Page 1



Š Copyright 2014 Reality Cues All rights reserved. This book or any portion thereof may not be reproduced or used in any manner whatsoever without the express written permission of the publisher except for the use of brief quotations in a book review. Printed in Portland, Oregon by Publication Studios First Printing, 2014 Reality Cues LLC 1912 NE Morgan Street Portland, OR 97211 For inquiries, contact the Reality Cues Librarian (



Tropes: The Eco-Porn Issue is the first in a series of manuals that will investigate tropes in architectural representation. Through open competitions and invited submissions, Reality Cues presses architects to explore the techniques and conventions upon which architects rely on to communicate ideas concerning space, form and use, with a special concentration on the visualization of contemporary social value systems. Reality Cues hopes to amass a collection of exemplary tropes, analyze their value, and disseminate them back to architects to be exploited smartly and with precision.

One of the foremost responsibilities of architects today is to address the issue of sustainability. For some, this expectation has inspired the design of ingenious biological and renewable energy systems; for others, it has created pressure to make architecture that merely looks sustainable, aka eco-porn. Both categories use the same representational tropes to proclaim a message of greenness and social responsibility, allowing the latter to proliferate unchecked. What is it about these tropes that allow us to trick others and ourselves into believing that what looks sustainable is sustainable? Is there value in delusion? 3


Slouching Towards (Green) Detroit Essay by Sammy Medina 8


by Reality Cues


Tropes I. Green Roof Mania II. Vertical Farming IV. Monumentalism V. Extreme Nature VII. Ruin Porn VIII. Mysticism X. Just Before the End XI. Overdeveloping Ain’t so Bad XIII. Genus Planning XIV. Cropped and Trimmed XVI. Monochrome, Splash of Green XVII. Formalism XIX. Technology Porn XX. Green Roof Redux XXII. Solar Powered Flower XXIII. Eat Your Vegetables

III. “Put a Tree on It” VI. Modern in the Wild IX. Eco-Porn in Space! XII. $$$, That Mean Green XV. Global Warming Ready XVIII. Cabin Fever XXI. Human Sacrifice XXIV. Celebrity Charities


Interview with Bittertang 26

It Ain’t Easy Being Green Essay by Darién Montañez 28

Interview with visiondivision 32

Tropes XXV. Tech Savior XXVIII. Eco-Porn, Literally XXXI. Floromorphism XXXIV. Cute Overload! XXXVII. Green Rain Dance XXXX. Sci-Fi

XXVI. Urban Old Growth XXIX. Garden on Wheels XXXII. Bubble Boy XXXV. Celebs XXXVIII. Faux Nature XXXXI. Weapons of Mass Reforestation


O’ Mighty Green by STAR 42

Interview with STAR 46

Excess Heights by Reality Cues


XXVII. Manifest Destiny XXX. Green Screen XXXIII. Up, Up and Away XXXVI. Tilting at Windmills XXXIX. Camouflage

Slouching Towards

(Green) Detroit

By Sammy Medina

It’s an ironic twist of history that Detroit, a city catapulted from farmland and forest to the country’s foremost manufacturing hub, now stands on the brink of a particularly vengeful reterritorialization by the very “nature” the machines displaced. Today, the city that gave birth to Taylorism — the engine that spurred on modernism’s wildest technological reveries — and which was once animated by the buzzing whir of industry is silent, or more accurately, mute. Entire city blocks disappear under a leafy veneer of foliage and ivy, while Detroit’s population shrinks at dramatic rates. In recent years, the city’s fabric has quite literally unraveled; ages of development, gentrification, and finally, urban blight retreat under the forested thicket. Contemporary Detroit has given rise to two distinct, but not unrelated phenomena. Both ruin porn and what we might call “eco-porn” have roots in the spectacle of the city’s degeneration, a “glittering misery” broadcasted and disseminated by online image services like Tumblr. As many will know, ruin porn is the quasi-erotic fixation on decommissioned factories, shuttered civic buildings, dilapidated homes, and the like. The stuff of fashionable photographic series, these sagging structures make for compelling snapshots, wherein a history of a time and place, not to mention an ideology, are aestheticized within an inch of oblivion. Here lies not Ozymandias but Ford, and the ghostly remnants of American industry. In the context of economic recession and austerity politics, these images invigorate a narrative that neatly ties together a sentimentality for the heartland with the cold logic of bailouts, bankruptcy, and shutdowns. Detroit’s ruins are the dreadnoughts of an industrial past that continue, on an abstract level, to haunt the country while remaining very much the city’s own physical and psychological burden. Eco-porn, on the other hand, operates on a level generally far removed from the reality of home foreclosures and urban detritus. It is characterized by a design tendency to, in the memetic phrase, “put a tree [or green roof] on it.” 1 Early visualizations 2 for a proposal to raise and convert portions of Detroit into a sprawling urban farm didn’t stop at the trees. In one imagining, geodesic domes, green towers, and other positivistic structures sprout from city plots canvassed with carpets of grass. Light-rail trains wind their way through this eco-topia at the edge of town, while green-painted cars speed by along its perimeter. Another rendering depicts compact crop fields, complete with farmhouse and stable, in addition to recreational facilities like a cider mill and nature observatory. All this in the span of a single city block. 1 2

Tim de Chant. “Can we please stop drawing trees on top of skyscrapers?” 7 March 2013. Per Square Mile. Accessed 16 Nov 2013. Robin Plaskoff Horton. “Will Detroit Get World’s Largest Urban Farm?” 19 January 2013. Urban Gardens. Accessed 16 Nov 2013.


