Thursday, January 29, 2009

Chilean Facades: Consorcio + Concepción

A stunning new example of VIA (i think?) via Urban Greenery presents the The Consorcio Building in Santiago - with an amazing green wall system on significant portions of the facade - which recalls Ken Yeang's Bioclimatic structures in this tropical climate.

:: images via Urban Greenery

Located in Santiago, Chile - the green walls act as a vital environmental mitigation strategy: "The Consorcio Building in Santiago is one of the most sustainable office buildings, with up to 48% less energy usage thanks to its green wall, which turns red in autumn." An illustration of the shading microclimatic functions.

:: images via Urban Greenery

This interesting photo of the interstitial space between the facade and the outer vegetated screen - providing a cooling gap that allows for sun to be reflected, as well as for warm air to escape through the vertical channels instead of heating up the building.

:: image via Urban Greenery

Platforma Arquitectura offers some more imagery of the project - including the views from inside looking out (and follow the link for many more).

:: image via Platforma Arquitectura

I'm actually not sure what this image is trying to tell us for sure... i get the solar diagram, but the figure pushing on the facade is somewhat of a mystery.

:: image via Platforma Arquitectura

And there must be something good going on in Chile , as this project by Enrique Browne Arquitectos, which has been around for a while, has recently re-emerged on both Arch Daily and Inhabitat: "The office itself is composed of three elements. A vertical green wall constructed from locally-sourced wood shields the structure from the sun to the North, East, and west, and acts as a “double green skin” that insulates the interior. The structure’s south wall features a high-performance facade constructed from locally-sourced corrugated metal that helps to insulate the interior and render it highly energy efficient."

:: image via Inhabitat

We used this image a few years ago as a precendent image for a project in Seattle (when I was at my former employer) and it's good to see it again - as it is a stunning example of using a double facade system for cooling in hot climates. Some more pics and an illustration give a little more info to the story, including a glimpse at the plant list, which includes bougainvillea, jasmine, and plumbago.

:: image via Inhabitat

Wednesday, January 28, 2009

Veg.itecture: VIVA la Revolution

As promised, the counterpoint to the recent posts related to Veg.itecture in Action (VIA) are the more conceptual illustrative examples in the Veg.itecture in Visual Assessment (VIVA) posts - which offer a more sparsely informative overview of the visions of vegetated architecture and the many graphic forms that it takes. The dichotomy between vision and action will provide some interesting fodder for discussion - giving a more well-rounded overview of the phenomenon.

A project that has made all the rounds of the architecture blogs is the photoshop-genic projects that gets people talking - this project from Kjellgren Kaminsky for a large apartment project in New Heden. The projects iconic flowing hills are "...Envisioned as a “green lung” for Gothenburg, Sweden, the development will introduce a beautiful expanse of fresh green space to an area currently consumed by parking lots and football fields."

:: images via Inhabitat

Just as dynamic (or at least derived from dynamic processed), the envisioned Volcano Stadium in Guadalajara, Mexico by Jean-Marie Massaud seems to rise from the earth. Superbowl anyone?

:: image via SpaceInvading

A sinuous green parking lot, via Urban Greenery, of the such as the Green Corridor Indian Road Green Space in Windsor, Canada.

:: image via Urban Greenery

And the Community Enhancements and Green Facades... making roads and parking just a bit more pleasurable.

:: image via Urban Greenery

Staying on the topic of roadways for a bit - this intriguing project from Israel called Highway Habitat - which features multi-layered habitat for people and perhaps other things...?

:: images via World Architecture Community

A bit smaller scale, one of the Ordos 100 houses by RSVP has sinuous forms that wrap from ground to rooftop... as well as pockets of interior vegetation.

:: images via WAN

Another by SPRB arquitectos for the Bicentennial of the Independence Plaza, Mexico City, Mexico - comes via WAN. The inclusion of a rectangular green wall that will surround the and create: "...a great ritual space around the Concepción Chapel, symbolically dedicated to the Mexican Independence and Revolution, rectangular and long, isolated from the chaotic movement of the city by a “green wall”.

:: images via WAN

And finally, the silliness, via Jetson Green for an innovative new house that reminds me somewhat of a coconut with a parasol: "This conceptual proposal for a residence with combination solar panel and wind turbine offers the best of both worlds, with a dose of stage-like performance. Shaped to look like a rock, the dwelling stores water in its outer shell as an insulator to conserve energy. Furthermore, the transforming device embodies a playful spirit with its daisy-like shape that seems more like a toy rather than a high tech piece of equipment." Renderings and such from: Andreas Angelidakis.

:: images via Jetson Green

Greening the Rails

Portland is well-known for having one of the best light-rail systems in the country. Through an efficient combination of train and streetcar - served by a great bus system, makes getting around the region sans car relatively pain free. A recent post from Inhabitat definitely struck home a point regarding a retrofit that could make this green transportation system even literally more green. As opposed to a car, rail only makes contact at two thin points along the track alignment. By looking at these corridors on which the trains run - which have interstitial areas that are typically paved with a variety of surfaces, there is an opportunity to create less impervious surfaces through the incorporation of greenery.

