The City of Being, the City of Doing and the City of Becoming

Fragment of Per Krohg, Byen og dens Oppland (The City and its Environs), Oslo City Hall, Oslo, 1940–1949. © Per Krohg / BONO 2018.

(…) Before modernity we lived in what could be referred to as the City of Being and Belonging, which amongst other things was also the crucible of culture, creativity, and consciousness. This is the compact, traditional city whose buildings line, define, and animate the public realm of streets, squares, and green spaces that are shaped in response to who we are so we feel that we belong and are at home. These elements of the public realm together form a coherent gestalt that is not mere residual space but is articulated to constitute the multiple stages of the theater of daily life. Within the contiguous fabric of spaces and framing buildings of such a city, we were the same persons wherever we were, known in all our aspects by all those around—an essential condition for acquiring self-knowledge and maturity. Most importantly, such cities served all of who we then were as humans, their experiential and symbolic richness nurturing the subjective self. The traditional City of Being started to fragment with the impact of polluting and noisy industry, and as mechanical public transport allowed the better off to move to the suburbs. This and the impact of modern planning—initially a set of defensive measures to protect against insalubrious industry and over-crowded housing conditions—led to the dispersal and loosening of the tight contiguities of the traditional city. This has resulted in the fragmented modern City of Doing—and of Dispersal, Disconnect, and Denial. In this City, free-standing buildings are distributed in a conceptual void in which you play out different roles in different parts of the city: parent at home, employee at the office, and passive consumer in many other parts. The emphasis on distributed specific functions (Doing) results in a machine for avoiding the chance encounters, complexities, and contradictions that lead to self-knowledge and psychological maturation. It also disrupts the continuities of the ever-present, ever-experiencing self that is the subject of the City of Being (…) To move beyond modernity, we need to recover the sense of community and belonging of the City of Being (…) we need to retain some of the dynamism of the City of Doing (…) This answer will be the City of Becoming, informed by an emerging and expanded sense of what it is to be fully human. This City will offer multiple ways to explore its richly diverse fabric and facilities and so discover ever more potentials in ourselves. The architecture of the City of Becoming will further expand and elaborate this role as it weaves a web of relationships in a way that encourages one to be aware and engaged, stretching you to all one could become. Instead of modernity’s isolated objects in a conceptual void, un-treasured and tarted up with smears of landscaping, the result would be a richly woven tapestry of relationships.

Peter Buchanan, Reweaving Webs of Relationships

The Hannover Principles

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  1. Insist on rights of humanity and nature to co-exist in a healthy, supportive, diverse and sustainable condition.
  2. Recognize interdependence. The elements of human design interact with and depend upon the natural world, with broad and diverse implications at every scale. Expand design considerations to recognizing even distant effects.
  3. Respect relationships between spirit and matter. Consider all aspects of human settlement including community, dwelling, industry and trade in terms of existing and evolving connections between spiritual and material consciousness.
  4. Accept responsibility for the consequences of design decisions upon human well-being, the viability of natural systems and their right to co-exist.
  5. Create safe objects of long-term value. Do not burden future generations with requirements for maintenance or vigilant administration of potential danger due to the careless creation of products, processes or standards.
  6. Eliminate the concept of waste. Evaluate and optimize the full life-cycle of products and processes, to approach the state of natural systems, in which there is no waste.
  7. Rely on natural energy flows. Human designs should, like the living world, derive their creative forces from perpetual solar income. Incorporate this energy efficiently and safely for responsible use.
  8. Understand the limitations of design. No human creation lasts forever and design does not solve all problems. Those who create and plan should practice humility in the face of nature. Treat nature as a model and mentor, not as an inconvenience to be evaded or controlled.
  9. Seek constant improvement by the sharing of knowledge. Encourage direct and open communication between colleagues, patrons, manufacturers and users to link long term sustainable considerations with ethical responsibility, and re-establish the integral relationship between natural processes and human activity.

Principles available here

The Hannover principles were commissioned by the City of Hannover, Germany, as design principles for Expo 2000, The World’s Fair held under the theme: “Humanity, Nature and Technology”

Tour of the Monuments of Passaic, by Robert Smithson

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In September 1967, land artist Robert Smithson took a tour over Passaic in new Jersey* and created a short photo-essay to report his journey, entitled “A Tour of the Monuments of Passaic, New Jersey” later published in “Artforum” magazine, December edition. Interestingly, he names profane objects such as pipes and derelict spaces as monuments:

The bus passed over the first monument. I pulled the buzzer-cord and got off at the corner of Union Avenue and River Drive. The monument was a bridge that connected Bergen County with Passaic County (…) Along the Passaic River banks were many minor monuments such as concrete abutments that supported the shoulders of a new highway in the process of being built (…) As I walked north along what was left of River Drive, I saw a monument in the middle of the river—it was a pumping derrick with a long pipe attached to it (…) Nearby, on the river bank, was an artificial crater that contained a pale limpid pond of water, and from the side of the crater protruded six large pipes that gushed the water of the pond into the river. This constituted a monumental fountain that suggested six horizontal smokestacks that seemed to be flooding the river with liquid smoke (…) The last monument was a sand box or model desert.

Read the full Smithson article here

Smithson, says Maarten Overdijk in his ‘Monuments and Mental Maps‘ article in OASE 98, rejected conventional ideas about perception and cognition precisely because they did no justice to his experience and offered him no method to analyze or describe it. Instead, he had a preoccupation with space and the changing relations of place, location and map. In his ‘literary’ narrative of the Passaic, continues Overdijk, Smithson attempts a montage of descriptions; observations and reflections while shifting between different layers of time: “the psychological time of the individual, the social time of culture and its symbols, and the time of geological change.”

