prss release #20 ,september 16 2008
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true enough: the science, history and economics of self-deception | boing boing if i knew then what i know now... i would have partied more | archinect millennials working | aia soloso my brain makes me nervous | portfolio form follows dysfunction: bad construction & the morality of design | strange harvest reflections: new orleans and china | new york times underwater studio, extreme environments design class | archinect servers at sea | bldgblog stonehenge: a black hole at the heart of british architecture | strange harvest the molting city | a daily dose of architecture
illustration | v-annemarie
Wet Shit Editorial
Aaron Betsky’s dive into the Grande Canal (or any other canal, there’s a bunch of them) in Venice once again proves the difficult relationship architecture has with water. We all like nature in her many appearances, but somehow wetness is never really truly valued. When you build a building and it turns out to be rather leaky (take that, Frank, take that, Rem), water is our worst enemy. Yet water may turn out to become one of our future best friends, whether we’ll like it or not. With over 60% of the world’s population living within 25 miles of a body of water, rising sea levels will only be more of a reminder of our precarious relationship with nature. Recent news stories, such as the ‘successful’ evacuation of New Orleans just before hurricane Gustav, or the less successful construction of the new Amsterdam metro line, all show we still have little understanding of what water can actually do with us. One of the challenges of the future lies then in turning ‘doing with us’ into ‘doing for us’. Google’s plan to use ships as floating data storage centres, harnassing the power of the waves for energy, and not to mention the enormous heat storage potential of the sea for cooling, shows an approach to nature uncharacteristically defiant. Instead of waiting for the sea to come to them, Brin and Page, instamatic as always, decided to come to the sea themselves. The construction of a new metro line in Amsterdam, famous for its canals and constructed land, was stopped last week after a concrete cofferdam built around one of the future stations started leaking, causing 6 houses to shift, rendering them uninhabitable. Problematic, obviously, but what if we turn it around? The part of the tunnel where the leak occured, was once actually a canal itself, but had been closed long ago to accommodate the increasing numbers of traffic the city experienced. Why not reopen all those canals, accept the fact a late-medieval city such as Amsterdam was never built for large amounts of traffic and thus ban it from the centre, and at the same time create an enormous potential for water storage during times of high tide (eg. the next few centuries)? Aaron Betsky would love it. - Marten Dashorst www.prss-release.org
Brand New Trigger Pic
papercraft CCTV camera http://craphound.com/images/cctvbuilt.jpg
1. True Enough: the science, history and economics of self-deception
teeth than men. Our capacity to select the facts that justify our beliefs isn't new, but perhaps it is growing worse. Certainly, the money's better than its ever been. Forewarned is forearmed -- having read True Enough, I feel like I'm more ready to examine my selective perception and cherished illusions. And that's certainly worth the price of admission. True Enough: Learning to Live in a Post-Fact Society Boing Boing http://www.boingboing.net/2008/09/10/true-enough-the-scie.html by Cory Doctorow on September 10, 2008
2. If I knew then what I know now... I would have partied more. Time of Day: 6:09pm Hours of Sleep: 4 Espresso shots: 3 Minutes spent in the sun: 47 Meals eaten: 1 Website: www.pandora.com Thought: I can't wait to get my grubby little hands on the laser cutter... Architecture School: Endless
Farhad Manjoo's True Enough: Learning to Live in a Post-Fact Society is a breezy-but-engrossing look at the increased polarization of news in the 21st Century. Manjoo convincingly argues that our own capacity for selective perception (show two groups of partisans footage of a political debate and both will swear it was biased for the other side; show the same footage to someone who doesn't care and they won't see bias for either side) combined with the Internet's capacity to network affinity groups and spread fragmented, selective media are a perfect storm, with the truth right in its path. Manjoo makes a good case. He walks through a number of net-based conspiracy theories on both sides of the political spectrum, speaks with their adherents, the experts who claim it's all bogus, and then to cognitive scientists and other scientists who explain the gigantic gap between what is so obvious to non-partisans and what is blindingly, passionately important to the adherents. Grounded in history and science, True Enough paints a dismal picture of a species with a limitless capacity for self-deception and selective reasoning. But Manjoo doesn't ascribe the rise of truthiness to fragmented media alone: he calls out PR firms, media outlets and others who have profited from the erosion of the truth. I'm more-or-less convinced by Manjoo's idea that reality itself has fragmented, that many of us "know" different, mutually exclusive "facts" about the world, but I'm not so sure that this is an outcome of a networked society. For centuries, a large number of people "knew" that Jews used gentile baby-blood in Passover matzoh. They "knew" that phrenology worked. That gypsies stole babies. That the laboring classes lacked the capacity to learn and participate in society. That women had fewer
I am assuming that we are officially in the thick of the semester... I haven't really had time to think about anything other than what is in front of me begging for completion. You know when you're in a new class it takes a few weeks for the routine to kick in, find a groove with your instructors and feel as if you really are learning? Well, we didn't have the luxury of finding the groove... we were thrown in head first into deep, dark cold water... without floaties. Now that the chill & sting has worn off, I feel like I have found a groove... I have even mistakenly gotten out of bed and headed toward the studio on days that I didn't need to... Groove: Found... check that off the list. In our studio course with Paul Preissner we are currently spending most of our creative energy on Maya animation and rendering ( www. paulpreissner.com -- shameless plug for a fantastic instructor & architect). In the past week we have animated curves w/ a Nurb, polygon or subdivided surface to create a form in which we analyzed through a twodimensional format with sections and plans. (does that make sense? ...i'll post images in the next blog to further explain; I'm talking my classmates into sending me their work so I can post their creations at will... mwahaha). Anyway - The drawings create a line-drawing of our three dimensional Maya models which allows us to generate new meanings for our form... This made me realize that the design process is never ending and always repeating itself in which we create something new everytime. I spent many hours using the same technique and geometry and every time my results were vastly different. Each time the process and final product drove me to create more and think differently. This leads me to believe that Bob Somol knows what he's talking about (there is no website to plug... but if he did, I think it would be www. UICSoAEnigma.com )... We have spent a great deal of time discussing the creation through repetition (and by discussing, I mean Bob is talking and I consistenly feel as if I don't have enough ears to hear with and hands to write with)... According to some theorists (sorry - names fail me at the present time) and Bob, one will not find originality but only newness. Taking an idea from one area, analyzing it and creating something different from it. It isn't original because your new idea was derived from
somewhere else. I have taken some time to discuss this idea with myself, and I agree with the more educated individuals from which we are learning. If we wanted to linearly trace the history of Architecture we would have to begin with the first hut created by man. I don't think that the Acropolis would still be standing today if a caveman/cavewoman (I won't give credit to one sex over the other) hadn't decided he/she needed shelter... continued to pick up sticks, notch them together and successfully shield himself/herself from the elements. From that moment architecture began and continued to get better through the analyzation of the past building and making it better with the next. Evolution isn't just an argument for the creation of mankind...
