Professor in Residence, Department of Architecture, GSD, Harvard University, Cambridge MA, USA
Modern and Site Specific:
The Architecture of Gino Valle 1945-2003
By Pierre-Alain Croset and Luka Skansi
London: Lund Humphries, 2018
250 × 190 mm
100 b/w and 150 color illustrations
£50.00 GBP (hardcover)
The Quartiere Sperimentale della Ottava Triennale [Experimental Neighborhood of the Eighth Milan Triennale], located in the northwestern periphery of Milan, survives as a significant chapter in the history of modern house and town planning. It formed part of the fast-moving expansion of the city towards the outskirts during the postwar era and represented a rupture with the past. Encompassing the investigations of those days into the threefold standardization-prefabrication-industrialization, it addressed the cogent issue of housing, while expressing a deep interest in the creation of a new urban sense of spatiality and communality. Advocating the autonomy of the suburbs, as well as their integration into the city, QT8 offered a flexible interpretation of the symbiotic relationship between center and periphery. This paper aims to provide a deeper understanding of how QT8 comprehended the term “core” as able to suggest more than a mere location. In so doing, it discusses its intersections with the broader discussions on the development of the modern city formed in those days, its vision to establish an urban social space at its center, and its ability to inform contemporary debates on the core/periphery dichotomy.
By bringing the long-neglected subject of the single-family dwelling back into today’s Italian architectural discourse, this text illustrates that the villa can be understood as both a private dwelling and a place where collective individuality is formed. Three residences designed by Malfona Peltrini Architects in the Roman countryside provide a reading of the suburban villa as a pavilion made up of a core surrounded by a shell. The concept of the pavilion emerged as a country house for pleasurable or health-related purposes, but it eventually lost its domestic dimension and was used to describe an isolated, dismantlable structure erected in a public space or a green environment. Aiming at reassessing the pavilion as a twofold architecture, the design featured here links the concept of a private house to that of a public building. By enveloping a central nucleus with a shell, or a portico, a residential pavilion broadens its domestic dimension to incorporate an institutional and collective status, similar to the Palladian villa where the portico was co-opted from sacred or public buildings and lent to the private residence.
This article seeks to trace a history of Team X’s experimentations on the issue of housing for the great number and more specifically around the theoretical background leading to the question of impermanence and indeterminacy in the architectural process. Through the writings of the Smithsons, Oskar Hansen, or John Voelcker, a theoretical framework will be defined and then put into perspective in a contemporary context. Two case studies will be discussed: Lacaton & Vassal, and Elemental. Connections will be made on the issue of indeterminacy and the concepts of “open structure” and “open aesthetics” will be promoted. These concepts presented here offer an alternative for some other possible formal developments around the question of indeterminacy. We will assess whether the pragmatism of these two contemporary architectural offices allow their proposals, beyond responding to specific situations, to claim the status of a reproducible model, such as one imagined during the 1960s.
Livestock is the largest driver of landscape change in the world, depleting land and water resources, negatively impacting biodiversity and contributing significantly to climate change. Though the environmental impact of livestock farming has been well documented, the role of the fence in shaping the form and function of livestock production landscapes deserves more attention. The evolution of fencing technology from wooden post to barbed wire has transformed vast swaths of the American landscape, facilitating agricultural intensification at the cost of ecological fragmentation. Emerging technologies in virtual fencing offer the opportunity to subvert this paradigm by electronically corralling and moving livestock via GPS-enabled collars. This article places the application of virtual fencing technologies within design discourse and outlines untapped opportunities for design intervention. The first section comprises a survey of historical and contemporary fencing technologies, highlighting the economic drivers and ecological consequences of innovation. The second section explores the emergence of sustainable ranching systems and virtual fencing technology. Finally, a speculative design proposal considers the potential of responsive fencing technologies to reformat grazing landscapes for adaptation and ecological production.
This article studies the changing role of line in architecture. The paper argues that digital production has led to a subsequent shift of lines as trace, towards lines as “spatialized” thread. This thread is moving away from orthographic and perspective modes of representation through three embedded modes of conception: the digital model, diagram and notation. These new lines have a long and alternative lineage in architectural ideation. The paper explains each mode in turn, indicating the importance of the model as a line in space embedded since the very inception of western architectural discourse; the edifying role of the diagram as a line of operation clarifying architectural ideas; and the new material ground that links notation to fabrication, and continued actualization in the pursuit of new architectural ideas. By expanding the line in architecture, the digital line better connects emerging representational modes to established architectural thinking and opens new ground to further representational discourse.
