page 04 - 13
Architect Greg Lynn believes the good outweighs the bad when it comes to carbon composites
page 15 - 19
Nanocarbons: the superheroes of materials science
page 20 - 27
The charred-wood architecture of Terunobu Fujimori
page 28 - 34
page 35 - 40
How carbon fibre and precision engineering have taken the drag out of yacht racing
page 41 - 44
page 45 - 54
Has architecture lost its way en route to a post-carbon future?
page 55 - 57
A Danish recreational waste-plant designed to blow CO2 smoke rings into the sky
page 58 - 60
Atelier Bow-Wow's BMW Guggenheim Lab
page 61 - 64
uncube's editors are Sophie Lovell (Art Director, Editor-in-Chief), Florian Heilmeyer, Rob Wilson and Elvia Wilk. Graphic design: Lena Giavanazzi.
uncube is based in Berlin and is published by BauNetz, Germany's most-read online magazine covering architecture in a thoughtful way since 1996.
Sparkly ‘best friend’, polluting power source, invisible planetary threat, basis of all life. Ever-present in all its forms – diamond, coal, CO2, protein – in this issue of uncube we’re getting molecular with the sixth element: carbon.
From the ever-changing design paradigms afforded by material advances, such as flying carbon fibre super yachts and macramé rope chairs, to our current tautological obsession with ‘carbon-zero’ buildings, now is definitely the time to zoom in on carbon.
But it’s not all about ultra-new superpowered carbon nano-materials – there are still those elementary acts of burning a wooden plank or drawing with charcoal. We’ll always find a way to use carbon.
Go on, get your fingers dirty.
Famous in the 1990s for his ‘blob architecture’, the architect and designer Greg Lynn, is now working a lot with carbon composites, with his FORM studio team in Venice, California, continuing his investigations into the integration of structure and form. He talked to uncube about the potential and pitfalls of working with the material and how design thinking needs to shift to incorporate its properties.
When did you first start working with carbon? What were your reasons for using it as a construction material?
I started using composites because I was looking for a translucent rather than transparent material, similar to when I used glass fibre years ago. The principles are the same: it’s what I call ‘rigidized cloth’ – fabric and woven goods stiffened with resins. The difference between carbon and glass fibre is in the stiffness than weight or strength: they’re almost identical – especially for architectural applications – but if you want to eliminate deflection and make something really stiff you use carbon. But carbon’s black fibre aesthetic is really different and has current associations with high performance sports and luxury.
I remember a series of Prada magazine advertisements, which used 3DL™ load path carbon and aramid North Sails as a backdrop: the curved lines of carbon twill looked like the hatching on a Piranesi drawing. And I know of architects who’ve worked it into buildings, like Renzo Piano at his Americas Cup building in Valencia: he draped the Team Prada headquarters in used sails.
The first time I worked with carbon was for Swarovski’s Crystal Palace exhibit at Design Miami 2009. I designed hanging surfaces of carbon and dyneema made by North Sails with millions of crystals sandwiched into its gossamer translucent membrane.
At the end of the 90s some of the Droog designers did work with carbon fibre, notably Hella Jongerius with her Kasese Chair, Marcel Wanders with his Knotted Chair, and later Bertjan Pot.
But they seemed to drop it again quite quickly. Pot told me that as a material “it has issues” and is very expensive…
Actually, it keeps getting cheaper. The real problem for the use of carbon in industrial products, or any composite for that matter, is cycle time. I designed what has to be the lightest hanging chair ever made as a prototype for the Art Institute of Chicago in soft flexible carbon pre-preg tapes manufactured by North Sails.
They were placed and laminated manually from four-inch wide tapes and they take two people at least an hour, because you are really placing material at the fibre level in multiple orientations based on load paths. It is similar to tailoring in terms of time and labour. Because of the time it takes to laminate, cook and cure carbon objects it becomes prohibitive for the world of high volume production in furniture and automobiles. For Formula One cars, for example, there is not a piece of metal left on the structure and body of the car any more – only in the engine – and even most of that metal is being replaced by handmade, labour-intensive carbon. A lot of people think these things are made by machines, but really it’s one of the last truly artisanal craft-based methods of construction. It will get more industrialised, but it hasn’t yet.
Isn’t the very nature of carbon composites environmentally problematic, in terms of recycling or breaking down the materials afterwards?
