I will be exhibiting my MA Architecture work at the Dreamspace Gallery London
3 Dufferin Street, London
Opening Evening Tuesday 8th Jan 6 - 9 pm
Exhibition open 8th - 11th Jan 2013, 10am - 5pm
About the exhibition:
Through a series of careful and reflective studies of everywhere I have ever considered ‘home’, this exhibition explores the possibility of the ephemeral qualities of architectural space such as memory, identity and persona being represented through the accepted practice of architectural drawing of the ‘physical’. The process of selection and drawing of ‘moments’ or periods of time captured within the drawings suggests a hierarchy of life events that read as a diary. Subsequently, the collection of studies seek to approbate architectural drawing as a media for representing and testing one’s notion of ‘self’. It is hoped that the drawings might stimulate in the viewer a recollection of spaces and objects that imbue a sense of their own identity.
I have published a book which identifies theories of mat-urbanism, landscape urbanism and void metabolism as conceptual apparatus that can be applied concurrently as a means of reanimating the voids within the contemporary city using an adaptive social ecology. It strongly approbates rejuvenation of the city in an adaptive manner, adopting flexibility as an important criteria in the future of our cities, and utilising landscape to activate and occupy it in new ways that blur the existing boundaries between ecology and architecture. The hope is for a cityscape that is open to public interpretation and evolves with the social needs and requirements of the city’s inhabitants.
Ecological Metabolism: In Pursuit of Landscape’s Equality in the Urban realm is available to buy online here
London 2050: What Would You Do? Edited by Carla Novak and Ellen Ward
London’s Confinement of Landscape
During my visit to London I discovered there are several confinements of ecology – fences around trees, iron railing around public gardens. These boundaries set out by town planners, stop landscape from integrating with the infrastructure of London, increasingly enforcing the impression that ecology is something that has to be controlled to be enjoyed. By setting out restrictions of what is allowed in these public spaces (no ball games) or by predefining with painted lines (tennis courts, football pitches) then it restricts the interpretation of what the public may want.
Residential squares form around a semi-public garden contained within a strict boundary of railings and trees. Attempts have been made by the planting to escape these confined territories, however overzealous gardening and council rules counteracts these actions.
A video on Odham’s Walk
Odham’s Walk: Blurring the boundaries with ecology
Odham’s Walk, designed by Donald Ball, has be considered an ‘Oasis of Calm’ by many, mainly due to the integration of landscape into the design process. Each of the flats have their own patios and balconies with planting boarder incorporated into them. These planters are all full with foliage that overflows leaking over the walls and walkways, creating a multi-leveled array of architecture and landscape. The ecology spills over the sides of the development into the streets surrounding it. Careful attention to planting meant that even in December, there was still a flourish of greenery that created a quiet oasis in central London.
I found this development interesting as it incorporated ecology into the design. This consideration allowed landscape to explore the angular architecture and surfaces, spilling over borders and breaking the boundary between surfaces.
It is my aim to explore the existing micro-territories and boundaries within which Landscape is allowed to occupy the contemporary city, the stifling of the latent potential of landscape’s ecological thickness (as identified by Stan Allen) by the overzealous human control of self-generating landscape urbanism in the urban environment, the prohibition by the city of landscape occupying anything other than the ground plane (beyond merely gestural green roofs and walls etc) and its banishment to the familiarity of such urban typologies as ‘parks’ and ‘public green spaces’.
Using James Corner’s theories of Landscape Urbanism and using ideas explored by the Japanese Pavilion at the Venice biennale 2010 ‘Tokyo Metabolising’ I want to investigate the implications of the ways in which we infill voids in the urban layer, creating sites for the ecological thickness of landscape and the numerous surfaces and textures offered by the city to merge and therefore generate a hybridisation of the two. These accidental occurrences happen when landscape and urbanism collide, creating moments of integration between the two, but the prevention of this process is rigidly enforced by the notion within the city of ‘landscape’ as a foreign body of which we should be wary. When they are left unattended they blend into each other creating juxtapositions of the two fields.
