Phototropia is part of an ongoing series on the application of smart materials in an architectural context and was realized in April 2012 by the Master of Advanced Studies class at the Chair for Computer Aided Architectural Design (CAAD). The project combines self-made electro-active polymers, screen-printed electroluminescent displays, eco-friendly bioplastics and thin-film dye-sensitized solar cells into an autonomous installation that produces its required energy from sunlight and – when charged – responds to user presence through moving and illuminating elements.
The days of carrying around rolls of construction documents on site are in flux. The rapid change of both software and hardware has already dramatically changed the way architects, engineers, and general contractors communicate with each other. For those of you who do site visits on a regular basis, you are no doubt familiar with the relatively drawn out process the contractor has to take in order to get clarification on a detail or problem distillation – taking pictures of detail, scanning redlines, emailing to architect, etc. However, what if, and it is happening, you can bring out an iPad or similar device with all the drawings loaded ready to view in palm of your hand. Questions can simply be marked up right on the spot and instantly fired off for review or approval.
Remember the “Cosmic Quilt” kickstarter campaign we published a few weeks ago? Well, it was a success! With the help 20 students from the Art Institute of New York, The Principals were able to construct a reactive architectural environment just in time for the New York Design Week that took place May 19-21.
A report released by the Center for an Urban Future has positioned New York City as the fastest growing tech sector in the country, outpacing Boston to become the U.S.’s Tech Hub (only behind Silicon Valley).
Its rapid growth – a 28.7% increase of tech-related jobs in five years and a 32% increase in venture capital deals (compare that to the national average of -11%) – has been attributed to the diversification of its startup tech companies, focused not on creating new technologies, but on providing technological solutions to existing industries.
However (as we noted earlier this week in “The Next Silicon Valley(s)“) there is another “key” factor to the city’s burgeoning innovation and entrepreneur scene – the city itself.
Read More on how New York City’s Urban lay-out is encouraging its technological boom, after the break.
“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.
HP, Apple, Google – they all found their success amongst the peach groves and Suburban houses of California. But why? What is it about Silicon Valley that makes it the site of technological innovation the world over?
It’s tempting to assume that the Valley’s success must be, at least in part, due to its design. But how does innovation prosper? What kind of environment does it require? In a recent interview with The Atlantic Cities, Jonah Lehrer, author of Imagine: How Creativity Works, suggests that creativity is sparked from casual exchanges, the mingling of diversity, the constant interaction with the strange and new. In short, and as a recent study corroborates, innovation flourishes in dense metropolises.
Seemingly then, Silicon Valley, a sprawl of highways and office parks, has become a hotspot of creativity in spite of its design. But let’s not write off design just yet.
As technology makes location more and more irrelevant, many are looking to distill the magic of Silicon Valley and transplant it elsewhere. The key will be to design environments that can recreate the Valley’s culture of collaboration. The future Valleys of the world will be microsystems of creativity that imitate and utilize the structure of the city.
Dr. Margot Krasojevic is known for using digital parameters to explore the psychological effects of architecture – materials and spatiality – on its inhabitants. The Hanging Hotel / Suspended Campsite is one such project that was completed in October 2011 for Holden Manz Wine Estate Cape Town in Massif de L’ Esterel, (Gorges Du Vedron) South of France. The project is an investigation in the choreography of perceptions of the environment around us. In this particular project, catering to rock climbers, Dr. Krasojevic uses compound glass and a prism louver system to alter how the climbers see their environment and stimulates different psychological experiences based on these subtle shifts in vision.
A secondary school project in Gando, Burkina Faso, a community center project in São Paulo, Brazil, and an urban renewal plan in Berlin, Germany are the winners of the Global Holcim Awards for 2012. These leading sustainable construction projects were selected from 15 finalist submissions by a jury of independent experts led by Enrique Norten. The finalists were the regional Holcim Awards 2011 winning projects that had been selected from more than 6,000 entries in 146 countries.
All 53 prize-winning projects at the regional level also competed for further prizes based on their contributions to sustainable construction through innovative building materials and construction technologies. The Global Holcim Innovation prizes conferred by a jury of materials and industry experts led by Harry Gugger went to projects in Switzerland, Germany and the United Kingdom.
Continue after the break to view the winning proposals!
Walk into the cafeteria at the Googleplex and you are nudged into the “right” choice. Sweets? Color-coded red and placed on the bottom shelf to make them just a bit harder to reach. “Instead of that chocolate bar, sir, wouldn’t you much rather consume this oh-so-conveniently-located apple? It’s good for you! Look, we labelled it green!”
