Entries in Technology (5)
We, as architects, have been told that there are potential technologies that allow us to leverage our knowledge, design process, team, and intelligence. Two articles (1, 2) recently published at AN make a confounding pair to read. The articles make two problems readily apparent: Architecture practice doesn't have the time or resources to focus on leveraging the information they create and second, architecture is secondary to the business of building.
In 1901 FLW read that "Today we have a Scientist or an Inventor in the place of a Shakespear or a Dante." While the technicians of digital design have been crowing about their machines for years, rarely do we see them utilized in an architecture practice. There are a growing number of consultants who are in the position to devote their time to elaborate the design information between the design and construction team. At the heart of the matter is a conundrum, many in the design profession have recognized that the profession of architecture resists taking on more risk (see article 2 mentioned above) firms like Shop are the rare example.
In fact the architecture of yesterday used new technology to achieve it's effects far more regularly. Oriel Chambers is an excellent example of this concept. In a time when the architect was at the heart of the construction process (The Harvard Design Magazine had an incredible article on the office's of 19th C architects in all cases the estimating, engineering and construction team shared the same space) Ellis was able to utilize completely new fabrication, installation technology and materials to achieve a piece of architecture that pushed the discussion of building and design forward. It may not be the lightest curtain wall (Gropius) but it may be just the first in what has become a dominant technology in the industry of architecture. I find myself asking, has a generation missed the forest for the trees. The ethos of the arts and crafts movement was not just the creation of art (architecture included) but the the goal was to integrate the emerging technologies of the day into a new kind of practice.
If anything there must be an increased appetite for projects and risk. The comments from the second article are not only entertaining they are scary. Suffice it to say that architects, may be good at selling the dream of their design ability, they seem to do a less convincing job leveraging the value that they truly could bring to a project. If the profession spent less time navel gazing and more time creatively focusing their energies on understanding and implementing the technologies they use and build, architects have an opportunity to sit at the table. Isn't that where we want to be?
We just saw this incredibly new reactive foil wall. We don't know what it does yet and as described by Studio Roosegaarde the
Lotus 7.0 is an organic wall made out of smart foils which open while interacting with human behavior. Walking by 'Lotus 7.0' its hundreds of squares unfold themselves in an organic way; creating little see-troughs between private and public. Here physical walls become alive, in a poetic morphing of space and people.
We're interested in the metamorphosis. How does one thing become another? Is it when the light changes? Does it have to be active or can change be passive? It's the question of the effect of parallax when rushing by at 45 miles an hour or the zoetrope.
What do you think?
On the 22nd January 1970, the first commercial flight of the Boeing 747-100 took place with Pan Am between London and New York. Manufactured by Boeings Commericial Airplane unit in the US, and at 2 and a half times the size of its predecessor the 707, the 747 was the first 'widebody' every produced (in fact holding the passenger capacity record for 37years).
The amazing technology at work to create the fascinating 'journey through the sky' seen in the above film is unfortunately not apparent within the interior of the 747.
Here a thin lining hides the many systems and technologies at work, creating an artificial domestic environment that distorts the true experience of being 'up in the air'.
Further research into the manufacturing of the experience of flight reveals amazing colours, technological instruments and complex engineering, all of which are again left unseen through our aspiration for the familiar and comfortable.
Do we really desire an experience of flying which hides the amazing technology behind it ?
Is comfort and familiarity really more important ? or are the technologies at work so complex that we are left feeling uneasy at not being able to make sense of their vast array of functions ?
Maybe it is for the best.. it reminds me of a story a friend told me about an airline pilot he knew, and how no matter how many time he flew a plane, at the point when the massive vessel lifted gracefully off of the ground he couldnt help think to himself.. 'Wow.. this really works!'
Sometimes its the not what anyof us can see that changes a city, its what we can't. It's the smell-lesss, siteless,presence of the unknown that exists, permeating the ground we walk on. It's the fear of what encumbers the soil rather than the knowledge of is molecular parts. The Brownfield privateer relishes these moments. As a firm they capitalize on specific knowledge to literally sweep the ground clean from beneath our feet. Often being able to spot clean earth where all would claim its contamination. Often more knowledgeable of quick cheap clean up solutions that make redevelopment fast and easy, these real estate speculators acquire the land no one knows enough about to capitilze on its location and future use.
Los Angeles has gone so far as to develop a gas station program to inform regular developers about the ability to mitigate environmental concerns. Financial institutions have created Environmental Risk Managers, (who have their own website) to provide a protocol for the evaluation of risky sites. The metrics of such an investment can only lean one way. Unlike mortgage backed securities forensic science can evaluate these investments. Merchant Bankers, like the adventurers sailing across oceans to find riches in distant lands, drive through the urban and suburban landscape looking for “relatively large and ‘dirty’ sites.” Peter B. Meyer and Thomas S. Lyons in their article Lessons from Private Sector Brownfield Developers, reference Michael Porter’s Competitive Advantage in their description of entrepreneurship as a practice that is akin to the Cortes’ conquests. They describe it as “innovation and the provision of new products or services that meet the demands of emerging market niches.” Those products today are dependent upon an authoritative super-ocular vision from above.
The lesson here is that the map is in fact the territory, and defining that map, its ecologies, vectors, spreads, flows and throws provides powerful analysis that drives markets, development, and the redevelopment of the cities we live in.
Zoning codes often refer to areas as, residential, commercial, industrial or mixed-use. However, the American home has often been the site of incredibly ingenuity. The urban technology start-ups from Hot-Rodders, to Hewlett-Packard and Apple to backyard rocket enthusiasts, are some examples of technology filtering through the garage into the mainstream market place.
As our government looks to create a green technology bonanza through research and development, in hoping to create jobs like the technology boom of the silicon chip and the computer in the eighties, shouldn't city planning regulations encourage this backyard research and development? Using Los Angeles as an example, a year ago the mayor limited industry and encouraged residential growth through the use of the zoning code. With todays glut of housing throughout the southwest there we have an oversupply of small space and an under supply of home buyers. Couldn't we repurpose these houses as small tech laboratories? Even CNC machines are becoming affordable to the home enthusiast!
At The Functionality we believe in future planning. Why not encourage RDIMBY (Research and Development in My Back Yard)? Here are just a few ideas:
- Mixed Use through Mis-Use: let people do what they want with their garage and homes.
- Provide small grants for specific technologies through a shared pool of tax-payer dollars. The completion of the grant would be paid upon patent approval.
- Use up the the housing stock! Develop research collectives that can temporarily occupy empty housing developments.
Just a few thoughts from us to you. We think infrastructure is more than just the roads and bridges we use, it can be the fabric of our urban lives. If Recycling, Reuse and Reduce were the three R's for material in the 80's and 90's maybe we need to apply those to the cities we live in, and not just the products we use.