How 3D Printing Will Change Our World (Part II)

Rapid Craft, designed by .

Today, technology lives in the realm of small plastic tchotchkes. But economists, theorists, and consumers alike predict that 3D printers will democratize the act of creation and, in so doing, revolutionize our worldWhich poses an interesting quandary: what will happen when we can print houses?

Last week, I discussed the incredible capabilities of 3D Printing in the not-so distant future: to quickly create homes for victims of disaster/poverty; to allow the architect the freedom to create curvy, organic structures once only dreamed of. But, if we look a little further afield, the possibilities are even more staggering.

In the next few paragraphs, I’ll introduce you to Neri Oxman, an architect and MIT professor using 3D Printing technology to create almost-living structures that may just be the future of sustainable design. Oxman’s work shows how 3D Printing will turn our concept of what architecture – and the architect – is, completely on its head.

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Parlour: Women, Equity, Architecture

Through research, discussions and essays from a variety of resources, Parlour: Women, Equity, Architecture is a platform, a coach, and an inspiration that is available to worldwide in an effort to bridge the gender gap that exist in the historically male dominant profession of architecture.  Launched by a team of scholars led by Dr. Naomi Stead from The University of Queensland and developed and edited by Justine Clark from The University of Melbourne, this website is relevant to all members of the profession,  and men, in all parts of the world. It highlights the reasons why gender gaps are felt as in “implicit bias” whether in pay scale or upward mobility, even though discrimination and prejudices may not be explicit.  In this regard, the website and its collection of resources, aims to create a forum for a dialogue about the actual and perceived barriers that empowers women to challenge the social structure that fosters this proven under-representation, whether it is due to professional practices and “gendered behavioral practices” or pressures that women feel to leave the profession at a much higher rate than men.

More after the break. (more…)

How 3D Printing Will Change Our World

The MakerBot Replicator, a personal 3D Printer. Photo via MakerBot.

When the kids at NOTLabs first got their hands on a MakerBot Replicator, the ingenious 3D printer that can make just about anything you want, they quickly got down to business – making LEGO and Kinex connectors, that is. As inconsequential as their decision may seem, it got us thinking: today, building blocks, but tomorrow? Buildings themselves.

The future isn’t as far as you may think. In the next two articles, I’ll introduce you to three visionaries who are already applying technology to revolutionary effect: an engineer hoping to improve the human condition, a robotics expert with the goal of completing the Sagrada Familia (or at least putting a structure on the moon), and an architect at MIT using nature-inspired materials to turn the design world on its head.

If these three examples are anything to go by, 3D Printing will revolutionize the world as we know it. But it begs the question: at what price? Will it offer architects the freedom to design without the pesky limitations of built reality? Or, like the scribes made redundant by Gutenberg’s printing press, will 3D printing make the architect go extinct?

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RIBA Rethinks Neighborhood Planning

Exmouth Market, Islington © Alan Stanton via Flickr

With the support of the Minister for Local Government Greg Clark MP in the ResPublica and RIBA have launched a discussion paper that changes the fundamental system of neighborhood planning by proposing that communities should have a much greater influence and more power in the design process of urban planners. The paper, fittingly titled “Re-thinking Neighbourhood Planning: From consultation to collaboration“, discusses the value of “real community-led planning” in which professionals, developers, local authorities and communities create partnerships in preparation for planning and design work. The report supports community engagement and outreach, investing in the belief that partnerships and collaboration will bring trust and understanding to the relationship between planners and the communities that their policies affect.

More on this report after the break. (more…)

How to Hack (and Design) a Data Center

The bank architect’s goal is to create a secure edifice. The bank robber’s? To subvert the edifice. And yet consider their commonality: their interaction with space.  Both analyze plans and consider inefficiencies, both inhabit the space much differently than your average spectator. In fact, the Robber’s relationship with space is far more physical, urgent…nuanced. As Mehruss Ahi, a recent graduate from Woodbury University, puts it in his senior thesis: “The Architect is the Bank Robber…and the Bank Robber is the Architect.”

