Saturday, February 28, 2009

Veg.itecture: VIVA Evolo Skyscrapers

Nothing elicits more interesting ideas and visuals than a futuristic and visionary design competition for the 21st Century Skyscraper. That has one word: eVolo. I featured a few of the entries from last years competition - so thought I would do the same for the more veg.itectural (and there are many, as pointed out in Pruned in the form of the vegetal zeitgeist) of this years entries. What better way to get a pulse on the trends in architecture, landscape and urbanism? Click the image links for the full boards, and check out the remaining entries from this and previous years at the eVolo site.

by Kyu Ho Chun - Kenta Fukunishi - JaeYoung Lee

:: images via eVolo

SECOND PLACE - The Living Bridge
by Nicola Marchi - Adelaïde Marchi

:: images via eVolo

by Stefan Shaw - John Dent

:: images via eVolo

Nature of Nature
by Luis Longhi - Christian Bottger - Carla Tamariz

:: images via eVolo

Standing on the Ground
by Park Ju Sin - Lee Min Cheol

:: images via eVolo

by Fabrice Henninger - Alexander Dabringhausen

:: images via eVolo

Urban Nebulizer
by Jae Kyu Han - Sang Mi Park - Ji Hyun KimWoo - Young Park - Kyoung Ho Lee

:: images via eVolo

Finally, our friends at Urbanarbolismo garnered some acclaim as one of the 40 finalists to be published with their proposal for a cadre of tree-derived towers in the Mediterranean climate of the city of Benidorm. Read the full scoop at their site (translation here).

:: images via Urbanarbolismo

Friday, February 27, 2009

Veg.itecture: VIVA Vision City + Nessie

Two proposals for vertical greening from Asia push some of the buttons and boundaries of our continually uneasy relationship with representation over implementation (the subject of the ongoing VIVA series).

:: not dumb boxes - image via designboom

First, via Designboom, the Vision City proposal from sparch architects envisions a gargantuan a retail mall in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia.

:: images via Designboom

Via designboom: "...they cut the central portion of the new building to create a hybrid space—a voluminous garden naturally ventilated but sheltered from the elements—that is an extension of the urban fabric. with the originally planned hermetic air-conditioned box now drawing the streetscape into its carved out volume, vision city deviates from the mould of the ubiquitous modern mall, engaging more directly its immediate surroundings, physically as well as visually, to realize the urban rejuvenation that its developers and urban planners are envisioning for the neighbourhood."

:: image via Designboom

The sections tell the best story of the project process, including green roofs and interior atria for microclimatic effect.

:: image via Designboom

My favorite visual has to be the faceted green wall (below) - offering an enveloping bowl of greenery to the interior spaces, and some dynamic vistas from within.

:: image via Designboom

Second, a design from SEIWOOO's Alban Mannisi, along with Pierre Alex providing 3-D Rendering for Nessie: Vertical Territoriality, the Green Water City - Quingpu, Shanghai, China – 2009

:: images via SEIWOOO

From SEIWOOO: "The growth of cities, their influences and the mask which they define on the whole grounds must be reconsidered. Extending a city should be no longer at the expense of arable land. Economic concerns that guide the new urban issues must be able to coincide with the same concerns that have established practices for cultivation before the development of cities. NESSIE project newly supplies the territory with oxygen thanks to the built towers which take place at the heart of the history of the territory. The towers have an open-aired column in their centers which allow oxygenation to go to the lower layer. Oxygenation, development of bacteria in these old asphyxiated strata, it can regenerate a necessary ecosystem to the superficial layers where life and vegetation grow. Groundwater, regulations, redevelopment, their bacteriological regulations in an autonomous way. And it can provide a healthy home to human activities, flora and fauna to immersed areas around the extension of the new town."

:: images via
The visuals seem to speak for themselves... thoughts anyone on what they are saying?

Landscape on the Brain

Landscape is good. Landscape is healthy. Landscape is necessary. We all know this, innately, but a refresher is never a bad idea. This post made the rounds a few months back, quoting a study and article from the Boston Globe, 'How the city hurts your brain, and what you can do about it.' delves again into the idea, using a recent research study from Marc Berman, a psychologist at the University of Michigan.