New York High Line
‘Tokyo Metabolising’ suggested a new urban landscape that embraces the voids left by old buildings in the city of Tokyo. There is a situation that appears in Tokyo where plots are getting smaller and buildings are always changing and adapting according to the owners life cycle. Therefore the theory is to embrace the changes within micro-territories, which ‘only exist as phantom entities.’ (2010)
‘Tokyo metabolising’, The official japan pavilion at the architecture biennale in venice
There are existing boundaries that society enforces between urbanism and landscape, placing one as bad and one as good, however James Corner considers an integration between the two. I wish to explore this further by altering the scale and looking at smaller territories, investigating the boundaries we put up to control the blurring of these two layers. (i.e Fences around trees, concrete between paving etc, weed spraying, the rigorous maintenance of the suburban front garden) and the means in which we control landscape within familiar urban typologies such as parks, both in our design and occupation of them. Also noteworthy is the ecological potential for different organisms sharing their territories
To carry out this investigation I’m going to observe existing instances of when these breaking of territories occur, Japanese micro architecture and the way they are nested into the cityscape and consider theories of landscape Urbanism (James Corner), theories of Mat Urbanism (Stan Allan and Alison Smithson) and investigations of boundaries and territories (William Mitchell).
At the moment Landscape and the city are viewed as separate entities, the urbanist endless control within the city. There are potential surfaces and territories in the city that could be used as potential sites for landscape to break free of its restriction of the landplane. Therefore landscape could reach its potential to define new types of space and change the way we view and use the city.
Corner, J (2006) Terra Fluxus in Waldheim, Charles. The Landscape Urbanism Reader. Princeton pp.21-33
Allen, Stan (1999) Field Conditions. In: Sykes, A. Krista. Constructing a New Agenda pp118-113
Allen, Stan (2002) Mat Urbanism: The Thick 2D. In Sarkis, Hashim CASE: Le Corbusier’s Venice Hospital and the Mat Building Revival. Prestel pp 118-126
Mitchell, William J (2003) Boundaries/Networks in: Sykes, A Krista. Constructing a New Agenda pp 226 – 245
Japanese Pavilion at the Venice biennale 2010 ‘Tokyo Metabolising’
‘Toward the Archipelago’ by Pier Vittorio Aureli is a speculative piece that criticises contemporary urbanism within the discursive context of historical urban manifestations and the known architectural movements that respond to and shape them. The term ‘archipelago’ (meaning a group of Islands) was suggested by Koolhaas when describing his critical model ‘The Square of the Captive Globe’ set on Manhattan’s gridded road system, using the term to describe his collection of inimitable blocks set out on a repetitive grid: ‘The grid is a sea, and the plots are the islands’ (2008:106). This project is a statement on the ‘Isotropic principle and the potential for infinite development’ (2008:105) as instigated by Cerda’s Barcelona grid as a means of using the urban realm to deploy capitalist tactics. Another project that Aureli cites is Archizoom’s ‘No-Stop City’. Archizoom, founded by Andrea Banzi, was a design studio that set out to create large-scale installations and urban visions. The No-Stop City was ’an ironic critique of the ideology of architectural modernism taking onto its absurd limits: The real revolution in radical architecture is the revolution of kitsch: mass cultural consumption, pop art, an industrial-commercial language. There is the idea of radicalizing the industrial component of modern architecture to the extreme.’ (2000) Archizoom’s No-Stop City (1969) Both of these projects act as visions of the dangerous potential of extreme urbanisation. Aureli suggests that urbanisation is the infrastructure of capitalist product and uses the operations of the city to make money: ‘The essence of Urbanisation is therefore the destruction of any limits, boundary, or form that is not the infinite, compulsive repetition of its own reproduction, and the consequent totalising mechanism of control that guarantees this process of infinity’ (2008:99) These projects suggest urbanisation in an exaggerated state, but are in many ways prophetic. Underlying every new town is the desire to make money, and with the current economic climate, this is an elevated circumstance. If urbanism continues to be ruled by the process of urbanisation, then it can never truly claim to be responsive to the needs of its inhabitants, and urban design becomes nothing more than the provision of certain criteria in order to generate capital. Aureli, Pier Vittorio (2008) Toward the Archipleago. Log 11 http://www.medienkunstnetz.de/works/no-stop-city/ (Accessed on 9th December 2010)
‘Toward the Archipelago’ by Pier Vittorio Aureli is a speculative piece that criticises contemporary urbanism within the discursive context of historical urban manifestations and the known architectural movements that respond to and shape them. The term ‘archipelago’ (meaning a group of Islands) was suggested by Koolhaas when describing his critical model ‘The Square of the Captive Globe’ set on Manhattan’s gridded road system, using the term to describe his collection of inimitable blocks set out on a repetitive grid: ‘The grid is a sea, and the plots are the islands’ (2008:106). This project is a statement on the ‘Isotropic principle and the potential for infinite development’ (2008:105) as instigated by Cerda’s Barcelona grid as a means of using the urban realm to deploy capitalist tactics.