Courtesy of http://just.ekosystem.org/davechapel-index.html Church of St. Martin -- The Saint of the Homeless. Archinect http://www.archinect.com/schoolblog/entry.php?id=79734_0_39_0_C by Candace (University of Illinois at Chicago) on September 10, 2008
I think my brain is bigger. Quotes of the week: "Have you eaten?!! Oh you should eat!! I don't want you to go all blind and pass out on me..." "So, all I need are these Jousts and Goiters, right?" ...in reference to Joists and Girders... Something cool to look at:
3. Millennials Working They can be seen everywhere talking on their phones, texting their friends, listening to their iPods, and often doing all of these things simultaneously. They are the Millennials, also known as Generation Y, and they are beginning to make their presence felt in the workplace. Born between 1980 and 1995, they are the first generation to grow up with cell phones, instant messaging and email. These “20-somethings” work differently from other generations and will require different management techniques. They will also expect a different workplace culture. As described by Morley Safer on the television news magazine, 60-Minutes, the Millennials are causing both consternation and delight in their bosses. Major corporations are hiring consultants to teach managers how to handle these young workers, and to teach the new employees how to behave in a professional environment. While these new workers may eventually conform to traditional workplace standards as have previous generations, experts predict that this may not happen so easily. Because of generational demographics and changing technology, these new workers may have the power to remake the workplace in their own image. Boomers Out, Millennials In Generational demographics reveal that there are almost as many Millennials as there are Baby Boomers. Comprised of 75 million individuals in the US, they loom large behind Generation X, a cohort that of only 45 million. Their parents (and managers) are both Boomers and Xers since many Boomers had their children late, explaining, to some extent, the smaller size of Generation X (born 1961–1980). By all accounts, the (middle class) Millennials were pampered by parents who were extremely focused on and involved with their children’s lives. As expressed by Morley Safer, “They were raised by doting parents who told them they are special, played in little leagues with no winners or losers, or all winners. They are laden with trophies just for participating and they think your business-as-usual ethic is for the birds.” In the coming years, as Boomers reach retirement, a huge number of positions in all industries, including architecture, will need to be filled. This trend will increase competition for the talented and highly capable employees that are critical to business success. These conditions, along with the paucity of Gen Xers and the unique competencies of the Millennials, will allow the new generation to have a growing influence on the workplace environment. As described by Claire Raines in an excerpt from Connecting Generations: The Sourcebook, (Crisp Publications, 2003), “[The Millennials] are hottest commodity on the job market since Rosie the Riveter. They’re sociable, optimistic, talented, well-educated, collaborative, open-minded, influential, and achievement-oriented. They’ve always felt sought after, needed, indispensable. They are arriving in the workplace with higher expectations than any generation before them—and they’re so well connected that, if an employer doesn’t match those expectations, they can
tell thousands of their cohorts with one click of the mouse.” Technological Tethering According to Kathryn Tyler in her article, The Tethered Generation (HR Magazine, 2007), marketing researchers report that Millennials spend an average of 72 hours a week connecting with their peers and their parents by cell phone, email or text messaging. Research shows that many of these young people are in touch with a parent three to five times a day, even after they enter college and the workforce. Parents of Millennials are typically involved in every aspect of their child’s life, helping to make all decisions, large and small. Tyler quotes psychologists and researchers regarding the potential down-sides for individuals who are technologically “tethered” to parents and friends while still developing the capacity to reason, plan, and make decisions. Many believe that Millennials struggle to make independent decisions, engage in critical thinking, and solve problems creatively. Tyler cites a 2006 report that validates these theories, “Roughly threequarters of executives and HR managers at 400 companies surveyed said that recent four-year college graduates displayed only ‘adequate’ professionalism and work ethic, creativity and innovation, and critical thinking and problem-solving. Only one-quarter reported an ‘excellent’ display of those traits in recent college graduates, according to Are They Really Ready to Work?, a report by the Society for Human Resource Management, The Conference Board, Corporate Voices for Working Families and the Partnership for 21st Century Skills.” A Mixed Bag The effects of their upbringing make the Millennials both attractive and challenging for employers. While they are tech-savvy, collaborative and open-minded, they sometimes lack basic skills in reading, writing and verbal communication (Are They Really Ready to Work, Society of Human Resource Managers, 2008). Typical strengths of Millennials include: • Confidence – can also express as self-doubt or worry • Optimistic – also open to change and experimenting • Warm and outgoing – can also express as sentimental and sensitive • Achievement oriented – can be highly disciplined and organized when motivated • Group oriented – teamwork, collaboration and group decision making come easily • Inclusive – will celebrate diversity, not just tolerate or accept it • Tech-savvy – will access resources on Internet unknown to older colleagues • Civic minded – community oriented values and volunteerism is up among young people Typical weaknesses of Millennials include • Short attention span – the dark side of multi-tasking and constant stimulation • Reading (hard-copy) adverse – if it is not on Internet, it doesn’t exist • Dismissive of those not as tech-savvy – not sure there is anything to be learned from their older colleagues • Lack of discretion and sensitivity to confidentiality – the “MySpace” and “FaceBook” effect • Lack of independence – they may look to their employers and managers to be like their “over-involved” parents • Unrealistic expectations – they have told their entire lives how great they are, so they may be unprepared for being challenged in the business environment How to Manage Millennials By all reports, successful management of young workers requires a softer approach that is laced with appreciation and explanation. Coach-
