Entries in city planning (3)

The Archigram Candygram

With the release of the Archigram archive being two weeks past, you might say we've missed the digital boat on tapping into the hubub surrounding Archigram's online launch. We'd prefer to think of it this way: not often do one's architectural heroes open their sketch books and allow peeks. The godfathers of our field have done just that. Seeing Archigram 3, with "there is a gap between idea and image" dominating the cover, reminds us that our disciplinary conflict between image and architeture has been brewing in tandem with the dominance of the image as a means of advertising. What also struck us is that in the six years between '63 and '69, the members of Archigram reduced the megastructure to the nanostructure. City Interchange reimagined London's ability to interconnect with the instruments of bigness and city planning, and Enviro-Pill interconnects the city with its users expanding one's experience of the city chemically. Today, when infrastructure is questionable and there is a distinct return to the visual psychodelia of the sublime, are we now just imaging our imaginations rather than our ideas? 

All Images Courtesy Archigram Archive

Floating museum

Like in the Waterpod, where Mattingly's composition resides on watered bodies, Tomás Saraceno envisions architecture, in the form of platforms or pods, in the air. One of his most well-known pieces, the Museo Aero Solar, is a solar-powered floating balloon made of reused plastic shopping bags that continually grows in size each time it travels to a new part of the world.

One of Saraceno's installations, 32SW stay green/Flying Garden/Air-Port-City (2007), consists of inflatable, self-sustainable spheres, which sustain the growth of grass through irrigation powered by solar panels that capture energy from existing light sources.

Image courtesy walkerart.org via the artist

All of Saraceno's works combine architecture with engineering to exemplify the overarching themes behind the Air-Port-City, which is his vision of a floating metropolis that "seeks to challenge today’s political, social, cultural, and military restrictions in an attempt to re-establish new concepts of synergy.”  Several of Saraceno's works are currently on display at the Walker Art Center

By having these works travel to cities around the world, a modern-day international dialogue is created that questions concepts of boundaries, property, and immobile architecture.  How will current policy be altered in the future to incorporate permissible construction and implementation of waterbound and airborne habitations?

When Cities Double Dip, So Could a Nation

Above is a power generation system for the city of Barcelona. It's a series of photovoltaic cells on a public promenade along the ocean. The video shows the ocean vista and the public sitting steps. The city is capitalizing on two of its geographical assets: its location in a temperate sunny climate and its long beautiful coast line. As a well planned city, planners are creating something out of nothing. Like the park running down Manhattan's west-side the Barcelona water front is simply a place to experience the city, buy from the local vendors or enjoy the ocean. American cities could learn a thing or two. 

Our tall compact cities, like New York, Boston's downtown, Philadelphia, even Chicago could be awash in wind power. Our sun drenched desert oasis' like Tucson, Phoenix, Los Angeles, San Diego, even Fresno could rethink their public amenities in a similar fashion to Barcelona. Where we once talked about black tar roofs creating urban heat islands, we should be talking about photovoltaic cells creating urban energy power-plants. 

None of this will happen with out a new understanding of the energy market. Like all markets, and part of why we are in this general economic morass, there needs to be transparency and standards for carbon trading. Thomas Friedman's The Lexus and The Olive Tree is about how globalization is affecting our world. Friedman points out that:

today's era of globalization is not only different in degree; in some very important ways it is also different in kind. As The Economist once noted, the previous era of globalization was built around failing transportation costs. Thanks to the invention of the railroad, the steamship and the automobile, people could get to a lot more places faster and cheaper and they could trade with a lot more places faster and cheaper. Today's era of globalization is built around falling telecommunications costs – thanks to microchips, satellites, fiber optics and the Internet. These new technologies are able to weave the world together even tighter.

Potentially with the Carbon-Market we could close the loop. Our cities could be the public face for displaying our new carbon efficiency. Imagine a city where each bus stop shows you your carbon foot print reduction. Each BetterPlace battery exchange displays the amount of carbon we've taken out of the atmosphere. Where buildings are covered in tickers that tell us how much of our 2 trillion dollar loan to China we have paid off by reselling them Carbon Units. Where parks are designed to maximize their use as a carbon sink and city amenity. 

No system is perfect to be sure, but just as the microchip begat a smaller more connected, but still individual, world, the carbon market could bring us to see the world as a unified whole.

Currently at the National Building Museum in Washington D.C. there is a new show called Green Communities. While the idea of the show is great, and one could argue that their focus on architecturally normative communities creates the kind of general acceptance for "greening" that this country might need for it to become wide spread; there seems to be a distinct lack of future planning. 

The Carbon-Market is one way we could begin to use our national infrastructure to pay down our debt! We could all be double dipping; creating jobs through building more and developing a market for our carbon units that would sustain global growth. 

We're ready!!