Another project that Aureli cites is Archizoom’s ‘No-Stop City’. Archizoom, founded by Andrea Banzi, was a design studio that set out to create large-scale installations and urban visions. The No-Stop City was ’an ironic critique of the ideology of architectural modernism taking onto its absurd limits: The real revolution in radical architecture is the revolution of kitsch: mass cultural consumption, pop art, an industrial-commercial language. There is the idea of radicalizing the industrial component of modern architecture to the extreme.’ (2000)
Archizoom’s No-Stop City (1969)
Both of these projects act as visions of the dangerous potential of extreme urbanisation. Aureli suggests that urbanisation is the infrastructure of capitalist product and uses the operations of the city to make money: ‘The essence of Urbanisation is therefore the destruction of any limits, boundary, or form that is not the infinite, compulsive repetition of its own reproduction, and the consequent totalising mechanism of control that guarantees this process of infinity’ (2008:99)
These projects suggest urbanisation in an exaggerated state, but are in many ways prophetic. Underlying every new town is the desire to make money, and with the current economic climate, this is an elevated circumstance. If urbanism continues to be ruled by the process of urbanisation, then it can never truly claim to be responsive to the needs of its inhabitants, and urban design becomes nothing more than the provision of certain criteria in order to generate capital.
Aureli, Pier Vittorio (2008) Toward the Archipleago. Log 11
http://www.medienkunstnetz.de/works/no-stop-city/ (Accessed on 9th December 2010)
In the essay Stim & Dross: Rethinking the Metropolis Lars Lerup attempts to indentify urbanism (in the case of this essay, the American city of Houston) in terms of Stim and Dross; these relate to points in time and space of high and low intensity. In the first page of his essay he defines Stim as stimulation, and Dross as waste products or worthless(ness). He then defines and locates Stim and Dross within the architectural language of urbanism; Stim can be loosely identified as the main city landscape and its operation, and Dross as the resultant suburban sprawl. He finds the blurring of the two particularly interesting: “I was interested in a kind of suburban architecture: plain box buildings, shopping centers, that kind of sprawl.” (86:1995)
Houston Skyline, Texas, USA
Lerup observes the town in layers, considering the city as canopies, downtown areas and airspace “This double reading brings canopy and downtown together conceptually since driving inside the Downtown may prompt an appreciation of its megashape […]” (86:1995). He describes the existence of Stim and Dross as a vital aspects of a metropolis city, and their dual existence as a stimulus for interesting architectural to occur and develop; “Only in the hybrid field of stimdross may we begin to rethink and then recover from this holey plane some of the many potential futures.” (99:1995)
Lerup’s Diagram of Zoohemic/Aerial Fields: Stim and Dross (1995)
I agree with Lerup’s ideology of the importance of Stim and Dross, that the balance of the two can be an important site for juxtapositions of interest and potential new urbanisms. However the essay is written with the case study of Houston only, and it would be a useful experiment to consider the application of this theory to other existing urban landscapes.
I feel that Lerup’s Theory is aligned with certain aspects of Allen’s ‘Mat-Urbanism’: the notion of viewing the urbanism in layers, and the ensuing flat landscapes of sprawling suburbia as a potential site for new kinds of urbanism to manifest themselves, with the city providing peaks of activity and the suburban landscape providing the space for people to actually live. Lerup, evolves the theory into a reality, suggesting that not all areas of the city are a hive of activity, that activity and programme are transient and that the urbanite and indeed the city itself experience and rely just as much on areas of seemingly less activity. Therefore, in order to have Stim, the metropolis must also have Dross, and vice versa.
