In the midst of the Mayan calendar predictions, prophecies came and went and on 12-12-12 in New York, the Mexican architect Fernando Romero released his book You Are The Context at the Guggenheim Museum. The launch was a celebration of what comes next, a young career full of potential and a designer with the means to create change in and out of Mexico.
Romero and his firm FR-EE published the book as a catalog of architecture projects erected and for consideration around the world. In an email he writes, "It is a manifesto of today's context for designers." The book reads like an architecture self-help guide: a serious investigation of trending topics in building and social design: museums, mixed-use, responsible vertical, cities, convention centers, bridges, etc.
The book starts "Since the mid-1960s, as a reaction against the formalism and functionalism of Modernism, the word context has seen a common and frequently used term in architectural discourse." Romero and FR-EE are pushing an agenda with regards to careful attention to the key elements of site, culture, time and society. These are considerations for a future architecture.
You Are The Context is self-published and reads as part calling card/part industry resource. FR-EE hopes to ignite conversations around key issues, shed light on the positive developments in Mexico, and also to bid for some US territory or at least make it's voice more laudable.
Romero won international acclaim for designing Museo Soumaya in 2011, a sequined hourglass of a museum housing Carlos Slim Helú's prestigious art collection in Mexico City. Romero is prone to organic shapes and experimental forms. His mentors include Enric Miralles, Jean Nouvel and Rem Koolhaas.
If you were to hear the phrase "glass floor," you'd probably picture something like this, right? Like a glass-bottomed boat, except that you're actually inside, and you're not sitting next to someone's seasick cousin, and you mostly just have a view of your downstairs neighbor's mismatched furniture and it's kind of awkward to see them hanging out all of the time, especially when you catch them looking at the bottoms of your feet and couch and the ugly electrical conduits that run right through the middle of the floor. In fact, it sounded cool at first but now it doesn't seem like a very good idea at all... and that's not even considering the corollary that "one man's glass floor is another man's glass ceiling," which seems vaguely related to the fact that skirts and dresses wouldn't be options for women who live in houses with glass floors.
But wait: you assumed that by "glass floor," I meant "clear floor," which isn't necessarily the case. Indeed, a new flooring product from Germany's ASB Systembau GMBH boasts a semi-opaque ceramic finish to the effect that "the floor does not reflect too much to be a distraction but still gives a slight reflection which compares to the effect marble has on the eye." Billed as "the most advanced flooring system in the world," the ASB GlassFloor is a system in which reinforced glass panels are set on an aluminum substructure that can be embedded with lighting elements.
Originally designed for squash courts, the surface is designed to emulate hardwood courts with the advantage of flexible lane lines and markings for multipurpose gymnasiums, meeting European regulations for a variety of indoor sports, from badminton to volleyball. However, I was most interested to learn that the ASB GlassFloor can display video as well. "Video messages or scoreboards under the floor are only the beginning. The whole surface can be turned into one big screen. The possibilities for presentation and advertising are as versatile and innovative as ever seen before."
But the visual aspect isn't the only selling point of the flooring system: the company duly notes the durability of the panels, developed by longtime glass manufacturer Kinon Porz.
The floor is made from tempered security glass and can withstand enormous impact. The panels are made from two specially-treated glass plates held together by a 2mm PVB safety layer. The glass panels can be produced to a size larger than 2×2 metres and make the floor longer lasting than any conventional floor. This is why in 2007 we have been able to install the first open air squash court on a cruise ship, withstanding the impact of sea water and perpetual movement over years.
The surface of the glass undergoes several special treatments to achieve ideal elasticity, friction and reflection of light. After years of extensive testing we have reached a result where the floor does not reflect too much to be a distraction but still gives a slight reflection which compares to the effect marble has on the eye. Also deflection and friction of the floor achieve equal or better results than conventional sport floors. The floor is ISO and EN certified. The same treatment that ensures the dim reflection also causes scratches to remain invisible. The surface can be in almost any colour you like. The colour of the floor is determined by special foil coat applied to the bottom of the floor and can be changed even after years.
Of all the takes we've seen on the transforming micro-apartment, this has got to be the strangest. While I wouldn't want to live there—and indeed, the space is only designed to be used "a couple of weekends per month"—I'm drawing it to your attention for its highly unusual approach. Virtually every space-saving apartment has the furniture built into the walls and the center of the room free. This 290-square-foot Barcelona Casa en una Maleta ("House in a Suitcase") takes the opposite approach, placing absolutely nothing against the walls, and instead filling the center of the room with two constructions that can only be described as a cross between a suitcase and furniture.
