Many technological advancements have changed the way we design in the past 150 years, but perhaps none has had a greater impact than the invention of the passenger elevator. Prior to Elisha Otis’ design for the elevator safety brake in 1853, buildings rarely reached 7 stories. Since then, buildings have only been growing taller and taller. In 2009, the world’s tallest building, the Burj Khalifa, maxed out at 163 floors (serviced by Otis elevators). Though a century and half separates those milestones, in that time elevator technology has actually changed relatively little - until recently.
SCI-Arc’s “Close-up” exhibition is currently on display at the SCI-Arc gallery, featuring architectural details designed with the use of digital technology by top architects in the field. The exhibit, curated by Hernan Diaz Alonso and David Ruy, seeks to explore the impact of new computational tools not only on large-scale building analysis, but also on the “traditions of tectonic expression” associated with architectural detail.
“Out of the many critical shifts that the discipline has gone through in the last 25 years with the explosion of new technologies and digital means of production, the notion of the construction detail has been largely overlooked,” Diaz Alonso said. “This show attempts to shed light on the subject of tectonic details by employing a fluid and dynamic movement of zooming in and zooming out in the totality of the design.”
A material produced by Harvard researchers changes size, volume and shape all by itself, reports The Harvard Gazette. The new material, inspired by the “snapology” technique from origami is composed of extruded cubes that have 24 faces and 36 edges.
Though it was once an essential element of all classical structures, the frieze has largely been left behind by architects looking for contemporary façade systems. But at the recently-opened addition to the Kunstmuseum Basel, designed by Swiss architects Christ & Gantenbein in collaboration with design group iart, the frieze returns with an eye-catching, technological twist, as hidden pixels within the facade light up to display moving images and text to those below.
This article is part of our new "Material Focus" series, which asks architects to elaborate on the thought process behind their material choices and sheds light on the steps required to get buildings actually built.
In the Catalan countryside, on the outskirts of the small town of Alforja, sits an incongruous sight: among the scattered stone masia houses is a structure of steel and glass, a resolutely rectilinear box among the traditional housing forms. But once inside the OE House, designed by Fake Industries Architectural Agonism and Aixopluc, one realizes that the building is not so different to its neighbors after all: on the upper floor, the roof incorporates a system of ceramic vaults taken almost directly from traditional vernacular design. This feature then combines with plywood and OSB to create a truly eclectic material pallette. We spoke with the design's architects, David Tapias of Aixopluc and Cristina Goberna and Urtzi Grau of Fake Industries Architectural Agonism, to find out what lay behind these unusual material choices.
The Facade Tectonics Institute announces its 2016 Annual Conference and inaugural World Congress. The summit will include speaking and poster presentations, panel discussions, exhibitors and workshops addressing themes related to Design Processes, Historical Evolution, Facade Futures, and much more.
Plastique Fantastique's pneumatic structures were originally conceived in 1999 through necessity: "The fact that we used plastic was just due to the fact that we had no money," explains the firm's founder Marco Canevacci. "So, plastic was just the cheapest material we could imagine, and you can join parts very easily and you can create very simple architectures. By using a hot air blower, those architectures become warm places to stay." By using warm air to inflate the structures, their office became a landscape of heated pods in an otherwise cold space. However, through their continued experiments over almost two decades, Plastique Fantastique's pneumatic interventions have now come to make the case for an ephemeral, temporary, and whimsical architecture. Their work now continues a lineage started by the experimental utopian group Haus-Rucker-Co, whose own pneumatic structures of the 1960s were disposable, free-wheeling creations which both literally and metaphorically played with the boundaries of a world they saw as staid, rigid, and dull.
Last year, Plastique Fantastique was invited to the 180 Creative Camp held by Canal 180 in Abrantes, Portugal, where their giant, inhabitable Strawberry Ice Cream Cone took over a public place to provide a unique and fun spatial experience. To mark this event, Canal 180 produced a short film highlighting some key recent projects by the firm and documenting the construction of their latest work. Watch the video above, and read on to see more images of the installation in Abrantes.
By next Fall, the architecture students of Washington University in St. Louis will no longer be allowed to use Styrene on their projects. The university's newspaper, Student Life reports that the commonly used white plastic material was deemed in 2014 by the National Research Council's National Toxicology Program as "reasonably anticipated to be a human carcinogen." Thus the Sam Fox School of Design is taking its own measures to protect their student's health. A number of other schools and cities have already banned Styrene since the NRC's ruling.