Lerup, Lars (1995) Stim & Dross: Rethinking the Metropolis. Assemblage (25) pp. 83 - 100
Antony Vidler proposes that architecture has blurred distinctions between art, architecture and sculpture:
‘What I want to do here is place in perspective a few issues surrounding debates over architecture, its characteristics of display, representation and, as has been advanced, spectacle. For in the face of the increased blurring of the distinctions among painting, sculpture, and architecture through practices and the rest, “media specificity” has once again emerged as a critical watchword.’ (2005:322)
He seems to be approbating the importance of treading carefully when considering the arts concurrently, and perhaps most vehemently, the notion of architecture being criticised by the same means as other art forms, given its different social and pragmatic roles:
‘How do we define, and thereby ensure that individual integrity of each art as a practice when there no longer seems to be any division between the special and the textural, or more problematically in the case of sculpture and architecture, between the aesthetically contrasted spatial and the functionally constructed spatial?’(2005:322)
He then continues to investigate this idea further by considering Frank Gehry’s sculptural concepts, and the consequential deriving of Gehry’s architectural form from merely sculptural tendencies, or perhaps more importantly with regards to this point, the idea of deriving a rationale primarily out of issues of form and its influence on function. I agree with Vidler that architecture must have a clear and rigorously investigated set of agendas within which to site the project, rather than allowing the whims and fancies of formic predilection to govern how we use a building after it has been designed. However I do believe that as designers, we can learn a lot from all aspects of arts, sculpture, literature and to treat them as separate entities not only ignores the social and political forces that have influenced them all (both collectively and separately), but misses an opportunity for outward looking, dynamic architecture.
Frank Gehry, Hotel marques de Riscal, Spain
Vidler makes a fair and pertinent point in suggesting that there are potential pitfalls in thinking and practicing like a sculptor or painter; many architects create large sculptural forms that arguably dismiss issues of physical, social and political context (despite their protestations otherwise in many cases) and represent the antithesis of genuine architectural discourse, instead representing merely the architects own interest rather than what the town or city needs.
Zaha Hadid Architects, Kartal-Pendik Masterplan, 2006
The question of ‘Form vs Function’ has continued to produce lively debates in the architectural profession since the pre-modernist era. Stan Allen’s Mat Urbanism fervently advocates a form–in–reaction–to-function approach to architecture, which for me holds more weight than, for instance, Zaha Hadid’s work; which might be observed as an overtly-sculptural and rigorously maintained architectural brand. Patrik Schumacher, Hadid’s partner in crime, attempts to justify Hadid’s style using the theory of Parametricism; that of designing within a set of supposedly pre-defined parameters concerned primarily with the deriving of form by computer scripting rather than in response to any issues or architectural undercurrent beyond the desk of the particular intern paid peanuts (it’s an honour to work there don’t you know) to reproduce it, and responding only to the prolific self-indulgence of the firm and its self-justification.
According to Schumacher,
‘It aims to establish a complex variegated spatial order, using scripting to differentiate and correlate all elements and subsystems of a design […] Today it is impossible to compete within the contemporary avant-garde scene without mastering these techniques.’ (2008)
In response to Schumacher’s approach, architectural blogger Dino Marcantonio states that ‘In other words, the job of the architect is not to apply his intelligence, his cultivation, and the lessons of his forebears to design an elegant, legible, and beautiful solution to a particular problem, but rather it is to formulate an algorithm which is universally applicable. The computer then crunches the numbers and out pops the design. Now if that is not reductivism at its most extreme, I don’t know what is.’ (2010)
This statement, for me, perfectly summises the primary argument against Parametricism. I agree with Marcantonio’s view, and I don’t believe that designing should be constrained to the restrictions of a computer programme, nor do I believe that a building should not be contextual in the place in which it stands. Celebri-tecture, parametricism, and the reduction of architecture to mere branding produces ‘architects that are nothing more than the lap dog of global capitalism’(2010) and not, as Schumacher describes, a new architectural movement.