Ahi suggests a Robber-like “spatial hack” of the bank: an identification of its inefficiencies/vulnerabilities/paths of circulation. He also notes the necessity of giving priority to large storage space for goods rather than money (due to “the migration of banking services to the Web”). This new perspective, Ahi argues, will allow architects to design a smarter, more secure bank. The bank of the future.

Ahi’s assertion about the need for physical storage space (as turn to the Web), got me thinking. Our world depends less and less on physical storage, and more and more on the bits of information flying through the wires and cables of the internet. Ahi’s theory, while an interesting insight into bank design, is even more powerful when applied to the bank’s modern day equivalent: the Data Center.

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Data Centers: Anti-Monuments of the Digital Age

375 Pearl, originally built in 1975 as a Telephone Communications building, was bought in 2011 to be repurposed as a Data Centers. The intimidating, unbroken facade is typical of a . Photo via Flickr CC User wallyg.

Your Macbook Air has come at a price. And I’m not talking about the $1,000 bucks you shelled out to buy it.

I’m talking about the cost of lightness. Because the dirty secret of the “Cloud” – that nebulous place where your data goes to live, thus freeing up your technological devices from all that weight – is its very physical counterpart.

Data Centers. Giant, whirring, power-guzzling behemoths of data storage – made of cables, servers, routers, tubes, coolers, and wires. As your devices get thinner, the insatiably hungry cloud, the data centers, get thicker.

So why are you struggling to picture one in your mind? Why do we have no idea what they look like? What they do? Where they are? Because Data Centers have been hidden away and, although carefully planned, intentionally “undesigned.” The goal is to make the architecture so technologically efficient, that the architecture becomes the machinery, and the machinery the architecture. In the words of author Andrew Blum, Data Centers are “anti-monuments” that ”declare their own unimportance.

But if architecture is the expression of our society’s values and beliefs, then what does this architectural obliteration mean? That we are willfully ignoring the process that creates the data we daily consume. As long as the internet works, who cares where it came from (or at what cost — and there is a considerable cost)?

So can design change our alienated relationship to our data? Should it? And if so, how?

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AD Editorial Round Up: Architecture in America Today

A Rebar project, the VIctory replaced San Francisco’s Civic Space with a temporary farm. Via Afasia.

Seeing as it’s the 4th of July, we thought we would take a moment to reflect on the state of Architecture in our country today. Where are we? What’s important to us now, July 4th, 2012? And what does the future look like?

Undoubtedly, the Architecture profession is still hurting from the Recession. Thousands remain unemployed and, as Andrew Maynard pointed out in his popular Work/Life/Work Balance, those who are employed are overworked and undervalued. However, there are some glimmers of hope: in After the Meltdown, we discussed the inevitable rise of Public-Interest Design and the opportunities it will offer; in a guest post, Steve Sanderson of CASE championed the diversification & expansion of the architecture profession, which will better prepare architects for the realities of our Post-Meltdown economy.

As for Architecture today, there has been a rise in community-oriented projects that seek to better the quality of life in our fast-growing cities – from Productive Landscapes (which we explored at length in our Urban Agriculture Series) to Reclaimed Parks, a la the High Line and Low Line. While Green Design is of course on the rise, we discussed the boons & pitfalls of  following LEED to the letter. We also took a look at the role technology will play in guiding urban design, wondering “Can you Crowdsource a City?” and “Can you replicate the magic of Silicon Valley?

Despite the economic struggle, Architects are expanding their definition of architecture and coming up with innovative solutions for a more sustainable, responsible future.

       

 

Why Skateboarding Matters to Architecture

Studiometro's Bastard Store, a cinema converted into office space, showroom, and bowl.

Every June 21st since 2003, Go Skateboarding Day has rallied skateboarders around the globe – in skateparks and public plazas, downtown nooks and parking lots – to grind, ollie, and kickflip it with the best of them.

If I didn’t lose you at “ollie,” you’re probably wondering: what the heck does this have to do with architecture?