Not really. Michael Lepech at Stanford published his comparison of composites with other construction materials and, more often than not, because of their light weight and high strength, they often use less material and out-perform materials like wood, masonry and steel that take more energy to manufacture, transport, assemble and support. In Lepech’s comparisons, if you include the stuff they put in wood to keep it from rotting and to discourage insects from eating it and so on, a wood-framed building ends up being more toxic with a larger carbon footprint than an actual carbon fibre building. Yes, it is environmentally nasty to burn piles of sand into fibre using huge amounts of energy and then glue the sand together using petroleum resins around foam cores. But when you look at how little material is used, how much steel is saved in holding up these lighter materials, how much energy is saved in transport, longevity and performance, it is easy to see why composites are high-performance.
It sounds like we are still at the very beginning of using carbon composites in manufacturing, structures and objects. Because of these manufacturing difficulties do you think carbon will turn out retrospectively to be just some kind of interim material?
In the US, the transportation infrastructure is dangerously antiquated and badly maintained. Much of the current reinforcing and retrofitting of bridges and overpasses is glued carbon strapping. For certain niche building industries, like bridge-building, retrofitting infrastructure and mining, carbon is already a mature material. It’s been around for 60 years or so. The capacity in China now far exceeds the demand – that’s because manufacturers such as airlines are eliminating aluminium and changing to composites. No one would consider designing a new commercial airplane in metal anymore – we have to go to carbon because it is so much more energy efficient. I think the issue with a delayed adoption of the material in buildings and commercial products is that designers frankly don’t understand the principles of it. Until designers understand at a conceptual level how to use carbon composites, they won’t use it appropriately and therefore it won’t be a sensible alternative.
Some have understood though, like Marcel Wanders with his Knot Chair.
That was a very smart way of understanding how to make a flexible thing rigid. What I’ve found is that there are a couple of really huge ideas in composites, like locating structure in load paths rather than consolidating structure into a frame and disengaging the structure from the lineaments defining a form. If you use the character of the material in all those ways, it not only becomes really practical but there is also a whole language of design that comes out of it. Another problem with the use of carbon in particular and composites in general is that, until 2009, building codes viewed composites as finishes, so the only way to use them without running your own tests was to use them decoratively. Most architects attempt to use carbon either like a steel frame or like a material swatch that’s purely decorative.
Greg Lynn, born in 1964 in Ohio, is head of Greg Lynn FORM, an architecture firm based in Venice, California, known for its boundary-breaking, biomorphic shapes and embrace of digital tools for design and fabrication, with projects such as the New York Presbyterian Church in Queens. He studied architecture and philosophy at Miami University of Ohio and later took an MA in architecture at Princeton University. Lynn has taught at several universities around the world including The University of Applied Arts, Vienna; ETH Zurich; University of California, Los Angeles, Department of Architecture and Urban Design; Yale School of Architecture; and Columbia Graduate School of Architecture Planning and Preservation. In 2008, he won the Golden Lion at the 11th International Venice Biennale of Architecture.
I read somewhere that you are good at predicting the future. How do you see our future as carbon-based life-forms in terms of our relationship with carbon as a material. Do you think we are going to move towards a more biological, organic relationship with our environment?
I’ve never tried to predict anything because I find it very tough to do, but I have had some success in influencing the field, in particular with digital technology. I see potential for my own exploration in the design of large-scale composite structures and I will publicize and explain the principles and possibilities to my colleagues and students as clearly and concisely as I can in the hopes of speeding their adoption. Over the last several years I have invested a lot of time, energy and money into mastering composite design and construction. We are even making composite parts and prototypes right in my office. I co-designed an ocean-going trimaran with Frederic Courouble and we built much of the tooling for it, as well as the carbon interiors and details that I built and supplied directly to Westerly Marine, one of a handful of builders in the world experienced in high-performance carbon yacht construction. I initiated the project mostly because I am interested in the challenge of using state-of-the-art software and construction to design a building-sized object that is under thousands of pounds of load moving at high speed, converting the wind into motion.
So you are saying that working with composites has fundamentally changed how you think about architecture?
Yeah sure, like Marcel did with that chair: it’s a macramé chair rethought with new chemistry. I look at everything totally differently now, through a cloth lens. So rather than trying to make wood behave like steel, which is what Richard Neutra and other modernists did, now I see wood behaving like, say, wicker or woven rattan. My personal design paradigm has changed. p
Imagine a bullet-proof vest, as thin and flexible as a t-shirt, but stronger than steel and as hard as a diamond. It sounds like something straight out of a Marvel comic, but thanks to reports about recent advances in carbon nanotechnology, it may not be long before we can all suit up like superheroes.
