Posts Tagged ‘architecture’

As someone who frequents airports quite a few times every year, I wholly sympathise with this post by the always sharp-minded, witty, sarcastic and eloquent Fleet Street Fox

THE problem with flying is not making sure you have enough pants to last or working out how much of the local currency is a reasonable amount to pay for a beer; it’s the airports.

They are the only type of construction in the history of mankind designed to make your life less efficient and more difficult.

(And before anyone smart says torture chambers, they were models of efficiency and can keep you entertained for months if necessary.)

It used to be that you parked next to the plane, waved your ticket and climbed aboard. Now you park on an unending patch of tarmac four miles from the airport where you will never find your car again, get a bus to the terminal, spend an hour in a queue to check in, spend more hours in queues having your underwear rifled and your toothpaste sniffed for explosives while being repeatedly asked to undress, then get channelled through a series of over-priced retail opportunities before you’re thrown into the back of a jet with several hundred other people in various states of rage and most of whom are ready to kill.

Whoever in the world designs airports and various parts of them – in particular the seats which are too uncomfortable to sit on, and the vast, hangar-like ceilings which are exercises in ugliness and lazy architecture – needs a kick up the backside.

The purpose of all engineering and design is to make life nicer, simpler, and more efficient. Yet in the case of airports it causes low-grade misery so pernicious that, even if not manifested via the medium of multiple homicides in the Duty Free, still makes the world a less pleasant place by a factor of millions of people a year.

So, because I am stuck in this terminal for another four hours waiting for the plane which cost £200 more than it should after I missed the one before because I was having such a nice holiday, and for what it’s worth, here are my suggestions for nicer airports:

* Sofas. Yes, I know they would all become like the ones in Starbucks within a week, covered in stains and food that has fallen out of someone else’s mouth, but they’re nice and the metal creation I am sat on at the moment is not. It’s vile. It’s uncomfortable, it’s ugly, and it hurts to sit on it for more than five minutes. We spend hours in airports – some people have to sleep in them. I’m not asking for anti-macassars but I think we should be able to have cushions. We certainly should not have things designed entirely to stop someone having a snooze because it makes the place look untidy.

* No-one has yet found a way to hijack a plane with the use of tweezers. Let us keep them.

* Ditto nail clippers, toothpaste, foundation and bottles of water.

* We do not, generally speaking, have to be on your plane. It would be nice if everyone who works in airports realised this.

* Make some effort with the architecture. I’d happily spend days staring at the vaulted ceiling of St Pancras station, which is proof that just because you have a big open space doesn’t mean it has to look like a shed. Add some beauty to the world instead of corrugated steel and plastic.

* Proper heating. Airports are always cold, and there is no good reason for this.

* Public announcements should be made by a member of staff who can speak clearly and has a pleasant voice. Not some toothless stroke victim who can’t be trusted to empty the bins.

* There is no earthly reason why a cup of tea in an airport costs twice as much as one outside. Or the clothes, or the sunglasses, or the twatty keyrings.

* Gardens. Play areas for children that don’t just consist of a couple of small plastic chairs. A giant piano keyboard like the one in Big. Free massages. Put some paintings on the walls. Have showers for people travelling overnight and provide toothpaste and toothbrushes in the toilets – you’re making enough money out of the sunglasses to pay for it.

* Travel should be about new experiences so promote a sense of adventure by paying someone to dress up as Indiana Jones and run through the terminal screaming while pursued by a giant stone ball and some angry-looking natives. Failing that, hire a samba band.

* Lastly, if I wanted to blow up a plane I’d post the bomb or get a job as a baggage handler. Bend more of your energies to that end of things and do me the honour of presuming I’m probably not a killer.

Not yet, anyway.