Well, I could talk about the architectural challenge that a skate park, as an interactive public space with specific topological requisites and social implications, offers architects. I could show you some cool testaments to the fact, such as the Architecture for Humanity-sponsored projects in Afghanistan and Manhattan, opening today.

But, rather selfishly, I’m more interested in what skateboarding has to offer us beyond skateparks. A skater, unlike your typical pedestrian, experiences space just as intensely and consciously as an architect himself, albeit in a different way. He/she is alive to the possibility of space, not in its totality, as an architect would be, but as a collection of tactile surfaces to be jumped on, grinded, and conquered.

The skater offers a revolutionary perspective for the architect: one that allows you to see  buildings beyond what they were intended to be, to see (and design) buildings as “building blocks for the open minded.”

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So You Want to Own Your Own Architecture Firm…

Courtesy of

By Andrew Hawkins

Following the popular post, Work/Life/Work by , about the realities of the corporate architecture profession and the necessity of working for yourself, we bring you this blog post by Andrew Hawkins from his blog Hawkins Architecture, which explains what it’s like to own your own firm. 

So you want to own your own firm. Well by all means, no time like today. Get the branding started. But there are hundreds of issues that you must be willing to address. I want to speak about a few today from my perspective as an operator of a small firm for going on 6 years. These are just topics to consider and your thoughts on them will surely be different. But they are worth the discussion. So…

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Practice 2.0: The Elephant in the Room*

http://images.fanpop.com/images/image_uploads/red-elephant-banksy-338521_800_501.jpg

By Steve Sanderson

The following article is an edited transcript from a presentation that Steve gave at the Intersections: Building Interdisciplinary Pedagogy | Building Integrated Practice symposium organized by the New York City College of Technology.

I’m happy to see so many familiar faces and honored to be included with such an esteemed panel. In fact I feel a bit under-qualified. If my Google searches serve me well, all of my fellow panelists have both undergraduate and advanced degrees in architecture and have held noted academic positions for several years. I, on the other hand, pursued a “non-traditional” path into the industry by first studying interior design then industrial design to doing one year of a MArch program and finally receiving a ME from John’s program at Stevens.

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Britain’s Built Legacy: From “Carbuncles” to the Cutting-Edge

Photo of Queen Elizabeth II's Jubilee Celebrations. Photo © LEON NEAL/AFP/GettyImages

‘What is proposed is like a monstrous carbuncle on the face of a much loved and elegant friend.”

It’s easy to see why British Architects get their hackles raised when it comes to Prince Charles. The oft-quoted gem above, said in reference to a proposed extension to the National Gallery in 1984, is one of hundreds of such Architectural criticisms Prince Charles has made over the years. Which wouldn’t matter of course, if, like any average Architectural layman’s opinions, his words didn’t have much weight.

His do. They’ve resulted in the intervention, squelching, and/or redesign of at least 5 major plans over the last twenty years. But let’s not write off Charles just yet.

With the Queen’s Jubilee ceremoniously having finished yesterday, the conversation analyzing her legacy has begun. And while London’s towering, cutting-edge high rises (a la Norman Foster, Richard Rogers, and Zaha Hadid), will be the shining examples of Elizabeth’s reign – I’d like to suggest something, and raise a few hackles, myself…

Curious for more? Keep reading about Prince Charles’ unlikely influence on Architecture, after the break…

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Urban Agriculture Part III: Towards an Urban “Agri-puncture”

A community in Treasure Hill, in Taiwan, originally slated for demolition, but then preserved as a site for Urban Agriculture (although at the cost of its original inhabitants). Photo © Stephen Wilde, via P2P Foundation.

Earlier this month, The New York Times’ Michael Kimmelman tackled a common narrative in the architecture and urban planning community. It goes like this: once upon a time, in the 1990s, Medellín, Colombia, was the “murder of the capital of the world.” Then thoughtful architectural planning connected the slums to the city. Crime rates plummeted and, against the odds, the city was transformed.

Well, yes and no.