While carbon is one of the most abundant materials on earth, it is nanotechnology that gives it its “super powers”, changing it from an ordinary material into one with extraordinary properties. Aside from being lightweight, it has some unique properties that make it an ideal nano-scale building block. By treating carbon atoms as molecular architecture components, scientists can change the element’s behaviour, allowing it to become super hard, super strong, and a superconductor of heat and electricity – and that’s just for starters.
Carbon atoms can be arranged into geometric structures, creating atomic bonds that give it an entirely different range of attributes.
The tightly-knit molecular structure of a diamond, for example, makes it the hardest material known to man – quite the opposite of the soft and slippery graphite form found in a pencil. Graphene (a component of graphite) is a layer of carbon molecules just one atom thick arranged in a continuous hexagonal honeycomb lattice. This arrangement brings with it properties such as the conductivity of electricity and heat. The honeycomb structure also lends itself to three-dimensional geometric structures called fullerenes. In cylindrical form, these are known as carbon nanotubes and as spherical forms they are known by the delightfully termed “buckminsterfullerenes” or “buckyballs” after Buckminster Fuller’s geodesic dome structures.
Long chains of carbon nanotubes can be “grown” in a lab, atom by atom, each with the diameter of one nanometer, (one billionth of a meter, or about 50,000 times thinner than a strand of human hair). These microscopic threads are superconductors, meaning they can conduct electricity with almost no resistance and they are also magnetic, making them an ideal material for the electronics industry. By creating tiny circuits at the nano-scale, devices are able to store billions of times more data than the old silicon chips, allowing for our devices to get smaller and thinner every year. Carbon can also absorb enormous quantities of light (that’s why it’s black), so combined with superconductivity in this state it becomes an ideal material for absorbing sunlight on solar panels.
Nanocarbon’s super powers do not stop at electronics. Medical research has indicated that fullerenes may be able to reduce the size of tumours or even block the HIV virus. Further research projects involve trapping atoms inside of fullerenes to deliver medicine to cells, or to repair damaged DNA strands. Arranged in layers like Russian dolls, carbon nanotubes can also articulate as microscopic joints – with potential applications in nanorobotics. Buckypaper, 500 times stronger than steel and capable of conducting electricity, is a paper-thin layer of nanotubes that is currently under investigation for potential applications as a “skin” that could create energy, act as a circuit, and store data all in one.
The image of Japanese architecture abroad is one shaped by high-tech architecture, minimalism and Metabolist urban structures created for the masses by internationally-known Japanese architects such as Toyo Ito, Tadao Ando and Sou Fujimoto. However, there are also a number of architects whose standing at a national level is just as high as the Pritzker Prize-winners, but because of their unique, traditional Japanese style, their work is seldom known abroad. The 67-year-old architect Terunobu Fujimori is a case in point. It wasn’t until he designed the Japanese contribution to the Venice Architecture Biennale in 2006 that his extraordinary, rural architecture began to reach a wider audience.
Many of Fujimori’s buildings seem to have sprung right from a Tim Burton film: gnarled tree trunks support structures whose roofs have been known to sprout leeks – literally – and houses to honour spirits who descend at night from the mist-wrapped mountains.
Yet there is more than meets the eye to Fujimori’s apparently whimsical formal language. His work is deeply rooted in Japanese culture and his buildings are shrouded in the spirit of animism and Zen Buddhism. A professor of architectural history, he dedicated much of his career to architectural theory and criticism. It was only in 1991 at the age of 45 that he completed his first building: a small museum in his native village in Nagano prefecture, covered with mud mortar and hand-split cedar. Since then he has continued to build – developing his projects not in an architectural office but in his “lab” at the University of Tokyo, in close collaboration with his students and the various craftsmen with whom he works. He has described his architectural approach as “red architecture” – primitive, individualist and eccentric – the antithesis to “white architecture,” which is precise, urban and futuristic.
With his practice, the idiosyncratic architect has helped launch a renaissance in the ancient Japanese technique. Yakisugi is a way of charring (yaki) wooden boards to preserve them against the natural elements in Japan’s humid climate. Traditionally, Japanese cedar (sugi) is used in the process, which results in a carbonized finish that is resistant to insects, rot and, ironically, fire. A master of the technique, Fujimori binds together three boards into a kind of chimney and starts a fire inside of it. Once the fire has spread along the entire length of the wood – about 10 minutes – it is quickly extinguished. Boards some two centimetres thick are charred, amazingly evenly down to about one centimetre. Fujimori has prepared boards up to eight metres in length using this method.