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thai design studio apostrophy’s latest installation project ‘crack da code’. the space was on display at the bangkok design festival 2010 and functioned as a game space, as well as a moving landmark during the event. ‘crack da code’ consisted of 22 vertical inflated tubes standing next to each other, creating a tree-like space. during the day, it created shade and at night, the area consisted of moving light patterns.

the pneumatic structural system of the custom-made 3-branch structures were each made of fabric, with a high pressure side channel blower, enabling them to stand upright. a zip under each blower prevented air from coming out of the tube and change its form.

read more about the project @ designboom

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The recently opened 5-star luxury hotel in the heart of Nice on the French Riviera demonstrates that the upper classes never runs out of cash, even in the most dismal economic times. The Boscolo Exedra continues to live the spirit of the original Belle Époque building – as the refurbished contemporary version of the creativity, ingenuity and originality of that lavish historic period.

The building has kept its sumptuous, classical, pure Belle Époque façade and opulent interior decor, inspired by 18th century Rococo, which apparently has been painstakingly restored. The original building was designed in 1913 by the renowned architect Charles Dumas, right at the end of the Belle Époque – which could make you wonder what the refurbishment says about our time. Located in the heart of the city and set in green surroundings, on the quiet main boulevard, the hotel was originally with intention built far from the more popular lively areas, to cater for a wealthy middle-class clientele that preferred tranquil exclusivity to the crowds of the seafront promenade.

The common areas and rooms have apparently now been refurbished to become symbols of a refined contemporary approach that harmoniously blends with the original Louis XVI style. What I particularly like about it is the spacious feel that the whole place seems to breathe, and the organic shapes – for example of the marble-columned grand hall, which is said to be roofed in with multicolored glass. According to panachemag.com, the hall leads to a vast and exquisitely decorated dining room. On the other side is the immediately visible sculptural bar with its gentle, flowing lines of white Corian. The floor to ceiling wall paneling and the breakfast room’s floor are made of Burma teak, most certainly having contributed to rainforest destruction; an abundance of vegetation and modern vases provides a contemporary and luxurious ambiance.

Some of the rooms feature a common modular system with expandable living space. Refined finishing touches, such as marble and blond wood flooring as well as the ivory and cream hues of the walls set off the elegant white and gold furnishings of pure and rigorous shape, softened by refined details, at times recalling the decorative motifs of the past. The conference center too maintains the use of harmonious forms, adding a Venetian-style floor with red glass inserts that physically asserts itself in the rooms; however, its style is more dynamic, in keeping with the kind of work done inside. The hotel’s other large space is the roof terrace, which holds the sundeck, a restaurant with a view, and a swimming pool, whose subtle hidden light effects create suffused bands of light.

To me the hotel reflects the tension between beauty and class, between our ability and artistry to dream up and design allurement, elegance, refinement and style on the one hand and on the other have it become an expression of the inequality, social & environmental injustice and exploitative relationships in our society. And it is the latter that create the vast income and wealth gaps between the rich and poor and sustain the careless disregard for the natural environment that form the base for the creation of the material excesses and their aesthetics of class inspired beauty. The evocative, rich and distinct style of the Boscolo Exedra Hotel thus is an announcement and assertion of our society’s power structure; it mirrors the perpetual clash of beauty and ugliness found on so many levels in our daily lives.

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Here’s an example town planners and developers all over the world can learn from – and will be forced to over the years as the planet heats up: Taiwan’s Solar Stadium is 100% self-powered by solar energy, and during off-peak times supplies 80% of the energy needed by its neighbourhood. Inhabitat reports:

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Taiwan recently finished construction on an incredible solar-powered stadium that will generate 100% of its electricity from photovoltaic technology! Designed by Toyo Ito, the dragon-shaped 50,000 seat arena is clad in 8,844 solar panels that illuminate the track and field with 3,300 lux. The project will officially open later this year to welcome the 2009 World Games.

Building a new stadium is always a massive undertaking that requires millions of dollars, substantial physical labor, and a vast amount of electricity to keep it operating. Toyo Ito’s design negates this energy drain with a stunning 14,155 sq meter solar roof that is able to provide enough energy to power the stadium’s 3,300 lights and two jumbo vision screens. To illustrate the incredible power of this system, officials ran a test this January and found that it took just six minutes to power up the stadium’s entire lighting system!

