William J Mitchell has a way of observing everything with an architectural view. In the text Boundaries/Networks he begins by explaining multiple boundaries that we are encased in everyday; skin, clothes, room, doors, buildings etc. This first paragraph encouraged me to observe everyday objects and ask the question: are boundaries infinite? Of course all boundaries have a scale, when designing one must consider how far a boundary may stretch and consider how far a boundary will affect a person.
Along side these boundaries are layered networks. In the last ten years or so since the text has been printed there has been a fast growing virtual network in the form of the internet. These social networks have an intriguing dynamic as even though you may appear more in touch with people virtually, you are not necessarily connected to people physically. One can question whether your 200+ friends on facebook are really your friends or maybe just people that occasionally ‘facebook stalk’ your photos. Of course your online profile is not actually ‘the real you’ either, adaptable at will to project a self-image of your choice, so is your virtual presence a true perception of you as a person? Mitchell considers the concept of technological networks as something positive: ‘Unassigned space, [that which] used to be thought of as non-productive space, is actually where all the real action happens’ (2005). It is possible that in the future one would not even need to occupy an office in which to carry out business, merely access to a wireless connection. Of course, humans are social animals, and I believe that we are more productive working together.
The concept of ‘mat urbanism’ developed from Alison Smithson’s initial observations of mat buildings, which can be identified by grids, and networks of space and modular components devoid of any hierarchy. Stan Allen then took this idea further by applying the idea to wider urbanism; by looking at projects with the concept of mat urbanism we might find a better means of dealing with issues on an urban level.
Referring to the 1963 Candilis, Josic and Woods Frankfurt competition entry, Stan Allen states
‘This sprawling assemblage of non-coincident laminar plates spills out of and around the existing monuments of the city, creating a dense interconnected fabric. The boundary is indeterminate, and if imagined as an urban experience, the building could never be perceived as a whole…. Perhaps by renaming these phenomena ‘mat urbanism we might find new uses for old strategies’ (2001:123)
Mat urbanism considers a network of ‘in-between spaces’ that are laid out in a mat like, horizontal manner, with buildings that are designed for the present by being created for the needs of the community now. However, mat urbanism has no boundaries, the urban realm continues to expand as needed.
Stan Allen: Diagrams of Field Conditions
Networking within Mat urbanism
Mat urbanism was, for me, a quietly revolutionary idea of the 20th Century:
‘The mat answers the recurring calls for indeterminacy in size and shape, flexibility in use, and mixture in program. It expresses architecture’s increasing encroachment on both city and landscape and as the open exchange between structure (building) and infrastructure (context) that this encroachment professes’ (2003)
Allen evolved idea of Smithson’s mat building is an intriguing propositions for new urban approaches. It is important therefore to consider whether mat urbanism can be applied to different scales of urbanism? Would mat urbanism necessarily work on a larger scale, and subsequently, for a higher density of populous?
Of course the idea of mat urbanism is that it is flexible so it is possible that it could be adapted to almost anywhere in the world, acting as form-in-reaction-to-function architecture that would constantly evolve. The networks that Mitchell considers evolve in the same way, keeping up with the demand from the people that use it, using digital space like the in-between space suggested by Allen. Will these new virtual networks and boundaries increasingly spread through out virtual and non-virtual space? As long as our desire to be plugged-in to an ever-increasing level of communication continues, then inevitably it will hold a fundamental grasp on our architecture, and perhaps even transform and replace it. Already we are beginning to see a new revolution of virtual urbanism that is adding a further, increasingly fascinating dimension to the concept of the ‘mat’.
Sarkis,Hashim(2003) ://www.gsd.harvard.edu/research/publications/case/book_venice_excerpt.htm (Accessed 8th November 2010)
Harkin, James (2005) http://www.guardian.co.uk/technology/2005/nov/26/news.comment (Accessed 8th November 2010)
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
1. Can Mat Urbanism be applied to different scales of Urbanism? 2. Is ‘inbetween space’ more important than the architecture itself? 3. Are all boundaries infinite?
1. Can Mat Urbanism be applied to different scales of Urbanism?
2. Is ‘inbetween space’ more important than the architecture itself?
3. Are all boundaries infinite?
William McDonough created the Hannover principles in 1992, these principles were:
1.Insist on rights of humanity and nature to co-exist in a healthy, supportive, diverse and sustainable condition.
