Competition: Past Forward | Think Space 2012 by guest curator Adrian Lahoud

A competition that raises a debate on the discipline of architecture: Past Forward, launched by the guest curator Adrian Lahoud of Think Space 2012:
The last three decades saw significant change across social, political, and environmental registers. The conjunction of capital flows, mass urbanization and increasingly interconnected cultural and financial networks have reshaped the way we understand, produce and discuss architecture resulting in a breathless cycle of formal and aesthetic transformations. This restless appearance of change conceals an increasingly interconnected cultural and financial networks have reshaped the way we understand, produce and discuss architecture resulting in a breathless cycle of formal and aesthetic transformations. This restless appearance of change conceals an increasing sense of inertia or perhaps even of confusion, in that an intellectual project has yet to accompany the overiding sense of technical virtuosity.
This cycle of competitions aims to hold a mirror to the discipline to reflect the changes of the last thirty years by re-visiting three competitions that radically transformed architectural culture: The Peak (1982), Yokohama Port Terminal (1994) and Blur Building (1999). All three winning entries emerged under unique conditions to take up critical positions on the predominant tendencies of the their time. Though they have radically different ambitions, these three projects continue to reverberate throughout contemporary architectural culture in some way, introducing new attitudes to the ground, surface and atmosphere.

This competition is part of a cycle launched on April 27, 2012. Deadline for entry submission is on July 17, 2012.
More: here.

Now I would like to draw your attention to this competition that I invite you to take part or, at least, to check out. Past Forward is a call-to-arms that raises a debate on architecture to reflect the changes of the last thirty years, as I wrote above. Some of you may have already read the article on this competition written by Michael Holt, Marissa Looby for Domus. If not yet and you want to participate, please read it quickly. Why this competition? and what for? Adrian Lahoud notes a lack of serious intellectual investigation from the discipline, both Michael Holt  and Marissa Looby write.
[T]he projects identified here are "points of reference" and important, conceptual innovations that signify a disparity with contemporary architectural culture. 
In a nutshell, first the title. Past Forward suggests according to Michael Holt and Marissa Looby:
[A]n inflection back towards an outmoded expression for video or audio tapes; the idea of re-runs that revisit the previously documented or heralded.
This competition, then, aims to intensify architectural discourse through the insistence of architectural design:
[T]hrough revisiting specific canonical architectural projects over the last thirty years: Zaha Hadid Architect's The Peak Leisure Club (Hong Kong, 1983); FOA's Yokohama Port Terminal (Yokohama, 1994); and Diller Scofidio + Renfro's Blur Building (Yverdon-les-Bains, 1999). 
As Holt and Looby report:
The brief for the competition is straightforward upon initial consideration: to design a project on a site of a notable, architecturally-significant building using the same competition brief as the previous winning entrant; but its subconscious layering lurks just below the surface.
Indeed, the purpose of this competition is not to provide solutions:
[T]he brief surreptitiously reveals the current conceit of the architectural profession.
and also:
Past Forward aims at highlighting a larger socio-cultural predicament; a form of noble lie, where architectural discourse and practice seems pent up on pining for attention, expunging its energies on projects that lack direction either in programmatic or problematic concerns.
It will be interesting to see what kind of result this competition will lead to. Awards announcement is announced to be in September, 2012. Let's wait and see what this competition will raise.

More: Here.
Source: Domus.


The Editor's Pick: this Monday we read…

This Saturday, The Architecture Post The Review is coming back with a review of a French young journal of Architecture Cosa Mentale, that I discovered this year, in the weeks following my come back from Tokyo. Three of the editors joined me last week in a café at Belleville, to discuss the journal. The podcast will be posted this Saturday.
Then I hope to interview editors of San Rocco about this little publication. San Rocco recently launched the fourth issue Fuck Concepts! Contexts! Of course, I would like know more behind this issue, and about the history of this magazine. I also hope to catch MAP's editor David Garcia (if I finally grab the fifth issue entitled Chernobyl which is hard to find in Paris) and Volume Magazine's editors about the 31st issue Guilt Landscape.
Another project on which I am working is a video series on Architects and Housing in France. But as this project is still in a very blurry phase, I can't say more but news are coming fast so stay tuned.

