Eco-friendly urban environment? on Neville Mars's Solar Forest

I will not write a long post. I just read Neville Mars's article entitled Solar Forest that he updated last August, and I would like to respond to its fascinating project. This post that I include the abstract of the concept of Solar Forest:
Many of the most unpleasant aspects of urban life are caused by cars, for both driver and the city itself. Large sweltering expanses of tarmac in cities contribute heavily to the urban heat island effect, whilst cars also become unbearably hot in summer sitting in these urban deserts.
Optimizing the heliostatic photovoltaic panels ultimately resulted in their leaflike shape. Although never intentionally conceived to mimic the form of a tree, the panels rotate to follow the path of the sun throughout the day – much like sunflowers – absorbing light whilst also providing optimal shading for cars. Although all parked cars can benefit from shading, electric vehicles can directly charge their batteries by plugging into the ‘solar trees.’
Neville Mars's project is an example of a large number of various projects on sustainable urban space that are recently developed, particularly those which deal with the issue of electricity car.

[Image by Burb]

[Image by Burb]

The images above are two examples of this project. As for the video, it is available on Youtube and as embedded video on burb.tv. It shows the concept of this project, how these heliostatic photovoltaic panels work. These panels look like trees, and work as trees: following the sun throughout the day, it absorbs light whilst providing shadow for cars. In the same way, Ecosistema Urbano's Ecoboulevard is another sustainable project based on the mechanism of tree.
This project might be utopian, it, however, illustrates the mentality change regarding transports and urban environment. In most cities, car dominates. Los Angeles, for instance, is considered as an Automobile City where 81 % of the population use cars compared with, as we know, 21 % of population of Tokyo, and approx. 32 % of population of London. In China, according to many Think Tank like Urban Age, bicycle which dominated cities in the 20th Century becomes obsolete : Car dominates the 21st century Chinese city. Yesterday, Ricky Burdett in his lecture at Harvard GSD mentioned that for many local municipalities and people, bicycle is holding up the traffic.
Now that we're aware of oil scarcity, engineers are working hard with shifting into electric cars. I remember of a French journalist who, several months ago, was wondering how those electric cars would get electricity to move, and what kind of infrastructure could be constructed for this type of automobile. Since we became aware of oil scarcity, some designers, architects and urban planners develop research on city redevelopments, precisely infrastructures for electric cars. Neville Mars/Burb's project is one among these numerous examples.

Information on Neville Mars
Neville Mars is a Dutch architect based in Beijing. He founded Burb and the Dynamic City Foundation in 2003. DCF is a Dutch-Chinese researcg and design institute based in Beijing. It focuses on sustainable architecture and urban planning. Burb functions as a platform for the DCF projects. His last editorial project is The Chinese Dream (010 Publishers) a heavy books on Chinese.

All pictures : courtesy : Neville Mars,/Burb.


Symposium Other markets at Wien the 31st October

Other Markets

Symposium + panel discussion

"New prototypes for extreme spatial configurations have emerged from informal structures in the wake of the economic deregulation and exploding mobility. Rapidly spreading informal markets on the peripheries in Europe, for instance, form urban nodes for the networks of global migration. Are these architectures of informal exchange the forced low-cost counterpart for the success of the global capital market, or is their creativity showing the way to more sustainable ecologies?

The symposium on the FWF research project 'Relational Architecture' addresses critical questions on the participation of architecture in this reconstruction of our political and economic environment, from the local scale of neighbourhoods to the dimensions of civil society in transnational regions."

This thread is a quick thread on the symposium above.
The title is particularly interesting because it poses the question of the official market and the unofficial, that is that of informal. This symposium seems explore this hidden market, this architecture, urban planning considered as informal to quote Saskia Sassen.
The comment below is a rapid comment on some interventions to come. That of Marjetica Potrc, and that of Teddy Cruz and that of Iritt Rogoff. A friend of mine will go and record these intervention so I may go back in a further (or probabilistic) post. I wanted to write a thread on this symposium just because this reminds me various reading, and architectural projects such as that of Elemental's one.
I, also, posted a version of this comment below in my facebook page.