2. Recognise interdependence. The elements of human design interact with and depend upon the natural world, with broad and diverse implications at every scale. Expand design considerations to recognising even distant effects.
3. Respect relationships between spirit and matter. Consider all aspects of human settlement including community, dwelling, industry and trade in terms of existing and evolving connections between spiritual and material consciousness.
4. Accept responsibility for the consequences of design decisions upon human well-being, the viability of natural systems and their right to co-exist.
5. Create safe objects of long-term value. Do not burden future generations with requirements for maintenance or vigilant administration of potential danger due to the careless creation of products, processes or standards.
6. Eliminate the concept of waste. Evaluate and optimize the full life-cycle of products and processes, to approach the state of natural systems, in which there is no waste.
7. Rely on natural energy flows. Human designs should, like the living world, derive their creative forces from perpetual solar income. Incorporate this energy efficiently and safely for responsible use.
8. Understand the limitations of design. No human creation lasts forever and design does not solve all problems. Those who create and plan should practice humility in the face of nature. Treat nature as a model and mentor, not as an inconvenience to be evaded or controlled.
9. Seek constant improvement by the sharing of knowledge. Encourage direct and open communication between colleagues, patrons, manufacturers and users to link long term sustainable considerations with ethical responsibility, and re-establish the integral relationship between natural processes and human activity.
The Hannover Principles were viewed as a living document, therefore as nature evolves so too will the nine principles. These principles were to be used as a platform for other designers to adapt their ideas towards more sustainable ends; it was these first principles that would later develop into the ‘cradle to cradle’ design principle.
Cradle to cradle design means to continuously use man-made materials, replicating the way nature reuses (by)products in a resourceful, non-wasteful manner. With natural resources running out the push for sustainable architecture has become increasing more important, and its role within design and urbanism has escalated inexorably since the 1990s. However McDonough has gone one step further than nature by introducing a formula that will eliminate waste completely.
Although McDonough’s cradle to cradle principles are focused on man made materials, he does not seem to criticise them, stating ‘we aim to celebrate human creativity and the abundance of the living earth with designs that create mutually beneficial relationships between people and the natural world.’(2009:219)
I find his view on sustainability intriguing. Too many designers will place a green roof or a solar panel on their building and call it sustainable; however McDonough has observed the problems that we have created for ourselves and considered ways in which to genuinely fix them. We are producing too much waste, and the majority of it is man-made, however the cradle to cradle design ideology suggests that the more we introspectively observe earth’s natural processes and take into account ways in which to eliminate waste, the more we can protect the planet’s resources and limit unnecessary damage.
Concept for Rooftop Farming - Liuzhou, Guangxi, People’s Republic of China
His design practice creates master planning projects, for example the roof top farming project in Liuzhou, which are not only sustainable but consider how they will affect the communities occupying it, as well as town planning schemes that strive for maximum social engagement, structures that promote walking and healthy activities in forms of parks and footpaths, and overall design decisions to make the water cleaner, the air fresher and the people happier. His designs are thoughtful and show an obvious desire to inspire the designing world to making a difference.
Braungart, Michael & McDonough, William (2003) From the Principles to Practice: Creating A Sustaining Architecture for the twenty-first Century In: Krista Sykes, A. Constructing a New Agenda pp. 216-225
McDonough, William (1992) Hannover Principles http://www.mcdonough.com/principles.pdf (Accessed 6th Nov 2010)
HERO Children’s Centre, Greensboro, AL ,1998 Thesis Project
The facility was originally used by social workers and law enforcement officials to interview and counsel children. Before its completion, there were no facilities of this kind in Hale County. Previously, authorities had to make a one-hour trip to Tuscaloosa in order to take the children to a comfortable, friendly environment. The space is currently used as a traditional classroom for HERO’s GED and YouthBuild programs.
Samuel Mockbee started Rural Studio in the 1990s with the students at Auburn University in order to create inexpensive design solutions for poor communities in South America. Reusing waste materials, such as car windshields and tyres, they created cheap sustainable architecture that really made a difference to the communities that they were being designing for.