Both are examples of the type of bland utopia-making that is rife in today’s architectural culture. Design offices of every size churn out conceptual plans for carbon-zero cities, sustainable factories, and green-covered motorways. Crassly optimistic, eco-porn anticipates the city of tomorrow, which — if the renderings are to be believed, or at the very least, dignified — will have achieved a (photo-)synthetic fusion between the built environment and its bio-organic counterpart. Exactly how this transformation will have taken place is unexplored and left more or less to the musings and imagination of the observer. What matters more, evidently, is the mere gesture, the creative will on the part of architects to envision a greener, more sustainable future. If efforts like these are part of a larger social “collective dream,” to adopt Benjamin’s phrase,3 they ostensibly offer up viable strategies for reorganizing civilization’s relationship with the organic world. Yet it is hardly inventive, let alone utopian, to design a green skyscraper or even city 4; such ideas, after all, are vestiges inherited from the history of modernist architecture, which feverishly embedded itself in the (then) emerging technological and political processes Benjamin was alluding to. Where innovations like living facades or green roofs once attested to architecture’s burgeoning technological advances and its new ability to absorb and reproduce nature anew, they are by now standard building components, knowingly deployed by developers looking to secure a premium LEED status and drum up a good bit of PR in the process. In contrast to ruin porn and its erstwhile muse, melancholia, eco-porn is morally impelled to project a positivist outlook. Gratuity and sunny excess are its constituent features, where wind turbines and fields of solar panels are piled on with glee. The conceptual provision of the picturesque in relation to the ruin is here blown up and refracted at all scales of life, from your hybrid-powered Prius to your locavorist diet. Under this ideology, everyone has a part to play (read: consumer choices to make) in enacting a more sustainable future. The weight of the world is thrust on those who shrug off their personal responsibilities to the cause, mostly impoverished peoples in developing nations who are told to learn to live with less and to do so while using energy-cutting lightbulbs. For some architects, like BIG founder and director Bjarke Ingels, there is only thing keeping people from the spectacular green lifestyles depicted in the firm’s architectural visualizations: ignorance. “One of the main drivers of behavioral change is knowledge,” Ingels noted in a lecture about architecture and the importance of viral appeal in the Internet age 5. “If people don’t know, they can’t act.” This, of course, is nonsense, an easy explaining away of much more complicated socioeconomic factors set in place by global capital. It is entrenched naiveté of the Chomskian variety, whereby if people were only made aware of the atrocities being wrought in the name of neoliberalism, imperalism, or what have you, they would be immediately given over to collective action. BIG’s solution is the architectural equivalent of a rock benefit concert, that is, it is meant to be pedagogic while also being fun — a PA you can dance or tap your foot to. As much is encapsulated in Ingels’ patented phrase, “hedonistic sustainability,” a design agenda that aims to inculcate a sustainable ethos among the masses by increasing its market appeal. Rather than focusing on the apocalyptic endgame the planet is accelerating towards, Ingels extols the mostly recreational technologies that sustainability could offer consumers. It’s a cynical move. Speaking before images of BIG’s own architectural proposals, he flashes slides of a ski slope strapped to the top of an urban waste plant in Copenhagen 6. Bikini-clad woman zoom by, while others tan in the sun. The rehabilitated smokestack expels smoke rings at timed increments, which Ingels says, represent a sum total of the city’s CO2 emissions. It’s nothing more than a product flourish, a bell and whistle that would have accompanied Banham’s gizmo.

3 4 5 6

Walter Benjamin. The Arcades Project (Cambridge: Harvard University Press, 1999), 152. Soviet architects had already proposed to design and build an entirely new “green” Moscow by 1930. See the “Green City” Competition. Ingels was one of several participants at a panel at the Center for Architecture in New York called “Going Viral: Blurred Boundaries.” This is BIG’s Amager Bakke waste-to-energy Plant, which broke ground in March 2013.


While the ineffectiveness of a pluralistic approach like hedonistic sustainability should be obvious, there is something to be said of the mentality against which it reacts. As Greg Sharzer has written, if we are to do anything about depleting energy supplies or to lessen the sufferings of billions of exploited peoples, then “the vast majority of the world need to consume more.” 7 Environmentalists can shut their eyes and cover their ears, but the reality remains. “In the Global South, billions of people live on less than $2 a day.” In this context, Sharzer writes, “calling for people to consume less misses the point.” Avoiding ecological catastrophe and overcoming its primary cause, capitalist overproduction, requires mass collective action rather than individual lifestyle choices. The high-minded milieu of bourgeois consumers fretting over the provenance of their kale leaves, or the ethical conditions under which their coffee beans were procured, doesn’t stand a chance. The problem lies in the classist divisions that define many green movements. According to Owen Hatherley, in architecture this is forcefully made evident in the work of Steven Holl, among others. Holl’s buildings, particularly his latest projects in China, wear their green stripes on their sleeves, or rather, facades. The Linked Hybrid in Beijing, for example, is decked out in full vegetal regalia; lawned rooftops, suspended gardens, and sculptural planting abound, while hundreds of geothermal conductors buried deep in the ground feed the complex its electricity and heating. Here, Hatherley observes, is the new urban domain of not just China’s capitalist class, the band of wily industrialists emerging from the boom, but also its cosmopolitan middle class that grows by the day. “Green urbanism reveals its true nature as a class project – a means for the metropolitan middle classes to make themselves feel better, to morally absolve themselves for the disaster they have created.” 8 Back in Detroit, conditions appear ripe for what might be green urbanism’s greatest opportunity yet. Thousands of city acres sit empty and waiting. It’s here where Hantz Farms hopes to plant the “world’s largest urban farm,” a 140-acre complex of neat rows of “oaks, maples, and other high value trees,”9 15,000 in all. The project, which was recently greenlit by the city mayor, will prospectively yield the fructifying soil to eventually grow produce and a local economy built on farming, engineering, and technological enterprise. In short, Hantz Farms is not just a last-ditch effort to save Detroit, but a robust effort to propel it headlong into a green century. But grassroots urban agriculturists, the groups that already maintain community gardens in abandoned city lots across Detroit, vehemently opposed the scheme when it was put before the city for approval. Concerns about the scope of the project, and the speculative financial interests of its millionaire backer John Hantz, attempted to block its passing. Many protesters cried foul over the farm’s underlying profit motive. In order to make good on his investments, they argued, Hantz will have to drive up land values, thereby opening up the proverbial floodgates “for other rich folks to come here to buy up land and essentially make themselves rich compounds.” 10 Whether Hantz Farms is successful or enshrined in failure, it’s hardly a scalable solution. Detroit is an all too ideal case, and even in this enclave of enclaves, market forces and accompanying class conflict can’t help but reproduce themselves. The city may very well “return to its roots,” as an advert on the Hantz Facebook page reads, but how long the project lasts or what shape — architecturally and otherwise — it takes remains uncertain. You can bet that there won’t be any green skyscrapers.