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The stadium also integrates additional green features such as permeable paving and the extensive use of reusable, domestically made materials. Built upon a clear area of approximately 19 hectares, nearly 7 hectares has been reserved for the development of integrated public green spaces, bike paths, sports parks, and an ecological pond. Additionally, all of the plants occupying the area before construction were transplanted.

Non-sports fans in the community have a lot to jump up and down for as well. Not only does the solar system provide electricity during the games, but the surplus energy will also be sold during the non-game period. On days where the stadium is not being used, the Taiwanese government plans to feed the extra energy into the local grid, where it will meet almost 80% of the neighboring area’s energy requirements. Overall, the stadium will generate 1.14 million KWh per year, preventing the release of 660 tons of carbon dioxide into atmosphere annually.

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The answer very often seems to be NO. Famous architects like Albert Kahn, Le Corbusier, Frank Lloyd Wright, Frank Gehry, Alvar Aalto, Antonio Gaudi, Carlo Scarpa and many others have become cultural icons and architectural gods, but many if not most of them have created buildings that do not work – either as structures or for the people working and living in them.

The French National Library for example had to skimp on buying books because fixing and maintaining the building after it was constructed became too expensive. The John Hancock Tower in Boston, after its completion, had its internal structure totally redesigned and all its windows replaced because they couldn’t stand wind loads, detached and fell hundreds of feet down onto the food path (the architects though were rewarded with a National Honour Award by their peers). Frank Gehry’s famous Dancing House in Prague needs to employ mountaineers because Gehry had not thought about processes and mechanisms for cleaning the windows.

These are just a few examples mentioned in the first part of Stuart Brand’s “How buildings learn” series. The BBC screened the six part documentary in 1997, but its findings and conclusions are still relevant today. Architects and often their clients are more interested in the flashiness of the visual experience rather than the functionality of the building. Despite tens and sometimes hundreds of millions of dollars spent on those monuments to the architect’s and the building’s owner’s vanity, more often than not little research goes into how the building will perform and stand the test of time.

Even more amazing than the relative incompetence of those famous architects is their attitude. Le Corbusier, when criticised that his buildings lack functionality once said that this is not his problem – people have to learn to adapt to them. Architects receiving complaints in relation to either functionality or building quality have been know to shrug them off by declaring these shortcoming have to be expected because building are not works of perfection but works of art. Frank Gehry who is well known for designing buildings whose walls crack and roofs leak once said something along the lines of ‘leaking roofs proof they are roofs’.

The video quotes a survey reflecting the result of such arrogance and self-delusion: 70% of people working in architect-designed office buildings complained about security, poor signage, window cleaning and air conditioning. Yet only one in ten architects ever returns to a completed building to learn from his or her mistakes. Which leads to the conclusion of the first part of the series: what we need for architects to do is to design and build ‘learning buildings’. Before beginning their design, architects need to thoroughly research the needs of the people who work and live in their buildings, and they then have to design structures that meet these needs and also can be easily changed as people’s needs change over time. A brilliant example from the past: Palazzo Publico, Siena – it took 500 years to achieve the look and design the building has now, and it is still being changed.

Architects want to create final realities, but reality is forever changing. Buildings therefore need to be created so that they can adapt to those changes. But it’s not just evolutionary design that is needed; buildings also have to be spaces that are friendly, allow people to stay healthy, be productive, creative and happy. Office buildings for example need to allow its part-time inhabitants to create their own private territories, they have to provide spaces for easy communication and chance encounters, engender feelings of pleasure, allow for light, air and natural features (such as plants and water), and so on. Buildings have to stop being monuments and instead become genuine places for human habitation, which includes openess to learn and therefore to last forever.

(more…)

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Curbed can’t get enough of Two Trees’ Clinton Park, the massive mixed-use development proposed for a Hell’s Kitchen wasteland. Designed by Enrique Norten, its unusual feature is the zig-zagging roof line planted with greenery – which is something nice to have in what seems to be an otherwise desert of concrete and maybe desolation (even though it’s not much more than eye candy). Aesthetically it also seems quite pleasing that the building slopes down towards Clinton-DeWitt Park. The whole purpose behind the design seems to further progress the ongoing gentrification and real estate prices in the area.

