Saturday, November 8, 2008

Revisiting the Strip

Following a post regarding the Flip A Strip competition sponsored by SMOCA (see Flip this Strip, 10.20.08) I got word from students Nils Havelka and Nicolas Zimmerman from the ETH Z├╝rich - and the similarities of the winning entry 'urban battery' by MOS to their entry Living House in the Holcim Foundation Student Poster Competition from 2007.

:: image via Holcim Foundation

Nils dropped me a line about the similarities. "The original Idea for "uban battery" by MOS was taken from our award winning "living house". Because we are students and lack resource an power to fight to protect our ideas, we thought we'd contact the people who publish that project hoping to get published alongside with the urban battery. The synnergy of that would realy make up for the abuse. You can find the project here: (it's the 10th project on the list) It was "highly commended" at the Holcim Forum for sustainable construction in april 2007."

:: images via Holcim Foundation

From their board, a snippet of text: "One of the project key points is the construction of a modular facade, consisting of plastic canisters containing algae that nourish from polluted air (CO2 etc.) and provide electricity through photosynthesis. The canisters are mounted to a modular steel scaffold that can be attached to any given structure. In combination with the fluorescent effect of the algae at night parts of the scaffold could expand the known experience of public space by adding seating modules et al., making the new hull an extension of public space."

:: images via Holcim Foundation

On a more equitable note - Nils mentioned that their commended entry, and it's technology was the impetus for being asked to contribute to the United Bottle Project, which was displayed at the Val Alen institute in New York. For more on the specifics of this project, check out their site - but it uses a similar technology.

:: images via icsid

Although there isn't really a strong formalistic resemblance, some of the techno-innovation is in the same family - if not out-and-out copies. It's a wonder that this doesn't happen more often in our digital age, with easy access to information and ideas. It's also really hard to prove ownership on these ideas... for sure. It's tough to track design or intellectual property, specifically for something that has a level of complexity and is 1) not built, 2) not patented, and 3)not fully realized beyond a short description. I'm not charging anything one-way or the other - just giving some equal time to students who feel slighted - which in my mind is fair, but I also think their project is pretty cool and they took the initiative to contact me. There's definitely a history of similar design ideas throughout architecture - which is a product of quantity and access to information, so....

Question: Has anyone had, been a part of, or heard of experiences of passing resemblances, uncanny similarities, or outright plagarism in competition entries and/or design solutions? I'd love to hear other dialogue on this concept?

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