Tuesday, 4 May 2010

MAD architects live up to their name with a futuristic city center for China

What do you do when you want to come up with an ingenious architecture that you are hoping to be a perfect mixture between creativity and eco-friendliness? Well, you ask some mad men to give you a hand. Don't laugh at me, ˜cause I'm not kidding you! You can take these two words - mad men“ as literally as you like.


Because the Chinese architects that some of you might have heard of, know under the name of MAD, had one hell of an idea: to recreate the city center of Huaxi, a district in Guyiang, China. And in order to do that, MAD gathered 11 young international architects such as Atelier Manferdini (USA), BIG (Denmark), Dieguez Fridman (Argentina), EMERGENT/Tom Wiscombe (USA), HouLiang Architecture (China), Mass Studies (Korea), Rojkind Arquitectos (Mexico), Serie (UK/India) and Sou Fujimoto Architects (Japan).

The MAD architects and their guests were part of an urban experiment that was aimed at conceiving a masterplan which was to be developed by Shanghai Tongij Urban Planning and Design Institute, Studio 6, in collaboration with MAD.


Therefore, during a three-day workshop that took place in the summer of 2008, each participant had to bring an independent design for the final masterplan, according to their own understanding and interpretation of the local natural and cultural elements.


The ecological method here is not just focused in saving energy; rather, the goal is to create a new, balanced urban atmosphere which can evoke the feeling of exploring the natural environment. The city is no longer determined by the leftover logic of the industrial revolution (speed, profit, efficiency), but instead follows the fragile rules of nature. This collaborative experiment thus provides an alternative, responsive model for the development of the urban centre: a man-made symbiosis, in harmony with nature, in which people are free to develop their own independent urban experience.
The purpose is indeed noble! You can make no question of it, but come on! Where is the privacy, guys, with those glass-made-of buildings? I can understand transparency, but this is a little bit too much!


Eco-Pod Vertical Farming Tended By Robots


Boston architects Howeler + Yoon and Los Angeles digital designers Squared Design Lab have designed a conceptual structure for Boston, where an unfinished building would be covered in modular pods growing algae for biofuel. The pods would be continuously rearranged by robotic arms (powered by the micro-algae produced) to ensure the optimum growing conditions for alage in each pod.

The designers intend to use the structure, called Eco-pods, to inform the public about the potential of micro-algae, a bio-fuel that can be grown vertically. The pods could also house research projects.


The designers hope that the temporary nature of the structure would lead to many being placed around Boston, installed on suspended construction sites and areas particularly hit by the recession.

Taking advantage of the stalled Filene’s construction site at Downtown Crossing, Eco-Pod is a proposal to immediately stimulate the economy, and the ecology, of downtown Boston. Eco-Pod (Gen1) is a temporary vertical algae bio-reactor and new public Commons, built with custom prefabricated modules. The pods will serve as bio-fuel sources and as micro-incubators for flexible research and development programs. As an open and reconfigurable structure, the voids between pods form a network of vertical public parks/botanical gardens housing unique plant species- a new Uncommon for the Commons.


Micro-algae is one of the most promising bio-fuel crops of today, yielding over thirty times more energy per acre than any other fuel crop. Unlike other crops, algae can grow vertically and on non-arable land, is biodegradable, and may be the only viable method by which we can produce enough automotive fuel to replace the world’s current diesel usage. Algae farming uses sugar and cellulose to create bio-fuels and simultaneously helps reduce Carbon Dioxide emissions, since it replaces CO2 with Oxygen during photosynthesis. While the bio-reactor process is currently in an experimental phase, recent advances in single step algae oil extraction and low energy high efficiency LEDs make the algae bio-reactor an extremely promising prospect on the renewable energy technology horizon.