Compressed Complexity: Zaha Hadid Architects, University of Applied Arts, Vienna, Austria, 2006
Therefore, the problem with designing like a sculptor is that, despite the architects justifications, the building is quite rightly open to criticism in the same way that sculpture is, and architectural discourse is reduced to arguments of form and self-indulgence. This will inevitably have cumulatively damaging effects on the profession of architecture, and more importantly, on the direction and manifestation of contemporary and future urbanism.
Poliquin, Kim (2010) http://shiftboston.blogspot.com/2009/08/parametricism-new-global-style-for.html (Accessed 28th November 2010)
Poliquin, Kim (2010) http://shiftboston.blogspot.com/2009/08/parametricism-new-global-style-for.html (Accessed 28th November 2010)Schumacher, Patrik (2008) http://www.patrikschumacher.com/Texts/Parametricism%20as%20Style.htm (Accessed 28th November 2010)
James Corner’s essay Terra Fluxus presents an intriguing insight to the use of landscape in an urban environment, claiming that landscaping, green space, is just as important as structures in urbanism; allowing the landscape to manipulate the network of buildings creating public areas and points of interaction as important ‘in-between space’. The traditional role of pastoral green space in urban environments is to convey a feeling of fresh air and a healthy atmosphere in the congestion of the urban realm; ‘Cities are seen to be busy with the technology of high density building, transportation infrastructures, and revenue-producing development, the undesirable effects of which include congestion, pollution, and various forms of social stress; whereas landscape, in the form of parks, greenways, street trees, esplanades, and gardens, is generally seen to provide both salve and respite from the deleterious effects of urbanism’ (2006:22). However, Corner proposes that there should be an overlap of the two, that urban spaces can become entwined with landscape and concomitantly effect and mediate the city.
CJ Lim - Guangming Energy Park
The potential of Terra Fluxus is in its role as a new generator of urbanism, with Terra loosely defined as earth, ground, land and Fluxus as flowing, fluid, loose: ‘The designation terra firma (firm, not changing; fixed and definite) gives way in favor of the shifting processes coursing through and across the urban field: Terra Fluxus’ (2006:32), the notion that the landscape can work in balance with the urban environment to create societies that will ‘contribute to the overall health and well-being of the urban population.’ (2006:22). As Stan Allen discusses in his essay Mat Urbanism, Corner believes that the union of landscape and urbanism can create ‘new relational and systemic workings across territories of vast scale and scope’ (2006:33). Thus, green-space and its inherent ecology is not just ‘placed’ into the urbanism as mere gesture, for example in Hyde park, but woven into the infrastructure of the city, blurring the edges of landscape and urbanism.Corner shares similar views as William McDonough with regard to using town planning to create optimum social interaction and organize the city in the form of tactile paths, waterways and parks (in a similar vein to McDonough’s Rooftop Farming project in Liuzhou, Guangxi, People’s Republic of China).
The concept and indeed potential of using natural ecology has increased with the ever-changing twenty first century city, perhaps because of the growing awareness of global warming and a desire to engage in sustainable design on a municipal scale. It begs the question of whether living in green or semi-green urbanism inspires us to have a greener lifestyle, and does ‘putting people in touch with this fictional image called ‘nature’ […] predispose everybody to a more reverent relationship with the earth and with one another?’ (2006:30) Corner proposes that its not a difference between right and wrong, with landscape innately positive and urbanism negative, but both can learn and take on attributes of each other in driving the future of urbanism forwards. Corner claims that with rising populations in cities set to continue, maintaining the traditional notion of landscape competing with rather than working in conjunction with urbanism will lead to a failure of architects and urban planners to make any ‘significant contributions to future urban formations.’ (2006:30)
However, I feel the idea of Landscape Urbanism goes beyond mere sustainability, and looks to nature as territory that can be manipulated into the urban domain: ‘We have yet to understand cultural, social, political and economic environments as embedded in and symmetrical with the ‘natural’ world.’(2006:32)
Corner, J (2006) Terra Fluxus in Waldheim, Charles. The Landscape Urbanism Reader. Princeton pp.21-33
Corner, J (2006) Terra Fluxus in Waldheim, Charles. The Landscape Urbanism Reader. Princeton pp.21-33
TAICHUNG GATEWAY PROJECT by Stan Allen, frequent collaborator with James Corner/Field Operations
Terra Fluxus in action