green roofs (see image above and below), certainly a response to Taiwan’s enviroment.

hualien2

Hualien Hills / BIG

And then there’s the BIG U, which won $335 million in the Rebuild by Design competition organized by the U.S. department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD), an impressive effort to spur more resilient coastal models in the wake of Hurricane Sandy. BIG explains how the landfill that has formed the southern tip of Manhattan is also the part of the island most at risk from massive storms. But by putting in various “pinch points,” Manhattan could add “flood compartments, much like the hull of a ship.” These compartments can open and close depending on conditions. And berms can double as parks. Public space as infrastructure, another smart hybrid.

bigu

Big U / BIG (Bjarke Ingels Group) with One Architecture, Starr Whitehouse, James Lima Planning + Development, Project Projects, Green Shield Ecology, AEA Consulting, Level Agency for Infrastructure, Arcadis, and the Parsons School of Constructed Environments

bigu2

Big U / BIG (Bjarke Ingels Group) with One Architecture, Starr Whitehouse, James Lima Planning + Development, Project Projects, Green Shield Ecology, AEA Consulting, Level Agency for Infrastructure, Arcadis, and the Parsons School of Constructed Environments

And lastly, taking their ideas up to yet another scale: BIG is part of a team now working on Europa City in Paris, which is their take on “landscape urbanism.” With equal part cheek and smarts, BIG writes in the exhibition notes: “Europa City: 100 percent landscape and 100 percent building = 200 percent habitat!”

europa

Europa City / BIG

Explore BIG’s work in their new book Hot and Cold.

Read Full Post »

mc1

mc2

Metropolitan Zone of the Valley of Mexico, 66 miles wide and 68 miles long. Top: hydrology and agriculture. Below: hydrology and urban systems. The Texcoco Lakebed is the large blue area at center-right / INEGI topographic charts. Maps by Gabriel Diaz Montemayor.

Last September, the Mexican government announced the construction of a new airport for Mexico City. The current airport is the second busiest, per number of passengers, in Latin America, just after Sao Paolo, Brazil. The airport was recently declared to be at full capacity. It has two runways that cannot be operated simultaneously and it’s surrounded on three flanks –north, west, and south – by dense neighborhoods. Along its east site, the airport is adjacent to the Texcoco Lake bed. There is no more space for growth, so a new airport is needed.

The new airport master plan, as presented by Sir Norman Foster and Fernando Romero from Mexico, the architects who won an international design competition, is located just 5 miles north of the current airport and will occupy 17.5 square miles of the Texcoco lake bed. The remains of this formerly grand lake covers some 50 square miles. Spared by urbanization but partially used for agriculture, the lake bed has both permanent and temporary water bodies. Although miniscule in comparison to the original lake system, the lake bed sits at the lowest part of the basin, helping concentrate and infiltrate water, supporting the unstable soils of Mexico City. The lake remnant protects the city from more flooding. And the water it collects keeps the city afloat by infiltration.

Mexico City drinks more than half of its water from the valley of Mexico’s aquifer. This valley is a closed basin draining serviced, storm, and waste water towards the Gulf of Mexico via a deep and massive underground system. The load pressing on this desiccated, lake landscape, along with aquifer exploitation, has led to Mexico City actually subsiding by over 30 feet in its central area in the last century.

A recent public presentation about the new airport plan failed to discuss how the project will address these critical environmental issues and improve water quantity and quality, support soils, recover wildlife habitat, and create a regenerative relationship between the city and its lakes.

There are ways landscape architecture can be used to help the lake system recover. Among some existing concepts is Ciudad Futura (Future City) by Alberto Kalach, Teodoro Gonzalez de Leon, their Autonomous University of Mexico (UNAM) architecture students, and other collaborators. Published in La Ciudad y sus Lagos (The City and its Lakes) in 1998, this project proposes the recovery of the lacustrine system through the construction of infrastructure for water management and treatment, the definition of active lake edges, the creation of new public spaces, and the development of a new airport as an island in a regenerated Texcoco Lake.

plan1

The Future City / City of the Lakes project. The new airport as an island in the regenerated Texcoco Lake / Alberto Kalach, Teodoro Gonzalez de Leon, UNAM students, and other collaborators.

A more radical concept would be to turn the current airport into an ecological reserve and park, performing water and soil management and providing wildlife habitat. Parque Texcoco (Texcoco Park) by Iñaki Echeverria doesn’t address where to place a new airport though.

plan2

Texcoco Park. The recovered Texcoco Lake with no airports / Iñaki Echeverria

With the new airport plans, the Mexican government promises not only first-rate architecture but also a place that creates ecological value, largely through a 1,730-acre public forest. But it remains to be seen whether the new airport’s master plan project can create a reconciliation between the built and natural environments, and this project can become a global best practice from an under-developed country. The health of the underlying ecological systems must be considered. Let’s demand this happens.

This guest post is by Gabriel Diaz Montemayor, Assistant Professor of Landscape Architecture, The University of Texas at Austin

Read Full Post »

Older Posts »

Follow

Get every new post delivered to your Inbox.

Join 1,244 other followers