This monday, the Editor's Picks is back with a series of to-read list from planning to landscape architecture, to urban archaeology, to architecture.

As many of us have noticed, we are entering an age of flattening cities. 'Emerging cities' tend to be modelled as western cities. China is an example among many others. The risk is countless: loss of identity, loss of heritage value, loss of memory, and so forth.
As Indian cities are growing, spotlights are slightly turning towards Indian urban planning. According to Rahul Mehrotra, an Indian urban planner, who recently talked to The New York Times, Indian cities will challenge twofold:
At the micro level our biggest concern is going to be that of the immense polarization that is occurring in our built environment. The between what we call slums or the informal city and large-scale infrastructure and global architecture is going to set up enormous social tensions in our society. Global capital is landing in our cities and bullying its way physically to create a presence and a polarization which will be hard to reverse and resolve as we go on unless we address this issue very quickly.
What results from that polarization are conditions like gated communities, whether they are vertical gated communities or communities at the edge of the city. Because gate communities usually have their own water supply, sewage disposition, they are actually parasitic on the city because they don't give to the city. They exclude the city but engage with the city on their own terms, and so it's not a two way kind of exchange.
At the macro level what is happening is very interesting because while the intelligentsia and the elite are focusing on the seven or eight big cities, the real urban time bomb are the 392 towns that make up the larger landscape of India. These 392 towns currently contain approximately 50,000 people each and are projected to grow up to 100,000 people that in 20 years might even be a million people. So potentially between 250 and 400 million urban Indians will live in towns that are not even on radars currently.
Now what's interesting about this landscape is that the levels of contestation in these places are not so charged, which means that the possibility for planners and governments to intervene yet exists and is not as complicated as it is in the megacities.
Taking Dharavi as example of the lack of interaction between informal settlements and gated communities within or at the edge of cities, Mehrotra called this specificity involution:
I use the word "involution" to describe what's happening in Mumbai, it's a term I borrow from the anthropologist Clifford Geertz who wrote about agricultural involution in Indonesia.
Involution is about creating an internal complexity that makes any mechanism highly efficient but also highly susceptible to malfunction. Whereas an evolutionary gesture is how species evolve to be able to broaden and make more robust their ecology.
I think in Mumbai in the 1950s, '60s and '70s with ideas for New Bombay and new metropolitan imaginations was all about evolutionary gestures. But today in Mumbai we celebrate involutionary gestures — how we fix sidewalks and upgrade slums.
It's not that these gestures are not important, but what is crucial is that we simultaneously address both ends of the spectrum — that is, celebrate internal complexity but as also diversify into more dynamic modes.
So I think Mumbai is at a point where it really has to make a decision because if it keeps becoming more internally complex it will just completely fail. And so for me, the most crucial questions at this moment are how we can begin to engage with our metropolitan region again: think of how we can create self-sufficient neighborhoods, facilitate public transportation, how we can open up land for more affordable housing.
Studio 10 Design in collaboration with Buro Happold recently unveiled a gateway bridge for the Shizimen Business District in Zhuhai, a prefecture-level city on the southern coast of Guangdong province, in China, with a population of 1,560,229 (2010), a density of 940 pp/sq km (2,400 pp/sq mi) for an area of 1,653 sq km (638 sq mi).
Infinite Loop Bridge © Studio 10 Design and Buro Happold.
Originally appeared on Domus.

A landmark-typed bridge, simple in form — a free standing arch — but elegant, will link Shizimen Canal to the Pearl River Delta. According to Domus, this bridge also marks the access to south China's new planned commercial hub.
       —> More on the Shizimen Central Business District: Here.

According to the team:
Infinite Loop Bridge © Studio 10 Design and Buro Happold.
Originally appeared on Architecture VS Nature Design.