A group of researchers from KTH Royal Institute of Technology in Stockholm has developed Optically Transparent Wood (TW), a new material that could greatly impact the way we develop our architectural projects. Published in the American Chemical Society's journal Biomacromolecules, the transparent timber is created through a process that removes the chemical lignin from a wood veneer, causing it to become very white. This white porous veneer is then impregnated with a transparent polymer, matching the optical properties of the individual cells and making the whole material translucent.
Japan-based Komatsu Seiten Fabric Laboratory has created a new thermoplastic carbon fiber composite called CABKOMA Strand Rod. The Strand Rod is a carbon fiber composite which is covered in both synthetic and inorganic fibers and finished with a thermoplastic resin. The material has been used on the exterior of Komatsu Seiten’s head office.
Until recently, the architecture world largely viewed plastic polymers as inferior building materials, handy for wipe-clean kitchen surfaces, but not practical in full-scale building applications. But with technological innovations driving material capabilities forward, polymers are now being taken seriously as a legitimate part of the architect’s pallet. One of the most widely-used of these materials is a fluorine-based plastic known as ETFE (Ethylene tetrafluoroethylene). Brought into the public consciousness thanks to its use on the facade of PTW Architects' Water Cube for the 2008 Beijing Olympics, architects are now realizing the film’s capabilities to express a new aesthetic and replace costlier transparent and translucent materials.
Swept up in an age of digitization and computing, architecture has been deeply affected in the past decade by what some critics are calling “The Third Industrial Revolution.” With questions of craft and ethics being heavily present in the current architectural discourse, projects taking advantage of these new technologies are often criticized for their frivolous or indulgent nature. On the other hand, there has been an emergence of work that exemplifies the most optimistic of this “Third Industrial Revolution” – an architecture that appropriates new technology and computation for the collective good of our cities and people.
We’ve collected 7 of these projects, ranging from exemplars of engineering to craft and artistry; projects that 80 years after Le Corbusier’s modernist handbook hint at a further horizon – towards a newer architecture.
Although many have come to question our unwavering devotion to hermetically sealed buildings, most construction budgets are still dominated by costs associated with HVAC and other quality of life standards. With some questioning the efficacy of such practices, and others taking fault with the costs, there is now immense incentive to create new technologies and techniques that could allow us to retain the benefits of such climate control without the environmental and monetary cost they currently carry.
Now a young company known as SkyCool Sytems, founded by Stanford University researcher Aaswath Raman, has developed a cooling method capable of ejecting excess heat out of the atmosphere in the form of infrared rays. Read on to find out how it works.
It's no secret that among the architecture profession's biggest sources of guilt is our reliance on concrete in a huge number of the buildings that we have a hand in creating. Architects are more likely than most to be aware of the environmental implications of the material, and yet we continue to use it at an alarming rate. But what alternatives are there in order to do our job? In an article for Forbes, Laurie Winkless runs down a list of three alternatives that stand a good chance of changing the face of concrete construction.
The most revolutionary material in architecture may be one we’re already quite familiar with: glue. In a recent article for New Scientist’s New Urbanist column, futurist Geoff Manaugh of BLDG BLOG argues that the typical building’s structural system may soon see an overhaul. Instead of steel held together with bolts and welds, petroleum-based composite materials and carbon fiber panels fixed in place with glue could serve as both a building’s structure and skin.
Fabric is viewed as a material which is flat and two-dimensional and thus, until recent times, it has been used in architecture as a surface sheet. However the material has not been fully exploited.
Developed by four Masters students from the Bartlett School of Architecture in London, FaBrick is a prototype for creating sturdy structures out of textile-based materials. So far consisting of a stool made from a fabric impregnated with cement and a chair made of a felt composite, the project aims to develop a "technique of designing fabric to become the new brick, the new concrete in the invention of architecture."
Anish Kapoor, a British-Indian sculptor, now owns the exclusive rights within the field of art to Vantablack, currently the world’s darkest material. Developed by a team of scientists at Surrey NanoSystems in 2014, Vantablack absorbs all light and creates a crease free abyss which is often compared to a black hole. Other artists, such as Christian Furr, had intended to use Vantablack in a series of paintings, but no longer can due to Kapoor’s monopolization. “All the best artists have had a thing for pure black — Turner, Manet, Goya,” he told Daily Mail. “This black is like dynamite in the art world. We should be able to use it. It isn’t right that it belongs to one man.”
IaaC Student Elena Mitrofanova, working alongside biochemist Paolo Bombelli has created a proposal for a facade system that utilizes the natural electricity-generating power of plants. Consisting of a series of hollow, modular clay "bricks" containing moss, the system takes advantage of new scientific advances in the emerging field of biophotovoltaics (BPV) which Mitrofanova says "would be cheaper to produce, self-repairing, self-replicating, biodegradable and much more sustainable" than standard photovoltaics.