Although architecture has been constantly evolving, past builders have laid out a huge amount architectural heritage for us to learn from and get inspired by, and integrating natural elements with man-made structures is no exception.
Shanghai-based architect and architectural photographer Amey Kandalgaonkar found inspiration in the rock cut-tomb of Madain Saleh in Saudi Arabia, and with the same architecture approach, designed two residential projects that incorporate architecture with the rigid parts of nature.
The experimental design group Space Saloon has completed their first workshop, LANDING, to create exploratory projects and installations that rethink design-build and hands-on education. Curated by Danny Wills and Gian Maria Socci, the mobile educational camp investigates perceptions of place to develop projects that make territories and environments legible. Studying material, cultural, and energy-based phenomena, students from the Southern California Institute of Architecture (SCI-Arc) and the International Program in Design and Architecture at Chulalongkorn University in Bangkok (INDA) came together in the high desert of Morongo Valley, California.
Every year in August, a temporary metropolis is erected in Black Rock City, Nevada. This is Burning Man, an annual event of art and architecture that attracts some 70,000 participants. The people who come to Burning Man come from all walks of life. What is incredible is that they come together to construct an ephemeral city that lasts for 7 days. These people assume the role of architects and construction workers and use the desert to build all sorts of shelters in a fast, sustainable way. The desert is so remote, and everything built in Black Rock City is packed and taken home at the end of the event, and some of the art is burned on site. This poses a unique architectural challenge. The people who have come to build these structures have to plan them way in advance to accommodate all the challenges of working in the desert, but the result is worth it - a striking, unique city, democratically built, set against a desert landscape, and for only one week.
We had the chance to interview Kim Cook at the World Architecture Festival in Berlin. Kim Cook is Director of Art and Civic Engagement at Burning Man. Kim Cook and her team are tasked with increasing the impact of Burning Man’s arts and civic initiatives. As part of her role, Kim engages with artists and community leaders to increase opportunities for funding, collaboration and learning.
Architectural research initiative, arch out loud, have released winners for their international competition to design a landmark for a nuclear waste site in New Mexico. As part of the brief, participants were required to design a timeless piece of architecture that could stand for 10,000 years to warn future generations of the unstable by-products of nuclear weapon production that are buried 2,150 feet beneath the surface.
In the competition, many entrants engaged with the local geology of the site where the waste isolation pilot plant (WIPP) is situated for the landmark that would withstand millenniums. Testbed, the winner of the competition, proposed ex-situ mineral sequestration by reacting olivine or basalt with carbon dioxide to form inert and solid carbonate material to capture the gas, that would act as an ‘artificial tree.' The other proposals questioned the site and the underlying issues regarding human involvement with nuclear activities and the consequences, designing structures that heavily juxtaposed the natural landscape.
I attended graduate school, in geography, in Tucson, Arizona, in the late 1990s. Tucson draws fame from a number of things, including its Mexican-American heritage, its chimichangas, its sky islands, and its abundant population of saguaro cacti.
Plenty of things about Tucson, though, are perfectly, achingly ordinary.
Perhaps the most ordinary thing about Tucson led me to develop something halfway between a hobby and an academic pursuit. On occasion, whether for sport or research, friends and I used to go “sprawl-watching.” We were not exactly, say, Walter Benjamin strolling through the arcades, embracing the human pageantry of Paris. But we did our best to plumb Tucson’s depths.
How do we design architecture with a message that could endure for millennia ?
Since the Cold War, one of the most challenging and urgent tasks facing governments around the world has been the disposal of transuranic nuclear waste. As a by-product from nuclear weaponry production, transuranic waste is not only harmful, but also boasts a formidable decay process lasting thousands of years. To address this issue, millions of barrels of highly radioactive waste have been buried in repositories deep beneath the earth’s surface. One such disposal site is the Waste Isolation Pilot Plant (WIPP) in New Mexico, United States. To ensure public safety, it is imperative that the site remain undisturbed for the duration of the waste’s decay process.
Flohara by XTU Architects envisions an inhabitable desert wall that constructs itself from the natural processes of its environment. Featured at the Venice Biennale'sMorocco Pavilion exhibition entitled “Fundamental(ism)s,” this ecological phenomenon defies the conventions of housing, offering shelter from varying climatic conditions and supporting both human and plant life in the harsh desert.
“Nestled into the desert landscape that defines Nevada’s visage, Ascaya feels as if it were shaped by the elements. [...] Where stone rises up to meet the sky, there is a place called Ascaya.” - The Ascaya promotional website
Not quite, according to Michael Light’s soon-to-be released book, Lake Las Vegas/Black Mountain. Covering the advance of suburban Nevada into the desert, this two-part book looks at Lake Las Vegas, a then-abandoned victim of the 2008 real estate crash which has since emerged from the other side of bankruptcy, and nearby Ascaya, a high end housing estate that is still in the process of being carved into Black Mountain. Light’s photography doesn’t so much question the developers’ summary as it does, say, blast it, scar it, terrace it and then build a large housing development on the remains. Featuring beautifully composed aerial shots of the construction sites and golf courses covering the desert, the book is a clear condemnation of the destructive and unsustainable development in Nevada. Much more than that, though, Light is highlighting a wider philosophy behind developments like Ascaya and Lake Las Vegas that fundamentally fail to connect American society with the American landscape in a non-destructive way.
Since childhood, growing up on a farm outside of Nashville, Wendell Burnette has been inspired by nature; indeed, the amplification of the natural site has highlighted his body of work. In the following question and answer by Guy Horton of Metropolis Magazine, the Pheonix-based architect speaks about memories, inspiration and experience.
Wendell Burnette’s journey through architecture has taken him from Frank Lloyd Wright’s Taliesin to some of the most beautiful landscapes in the world, where he has designed a type of architecture that resonates with the power of natural surroundings. It has also taken him to one of the world’s fastest growing cities, Phoenix, Arizona, where his practice, Wendell Burnette Architects, is based and where he calls home. More recently it has brought him to Los Angeles where he is the current Nancy M. & Edward D. Fox Urban Design Critic at the USC School of Architecture. He is also Professor of Practice at The Design School at Arizona State University's Herberger Institute of Design and the Arts.
I spoke with Burnette about his approach to architecture, the importance of direct experience, and the meaning behind his current USC studio, “Earth Curvature”.