ing which includes both support and direction will be more effective than a purely directive approach. Millennials are used to having constant assistance, assurance and justification from their parents and may expect their employers to behave in a similar fashion. They don’t respond well to harsh criticism and are unashamed about their expectations. As expressed on 60-Minutes by Marian Salzman, an ad agency executive who has been tracking Millennials, "These young people will tell you what time their yoga class is and the day's work will be organized around the fact that they have this commitment… You do have to speak to them a little bit like a therapist on television might speak to a patient. You can't be harsh. You cannot tell them you're disappointed in them. You can't really ask them to live and breathe the company. Because they're living and breathing themselves and that keeps them very busy." Claire Raines (http://www.generationsatwork.com/articles/millenials.htm), outlines the most frequent requests made by Millennials of their bosses: 1. You be the leader. This generation has grown up with structure and supervision, with parents who were role models. The “You be the parent” TV commercials are right on. Millennials are looking for leaders with honesty and integrity. It’s not that they don’t want to be leaders themselves, they’d just like some great role models first. 2. Challenge me. Millennials want learning opportunities. They want to be assigned to projects they can learn from. A recent Randstad employee survey found that “trying new things” was the most popular item. They’re looking for growth, development, a career path. 3. Let me work with friends. Millennials say they want to work with people they click with. They like being friends with coworkers. Employers who provide for the social aspects of work will find those efforts well rewarded by this newest cohort. Some companies are even interviewing and hiring groups of friends. 4. Let’s have fun. A little humor, a bit of silliness, even a little irreverence will make your work environment more attractive. 5. Respect me. “Treat our ideas respectfully,” they ask, “even though we haven’t been around a long time.” 6. Be flexible. The busiest generation ever isn’t going to give up its activities just because of jobs. A rigid schedule is a sure-fire way to lose your Millennial employees. The bottom line is that employers cannot expect their “20-something” workers to give up texting and listening to their iPod simply because they are at work. The good news is that they can likely do the work they are given much faster than previous generations of workers. The bad news is that the work may not be as thorough or complete. This phenomenon is explained by Bruce Tulgan, founder of RainmakerThinking Inc., a firm that studies the working lives of young people, “Members of Generation Y see themselves as would-be experts on everything. They know that they can come up with a legitimate response instantaneously to whatever you ask them. Though they may be able to find the right answer to a problem, they lack the experience, context and wisdom needed to understand what’s behind a problem. Employers shouldn’t ignore this skill, however: the ability to learn new things and put them into action is valuable.” (The Ideal Workplace for Generation Y, HR Magazine, 2006) Some employers have instituted “reverse mentoring” to take advantage of the unique skills of this cohort. Millennials are matched with Boomer executives to whom they teach the use of the Internet, social networking sites, and other electronic communication techniques. In return, the Millennials are mentored on the workplace competencies of the Boomer generation–client service orientation; commitment to excellence; and responsible follow-through on assignments–as well as connection to business related networking. While Boomer and Gen X employers and managers are quick to complain about the younger generation, experts advise that the ability
to recruit and retain Millennials is critical to competitive success in the coming decades. As explained by Sommer Kehrli and Trudy Sopp, (Managing Generation Y, HR Magazine, 2006), “Put an end to your pain and don’t get caught up in the power struggle. They know you are in charge. They don’t care. You can accomplish more for your organization when you make nice with Generation Y, an enormously optimistic, educated, energetic and compassionate generation.” Internet Resources 1. Generations at Work (Claire Raines) www.generationsatwork.com/ articles/millenials.htm 2. 2008 AIA Convention Seminar FR62: A Workforce of Tethered Millennials http://browse.aia.org/mission/convention08_ces/conted08_FR62. pdf 3. CBS 60 Minutes Report: The Millennials are Coming www.cbsnews. com/stories/2007/11/08/60minutes/main3475200.shtml 4. Society for Human Resource Management / HR Magazine www. shrm.org/HRmagazine 5. The Conference Board www.conference-board.org 6. Corporate Voices for Working Families www.cvworkingfamilies.org 7. Partnership for 21st Century Skills www.21stcenturyskills.org 8. RainmakerThinking Inc. www.rainmakerthinking.com AIA Soloso http://soloso.aia.org/eKnowledge/Resources/Documents/AIAP072776 by Rena M. Klein
4. My Brain Makes Me Nervous M.R.I. scans reveal our fear of bosses and rivals, of saying something stupid, of taking chances—oh, and of lions, tigers, and bears.