7 Greg Sharzer. No Local: Why Small-Scale Alternatives Won’t Change the World. (Zero Books, 2012), 38. 8 Owen Hatherley. “Living Façades green urbanism and the politics of urban offsetting.” 13 Jan 2009. The Measures Taken. Accessed 19 Nov 2013. 9 So claims the official website for Hantz Farms. 10 David Sands. “Hantz Woodlands Deal Approved By Detroit City Council 5-4”. 11 Dec 2012. The Huffington Post. Accessed 16 Nov 2013.



Oceanic Vacuum Cleaning Robot for Garbage Patches and Environmental Disasters

We’ve all heard of the great islands of floating trash in the oceans, tiny bits of plastics and non-organic particles suspended in the upper water column covering millions of square miles across the surface of the seven seas. Although almost all of the garbage is land based, the trash is pulled far out to sea by ocean currents and set adrift in the slow-moving convergent zones. Better known as the doldrums, these convergent zones are thought to be too far, too vast and the garbage too small to be decontaminated in any meaningful way...until now! We proudly introduce aToll, the world’s first oceanic vacuum cleaning robot for garbage patches and environmental disasters! aToll, named after it’s ring-shaped coral island kin, is the latest easy-to-use, hands-free sustainability device for today’s environmentally conscious world. The aToll vacuum cleaning robot removes up to 99.9% of pelagic plastics, chemical sludge and other debris –on its own– at the touch of a button. Using Sensible Cleaning Technology (SCT), the robot thoroughly vacuums the entire ocean surface, including hard-to-reach spots like disputed waters in the South China Sea. The Steadfast Pass setting uses a back-and-forth cleaning motion that mimics human vacuuming motions, yielding the cleanest possible results. 8

‘It’s a magic bullet for oceanic pollution; I might as well retire!’ Gina McCarthy, Administrator of the EPA


‘Seems like an oversimplification of a complex issue for the purpose of selling a book. I love it!’ Richard Saul Wurman, Founder of TED Conference

aToll is fully loaded with the latest technology and features. The robot’s Dirt Destroy Series 11 technology finds the most polluted areas and performs concentrated cleaning in them to ensure that the whole ocean surface is thoroughly clean. aToll works just like a leaf skimmer in your home swimming pool. The outer surface is a floating weir that allows water filled with pollutant to wash over the top edge and into a series of filters. The trash is collected in an inner ring while clean water is returned to the ocean. A large rotor condenses the trash, which can then be collected periodically and treated in a proper manner. aToll is an autonomously operational robot. While in port the robot can be scheduled to perform up to seven years of cleaning operations. The electrical engine, navigational systems and inner rotor are powered by photovoltaic solar cells, while the floating weirs function solely by the motion of the waves! Since all of the cleaning action takes place at aToll’s edge there is plenty of usable area on top, which can be converted into an island habitat or even a tropical beach resort!* aToll includes a 12-month limited warranty with an additional 24-month limited warranty for the included photovoltaic solar cells. *Tropical beach kit sold separately.

‘Oceanacare has a nice ring to it...’ Barack Obama, President of the United States of America 11




I. “Green Roof Mania” Green roofs are easily the most recognized application of sustainable architecture. This trope elaborates on the principle: that one is good, but two is better, ad infinitum. “Mandatory green roof legislation in New York City was only the beginning; once land owners were forced to link vegetation to all neighboring structures the five boroughs never looked better.” My Green Manhattan by Ernest Morgan



II. Vertical Farming Here, eco-porn combines with another popular trope: supertall towers. Skyscrapers represent the potential of modern technology, while a touch of agriculture brings it back down to earth. Plus, no gophers at 2,722 feet. Tower of Babel by Feliks Bochenek

III. “Put a Tree on It” This trope is the work horse for any tall building designer. No where to put trees or a lawn? No problem. Photoshop has your back. A smattering of ivy will put a LEED Innovation Point on anyone’s spreadsheet. In Case of LEED Break Glass by P.M. Gaynor >




Clockwise from top left: IV. Monumentalism In architecture, bigger has always been better. Whether in homage to the gods or a beloved variety of hamburger, the monumental replica is the mode of recognition par excellence. Buddha at Ngyen Khag Taktsang Monastery by GraffitiLab V. Extreme Nature Humans overcoming the elements is a perfect recipe for a “human interest piece.” Phuktal Monastery During Monsoon Season by GraffitiLab VI. Modern in the Woods This trope involves inserting a white box into any natural setting. Can also be achieved with a mirrored box. Seamless Integration Strategy #11 by Reality Cues VII. Ruin Porn Whether it’s urban decay in postindustrial zones or the Roman Forum, nature reclaiming the built world inspires. Long Forgotten Temple of Lysistrata by GraffitiLab <


X. Just Before the End Like Ruin Porn, but using current imagery. Humans may or may not still exist. Chemin de fer de Petite Ceinture XI. Overdeveloping Ain’t So Bad “If Robert Moses had his way in 1941, elevated highways would have crisscrossed Manhattan. In the context of the Highline craze, that could have become a good thing.” If Robert Moses had his way in 1941… by Ida Tam


XII. $$$, That Mean Green “Walls of greenery are all over our cities, as magical as they are disastrous. Message of greenness or wealth? Where is the real green in this?” Real Green by Helene Crusson Ripoche <

VIII. Mysticism Genetically Greening the Garden by David Hanrahan IX. Eco-Porn in Space! Tropes can easily be recycled in space, like any good movie sequel. “In the 1970s Princeton physicist Gerard O’Neill, with the help of NASA Ames Research Center and Stanford University, discovered that we can build gigantic spaceships, big enough to live in. In time, we may see millions of freespace settlements in our solar system alone.” © NASA Ames Research Center.