In April 2017, the Beijing municipal government enacted a new, three-year urban renewal policy that is aimed to restore and improve the built environment of the 2,435 alleyways located in the historic center of the city. The local implementation, however, has focused on the sealing of doors and windows that led to homes and small businesses for decades. As a result, thousands of businesses that had provided daily services to local residents have shut down, forcing many people to move to other cities. Drawing on archival research and interviews, this article argues that the Beijing municipal government is merely using urban renewal as camouflage for a politically-oriented gentrification project which not only eliminates non-permanent residents, but also deconstructs, as well as reconstructs, “place” at the local level as a means to control social activities and relationships. The result is the creation of a new image of the capital of China, which exhibits the ideas of regularity, singularity, segregation, and authoritarianism.
More than three million Americans experience homelessness annually. Emergency shelter capacity is limited while local governments are unable to provide even temporary housing. Informal housing involving interim self-help solutions are now popular adaptive actions for obtaining shelter, despite nonconformance with city codes. Unfortunately, most informal solutions have resulted in objectionable tent cities and squatter campgrounds where the local response has simply been to move the problem around. Our homeless transition village plan prototypes a shelter-first solution using a kit-of-parts
that can be replicated in other communities. Village design reconciles key gaps between informal building practices and formal sector regulations, creating a permittable solution under most city codes. While informality is traditionally associated with the “topography” of unplanned hyper-growth in developing nation economies — and not with design disciplines or advanced economies— our project highlights informality as a mode for effecting new urban solutions within obdurate regulatory environments. Indeed, the informal has emerged as an important design epistemology in advanced market economies given the polarization of their economies and the need for distributive justice.
This paper, based on the author’s new book The Urban Fix: Resilient Cities in the War against Climate Change, Heat Islands and Overpopulation (2019), culminates over three decades of researching, teaching, and writing on American sprawl. One of the country’s biggest and most familiar problems, it could be described as a conspiracy of good intentions: short-sighted desires to live in nature; traffic safety engineers’ preference for wide thoroughfares; fire marshals’ desire to turn around hook-and-ladder trucks at the end of every cul-de-sac, etc. Over half of American homes are single-family dwellings – 69 million out of a total of 132 million. The fatal flaw is that these positive intentions quickly led to very high energy/carbon/ecological footprints per suburbanite – a challenge that is difficult because of extensive, indelible infrastructure. Densifying arterial strips, inserting transit, redeveloping a walkable, bikeable, mixed-use, and human-scaled urbanity is as urgent as it is essential in the nation’s effort to combat climate change.
Originally, the design for the Canada Pavilion (1958) was developed by the Milan-based firm BBPR from the willingness to achieve an anti-monumental set up, referring to the teepee and translating and expressing its spirit in a modern architectural system. Our goal for the restoration (2014-18) was therefore to preserve the building with a special attention to various themes concerning restoration and, in fact, different solutions were studied for the many details to be able to respond to all institutional representatives: the Italian Superintendence for Historic Preservation, the National Gallery of Canada, the Venice Biennale and the Municipality of Venice. The relationship between nature and architecture was one of the major issues to consider.
The new office building of the A.T.E. Group – a cutting-edge engineering group based in the outskirts of Ahmedabad (India) along the Delhi-Ahmedabad highway – works as an extension to its adjacent existing factory. Diversifying from the ordinary existing factory shed scenery, the building uses technological innovation and landscape as key elements to serve both as an aesthetic surface and a performative office space. Through multiple layers of natural cooling techniques embedded in and wrapping around occupied spaces, the corporate office works in partnership with the seasonal and climatic flows. Indoor and outdoor spaces flow into each other as well as both the existing factory and the new office complex are fluidly embedded within the surrounding landscape. With low carbon footprint and minimal use of active energy, the building creates comfortable environmental conditions while countering the local conditions of extreme heat, dryness, and variations in temperature through the day and year.
This article proposes a new approach towards the design and planning of social housing destined to residents living in informal settlements of Brazil. It is aimed at restoring the proximity between the labor and domestic functions within the spatial domain of the house. This need emerges from a field research aimed at addressing the spatial logics emplaced by residents in Brazilian favelas. The integration proposed in the article is meant to be achieved with the combined goal of improving the living conditions of the residents, sustaining also their socio-economic development, while promoting also the economy of the city. Graphic guidelines are shown to the reader after a critical analysis of the main systems of housing currently emplaced for unprivileged people.
In the spring of 2018, the National Center for Smart Growth (NCSG) invited architects at the University of Maryland to engage a project called PRESTO (Prospects for Regional Sustainability Tomorrow). PRESTO is believed to be the first attempt at addressing the long-term sustainability of the DC-Baltimore region using advanced algorithmic modeling and scenario analysis techniques to examine the impacts of fuel costs, technological advancement, and government regulation. This article highlights contributions of the DC-Baltimore Futures: Designing XL to XS studio as it engaged the multi-disciplinary NCGS team on PRESTO, which is described in this article as a geodesign project. The impact of collective creativity as part of DC-Baltimore Futures studio pedagogy is discussed as one of the many ways that the PRESTO algorithms were tested. The article concludes with reflections on the role and potential of collective creativity in open source modes of geodesign and “senseable” city design.
