The Functionality is pleased to publish this article by our friend Kevin Brodkorb, an architect and contractor working in Denver, Colorado, the western edge of America's "tornado alley." The enormous swath of agricultural land and prairie stretching from Eastern Colorado to Kansas, Texas to the Dakotas has always been famous for its violent storms: towering thunderheads roll off the eastern Rockies and cross the plains almost daily during late summer afternoons. However, dangerous hail storms, lighting storms and tornadoes have increased in frequency with the recent advance of global climate change, in some cases causing the destruction of entire towns like Greensburg, KS (since rebuilt as a model sustainable community). Kevin and others have endeavored to leverage digital and gps technologies to achieve greater efficiencies and customer service in the face of these disasters, helping to fill increased demand for repair services that these storms cause.
Last year Colorado had one of the most damaging summer storm seasons in over two decades. Our small locally based roofing company in Denver struggled to keep up with the increase in roof work and we faced serious competition from “fly by night” contractors looking to make quick deals in the area. We needed much faster tools to both measure and estimate the costs of each roof we repaired, so we began to investigate satellite and aerial photography as a way to measure roofs. We developed software that uses these images to automatically generate scaled roof plans, and with a little artistry and experimentation, we were soon able to provide an accurate material takeoff for a roof within a tolerance of one percent of actual required quantities. Our software includes functionality for designating colors and slope for each different type of roof element (hip, ridge, eave, etc.) and parses their total measurements automatically into a takeoff which can be used to directly estimate costs.
A major problem in the roofing industry comes from “fly by night” contractors who arrive in a city after a storm, repair roofs, and then ship out, leaving the customer with no one to contact if their roof fails. Our goal is to combat that negative stereotype by staying put in Denver with a permanent contactable location and to deploy our new software to measure and estimate roofs on a scale that is potentially global in reach. Our second goal is to utilize local resources and hire local contractors in each region we enter. Using local resources not only insures a more sustainable business model, it also provides jobs to local knowledgeable contractors instead of flooding the market with foreign contractors as with most “fly by night” operations.
Current global weather patterns also continue to grow in intensity and these storms are having larger and more prolific impacts on urban centers. Having the ability to stay put in Denver and provide roof measurements hours after a storm hit 1000 miles away allows us to keep up with growing demand.
(Article Courtesy Kevin Brodkorb)
The Functionality is lucky to have Sophia Al-Maria, an accomplished artist having studied at Goldsmiths in London, sending us another feature from the desert.
“It’s very Arab the way this city erects buildings and then rips them down, the towers are like tents.” – Dr. Fay Gotting author of Qatari medical history, Healing Hands of Qatar
Here in the Arabian Gulf the present is a non-time, a portal to and from the future tense – a blinking cursor on a screen of sand and steel grids.
The consensus seems to be that if we are going to move forward we need to delete our past and conversely if we attempt to preserve our history and tend our high-maintenance religious beliefs, our imagined futures begin to fade from the horizon.
Type “Doha” into your Google and more renderings of never-to-be-built dream-scrapers than images of the actual city que-up. One of the first hits is this Syd Mead (of Tron and Blade Runner fame) imagining of a Doha as patrolled by nurse-shark blimps. Few contemporary features of Doha persevere in Mead’s vision, nothing is left of my home but a single icon on a manmade outcropping barely older than me: the Sheraton.
It was 1979 when an unmanned alien ship landed in Doha, a dusty town about the size of Mos Eisley, the spaceport on Tatooine (a planet in Tunisia).
Image from 1982 industry-publication: “Construction of the Sheraton: Doha, Qatar”.
Qatar had ceased to be a British protectorate only eight years previously and who should they hire to sweep down with a pyramidal hospitality-craft but William Pereira - sci-fi fan boy and chief architect in the late seventies to all optimistic-futurists of the Middle East. After a long career of dotting Southern California with atriumed ziggurats and the Disneyland Hotel, Pereira designed the Yanbu housing complex in Saudi, the Imperial Medical Center in Iran and the “Saddam” International Airport in Iraq, all of which showcased his flare for Flash Gordon.
The iconic Doha Sheraton (his final project in the Middle East) arrived in 1982 on 3000 piles and pillars, sinking its steel shafts deep into the reclaimed gravel coastline of Qatar.
