I have had the honor and the pleasure of chairing this years Media Architecture Awards together with Levente Szabó, Matteo Costanzo and Edwin Heathcote. Together we viewed 76 buildings, 59 plans and 29 smaller scale projects and selected the 5 nominees for all three categories. Prizes were awarded to winners last Saturday. The ceremony was held in (the packed) Urania National Film Theatre. Congratulations and a big applause to all nominees and winners and to the organizers of this amazing event: Janos Pasztor, Hulesh Mate & Levente Borenich
After months working on the ‘Scales to Aspects’ diagram, we were finally able to put it to test. From Sunday, July 10 to Tuesday, July 12 we held a Summer School on Circularity in the Built Environment here at TU Delft. We used Binckhorst as a case study, a post industrial area in the Hague currently transitioning to a residential/commercial area.
So, how can we achieve a circular transition? Is it just by using circular building products or circular building practices for the new buildings? Or do we also need to consider how pushing the industry away from the city will affect our circular goals? Where will all necessary materials come from? And what would be the role(s) of the local citizens?
The ‘Scales to Aspects’ model developed here by the CBE Hub was scrutinized by forty participants from all over the world using the input of twelve guest lecturers and the CBE Hub group; four new visions were created for a more circular transition for Binckhorst based on its specific context. In the following months we’ll study the results of what has been an amazing experience for all of us here at BK TU Delft and we’ll make sure to keep this conversation going. A big thanks to everyone who helped make this possible.
Always good to know you are not alone, this has been a relief to read. I copy here:
we need to decolonize/decarbonize (…) the old elitist models need new energy, new insight and new material (…) the school educates, while training is a lifelong process happening after that (…) people in practice are sitting at the table with eight different disciplines, all: talking to each other, not worried about their boundaries and not siloing knowledge production in the way that many universities still insist on (…) How do we invert growth and our relationship to waste? How do we wrestle with the curious paradox that our relationship to technology – hijacked by capital – got us into this mess in the first place, and yet only technology can get us out of it? (…) We may be faced with knowledge we do not recognise (…) generosity pertains to economies of love that undo the transactional. How to decentre the perception of difference is the important question (…) let the perimeter of the discipline dissolve
Art and eco-design belong together, the idea of the building itself becomes the object of art (…) people never want an aesthetically inferior building near them (…) most eco-friendly architecture is really quite ugly (…) the ecological challenges are extremely complex (…) One of the goals of architecture for the post-pandemic era must be to stop forcing people into a world where everything is decided for them (…) The greening of buildings should be a collective design process in which choice, chance and change work together (…) If architects and designers want to continue to play a role in the future, they have to adapt their aesthetic values to these changed conditions: what we actually need now is invisible architecture
I have just read Jeremy Till’s Design after Design lecture and it is so inspiring.
Till discusses the ‘modern project’ using the principles of progress (“If the modern project is underpinned by the need to maintain progress on all fronts, then design is used as a messenger for that urge“), growth (“the modern project is only deemed credibly progressive on the back of markers of growth“), order (“The modern project was, and still is, a project of ordering and categorising, and with it a project of excluding and privileging“) and reason (“the application of rational thought to a given context in order to better it“) and how they are currently challenged by climate change. The modern project, he claims, does not respond to ethics. It will only address its own demise. Climate emergency also defies reason and the scientific method.
So, what about design then? “What we see,” says Till, “is a radical shift from design being attached and addicted to the production of the new, and into practices that pay attention to what comes before the object and what comes after it.” Design now “accommodates difference,” it is “a collective enterprise of sense-making,” it is “sensitive to systems of production, both material and human.”
(…) However, by entrusting the objectivity* of the morphogenesis to the sphere of nature, and in fact to theories that are far too general to be productive and useful, architecture is stranded on the shores of a programmatic bewilderment: if it does not focus on the production of forms, but on the natural and hence objective rules* of morphogenesis, all architectural outcomes and all that they entail are rendered fair and equal: this signifies the annulment of the field of meaning. And because meaning is a social construct, that which is pushed aside by the impetuous return of the natural is, precisely, the social -it is society, it is history (…) However, in the proposed process of natural morphogenesis, the architectural forms do not realise a project but are the outcome of the construction of events, as algorithmic interpretations of information data. The architect is given a new responsibility -not to design the forms but to prepare a bare field of possibilities on which the forces of reality will develop on objective* terms. The resolution of conflicts results into a valid though un-planned, unforeseen, uncanny and consequently estranging architectural form. In contrast, in the practised strategies of architectural design, where subjective* initiative is required by the designer, the construction of the uncanny, of the unexpected and the unforeseen, the estrangement or the paroxysm of architecture’s inherent indeterminability aims to alter conventional socio-spatial relations and differential meaning-giving outcomes (…) This acrobatic, risky relationship between intention and coincidence, between the design’s theoretical abstraction and the existence of reality’s multiple parameters, between natural disorder and intellectual order, perhaps between desire and need -this is what the introduction of the mythologised diagram is attempting to determine in digital strategies: it is an idea bordering on a game, a pseudoscientific mechanism of protestant deincrimination for the abundant pleasures provided by the exceptional new voluptuous spatial experiences of digital design, a ruse aiming to prevent the abolition of the responsibility of designing and to restore the designer’s initiative.