As its name suggests, the Yakisugi House (2007) in Nagano city is one example of the process in action. Fujimori drew inspiration from the form of a cave, which he then clad with vertical charred cedar planks. Together with 10 friends, he prepared some 400 carbonised planks in a day. White plaster filling the gaps between the blackened boards gives the façade a zebra-like effect. Sheets of hand-rolled copper cover the roof.
Fujimori is particularly well-known for his teahouses. Although relatively small in scale, they have attracted prestigious clients such as the former Japanese prime minister Morihiro Hosokawa (2003), Villa Stuck in Munich (2012) and the V&A Museum in London (2010), for whom his Beetle’s House featured his signature charred cladding. Fujimori places great value on the use of local handicrafts and materials for his projects. Whereas traditional cedar wood is used for his yakisugi work in Japan, for his Stork House in Raiding, Austria (2012), he used locally-sourced oak trees as his primary material and spruce for the charred exterior. Inside the building, small pieces of the charred wood are used decoratively, emerging from the fireplace like a swarm of insects across the walls and ceiling.
The rise in Fujimori’s fame, the environmentally-friendly nature of the process, and the remarkable preservative properties it lends to wood have led to a rise in interest in the centuries old yakisugi technique elsewhere, and a number of architects in Europe have now started working with charred wood skins. Schuberth & Schuberth architects in Vienna, for example, clad a summer residence they built at the edge of the Vienna Woods in 2011 with charred larch wood.
Terunobu Fujimori was born in Nagano Prefecture, Japan in 1946. He completed his Doctorate of Architecture at the University of Tokyo in 1978. In 1991, Fujimori completed his first architectural work, the Jinchokan Moriya Historical Museum in Nagano Prefecture. His work is often characterised by humour, experimentation, the use of natural materials and a break from traditional techniques. He gained widespread acclaim when he represented Japan at the 2006 Venice Architecture Biennale. He is currently an Associate Professor at the Institute of Industrial Science, Japan, and develops projects through the Fujimori Lab at the University of Tokyo.
Fascinated by the particular aesthetics of yakisugi, they set up their own bespoke wood charring business called Seidenholz (“Silk Wood”) which, according to practice partner Johanna Schubeth, has received a steady and growing demand from clients in Germany and Switzerland in particular.
Recently Dutch architects Max Rink and Simon de Jong together with designer Rachel Griffin won a competition for the construction of a temporary pavilion called the Safe House in the old town plaza of Bergen in Norway, which is made from charred wood. And in a performance action using a blowtorch to scorch the wood on site, they paid homage to the city’s history of baptism by fire – since the twelfth century, Bergen has burnt to the ground 16 times.
So in Europe amidst growing environmental concerns, an ancient artisanal Japanese construction technique is finding expression through modern architecture. This is something that Fujimori, who considers himself as one of the “primitive-garde” architects of Japan, has long wished for: the synthesis of “red” and “white” resulting, in his case, in a shade of grey.
In his artworks using carbon fibre, the Berlin-based Greek artist Spiros Hadjidjanos employs the tightly-woven mesh material to represent the web of networked information systems within which we live. The warp and weft of the fibres imply the interconnectedness of information and formally refer to the pixelation of the digital image.
For Carbon Fibre Z20:X50 3D, an image of a carbon fibre plate was magnified via digital microscope and then printed on a plate of the same material – the image of a material embedded into its tactile reality. The numbers in the title refer to the lens, Z20, and the degree of magnification, X50. The colors come directly from the microscope and are a precise depth map of the surface of the carbon fibre measured in microns (1000 microns = 1 milimeter) from blue to red.
For works such as the one pictured here, Network Topologies (Distributed), 2013, Hadjidjanos loaded the image data from one tiny section of a digital graphic onto a microchip. He then printed the image on carbon fibre and embedded the chip into the surface of the print, literally replacing part of the image with its digital counterpart.
Spiros Hadjidjanos is an artist living and working in Berlin. He has recieved DAAD and Fulbright scholarships, and has exhibitied work internationally at galleries including Kwadrat Gallery (Berlin), cirne Gallery (Cologne), Transmediale (Berlin), Instituut voor Mediakunst (Amsterdam), Import Projects (Berlin), and Autocenter (Berlin). His solo show Local Manifestations is on view at Future Gallery in Berlin from October 26 through November 30, 2013.