Could Portland's rails evolve from this...

:: image via IgoUgo something more like this?

It's not a surprise that this is a common practice in Europe, which is covered extensively in the Inhabitat post from around the continent. The images are self-explanatory and seem quite simple, and are summed up in the post: "...these swaths of green provide a host of benefits to any urban area, like reducing urban heat island effect, providing a permeable surface for storm water to infiltrate, and reducing pollution. And did we mention that it looks so much prettier than concrete or asphalt?" Agreed.

:: images via Inhabitat

There are obviously some maintenance issues with this type of installation - but with proper specification of plantings, the cost-benefit would seem to make a lot of sense to me. Plus, as we evolve to a more green-job centered economy, the additional dollars can be funneled towards maintenance of this and other green infrastructure facilities. And really, there's a natural entropic evolution of rail beds to deteriorate into a more verdant state, although perhaps not the type of vegetation one desires. By being purposeful in lower-maintenance planting in these spaces, there are miles of opportunity for greening the rails.

:: image via Space Invading

Tuesday, January 27, 2009

Daily Double + A Flurry of Darts

I'm typically not one to focus on my own doings terribly often on the blog - but I had to laugh at the fortune of this press double-play today from my home city of Portland. First, from writer Sam Bennett from the Oregon Daily Journal of Commerce - investigating the potential of the Sustainable Sites Initiative for landscape architecture. The article "SSI works toward certification of landscape architecture: Sustainable Sites Initiative seeks to address issues not completely covered by LEED", provides a good overview of the system and it's potential for the field in elevating the discussion of sustainability to the outdoors.

Check out the full text of Bennett's article here on the GreenWorks blog.

:: The Headwaters at Tryon Creek in Winter - image via DJC

And second, a shout out, or more correctly a "Prémio lawn Dardos" from Tim duRoche, blogger for the newish and much needed local magazine Portland Spaces... in his blog post "King of all he Surveys" (oh I like that... :) - duRoche was kind enough to give some nice words to the Landscape+Urbanism blog "... a thoughtful melding of observation, local-to-global context and rigorous praxis."

As well as the most concise statement I think I've ever encountered regarding the Sustainable Sites Initiative: "Goals? To levate the value of landscape (through a LEED-like set of benchmarks) by outlining the economic, environmental and
 human well-being benefits, to connect place/space/landscape to buildings more resolutely, provide certification/recognition for high performance, and to high-five innovation around the regeneration of natural resources and ecosystem health."

:: Prize Darts - image via Portland Spaces

So on to the darts... 15 is both of lot, and not enough people to recognize... so I will focus on the landscape oriented, in no particular order... just because I'm happy there's 15 blogs to mention. Anyone left out - my apologies:

1. Urban Greenery
2. Topophilia
3. City Farmer News
4. Land8Lounge
5. Vulgare
6. World Landscape Architect
7. Urbanarbolismo
8. Pruned
9. The Dirt
10. outofdoors (a new one to me)

And I can't forget the locals:
11. Green Infrastructure Wiki
12. Portland Architecture
13. Dialogue (Oregon DJC)
14. Building Green (Seattle DJC)
15. ... And last but not least... Portland Spaces... thanks Tim.

Flower: Gaming Urban Flight

A link from the ASLA blog The Dirt offered word of a landscape-oriented game from Playstation 3 entitled 'Flower'. The gist: "Sony will soon release a new game “Flower,” which explores the path of an urban flower that seeks to escape to the countryside. Sony’s designer says the game is an interactive poem, which uses abstract landscapes, and the ”flower is the gamer’s dream.” According to Wired, “flower lets the player explore the dreams of city blooms trapped in urban decay, longing to caress the soft grasses of the countryside.”

:: Flower screenshots - images via IGN

More from The Dirt: "Sony designed the game to be “attractive and meaningful” for adults, and wanted to make it simple and accessible. Players can control the path of the flower, and its pollination of the landscapes."

That all sounds laudable, and perhaps it does acheive the aim to provide some ecological ideaology to the gaming masses - an antidote to mindless gratuitous violence, maybe? To me, there's an underlying message that I couldn't seem to shake from the minute I read the first line of the description. The idea of escape from 'urban decay' to the 'soft grasses of the countryside' sounds a lot like the same reasoning given for white flight or urban flight to the suburbs, exurbs, or and whatever-burbs that seem to be indicative of our destructive, sprawling legacy. Our desire for the simple life in the country and space to spread our wings is a major tenet of development in the past century or longer.

To draw some parallels with the idea of urbanism is maybe a bit of a stretch, but the root of the idea that I keep coming back to is the idea that urban is bad, decaying, unhealthy, and the countryside is good, nourishing, and desirable. Agree or disagree - the metaphor is pretty overt, and undermines much of the work to blur the line between city and nature (see EcoMetropolitanism, - giving rise to a new crop of people who see the polarity or urban/rural as bad/good.

As mentioned, "...The game explores the relationship between cities and nature, the complexities of ecology." I'd say yes, and 'explores' being the operative word, but perhaps not in the way that was envisioned by the creators. Will this reflect in a new generation of urban flight and backsliding regarding our interpretation and interaction with urban nature? Probably not - but it's an interesting interpretation and simplification of both social and ecological principles - not unexpected from the media.