XIII. Genus Planning Plants drawn in plan can help with scale and delineate space. It can also be helpful for clients to know just how many houseplants can fit in a room. Calculating Plant Occupancy Loads by Yoshihara Hisao <

XIV. Cropped and Trimmed Proper image cropping is just as important as the content. Full bleed green implies an endless image field neatly trimmed at the paperâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;s edge. Likewise, a cleanly trimmed glowing window implies control in an otherwise wild scene. Dramatic Garden Wall by Gerry LaMantia

Clockwise from top left: XV. Global Warming Ready Accept climate change as an inevitability. Ocean levels will rise, but that’s not a problem for the global warming-ready. The Great Quinzhee Communal House Of The Inuit by GraffitiLab XVI. Monochrome, Splash of Green A good trick for diagrams, works for renderings too. “Look at this beautiful and lush green roof. Feel free to ignore everything else… I’ll take care of those areas in design development.” The Green Roof Trope by Eric Karasek XVII. Formalism Buildings shaped like nature. See any snail shaped house in Japan. “By building your own figural tree house you will have the opportunity to showcase your sensibility towards the need of our environment with the knowledge that you are representing sustainability to the fullest.” Tree House by Juan C. Garduño XVIII. Cabin Fever A well placed cabin will trigger a client’s yearning for a respite from the hustle of modern life. A cabin in an urban environment will get the hipsters excited too. Simple Living in the Big City by GraffitiLab XIX. Technology Porn Combining well-known technologies always appears viable. In this case, drones and ion cannons. A little government conspiracy never hurts either. “Designed for the purpose of changing Earth’s climate to counter global warming. However, it inevitably is used as a luxury device with no positive impact on the planet.” Weather G.O.D. - Global OmniClimate Device by Chantale Martin and Travis Tabak 20

XX. Green Roof Redux “Green roof” is the buzzword for new construction. “Highline” is the buzzword for restoration. Use liberally. “A floating eco-network over the streets of the city below that mitigates heat island effect, collects storm water run-off and creates a natural habitat for plants and animals.” High Grid/High Plane by Donghyun Kim XXI. Human Sacrifice This trope is an ecological take on the suicide booth: off yourself for the good of the planet. See: Vonnegut’s Ethical Suicidal Parlors or Logan’s Run. Image by Double D’s XXII. Solar Powered Flower Many clients don’t really give a shit about the environment, but they do worry about being PC. Robotic versions of living things require less care and maintenance.




XXIII. Eat Your Vegetables For the militant environmentalist, prove you’re more conscious than your chicken-raising neighbors. “Introducing the new BIOS LawnJuicer for Suburban Wheatgrass Plots! Take your well manicured and perfectly fertilized suburban lawn and turn it into a nutritional diet supplement. You’ll quickly forget all those urban gardens of the past!” The Lawnjuicer by Charles Lee < XXIV. Celebrity Charities Using celebrity likenesses will always get attention. Make sure to say something worthwhile. “A 6th Dimension film, a magic carpet posited to be knotted into our space for hyperstability with Hinton double-rotation for sweeping pesky carbon under, effectively hiding it from our world.” A Green Sweep by Will McMullam



Bittertang is a small design farm run by Antonio Torres and Michael Loverich who strive to bring happiness and pleasure into the built world by referencing that pleasurable world which surrounds us. Our work explores multiple themes including pleasure, frothiness, biological matter, animal posturing, babies, sculpture and coloration all unified through bel composto. Our explorations are based in digital and visceral matter with output transitioning between scales and localities leaving our traces of frothy matter in various disciplines. Although trained as architects our prolific interests and methodology associates us closely to the organization of a farm. Bittertang material is breed, coaxed and grown to yield tasty morsels, beautiful new exotic beasts and fertilizer for future growth. Digging deep into the fertile detritus left by thousands of years of human history and artifacts our goal is to add thick rich fodder to contemporary material culture. Source:

Reality Let’s talk about your process, specifically, how you go about picking materials both living and nonCues: living. Does program drive you toward specific materials or vis versa? Antonio Torres & Michael Loverich:

Of course there is always a sensibility that guides our projects, we like to work with soft, weak, edible or dissolvable materials and this influences the process and design. Every project has its baby stage, a little embryo in the mind. You know roughly what it is and what it needs to be and that’s when we start experimenting with materials. We don’t quite know what this embryo will become, is it a chicken or a dinosaur. That’s where the experimentation comes in. Allowing that embryo to develop into something a bit unexpected. The best is when we end up creating an ugly child with a limp which requires a crutch to support it. That crutch is when the other materials, maybe the non-organic materials are introduced into the project to aid the organic materials in doing what they can’t do.

RC: What is your stance on sustainability? Is Bittertang’s sexy, pleasure-seeking understanding of ecological architecture a criticism or the road to a better tomorrow? AT/ML: Its a bit of both. We definitely want to make a better tomorrow, but by doing that we are critiquing architecture. It seems like architecture is too caught up in itself. Too old and cumbersome. RC: Do you think Architecture is a good medium for change? AT/ML: Depends on what type of change you are speaking of, its very slow, architecture is. Everyone interacts with architecture so yes it can be extremely powerful, we’ve been able to get people to lick our interiors before. We think that’s amazing, getting people to do something they normally wouldn’t. RC: When it comes to the formal aspects of your work, there are a lot of phallic and vaginal elements, such as in Ice Palace or Wobbly Wat. Are you being cheeky or is there something else we should be taking away? Feel free to expand upon your frequent use of the term ‘frothiness’ here as well. AT/ML: We would be frightened to see a penis or vagina that looked like one of our projects so we don’t really see the connection. Unless it is because we are really interested in babies and the easiest way to get a baby is to combine a penis and vagina and sometimes this will produce frothiness. So if that’s what you mean, OK we get it. Frothiness is about dirty architectural details. We initially were intrigued in frothiness because it was a way of dealing with transitions between materials, since often frothiness is the infiltration of air into another material, or its the mixing of two adjacent materials into a new volumetric aesthetic. Froth is also strange because it’s neither solid nor gas nor liquid but all combined, it moves, transforms and dissolves. All things we really like. Our forms are guided by how soft materials work. So when you are talking about a building and you want to get inside of it, how do you do that? How do you get inside of something soft? Well an orifice is one way of doing that and in fact is one of the easiest ways to get inside of a soft body. If the goal is to interact with people to get them to play with what you make, then make it big, soft and put it in their face.


