As neighborhoods devastated by Hurricane Sandy begin drafting plans for reconstruction, some progressive architects and urban planners are arguing that the emerging science of biomimicry offers a way forward. The notion is that the next generation of waterfront designs could draw inspiration from the intricate ways that plants and animals have adapted to their situations over hundreds of millions of years.
Kapok trees, honeycombs and mangroves are just a few of the naturally occurring features or processes that have informed the designs of buildings from Haiti to South Korea to New York City in recent years.
“Nature is a dynamic entity, and we should be trying to design our buildings, our landscape and our cities to recognize that,” said Thomas Knittel, a biomimicry specialist at the prominent Seattle-based architecture firm HOK.
It’s easy to argue that architecture plays a part in the world of food; most restaurants are uniquely designed to better the dining experience after all. However, the architect’s ties to the industry go much deeper, and designers are beginning to revolutionize the way we see & manage food production.
As these cities grow, it is important that we continue to find new and innovative ways to provide for the populace. Vertical farming and urban agriculture offer relief in metropolitan environments, helping to reduce the pressure of public food supply while also changing our traditional approach to food production.
Work is about to start on a high-density, car-free "satellite city" for 80,000 people close to Chengdu in China.
Is it just us or do the renderings of a proposed prototypical car-free city designed by Chicago firm Adrian Smith + Gordon Gill Architecture for private developer Beijing Vantone Real Estate Co., Ltd bear an interesting resemblance to one of film's most famous locales?
According to Dezeen, "the 1.3 square kilometre Great City will feature a high-rise core surrounded by a 'buffer landscape' of open space comprising 60% of the total area. Residents will be able to walk from the city centre to its edge in just 10 minutes."
"The architects claims the city will use 48% less energy and 58% less water than conventional developments of this size, producing 89% less landfill waste and generating 60% less carbon dioxide. The city, which will be connected to Chengu and other population centres by a mass-transit system, is intended as a prototype for other parts of China."
Architect Juli Capella was tasked by the city of Barcelona to design a vertical garden to cover a nearly 70-foot-high windowless wall (left over after an adjacent building was demolished).
Instead of creating a typical living wall that simply covered the existing surface with plants, he constructed a piece of architecture (or "vegitecture") that acts like any conventional building, with a door, stairs and floors. But unlike any other building, it has plants for walls.
Andrea Salvini is is a co-curator for Artfarms and a Brooklyn-based architect with a growing reputation for his work in sustainability.
Artfarms, a pilot project that came out of Terrains Vagues, an organization started in 2011 by architect David Lagé, focuses on design strategies for vacant urban places. It began with a simple observation: the East Side of Buffalo feeds a widespread negative perception that discourages urban redevelopment. Terrain Vague’s belief is that cultural concepts can succeed where conventional approaches have not.
Artfarms is a collaboration with local artists and urban farmers, the latter group having transformed these once-residential, abandoned lots into small farms. Artfarms takes the farming concept a step further by using the farmers’ land for outdoor art installations, which will become part of the landscape both as a cultural layer and a destination within the neighborhood.
The global South and particularly the African continent, is facing an incredible challenge in the form of urban growth. As much as this presents its own slew of challenges, therein also lies opportunity for design innovation and the development of an urban morphology that no doubt should be practical, but vitally embraces cultural and context sensitivity.
Rwanda, like much of the developing world faces the reality that its growing populace requires adequate housing, infrastructure, services and employment opportunities. Unique among these nations, it is densely populated without being highly urbanised. However, the demographic pressure of growing urbanisation is a source of justifiable concern for all levels of Rwandan government.
Africa needs to develop its own urbanity, based on each component of its culture; one that is turned towards the future and responds to people’s needs without denying its African roots - Guilliame Sardin
At the same time, urban India faces a housing shortage as hundreds of millions of people move from rural areas into the cities seeking a better future. The cities are ill-equipted to handle the new comers as the existing infrastructure is already over taxed by the current population.