Like you, mid-way through the video I wondered about the visible screw-heads and exposed plywood edges—is this place real, or just a concept?—but architect Eva Prats explained it away when she pointed out that the budget was of paramount importance.
What do you think—would a less Spartan take on a center-of-the-room-based design have legs? Do you think people stick with built-ins-against-walls out of rote habit, or because it's the "correct" solution, from an efficiency standpoint?
While the crew over at Beaver Brook's activities are limited to a single county in New York state, they've launched a sister site with more global influences. Cabin Porn is an ever-growing online collection of photographs of cabins around the world, from Maine to Iceland to France to parts unknown (or known but untold).
The variety of materials used range from timber to earth to stone, and the 500-plus images depict a surprising variety of building styles, from rustic to Modernist to at least a few that look like they're from the stone age.
"Slope smooth-surfaced window ledges and projections at 45 degrees to minimize bird perching and roosting." I like my anti-bird idea better: Cat-shaped gargoyles.
During my earlier days in a divey Brooklyn apartment, with every Nynex Yellow Pages I threw at a cockroach, I never thought to blame the building's architect. I still wouldn't think to, but the U.S. Center for Environmental Health believes that design can play a large role in pest prevention, and to prove it they've put together an 89-page document showing exactly how.
The document, called Pest Prevention by Design, is a comprehensive look at how architects can design or retrofit structures to minimize whatever the local pests are: Rodents, roaches, bedbugs, pigeons, termites, you name it. In the study's eyes, pests are more than a mere inconvenience; bedbugs can make entire buildings uninhabitable, termites can affect structural integrity, and as they point out, "An occasional trail of ants in the home may be a mere nuisance, but even a single ant in a surgical ward can have grave consequences."
The points illustrated range from understanding the local environment...
...Constructing a building in an urban center, where subways provide a vast network of tunnels in which rodents travel, requires a different design approach than a building in a rural area.
...to designing specific building features...
[Designing] built-in access to critical areas greatly assists pest management professionals in the early detection of wood-boring pests, potentially saving building owners thousands of dollars in wood replacement.
...to materials choices.
Avoid use of ceramic outside corner tiles. Ceramic tiles located in heavily used areas are highly prone to breakage. Broken tiles provide access to voids that can harbor pest insects. Durable outside corners, such as metal or plastic, are preferred alternatives.
While the document won't be formally released until mid-next-month, San Francisco's Department of the Environment has made a preliminary copy available here.
"It's my experience that artist communities are almost always camps because they appropriate space that nobody else wants (at the time), but by virtue of a creative progressive view of neighborhoods they create a demand from others that ultimately marginalizes them, so they are forever transient."
That quote by James Lynch, founder of the UK-based Fforest Camp getaway, is the only substantial block of text on a Tumblr called Beaver Brook. Info on the page is light, but it appears to be run by a collective of artist friends, documenting their adventures as they erect a bunch of cabin-studios in wooded Sullivan County (upstate New York).
"Form Follows Function" is a tall order while renovating a space, where the outside form is already established—think of an attic space with a pitched roof, for example--and where you need to get it into the rectilinear form we humans like living in. But there are some great examples of intelligent design being used to solve this problem in the following Portland, Oregon, apartment space.
Undertaken by PATH Architecture along with Phloem Studio and Earthbound Industries, the latter two organizations being part of Portland's Beam & Anchor outfit, this studio renovation in Portland's Laurelhurst Park neighborhood sought to turn the second story of a garage into a liveable apartment. As you can see from the exterior shot below, they had to deal with quite the crazy pitched roof:
Getting inside the space, we can see what design and engineering solutions they've used to fill the triangular spaces where the ceiling meets the floor. First off, fill the least-useable space at the bottom of the triangle with the HVAC:
The remainder of that side of the room would be filled with built-ins:
The design of the built-in components take into account that you've got more legroom there than headroom. As one example, it means you can fit flat-file drawers whose seemingly shallow intrusion into the space belie a much greater depth. We also dig the drawer cubbies above it, which disappear into the wall.
Pennsylvania-based architecture firm Archer & Buchanan received an unusual commission: The client, an avid J.R.R. Tolkien fan, wanted a Hobbit House built on his property. We've seen Hobbit-inspired houses before, but most of them were labors-of-love that looked janky, handmade and amateurish; but Peter Archer proved he was equal to the task by using actual architecture skills and talented, professional craftspeople to execute a beautiful home in its own right.