(f.M.R.I.) machine at Stanford University, my brain is being scanned as it relives one of the most anxious moments in my career. It happened years ago, when I was a junior correspondent for Life magazine discussing one of my first major stories, a possible cover, in a staff meeting. As I was being scanned in the f.M.R.I., researchers flashed a series of short statements on a monitor that recounted my recollection of that event. I can read the snippets inside the machine. In the staff meeting, colleagues had been saying I'd done a great job on the story, when the managing editor blurted out that another reporter would write it and get the credit. The suddenness of this put-down felt like an ancient lightning bolt flashing close enough to singe me. I couldn't believe it. Life, like its sister magazine Time, used to routinely have one journalist report a story and another write it, but this had become rare. As the meeting continued, I felt my heart racing and my gut contracting. I felt ashamed, and I'm sure my face was red. I knew I should say something to this editor who did look remarkably like a saber tooth with glasses, though without the fangs. I needed to stick up for myself, but my most overriding desire was to flee. Scientists have long been fascinated by this reaction to episodes of social stress, particularly for those with social phobias that have reactions so extreme they become debilitated. Until recently, the neural mechanisms of anxiety weren't well understood; nor was it clear how our brains cope with trying to mitigate its affects. That is, how we learn to use our remarkably adaptive brains to respond in a manner more appropriate to the 21st century. Inserting people's brains into an f.M.R.I.—which reads blood flows in our gray matter that indicate activity in certain neural regions—has offered some intriguing clues. My head was recently scanned by clinical psychologist Philippe Goldin, a researcher in the lab of James Gross, director of the Stanford Psychophysiology Laboratory. Goldin and his team are studying 30 "healthy controls" and about 60 social phobics in an effort to plot the pathways of anxiety—and, more important, how people are able to damp down their impulses to fight or flee. On the monitor, the story of my mortification is interrupted by a single line of words in bold: I AM A LOSER
I read more of my story, then this line pops up: I'M TOO INSECURE TO STAND UP FOR MYSELF
A polar bear looking through the window of a pickup truck in Alaska. Human reactions to natural stresses like this filter down into business and personal situations, too. Researchers are studying how we can control our fears. Photograph by: Tom and Pat Leeson/drr.net We've all had moments when our hearts are pounding like a Jamaican barrel drum and our palms are clammy; when our nerves are fraying at moments when we need to be sharp and strategic to save ourselves. Evolution, however, has given us an intricate brain designed to detect dangers that confronted our forebearers millennia ago: the snarl of a saber tooth tiger, say, or the crack of lightning on the veldt. Our brains aren't made to deal with the equally vicious snap of a boss on a rampage, or the sudden realization that you've been called on to give an impromptu presentation to a zillion-dollar client in front of the executive board of the company. Deep in the tunnel of a functional magnetic resonance imaging
Two primary regions of the brain show increased blood flow in the scanner—to use the vernacular, they "light up"—in response to an anxious or frightening situation. One is the amygdala, which is associated with emotions; the other is the hypothalamus, which gets you ready to take action by increasing your heart rate, respiration, and sweating. With my amygdala and hypothalamus blazing, Goldin and his colleague Kelly Werner introduced the second part of the experiment: They asked me to try to modulate my anxiety, to use coping mechanisms to settle myself down, if I can. I'm supposed to be a "healthy control" for this experiment, but I'm fully aware that up to 10 percent of supposedly healthy volunteers in f.M.R.I. studies turn out to have behavioral problems that show up on the scans. Since anxiety runs in my mother's family, and I used to get very anxious when I was younger, I secretly wonder: Will I turn out to have issues I've tried to bury deep in my amygdala or some other recess of my brain?
I do what Goldin has asked: I tell myself in the scanner that I'm not a loser; that I do stand up for myself. In fact, back in the managing editor's office, I did speak up, telling him I'd worked hard on that story and deserved to write it. I also suggested that next time he tell me first before announcing it to the staff. The editor responded by looking me over like he'd never noticed me before. He said I was right, he should have come to me first, and that I was ready to write the story. But changing his mind didn't change his decision—I'd get a reporting byline, but the other guy would write it. "Next time, though, the byline will be yours," he said. I kept my cool long enough to casually walk out of his office. Then I ran to the men's room, and nearly threw up. This episode is a key moment for me in learning to push down my anxiety to the point that it bothers me far less today—though it took years of similar episodes. My struggle to overcome anxiety is exactly what Goldin and Werner are measuring in the f.M.R.I. They can actually see the pathways lighting up from the frontal lobe—the seat of rational thinking, and where we make decisions—essentially telling the amygdala to settle down. "The amazing thing is that the brain can make changes," says Goldin. "Most of this happens in the amygdala, and it can be tempered to learn and adapt." My results did show adaptation in action. When I read my story and saw the lines about being a loser, my brain grew anxious. But I was able to modulate its reaction—to tell my amygdala to chill out. I was relieved, although given that anxiety still lurks in the back of my mind in certain circumstances, I don't entirely believe that I'm always able to damp it down. I didn't participate in the rest of the Gross lab's experiment, in which researchers trained healthy and unhealthy subjects in three ways—traditional psychotherapy, meditation, and exercise—to see if they can learn to modulate their anxiety. The experiment continues as the subjects are scanned to see how their brains respond and hopefully adapt to the therapies.
So bad its good: the perversity of windows cut into window frames suggests a different order of architectural composition, as well as a weird tension between the old and new. Why should bad building be quite so fascinating? This selection, from a collection on darkroastedblend document some of the most bizarre freaks of construction-gone-wrong - something like an architectural You've Been Framed. Sure, they are funny, but there is more to them than that. There is also something touching, poetic and ingenuity in overcoming some unknown problem of economics, miscommunication, or lack of foresight through optimism in the face of plain stupidity. And lets face it, we've all found ourselves facing equally challenging moments from time to time in any project. But equally, there is something distinctly disturbing and worrying. It's their wrongness that makes them so fascinating. They are mutations of architectural fundamentals - ropey foundations, weird windows, strangely placed doors, freakish stairs, Gordian Knots of plumbing, building gone badly wrong. They begin to suggest a whole language of congenital architectural defects: blind windows, amputated staircases, atheromatic corridors, conjoined structures - deformities and perversions of the normal architectural body. Construction itself - the way you put stuff together, the layers of cladding, insulation, membranes, structure etc - are not simply convenient, practical and inevitable means of making a building, they are expressions of deep seated cultural beliefs. Organisation of structure, drainage, ventilation and so on are more than simply arrangements of components, they encode a belief system into the fabric of architecture.
This experiment will be described in greater detail in the upcoming book: Experimental Man: What One Man's Body Reveals About His Future, Your Health, and Our Toxic World, due out in March 2009. Portfolio.com http://www.portfolio.com/views/columns/natural-selection/2008/09/10/ The-Psychophysiology-of-Fear?tid=true by David Ewing Duncan on September 610, 2008
5. Form Follows Dysfunction: Bad Construction & The Morality of Detail
Note how the chair acts as a step up to the door. The door-radiatorchair composition might suggest new architectural arrangements formed from diverse components. 'God is in the detail' actually means something more like 'morality is in the detail'. The detail determines the specifics of how and where the enclosure and function of architecture is articulated and formed - and it expresses morality by defining socially acceptable standards of building. The detail brings decorum and articulates the interface between inside
(the realm of civilised culture) and outside (the realm of wild, unsocialised nature).
In another case, a balcony on a new apartment block appears without any means of access, attached to a blank wall - like false eyelashes attached to a blind window. In another, an old building seems propped up on some old oil drums - inducing a sense of panic at its seemingly imminent collapse - articulating the latent disaster that lurks within every building.
Form follows dysfunction - Construction ghosts curtailed possibilities in the form of stairs leading nowhere. We see, for example, a soil pipe running through the middle of a room, articulated as though it were a significant architectural moment. And in a sense the pipe that's used to exit sewage from buildings is super significant and as worthy of celebration as the means by which the building deals with gravity.
