Design after Design

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.”

Full article available here

The diagram, by Lois Papadopoulos

Image available here

(…) 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.

Read full paper here

On design and politics

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.

Wouter Vanstiphout is member of Crimson Historians & Urbanists and professor of Design as Politics at TU Delft

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

Schoonschip Amsterdam

Image available here

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.

Image available here

Rehabilitation as reconciliation

Delfgauwse Weije in Delft (regeneration plans: Hank van Schagen), image available here

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)

Martin Cherry’s statements for listing 20th century buildings

Link to Amazon

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

Building a treehouse in Tzoumerka!

Full video available here

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.

Date: 01/05/2019 – 07/05/2019 Sponsors: Dalkafoukis Oikos, Stergiou ABEE, Mpougias Stones, Mr Bill

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”

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
Image available here

(…) 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
Image available here