Like the Google cafeteria guides you to take responsibility of your health, Google wants to transform the construction industry to take responsibility of the “health” of its buildings. They have been leveraging for transparency in the content of building materials, so that, like consumers who read what’s in a Snickers bar before eating it, they’ll know the “ingredients” of materials to choose the greenest, what they call “healthiest,” options.
These examples illustrate the trend of “medicalization” in our increasingly health-obsessed society: when ordinary problems (such as construction, productivity, etc.) are defined and understood in medical terms. In their book Imperfect Health, Borasi and Zardini argue that through this process, architecture and design has been mistakenly burdened with the normalizing, moralistic function of “curing” the human body. 
While I find the idea that design should “force” healthiness somewhat paternalistic and ultimately limited, I don’t think this “medicalized” language is all bad – especially if we can use it in new and revitalizing ways. Allow me to prescribe two examples: the most popular and the (potentially) most ambitious urban renewal projects in New York City today, the High Line and the Delancey Underground (or the Low Line).
More on “curative” spaces after the break. (Trust me, it’s good for you.)
The announcement instigated a flurry of analyses and criticisms over the meaning of the design for the world – the Zen-like significance of the circle, the role of architecture in this technologically-driven age, the legacy and hubris of Jobs – but produced very little discussion over its meaning for the company itself.
Meanwhile, months before news of the “spaceship” landed, another internet giant was searching the California landscape for its own space to call home. Still very much under-wraps, the new Googleplex will be the first time Google builds a workplace completely from scratch. 
These projects will be the Magnum Opuses, the ultimate physical representations, of the two most influential Tech companies in the world, and the two share striking similarities. So let’s clash the plans of these two titans and take another look at Apple 2 – but this time in the light of Google – and see what they can tell us about these companies’ futures.
Digital technology touches nearly everyone’s life. Be it delivered through cell phones, home entertainment devices, ATMs, storefronts or countless other means, digital design is big business and Robert Miles Kemp is at the forefront of that exploding movement.
The son of a carpenter and general contractor, Kemp visited job sites from the time he was small. At nine years old, his father gave him the challenge of designing a structure for a neighbor, which was subsequently built. Kemp loved both the process and the end product. Thus began a career in architecture. More after the break.
This unique landscape and future landmark for the city of Qingdao, China is a first place project, submitted by the Los Angeles office of HKS Architects, for the design of the Conservatory by the Office of 2014 Qingdao World Horticultural Expo Executive Committee. The winning proposal was selected from an international selection of projects and was shared with us by HKS. Read on for more after the break.
In this TEDx sponsored talk, Rachel Armstrong - co-director of AVATAR (Advanced Virtual and Technological Architectural Research) in Architecture and Synthetic Biology at the Bartlett School of Architecture, University College London (UCL) – speaks about the dangerous relationship that we have developed with machines since the industrial revolution and ways we can break that habit. Along with her research on “living materials” and “synthetic biology”, Armstrong is looking for ways to rebuild the relationship between our reliance on machines and the systems of nature and our ecologies that are often neglected.
At first glance, Dr. Behrokh Khoshnevis’ Contour Crafting (CC) seems both fascinating and unreal – a fabrication machine that has the potential to construct entire structures in a single run. Supported by the National Science Foundation and the Office of Naval Research, CC’s combination of conventional robotics and “age-old tools” creates a layered fabrication process where large-scale parts can be fabricated at remarkable speeds. On his blog, Khoshnevis, a professor in the USC Viterbi School of Engineering, explains that the system is a scale-up of the rapid prototyping machines now widely used in industry to “print out” three-dimensional objects designed with CAD/CAM software, usually by building up successive layers of plastic. ”Instead of plastic, Contour Crafting will use concrete,” explained Khoshnevis.
Mayor Michael R. Bloomberg is set to announce Cornell University and its partner, the Technion – Israel Institute of Technology, winner of the intense, yearlong competition to build a New York City Tech Campus on Roosevelt Island. The announcement follows Stanford University’s unexpected withdraw from the competition after tense negotiations with the Bloomberg administration. Meanwhile, last Friday Cornell received a $350 million donation in support of their proposal, being the largest gift the University has ever received.
The future potential to build and realize the concepts of the human mind lie just there, within the potential of the human mind. For years the architectural world has been struggling to keep up with the ability of pen-to-paper and the recent advents in NURB surface computer modeling, algorithmic and parametric architecture. This in-return has led to the building and technology industry playing catch-up with the recent advances in 3D architectural visualizations. In fact, as computer-aided design invaded these practices in the 1980s, radically transforming their generative foundations and productive capacities, architecture found itself most out-of-step and least alert, immersed in ideological and tautological debates and adrift in a realm of referents severed from material production.