For some more info, here's a video clip from the original Wired post. As one how doesn't spend much time gaming, I will have to allow others to see if the game is an interactive poem, or an analog for sprawl. Decide for yourself, and let me know if you get a chance to check it out.

Monday, January 26, 2009

Reading List: Drosscape

Early in the life of this (still youthful) blog, I had a short throwaway post about Modes of Representation - and echoed a term I had heard regarding 'visual masturbation' - the analogue of the pointless drivel associated with verbal masturbation. While there are still countless examples of both in the design and planning spheres - a 2008 article in the NY Times, and my reading of more of his work solicits the following reaction. I will officially recant my words specifically a quote referencing Alan Berger, and posit that 'Drosscape: Wasting Land In Urban America' (2007) is a vital addition to the library of any landscape urbanist, landscape architect and planner.

:: image via Frieze

As I've sat with this half-written post in my drafts folder for going on six months, I thought it time to delve into some discussion on the book. It is long overdue, but perhaps gave me some to reflect further on the power of the image tied to the idea. Upon further review (i.e. reading versus looking at images) the book has some heady and important ideas that need to be not just digested, but discussed. The idea of Dross (waste) landscapes are important from a number of perspectives including the 'how', 'where' and 'why' of their creation, and also the 'what' and 'when' of their potential redevelopment.

The references of drosscape have some powerful precedents - most notably tied to Lars Lerup's ideas of Stim and Dross, which are very engaging ways of thinking of space not just as a physical entity, but as catalytic actors in urban fabrics. What they cause and create is perhaps more important that what they actually are. Stim (a shortened version of stimulus) countered with Dross (the idea of waste landscape), in tandem create tension and opportunity, where most of us see blight. And the reality is that they are difficult if not downright impossible to eradicate - but will continually emerge and re-invent themselves as an inevitability of growth.

While it is evident that dross is ubiquitous in the world - the particular mechanisms that cause the phenonmenon, specifically in the United States, is quite complex. This is where the visual acuity of the book is pretty impressive - not obfuscation, but the synthesis of many layers of complex data into graphics that are both artful and full of information as well. To discuss representation for a bit, the middle part of the book contains mostly visual case studies analyzing Drosscapes and their emergence along a number of specific and time-critical paths. These are evident in case studies of a range of US metropolitan areas, allowing for similar comparison of ideas to give the proper context of urban form and development.

A major facet to the book, which should intrigue those with a penchant for Landscape Urbanism, is the representation of time in a variety of forms. Temporality is difficult if not impossible to capture in two-dimensional imagery, and Berger does a bang-up job of overlaying typical plan graphics of cities, such as Chicago above, along with complex data showing outward expansion over time. This is coupled with more traditional data streams (line charts, bar graphs, etc.) that are juxtaposed artfully over space - becoming not just another level of information, but part of the data stream and context. The subseqent addition of aerial photographs showing areas of focus allow one to connect the complex mapping and data analysis to real place.

Another diagramming exercies that worked well in driving home the mechanism of sprawl is the bar charts overlaid upon the metropolitan urban form. These spindle charts show a temporal shift in manufacturing jobs - in the case above from Chicago - concentrated in the beginning within dense urban cores, and slowly migrating further and further away from this center - creating the iterative and expanding framework in which dross will inevitably creep. There are also more overt images - such as those below of entropic indicators, as well as urban cores to sites of pollution concentration - showing straight causality between urbanism and blight or sprawl landscape.

Sometimes the imagery is utilized for storytelling - again with a temporal bent. In the example below, the juxtaposition of urbanized area desnity to total population - showing that from 1950 to 2000, density (in overall persons per square mile) has decreased by 50 percent. And the photo within the graphic frame shows some of the results - much more powerful than what's standard on your excel spreadsheets... :)

Precursors of this are Berger's visually stunning 'Reclaiming the American West' (2002) and the more pithy related 'Taking Measures Across the American Landscape' (2000) by Corner & MacLean - both of which rely on oblique aerial photography to understand the patterns of development in our landscape. Drosscape was chosen one of the top 10 planning books of 2007 by Planetizen, and it's well deserved: "Drosscape is a fascinating visual examination of the modern built environment. Chock-full of photographs, maps and charts, the book exposes readers to the 'wastelands' of ten different American cities -– from older industrial areas in the urban core to modern complexes on the metropolitan fringe. While the book takes a mostly negative view of sprawl, it serves not as a condemnation per se, but as fertilizer for the germination of ideas regarding the productive reuse of these underutilized and spoiled landscapes."

The challenge of new modes of representation (and language and thought) is one that continues to challenge our assumptions about appropriate content for design, illustration, and graphics. While some (including myself) are resistant to these new forms - they become necessary to illuminate complex forms of thought. Landscape urbanist theory regarding the appropriate representation of process - including four-dimensional aspects in a two-dimensional media, are sometimes difficult to grasp - but are necessary if we are to truly understand the complexities of our urban areas. Dig in, it's worth the time.