:: image via

From the article: "One of the main forces at work is a stark lack of nature, which is surprisingly beneficial for the brain. Studies have demonstrated, for instance, that hospital patients recover more quickly when they can see trees from their windows, and that women living in public housing are better able to focus when their apartment overlooks a grassy courtyard. Even these fleeting glimpses of nature improve brain performance, it seems, because they provide a mental break from the urban roil."

:: image via
Filthy Mess

The article continues: "This research is also leading some scientists to dabble in urban design, as they look for ways to make the metropolis less damaging to the brain. The good news is that even slight alterations, such as planting more trees in the inner city or creating urban parks with a greater variety of plants, can significantly reduce the negative side effects of city life. The mind needs nature, and even a little bit can be a big help."

This has been evident since the days of pioneering landscape architect Frederick Law Olmsted, who looked a parks in cities not as much from a ecological as from a social and public health standpoint. The urbanization and densification creates blight that isn't just unhealthy in a physical way, but also a psychological one. Subsequently, the work of Jay Appleton (Prospect-refuge theory), the Kaplans' study of environmental psychology, and the whole up and coming Biophilic Design crowd - shows there is no shortage of material to draw on. I'm currently reading a book that I picked up in a used bookstore in on a recent Mt. Shasta trip. Written by Charles A. Lewis, Green Nature, Urban Nature explores 'the meaning of plants in our lives', and concludes that culturally, evolutionarily, and spiritually - landscape and nature including plants, offers us a huge well of positive benefits.

:: image via
Univ. of Illinois Press

Thus nature = good. Cities = density. Nature in Cities = good density. This goes for the incorporation of the vegetation in buildings as well, as I posit, and as Lewis points out in the opening chapter of his book: "Severed from their roothold in native soil and transplanted to the city, plants stubbornly push new roots into earth substitutes. They unfurl their banners outside of buildings, clinging to walls, festooning windows and balconies, and transforming rooftops into verdant outposts. Within buildings they proclaim their message in flowerpots on windowsills and desks, along corridors, and at elevators. Echoes of larger landscapes are found in specially constructed atria in offices, hotels, restaurants, stores, shopping malls, and hospitals, where they provide protective habitats for lush displays of vegetation." (p.3)

:: Chicago City Hall - image via

Another interesting observation that I didn't think about was the direct biological connection we have to plants. "Our ties to the green world are often subtle and unexpected. It is not merely that hemoglobin and chlorophyll bear a striking similarity in structure, or that plants provide the pleasure of food and flowers." The major difference between the building blocks of human and plant is the use of a foundation of iron versus magnesium... a subtle difference for sure.

:: Cholorphyll / Hemoglobin - images via
Scientific Psychic

From the Archives: Urban Habitat

One of the more interesting urban legends (which happens to be true) is the story of the coyote that decided to hitch a ride on Portland's MAX light rail - recently reemerged on the Seattle Transit Blog.

:: image via Seattle Transit Blog

Some more info via the strange Dogs In the News - from February, 2002 : "Authorities reported on Wednesday that a wild coyote was chased off the tarmac at Portland International Airport. The traveling prairie pooch, realizing that it wasn't welcome to fly the friendly skies, proceeded to the Tri-Met Airport Terminal Station where it boarded the light-rail train bound for downtown. ... Closely related to the domestic pooch (Canis familiaris), the coyote (Canis latrans) shares many of a dog's behavioral traits, such as a remarkable intelligence and capacity to learn. However, coyotes generally fear people and will avoid human contact. The "Commuter Coyote" described in this article (Canis latransit) is currently being researched by Scoop biologists. Stay tuned for further scientific developments."

The most interesting byproduct of this encounter, the human/wildlife interaction aside, was one of my favorite songs, "Light Rail Coyote," by the now retired Sleater-Kinney. From the Portland Mercury: "The song is a wonderful portrait of Portland as both an urban and rural landscape that houses punks, strippers, bookstores, and even the occasional public transport riding coyote.

Out at the edge of town
Where airfield runs water down
Coyote crosses old tracks
And hops on the Light-Rail Max"

Check out the link for some more info and listen to the tune. While it is perhaps a stretch to connect the demise of one of the grrrl punk superstars with declining habitat values - it is telling that a band of intelligent women - took note of a very urban issue, and a very Portland one at that, to make some art. Their last album, 'The Woods' came out in 2006. Much like the coyote, we will never see them again.