RC: On this note, there is a movement in your work towards a nurturing architecture: intimate interactions with structures and even architecture that provides nourishment like Bird Cage. Should architecture literally give more? AT/ML: People are actually always extremely intimate with architecture. Ask yourself how many times today have you penetrated a building? We are constantly in touch with our surroundings, even when we are being hygienic there are still intimate moments. Pulling on doors, opening windows grazing walls. People probably spend more time staring at their apartment walls than they do their lovers. Architecture replaces people when you are lonely. Buildings should be seen as giant pets. Give a little love, get a little love.

RC: Inflatable architecture was a staple of the 60s as a reaction against the rigid forms of modernism. Are you following that line or are we seeing something new? AT/ML: Initially we were reacting to a lot of digital forms and bug like things out there, inflatables allowed us to connect with our plush toy past and go bigger. When we started there wasn’t much inflatable work but since then there seems to be a recent interest in inflatables that wasn’t there 5 years ago. We also quite frankly see it as a critique of sustainability as well. Most of our projects might be constructed of hi-tech materials but they all can fit in a suitcase and most are stuffed with air, water, wood chips, sugar or other natural elements. Plus we have found that inflatables are the closest that we’ve ever come to creating architectural pets. They breath, change, look cute, are cuddly, require lots and lots of maintenance. All these things that a lot of contemporary architecture isn’t. RC: Describe your dream commission. AT/ML: Currently at Storefront for Art and Architecture we have a giant breast implant, its a lot of fun and a pretty amazing thing to be on. You can roll around on it, bounce on it, cuddle with it. Its a smaller version of Wobbly Wat. We’d like to see where this could go so a water/saline/oil/milk related project would really fascinate us. Something bigger and maybe perkier?


It’s Not Easy


A thoughtful essay by Darién Montañez Green Grow the Rushes, O. What kind of architect do you want to be when you grow up, little Johnny? Gosh, a green architect, well of course! It is the way of the future! It is the ultimate solution, the only way out! We all have seen these green architectures, with their living walls and their shortgrass prairie roofs and their solar panels and their graywater recycling systems and their smug, smug smiles. But who are these architects who build us these chlorophyllic edifices? Who are the Greens we talk about? Gang Colors are nothing new in Architecture. Any alumnus of Chromatic Architectural History 101 surely remembers the fable of the Whites and the Grays: each band more charismatic and prolific than the other; each with a heritage whose name is legion; each led and defined by a loud, 26

loquacious champion—a maidenhead, a prophet, a messiah—Meier (or was it Eisenman?) and Venturi. Our Greens, on the other hand, lack a leader. And, most importantly, they lack a rival band. Without it, they’re a one-sided dichotomy, which is the ultimate oxymoron. In their effort to define themselves in contrast to the Other, they have placed themselves across the slash from every one of us. Are they the alternative? Are we the enemy? Just like with every previous stylistic epithet, be it postmoderns or deconstructivists, nobody likes being called a Green in public. Nevertheless, and just like in those previous occasions, the term has become firmly ingrained in our collective imagination and colloquial language. We’re all like, green architecture this, green architecture that. But, can you actually name a green architect? Have you seen one? Are you one of them? The greens are a collective that isn’t. They who shall not be named. In their shameless flaunting of their modesty, they have achieved anonymity, invisibility. Green Architecture is an Architecture not of Heroes, but of martyrs. Cannon fodder for decadent capitalism. There is a storm coming. Which side are you on? On the greener other side of the fence, perchance? 27


Visiondivision is an architecture firm founded in Stockholm, Sweden by Anders Berensson and Ulf Mejergren in 2005. Visiondivision deals with all kinds of architecture and design problems and with any client, always with the promise of making it world class. The office does not have a fixed design idea, which benefits each project thus making every solution unique and custom made. Things that makes us stand out in this business is their ability to think inventive and brave. The office is one of the most published firms in Europe and have already received several prices and mentions and have been invited as speakers and tutors at various universities around the world as well as exhibitions. Visiondivision is good at making conceptual designs and unique solutions for all of our clients. We are not afraid to expand our role as architects to solve any kind of design problem. The team has also extensive knowledge when it comes to detailing and construction work since the team has always been deeply involved in the building process, sometimes even building the projects by themselves. We honestly love what we do and will treat every project with the uttermost importance. The office has a wide portfolio of international work and the attitude of involving external consultants to improve the design intelligence of a given project team. The use of complementing teams ensures that a project will never suffer from being too conventional nor too naive. Source:

Reality Visiondivision seems to teeter between honest, do-gooder proposals and more cynical ones. Is this Cues: the Jekyll and Hyde nature of your firm or a commentary on the state of sustainability in architecture? What is your stance on sustainability? Anders Berensson & Ulf Mejergren

We have never considered ourselves cynical, quite the opposite. We always try to be optimistic and free thinking. But we can perhaps understand why many think of us having this schizophrenic Janus nature, maybe it is that we work in such a broad spectrum of scales and different types of projects, ranging from smaller projects such as saunas and sheds (Secret Sauna for example) or making dog scarfs (Los Perros de Buenos Aires) to competing in bombastic landmark competitions such as our giant story-telling statue “Al-Hakawati” or our waterfall zoo-building “Eden Falls”. Since every type of problem that we face doesn’t have any standardized pre-made solution, some projects perhaps can seem to be a little bit darker and even arrogant if you compare it to the others. But since we have done over a hundred different projects and try to be as flexible as possible and at the same time avoid repetition, each outcome can never be precisely predicted by us. Sustainability is important in our design, and we try to be as environmentally friendly as possible with our built stuff, but sometimes when it comes to speculative competitions, eco-friendliness is maybe not our first concern, if not the concept of the project is highly dependent on it.