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Having a roof greened makes me associate environment supporting qualities being implemented in the building design. While I don’t consider the 900 apartments high density nature of “Clinton Park” as a particularly exciting sustainability feature in an already high rise neighbourhood, I also don’t think that a Mercedes Benz car dealerships and a 30,000 square-foot NYPD horse stable do much for either environmental or social sustainability. I also read about 200 car parking spaces but nothing about a bike parking lot. And given that we’re talking gentrification: how will such building affect the people living there who most likely can’t afford buying or renting anything in Clinton Park? How will their needs be catered for? Where will they end up in the near future?

Neither Curbed nor the green self-consciousness Inhabitat nor Norton’s NYC-based firm TEN ARQUITECTOS mention anything about green building materials, energy saving and waste recycling features, community involvement in the building design, community space in the building (there’s lots of retail though) – so I doubt there is anything that could elevate the design into the league of sustainability supporting green buildings.

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I often wonder about Inhabitat’s mission of promoting the merging of good, exciting, trail blazing design with sustainability principles. It seems they’re so hooked on the aesthetic aspects that they mistake the smallest trace of green appearance for sustainability incoporated. I don’t wanna sound mean, but in the area of consumer product marketing it’s called greenwashing.

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The Lotto Turm (Lotto Tower)

Posted: March 17, 2009 in creativity
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The Location

The Österreichische Platz is situated at the periphery of  Stuttgart‘s (Germany) city centre . It’s an odd roundabout that basically hasn’t changed in 40 years. Surrounded by but disconnected from express ways, it is currently used as a parking lot and a meeting place for dodgy characters. After years of neglect, it has sunk into oblivion or at best into a state of limbo.

The Project

That could all change. The process of growing dilapidation and the monotonous rhythm and character of those freeways could be interrupted by 55 shipping containers stacked up on top of each other. German designer Lars Behrendt has conceived of an incredible building called the Lotto Turm (Lotto Tower). The vision is that over a period of 5-10 years, this temporary tower will enhance the image and status of this city quarter – by creating an appealing new centre of attraction and providing a home for a lively, colourful multi-use mix development.

The use of shipping containers as construction design and spatial elements lends itself to the temporary nature of the project. In addition, containers also offer an economical realisation in terms of finance and time, and they allow for a fast, traceless deconstruction of the building.

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The complex will be divided into two parts: an inner courtyard, shielded from traffic and noise, and the soaring, aerial tower, which is crowned by a big ball inside of which lotto numbers will be drawn. Access will be provided via a staged path that winds around the tower. In addition the different levels can also be reached through a stairway. The building will be accessible to the public on all levels, including the very top.

The Lotto Turm will offer a smorgasbord of different uses designed as zones. There will be a green double-storey element in form of a park, differently sized terraces, niches and stairs, a ‘capsule’ hotel, a people’s office and even a Lovetainer. In other words: the Lotto Turm as a whole will represent a conglomeration of diverse requirements and opportunities. Those behind the project draw parallels to the plentitude of different activities in Jacques Tati´s Play Time or the Wimmelbildern by Ali Mitgutsch; both offer scores of opportunities for discoveries.

The Background

Our surroundings have the potential to galvanise us, to shake us up – by being provocative or even causing irritation, bringing a smile to our face, letting us see our deepest yearnings, desires and aspirations, stimulating our fantasy, bringing to life our curiosity, and exposing qualities that clarify connections. In other words: the release of emotions will be triggered. And all of these thoughts, concepts and ideas form the background behind the Lotto Turm.

This tower aims at allowing qualities of surprise and longing to be experienced through the means of architecture. Through it, Stuttgart and its citizens will not only witness the enrichment of public space but also be given the experience of a vital and vivid impulse of being alive.

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