Some inventions are recognised as essential from the outset, while others take time for their true importance to be discovered. So it is with carbon fibre. First created in the aeronautical laboratories of the UK in the “white-heat-of-technology” era of the early 1960s, building on research already undertaken in the US, the obvious application of carbon fibre was aviation. Sadly, the British dropped the ball; initial batches weren’t strong enough for their high-profile debut application in the blades of a Rolls-Royce aero engine. Development costs soared, investors ran scared and manufacture of the supposedly miraculous material stalled, with the US and Japan picking up the slack.
Today, carbon fibre is at the forefront of a number of industries and used in applications and volumes that would be unimaginable to its early proponents.
Traditionally expensive – especially in volume – carbon fibre’s core advantages are its lightness and strength. The convoluted and energy-intensive manufacturing process involves baking thousands of filaments in a series of operations that eventually reaches temperatures of 1,400 degrees Celsius, and then coating them in carbon, and sealing with an epoxy resin. The resulting sheets are still flexible, yet when layered and bonded under extreme high pressures, create rigid, ultra-light forms.
The benefits of building components in carbon fibre are manifold, allowing complex forms with great inherent strength, potentially replacing objects made from many smaller elements with a single moulding. As technology improves, the size of carbon fibre elements has increased, with motorsport, aviation and yacht racing traditionally leading the way.
All demand high-performance materials with minimum weight, and all have the budgets to build bespoke elements in a labour intensive way. In yachting, as in aviation, scale matters. While small mouldings are obviously more suited to car manufacturing, the sheer size of wing assemblies, fuselages, hulls and masts means that new ways of designing and forming carbon fibre has to be undertaken. In yachting, one event is known for pushing available technology to the limit; the America’s Cup. Founded in 1851, it is one of the best-known and most prestigious ocean races in the world, now fought over by huge crews and hefty sponsorship budgets.
Water resistance is pared down to a minimum thanks to the thin foils at the rear of each hull, which, when paired with hydraulically operated forward winglets, allows the boat to skim the surface of the sea with almost zero drag.
Larry Ellison, owner and sponsor of the BMW ORACLE team, has spent around half a billion US dollars on the race. In 2008, ORACLE launched the USA 17, designed by the French naval architects Van Peteghem and Lauriot Prévost (VPLP), and built at a special facility in Anacortes Washington in 2008. By utilising the principle of lift through the massive, rigid carbon fibre and composite sails, these huge yachts are literally lifted out of the water and propelled across its surface at a velocity excelling the actual wind speed.
The emphasis is on speed, so any technical advantages are exploited for all they’re worth. From the 1980s onwards, the traditional racing yachts began to give way to lighter fibreglass designs, with keels and sails becoming more and more aerodynamically advanced to help the boats carve through water. By the late 80s catamarans had been introduced, and the complexity of rules, regulations and classes kept the Cup’s proponents – usually a selection of nautically-minded billionaires – in court rather than on the water.
The 2013 Cup signalled another peak in the sport’s technological bias, with a new class of boat – AC72 – introduced to incorporate another innovation, the Wingsail Catamaran. Put simply, the new class pushes yacht design closer to aerospace than ever before.
With triple hulls, a maximum length of 115 feet and a width of 90 feet, it’s dwarfed by the wingsail structure, rising up 223 feet (68 metres) in height – the same as a 20-storey building. As the crew became adept at manipulating the wingsail, it was extended from an original height of 158 feet, and each year of the competition has seen the boat’s performance improve. Despite having a larger surface area than the wing on the Airbus A380, the wingsail weighs just 3,500 kilogrammes, or just under two-and-half BMW i3 cars. The massively strong foils were each made of 400 kilogrammes of solid carbon fibre.
Sailing the USA 17 is an immensely complex operation. By manipulating the angle of the two-part wing, the airflow, and therefore speed can be controlled. Information is everything. The surface of the wing is embedded with fibre-optic tubes to act as data gatherers; 250 sensors provided 26,000 data points per second, giving an instant picture of loading, stress, shape, and angle. This information was piped directly into a heads-up display in the skipper’s sunglasses, while the 11-strong crew also had PDAs giving them instant data to guide their manipulation of the wing.
Clearly, without the use of materials like carbon fibre, the AC72 class could never have been created. The advantages of lightness and strength have created a whole new approach to sailing. To be at the literal cutting edge is expensive and time consuming – the boat requires 20 hours of maintenance for every hour of sailing – and the materials applications are incredibly specialised. This year ORACLE TEAM USA won the 34th America’s Cup, cementing the evolution of ocean racing into a sport of technological and physical endurance. I
Dutch designers are well known for their irreverent and experimental approach to materials and structures. Back in the mid 1990s the Dutch design group Droog was invited to collaborate with the Structures and Materials Lab at the TU Delft on a project called DryTech. They were challenged to utilise advanced material and technical resources of the lab to ‘weave’ new products with great lightness and strength. Out of that collaboration came some of the most significant furniture designs of the decade – using carbon fibre. Hella Jongerius’ Kasese Chair, for example, was an interpretation of an African prayer chair that sought a “new non-technical language for a high tech material”. Marcel Wanders came up with his, now famous, Knotted Chair made of aramid and carbon fibres soaked in epoxy resin that turned structural norms on their head.