RC: Do you think Architecture is a good medium for change? AB/UM: Yes, it can be, and it should be. Architecture, and perhaps even more city planning, says a lot of how the state of that country and its democratic ambitions and future beliefs is in. And when it comes to environmental issues, architecture could definitely take a much larger responsibility and have much higher ambitions than it has today. RC: In the project Patient Gardener you planted trees that will mature and provide shelter in 60 years. I want shelter now! What should I do? How do you convince modern, impatient people to wait? AB/UM: Well, they don’t have to wait if they don’t want to. For the impatient ones, we could do an inflatable structure or a tent-solution and have it ready for tomorrow, no problem. That’s the wonderful thing about architecture, it is so diverse and multifaceted. That’s why we have the remarkable pop up like tent city outside Mecca, where devotees live when they do their pilgrimages, and that’s why we have the Sagrada Famillia which still is not completed and so detail filled and painstakingly complex that you understand what Gaudi must have gone through. RC: There is an old phrase from the Chicago stock yards where they boast of being able to find a use for everything about a pig but its squeal. This is perfectly demonstrated in Chop Stick when you break down a whole poplar tree to create a concession stand, jungle gym and seating for a park. Do you think this concept can be expanded upon to address other materials, other programs? AB/UM: It probably could. Today there is a lot more awareness and an environmental conscious than before, and perhaps there could be more guides and a praxis of how to use everything more optimal. It’s a little bit like gingerbread cutters, that you make the cutters more adapted or flexible so that less dough is left over. This demands a little bit more flexible thinking, but with the help of technology it should not be such a tough task. Raw materials should perhaps also be better labeled so we know where it comes from and how it is harvested, so we can take better decisions based on a more enlightened information.


RC: Both Patient Gardener and Chop Stick harken back to a simpler time not based in immediacy and excess. Is this the future: one step backward in order to move forward? AB/UM: Today many take things/objects/building materials for granted without much reflection of where things comes from, it’s a bit lazy and perhaps with a deeper knowledge for the raw materials, we’re not taking things for granted anymore. We have a lot to learn from vernacular architecture, which is evolved through history and completely based and refined around local materials, such as the ingenious rock-cut churches in Lalibela and the root bridges in India. Today the world is smaller and you sometimes forget about what you have around you. So we try to take the best of two worlds, an understanding of low-tech local architecture with a knowledge for raw materials and a high-tech knowledge with certain technologies that has been evolved internationally.

RC: In the summary of The Miami Sun you discuss how building in the water is an “unsentimental and interesting approach to landscaping as well as architecture.” For better or for worse, how do you think sentimentality shapes our cities? How would we benefit from an unsentimental approach? AB/UM: In that particular competition, which was in Miami, a city that in very large parts are created upon artificial made land, it absolutely was an appropriate path to take, as there are very little sentimentality there to start with. Sentimentality and time are two factors that often tends to go together, and of course historic buildings, memories and legacies should be respected, but in many cases sentimentality makes for weak architecture, for example in many extensions to prominent architecture, the result often becomes an awkward cousin that are completely out of place, even if he or she has put a lot of effort to follow the dress code. Instead of getting inspired of old masterpieces, new architecture sometimes gets downplayed to respect the old, which, when you come to think about it, was not the case of that old architecture when it got erected. They probably where not so sentimental and they maybe thought that they would outshine everything else, and that’s why it became a classic. RC: Describe your dream commission. AB/UM: Perhaps it would be to plan a small city that we could do from scratch, preferably in a developing country where dreams are bigger. That would be amazing. 31



XXV. Tech Savior By taking an existing technology and making it easier to use and applicable to existing infrastructure, one can promise miracles. “Solar Fabric is the new black. A pliable material embedded with photovoltaic cells that generate electricity when exposed to light.” Sustainable Urban Ready Wear by Michelle Elbers and Katherine Wiley < XXVI. Urban Old Growth Inserting ancient forests into urban context. Full disclosure: actual photo from Vancouver! XXVII. Manifest Destiny Everything on earth is here for our use and enjoyment. See Republican 2008 slogan “Drill, baby, drill!”


XXVIII. Eco-Porn, Literally When plants and animals become endangered they start to bring in crowds. â&#x20AC;?Ecology has been reduced to an infrastructural project where wasteful displays of sexuality have no place.â&#x20AC;? The Interspecies Peep Show by Cooper Jones, Maureen McGee and Nicole Carlson

XXIX. Garden on Wheels Making anything living mobile. Not necessarily an instant hit with clients, but works well on the Internet. Terrarium Van by GraffitiLab


XXX. Green Screen Somehow the Internet has credibility. Capitalize on it. “Welcome to Ad Country! Population 7 Billion. Where NOTHING is as natural, organic, or green as it seems.” Welcome to Ad Country by Double D’s


XXXI. Floromorphism “Did you know that anything you design will be “green” if you make it in the shape of a flower?” Floramorphism: Bloominating Inorganic Objects by BanG studio – Babak Bryan & Henry Grosman


XXXII. Bubble Boy Being able to control the environment is always marketable. Visualizing the edge of control is a must. ”Personal climate control device that allows you to create a micro climate of your choice. No need to check the weather when you can create your own!” Weather Bubble by Chantale Martin and Travis Tabak

XXXIII. Up, Up and Away Whenever possible, make your project fly. ”Green_POD or G-POD is a commercialized modular system that creates and maintains bioengineered ecosystems for anyone who wants to ‘go green’.” Green_POD by Casey Tucker and Nathan Huette


XXXIV. Cute Overload! No one can resist pics of cats in cute scenarios. Cat photos are the source of many Internet memes, much more than architecture. See “I can has cheezburger” XXXV. Celebs Funny celebrity photos are another source of memes. If this photo didn’t predate the Internet, Cactus Head Bianca Jagger would have given Super Bowl Beyonce and Angelina Jolie Leg Bomb a run for their money.

XXXVI. Tilting at Windmills Architects can be just as overzealous with windmills and solar panels as they are with lawns and trees. “What makes buildings look sustainable? Self-sufficiency. Buildings that appear to produce their own energy through solar and wind power seem to be well worth the investment regardless of actual output.” The Dream of Self-Sufficiency by Anne Gerharz and Igor Goldstein


XXXVII. Green Rain Dance Jose Edgar Rodriguez Pacheco and Marlenn Siaca > XXXVIII. Faux Nature If obtaining an actual natural setting isn’t possible, producing a fiberglass replica works in a pinch. Private mountain peak and luxury villa atop a high-rise apartment block in China, ChinaFotoPress <

XXXIX. Camouflage Greenwashing is especially effective with buildings and structures that we wish didn’t really exist. ”Green is not the ultimate solution!” Eco-World by Nejc Florjanc <


XXXX. Sci-Fi Borrowing from science fiction can really get ones imagination going. Probably wise to stay away from Soylent Green though. ”Sycophant City is future of neighborhood revitalization. It integrates “sick” buildings with bio-circuitry to make them more sustainable.” Sycophant City by Jonathan M Essary and Kyle Kiser