Marjetica Potrc explained to us last year (December 2008) at EHESS in the framework of Something you should know seminar organised by Natasa Petresin-Bachelez, Elisabeth Lebovici, Patricia Falguière and Hans Ulrich Obrist, that it is important, if not urgent, to rethink the city, as practician who works in the architecture field, or artistic field, urban planning field, landscape architecture field, in relation to its users. I mean, you must work with but not for the inhabitants. This is why these "participative" architects (I usually don't use this term "participative" but simply architects) attempt to short-circuit the system by proposing an alternative modus operandi. Elemental's Housing Projects are an illustration of this new tendency of an architecture much more simple, perhaps much more open to its users. For some critics, these architects demonstrate a tendency of a return to the basics. But I feel unconfortable with this idea of "back to the basics". It is rather a will to rethink architecture to quote Teddy Cruz.
Therefore, this symposium's text reminds me aaa's research, in particular Doina Petrescu's book (co-edited with Peter Blundell Jones and Jeremy Till, with participation of Leon Krier, Anne Quierren, and Muf, to quote but a few) Architecture and Participation (unfortunately this book is not available), in which authors discuss the issue of participation as a critical tool to question the changing society where we live — rapid urbanisation, pressure on housing demand, on new infrastructures, urban environmental problems (climate changing that will particularly be more difficult (I don't find the word I wanted to use) for the developing areas than for the developed areas), etc, etc.
For Rogoff as for Cruz, and Potrc (but you must add Keller Easterling, Eyal and Inez Weizman, Celine Condorelli, Urban Think Tank, Rael San Fratello, etc, in this list) Architecture is politics and politics is architecture.
I add below the schedule of the symposium with personal and quick comments on Potrc, Rogoff and Cruz.

The schedule
Peter Mörtenböck, professor of visual culture, Vienna University of Technology, welcome address and introductory speech (A)

Helge Mooshammer, FWF project manager, Vienna University of Technology, speaks on: 'Relational Architecture' (A)

Marjetica Potrč, artist and architect, speaks on: 'Catalysts of Change in Cities of Transition' (SLO) —> I've the opportunity to hear her discussing her research on cities as architect and artist and, in particularly, as a practician who attempts to rethink the practice of architecture.

4.30pm break (—> Well)

Teddy Cruz, architect and professor of public culture & urbanism, UC San Diego, speaks on: 'Radicalizing the Local: Post-Bubble Urban Strategies' (USA) —> Maybe with Marjetica Potrc and Irit Rogoff the utmost interesting interention. But it's a prediction...

18:00 c, professor of visual cultures, Goldsmiths, University of London, Goldsmiths, speaks on: 'Regional Imaginings — A Political Practice?' (GB) —> This is in fact Irit Rogoff but the websmester has probably forgotten her name. Anyway Rogoff, recently oriented her research on architecture and participation. It appears that architecture a much easier support for exchange and interaction between user and its cities. She recently takes part in various conferences, editorial projects on architecture as a political tool.
Some books
Verb Crisis (you will find interviews and texts of Teddy Cruz and Alejandro Aravena (Elemental)
I advice you to read Markus Miessen and Chantal Mouffe's conversation published in this boogazine.
Praxis, in particular the issue #10 entitled "Urban matters"
Architecture and Participation, co-edited by Peter Blundell Jones, Doina Petrescu and Jeremy Till
Did Someone say participate? An atlas of spatial practice, coedited by Markus Miessen, Shumon Basar and Hans Ulrich Obrist
The Violence of Participation, edited by Markus Miessen.