Bad construction challenges - albeit unconsciously - the civilising power of architecture. It's disgusting and fascinating - a monstrous version of architecture: freakish, disfigured and wired up wrong like a patched together zombie and un-naturally animated. Such extreme badness surprisingly reveals how architecture manifests morality. Through its most outlandish errors, it suggests that there might be other ways of organising construction - and that might mean architecture which enables explorations of alternative cultural ideas through the nuts and bolts of putting a building together.
A mistake becomes an ingenious conflation of private building with public street furniture - a new hybrid building form that emerges by accident. Strange Harvest http://www.strangeharvest.com/2008/07/form-follows-disfunc.php by anothersam on July 15, 2008
6. Reflections: New Orleans and China
SLOW RECOVERY The few buildings in the Ninth Ward that have been fixed stand amid acres of barren land. Lee Celano for The New York Times For Americans watching events unfold on television late last month, the arduous evacuation of New Orleans and the grandeur of the Olympic Games couldn’t have made for a starker contrast. However one feels about its other policies, the Chinese government is clearly not afraid to invest in the future of its cities. The array of architecture it created for the Beijing Olympics was only part of a mosaic of roads, bridges, tunnels, canals, subway lines and other projects that have transformed a medieval city of wood and brick into a modern metropolis overnight. Meanwhile, three full years after Hurricane Katrina devastated New Orleans, much of the city remains a wasteland. As Hurricane Gustav raced toward the Gulf Coast, it became clear that the city’s patchwork
levee system could not guarantee the safety of its citizens. The evacuation of tens of thousands of residents was cheered as some sort of victory. But for those with a sense of urban history, the tragedy of New Orleans is not just about governmental disregard for the welfare of the city’s inhabitants. It is about a lost opportunity. All of the great challenges that confront the 21st-century city — from class, race and environmental issues to the continuing duel between history and modernity — are crystallized in New Orleans. Yet the kind of visionary urban plan that could address these issues in a bold and thoughtful way has yet to materialize. Instead, some of the country’s greatest architectural minds are inventing the future in cities like Beijing, Shenzhen and Dubai, where their talents are more appreciated. The signs pointing to this tragic turn of events were there for anyone who cared to read them. The great urban planning experiments that transformed America in the early 20th century were both triumphs of engineering and dazzling monuments to a free, mobile society. Anyone who has watched the film “Chinatown” knows the story of William Mulholland’s aqueduct, which transformed Los Angeles from a desert wasteland into a sunny paradise of trim lawns and orange groves. Less known is the story of modern New Orleans, which exists because of the system of canals, levees and pumps — the largest in the world — that were used to drain acres of marshland. This kind of bold government planning died long ago, of course, a victim of both the public’s disillusionment with the large-scale Modernist planning strategies of the postwar era and the antigovernment campaigns of the Reagan years. The consequences were obvious as soon as Katrina hit the Gulf Coast. And they have been reaffirmed many times since, with the collapse of the Interstate 35W bridge in Minneapolis and myriad accounts of our country’s crumbling infrastructure. Still, many Americans stubbornly regard any kind of large-scale public works project with suspicion. Three years ago, for example, the nonprofit Urban Land Institute unveiled a master plan for New Orleans that would have transformed large parts of the city into wetland areas. But the proposal, which was released as thousands of people were struggling to make their way back to the city, caused a public outcry and was immediately dropped. The institute compounded the problem by not including a workable proposal for how to house those dislocated by the plan. Since then, the most concrete proposal has been a plan by the official in charge of the city’s recovery, Edward J. Blakely, to identify 17 projects, from schools to community centers, that could be used to spur further development. But with a mere $400 million of public funds committed to the project, the plan is not likely to go far. (The city has hired the Boston firm Goody Clancy to prepare a citywide plan, but it is not scheduled for completion for another year.) The lack of a coherent vision for the city’s future means that some of the most critical reconstruction decisions — like where to build — are left to private homeowners. The notion of concentrating the bulk of new construction on higher ground, an approach that would be both safer and environmentally sound, rarely comes up. Instead, FEMA’s distribution of relief money has sometimes encouraged people to rebuild in the most vulnerable low-lying areas, since it is used for repairing structures damaged by the storm, not for relocation. The perversity of such an approach can be seen in areas like Lakeview and the Ninth Ward, where the few scattered houses that have been rebuilt stand surrounded by acres of barren land, sometimes directly in the shadow of the levees. When the government has been involved, it has often shown a callous indifference to the city’s architectural history. A few months ago, the Department of Housing and Urban Development began tearing down thousands of low-income housing units built in the late 1930s and early ’40s, including several low-rise brick apartment blocks in the workingclass neighborhood of Tremé that were among the best early examples of public housing in the country. There have also been threats to demolish Charity Hospital, a towering Art Deco landmark near downtown, as well
as several Modernist schools built in the 1950s and ’60s. Not surprisingly, what little progress has been made has been the work of a few determined nonprofit organizations. In the Holy Cross neighborhood, Global Green built a prototype for a sustainable shotgun house, complete with solar panels, natural ventilation and recycled materials. The house is the first step toward creating a planned sustainable community, organized around a town green that is designed to collect runoff water during a storm. Brad Pitt’s Make It Right foundation recently completed a competition for the design of several sustainable single-family houses, the first of which are now under construction in the Ninth Ward. And other organizations, like the local Preservation Resource Center, have been painstakingly restoring a number of historical houses throughout the city. Yet these scattershot efforts, however noble, do not constitute a thoughtful, coordinated urban plan. Shoring up existing levees will not magically transform New Orleans into a model for the contemporary city. To accomplish that, the city will have to start with a blueprint for preserving the historic fabric that was not destroyed by Hurricane Katrina — not just in tourist-friendly areas like the French Quarter, but across the city. It will need to tie efforts to rebuild the city’s infrastructure to a broader plan that takes into account its shrinking population, the realities of global warming and the racial and social patterns that have shaped New Orleans for decades. And that plan will have to integrate the needs of those who are still suffering the most: working-class people who don’t own their homes and can’t find an affordable place to live. This will take real brainpower, of course. But the idea that it can’t be done — or that Americans can’t afford it — seems more ludicrous than ever, given the example of China. Sometime later this year, Steven Holl, one of the brightest talents working today, will complete his Linked Hybrid residential complex in Beijing. The project is both a model of sustainable design and a breathtaking example of how to build an urban community in the 21st century. The London-based engineering firm Arup is working on a master plan for an entire sustainable city, Dongtan, in a wetland area near Shanghai. New Orleans, too, could become a bold vision — a laboratory for how to rebuild America’s faltering cities. It could evolve into a model for the future as compelling and optimistic as the one America offered to the world a generation ago. Or it could remain an emblem of how far we’ve fallen.