Rotterdam-based designer Bertjan Pot started working with carbon fibre in 2002. He produced a number of commercial products including the Carbon Chair in collaboration with Marcel Wanders for Moooi and an entire bedroom installation one-off called Carbon Cloud that was shown in Milan in 2005.
In 2002 another young Dutch design graduate from Eindhoven, Maarten Baas, took a blowtorch to a number of objects and toasted them black giving them a carbon surface. His later collaboration with the gallerist Murray Moss, called Where There's Smoke, in which he torched a range of furniture design classics from Ettore Sottsass to the Campana brothers, burned his name into the design history books.
As “zero energy buildings” and the concept of “carbon neutrality” become the accepted ideal in contemporary architecture and urban design, the following questions pose themselves:
Is “zero energy” and “carbon neutrality” really a suitable goal?
Is the attainment of this goal feasible in the foreseeable future?
Against the prevailing background of global warming,
rapidly depleting energy resources, exponential population growth and the mounting geopolitical instabilities
that arise from insecurity relating to
future energy supply sources
In terms of the built environment, what do we as a society want? And given the difficulties described above, what should the architects today be striving to do?
In the design and construction of
HIGH PERFORMANCE ENVIRONMENTS.
these environments should…
Be capable of meeting the challenges of the future
Furthermore, architects should …
Bring their influence to bear on the relevant political processes
…to help achieve high performance environments:
The key to sustainable future development lies in systems thinking: an approach to problem solving in which the problem is understood to be part of a whole system. This is instead of placing a system boundary around the problem with subsequent ignorance of the effect potential solutions will have on other parts of the whole system (thus contributing unwittingly to an unsustainable development of the whole system). This applies particularly to the consideration of embodied energy in the design process, use of different qualities of available energy and the extension of building design into the realm of urban design.
How we as a society measure, evaluate, reward and punish various strategies employed to achieve energy performance will strongly influence the future development of architecture. The development of evaluation methods is an important and fatally underestimated factor in the future development of the architectural discipline.
Today, the term "energy efficiency" in the building sector is misunderstood; low-energy consumption is often falsely equated with high-energy efficiency.
Energy efficiency is the relationship between output (benefit) and input (resources). The key issue is the quality of the benefit provided as a result of the energy consumed. Regulatory devices currently in use, including the new EU Directive on the Energy Performance of Buildings, deal solely with energy demand and not with energy efficiency.
A building is designed to exist in a natural environment with continuously changing conditions (temperature, humidity, air movement, light, sound) and provide desirable and more or less constant internal environmental conditions within. Two approaches can be followed to achieve this goal; the conventional approach of sealing off the external environment as much as possible and employing mechanical systems to provide the desired internal conditions, or alternatively the deployment of building form, construction, and skin to utilize natural external environmental flows. I propose the second approach in which, similar to the strategies employed in some Asian martial arts, the energy of the “attacking” forces are captured and utilized to achieve the desired result (Fig. 1).
In the future buildings will need to provide energy for the cities in which they are located; they will need to generate more energy than they need themselves. Figure 2 shows a concept for a tall building in Singapore by Coop Himmelb(l)au in which the geometry of the proposed building form enables year-round energy production at this equatorial location via specially designed “solar blades” with integrated photovoltaic cells. In Ortner & Ortner’s project for a peninsula on the coast of the Adriatic Sea, the architects designed an energy masterplan by for a carbon-neutral development with an area of approximately 100 hectares. The energy demand of the entire development, including all buildings and vehicles, is supplied by on-site renewable energy sources. (Fig. 3). Both buildings and cars can extract and supply energy to the grid.
Brian Cody is Professor at Graz University of Technology and Head of the Institute for Buildings and Energy since 2004. His focus in research, teaching and practice is on maximising the energy performance of buildings and cities. He is founder and principal of the consulting firm Energy Design Cody, which is responsible for the development of energy and climate control concepts for construction projects all over the world. Professor Cody serves as a member on many advisory boards and juries and is Visiting Professor and Head of the Energy Design Unit at the University for Applied Arts in Vienna.