* Ellen Mara De Wachter revisited the locations captured in the photo-essay through a short film

Light as a service: the ‘pay-per-lux’ system

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Schipholl Airport, Lounge 2: The specially developed sustainable Philips luminaires, which hang in an attractive pattern in the transfer hall above the passenger’ heads, comply with the stringent requirements of the circular economy concept. These luminaires have been specifically designed to allow fast and easy repair or replacement.

Turntoo developed Light as a Service and Circular Lighting for Philips: a service in which you buy light without an investment, but with the best products and hassle free. The installation remains Philips’, who is motivated to the utmost to create products they can reuse: a closed system for used materials. Philips retain ownership of the lights and take care of the reuse, refurbishing or recycling to ensure customers get maximum value from the lighting system. For customers this results in potential maintenance cost savings of 60% and 20% more cost effective upgradability.

For more click here and here

Overview on bio-based building material made with plant aggregate by S. Amziane & M. Sonebi

hemp shiv (the woody core of the stem of the hemp plant) is probably the most widely used in alternative or eco-friendly building materials in Europe and is also representative of most of the aggregate coming from the stem of an annual crop. This is usually mixed with a lime-based binder and the resultant bio-concrete is known as hemp-lime
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(…) plant based materials have a valuable benefit for health, ecologic, comfortable habitat (moisture management, thermic and acoustic) and sustainable materials (…) can be qualified as environmental-friendly and efficient multi-functional (…) The use of crushed hemp (shiv), flax and other plants associated to mineral binder represents the most popular solution adopted in the beginning of this revolution in building materials (…) in particular, for hemp, for which the corners of the market are as varied as fibers for the automobile industry, foodstuffs for the grain or indeed the wood of the stem for construction (…) Indeed, many projects aim to create construction materials using one or more forms of lignocellular matter as a reinforcement to the structure rather than as a lightweight aggregate with an insulating purpose (…) More recently, projects used various sources of bio-aggregates, such as wood, coconut, sisal, palm, bamboo, or bagasse (…) Bio-based aggregate are coming from the stem of plants cultivated either for their fibers (hemp, flax, etc.) or for their seeds (oleaginous flax, sunflower, etc.)

Full text available here

Agro-concrete: “A mix between granulates from lignocellular plant matter coming directly or indirectly from agriculture or forestry, which form the bulk of the volume, and a mineral binder”

Hempcrete is a mixture, in very changeable proportions, of two very different components: a plant-based granulate and a hydraulic and aerated setting binder. It exhibits multiphysical behaviour which is unusual in the domain of construction materials. Indeed, the particles of hemp wood are characterized by a high degree of porosity which results in a high capacity to deform, absorb sounds and have hygrothermal transfer ability: this is one of the essential characteristics which set hempcretes apart from tradition mineral-based concretes for which the granulates are considered non-deformable (…) the variability of the behaviour depending on the formulation enables us to adjust and optimize the performances of this material for diverse applications as a roof filling material, in walling or as flagging (…) It can undergo differential compression, contraction or dilation with no apparent cracking (…) Hemp-based materials are considered as phase-change materials (PCM): the thermal behavior reduces the amplitude of the variations in the ambient air temperature, whilst improving the thermal comfort by bringing down the surface heat of the material. Thus, the use of such materials is an excellent means of passively regulating the indoor temperature, and thereby decreasing the building’s energy requirements (…) these materials are able to improve summer and winter comfort, and stabilize the indoor temperature between day and night, whilst preventing the phenomena of condensation and dampness on the walls (…) 1.8 tons of CO2 are sequestered for every ton of hemp shiv used (…) there is a favorable impact on the greenhouse effect; the hempcrete wall constitutes an interesting carbon absorber for a duration of at least 100 years (…) Some studies have shown that wetting/drying cycles, used to simulate natural variations of humidity, had an influence on the mechanical and thermal properties of hempcretes (…) fungi may also appear at the surface of materials

Full text available here

Cedrik Price: the architecture of the individual and its social relatedness, The McAppy Project

In 1973, following the strikes that beset the British construction industry during the early 1970s, Alistair McAlpine commissioned a design program for his construction company, Sir Robert McAlpine & Sons, that aimed to increase production efficiency and improve labour relations. Cedric Price’s proposal took the format of a two-volume report and a Portable Enclosures Programme (PEP) which, while presenting a critical view of building sites, also demonstrated his ambition to go beyond the immediate brief, employing architectural knowledge and thoughtful design to respond to pressing societal issues and human necessities.

Excerpt from the 2017 CCA Exhibition Catalog entitled: What About Happiness on the Building Site?
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The project emphasizes “the social role and responsibility of the architect by rethinking traditional field practices and pursuing strategies to initiate social progress through critical research, new tools and experimental attitudes” (Domus, 2017). The designer becomes the moderator of social activity (Herdt, 2016).

To qualify labour on building sites, Price acknowledged the need to reframe the relations between the multiple actors involved, from government to service suppliers, from technical staff to workers’ unions. He often stressed the importance of communicating to everyone, from the workers to the administrative personnel, the purposes and goals of the report, introducing “a participatory form of Company planning” and resisting the tendency for decision making to be “too top heavy.”

Full text available here
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