Students prepare the mock habitat for the in-water experiment at University of Cincinnati’s Olympic-sized lap pool (Photo: Brian Davies) Students in a recently developed design class at the University of Cincinnati are meeting and working at the bottom of the university’s Olympic-sized pool. It’s all part of a new Extreme Environments design course. The point of the underwater exercises is the same as that for any site visit: to first experience an environment and then design for it, according to Brian F. Davies, associate professor of architecture in UC’s College of Design, Architecture, Art, and Planning and initiator of the Extreme Environments design class. Archinect had a chance to talk to Davies, as well as to third-year architecture student Emma Scarmack who was a participating student. Archinect: What type of real-world situations require underwater architecture, or do you foresee requiring underwater architecture in the future? Brian Davies: One of this quarter’s students, Amanda Davidson, has positioned her floating residence as a remedy in case of either global warming or a new ice age. While I admire Amanda’s research and proposal, I hope neither force delivers the necessity for underwater architecture. Our foray into underwater architecture is motivated by a conviction to inspire greater respect for the planet and by opportunities to enable exploration and science that will contribute broader understanding to fuel such respect. This is not a new futurist architecture, rather more of an analogous reflection of where things are and where they should or need to be moving. Emma Scarmack: Currently, real-world situations that require underwater architecture belong to research and scientific development of the unknown world. Most closely resembling space exploration. It seems very feasible that, in the future, we will rely on underwater architecture because, currently, we know more about space than we do about our own oceans. The need for requiring underwater architecture, however, might not happen in this generation’s lifetime, but just as space offers possibilities, so does the water, and we should start exploring and experimenting now.
New York Times http://www.nytimes.com/2008/09/14/weekinreview/14ouroussoff.html?_ r=1&ref=weekinreview&pagewanted=all&oref=slogin By Nicolai Ouroussoff on September 13, 2008
7. Underwater Studio , Extreme Environments Design Class
Communicating the deployment sequence for the 'DAAP-I-SPHERE'. (Photo: Ashley Kempher/U. of Cincinnati) A: Sustainability and environmental sensitivity is a big part of the process in design now. Are these concerns of similar importance in extreme environments? Are there any issues of sustainability that arise in extreme environments that may not be as important in typical environments? BD: The greatest value of the extreme environments studio is as a
brain-teaser for the interplay of design and environmental impact…lifecycle thinking is almost inherent, there is nothing to take for granted and few commonly held assumptions, nearly every decision "depends". How can the desired materials reach the intended location? There are no public utilities, nor services for power, water, waste…no transit system to conveniently convey food stocks, etc, etc, etc. So students have to consider passive energy systems and imagine alternative options. A colleague of mine at DAAP, Soo-shin Choi, and I had to run scenario after scenario and were greatly aided by students in anticipating the outcomes and impacts of design decisions in our first applied research effort in this area. These problems present the perfect studio project to imagine all the hypothetical "what if’s"! And that is the type of thinking that design education is better suited to than are other educational models…which is where I envision realizing the greatest opportunity. ES: As designers it is our job to be knowledgeable and respectful of the impact structures, be it land, water, or space, have on the environment. The technology is here currently for us to be more conscious of built structures on land, but maybe not entirely there for underwater structures. It’s all apart of the process. It is important to do what we can and know so far as far as respecting environmental sensitivities, but there are still going to be a lot of pieces that won’t fit together yet. Also, wave generation is such an abundant renewable resource that should be explored more thoroughly and put into use in our every day lives.
DAAP-I-SPHERE with sand-filled PVC base. (Photo: Lisa Ventre/U. of Cincinnati) A: The formal aspect in the architecture of extreme environments must follow far behind the function. How much design creativity does a designer have in an extreme environment? ES: Working in collaboration with an interior designer in the Extreme Environments studio Spring Quarter, we took the project very conceptually. We wanted to see what we could think of with all bets off. We wanted to redefine the definition of architecture for extreme environments. Would it work underwater? Probably not, but the idea was to get a foundation for something and hopefully one day be able to build upon the initial idea and form.
Negatively buoyant, ready for air. (Photo: Ashley Kempher/U. of Cincinnati) A: What other forms of extreme environments interest you, or have become part of your own research? BD: The college [DAAP] has a legacy in space exploration. As a matter of fact, a DAAP alumnus designed the NASA worm logo. And the college ran collaborative efforts prior to 1969 focused on space exploration. I am very content to live in the ocean for awhile though. I cannot even imagine all there is to see and learn. ES: I am mostly intrigued with underwater architecture and using the ocean’s abundant resources as an area of research. I also find extreme issues of sustainability interesting, too, such as designing a house off the grid in areas such as New Mexico.