*Are the rules of morphogenesis indeed objective? or just a logical (con)sequence of events based on voluntary data interpretation? In this case, the design process -traditional or digital- is always subjective.
Excerpts of the Wouter Vanstiphout interview to Rory Hyde (MVRDV) for the Australian design review in 2011. Full article available here
If you really want to change the city, or want a real struggle, a real fight, then it would require re-engaging with things like public planning for example, or re-engaging with government, or re-engaging with large-scale institutionalised developers. I think that’s where the real struggles lie, that we re-engage with these structures and these institutions, this horribly complex ‘dark matter’. That’s where it becomes really interesting (…) I do believe that architecture and design as a combination of pure speculation, rhetorical poetics and technical capacity, could play a role in politics. It could re-shape certain discussions and therefore create its own inevitability (…) I don’t think architects have to shed their visionary status, their ‘good’ arrogance, or their speculative powers, if only they would realise that things are contextual! Acknowledge the fact that the deepest meaning in what they do is directly related to the context in which they do it.
astronauts’ cabins as models for environmentally responsible landscape design and architecture/ space colonization has been the underlying ethic/ living in harmony with Earth’s ecosystem became a question of adopting space technologies, analytical tools and ways of living/ their aim was to escape industrial society/ life in a future ecologically designed world was focused on biological survival at the expense of wider cultural, aesthetic and social values of the humanist legacy/ their work was based on diagrams of energy flows as input and output circuits in a cybernetic ecosystem/ construction of self-efficient closed ecological systems within submarines and underground bomb shelters/ the turn towards space ecology emerged in the late 1960s and early 1970s in the light of of alarming reports such as The Population Bomb (Paul Elrich, 1968) and Limits to Growth (Club of Rome, 1972) reinforced by the 1973-1974 Arab oil embargo/ a way of designing which fed on its own ideas and gradually closed itself off from developments in the rest of the architectural community. Its followers sense of self-sufficiency resulted in a sect-design for the believers whose recycling of resources and ideas led to a lack of interest in an outside world simply described as ‘industrial’ and thus not worth listening to:
ecological design is inspired by a biologically informed vision of humankind embedded in an Arcadian dream of building in harmony with nature
Chermayeff/ Alexander, Community and Privacy (1963): advocated for self contained ecological capsules, ecologically autonomous buildings to stop exploitation of natural resources/destruction of natural scenery. Buckminster Fuller, Operating Manual for Spaceship Earth (1969): cabin ecology as a model for understanding life on earth/ Earth as a huge mechanical ship travelling in space/ Doxiadis, Ecumenopolis: humanity was heading towards a universal city/ Ian Mc Harg, Design with Nature (1969): science-based modernist architecture and planning with respect for nature/ ecological crisis was caused by reckless laissez-faire economy, industrialization, greed chaotic urbanization, social structures fragmentation and lack of planning/ he pointed to the holistic ecology of the ‘Orient’, human would build and settle in a space buoy located between the Moon and the Earth/ one should make an ecosystem inventory of an environment, investigating its changing processes and then attribute values to the ecological aspects and determine a. what changes would be permitted and prohibited and b. identify indicators of stability and instability/ (influenced by) John Phillips, Ecology in Design issue of Via Journal (1968): holistic approach to architects and region planners/ they ought to include all forms of life in their designs/ John Todd & William McLarney, New Alchemy Institute and From Eco-Cities to Living Machines: Principles of Ecological Design (1980/ 1984/1994): how to survive an impeding catastrophe, closed ecological life boats that would keep afloat/ New Alchemists aimed at solar-heated and wind-powered greenhouse-aquaculture buildings/ Grumman Corporation, Grumman Lunar Module (1960s): they also developed other household system prototypes: a waste disposal system inspired by space recirculation technology, a sewage system inspired by the astronaut’s lavatory, and an energy efficiency system for homes that incorporated solar cells/ Lockheed Missiles and Space Company in California also developed related technology/ Integral Urban House (1972)/ BioShelter/ Alexander Pike: austerity in place of plenty/ his aim was to use ambient solar and wind energy, to reduce energy requirements, and to utilise human household and waste material/ Brenda &Robert Vale, Autonomous House, a shelter for the coming doom/ Kenneth Yeang: by imitating processes in nature, architects could find new environmentally friendly designs for human life/ biological analogies for optimum survival/ a building was to be sealed off both environmentally and culturally from industrialism/ Phil Haws, Biosphere 2 in Arizona (completed in 1991): the first fully enclosed ecosystem, tested for a period of over a year