What happened in Medellín is often called “Urban Acupuncture,” a way of planning that pinpoints vulnerable sectors of a city and re-energizes them through design intervention. But Kimmelman reports that while the city has made considerable strides in its commitment to long-term, urban renewal, it has prioritized huge, infrastructural change over smaller solutions that could truly address community needs.

Urban Acupuncture needn’t be expensive, wieldy, or time-consuming. But it does require a detailed understanding of the city – its points of vulnerability, ‘deserts’ of services, potential connection points – and a keen sensitivity to the community it serves.

So what does this have to do with food? Our food system presents seemingly unsurmountable difficulties. In Part II, I suggested that design could, at the very least, better our alienated relationship with food. But what if we used the principles of Urban Acupuncture to bring Agriculture to the fore of urban planning? What if we used pinpointed, productive landscapes to revitalize abandoned communities and help them access healthy foods? What if we design our cities as points of Urban “Agripuncture”?

What would our cities look like with Urban Agripuncture? Read more after the break…

Missed Part I and Part II? You can find the whole series here.

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Urban Agriculture Part II: Designing Out the Distance

A rooftop in San Francisco. © Peter Dasilva for the New York Times.

“The typical Urban Dweller today has no understanding of where or how is produced/distributed. We have become dependent on huge, powerful, profit-minded corporations to bring huge quantities of from industrial farms into our supermarkets – but the entire process is hidden, massively complex, and, ultimately, unsustainable.” [1]

In Part I of this Series, I made the case that Urban Agriculture has incredible potential; unfortunately, however, in America, it has a long way to go. Our economy, our government, our technology, even our perception of what “food” is relies upon the Food System we currently have in place. Urban Agriculture could very well be the answer, but, frankly, not yet. 

So where does that leave us today?

All over the world, citizens are taking the Food Revolution into their own hands, becoming urban bee-keepers, guerilla planters, rooftop gardeners, foodie activists. While community engagement and political lobbying are vital to these grassroots movements, so too could be design. 

By designing our cities – our public and civic spaces, our hospitals and schools – with food in mind, we can facilitate this Revolution by making food a visible part of urban life, thus allowing us to take that crucial first step: eliminating the physical/conceptual distance between us and our food.

What does it look like to design with food in mind? More after the break…

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An optimistic “Work/Life/Work Balance” by Anthony Ling

The infamous decorative construction hat from Joshua Prince-Ramus's "Building a theater that remakes itself" TED Talk. - Joshua Prince-Ramus: "We can only blame ourselves."

São Paulo-based architect Anthony Ling has shared with us his perspective on Andrew Maynard’s recent article “Work/life/work balance”. Maynard’s article was extremely popular as it discussed some of the industries most controversial issues surrounding exploitative and exclusionary working practices. Although Ling agrees with many of Maynard’s points, he disagrees with the logic of Maynard’s two options for attaining a good work/life balance – (1) taking the risk of going broke and start your own practice or (2) leave the profession. Greatly inspired by Joshua Prince-Ramus, Ling proposes a solution that focuses on the creation of more business-minded, medium-sized practices.

By reading ’s critique on today’s architectural workplace I could share his feelings and his rage towards the top-down management system run by many corporate architecture firms and the poor environment most architects work in. I couldn’t agree more that architecture is not as romantic as one sees it, and people who decide to embrace the field should know that. He is also right on by saying that a small percentage of time is spent on creative work and that architecture isn’t the highest paying profession, but I think most people who decide to enter the business already know about this last one. Although his ideas are inspiring and even agreeing with part of his solution to the problem, I think his logic is wrong. (more…)

Urban Agriculture Part I: What Cuba Can Teach Us

Havana . CC Flickr User weaver.

Everyday, in the city of London, 30 million meals are served. That’s millions of trucks arriving to millions of stores and restaurants in a complex, tightly scheduled orchestration of production, transportation, and distribution.

We take it for granted that this system will never fail. But what would happen if these trucks were stopped? As unrealistic as it sounds, it’s happened – and not so long ago.