My opinion of Enjeu Capital(es) reference

This thread deals with the conference Enjeu capital(es). Les métropoles de la grande échelle, or how to rethink city in terms of macro.
But… almost nobody discussed deeply this topic.
I'm reserved in my opinion, and I may be not the only one. If yestersday sessions were interesting, this day was… Participants such as Rem Koolhaas, Dominique Perrault, Brendan McFarlane, Kuma Kengo, and Thom Mayne were exceptional as usually. They all present their research on city and the relationship between architecture and city. But I will go back to this part, later.
The reproach that I would like formulate concerns the choice of the topic. Not was it uninteresting, but it seemed be a little bit conceptual. This is of course my opinion. Yet, during the discussion at the end of yesterday afternoon session, the question that the mediator posed to these participants made them disconcerted, if not confused, such as Koolhaas and Mayne which insisted on the mediator repeating his question, if not reformulating it, as I wrote on twitter (and I will write a review on my blog). The problem of the question was that it was too much focused on image, materials, and representation, and not enough on the context of city. Brief, his questions were nothing to do with the topic, in my opinion.
Let's analyse this afternoon session:
The most interesting point is Rem Koolhaas's intervention. He announced that he is now working on "countryside". This territory is now a virgin territory insofar as its population migrated to the city. This is what he said to justify his shift into countryside. It is relevant that city is saturated and nothing new can be done. Even though many projects, reflections and competition show that there is still something to do. Rethinking the city relevant to new tools, new materials, new lifestyle and taking account of the mutation of the urbanity is an illustration that city may be saturated but not "finished". Even if Koolhaas has not said in this way, architects should now rethink the concept of countryside and its relation to the urban environment. I think that it can be a track that needs be explored. He, in fact, is focusing on the complexity city/non-city. To a certain extent, he was not too far from Adriaan Geuze's conception of the city. I am sure that a new debate will emerge from his research.
Thom Mayne rethought his presentation in order to respond to what he heard the morning session (I was not there so I won't say more on FOA, UnStudio, etc). It was very interesting to hear Mayne discussing his work starting from the city as both object and subject, and not restricted to the object. I am among those who usually analyse his architecture for itself and not in the relation on its context, say, the city, while we usually do when examining OMA's projects. His presentation was very fresh and informative.
Kuma Kengo started by considering Japanese city according to keyword, such as screen, grain and roof. I maybe forgot one. It was very interesting but he hasn't pursued his argument, rather, he presented his work. It would be rather to explore the concept of city in Japan. But for those who didn't know him pretty much (or hadn't the opportunity to hear him), it was a great opportunity to discover his work or hear his work again.
MacFarlane talked on his work, in particular his both and most popular projects : Docks de Paris (Seine), and Pavillon Quai Rimbaud in Lyon. For the both projects, Jakob + McFarlane attempted to reinvent the concept of public space, and explored the relation to the site where they intervened. But I didn't find any relation to the main topic ; or he was a bit too far from the concept of city.
Dominique Perrault presented several aspects of his project. For each of them, he attempted to demonstrate the importance of the site (the city) in his project. I particularly appreciated his presentation, but as it was crowded and we had to move for another place to attend the conference, I missed 10 minutes of his presentation. Sad. Because he talked on the importance of water in the 21st century, and I remark that water will be one of the core element of the 21st century.
Back to the discussion. The discussion between all the participants and the mediator was cut short, if I can say. Architects maybe supposed to be questioned on their presentation, and this was what the mediator tried to do but… This is why I am desappointed.
Yersterday afternoon (I missed the morning sessions) was better in many respects. I particularly appreciated both landscape-architect Adriaan Geuze (West 8) and architect Ken Yeang's interventions. Yeang presented his 5 strategies that articulate the concept of green and city. I chose several points. The main idea in to environ the city in accordance with biointegration, green and vertical urbanism, the impact of climate change on urban (and non-urban) environment, complex and green building. I recorded his presentation and I will write a short review on his presentation, when I will have time. Then Geuze. His presentation focused on the ecological agenda of metropolis. After having presented ecological agenda of several metropolis, he analysed Paris one. Around Paris, you've got countryside, and what Geuze wanted to say — but I may be wrong — is to preserve this relationship of city and countryside (or non-city as Koolhaas said today). He then analysed Paris urban organisation in accordance with the topic of nature. He said that Haussmann envisioned the planification of Paris by integrating natural patterns such as garden, trees, parks, etc. It seems that he was influenced by French patrimony such as le Chateau de Versaille, et that of Vaux-le-Vicomte, both of them organised on the concept of greenery. So Le Grand Paris must envision the importance of its legacy — in terms of greenery (of course). It was very interesting and like Yeang, I've got a recording of his presentation that I will transcript (the main ideas) into my blog.
The discussion between all the participants (included Niven Sidor, Andrea Branzi and James Wines) was better than today maybe because the architects talked more than the mediator, and the last one was more careful to what they said.
In a new thread I will focus on these issues sus-mentioned.

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