The purpose of this competition is to create innovative architectual designs which use pallet racks to create housing / village clusters which can support 100 plus families. The structures should be as effecient as possible in water and energy usage. Designs should account for residential space as well as community space for the inhabitants. The overall design should fit on a 3 acre plot of land.
Designs will be evaluated based on:
- perceived 'livability'
- self sufficiency
Designs should be submitted as projects on the Open Architecture Network (OAN).
Housing in a city already renowned for cheek-by-jowl living may become smaller still after Mayor Michael Bloomberg announced a pilot project this week not for flats but “micro units”.
Responding to a challenge faced in metropolises all over the world, Bloomberg said the units were "critical to the city's continued growth, future competitiveness and long-term economic success" and would justify scrapping US standards requiring flats to offer 400sq ft of floor space.
The problem for planners is stark: the rise of solo living and smaller families has placed huge demand for small, affordable flats in cities that are running out of space.
The "small house movement" has a growing following in the US for compact homes that defy the super-sized approach to building outside the cities.
The TwentyEleven project by Architects Chris Idema and Reinier Simons is an attempt create a multifunctional Fab Workshop as well as dwellings for the inhabitants of the slums of Kibera. According to them
"...Together with 236 inhabitants (including 52 families, 15 small companies and three workshops (two specialized in wood, one of which will become a concrete workshop and one metal), of the slums in Nairobi, we will develop a new building plan for the future inhabitants of the TwentyEleven complex..."
"Why should we westerners disrupt this culture? Our goal, in a country that is not our own and a culture that does not belong to us, is one of ‘letting go’. Give the Kenyans a new vision, a new idea and a system to build with, but give them a chance to have their say and let them do the building. The bond between an inhabitant and his home is one of great importance, an intensive cooperation process will help with this..."
"...We looked at how the people live in the situation they are in, what their social activities are and what is needed to survive in a slum like Kibera. These and other elements are set in a well-developed plan, which looks at the current way of life and interaction in a slum and improves the two. A newly gained freedom in combination with all the necessities like hygiene, clean water, a controlled cooking environment and better living conditions in general ensure that 236 scorned slum-dwellers rise in status and that with less worries about their housing situation, they will have more time and energy to develop themselves, their children and their environment...."
Studio Gang Architects—run by Jeanne Gang, 48, and her husband, Mark Schendel wants to bring a “more wild version” of nature into cities. Her project for Chicago’s Northerly Island is under way.
This fall, Chicago broke ground on Gang’s biggest designed wilderness to date: Northerly Island. The plan, devised by Gang in collaboration with the landscape architecture firm SmithGroupJJR, fashions a public park out of Meigs Field, a former airport on a 91-acre man-made peninsula just off the southern tip of downtown Chicago. There will be beaches, woodlands, wetlands, and a prairie region. An archipelago of islands and reefs will be constructed to protect the peninsula from Lake Michigan’s waves. The arc will enclose a half-mile-long harbor perfect for fish as well as for divers and kayakers. (...)
The park’s completion will fuel an estimated $1.4 billion worth of nearby projected residential development by 2015. “If you follow the story of these major, signature urban parks and you look at the real estate benefits of the surrounding area—phenomenal,” says Mitchell.
Grist author Clair Thompson recently posted piece on a new form of microhousing dubbed “aPodments”, a trademarked term for the properties being constructed in Seattle by Calhoun Properties. These aPodments are a response to high costs of living which is particularly troublesome to young professionals who have not yet had a chance to amass any savings and who tend to live relatively transient lifestyles as they progress up the career ladder.
Permaculture designer Jean Loria and community activist Mansfield Frazier hope to break ground in the spring on a greenhouse that will be built using the basement of an abandoned house.
"We've got this problem with too many empty houses," Loria said last week as she walked outside the three-story house that's in such bad shape it has become a safety threat to the Hough neighborhood. "We just keep tearing everything down and filling these basements in.
