Tuesday, October 27, 2009

ARM in discussion about Major Threats

Mon 26 Oct and 2 Nov: The ARM group are looking at major threats facing the human race on this planet.... it's like excavating to the bottom-most layer of an archeology site... before you understand what's above. We will move on from there to look at density and densification studies for cities, and from there to discuss the type of tall or dense architecture required for 21st century living.

For the time being, the students have been looking at 4 major threats :
  1. Peak Oil (the Olduvai theory) whereby the rapid energy descent that may occur after 2020 could mean more than not being able to drive to ASDA. It could bring about social disorder, major conflict, or wars, disastrous effects on employment and living patterns and force the need to densify cities more than any other.
  2. Climate Change whereby we may see rising sea levels and extreme drought+floods, forcing some cities or even the population of entire countries having to reconsider their position. Climate change can no longer be met by old methods, such as turning up the aircon or mass migration.
  3. Rising Population, and increasing imbalance in populations; in some cases too many elderly eg China, Japan, or too many young, eg developing countries, or too much migration in a one way direction, eg rural to urban, or from drought regions to temperate.
  4. Water becoming increasingly difficult to conserve and manage and distribute, balancing between the needs of agriculture and industry, as against the needs of the population for well being and survival. Some needs can no longer be met in the old ways (dams or desalination) as these require collossal amounts of energy that we will no longer have.
Somehow, in their future careers, the students will have to lead the way to a better way of designing cities and buildings.
The Students presented their findings on Oil, climate and Water on 2 Nov and will present the Population threat on 9 Nov.
Picture above, the students consider Water resources, smiling for the camera, but worried about the future.

Tall Buildings against & for... and Master Planning

Fri Oct 23: was a very busy day. Phil gave a major lecture in the morning, going through the disadvantages and advantages of tall buildings, in comprehensive detail (the pdf is on the Web CT). This was attended by some of the ARM group too.

Later in the afternoon we had a visit from David Leonard, an architect-master-planner who has some wonderful work to show. Amazingly (for one so accomplished) David has his main residence in Nottingham, so is easy to get hold of. He had already been to London and back that same day! In the lecture, attended by about 60-70 students, he discussed the main criteria for effective master planning, and went on to show the major mixed use project in Stratford, London. It has many architects for the component buildings, and many official and community bodies who all have to interact in the process.

View Larger Map
The site shows blank on Googlemaps, but the project is on site, well progressed with construction, as part of the Olympic build up.
David showed a new project he is working on in Sharjah where an earlier over ambitious plan of towers has been shelved and he is restarting the project with more intelligent phasing, and economic flexibility. This was just the sort of thing our students needed to inspire them for the TBI project. He then spent the rest of the afternoon looking at the ideas of each of the five main groups, giving them feedback.
See the Convenor's Blog on the Web CT site for a more detailed feedback on the tutorials and David's comments.

Tutorials on 22nd Oct

Oct 22: We had a full day of tutorials, starting with a presentation from each of the main groups - they were not doing a full presentation, just telling us the progress in their research so far. Later, we had an hour with each group, discussing their sites in more detail, and what could be done with them. Phil did a quick presentation of examples of previous studies, in particular the idea of the buildings having an 'agenda' or 'big idea' that is additional to their brief. (apologies for not having a photograph).

Tuesday, October 20, 2009

ARM introduce their Cities!

Oct 19: We had an interesting morning in the ARM (Arch Research Method) module. The students were introducing their cities of origin, in terms of the criteria relevant to our debate - area, climate, population, zoning, relation to sea or river or mountains, typical housing forms in different locations, growth rings over the decades, etc. Very enjoyable.
We covered Shenzen, Hong Kong, London, Beijing, Dubai, Mumbai, New Delhi, Tehran, Hangzhou, Santiago, Warwickshire (rural), Pune, Isfahan and Calcutta. Apologies to Shanghai, Wuxi, Birmingham and Wolverhampton because we had to stay within 2 hours.

Friday, October 16, 2009

Structural Experimentation

We had a great morning seeing the work of the 3D structures week. We had models in straws and string, lolly sticks, ballpoint pens (with the ink tubes as joints), fishing line, copper wire, kebab sticks, playing cards, and more. We had one group using 'Bucky Balls' a kit of plastic rods and balls for exploring geodesic structures.
One tower was constructed upside down, Gaudi style, using metal armature and modroc to pad our the armature, with a movie to record the process. We also had a Tensegrity structure.

We were impressed with the work, the creativity, dedication to discovery, and the craftsmanship - and the humour in some of the choices of material. And it wasn't just about building for fun - there was some serious looking at precedents and principles, and lessons that could be learnt from the structures. The posters will be put up on webct soon.

The afternoon was spent with preliminary discussion of the sites in the 5 cities, and the tasks for the coming week, such as modelling.

Above,  model is in Modroc and wire, and was built upside down in true Gaudi tradition, by Pranali, David and Mat.

