Architecture and Silence, by Christos P. Kakalis

I am so delighted to have been part of this book my dear friend and collaborator Christos P. Kakalis has edited so beautifully. The chapter we co-authored (Chapter 7), discusses silence in architectural education. I hope you’ll like it as I am very proud of this work and the people who made this happen.Thank you Christos for trusting me with this!

From the Routledge official webpage

This book explores the role of silence in how we design, present and experience architecture. Grounded in phenomenological theory, the book builds on historical, theoretical and practical approaches to examine silence as a methodological tool of architectural research and unravel the experiential qualities of the design process.

Distinct from an entirely soundless experience, silence is proposed as a material condition organically incorporated into the built and natural landscape. Kakalis argues that, either human or atmospheric, silence is a condition of waiting for a sound to be born or a new spatio-temporal event to emerge. In silence, therefore, we are attentive and attuned to the atmosphere of a place. The book unpacks a series of stories of silence in religious topographies, urban landscapes, film and theatre productions and architectural education with contributed chapters and interviews with Jeff Malpas and Alberto Pérez-Gómez.

Aimed at postgraduate students, scholars and researchers in architectural theory, it shows how performative and atmospheric qualities of silence can build a new understanding of architectural experience.

blu Marble V finch3d

Video available here

I only bumped into this artist because of a post he made on Instagram I read about on Dezeen. Influenced by the group finch3d and their Adaptive Plan 3d algorithm for designing houses Sebastian Errazuriz urged architects through his post to “continue to think and design “architecture” for more abstract systems” in fear that the nature of the profession is changing and fewer architects will be needed in the future.

The finch3d tool is actually pretty fun to watch: a house plan keeps changing while someone presses/slides different buttons of a grasshopper code. Yet I fail to see how that changes architecture. First of all, someone did write that code, probably an architect, choosing what parameters can be changed and how. The very choice of what can be changed is already intentional; it expresses the hierarchical thinking of its designer. By transferring this intentionality to a potential client you only allow him/her to think within a framework that is already set. Unless the client himself/herself writes this code, finch guarantees no more freedom in planning than before.

And by allowing/promoting the use of such tools to the greater public do we really think that we are being deprived of designing? Hasn’t it always been the case in anonymous architecture? US building code for example allows people to freely build their houses on their own as long as they comply to state regulations. So what if that person used the finch tool? And why is the finch tool any different in its conception that the state regulations? They both perceive design as in keeping up with predetermined rules.

So, do I think that architecture is an endangered profession? Do we really risk our jobs by evolving and expanding into new realms? Not really. Experimenting with different design tools has always been a core activity of our profession. But designing is not just designing space, is it? Because then, a code like that could definitely jeopardize what we do. We don’t design space: we design spaces for the people who use them. And it is the elusive nature of human thinking and being keeps us afar from any certainties. It is this incompleteness, the lack of a single answer that drives us and will keep on driving us to explore what it means to be fully human.

Image available here

And then I see Errazuriz’s breathtaking installation: a led lit image of the earth set in an urban void, an unexpected surprise event that invites viewers to contemplate on the “fragility of our existence.” (artist’s own words). And then I think: “go ahead and make as many codes as you like. You will never be able to codify the feeling/the sense of fragility of existence.”Because there are qualities and values in architectural designing that can not possibly be expressed algorithmically.

Architecture can never be generic, nor abstract. In that case, it isn’t architecture, it’s just building. Architecture in my understanding is site-specific, it is contextual, it is a means of communicating who we are not just in terms of our physical existence, but also in relation to others, it is transcendental, just like that earth image suddenly hitting you as you walk by. And if there is ever a code that does that, hell, I am gonna be the first to use it.

Wikkelhouse | Fiction Factory

Image available here

Fro the company’s site:

The base of the Wikkelhouse is ‘virgin fiber paperboard’, which is made from Scandinavian trees. This so called goldboard, is wrapped around a huge mold, with a method patented by RS Developments, while environmentally friendly glue is added. This creates a tough and insulating sandwich structure. By this wrapping process a heat insulation and construction method are integrated in a sustainable way. Afterwards each segment is finished with a protective film and a shell of wooden slats.Wikkelhouse meets the criteria for temporary or permanent housing. It is about eight times more durable than traditional construction.

The Embassy of Circular & Biobased Building & The Growing Pavilion

The Growing Pavilion is unique in the way in which a large number of biobased materials, such as wood, hemp, mycelium, cattail and cotton, come together to form a special building. Image available here

This Embassy comprises ​​partners who are working on this future scenario through practical design assignments and by exploring new approaches. The key questions are: how can we scale, what does a new circular construction chain look like and which new design language is associated with using biobased building materials?

More info available here

The Growing Pavilion is a collaborative endeavor between The Embassy and the Company New Heroes and will be displayed during the Dutch Design Week 2019, from the 19th up and until the 27th of October

The many faces of sustainability

Image available here

Sustainability is referred to as related to…

  • energy efficient high-tech, low-tech, or vernacular strategies
  • health, well-being, and quality of life issues
  • an analogy to natural forms or from processes in natural systems
  • performance over appearance
  • appearance over performance
  • intelligent and responsive materials, renewable, recyclable, biodegradable
  • sensory perception
  • resilience and circular economy
  • not building at all and instead promote virtualization
  • ecological footprinting and consumerist lifestyles
  • best practice guidelines, assessment methods

All above-mentioned concepts are context-specific and inevitably contested. Enacting and translating sustainability in arch design practices can occur in different stages of the design/build process:

  • during the design brief phase that defines the sustainability targets: translating the concept of sustainability into design practices, recognizing the controversial issues to tackle/ those is in charge of giving directions should ask those bidding to work on giving meaning to these goals
  • when analyzing the ways in which design strategies are constructed between the distinct vocational design actors
  • when establishing supposed equivalences between projected and actual design

References

Schröder, T. (2018). Giving meaning to the concept of sustainability in architectural design practices: Setting out the analytical framework of translation. Sustainability10(6), 1-15. [1710]. DOI: 10.3390/su10061710

The value of detailed maps at the neighborhood level

Image available here

The author claims the need of a systematic approach “that brings together the design of built environments with the best scientific knowledge of processes of change in complex natural and social systems.” Urban planning must work within these systems that require local info (through participatory practices) and the creation of technical solutions. He thinks the challenge is mapping informality as cities grow in unpredictable ways. He also claims that cities are about connections: “the socioeconomic and physical links that allow each one of us to make a living, obtain services that make our lives easier, and learn and invest our time and resources.”

The effects of connections can be traced as the concentration of social networks in space and time where the value of a group is not proportional to the group’s numbers, but to its interactions. GPS tracking, and smart phone technologies can help track the networks.

New methods from urban science allow the accelerated evolution of these neighborhoods to follow natural urban processes. They are based in part on the mathematical analysis of detailed maps, including the development of algorithms to optimize building access, delivery of services, formalization of land, and taxation, with minimal disturbance and cost.

Planning through the development of detailed maps at the neighborhood level is also an effective way to capture local, person-centric knowledge, providing a clear vehicle for better local politics via the coordination of priorities and action from communities, local governments, and other stakeholders. The convergence of a networked science of cities, quantitative methods of spatial analysis, and information technology tools is key to allow users to participate.

Full text available here

Luís M. A. Bettencourt (2019) Designing for Complexity: The Challenge to Spatial Design from Sustainable Human Development in Cities Technology|Architecture + Design, 3:1, 24-32, DOI: 10.1080/24751448.2019.1571793