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Architects update pre-Columbian building method with modern tools and materials.
Matter Design‘s latest installation, Round Room (on display at MIT‘s Keller Gallery last fall) was born of a “marriage” between two of the firm’s ongoing interests, explained co-founder Brandon Clifford. First, Clifford and partner Wes McGee had long hoped to work with Autoclaved Aerated Concrete (AAC). Clifford, moreover, had been impressed during a trip to Cuzco by the Incan wedge method of masonry construction, in which precisely-carved stones are aligned on their front face, then backfilled with mortar. “This seemed like a tremendously rational way of building,” he said. “Ever since then we had been wanting to do a project that translates that process into digital design.” With Round Room, designed and fabricated in cooperation with Quarra Stone, Matter Design did just that. Though inspired by pre-Columbian building practices, the installation firmly situates the wedge method in the digital age.
In early April, the ten finalists in the Rebuild By Design competition unveiled their proposals to protect the Tri-state region from the next Hurricane Sandy. And in the near future, a jury will select a winner—or winners—to receive federal funding to pursue their plans. But before that final announcement is made, here is a closer look at each of the final ten proposals, beginning with the team led by MIT.
Add one more opening to the list of dean, director, and curator positions that need to be filled. Adele Naudé Santos is stepping down as dean of the School of Architecture and Planning at MIT after 10 years at the helm. During her time as dean, Santos consolidated the school from six locations to improve faculty interactions. She hired more than 40 percent of the current faculty and has also overseen a dramatic increase in applications for all the school’s programs.
In response to Hurricane Sandy, the Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) launched the Rebuild by Design competition to develop strategies to increase the resiliency of urban and coastal areas in the face of extreme weather events and climate change. According to HUD’s website, the goal of the competition is “to promote innovation by developing regionally-scalable but locally-contextual solutions that increase resilience in the region, and to implement selected proposals with both public and private funding dedicated to this effort. The competition also represents a policy innovation by committing to set aside HUD Community Development Block Grant Disaster Recovery funding specifically to incentivize implementation of winning projects and proposals. Examples of design solutions are expected to range in scope and scale—from large-scale green infrastructure to small-scale residential resiliency retrofits.”
The shortlist of 10 teams—including architects, landscape architects, university groups, developers, engineers and others—has been announced.
Did you miss 3-D printing guru Skylar Tibbits at this year’s TED conference? Never fear, there’s an opportunity to hear Tibbits in New York City on April 12. And not just hear but participate in a hands-on workshop that Tibbits will lead as part of Facades + PERFORMANCE, a two-day conference on high-performance building enclosures sponsored by The Architect’s Newspaper.
Earlier this week at TED, Tibbits gave 3-D printing another dimension, quite literally, when he presented the possibility of “4-D printing,” or programming materials to self-reassemble into new structures over time. Tibbits unveiled a 4-D printer concept developed with MIT that he argues could have far-reaching implications for not just manufacturing but also for architecture. Will architects one day be able to design structures that build and mend themselves? Here’s the idea, as Tibbits told TED:
“If we combine the processes that natural systems offer intrinsically—genetic instructions, energy production, error correction—with those artificial or synthetic—programmability for design and scaffold, structure, mechanisms—we can potentially have extremely large-scale quasi-biological and quasi-synthetic architectural organisms.”
Tiny Homes. The average size of an American home has been decreasing since 2009 (to at 2,392 SF), the Wall Street Journal reported. With financial and environmental concerns, many homeowners are down-sizing. The book Nano House: Innovations for Small Dwellings examines dwellings under 800 feet, such as the above 215-square-foot house in Belgium.
Artificial Leaf. Researchers at MIT have created an artificial leaf that uses sunlight to convert water into oxygen and hydrogen. The device is made of silicon, that is coated with a cobalt catalyst on one side, and a nickel catalyst on the other. When dropped in water, the cobalt separates oxygen and the nickel side hydrogen. The next step: scientists are working on a way to capture the gasses. More at Inhabitat.
Sky Sculptures. Brookline, Massachusetts artist Janet Echelman uses Indian fisherman weaving techniques to create ethereal neon nets that float in urban sky-scapes. Check out images of her work, that resembles the translucent fish of the coral reef at Artist a Day.
Shrouded Silos. In Omaha, Nebraska, the educational nonprofit Emerging Terrain has wrapped grain silo elevators in giant 80 by 20 feet banners that focus on food and agricultural issues. More at Planetizen.
Migration melee. Migratory birds continue to fall victim to the glass facades comprising invisible and impenetrable forest of buildings in New York City. Bird advocacy groups and planning and building commissions are beginning to take notice. The New York Times investigated this ecologically sensitive dichotomy.
Let there be light. MIT students and the MyShelter Foundation, a non-profit aimed at creating sustainable communities, have joined forces to light up the Phillipines. This capable collaboration has created an innovative way to bring light to notoriously dark cities outside of Manila. The result? The Solar Bulb. Core77 explained this simple and ingenious amalgamation of water, sealant, bleach and a plastic bottle.
Road to Africa. While perhaps not on the immediate horizon, urban thinkers and This Big City are looking at Africa and its potential for economic development. With all of our hindsight in the world of urban planning, is it any wonder that we do not know where to begin? The photo says it all.
Parking Paris. French and Swiss architecture outfits AWP and HHF have collaborated to out-design competitors and take home the privilege of creating all of the infrastructure buildings at Paris’ Parc des Bords de Seine. DesignBoom looked at this series of low-cost, modular structures that will bring new residents to the park to eat, play, and watch birds from a second-story platform.
Ando’s Silence. According to Dezeen, UK developer Grosvenor has partnered with the Westminster City Council on a project to open public space in Mayfair, London. The project aims to reduce unnecessary visual elements like signage and expand pedestrian areas. Architect Tadao Ando collaborated with firm Blair Associates to design Silence, an installation that intermittently produces fiber-optically illuminated vapor rising from the bases of trees.
Power Plant Printer. MIT News has revealed an exciting new technology: printable solar cells. According to MIT: “The basic process is essentially the same as the one used to make the silvery lining in your bag of potato chips: a vapor-deposition process that can be carried out inexpensively on a vast commercial scale.” So, not quite as easy as, say, printing out a power station on your inkjet, but still able to revolutionize the future of solar installations.
Building for Birds. The City of San Francisco is making an example of a new California Academy of Science building. It’s design for the birds. The San Francisco Chronicle notes the building’s innovative fabric screen deterring bird-on-building collisions could be applied to other structures in the city. “Bird-safe design” is a growing part of the conversation, but the question remains: will altering the transparency of urban glass structures detract from the design intent?
Déjà vu Design. Does that new building look strangely familiar? A new website called Post Post bills itself as the “comparative architecture index.” By juxtaposing projects of similar design languages or forms, the site hopes to “to illuminate the interwoven and complex relationships of congruous trajectories within contemporary architectural practice.” Have a look!