Lebbeus Woods envisaged a world at war. The visionary architect, artist, and educator - who would have turned 73 today - drew cities under duress, buildings in the face of destruction, and landscapes confronting catastrophe. He imagined an underground city connecting divided Berlin, buildings designed for seismic hot zones that could move during earthquakes, and a utopian city that looked like an insect. He didn’t depict the world as it was, he depicted what it might be.
Jonathan C. Molloy
August Kekulé discovered the structure of the benzene ring after having a daydream of the Ouroboros, a famous mythological snake depicted as biting its own tail. Francis Crick figured out the complimentary replication system of DNA when he remembered the process of replicating a sculpture by making an impression of it in plaster, and using it as a mold to make copies. Johannes Keppler attributes his laws of planetary motion to an inspiration from religion: the sun, the stars, and the dark space around them represent the Father, Son, and Holy Ghost respectively.
What’s the point? According to Arthur Koestler, “all decisive events in the history of scientific thought can be described in terms of mental cross-fertilization between different disciplines.” Great discoveries arise not from the isolated hermit working without interference, but from tireless work enlightened by unintentional collisions with an unfamiliar subject. For Kekulé, it was ancient mythology, for Crick, sculpture, and for Keppler, religion.
Creativity and innovation, then, thrive where disciplines collide. And this is true not only for science, but for all subjects. We all have something to learn from one another, and what better place to encourage this cross-fertilization than school?
Keep reading to find out more about how interdisciplinary architecture can foster creativity and collaboration in schools…
Jane Jacobs revered the West Village. It was a bustling neighborhood enlivened by its social, spatial, and functional diversity. It had different building types and functions, which meant that people were always in places for different purposes; it had short blocks, which have the greatest variety of foot traffic. It had plenty of old buildings with low rent which “permit individualized and creative uses;” and, most importantly, it had all different kinds of people. As a result, West Villagers could establish casual and informal relationships with people that they might not have had the opportunity to otherwise.
Without these necessary characteristics, Jacobs felt “there is no public acquaintanceship, no foundation of public trust, no cross-connections with the necessary people – and no practice or ease in applying the most ordinary techniques of city public life at lowly levels.”
By simply changing a few words, it’s not hard to imagine Jacobs’ writing describing offices instead of cities. Buildings are different internal spaces, like individual offices or gathering spaces; desks are homes; sidewalks are hallways or circulation space; etc.
If the office is a small microcosmic city, then suburbia is the cubicle-strewn office, and Google might be the West Village. And ‘people analytics,’ the statistical and spatial analysis of interpersonal interaction, is the office’s urban planning.
To find out what creative work environments can learn from the composition of cities, keep reading after the break...
With its undulating façade and surrealist sculptural roof, Antoni Gaudi’s Casa Milà appears more organic than artificial, as if it were carved straight from the ground. Known as La Pedera, the quarry, the building was inspired by the Modernista movement, Spain’s version of Art Nouveau..
What do MIT’s Building 20, the Ancient Greek Agora, 18th Century British teahouses, and early 20th century Parisian cafés have in common?
They were some of the most creative spaces in the world.
People who gathered there would interact. People, such as Socrates or Chomsky or Edison, exchanged ideas, argued about morals, and discussed technologies. They participated in an informal discourse driven by passionate involvement.
And these places, although for different reasons, fostered interaction by bringing people together and giving them a place to talk. As Jonah Lehrer put it, “the most creative spaces are those which hurl us together. It is the human friction that makes the sparks.”
The question, then, is how can contemporary architecture foster the same kind of creativity?
To learn more about architecture and its role in creativity and learning, keep reading after the break.
Architecture is quickly adopting the popular technology of robots. Although it is slightly hard to define what “robot” really means, for architecture, it tends to refer to anything from robot arms to CNC mills to 3D printers. Basically, they are programmable, mechanical, and automated instruments that assist in processes of digital fabrication.
So, what might robots mean for architecture? A more precise architecture which could contribute to a more sustainable building life cycle? More innovative design derived from algorithmic processes? A more efficient prefabrication process that could reduce the time and cost of construction?
Probably a mix of all three. But more importantly, what might robots mean for humans? Robotic replacement for the construction worker? Loss of local craftsmanship and construction knowledge? Maybe. But I might reformulate the question. Asking what robots mean for humans implies passivity.
What I ask, then, is what can robots do for humans?
Robots fascinate us. Their ability to move and act autonomously is visually and intellectually seductive. We write about them, put them in movies, and watch them elevate menial tasks like turning a doorknob into an act of technological genius. For years, they have been employed by industrial manufacturers, but until recently, never quite considered seriously by architects. Sure, some architects might have let their imaginations wander, like Archigram did for their "Walking City", but not many thought to actually make architecture with robots. Now, in our age of digitalization, virtualization, and automation, the relationship between architects and robots seems to be blooming...check it out.
Keep reading to see five new robots making architecture.
Designed in 1984 for artist Lynn Norton and writer William Norton, Frank Gehry’s Norton House is known for its eccentric form and eclectic materiality. Much like his own house in Santa Monica, the Norton House is a sculptural assemblage of everyday materials. The Nortons had in fact seen Gehry’s house in 1983 and obviously approved of his experiment. So, a year later, they commissioned him to design their house on a narrow, ocean-facing plot of land on Venice Boardwalk. With the commission, Gehry continued his exploration of creating architecture with everyday materials, low costs, and sculptural forms.
Created as a microcosm of Brazilian life and culture, Maison du Bresil is a significant example of Le Corbusier’s high-density residential design. Inaugurated in 1959, it is one of twenty-three international residences at the Cité Internationale Universitaire de Paris, located in the heart of Paris. As the “House of Brazil”, the building acts as both a residence hall for Brazilian academics, students, teachers, and artists, and as a hub for Brazilian culture, by providing exhibition spaces and archival resources. Notably, the building has provided residence to famous Brazilians, such as the renowned journalist Barroso Zózimo do Amaral.
Iconic for its floating steel roof and brightly colored panels, the Pavillon Le Corbusier is the last building Le Corbusier designed before his death in 1965. Completed in 1967, the building stands as a testament to Corbusier’s renaissance genius as an architect, painter, and sculptor. It does so both intentionally, as it is an exhibition space for his life’s work, and naturally, as it is a building masterfully designed. Interestingly, the building diverges in some ways from the style responsible for his renown – concrete, stone, uniform repetition, etc. It celebrates the use of steel, with which he explored prefabrication and assembly, and a freedom through modularity, in which the plan is completely open but infinitely adaptable.