When the hotel opened its luxuriously Air Conditioned doors, astronaut Alan Shephard was the first to check-in.
The first American in orbit was also the first American to see the brightly imagined future of Qatar – and it was glorious! Pereira’s Sheraton was constructed from a seductive Islam-ish fantasy-future of mosaiced mirrors and disco-lit elevators and Marble Queen vines cascading over the largest standing chandelier in the world: a crystal palm-tree.
Today great follies proposing to bridge ‘tradition’ and ‘progress’ arrive in stacks from the desks of ‘starchitects’ hoping build yet another shell of a pseudo-Arab structure ‘veiled’ in ‘modern-mashrabiah’ built to over-populate our crumbling glass-and-concrete ghost town.
Take Jean Nouvel’s slick silver innuendo as example: Nouvel claims this is a tower inspired by a medieval Islamic helmet housed in the I.M. Pei Museum of Islamic Art.
However I’ve watched it erect itself, swelling up from its foundations, chain-mail exoskeleton hardening over exposed beams. Every morning I drive towards it on the corniche, and now as it nears completion and looms over my dashboard, I have to worry that it may just be a collosal dirty joke.
A recent trip to Mies Van Rohe's 'Farnesworth House' whilst on a trip to Chicago got me thinking about people and buildings.
It was winter and the white house stood pristinely in a snowy landscape - as I slowly approached I was leapfrogged by the hoard of visitors (yes, all architects) who all wanted to get a shot of the building which was not tarnished by human prescense.
Perhaps it was in an effort to transport back in time, or to reflect the clean crisp lines of the building with perfect composition, or even because of distaste for my larey snowboarding jacket - it doesnt really matter, I started taking photos of them instead.
I've never understood the desire to capture peopleless architecture. People bring spaces to life, they make them messy. Mess is nice. Architecture exists as backdrop to our lives, and surely to photo it alone is akin to photographing an empty stage set.
In Summer 2009, I visited the Ferry Terminal in Yokohama. The building played a fantstic part in the annual Japanese/Hawain convention - I could never have imagined how suitable the undulated surfaces were for practising hula, or how the grand exhibition hall could be converted into a hawaian market...
..so think twice next time you're waiting for people to get out of your picture
Today, designers are excited about surfaces. "Surface" has been around for the last fifty or so years, but architects and product designers have new materials, techniques and (arguably) responsibilities that inform surfaces to be more than just superficial.
The RD chair hits all these notes. Using recycled plastic as a malleable medium, Cohda Design has created a chair that follows a set of guidelines yet is never exactly the same. The intelligence of the product is in the basic form of the jig, a series of pegs that create the armature for the plastic to be woven around. The result is a chair that has all the qualities of avant-garde computation, with the fabrication smarts of a Ford Model T.
For the last fifteen years we have heard at academic reviews, read in design journals and seen built attempts at using digital information to create massively customized built work. While one hopes that our recent foray into built information modelling allows tighter controls at certain scales, at The Functionality we're curious if we can both be massively custom and locally standard?
Dear Readers, Friends and Colleagues,
At The Functionality we wanted to thank you for an incredibly eventful year. This has been our first year in operation. We've built a canopy out of paper, been published in Plan, Ecologic and on the Wallpaper's web graduate directory. We've enjoyed writing about some cars, trains, infrastructure. We've featured posts on the architecture of video games, the trans-arabian railway and the prevalence of auto-tune.
We're excited about a new year with new possibilities. You can be sure that we'll be writing, getting unique feature articles and continuing to explore our own production in the new year.
- The Functionality
Andrew, Colin, Nick, Tom and Will
Subverting the LiDAR Landscape: Tactics of Spatial Redefinition for a Digitally Empowered Population
This weeks friday feature we are very proud to introduce a guest post by Matthew Shaw. Matthew graduated from the Bartlett School of Architecture in 2009 and his stunning project "Subverting the Lidar Landscape", has already been featured in two exhibitions and a book. We've managed to catch up with Matthew and ask him to give us a short insight into his work.