Mockbee states that ‘all architects expect and hope their work will act in some sense as a servant for humanity – to make a better world’ (2009:105), and I feel that this is true. I believe that an architect has a certain obligation to create architecture that will benefit the community and people that will occupy it. He also states that ‘Architects are given the gift of second sight’ (2009:109), meaning that architects have the power to act on situations that are presented and not have to wait for the government to begin dealing with social, economical and environmental issues, and instead create architecture as a direct response. I couldn’t agree more with Mockbee. If architects do have the skills and resources to create architecture that can change and better peoples lives then they shouldn’t wait for government initiatives and instead act on impulse.
Mockbee claims that there are many architects or ‘Starchitects’ that just design signature buildings that will only better themselves and their reputation. However, Rural Studio have completed projects that have really made a difference to the lives of the public, a type of architecture that is positively different. Even though Mockbee died in 2001 Rural Studio has continued, inspiring many to further augment and define his dream of an ‘architecture of honesty’.
Mockbee, Samuel (1998) The Rural Studio In: Krista Sykes, A (2009) Constructing a new Agenda – Architectural Theory 1993-2009 pp.105 – 115 Princeton Architectural Press: New York
First appeared in Architecture Design 68, no.7/8 (1998) 72-79
‘Junk-space’ is a piece of critical writing that identifies and discusses the idea of a by-product of modern architecture. Junk-space ‘is the residue that mankind leaves on the planet’ (2000:162) and according to Rem Koolhaas contemporary architects are producing more Junk-space than any other generation before.
Koolhaas repeatedly criticises recent Modernist architecture with cruel, biting metaphors; but is it morally questionable for an architect with such negative views on the design and manifestation of shopping malls to then design the flagship stores for Prada, one of the capitalist ‘brands’ he so energetically attacks? I’m not sure if Koolhaas is being hypocritical or just attempting to make a living. There is certainly evidence to suggest that Koolhaas does not necessarily practice what he preaches. But surely if he has to create Junk-space by making money, he might realise that other architects must resort to this also, and therefore, one might suggest his attempts at criticism of the capitalist market place as a practicing architect to be both futile and slightly duplicitous. Of course, the article may be the result of an inner sense of guilt, an attempt to offset his own Junk-space of the Prada store in San Francisco, which was completed at the same time.
Prada Flagship Store, San Francisco
Yet, looking at his Prada stores, I wouldn’t necessarily call them Junk-space. They fit the needs of the client without being repetitive. The timing of the article raises the question of whether he took the design project to contemporaneously mock Prada. However, I don’t believe this to be the case; the architecture is not critical of Prada, it compliments the clothes and achieves this without creating Junk-space.
However, there are images printed in Content that are somewhat contradictory to his alliance with Prada; An odd image of a man selling fake Prada bags on the street suggests a representation of Junk-space in the form of cheap repetition, that of the subsequent production of illegal imitation goods which in turn raises questions of exclusivity within a society still based upon an underlying social system classified by wealth. Or maybe it’s suggesting that the real Prada is not Junk-space, but real quality, an ode to a potential client at Koolhaas’ time of writing.
‘Content’ Pages 1-2
Another aspect to the topic of contemporary shopping that wasn’t addressed in the piece, perhaps due to the date of publish (2000), is that now in a time where everything is online, shopping as a physical activity for the shopper is becoming more and more obsolete.
Online shopping has become more popular due to cheaper pricing and twenty- four hours a day, seven days a week access. You can browse online without the hassle of buying, the enjoyment of shopping without spending money; however, these mini-stores are in many ways just a replica of the real stores that fill our high streets and shopping centres. Using the same graphic design, brand awareness and promotional images, these are also just repetition of the same kind of Junk-space, albeit in the digital domain. With more stores going online will there still be physical shops in the future? With more airlines allowing booking and checking-in online, will there be need or desire for airport shopping if there is no need to wait around for two hours before your flight? Imagine the physical ramifications for our towns and cities, our airports, train stations and service stations if this were the case. Their physical make-up would be altered inexorably.
Therefore, the future of ‘Junk-space’ as a physical and non-physical entity looks to be an intriguing one, Will Junk-space’s infection of the internet continue its virus-like behaviour beyond the high street and into our homes and places of work?