This paper speculates on how new forms of dwelling might be re-conceived as more nimble, flexible components: ones capable of deploying to different sites and atmospheres, while simultaneously providing more broadly distributed access to amenities that otherwise remain limited to the privileged few. Specifically, it examines the notion of a mobile dwelling architecture that could be deployed to various sites across the city - each site being characterized by particular “niche” offerings. Here, rather than dwelling units being considered as static entities within the urban fabric, they are re-considered as nimble, deployable agents - able to relocate to different sites and settings in accordance with different parameters that are customized through individual cost-benefit analyses and feedback dynamics. Accordingly, over time, bottom-up, self-organizing “niches” of fit inhabitation emerge. The paper associates this kind of designed environment with the dynamics of complex adaptive systems - where emergent global features arise from the bottom-up. Here, a kind of “swarm” urbanism is deployed: one adjusting over time in response to atmospheric variables.
This paper describes a participatory development strategy that leverages the cooperative nature of a sharing economy. Three case studies will be explored that provide unique strategies for empowering community. These crowdsourced projects pool resources and expertise in order to design and build projects that resist gentrification, stimulate investment, and build community. Residents utilize the participatory actions of establishing a pro forma, acquiring land, securing financing, selecting professional engineers and contractors, and ultimately constructing the project all as larger components of community building. The models of community development presented here offer an alternative to the traditional designer-client dichotomy and allow the once-clear boundary between architect and client to be redrawn. Also, by sharing resources, community members are able to become active participants in their built environment.
Vandalism is an alternative form of design narrative, a subversive practice of reading architecture and urban systems, and a fundamental way key voices can be heard. Architects, city planners, officials and the public should value such reads as constructive engagement enriching the life of a built work. Architecture usually results from elaborate systems of power, capital, and privilege - though its presence affects everyone in the city. In the periphery of public space, dynamic alternative practices emerge that communicate and critique. Vandalism, especially in areas of contested “ownership” in public space, is an architectural counterpoint, a dissent available to people without conventional means of power. It is intrinsically linked to the pedestrian experience of cities, and therefore opens reconsideration of walking as knowing, especially in an urban terrain vague [empty lot]. Technologies of sharing allow us to broadcast transgressions, track goings on, exploit urban problems for artistic gain, and conduct vandalism in public space. Focusing attention on a public farm building designed collaboratively within an urban park will frame broader discussion of these complex relationships at work, specifically considering vandalism as a form of engagement.
In the nineties, it was widely assumed that, because of the internet and widespread connectivity, the importance of physical space would be greatly reduced. Many prophecies at the time dealt with the “death” of distance, of cities and of offices, among others. While such predictions have not materialized so far, technology is nonetheless having an effect on how we use physical space. In particular, office spaces are undergoing a profound transformation. In this article, we review a recent project from Massachusetts Institute of Technology’s (MIT) Senseable City Lab, which used the analysis of digital data to better understand the use of office space and scientific collaboration on the MIT campus. We then show how some of these preliminary findings can be used in the design of the co-working space at the Agnelli Foundation in Turin, Italy - and how digital data can then provide real-time monitoring of built spaces.
Commoning describes the social and psychological process that individuals and collectives are involved in as they establish and manage space and life shared in common. The values that underpin commoning can be adapted by spatial and urban designers to privilege and encourage more inclusive and shared social, civic and environmental conditions and disrupt existing models and economic forces that currently organise private and public space. Commoning produces spaces and social relations through participation, developing in the protagonists a sense of agency over their lives. Design practitioners with interests in the processes of commoning can engage with those values to interrupt the homogenization of communities and the cauterization of spatial imagination by commercial imperatives. Drawing on design precedents, theorists and activists involved with various aspects of contemporary commoning, this paper proposes how designers can be informed and guided by the interrelated spatial and social modes of productions that are integral to commoning. Through a commitment to commoning, spatial designers can encourage and support commoning and proliferate values capable of transforming the future.
Why is sharing important to our civilization, our cities and the earth? It is critical, even essential to our survival, because without it, we will overconsume the planet’s resources and overheat it. It is of paramount importance that we find ways to increase prosperity without economic growth, or better yet, to achieve degrowth. Sharing our assets, our services and places, even our activities and experiences may be our best hope to reduce the human ecological, energy and carbon footprints. Whether a reformed version of capitalism or a fundamentally new economy, the sharing city and no-growth ethic form a large, profound and open question. In any case, from an energy use and emissions point of view, doubling energy and technological efficiency or doubling the intensity of asset use though sharing have much the same impact - whether it is cars, transit, homes, equipment, offices or workshops. This realization opens up a huge new opportunity for reforming or replacing neo-liberal capitalism with longer-term thinking and more humane economics.