"This is an example of where the problem is the solution," added Loria, head of Upstream Permaculture. "It's architecture plus biology. I'm very excited about it. I'm expecting to be eating gourmet mushrooms from it by summer."
The idea may seem farfetched, but no more so than the vineyard her partner, Mansfield Frazier, envisioned years ago on the three-quarter-acre corner lot next door. Frazier -- a community activist, writer, doer -- heads the nonprofit Neighborhood Solutions Inc.
The African-born, German-educated architect Diébédo Francis Kéré earned a slew of international awards for a school he designed in Burkina Faso that used mud bricks and corrugated iron to create natural convection cooling.
Now, Kéré has raised the innovation bar by using local pottery to create light and ventilation in a library adjacent to the school. Kéré, the son of the village chief in the desperately poor village of Gando, had previously marshaled the tribe’s men to fashion some 2,000 clay bricks a day to build the school. More recently, he turned to the local women for help, urging them to bring the clay pots they traditionally make for cooking and carrying water to the schoolyard, where his workmen cut them to be open both at the bottom and top. They were then cast into the library’s concrete ceiling, creating holes to the open air.
Kéré then constructed a corrugated iron roof above the concrete ceiling, which heats up in the sun, drawing air from inside the library up through the clay pot holes to cool the room below.
The result is an elliptical, airy space, lit with dappled light, that’s a welcome refuge from the region’s blistering 104-degree heat.
The wave of floods that hit Britain in April focused attention, once again, on the vulnerability of homes in low-lying areas...
But what if a house could simply rise and fall with the waters? That’s the vision of Baca Architects, designers of the UK’s first ‘amphibious house’, which has just received planning permission for a site near Marlow, in Buckinghamshire, on the banks of the Thames.
The lightweight, timber-framed structure sits on a floating concrete base that is built within a fixed ‘wet dock’ foundation. In the event of a flood, the concrete base rises up as the dock fills with water, ensuring the house floats safely above the waves. The base effectively acts as a free-floating pontoon, and should have a lifetime of around 100 years before needing renewal or replacement.
Climate proofing’ urban areas is a growing area of focus for architects and planners. Amphibious architecture looks set to join rain gardens, green roofs and permeable paving in the array of techniques available...
This year's edition of the London Festival of Architecture invites architects, planners and the public to reflect on whether cities do actually provide the best environment for people to improve their quality of life.
"More of the world's population than ever before live in cities, and the trend looks set to continue. Whether cities do actually provide the best environment for a high quality of life remains uncertain, however. An architecture festival is one way to focus the attention of architects, planners & the public on that crucial question, hence the London Festival of Architecture (LFA).
If the festival has a headlining act, it is perhaps the London Pleasure Gardens, which present an unusual vision of urban renewal in the capital's former industrial heartland. Inspired by the English pleasure garden, the 60,000 square metre site, surrounded by dilapidated industrial mills and landmarks, includes oddities such as a golf-ball-like concert hall, monopoly houses and an oyster bar with a grass roof that doubles as seating for the open-air cinema.
Renewal at the micro-scale is also being tested at LFA 2012. Gibbon's Rent, near the Shard at London Bridge, used to be one of those neglected back alleys that people avoided. Architect Andrew Burns and landscape architect Sarah Eberle have turned it into a "theatre of the jungle", or at least the beginnings of one, as the winding garden has been left incomplete to encourage local residents and businesses to take ownership of it and to develop it as they see fit. That bottom-up approach may become a bigger factor in city planning: similarly inspired projects are a feature of this year's festival..."
The armed conflict that has persisted for decades in the Karen State of Myanmar results in a daily flow of refugees and immigrants to neighboring Thailand. In the Thai town of Mae Sot, a few kilometers from the Burmese border, numerous schools and orphanages offer accommodation and education to those in need. One of these centers, the CDC School (children development center) under the tutelage of Mae Tao Clinic organization, was built this year to host more than 500 students. Funded by the Embassy of Luxembourg in Bangkok, the low-impact building respects local practices and architecture.
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