The one below includes the Bic pen and kebabstick models, with Minh, Laila, Lily, Mel, Arash, Arham and Ackshay. 
Below is the Lollystick model with Katy, Chris, Savita and Rain. Great work!

Monday, October 12, 2009

History as it is talled

Oct 11: Phil Oldfield delivered a lecture on the early history of Tall Buildings, from mid 19th century to the late 1980s.
This is useful because so many students doing dissertations on tall building topics have to do the same 'trawl' through the early history in their introductions. We felt that we should lay down some shared information, ideas and dates.
Phil followed it up a week later (Oct 18) with a highly informative lecture on Tall Building design thinking, particularly in planning, cores and elevators.
(illustration shows some of the entries for the Chicago Tribune competition)

ARM module under way!

12 Oct: We held the first Architectural Research Methods workshop meeting on Monday, in the Marmont. DNC presented a powerpoint on the prime topic, that of the future of urban settlements in 50 years time, the role of densification in our present settlements, and the validity of tall buildings (and many other factors) in determining our urban survival.
The workshop was organised into 4 groups, the CitiMix, Leaf group, High Risers and Blankety Blank. Each group has a balanced mixture of Indian, Chinese, and Brit students, with a few others mixed in.
For the first week and a bit, the groups will be doing studies of their own cities and regions, in the light of the criteria for our study: area, density, population, transport, climate, employment trends etc. They will also look for interesting overlaps and connections, eg if Beijing and Mumbai are discussed within the same group.
(The illustration is a reference to how people 50 yrs ago saw the present age of 2010. Our group are asked to look another fifty years in the other direction, to 2060, but in the light of climate change and the end of oil.)

Friday, October 9, 2009

Spaghetti, wire, dowels, string and what next?

Thurs 8th Oct: We held a briefing for the next stage which is to explore some real model making. This was first tried as a 2-day exercise in 2004 with Mario Cucinella, using spaghetti for the structures and tomatoes for the loads - very Italian!

This year, we are doing it over a week, and asking them not to be excessive in height but to excel in level of research, experiment and analysis - using a material of their choice - straws, garden wire, cocktail sticks, ballpoint pens, dowels, spaghetti, Bucky Balls, A4 paper. The object is to explore concepts of stiffness and flexibility, bracing, stability, efficiency. We also hope some will explore tensegrity, and suspended structures (such as Antoni Gaudi's chain structures).
Illustration from the 2004 exercise.

Presentations about London

Oct 8th: Each of the groups, Red Star, Cloud Nine, Team 309, Future Scrape and Studio A did an hour's presentation about their London experience, plus a bit more.

Some included comparisons between London and Shanghai, some did more detailed case studies on key buildings seen during the walk, some examined space and landscaping around tall buildings, some did facades, entrances, sustainability strategies. Some looked at interesting juxtapositions such as Old-New, Large-small, some looked at vistas and sightlines, some at Transport connections, London climate and population, and some at History and Context - and other topics were covered too.

All very interesting and a great way for the groups to get used to working together. More importantly, it is a sort of dry run for what they need to do a lot better on cities that they have not actually visited and cannot visit, namely, Chicago, Rotterdam, Mumbai, Singapore and Abu Dhabi.

Monday, October 5, 2009

TB Workshop for Architectural Research Methods

Oct 5th: We offered our workshop for the ARM module today to a packed room - seems like over 200 - of combined Diploma, Masters and Architectural Studies students.
This diagram, by Norman and Kenworthy 1989 sums up a powerful urbanistic argument, which shows up the link between energy consumption and density. The workshop will use a variety of methods (mapping, survey etc) to explore this hypothesis further, and explore the case for 'working' tall buildings for future urban environments.
By the way, the position of New York in the curve seems odd - but this is talking about greater New York in 1980. Once you include the boroughs surrounding New York you rapidly get into lower density areas.

Friday, October 2, 2009

London welcomes Tall Building designers!

We had a field trip to London 1st October. Starting at the Building Centre (Store St), we saw the Model of London, plus some good contemporary exhibition material. We moved on to London Bridge for a long walkabout that took the rest of the day, finishing at Moorgate, next to the Barbican.

From London Bridge, we followed the Embankment east, seeing the Cotton Centre atrium, Hays Galleria, HMS Belfast, and the GLA buildings. The conference chamber building is open to the public, so we entered, and climbed the spiral ramp inside.
Later, we crossed Tower bridge, and passing the Tower of London, walked up to Aldgate and St Botolphs. We had lunch in the Swiss Re cafe. Later, visited the Heron tower, and passed Tower 42 and the Pinnacle site. Had a good look at Lloyds and Willis, and the rather sad empty Leadenhall tower site. We then moved north to Liverpool Station (after getting slightly lost) and saw the SOM buildings of Broadgate Tower and Exchange Square. We made it to Moorgate and the rendezvous with the bus slightly too late to see Wood St and Barbican... but better luck next time!