Notes from Peder Anker’s ‘The closed world of ecological architecture’

Whole World Catalogue Magazine, editor Stewart Brand, a firm believer in colonizing space. The image of Earth as seen form outer space allowed the ability to it as a whole. Image available here

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

Grumman Lunar Module. Image available here

Anker, P. (2005). The closed world of ecological architecture. In Journal of Architecture, Vol. 10, no.5. DOI: 10.1080/13602360500463230

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

Image available here
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

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.

Circular cities

Image retrieved here

Article discusses the efforts of Prof. Williams in UCL in promoting the ideas and practices of the Circular City by establishing UCL’s Circular Cities Hub in 2016.
A book is to be expected in 2020 entitled “Circular Cities: A Revolution in Urban Sustainability” by Williams that will be published by Routledge.

Part of this has involved viewing cities holistically. This means not just looking at resources, but seeing urban areas as organisms that constantly adapt to changes, such as migration and increasing diversity, as well as considering different trajectories of development, from shrinking, post-industrial cities such as Detroit, to places like London, where corporate and foreign investment is squeezing out lower-value, circular activities.

Islais Project by One Architecture

toolkit_islaishypercreek-800x450

(One Architecture in collaboration with BIG Group and Sherwood)

Islais Creek is an historic watershed in Southeast San Francisco. This is an historically industrial area once home to a verdant, marshy watershed since channelized and home to heavy industry and logistics which support the entire city of San Francisco.

https://e.issuu.com/anonymous-embed.html?u=one_architecture&d=180926_bluebook_one_raster_pages-lo

By densifying existing industrial and logistical activities, softening shorelines and daylighting a section of the creek currently decked over, the BIG + ONE + Sherwood team sought to reorient the city’s relationship to its historic waterfronts as a vital element in its recreational and industrial economy.

The six pilots arrived at by the design team respond to these concerns and more, proposing the creation of accessible open space with integrated green-blue infrastructure, a food district, vastly improved transportation systems, waterfront access, waste processing, stacked and decked residential and commercial space, and other phaseable short-term solutions to climate and urban risks.

 

Ubiquitous commons

This has made me think of xAPI  and Learning Record Stores. And then, right at the end of the page, I bump into the concept of community yet again (!). I read:

Ubiquitous Commons allows for attributing citizens control over the data which they produce, and also to generate shared, meaningful patterns of perceived sensibility and responsibility, by enabling novel reflections in terms of identity, relation and belonging.

These can be used to foster new practices in which a new concept of digital public space emerges, which is accessible and inclusive, and also respectful of people’s right to self-determination and self-representation and, thus, to be able to more freely express our subjectivities, as individuals and as participants to multiple relational networksculturesbelief systemsFrom consensus to co-existence.

Ubiquitous Commons is the commons in the age of Ubiquitous Technologies.

Ubiquitous Commons is a legal-technological protocol: it positions itself among the other technological protocols which operate at the level of networks and technologies and among their legal implications and the set of laws, regulations, standards and norms which regulate them. Ubiquitous Commons is an open protocol.

protarch

In the Ubiquitous Commons environment, users can define a series of identities, which they hold and manage in what we have defined as their identity pool; each identity corresponds to a digital certificate, composed by a private and public key; identities can be of different types: individual/ collective/ anonymous/ temporary/ nomadic/ or a combination of the above.

Whenever a certain user generates data, this data is encrypted; the encrypted data is coupled with an attribution, stating which Ubiquitous Commons identity generated it (from), and which Ubiquitous Commons identities can access the data (to); this attribution is generated by the “from” identity; the encrypted data goes on to the service or application for which it was generated for; the attribution goes on to a peer-to-peer network or infrastructure –currently the BlockChain – in which the identifiers of the content (data) and of the from-to identities are published; in this way, the user can grant the availability and access to this data to the specified identities, determined autonomously.

A user who desires access to the data, executes a query onto the peer-to-peer infrastructure, asking whether data identifier X has been granted access to the user’s Ubiquitous Commons identity (the “to” identity in the attribution, picked from one of the identities in the accessing user’s identity pool) by the generating user (the “from” identity); if the user turns out to be attributed with the possibility to access (the query returns a positive result), the user obtains the decryption mechanism (recomposing the private key necessary to decrypting the data); the user uses the decryption mechanism to decrypt and access the data; the transaction is logged onto the peer-to-peer network.

 

Excerpts and Image from Ubiquitous Commons Website

Three generations of Infoscapes

art is open source

infoscape: the virtual landscape of information

First Infoscape refers to the information and knowledge generated through the modalities of the pre-industrial city.

Second Infoscape refers to the information and knowledge generated in the industrial city (the second generation city, the city of infrastructures, transactions, sensors…)

The Third Infoscape refers to the information generated through the myriads of micro-histories, through the progressive, emergent and polyphonic sedimentation of the expressions of the daily lives of city dwellers (…) Casagrande uses the concept of the ruin to define the Third Generation City as the «ruin of the industrial city» and as the «industrial city ruined by people – human nature as part of nature.» (…) Uniting all of its elements, Human Ecology transforms the Third Infoscape into a commons, making it accessible, usable and performable, and opening up to the second stage of the working hypothesis, dedicated to creating a transparent, clear, trusted, high-quality relational environment dedicated to co-managing this novel form of public space.

The Third Landscape is the part of the natural environment that grows in-between bricks and stones, it is the grass that lives between train tracks, it is the natural space that finds its life in the cracks of the walls, or in the places of our cities to which we don’t pay much attentionIt is the natural space of our cities which has not yet been encoded. It is not found in the flowerbeds and hedges which our city administrations define through borders and limits: please keep off the grass, this is a bureaucratically instituted flowerbed.

Excerpts from Data and the city by Salvatore Iaconesi and Oriana Persico, published in Hybrid City 2015 Conference Proceedings. Quote taken from their Art is Open Source website 

Image available here