What most impressed us is Archer's attention to detail, incorporating unlikely design elements described and/or sketched by Tolkien, and addressed with real-world solutions. For example, how would you hang a circular door? Archer knew it had to be hinged at a single point to work, but a 54-inch-diameter slab of cedar isn't exactly light. Multiple craftsmen told him it couldn't be done, but he persisted until he found an ironworker who made it work. And the crescent-shaped flange is beautiful.
The motto of LifeEdited, an experiment in compact living started by Treehugger founder Graham Hill, is an alluring one: "Design your life to include more money, health and happiness with less stuff, space and energy." The design of the prototype LifeEdited apartment (actually Hill's residence) fulfills the motto neatly, incorporating furniture you'll recognize from our Resource Furniture videos (here and here), an intelligently-designed moving wall, and lots of nice little touches that reveal some serious depth of thought:
Crazy seeing what an absolute craphole the apartment was before Hill's insane reno. I also admire how he's extended his philosophy of editing things down even to the kitchen implements and his clothing.
Wow: I can't believe it's been over a year and a half since I first learned that Bruce Ratner—public enemy #1 for many well-to-do Brooklynites and blue collar workers alike—was obsessed with prefabricated building construction. I suppose it shouldn't have surprised me, as he's a bit of a Scrooge (per the Times: "[prefabrication] could lead to more affordable housing, or it could simply mean greater profits for the developer"), but his obsession was reportedly inspired by the YouTube video below:
Of course, labor practices and building codes alike are notoriously lax in Asia, and so Ratner's vision remained a dream... until now. His development company, Forest City Ranter, announced that they'd reached an agreement with city construction unions to move forward with the 32-story tower. (According to the Times, union factory workers will earn an average annual salary of $55,000, 25% less than union construction workers; another often-cited figure puts a carpenter's pay at $35/hr. vs $85/hr., respectively.)
...next spring, 125 workers at the factory in Building 293 at the Navy Yard will begin churning out 930 modules—typically 14 feet wide, 35 feet long and 10 feet tall—equipped with floors, walls, electric lines, plumbing, kitchens, toilets, exterior façades and even towel racks.
"This is more than innovation," said MaryAnne Gilmartin, executive vice president of Forest City Ratner. "We've cracked a code that will allow us to utilize cutting-edge technology to introduce greater affordability, more sustainability and world-class architecture."
She said modular was suitable for both subsidized and luxury housing. Forest City says it hopes that other urban builders will use the technology. The company also sees a market for building prefabricated bathroom "pods," which slide into the modules, and can also be used by conventionally built hospitals and other institutions.
A variety of modules, which come in different shapes, together with various glass and colored exterior panels, will break up the mass of the building so that it does not look like a Lego tower.
Atlantic Yards has had a tortuous history for the past decade or so, since Forest City Ratner first set its sights on the site in 2003. After Frank Gehry proved to pricy for the original design of the sprawling mixed-use complex, Ratner brought in SHoP architects to design the arena and residential towers; ARUP was instrumental in realizing the prefabrication process, lending their engineering expertise to the ambitious undertaking. Again, per the Times:
Sixty percent of the work will be done in the factory, which Forest City believes will save as much as 20 percent on construction costs and cut the delivery time to 18 months, from 28 months.
Ms. Gilmartin of Forest City warned that the first tower may be only marginally less expensive than a conventional tower, but that there should be increasing efficiency with each building at the site.
The New York Observerreports that the 32-story highrise, which goes by the uninspired codename B2, will come in at over 50% taller than the current record-holder for world's tallest prefabricated building, a 20-story hotel in England. Construction on the tower—the first of 15 planned modular buildings—exactly a week before Christmas (insert joke about big packages here), and may well serve as a test case for the future of construction in cities the world over.
If this was The Daily News, I'd lead off with the sensationalist headline "Frank Lloyd Wright Fathered More Children Than New York City Buildings!" But while that's the truth, it's hardly noteworthy; of his more than 1,000 commissions, he only accepted three in Gotham—one house in Staten Island and just two spaces in Manhattan.
One of those spaces was the Hoffman Auto Showroom on Park Avenue, completed in 1955. Though tight by auto showroom standards at just 3,600 square feet—this was in Manhattan, after all—the space contained plenty of drama. The main room was dominated by an ascending, semicircular ramp that encircled the de rigeuer rotating auto platform.