Ryan Cornsbruck and John Sebastion—second-year architecture. (Photo: Lisa Ventre/U. of Cincinnati) A: What types of collaborations and consultations occur in the design of extreme environments? BD: I have two answers. Not enough. And enormously rewarding ones. At the moment, we are enjoying the implications of both. Engineering has been the dominant discipline in designing for exploration and extreme environments in our lifetimes with design and architecture being newcomers. Yet supporting and sustaining human explorers has been a critical component of exploring extreme environments—which I hold central to the efforts of design and architecture…extreme or otherwise, simply enhancing life. And as aspirations for exploration increase so do the risks and strains and support needs. Bringing a human user focus to the complex matrix of criteria in designing for extreme environments… Under the "enormously rewarding ones", the studio dynamic certainly counts. Because every decision warrants a second thought, the studio confers all the time and shares research even as they are advancing
individual proposals. Last quarter (Spring 2008), many of the students elected to collaborate based on common interests in sea life or environmental issues and went on to negotiate formal proposals as a collective. And while diving, their lives are literally in each others guard. (Parents note: certified SCUBA instructors were present at all times!) That level of trust among a studio is a goal in itself! Companies value such team building environments at incredible rates and measures, and we obtain it as an outcome of the process. ES: During the Extreme Design Studio, there were many collaborations/consultations between many more departments involved than originally anticipated. We had an ongoing collaboration between architects and interior designers. Occasionally, we would meet with industrial designers and transportation designers bringing to the table of discussion more of an understanding of ergonomics and human proportions. Also, we met occasionally with scientists who looked at our projects on a more practical scale, offering us input directly from experience. I can imagine that in "real world" applications, this process would involve even more collaborations. A: Thank you very much for the interview.
John Rezsonya, third-year architecture, and John Ariosa, third-year transportation design: "Deep Search: Exploring the Unknown on our Own Planet", project for an unmanned drone (this project was a crossdisciplinerary collaboration)
The UC Extreme Environments design course ran through this summer. In August, the students submitted designs to France's "Archipelaego" competition in an effort to win the "Jacques Rougerie Architecture of the Sea Award." (Monsieur Rougerie visited the college from Paris in February 2007, and gave a very inspiring talk on his lifelong love of architecture and the sea.) Selected student projects from the Extreme Environments design class:
Sarosh Ali, Jason Rohal and Heather Vorst: "Cayo Costilla Resort: the Science & Economy of Ecology", collaborative project for a hybrid resort/research station at the Belize Coral Reef. "People have always had an interest to know more, to see greater things, and to experience them first hand. As technology increases rapidly so does our ability to progress. An underwater hotel and research facility combines the ever increasing possibilities. People who share a passion for underwater habitats can learn from each other and coexist with the life under the sea in our design. It will help preserve the pristine world below water by giving a renewed understanding and appreciation for it. By researching how to design for extreme environments, architects and interior designers can help make the transition into the new world." â€” Heather Vorst
Emma Scarmack and Jennifer Moots: "Flatback Habitat: An Underwater Sea Turtle Research Facility", collaborative proposal for a research habitat off Australia to study Flatback Turtles Kelly Hogg: "Underwater Residence for the Near Future" Brian F. Davies
8. Servers at Sea Google has filed a patent for what the New York Times describes as "mobile data center platforms out at sea."
[Image: A view of the R/P FLIP ship, which has absolutely nothing to do with Google's offshore server plan; it just looks cool and seems appropriate. Image altered by Alexander Trevi].
Water matters. I grew up swimming, sailing, and fishing in Upstate New York on Lake Ontario and stayed in New York to attend Cornell University. Despite the time demands of studio education, I joined Cornell’s freshmen rowing team spending many pre-dawn mornings on Cayuga Lake. While earning a B.S. in Cornell’s Department of Design & Environmental Analysis, I spent a semester abroad in Sydney Australia and had the incredible opportunity of exploring the Great Barrier Reef. After graduating in 1991, I lived in San Francisco, worked in Miami Beach, returned to Cornell for a Masters degree in Interior Design, and recently taught interior architecture at the University of Oregon, all of which afforded engagement with beautiful marine environments. Immediately following my bachelors degree, I had interned with SOM in Chicago and enjoyed a 9th story view out over Lake Michigan. And after all these places where I have lived, worked and studied in close proximity to great bodies of water, it is here in Cincinnati, Ohio, that my passion for architectural design and my respect for aquatic environments have coalesced into a curricular focus on designing for extreme environments. Such are the opportunities at the University of Cincinnati’s College of Design, Architecture, Art, and Planning [DAAP], where upon joining the faculty in 2005 as an Associate Professor in the college’s School of Architecture and Interior Design [SAID], I was invited to collaborate with colleagues from industrial design, bio-medical design, and telesurgery on an interior design project for an international, marineresearch vessel (the outcome of which we hope to publicize in the near future). The diverse expertise and network of that collaboration enabled the offering of the studio “Design for Extreme Environments” which has catalyzed interior design and architecture students working together with external dive masters and UC faculty from medicine and psychology in addition to SAID faculty. In educating designers and architects to create experiences and environments that maximize human emotion while minimizing impact on the natural environment the issues inherent in designing for extreme environments certainly contain lifelong lessons. Design matters. Archinect http://archinect.com/features/article.php?id=77867_0_23_0_C by Archinect on September 08, 2008
This means "stacking containers filled with servers, storage systems and networking gear on barges or other platforms." These would be "'crane-removable' data center modules on ships." From the actual patent application: In general, computing centers are located on a ship or ships, which are then anchored in a water body from which energy from natural motion of the water may be captured, and turned into electricity and/or pumping power for cooling pumps to carry heat away from computers in the data center. Perhaps unsurprisingly in this era of alternative energy sources, "Google has theorized about powering these ocean data centers with energy gained just from water splashing against the side of the barges."
[Image: From Google's patent application for servers at sea; via the New York Times]. I have to assume, then, that we're moving ever closer to true deepwater city-states – only they won't be libertarian ocean-going homesteads, after all, they'll be distributed networks of supercomputing villages afloat on, and drawing power from, the tides. Two weeks ago, meanwhile, the NYTimes also looked at the privatization of civic infrastructure – but perhaps Google's literally offshore experiment in information technology implies a coming world of privatized services at sea. A fleet of tankers shows up in a nearby port one day... and suddenly your city has telephone services. It's Archigram's instant city all over
again, but on the level of specific â€“ and highly billable â€“ urban amenities. The services show up. The network takes over. Your city will never be the same.