Subverting the LiDAR Landscape is a speculative project which questions the way we interact with digital and physical versions of our cities. The project is based around LiDAR technology - 3D scanning but on a city scale. Google Earth and Streetview are peoples preferred method of urban spatial research and are taken as virtual fact by a global internet population. They will soon be replaced by intricate 3D modeled versions of our cities derived from mobile 3D scanning units – LiDAR equipped vehicles.
The project aims to subvert this mapping. It arms the population with the tools to edit the way their city is scanned and recorded. These tools are not digital hacks but physical interventions. They manipulate the scanning process and act as waypoints and markers linking the physical world to the digital.
This series of drawings explores the city from stealth locations. They show what a LiDAR unit sees, they represent what a radar can sense if it could look through walls and speculate on what an IRA bomber may have thought, or what AL-Qaida may be watching. Simultaneously they hide, see through walls, bend light and look round corners.
These landscapes are hybrids of real and imagined LiDAR data. They take actual 3D scans of the parliament area of London and breed them with speculative LiDAR blooms, blockages, holes and drains. These are the result of strategically deployed devices which offset, copy, paste, erase and tangle LiDAR data around them. They show the route of stealth drills carving LiDAR data in the public redecoration zone. They show boundary miscommunication devices – hotspots of spatial truths and mistruths. They show the deployment of flash architecture and toolpaths of stealth mechanics. Parliament is offset to St. James Park; protesters shelter under a LiDAR shield on the Mall, an urban transplant replaces Downing Street with an insurgent gateway and a Huas-MattaClarkian vista.
A series of prototypical objects explore the form and materiality of stealth and subversion. Each object starts life as an intuitively carved wooden sketch. These then became 3D notebooks on which to design precise insertions and additions. The objects are then 3D scanned using a self built scanner to enable precision inserts to be machined and added to the originals. These objects are then scanned and their digital siblings cast and machined from the scanned data.
Matthews project may be found in the recently published 'Passages Through Digital Hinterlands' by Ruairi Glynn and Sara Shafiei, which features graduate work from across London's top architectural Schools- Santas please take note!
We ride bikes. We ride them to work. We ride them in cities. We ride them on vacation. We travel with them. It's true, William brought his from London to New York and then the beater from New York to LA.
William and I biked to work daily while we lived in LA. Gaston, a partner at Ball-Nogues, only bikes to work.
Colin is working with Community Design Group. They focus on sustainable transportation using bikes. At The Functionality, we love our bikes.
In grad school I assembled a couple of "push-bikes," as my aussie roomate Clinton called them. He showed me the ropes and I've been obsessed since then. But that is nothing like what Bryan Hollingsworth is doing at Royal H.
Royal H Cycles are hand made by Bryan Hollingsworth. Bryan, pictured above, creates beautiful bikes.
If anyone is looking for a new bike this year they should check out these hand crafted objects de arte!
At The Functionality, we're always keeping our eyes out fo exciting new ways to imagine the city. Whether it's Constant's New Babylon or KristopherK's Iblarb its always refreshing to see the city dreamed of a new.
Kristopher H studied at the Central School of St. Martins check out his work.
Last weekend I dropped into David Zwirner Gallery. As architects, we talk about space often. It comes up in conversation daily. Often we talk about "shaping" space. In many ways, as architects, we spatialize intent through the sculpting of nothing: making void from solid, separating figure from ground looking and how objects relate to one another. Architectural theorists and writers have developed a language of ideas looking as far back as palladio's use of space and relating those drawings to Le Corbusier. Even adopting didactic illustrative diagrams for projects such as Eisenman's House V. This kind of thinking is influenced by work's like The Orange by Gordon Matta-Clark and the many constructions of Sol Lewitt. In some ways those artists realize the purists form of the discussion without the pedestrian demands of the architect.
Flavin today may offer a new approach. The work at Zwirner created rooms and layers of space in way that I have yet to experience in other places. Young Practices like Faulders Studio's Mute Room seem to grow from this tradition. Where a person's shadow becomes a kind of absence of space in Flavins work, a person's weight describes their physical absence in Faulder's mute room.But enough of the pedantic critic.
It's amazing to see space created cheaply (fluorescent tube and colored gel's are readily available) and use color to define small spaces so clearly.