The rotating platform was large enough to fit four cars on it, bringing each one around like a sushi restaurant for auto enthusiasts. The upwards-sloping ramp could fit another three cars, and also had space for customers to walk between the cars and the barrier, allowing them to ascend the ramp and view the cars on the platform from above.
Sound familiar, that bit about the curving wraparound ramp? The Hoffman Auto Showroom has been described as a "forerunner" and "precursor" of Wright's design for the Guggenheim, as the former opened in 1955 and the latter broke ground in 1956. But while that's semantically accurate, it might give you the misimpression that the Guggenheim's ramp was inspired by an automobile showroom. Which is not true. Those of you who've sat through interminable semesters of History of Architecture will recall that Wright spent over a decade on the Guggenheim design. Three out of four of his original Guggy sketches, from 1943 and ’44, featured the wraparound ramp. It's more than likely that the Guggenheim design influenced the Hoffman showroom, and not the other way ’round.
Chen Yaoguang is the principal and founder of Hangzhou-based architecture studio Dianshang Building Decoration Design Co. Ltd., DBDD for short. Over the past two decades, Chen has established himself as Hangzhou's premier interior architecture practice, garnering plenty of Chinese-language design press as well as exposure in the mainstream media. (His next challenge is to make a name in the West.)
In fact, China's swift ascent to economic superpower status is readily reflected in his success—the studio has grown to some 30 employees—and continued demand for his work is perhaps the surest sign of the nation's trickle-down prosperity. Indeed, he has built an impressive list of projects and clients, from corporate headquarters to cultural venues, from high-end hotels to ritzy residences for China's burgeoning nouveau riche.
Image courtesy of DBDD
Image courtesy of DBDD
And as is often the case with rapidly-acquired wealth, it seems that money can't buy taste: newly munificent Chinese tend to err on the side of overstated opulence as opposed to the understated aesthetic of, say, the Japanese or the Scandinavians. Yet DBDD's extensive portfolio proves that prosperity need not be too ostentatious: the interiors are thoughtfully-designed and vastly superior to the gaudy Gilded Age-inclination of conventional Chinese luxury.
Image courtesy of DBDD
Image courtesy of DBDD
Indeed, Chen's studio—a two-story office space, plus a couple courtyard-house-style archive beyond the terrace—is a veritable trove of uncanny curios from all over the world (he took the design team to Bali last year for 'research'), scatterbrained yet somehow coherent. The East-meets-West pastiche of ancient artifacts, Old World wonders and miscellaneous mementos collectively expresses an understandable instinct towards extravagance that is met with a healthy degree of restraint in his body of work, which is well-documented on his website [NB: the site was down as of press time].
Designer Kenya Hara of Muji and Haptic fame, among other things, has curated a collection of small-scale, DIY architecture projects created by the likes of Konstantin Grcic, Shigeru Ban and others. And you can download the blueprints and watch the accompanying videos of each project to learn how to build them yourself. The only thing is, all of the projects are designed specifically to be used and inhabited by...dogs.
Architecture for Dogs, invented by architects and designers, is an extremely sincere collection of architecture and a new medium, which make dogs and their people happy. By looking at the diagrams or pictures or watching the videos, people all over the world can make these themselves.
Dogs are people's partners, living right beside them, but they are also animals that humans, through crossbreeding, have created in multitudes of breeds. Reexamining these close partners with fresh eyes may be a chance to reexamine both human beings themselves and the natural environment.
As our first project, we present 13 pieces of architecture. Please take the time to carefully examine the details of these elaborately designed ingenious structures, and because it's free to download the blueprints, if you find one you like, make it yourself for your dog.
Objects range from rocking dog houses to platforms designed to bring short pets up to human eye-level to cooling platforms for hot weather. Some of the project descriptions are filled with that architecture-speak and have concepts that seem a bit of a stretch, while others are outright clever: Torafu Architects' concept solves the issue of dogs that enjoy burrowing in their owner's clothes, by incorporating the master's old shirts into the frame of a furniture piece.
One warning: At press time the website was acting a bit wonky. Grcic's entry, for instance, refused to load. I'm thinking a dog somewhere has chewed through a server cable.