In our research on urban design strategies that provide spatial, temporal and digital densification, new typologies for vertical structures incorporating all the necessary infrastructural elements of society – including industry, agriculture, food production, and energy generation – were developed. These so-called Hyper Buildings function like cells in a city model. In this structure each cell is self-sufficient, yet when linked together they mutually assist each other so that the whole is more than the sum of the parts. The Hyper Building allows a population density roughly equal to that of Manhattan. It needs no external energy and water supply, produces no waste, emits no CO2, and needs little or no external food supply. A central feature of this conceptual approach is the synergetic integration of the different systems and the exploitation of symbiotic relationships between nature, humans and technology (Fig. 4). I
Founded in Berlin in 2000 by the brothers Jan and Tim Edler, realities:united have built a reputation for their spectacular art and media extensions to buildings all across the globe. Working together with some of the most prominent figures of contemporary architecture – including Peter Cook, Coop Himmelb(l)au, Foster & Partners, Will Alsop, Nieto Sobejano, Bjarke Ingels, Minsuk Cho and WOHA – they have established a particular form of collaboration. Usually invited by architects to cooperate on a project, realities:united seek out the idiosyncratic strength of a design and amplify its qualities by techniques and procedures that exceed the realms in which architects usually work.
Carbon emissions are the root cause of that environmental bogeyman stalking our dreams of the future: global warming. This project materializes this silent, and ultimately deadly, process of carbon emissions in a simple and beautiful form.
This project arose out of a 2010 competition to design the exterior wrapping for a state-of-the-art waste-to-energy plant at Amagerforbraending on the outskirts of Copenhagen, Denmark. The winning proposal by Copenhagen-based Bjarke Ingels Group (BIG), collaborating with Berlin-based realities:united, went much further than the original brief. Turning the usual hiding of waste-management (out of sight; out of mind) on its head, BIG proposed the plant should be “a destination in itself…reflecting the progressive vision to create a new type of waste management facility”. The structure’s roof is designed as a publically accessible hillside made of recycled synthetic granulate. The roof is for walking in the summer and skiing in the winter, with a 100-metre-high viewing platform at its top that reflects BIG’s ethos of “hedonistic sustainability” – turning the perceived burden of sustainability into an asset.
However, though the plant utilises the most efficient green technology available, it’s still basically an incinerator, with its by-products of water vapour and carbon dioxide emitted from a smoke stack. This is where the element designed by realities:united comes in. Called “Big Vortex”, it consists of a chamber wrapped around the end of the flue, into which emission gases are collected. Periodically, when this fills up, the gases are released, creating torus-shaped “smoke rings” made visible due to condensing water vapour. The rings are formed due to the Bernoulli effect, similar to when smoking a cigarette – though here they are 30 metres in diameter and each contain half a ton of CO2.
“We felt the project needed this scenario of puffing ‘smoke rings’ to ground it. It puts into an aesthetic form something that is ultimately evil, acting as a measuring stick of consumption; after all, avoiding or recycling waste before it gets sent to the plant would of course be preferable”, says Jan Edler of realities:united. “The distinct effect will only be visible around 20 percent of the time, but like geysers in Iceland, the expectation of it happening is part of the plan”.
Political delay has meant construction of the plant only went on-site in January 2013, but the ‘Big Vortex’ installation, which gives a critical edge to the surreal ski slope design, has unfortunately not as yet been commissioned as part of it.
Atelier Bow-Wow is a Tokyo-based architecture firm founded in 1992 by Yoshiharu Tsukamoto and Momoyo Kajima. They are well known for their domestic and cultural architecture and research exploring the urban conditions of micro and ad-hoc architecture.
The BMW Guggenheim Lab: a partnership between a major corporation, a corporatized arts institution, and an architecture office, billed as an “urban think tank and global laboratory” for “sharing ideas and practical solutions.”
Following its grand opening in NYC in 2011, the Lab began a tour of nine cities over the course of six years, swapping themes every two years. The theme for its first three-city cycle was called Confronting Comfort, and so far NYC, Berlin, and Mumbai have been “comforted” by its mix of programming put on by a rotating crew of invited international practitioners. The custom-built tank-for-thinking-in is a transportable carbon fibre structure designed by Tokyo-based architects Atelier Bow-Wow. Surprisingly, it’s first building whose structure is entirely made of this material.