In addition to being an active bio-reactor and local source of renewable energy, the Eco-Pod is also a research incubator in which scientists can test algae species and methods of fuel extraction, including new techniques of using low energy LED lighting for regulating the algae growth cycles. The central location of the Eco-Pod and the public and visible nature of the research, allows the public to experience the algae growth and energy production processes. As a productive botanical garden, it also functions as a pilot project, a public information center and catalyst for ecological awareness.

An on-site robotic armature (powered by the algae bio-fuel) is designed to reconfigure the modules to maximize algae growth conditions and to accommodate evolving spatial and programmatic conditions in real-time. The reconfigurable modular units allow the structure to transform to meet changing programmatic and economic needs, while the continuous construction on the site will broadcast a subtle semaphore of constructional activity and economic recovery. This is anticipatory architecture, capable of generating a new micro-urbanism that is local, agile, and carbon net positive.

This proposal envisions the immediate deployment of a “crane ready” modular temporary structure to house experimental and research based programs. Once funding is in place for the original architectural proposal, the modules can be easily disassembled and redistributed to various neighborhoods around Boston, infilling other empty sites, testing new proposals, and developing initiatives with other communities. Designed with flexibility and reconfigurability in mind, the modularity of the units anticipates future deployments on other sites. An instant architecture, designed with an intention towards its afterlife(s), this is a pre-cycled architecture. In our ongoing, synergistic scenario, the growth of the algae propels, and is propelled by, technologically-enabled developments that literally and metaphorically “grow the economy.”

Höweler + Yoon Architecture is a multidisciplinary practice specializing in the integration of architecture, new technologies and public space. Their work has been widely published, exhibited, and awarded. Their recent books include: Expanded Practice, a monograph published by Princeton Architectural Press; and Public Works: Unsolicited Small Projects for the Big Dig published by Map Books. Eric Höweler is a Design Critic in Architecture at Harvard Design School. Meejin Yoon is an Associate Professor in the Department of Architecture at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology.

Squared is a digital design laboratory producing work across the fields of architecture, industrial design, online interactivity, and film. Among a variety of projects, they have been serving as design and visualization consultants for the National September 11 Memorial & Museum in New York City since 2003. Co-founders Josh Barandon and Franco Vairani graduated from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology with degrees in Architecture, Design, and Computation.

BOTANY BUILDINGS Grow Buildings From Trees!

botany building, trees, tree architecture, architecture, living structures, tree bending

We’ve seen trees molded to form fantastic living chairs before, and now a young group of German architects are bending trees to their will to form a new breed of living architecture. The team is calling their tree-shaping system “Botany Building,” and while it may not be the cure to climate change, it’s an incredibly interesting way to create living structures.

Situated at the University of Stuttgart’s Institute of Basics in Modern Architectural Design, Oliver Storz, Ferdinand Ludwig and Hannes Schwertfeger build their organic structures from quick-growing trees like willows, which can be shaped to grow a certain way and provide support or protection. The team is also researching the elasticity of trees and how effectively trees can grow around steel support systems, and they hopes to grow structures for all types of purposes – walkways, towers, bird watching stations, and pavilions. They have already finished several projects including a bird watching station in the Bavarian Forest, a willow and metal walkway on Lake Constance and soon a “Green Room,” in downtown Stuttgart, which will be an outdoor pavilion for exhibitions and concerts.

Bending trees to your will into living structures isn’t as easy as one might think. There is a lot of grafting involved, as well as the construction of support structures, maintenance, and care. First the support structure is built, which the trees will grow around and up. Then young, flexible trees are planted, attached the structure, and carefully bent into the the starting position. As the trees grown they are continually monitored and checked to avoid being stunted by the metal clasps, which can restrict the flow of sap. Once the trees are finally grown and have taken on a load-bearing function, a structural engineer tests them for stability and strength – a “botanical certificate of fitness,” if you will. At that time the support structure can be removed.

The tree tops are really the limit for this type of architecture, so don’t expect trees to perform as well as traditional building materials like concrete or steel. There is a limit to what trees are capable of, and the architects have to work within the boundaries of the tree’s growth and ability.