Spanning the last 30 years, YUNG HO CHANG + FCJZ: MATERIAL-ISM explores FCJZ's experiments in architecture, design, planning and art together with a detailed study into the different aspects of Yung Ho Chang's practice, such as inhabitation, construction methods, urbanism, tradition, perception, and culture. Through these works, the exhibition not only considers the buildings people inhabit and the cities they constitute but also the importance of design in everyday urban life and the specific predicament of people, in the context of the last three decades of unprecedented growth in China.
UCCA Director Philip Tinari praised Chang's "witty, thoughtful and universal design solutions inspired by distinctly Chinese problems and concepts," noting that he is "considered the father of contemporary Chinese architecture." He was among the first to leave the mainland to study in the States (Berkeley '84), where he lived and worked for over a decade before returning to his hometown Beijing in 1992.
Known as both the first architect to set up an independent atelier in China and the first Chinese national to head a major department of architecture in an international university—having served as dean of architecture at MIT 2003–2009—Chang has inspired a wide range of followers and mentored a new generation of talent.
As he recently related in Time Out Beijing, Chang fondly recalled the traditional courtyard houses hutong of his youth... even as witnessed the radical reinvention of the ancient capital over the course of two decades, as upwards of 88% of the iconic alleyways were bulldozed (according to UNESCO) in favor of the soulless highrises that dominate Beijing's cityscape today.
Photos courtesy Biomusueo, copyright Victoria Murillo.
Even though Frank Gehry's new Biomuseo has received support from Panama's federal government, the Smithsonian Institute, the Amador Foundation and the University of Panama, as well as reserved but positive commentary from a smattering of architecture blogs, we're a little surprised that we're the one of the first, if not in fact the very first site to admit that our skepticism of Gehry's original plans has not been alleviated by images of the final phases of the building's construction. While some might call the disjointed roofline a signature Gehry move, it might also be a case of an old dog unable to learn any new tricks.
We know it's unfair to critique a project before the proverbial ribbon has been cut, and we welcome your input and comments, but we can't help but liken the angled, metal rooftop to a crumpled, jumbled scrap heap. Far calmer and cleaner is the interior design by Bruce Mau, which includes eight permanent galleries, temporary exhibition spaces, a public atrium and a three-story digital 'Panamarama' covered in 14 screens that, according to Mau, will take visitors along a "thematic path [with] exhibits [that go] beyond the mere illustration of ideas to become functional models whose effects bridge art and science."
Hear hear for cross-disciplinary education. Doris Kim Sung was a biology major who switched into architecture, and her combination of the two interests has now led her, as an assistant professor at USC, to experimenting with building systems inspired by everything from human skin to grasshoppers' breathing systems. "[Skin is] the first line of defense for the body," she says. "Our building skins should be more similar to human skin."
To that end Sung has been experimenting with thermo-bimetals, two thin layers of metal that expand and contract, in response to temperature, at different rates. Laminating two like-sized sheets of different material together and subjecting them to a temperature change causes the sheet to curl up—and this phenomenon can be exploited to create a building that ingeniously shades itself as needed, requiring no external power.
Check it out in Sung's "Metal That Breathes" TED Talk, released just yesterday:
In the early 1800s most buildings in New York City were made of brick or wood. But sometime in the 1830s the economy started to bustle, enabling people to earn a little more scratch, and this emerging middle class wanted a classier-looking domicile.
Architects of the era kept building with brick, but sought a more refined-looking material to skin the buildings in. They found it in brownstone, a brown-colored sandstone located at relatively nearby quarries in Hummelstown, Pennsylvania and Portland, Connecticut. The Portland Brownstone Quarries had the added benefit of being located on the Connecticut River, which dumped directly into the Long Island Sound and was thus a fairly quick boat ride to building-hungry NYC.
Brownstone was relatively affordable, aesthetically pleasing (at least to our eyes; Edith Wharton reportedly found it an eyesore), and best of all, easy to carve. Manhattan and Brooklyn became dotted with the earth-colored townhouses.
The Hummelstown Quarry shut down in 1929, victim to declining demand and the looming disaster that would become the Great Depression. The larger Portland quarry soldiered on until the 1940s, when a major flood knocked them out of business. Parts of it are still filled, to this day, with the water from that flood.
The sculpting of ice for most New Yorkers involves rainbow-colored shaved iced cones in the summers or yellow snow in the winter. Fortunately for the natives of Tannforsen, Sweden, they can enjoy winter the way nature intended. One such person is Susan Christianen who recently completed this interior design project for the Tannforsen Igloos. A graduate of Design Academy Eindhoven, Netherlands, Christianen has worked with several ice hotels. Several of these projects and others can be seen here on coroflot.