[Image: The Instant City at work; diagrams by Peter Cook/Archigram. An original interview with Peter Cook appears in the forthcoming BLDGBLOG Book]. I'm further reminded of the five-week-long power outage that struck Auckland, New Zealand, just slightly more than ten years ago. Peter Gutmann describes some of the possible ship-borne solutions to that city's loss of electricity: Apparently the idea of moving ships from the naval base on the other side of the harbour across to the Auckland waterfront to act as floating generators was considered, but there are problems with feeding the power from the ships to the city. There's also the problem that there's nothing around which can generate even a fraction of the power required. Another idea which was considered is using one of the Cook Straight ferries (which could in theory provide around 10MW) as a floating generator (the term "ferry" is a considerable understatement). Currently a couple of waterfront businesses are being run with power from ships acting as floating generators, and when both repaired cables failed their testing, Mercury finally brought in a diesel-electric trans-Tasman freighter, the Union Rotorua, to act as a 12MW floating generator, and is considering bringing in another ship or installing generators on barges. In any case, the seafaring future of civic infrastructure is something we'll have to keep our eyes on. Entire new untold types of urban experience could be yours the minute that strange shape on the horizon comes in to dock. (Thanks, Nicky!) BLDGBLOG http://bldgblog.blogspot.com/2008/09/servers-at-sea.html Monday, September 08, 2008
9. Stonehenge: A Black Hole At The Heart Of British Architecture
There's something about Stonehenge which seems to send plans for its new visitor centre around the bend. Recent plans by Denton Corker Marshal have been scrapped, and a fresh OJEU is out for those brave or foolish enough to take on the challenge. I'm not suggesting that the project suffers any kind of supernatural curse. But maybe, for a culture like ours that's so hung up about history, tradition, nature and so on, Stonehenge is just too much of a cultural overload that it simply blows our circuits. Like a compass at magnetic north, it's the place where we loose our bearings. We know almost nothing about Stonehenge's origins or the purpose it builders intended - who in the words of Spinal Tap 'nobody knows who they were or what they was doing there'. Stonehenge's huge presence and significance is in direct disproportion to the little we know about what it was supposed to be. This freakishly lopsided disparity creates an effect of liberating its form from any singular or particular content. Stonehenge is a sign without a meaning. The sites sensation of significance seems to suck meaning in to fill its void. From the Druids in their pantomime robes acting out a Victorian charade at the Summer Solstice, to the crusty Convoy attaching non-specific cosmic vibes as generator-powered Hawkwind space-rock the sunrise, all the way back to the local guide who, when showing William Stukeley around the site in the mid 1700s, scattered Roman coins in an effort to confirm Inigo Jones's theory that it had been built as a Roman temple. Stonehenge performs varied roles in diverse narratives. It acts as a monument not to itself or its own culture, but to our own psychic projections.
Plan of Stonehenge showing twentieth-century excavations.
Stonehenge is a monument to contemporary doubt, to fallibility, competing theories and conflicting mythologies. And perhaps these confusions explain the curse of the Stonehenge Visitors centre. Because, though seemingly benign, visitors centres are highly strung cultural artefacts. The role of a visitors centre is more than corralling cars and dispensing cappuccinos. The real substance of a Visitors Centre is to articulate our relationship to history, nature or whatever it is we happen to be visiting. The current visitors centre typology employs a kind of eco-high tech that steers a path between various controversies. It's a building type that attempts to feel authentic, natural and generically vernacular but contains enough contemporary tropes of transparency and engineering to differentiate it from commercialised 'themed' heritage. If you only visited Visitors Centres, leaving before you saw the significant site, you'd develop a nuanced understanding of the ways contemporary culture relates to nature and history.
Stonehenge is an extreme example of the problems we have in relating to our history and heritage. In the US, for example, natural significance or history are treated as drive-in experiences. But here we still feel that some effort should be made to reach those sublime moments and that the process of touristification - the infrastructure of leisure - devalues authentic experience: Bought experiences don't count. Our obsession with authenticity is predicated on the idea that somehow there was a more natural moment. But as Julian Cope - 80s rocker turned megalithic chronicler - notes, the standing stones of Avebury mark the moment that man set himself at odds with nature: the moment of the agrarian revolution. Standing stones set a course for architecture as a symbol of the separation between the manmade and the natural. Perhaps pursuing this narrative might break the Visitor Centre curse by embracing the artificial and synthetic. Stonehenge deserves a visitors centre which embraces its unique position among the ancient artefacts of Britain. My tip to English Heritage would be to appoint ex-Archigrammer David Greene as creative director. Greenes Log-plug and Rok-plug are the definitive precedent studies in the synthetic architecture of leisure. These projects - artificial rocks which house the infrastructure of conve-
nience - oscillate between the commercial and the poetic in just the right way.
Strange Harvest http://www.strangeharvest.com/2008/09/stonehenge-a-black-hole-atthe.php by anothersam on September 13, 2008
10. The Molting City In the September 15 issue of New York Magazine, Justin Davidson admirably tackles the building boom of the last 15 years, looking at how buildings have transformed their immediate context. "The Glass Stampede" is a lengthy article (one I've yet to tackle, so I can't comment at length on the text here) with 52 before-and-after views of notable and not-so-notable buildings in Manhattan.
[110 Third Avenue by Greenberg Farrow Architects] This is a case of the print version being more valuable than the online one, as the latter spreads the article across 23 pages, making comparisons of the various conditions rather difficult. I hope to post on this article again soon -- one I appreciate for its breadth and its all-in-oneplace format -- once I've had a chance to read Davidson's words. In the meantime, most of the 52 conditions are presented below.
A Daily Dose of Architecture http://archidose.blogspot.com/2008/09/molting-city.html by John on September 13, 2008
*link http://www.guardian.co.uk/ robertmondavi/knowledge.file. architecture If you want to build your knowledge about architecture, these ten lesser-known facts should help to provide a solid foundation
http://kek.org.hu/modelfest/en/ sajto.php The Hungarian Architecture Centre organizes the first International Festival for Architecture Models, in Budapest, from November 7-9
International illustration collective Le Grand Crew is proud to present
With works from: Annemarie van den Berg (NL) David Benqué (FR) Floortje Bouwkamp (NL) Pierre Derks (NL) Nine Fluitsma (NL) Sun Jung Hwang (KO) Zsuzsanna Ilijin (DE) Alice Marwick (UK) Bouwe van der Molen (NL) + international guests [www.legrandcrew.com] @ VillaNuts, Westeinde 60A, The Hague, NL Vernissage September 18th 2008, from 20.00—24.00 Open: mo—sa 12.00—18.00