Oâ&#x20AC;&#x2122; MIGHTY GREEN By Beatriz Ramo STAR strategies+architecture


Sustainability currently shares many qualities with God; supreme concept, omnipotent, omnipresent, and omniscient; creator and judge, protector, and (...) savior of the universe and the humanity. And, like God, it has millions of believers. Since we humans are relatively simpleminded and suspicious and need evidence before belief can become conviction, Green has come to represent sustainability; has become its incarnation in the human world. But sustainability, like God, might not have a form, nor a colour… 1. Emancipation In a desperate attempt to give shape to an all-encompassing ideology the Green proves to work as the quickest and easiest representation of sustainability. The Green is the only symbol able to keep pace with today’s lack of patience and hunger for images; a Lady Gaga-Sustainability: effective, noticeable, creative, sensationalist. In a persistent effort to become the allegory of Sustainability, Green has been emancipated as its caricature. 2. Function If the Iconic buildings simply needed to be iconic, the Green buildings simply need to be green. Green as a function. Green allows sustainability to be bought per m2, or to be painted on, or glued on. Sustainability is a Photoshop filter in CS6: Ctrl+Green. 3. Style Modernism, Postmodernism, Deconstructivism… We have now definitely entered Sustainabilism. Unlike in previous movements every architect can be a Sustainabilist: whether avant-garde, commercial, young, established… It can be even combined with other styles: Eco-Deconstructivism … Architectural magazines and commercial brochures found a common language: the Green. Green is also the point on which the architect, the client, the developer, the politician, and the user agree. For the first time ever we have a genuine International Style. -Green buildings can be Ducks or Decorated sheds, and there are some interesting cases of being both at the same time: the Decorated Ducks. -Green should be added as the sixth principle to Le Corbusier’s five points, and as the fourth quality to Vitruvius’ triad: Venustas, Utilitas, Firmitas and Sustinebilitas -The built … product of Sustainability is not sustainable architecture but Green. Green is what remains after Sustainability has run its course or, more precisely, what coagulates while Sustainability is in progress, its fallout… *Taken from Junkspace by R. Koolhaas 4. Religion -Green works as faith. Saint Green will watch over the sustainable architects, and will guide them in the Green direction. -Green works as confession. The guiltier we feel, the greener we try. The green-looking is usually indirectly proportional to its sustainability achievements. Green has the capacity of reducing all that matters to one single problem, and one single solution: Green. -Green is double-miraculous. As if trying to heal cancer with aspirins, Green is the phenomenal formula that turns sustainable everything that it touches. It can also hide graceless designs. Ugly Green buildings are more readily accepted than ugly buildings. 5. Ambiguity But the Green also hides a perverse dimension… As in a David Lynch movie; everything appears to be calm and harmonious but there is something disturbing… rotting… The Green is the common lie, the secret consensus, the perfect crime; everybody knows that it cannot be that good, that it cannot be that easy, but why bother? It sells, and there is enough Green for everybody. 41


Reality So we read your project, O’ Mighty Green, and now we are depressed. Will you offer us some hope Cues: or are we doomed to live in a world whose Green is only skin deep? STAR: If you look at what has been done over the last years and squint your eyes, you see a dominant green tone everywhere... It seems that ‘Green’ has become the color of sustainability. It is a very simplistic way to materialize it. But in a culture where ‘image’ wins over ‘content’ it is the way many architects (established, non-established, avant-garde…) have chosen to prove that their projects are ‘sustainable’. But I think this naive approach is already being challenged and more critical voices are starting to denounce this banal idea. So yes, there is hope to achieve a more real sustainability: a sustainability that does not have a colour or a shape.

STAR strategies + architecture was founded by Beatriz Ramo in Rotterdam in 2006. STAR is interested in all topics directly or indirectly related to architecture, and works on projects and research of any scale in the fields of architecture, urbanism, and landscape design. STAR takes responsibility for all the phases of the process. Source:

RC: Do you think architecture is a good medium for change? STAR: I think that the architecture of today generates very little change. It definitely has the potential for it but I think it is not really happening at the moment. In recent times architecture was too often a personal expression of the architect; at other times it is just a pragmatic materialization of an economically profitable operation; now, more and more, architecture is presented as a kind of malleable mass that simply has to react to sunlight, views, or fluxes â&#x20AC;&#x201C; this last one is very popular at the moment. It is quite hard to find a deeper meaning or genuine intention behind it.

Reality I get the impression that STAR has had a tumultuous relationship with UNESCO. Has this changed Cues: your attitude towards preservation or maybe your approach? STAR: While we were developing our project ‘Mirador del Palmeral’ 1 on the UNESCO World Heritage Site in Elche (Spain) we did not have problems with UNESCO… actually, the representatives or advisers of UNESCO were rather rational persons with reasonable points of view. The ‘tumult’ was caused by the way the name ‘UNESCO’ is used in the most demagogical way by politicians and other local authorities in the city for their own benefit. These people misused ‘UNESCO’ as a tool to manipulate the inhabitants: “if we pursue this project, UNESCO will kick us from their list”. The sad thing was that these politicians happened to have no understanding of why their site was listed as cultural heritage by UNESCO. However, the fact that they managed to use UNESCO as the ‘bogey-man’ scared the inhabitants so much that there was almost no chance of moving forward with any of the ideas presented. This was pure demagogy. We decided immediately to start a study to analyze the effects that preservation in general, and what it represents, has on the development of new projects. Since the summer of 2009, and for more than a year, we analyzed examples of new projects in preserved areas, we interviewed specialist, we tested scenarios… We published an article as a summary of this long study entitled ‘In the name of the Past - Countering the Preservation Crusades’ which collects and describes some of the frustrations, absurdities, proposals, and criticisms surrounding the topic of preservation that we collected since the start of our study in 2009. This study saved the project from many potential ‘deaths’. It brought light to this issue and people were more receptive to accept the project because they finally understood that there was no danger. We had many meetings with the locals to explain how UNESCO works and what is and isn’t protected. The study helped us a lot to understand and make understandable to others the conflicts that might occur when intervening in a protected area. I think there is a long way to go there… but it is necessary in many cases; UNESCO started as a strategy to save sites that were under threat. But the problem is that today cities want to have ‘UNESCO’ sites as a quick way to brand themselves without thinking of the consequences, they do not compile proper dossiers nor define limits to their preserved areas, and they do not understand what they are really protecting and in many cases they do not even know from what they are protecting it. RC: Do you think we have to choose between preservation and sustainability? STAR: No, we should not. What I tried to point out in my article “In the name of the Past” is that when these two concepts are misused, abused, or misunderstood they often contradict each other, resulting in an absurd situation. For example: sustainability suggests adaptive reuse; preservation strategies promote vacant/unadaptable buildings. However most of the World Heritage Sites still exist today because they continued to play a role in the life of the city, many times through adaptive reuse. Another point of conflict is the large ‘buffer zones’ around preserved sites which limit - among other things - the height, and therefore the density of the living quarters of the city. New developments are forced to go into exile forcing the city to sprawl outwards and consume natural land, requiring in turn the construction of new infrastructures. And we should not forget that the buildings to be preserved in the future will be the ones under construction now… However, we do not build as ‘solidly’ as previously and developers do not invest in buildings that could last forever. We will have to use enormous amounts of energy to maintain those future historical buildings. However, I think that after both the superficial sustainability policies and the inconsistent preservation solutions have been rethought and revised we will finally have reached a serious and critical mode of thought which will make it evident that ‘not all that is green is sustainable, and not all that is old is worth preserving’.