The Tannforsen Igloos are located on the slope of the Tannforsen waterfall which freezes every winter. Among these cold months construction begins on these igloos, usually finished around Christmas time. The constructors of the space realized that similarly to a solidified interior, this ice igloo would require decoration. In collaboration with Anna Ohlund, Susan Christianen produced these stunning, sculptural facades that bring multiple elements of nature into this visceral space. Inspired by the tree of life Anna utilizes the root work of the tree to harmonize two different spaces, or contain a given room.
Yohji Yamamoto in the Courtyard of the Design Museum Holon
Following our trip to Tel Aviv to cover Holon Design Week earlier this year, Design Museum Holon (DMH) mounted Yohji Yamamoto's first solo exhibition in Israel, a site-specific installation that was something of a ground breaker for the museum, which had never before turned itself over entirely to a single artist or designer. The stunning exhibition, which reflects all the ambition and energy of the museum's inimitable chief curator Galit Gaon, will be sent off in style this week during the Holon Fashion Week.
As all cultural events in Holon and Tel Aviv tend to revolve around the architecturally significant museum designed by Ron Arad in 2010, the theme of this year's Holon Fashion Week is, fittingly, "On Clothes and Cities," and will focus on Yamamoto's influence on contemporary Israeli culture as well as the relationship between "fashion, architecture and the modern urban challenge."
Diana Vreeland at Work
From October 15 - 20, DMH will host a pop-up shop, collaborative projects between architects and fashion designers, presentations by Rafael de Cardenas, architect and former fashion designer at Calvin Klein, Ippoliti Pestellini Laparelli, an associate at Rem Koolhaas' OMA in charge of their projects for Prada, Shala Monroque, fashion consultant for Miu Miu and Prada, and Corso Como's Carla Sozzani. Film screenings are scheduled for the well reviewed documentary Diana Vreeland: The Eye Has To Travel, about the legendary fashion editor of Vogue and Harpers Bazaar and Versaille '73: An American Revolution, a documentary about the legendary 1973 event that pitted "the five lions of French couture Givenchy, Dior, Ungaro, Yves Saint Laurent and Pierre Cardin with five American designers Halston, Oscar de la Renta, Anne Klein, Stephen Burrows and Bill Blass."
See the full schedule and list of speakers and follow the happenings on Facebook.
If you've seen a performance at The Public Theater in the last year and been ushered across the torn up lobby floor, tiptoed over rocky wooden boards lining hallways lit by emergency lights and coated in layers of construction dust, then you'll be as pleased as we were to walk into the newly plastered lobby, the scent of fresh paint still hanging in the air. The gallery-white walls are decorated only with the iconic blocky black type Paula Scher designed for The Public in 1994. The entrance and indeed most of the theatre's revitalization was designed by Ennead Architects (formerly Polshek Partnership), but if you find yourself in need of a reprieve from the blindingly bright white lobby and lounge areas, head upstairs to The Library, a welcomingly dark restaurant and bar with signature Rockwell Group touches—sexy, industrial, refined—that's truly a sight for sore eyes.
If the ceiling seems a bit low it's because this second story space was carved out of the 25-foot open ceiling in the lobby to "create a cozy, almost hidden space within the void." The Public's cast iron columns and steel beams were painted black and worked into the dining area, where guests sit on distressed leather chairs and button tufted banquets under a nine foot circular cast iron chandelier that, along with the other blackened steel and brushed bronze lighting, was custom made by Conant Metal and Lighting in Vermont. Antique metal work, white-washed cerused oak walls lined with vintage books and black and white photos from The Public's storied past create the mood that principal Shawn Sullivan and the Rockwell Group envisioned "as a secret corner one might discover at the New York Public Library."
When it comes to casting bugs' nests, looks like Walter Tschinkel's not the only game in town; scientist and SUNY biology professor Scott Turner also produces "endocasts," though he does them of aboveground termite mounds rather than undergound ant colonies, and uses plaster rather than molten aluminum.
The results, which display a similarly alien architecture to Tschinkel's ant hives, give me the heebie-jeebies:
Turner's endocasts take months to complete, as you'll see below, and obviously he's not putting in the time just for fun; he's after specific answers. Writes Turner, who refers to the physiology of social insects as "my current obsession," on his website:
Social insects, specifically termites, cooperate to produce "emergent physiology" at a scale much larger than the individuals in the colony. How do they manage the trick? How is it that swarms of termites "know" to build a structure that functions as an organ of physiology at a scale much larger than themselves? Just how do termite mounds work in the first place? These are questions we have long thought we understood, but in fact understand little.
