2/04/2012

Membrane: A waterproof membrane by Tingwei Xu and Xie Zhang

As I can't wait for reading Rachel Armstrong's Living Architecture which will be in sale next week, on February 7th, (TEDBook 2012), I am looking at some innovative projects posted here and there or, published in magazines, and other books.

Suggested article and book:
More on Rachel Armstrong's Living Architecture, read Green Building Elements' review.
See also: Rachel Armstrong, "Self-Repairing Architecture", in Next Nature, Koert van Mensvoort and Hendrik-Jan Grievink, Actar Editorial, 2011, pp.166-169

Architectural Membrane for New York, © Tingwei Xu and Xie Zhang

eVolo posted early today a project designed by two students, Tingwei Xu and Xie Zhang, both from the University of Pennsylvania, a project that explores a built environment confronting with sea level rising in the event of global warming.
Architectural Membrane for New York, © Tingwei Xu and Xie Zhang

Their case study focuses on the sea level rising of New York. It however can be expanded into other very concerned areas such as Venice or Thailand.
Architectural Membrane for New York, © Tingwei Xu and Xie Zhang

This membrane, that wraps a stack of spaces along the bayside edge of New York functions as a system of protection, a waterproof modular structure, that will prevent the city from sea level rising.
Architectural Membrane for New York when Sea Level © Tingwei Xu and Xie Zhang

As such, this surface system, a sort of woven membrane, with perforation to reduce heat gain and allow for natural light, ventilation within the building, or the covered surface. Xu and Zheng said to have been inspired by the intelligent components to design this responsive and ingrated surface. The space between the old buildings' facade and this surface is dissolved creating a layered skin.
Architectural Membrane for New York © Tingwei Xu and Xie Zhang

Such as a growth assembly-type of system, this membrane can act as a waterproof in the events of flooding as it can be served as vegetal envelope to mitigate climate change, plants, mostly trees profitting from the openings to grow up. 
Architectural Membrane for New York when Sea Level Rises © Tingwei Xu and Xie Zhang
> Transforming space
Some parts of the surface have double layers, it seamlessly dissolves the old and rigid layer system of the building. Thus, the space between the old building and the new surface become total fluid, Xu and Zhang say.

While it is difficult to say whether or not this skin is capable of self-repairing, it is nonetheless able to respond to environmental pressures, repeated flooding or, here, sea level rising. The surface can be accessible easily for the users transforming itself into a park, or, at least, a promenade. This modulated system contingently generates a self-contained environment and a protective skin.
Architectural Membrane for New York, © Tingwei Xu and Xie Zhang

In conclusion, it is tricky to classify this design proposal under the 'landscape urbanism' rubric. Thus 'landscape urbanism' is becoming more and more an overused term for any 'marketable' reason. In the same way it is tricky to say if this is a new generation of architectural skins.
Architectural Membrane for New York, © Tingwei Xu and Xie Zhang 

In this context, more precision is required about the properties of this envelope. Yet this design proposal raises a series of significant issues that concern building design and materials, building construction as well as building as problem-addressing in environmental stresses.
Then, this design reminds me, to a certain extent, R&Sie(n)'s research, in particular, Dusty Relief (2002), specifically this electrostatic skin which aims at attracting dust and pollution of Singapore within the skin and filtering the air. Yet, in R&Sie(n)'s work, as Javier Arbona noted in Architectural Design (Territory, May/June 2010), technology is interlinked with nature "both visible and invisible." Moreover, R&Sie(n)'s research attempts to less avoid "treating technology as another entity with an ambiguous relationship to idealised nature, obfuscating the long lineare where we humans have ensnarled nature and technology with each other," to paraphrase Javier Arbona
Architectural Membrane for New York, © Tingwei Xu and Xie Zhang

Rather, it couples built environment to technology and nature generating an adaptive and responsive ecologically and 'technologically' surface. In other words, it is both human and nature technology', meaning technology acting as a partner not only in" improving the human condition", rather than a rival, as well as in making nature and human feed back into one another. In "I'm Lost in Paris", R&Sie(n) created a nutritional system to feed ferns that grow up on the surface of the building. Will it be the same — or at least a similar strategy — for this architectural green membrane?

Suggested essays: Allison Guy and Koert van Mensvoort, "Humane Technology", in Next NatureKoert van Mensvoort and Hendrik-Jan Grievink, Actar Editorial, p. 261.
Javier Arbona, "It's in Your Nature. I'm Lost in Paris", in Architectural Design, Territory, guest-edited by David Gissen, May/June 2010, pp. 46-53.
David Gissen, "Toxic Territories", in Architectural Design, Territory, guest-edited by David Gissen, May/June 2010, pp. 54-59.

Notwithstanding this surface might expand new functions for buildings' envelopes as well as building materials. This is probably what Tingwei Xu and Xie Zhang envision with this design proposal.

Source: eVolo.
All images originally appeared on eVolo.

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