Schoonschip (space&matter) consists of a total of 30 water plots, with 46 unique water dwellings for more than 100 residents (…) Each separate house is insulated and equipped with solar panels. Water pumps extract heat from the water in the canal to heat the homes. There is only one connection to the national energy grid, through which residents of Schoonschip trade their generated solar power. Each home has a battery which stores the energy surplus. Waste water from toilets and showers is treated separately and converted back into energy. Many homes also have a green roof, where residents can grow their own food (…) Schoonschip is not only sustainable in an ecological sense, but also socially: the residents work closely together to realize their residential area and coordinate their plans. They have agreed to renounce their personal cars and instead share electric cars together. The group also made a conscious search for diversity in the composition of residents. On that note, there are two ‘kangaroo houses’ in Schoonschip, where two households live together on one boat. Meanwhile, the houses are connected by a ‘smart jetty’ that serves as a pavement and meeting place (…) The district is connected with a smart grid, which is linked to a blockchain. With their own crypto coin – the Jouliette – the Schoonschip residents can trade the solar power that they generate with the neighbourhood’s 500 solar panels. They can also pay with it in other places around the Buiksloterham area, such as the cafe and restaurant at De Ceuvel, a circularity incubator which Space&Matter also initiated, developed and designed.
Rehabilitation refers to developing new architectural designs which are coherent with the existing architecture. The analysis of the design is primarily concerned with the required program changes, ie. the construction of the shell. But it is also concerned with the changes which have to be made in the way in which buildings connect with their surroundings. If the design aims to accept the past then you have to develop a positive relationship between the old and the new, and illustrate the continuity between them. In that case we are not rejecting what exists, instead we see it as a necessary step towards the future. It is an attempt at reconciliation. Two moments of creativity touch -they can coexist (…) Rehabilitation respects the history of the use of a building; if changes are required then these are based on the continuity of the architecture. That is transformation without alienation.
Lecture by Henk van Schagen for Delft Design, 7 October 2004. Retrieved from Hielkje Zijlstra, Analysing Buildings from Context to Detail in Time: ABCD Research Method, IOS Press (2009)
There is a misconception that listing freezes buildings. Changes have taken place. We have to be concerned about managing change rather than fossilising buildings. It is an inherently flexible system which flags the architectural and historic character of buildings in order to ensure that it is fully taken into account when changes of demolition are proposed (…) it does not necessarily mean that a building must be preserved whatever it costs (…)
opposition to listing revolves around four principal premises: statutory protection unreasonable erodes private property rights; listing is inherently anti-democratic; it inhibits much-needed development; the fear of terminal decline and the creation of a museum culture (…)
protection of recent buildings raises further issues: objectivity and distance (cooling off period); public perceptions; understanding of historic buildings; intrinsic character and use of materials; economic viability; listing affects building value; procedures needed interests of the owner and the wide community; listing does not occur when there are proposals for change (…)
Ingredients in a successful conservation policy are: the selection of buildings is safe and sound based on rigorous research and that designation is appropriate; public support must be secured through debate and education; planning environment must facilitate sound management and reduce unnecessary delay and uncertainty.
Cherry, M.(1996). Listing twenty-century buildings: the present situation, in Susan M. Macdonald (Ed.), Modern Matters. Principles and Practice in Conserving Recent Architecture, 7-14
Last Easter, Yorgos (husband and studio partner) oversaw the construction of a treehouse in Tzoumerka. We have just received this wonderful video from BOULOUKI, the collective responsible for the workshop, and we are very proud and happy to share it with you all. Design-build workshops -once well planned- can become incredible tools for learning. Well done BOULOUKI and well done to all the students and craftsmen who participated.
“Shelters” project combined two workshops in tandem in the neighboring mountain refuges of Tzoumerka, during 1-6 of May 2019. The first one titled “Rearranging the traditional wood-fired oven” was about constructing an oven in the mountain refuge of Melissourgoi, using local stone, bricks, clay, pumice stone, lime and salt, as building materials. In the mountain refuge of Pramanta, the workshop was about using timber as the main material in order to “Introduce a tree-house in Tzoumerka”. During both workshops, apart from the site work and hands-on experience guided by 4 experienced masons, the 20 participants had the opportunity to attend a series of lectures and presentations given by reputable professors and teams related to the field of construction and commons.