In this video of Scott's process, be sure to peep the bugged-out (sorry) sequence that runs from 3:34 to 4:26, where they animate the layer-by-layer slicing open of a mound:
Tverrfjellhytta - Norwegian Wild Reindeer Centre Pavilion, by Snohetta in Hjerkinn, Norway, 2011
Urbanism—the omnipresent buzz word that encompasses every aspect of our lives affected by the space crunch that grows along with the global population—is on the tip of everyone's tongues these days, from developers and city officials to architects and designers. And as we've heard a hundred times before, the need for undeveloped, natural outdoor space will only increase with the number of people streaming into cities. This has resulted in frustrations for cramped city dwellers, but it's also pushed cities to become more creative with their use of public space. In Going Public, Gestalten's latest publication, editors Robert Klante, Sven Ehmann, Sofia Borges, Mathias Huber, and Lukas Feireiss selected the most innovative and exciting uses of public space from around the world, from dense city centers to forgotten freeway underpasses to distant forests and fjords.
In the last five years, urban planners have moved well beyond traditional notions of public space. New outdoor environments are less focused on plopping a nice piece of sculpture in a plaza and more about creating "flexible frameworks for social, political, and cultural change...[with] a common thread in their affirmative endeavor to transform abstract spaces to concrete place." This involves "activating" spaces to "add value of experience and meaning." In his preface, Feireiss notes that this have become a much more collaborative effort than in the past, and signs off with a quotes from activist Jane Jacobs' seminal 1961 book The Death and Life of Great American Cities that still resonates today. "Cities," she said, "have the capability of providing something for everybody, only because, and only when they are created by everybody."
The book is divided into six chapters, Gimme Shelter: Public Architecture As Place-Maker, Constant Gardener: Green Space In the City, Walk With Me: Modes of Spatial Mobilization, Benchmarks: Accommodating the Cityscape, Between A Rock and A Hard Place: Architectures of Intermediate Status, and Why Don't We Do It In The Road?: New Forms of Engagement In the City. Here's a look at some of the best projects from each chapter.
This is the meatiest chapter and includes everything from Luminous Field's ten day-long digital light show projected on Anish Kapoor's famous Cloud Gate sculpture (aka the giant mirrored bean) in Millennium Park, Chicago, earlier this year. It's shown alongside several other installations with swooping, globular forms, but whether they're smooth and bean-like or rigid and made from wood, built in city plazas or in remote locations, these structures either provide visitors with shelter or a new vantage point from which to experience the landscape, or both.
Envolver - Entree Alpine Panoramic Structure, by Alice (Atelier de la Conception De L'Espace) in Zermatt, Switzerland, 2009
Winnipeg Skating Shelters, by Patkau Architects in Winnipeg, Canada, 2010-2011
This is pretty freaking amazing, and gives new meaning to the term "sacrifical casting." Retiree Walter R. Tschinkel is an entomologist and former professor of Biological Science at Florida State University. He recognizes ants as "some of nature's grand architects" and, curious to understand their self-created habitats, devised a clever (if cruel) way to do it: By pouring molten aluminum down into the hole.
Unsurprisingly, the ants die in the process. But after the aluminum cools and Tschinkel has completed a meticulous excavation, he unearths these wondrous, chandelier-esque shapes revealing the alien architectures of the colony.
Tschinkel has discovered that colonies can be up to twelve feet deep and house between 9,000 and 10,000 workers.
If you're wondering how he can tell how many ants were in there, he started doing this in the '80s by making plaster casts, which did not vaporize the ants. By breaking apart the plaster, he could count the little buggers. (BONUS: Watch the Video of the Process after the jump)
So why the switch from plaster to aluminum? For the same reason manufacturers will make car parts out of one but not the other. "The disadvantage of plaster casts is that they break easily so after you dig them up, you have to glue the pieces back together again," Tschinkel said in a 2008 interview. The aluminum has proven more robust.
The architecture and design community exhaled a collective sigh of relief earlier this week as an exceptional private residence narrowly escaped oblivion at the hands of a ruthless real estate developer—for the time being. The demolition of the house, designed by Frank Lloyd Wright for his son David, was pushed back a month at the eleventh hour by the City of Phoenix, which hopes to rectify a complex legal situation in a state known for its aggressive real estate development policies. This much is clear from critic Michael Kimmelman's clarion call to save the house in the Paper of Record.