:: image via MySpace - Sleater-Kinney

Thursday, February 26, 2009

Be Careful What you Wish For...

Just kidding... I can't think of anything better in the world to do. Plus we are multi-talented:

Via Topophila: I Want to be a Landscape Architect

"Landscape architecture combines environment and design, art and science. It is about everything outside the front door, both urban and rural, at the interface between people and natural systems. The range of ways in which landscape architects work is staggering. From masterplanning Olympic sites to planning and managing landscapes like national parks and areas of outstanding natural beauty to designing the public squares and parks that we all use, landscape architecture nurtures communities and makes their environment human and liveable.

Landscape architects are broad thinkers who thrive on the big picture. They are playing an increasingly important role in addressing the great issues of our day: climate change, sustainable communities, water, housing and the prevention of hunger.

Landscape architects are often natural leaders, able to communicate with many professions and leading multidisciplinary projects. Landscape architecture is not just the profession of the future – but the profession for a better future."


There are a bunch of projects using the literal and figurative idea of mountains as a stylistic point of departure. One of the recent visuals is that of the Zira Island development in Azerbaijan by BIG Architects. Some info via Arch Daily:

"In the words of Bjarke Ingels, the proposal for Zira Island [...] is an architectural landscape based on the natural landscape of Azerbaijan. This new architecture not only recreates the iconic silhouettes of the seven peaks, but more importantly creates an autonomous ecosystem where the flow of air, water, heat and energy are channeled in almost natural ways. A mountain creates biotopes and eco-niches, it channels water and stores heat, it provides viewpoints and valleys, access and shelter. The Seven Peaks of Azerbaijan are not only metaphors, but actual living models of the mountainous ecosystems of Azerbaijan."

:: image via Arch Daily

There's more that just representation in the form of mountains used in the concept. These impact the overall form, as well as the adjacent landscape implementation. Again via Arch Daily: "The landscaping of the island is derived from wind simulations of the microclimates created by the mountains. Swirly patterns created by the wind moving its way through the Seven Peaks inform the planting of trees and the design of public spaces. Where the winds and turbulence are strongest the trees becomes denser, creating lower wind speeds and thus a comfortable outdoor leisure climate."

:: images via Arch Daily

Additional info and images via Dezeen, Designboom, and Eikongraphia.

:: additional images via Dezeen

Another related project by BIG Architects is the much lauded Mountain Dwellings. While currently under construction, it's interesting to see how this project is being realized, versus the initial renderings.


:: images via Dezeen


:: images via Arch Daily

Ok, so it's probably a question of age... easier to plan for plants in photoshop than actually getting them to grow. It's more of a urban mountain that a verdant one. I do like this interesting graphic of how the program is adapted into the form - or how to terraform the flat plains into the mountains.

:: image via Arch Daily

Another interesting post about terraforming in a non-urban setting, via InfraNet Lab, discusses the work of Ecosign. "They have certainly carved a niche in ski resort planning, or what they call “mountain design.” Obviously a misnomer, mountain design sounds inverse to what actually takes place in their design process. Through a rigorous analysis of sun angles, prevailing winds, and topography they arrive at some kind of idealized clearings for the pleasure of downhill maneuvering, the mountain proper remains untouched."

:: image via InfraNet Lab

Although not much of a skier (aside from x-country) or particularly a fan of ski resort development, I'm more enamoured of the visuals these projects produce... mountain design distilled into plan form.

:: images via InfraNet Lab

Finally, the vision of mountain as reuse, courtesy of the excellent Eikongraphia: "What do to with Tempelhof Airport? After the airfield has been closed last October the city of Berlin has asked the ‘Berliners’ just that. One of the ideas that were sent to the municipality (and directly put aside) is the idea by architect Jakob Tigges. He proposes to construct a 1,000 meter tall mountain on the former airfield."

:: images via Eikongraphia

And it's literally planned as a mountain of garbage... now that's creative landfilling. It brings to mind the ideas of rewilding through some of the urban wilderness proposals... using refuse to create topography and habitat. Looks like the beginnings of some regenerative strategies.