Mirador del Palmeral was a two-phase competition won by STAR, against firms such as SANAA, MVRDV, among others. The brief required the design of a viewpoint to offer views to the palm grove of the city, dating from the Xth century and listed as a WHS by UNESCO.


RC: You have said that we should “let the digital save our cities from the tyrannical rules of nostalgia.” Can you elaborate on this? Is 3D the same as being there? STAR: Preserving a Buddhist temple on a far-away mountain is very different from preserving the fully inhabited canal-area in the centre of Amsterdam. But each of these examples is assessed by the same criteria in order to be added to the preservation list and all of them are subject to the same examination. This fact results in overprotective rules governing inhabited protected sites causing serious damage to the cities, whose only future then is to be turned into self-referential exaggerations. Cities are alive; they are like organisms, like systems. Imagine if you decide to preserve a person; it would be impossible. A person changes, evolves and ages. It is a natural process. Of course you can use botox or plastic surgery but often the results are very scary. You can only preserve a person when he or she is dead. I think the same applies for cities. Of course, in these cases something very different is to be ‘maintained’ which is very healthy for cities and for people and it is based on common sense. I think that preservation rules have not been developed enough. The list of preserved sites grows exponentially and the sites are more and more different. Either the rules need to catch up with this speed or the number of preserved sites must slow down until the framework is clearer… So what I proposed in my article was a very feasible provocation: to use the ‘digital world’ to relieve the cities of the constraints of preservation. Today, there are experts in Photoshop beautification of fashion models and TV superstars. Protected sites could be approached similarly by digitalizing them and photoshopping away their unavoidable signs of decay, their ‘inconvenient’ necessary additions, or the disturbing new constructions surrounding them. It would be possible to preserve everything you wanted, there would be no limit; protected cities could be fully recreated in 3D and have different layers corresponding to different moments in time. A Digital Site would be a record of a historical site and the preservation would have no impact on living cities. Real buildings and neighbourhoods would be allowed to evolve, to change, to redevelop. The Digital Site would never decay, never be threatened, and would always keep its universal value. To the question if a 3D is the same as ‘being there’, well, I guess these 3D glasses of augmented reality can deliver very realistic results. However, I would also doubt if walking in today’s Venice is a ‘real’ city experience, or akin to walking through an open-air museum? RC: I’d say STAR has a real knack for, and interest in, photorealistic manipulations of imagery. Representations of sustainability and nostalgia are quite often manipulated to achieve certain goals. As opposed to fighting your battles head-on, do you ever consider doing some manipulation of your own? Play the game, so to speak? STAR: I like manipulating reality because it is something that everybody knows... so they can really understand the change. We use that often to explain our principles and points rather than making complicated diagrams that nobody understands. About doing it on our own images I do not remember now if we ever did that... but if that would help to clarify a point, why not? RC: Describe your dream commission. STAR: There is no such thing to me as a dream commission. It is like having this idea about a ‘dream man’... how restricting and limiting that would be?! It could only jeopardize opportunities that we would miss or leave unnoticed many opportunities that just happened to come our way. It makes you blind to things that unexpectedly turn out great. I think I never had a ‘dream’ in architecture. Reality is much more interesting… I am fascinated by how amazing things can simply be!


You are now entering:


The neighborhood of Excess Heights has implemented a new waste management initiative. Under the city councilâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;s new recommendations, the collection of recyclable refuse will continue, but non-recyclable trash will no longer be collected or processed on the municipal level. The inhabitants of each private residence will be expected to compost all organic material and handle all of its own non-recyclable waste on-site. For all non-recyclable materials, a compaction system will be implemented whereby trash is condensed and deposited underneath the same residence in which it was generated. If residences are brought to excessive heights as a result of growing refuse stacks under building structures, then piers may be installed to provide stability. The use of green walls encasing refuse stacks is strongly encouraged to both cover the unsightliness of the trash and to promote green living. 46


XXXXI. Weapons of Mass Reforestation If all else fails, aggressive actions must be taken. Instead of destroying cities WMRs turn urban areas into peaceful bucolic forests. WMRs immobilize enemies without the casualties. WMRs by Steve Andersen



____________________________ (your trope here)



____________________________ (your trope here)



____________________________ (your trope here)



____________________________ (your trope here)



____________________________ (your trope here)



____________________________ (your trope here)



____________________________ (your trope here)
















Profile for Archistophanes Di'Realtà

Tropes: The Eco-Porn Issue by Reality Cues  

The Eco-Porn Issue is the first in a series of manuals that will investigate tropes in architectural representation. Through open competitio...

Tropes: The Eco-Porn Issue by Reality Cues  

The Eco-Porn Issue is the first in a series of manuals that will investigate tropes in architectural representation. Through open competitio...


Recommendations could not be loaded

Recommendations could not be loaded

Recommendations could not be loaded

Recommendations could not be loaded