So too is Kimmelman's description of the house—which is distinguished by its spiral shape, like a certain concurrently-designed landmark on Manhattan's Museum Mile—rather more vivid than the video tour (after the jump). Indeed, the home has never been open to the public despite its proximity to the Frank Lloyd Wright Foundation, headquartered about a dozen miles away at Taliesin West.
I'll defer to architectural historian and Harvard professor Neil Levine for a summary of the significance of the David Wright House:
One of Frank Lloyd Wright's most innovative, unusual and personal works of architecture. Built in 1950–52, it is the only residence by the world-famous architect that is based on the circular spiral plan of the Guggenheim Museum in New York, whose construction followed it by six years. When the house was first published in 1953, it was stated that no other Wright house since Fallingwater was as praiseworthy and remarkable. Since then its reputation has only increased and several architectural historians and architecture critics consider it to be among the 20 most significant Wright buildings. The spatial design, the processional movement through the patio and along the spiral ramp, the custom-designed concrete-block detailing, and the total interior design all give this house a spectacular expression especially appropriate to the desert environment.
Credit: The Frank Lloyd Wright Foundation Archives (The Museum of Modern Art | Avery Architectural & Fine Arts Library, Columbia University, New York); via NYTimes.com
William Root constructed and completed this Tiny House project after his freshman year at Pratt.
The thought of summer vacations evoke thoughts of flings, new friends and the occasional awkward family vacation. For me this is what I thought was the general consensus for myself and my peers' summer vacations until I met William Root.
Hailing from Albaquerque, NM, Will Root is a fellow sophomore at Pratt Institute for Industrial Design. Will is one of the characters that can only be found in an art school, attractinb a veritable cult following on campus with his iconic structuralist book bag, which he designed and made several versions of the bag during foundation year. In one of our many all nighters together we inquired about each others lives and in turn this past summer.
For most students, the reality of the summer is working to pay off their debts. Will realized that working a minimum wage job would pay for a mere two weeks at Pratt. Not content to rely on tips, he opted to think big—big enough to cover an entire year at school. With an entrepreneurial mindset that only the school of hard knocks could teach, he set out to build (and sell) in his words "The best Tiny House ever made."
In the time it usually takes to adjust to being back home, Will finalized his design for a Tiny House and set out on construction within the week. In a rented lot near the lumber yard, he set out creating the project that would consume his entire summer. Tiny Houses, all though not definitively defined, do tend to have some common characteristics, mainly that their proportions and size are constrained to the size of a trailer.
Still, one of Will's goals was to make a no compromise Tiny House. Where many other designs made the house as small as possible, he made his as large as state laws would permit. Thus, he was able to incorporate a full-size kitchen, tiled bathroom, and a 9×13 sized deck. In total the house encompasses a mere 160 sq. ft, which is small even by NYC standards, where the legal minimum is 400 sq. ft.
If this comes to fruition, this may be the sweetest, or at least largest-scale design gig we've ever heard of: Dror Benshetrit designs an island for 300,000 inhabitants. Not just the structures they'll live in, but the entire island.
The Canal Istanbul project is the current Turkish Prime Minister's plan to bisect Istanbul on the European side, connecting the Black Sea with the Sea of Marmara. The resultant waterway would create a new shipping lane, reportedly creating a more safe way for 56,000 vessels a year to traverse the two bodies of water. Dredging the canal would produce a reported one billion cubic meters of earth.
What to do with all that soil? Turkish developer Serdar Inan contracted a commission, led by Dror Benshetrit, to investigate an environmentally positive application. Benshetrit's plan, unveiled today at Istanbul Design Week, is to use the soil to create a massive, sustainably-designed island off the coast of Istanbul that will house 300,000 souls.
Called HavvAda, Benshetrit's jaw-dropping plan involves building an island housing six massive geodesic domes, of varying sizes, that will each be incorporated into their own hill. The hills will be arranged in a circle, with the valley in between serving as "downtown." Buildings will stretch from each hill not vertically, but horizontally, wrapping around the hills at different heights. And the hills/domes would be hollow—each would house residences as well as one of six different arenas of community life: A museum, a business district, a stadium theater, a health and sports center, a entertainment complex, and an educational facility.
It all sounds compelling, awesome, and crazy. Read the details here and/or peep the explanatory video below.