Over the course of its six-year romp around the globe, the physical structure will adjust to fit its circumstances, according to Bow-Wow’s long-standing precedent of creating buildings to fit existing – often tiny or dense – urban spaces. The Lab’s lower level is an open space for lectures, workshops, and exhibitions, and its upper half consists of a flexible rigging system coated in semitransparent, shimmering fibre mesh, allowing viewers to glimpse the internal mechanisms by which it transforms.
Yet as the initiative’s first two years have indicated, even the most sensitive, customizable architecture may not be appropriate to “insert” into any context – site-specificity is not only about the flexibility of the architecture, but of the programming it contains. While Manhattanites may be relatively immune to question of cultural gentrification, the public in Berlin and Mumbai have understandably been more suspicious of its short-lived, alien presence.
Apparently a see-through façade made of environmentally-sensitive material still signifies ethical transparency, but in light of the Guggenheim’s semi-shady franchising in Abu Dhabi, for instance, the fancy carbon fibre façade comes across as more distracting than revealing. This innovative use of carbon fibre mesh unfortunately houses a confusing weave of public and private interests: sturdy in terms of branding, lightweight in terms of cultural impact, and with false-transparency of intent. (ew)
On an urban scale, I’m interested how the exterior façades of buildings could also be seen as the inside façades of the street. Perhaps using different materials or textures for the walls; the façade could absorb sunlight, and transfer this heat, warming the street in winter or cooling it in summer, whilst absorbing noise and air pollution, transforming streets into more comfortable urban spaces.
In some ways your architecture seems to be about the process of materalising the air. Do you see yourself coming from that Swiss tradition of interest in materials?
I studied in Switzerland under Miroslav Šik, who already spoke of the smell and feel of material. Yes, I am in the tradition of Swiss architecture of the last thirty years with its interest in materiality. I do the same but rather than concrete and copper I focus on the air: it’s just a change of target. Not the solid but the emptiness. So in my projects I focus on convection or evaporation in a similar way to how Herzog & de Meuron focus on wood, steel, or concrete.
Philippe Rahm was born in 1967 and studied at the Federal Polytechnic Schools of Lausanne and Zurich. In 2002, he represented Switzerland at the 8th Architecture Biennale in Venice and was selected for the 11th biennale as well. He has participated in a number of exhibitions worldwide including at SF-MoMA, USA, CCA Kitakyushu Japan, Centre Pompidou, Paris, France and the Louisiana Museum, Denmark, and in 2007 had a solo exhibition at the Canadian Centre for Architecture in Montreal. He is currently visiting lecturer in Princeton, USA, and has taught previously at the AA School, London, at the Mendrisio Academy of Architecture and the ETH Lausanne in Switzerland, and at the Royal School of Architecture of Copenhagen. He lives and works in Paris.
Your ideas are often tested on an urban scale before you apply them at the scale of a building. Can you tell be a bit about the Taichung Gateway Park in Taiwan, for instance?
In 2011 when we won the competition for this 69-hectare park in Taichung, the main element of a whole new district, our other main job at the time was for a 70 square-metre apartment for a 22-year-old doctor in Lyon. This discrepancy in scale tests our ideas in different ways.
The design for the park came from the idea that maybe we are no longer in a natural world: now it is the whole planet we are warming, not just the house. Perhaps everything is artificial; the natural world does not exist. So the park has trees but uses other – artificial – climatic devices, run from photovoltaic panels, to adjust the climate, primarily cooling it, for its users. There are devices that blow cold air over the skin, dry clouds which blow de-humidified air, others that clean air with catalytic and plasma filters, and showers that produce artificial rain. It starts on site in January and is due for completion in July 2015.
Bureau Spectacular is an operation of architectural affairs based in Chicago that was founded in 2008. The studio imagines other worlds and engages the design of architecture through telling stories. Beautiful stories about character development, relationships, curiosities and attitudes; absurd stories about fake realities that invite enticing possibilities. The stories conflate design, representation, theory, criticism, history and taste into illustrated pages. These illustrated narratives swerve into the physical world through architectural installations, models and small buildings.
Jimenez Lai is an Assistant Professor at the University of Illinois at Chicago and founder of Bureau Spectacular. He graduated with a Master of Architecture from the University of Toronto. Previously, Lai lived and worked in a desert shelter at Taliesin and resided in a shipping container at Atelier Van Lieshout on the piers of Rotterdam. His first manifesto, Citizens of No Place, was published by Princeton Architectural Press with a grant from the Graham Foundation. In 2013, Lai won the Debut Award at the Lisbon Triennale and will be representing Taiwan for the 2014 Venice Architectural Biennale.