It is difficult to find someone who never played LEGO as a child. What if, like LEGO's, we thought of buildings as great assembling games? U-Build is a modular wooden construction system developed by Studio Bark to be easy to build, pleasant to inhabit, and simple to deconstruct at the end of its useful life. The system removes many of the difficulties associated with traditional construction, enabling individuals and communities to build their own homes and buildings. The system uses precision CNC machining to create a kit of parts, allowing the structure of the building to be assembled by people with limited skills and experience, using only simple hand tools.
The architecture of indigenous peoples is deeply rooted in their surroundings, in the sense that materials are locally sourced and empirically tested, to discover the construction techniques and dwellings that best respond to the values of the community and their understanding of housing. The situation in the Amazon is no different. Many different groups of people have settled on the land and water, developing many unique building skills that attract a lot of architects working in these regions. As a result, there is an exchange of knowledge, combining native cultures and novel architecture.
The construction industry is known to be one of the most polluting industries on the planet, but we often find it difficult to associate the role of the architect and urban planner with this industry, thus avoiding the responsibility of being involved in one of the most harmful production chains in the world. Therefore, it is imperative to emphasize the importance of questioning not only the materials used in the projects but also the manufacturing systems involved.
In Mendoza, Argentina, the digital fabrication research lab Node 39 FabLab created a frame loom structure made of digitally cut wood to help indigenous people in the central region of the country weave and create their traditional patterns. In the state of Ceará, northeast Brazil, a study entitled "Artífices Digitais" (Digital Artisans) by the Federal University of the State of Ceará used digital fabrication tools, namely 3D printing, to produce digital models, like digital prosthetics, to restore the damaged parts of an altarpiece of the high altar of the Mother Church in the city of Russas.
Vernacular techniques and local materials are becoming more and more relevant in architecture, but is it possible to bring these concepts to large urban areas?
"The Art of Pattern is the Legacy of our Grandparents": Koen Mulder on the Brick Bond as a Composition Tool
"Welcome to this strange book. With all the drawings, it might appear like a manual, but it isn't. The book is as much about joints as it is about pieces. Above all, it seeks the order that is inherent in things". These words are part of the introduction to Koen Mulder's book, "The lively surface: Masonry associations as a pattern art and tool of composition". Available in German, the 160-page manual, rigorously illustrated, presents a universe of possible pattern variations that can be created when you start designing.
In the 14th century, Geoffrey Chaucer wrote “Familiarity breeds contempt”. By definition “local” is “familiar”. Why are humans so thrilled to go beyond the familiar, the local, and reach for what is new, universal, and salvational? The word “local” has the weight of true value, like “density” or “sustainable” But the lure of connection between all humans is powerfully seductive, and that desire to connect almost always falls short of our hopes.
Over the course of the last decade there has been a growing interest in the handcrafted buildings, as well as in the application of local and renewable materials in building construction. Under the concerns about the heavy environmental and economic expenses caused by construction, nowadays urban planners are embracing the concept of sustainability, which refers to “meeting our own needs without compromising the ability of future generations to meet their own needs”.
The art of building a shelter made from blocks of ice is passed on from father to son among the Inuit, native peoples who inhabit the northernmost regions of the planet. The circular plan, the entrance tunnel, the air outlet and the ice blocks form a structure where the heat generated inside melts a superficial layer of snow and seals the gaps, improving the thermal insulation of ice. In a storm, an igloo can be the difference between life and death and perhaps this is the most iconic and radical example of what it means to build with local materials, few tools and lots of knowledge. In this case, ice is all you have.
The rustic village of Vals in the Swiss Alps is one of the country’s most picturesque areas, located at an altitude of 1250 meters above sea level with numerous exceptional projects. The main square is surrounded by original Vals houses roofed with stone tiles made of Vals quartzite. Throughout the years, the village maintained its authentic residential and rural typology, making sure that its agriculture and rural fabric remained intact. Perhaps the most powerful natural resource of the Vals Valley, one that has nurtured its landscape and wilderness, is the water. For millions of years, ice and rain have forged the deeply-cut topography, and provided the village with a 30-degree thermal source, the only one in the Grisons Canton which springs straight from the ground.
"Demolition is a waste of many things – a waste of energy, a waste of material, and a waste of history," says Pritzker-winning architect Anne Lacaton. In recent years, refurbishment and adaptive reuse have become ubiquitous within the architectural discourse, as the profession is becoming more aware of issues such as waste, use of resources and embedded carbon emissions. However, the practice of updating the existing building stock lacks consistency, especially when it comes to Brutalist heritage. The following explores the challenges and opportunities of refurbishment and adaptive reuse of post-war architecture, highlighting how these strategies can play a significant role in addressing the climate crisis and translating the net-zero emissions goal into reality while also giving new life to existing spaces.
Over the past couple of years, many designers have voiced their commitment to ethical and ecological sourcing, resorting to frugal designs through local materials, traditional techniques, and equitable architecture. Having this approach in mind, many found inspiration in their cultural heritage, reimagining ancient designs in contemporary contexts.
Too often buildings end up as waste at the end of their lifecycle. How can the built environment move towards a circular economy, and in turn, reimagine how valuable materials are tracked and recycled? Looking to address this issue, material passports are one idea that involves rethinking how materials are recovered during renovation and demolition for reuse. The result is when a building is ready to be demolished, it becomes a storage bank for useful materials.
Zero kilometer materials can be purchased locally, do not need to be transformed by large stages of industrial processing or toxic treatments and, at the end of their service life, they can be returned to the environment.