In 1989, over 57% of Cuba’s caloric intake was imported from the Soviet Union. When it collapsed, Cuba became, virtually overnight, solely responsible for feeding its population – including the 2.2 million in the city of Havana. [1] What happened next is an incredible story of resilience and innovation.

As our world becomes increasingly urbanized, our increasingly endangered, and our reliance upon fossil fuels increasingly undesirable, the question of how we will feed billions of future city dwellers is no mere thought experiment – it’s an urgent reality.

The story of Cuba offers us an interesting question:  What would our cities look like if we began to place food production/distribution as the primary focus of urban design? And what will it take to make this vision a reality?

More on how Food can shape our cities, after the break…

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Looking Back, Moving Forward: What the 2012 National Convention says about Architecture Today

© Megan Jett

According to its Web Site, The American Institute of Architects (AIA) aims to be two things for the architecture profession: a resource and a voice.

There’s no doubt that as a resource, the plays its part well. But what does it mean to be a “voice”? Can an association speak for a profession? And, if so, what is it saying?

Today, over 17,000 architects and designers, contractors and project managers, magazines and bloggers (including us) will converge on the Capital for the AIA’s 144th National Convention, Design Connects. Over the course of three days, connections will be made, conversations had, and three keynote speakers present.

If the AIA represents how we conceptualize and communicate architecture, then let’s take a closer look at those speakers who will be its living mouthpieces: a famed historian, a member of the Obama administration, and the architects who participated in the 9/11 Memorials. The past, the present, the future. Taken together, they tell a story – of where we’ve been, yes, but, more importantly, where we’re going.

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Work/life/work balance by Andrew Maynard

Courtesy of Architects

Australian architect Andrew Maynard, co-director of Andrew Maynard Architects, has shared with us his article “Work/life/work balance”, published first on Parlour. “Many leave the profession due to the difficult combination of poor work cultures, long hours and low pay. But these conditions affect everyone – and men – as well as the viability of the profession as a whole. Andrew Maynard sets out the issues and challenges the profession to end exploitative and exclusionary working practices.”

It is time for architectural work practices to grow up. We must stop deluding ourselves that architectural employees are anything other than a contemporary exploited labor force.

Epicurus argued that humans needed only three things in life to be happy – friends, freedom and an analyzed life. All evidence indicates that Epicurus had a rather good time while he was around. Now he is dead. I wonder if Epicurus became a senior associate at Philosopher & Associates Pty Ltd before he died? Surely this was a priority. Does contemporary architectural employment deny us our happiness; our friends, freedom and the opportunity for an analyzed life? Many would argue that being employed in architecture and the pursuit of happiness are irreconcilable. It can reasonably be argued that most architects, and almost all recent graduates, are working in conditions that are unhealthy, unsustainable and exploitative.

Continue reading after the break.  (more…)

Can you Crowdsource a City?

A screenshot of the Video for the City 2.0, the 2012 TED Prize Winner, which aims to use crowdsourcing to rebuild our cities. Photo via Atlantic Cities.
Pop-Up,” “DIY,” “Kickstarter” “LQC” (That’s lighter, quicker, cheaper for the unfamiliar). Urbanisms of the People have been getting awfully catch-phrasey these days. What all these types of DIY Urbanisms share is a can-do spirit, a “Hacker” mentality: people are taking back their cities, without any “expert” help.

Unfortunately, of course, this mindset creates an anti-establishment (often, anti-architect) antagonism that would render any wide-spread change nigh impossible. Yes, the DIY movement, facilitated by the use of technology, is excellent for getting people involved, for encouraging important, innovative ideas – in the short-term.

As Alexandra Lange recently pointed out in her post “Against Kickstarter Urbanism,” technology is not a “magic wand,” and crowdsourcing initiatives often fall short in the day-to-day, nitty-gritty work of a large-scale, long-term urban project.

But while technology certainly has its limitations, its potential to facilitate connection and communication is unparalleled. What is vital, however, is that the technology enhance, not replace, our physical relationships. Instead of using online platforms as divisive or purely conceptual forums, they must becomes tools of transparency and trust-building, mediators of a conversation that invests and connects all parties on the ground.

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