Complex coastline conditions created an odd and asymmetric span, however we realized that by tying two simple parabolic arches together in a single ribbon form we could split the bridge into two simpler spans," says the winning team. "Thereby keeping a rational structure while making a strong formal statement, in that the bridge when reflected off the water created a double 8 figure, a sign of prosperity in Chinese culture.
Infinite Loop Bridge © Studio 10 Design and Buro Happold.
Originally appeared on Architecture VS Nature Design.
> The location of this bridge provides great view to varying
views: Macau, CBD Tower, CBD Convention Center
and Tower, and The Marina
Note this free standing infinity loop, simple in form but
playing an important role as connector.

The Dirt looks over China's Landscape Architecture which aims at "undoing the the damage". Chinese landscape architects' task will be growing fast as long as China will continue its urbanization. We learn that, by 2020, about 65 percent of China's territory will be urban.
Beijing Olympic Forest Park © Hu Jie, ASLA,
Landscape architecture department at THUPDI.
Originally appeared on Gardenvisit.
> "A mountain, Yangshan Hill, was built out of the reclaimed
debris from the new Beijing subway and Olympic stadium
construction projects. In the same way, as well runoff,
rain, and flood water, is cleansed through a man-made
4-acre wetland, where it's then used to maintain the landscape.
Hu and this system also helped preserve the native
"mountain and water tradition" while creating a new landmark."
The Dirt.
The purpose of these landscape architects is to put landscape in the center of planning. As Liang [Wei] said:
Through landscape, we can create a new structure for the city. Landscape architects can also be infrastructural engineers.
Vast ambition as landscape architecture can help connect urban development, ecology, architecture, and infrastructure. This 680-hectare Beijing Olympic Forest Park is an example illustrating landscape architects' seek for combining urbanization, quality of life, environment, and wellbeing.

 —> More on The Beijing Olympic Forest Park: here.

One of the ancient world's most important cities, Babylon, is endangered by an oil pipeline which is announced to pass through the wall of the 1,400 year old castle known as the Babil Fortress. This project is part of Iraqi Oil Ministry's plan. This is not the first time that this ancient city is threatened, as the Jewish Press reports:
Ancient site of Babylon.
Photo credit: screenshot.
Originally appeared on The Jewish Press.

The site has been harangued by constant threats in recent decades, including the construction of a palace for Saddam Hussein, the digging and leveling of terrain near the Ishtar Gate for the construction of a US military base and the extension of earlier pipelines in the 1970s and 80s.
 A Post-Hipster city, Aurash Khawarzad says to Tida Tippapart:
Appeared on The Huffington Post and Occupy Illuminaty.

[I]s a city where we are stopping DIY- displacement, and we're focusing on creating equitable communities. Society has been subjected to an incredible increase in the disparity in wealth — a significant contributor to that is hipster-level consumption. I think we're now at the point where many of us, even hipsters, see that the disparity in wealth and rapid gentrification have brought the city to a tipping point in losing what makes it special, which is diversity and a healthy commons, among other things. Now is time to pull back, and focus on contributing to a better city, not only consuming it.

Source: Domus, Architecture Vs Nature Design, The New York Times, The Dirt, The Jewish Press, The Huffington Post, Occupy Illuminati.


China: South-To-North Water Diversion

Needless to say that decrease of rate of rainfall will have serious impact in some regions of the world. China is challenging this issue. The northern area, which includes Beijing, is particularly concerned.

> "Beijing skyline; the main aim of the project is to ease the water shortage in northern China, particularly Beijing."
Originally appeared on Water Technology.
A study, led by Dao-Yi Gong, Pei-Jun Shi, Jing-Ai Wang, explains that this part, known to be semi-arid and fragile due to climate extreme, is becoming more and more vulnerable to rainfall shortage, climate change, human activities. This study, then, pointed out that:
> "Satellite view of a sandstorm over north-eastern China. By preserving groundwater, the water supplied by the
project is expected to help reduce sandstorms in this arid part of the country by the later part of this century."
Originally appeared on Water Technology.

[T]he long duration precipitation ≥ 3 days) event is found to decrease remarkably with a linear trend of -5.8% per 10 years. In contrast, the frequency of long dry spells ≥ 10 consecutive days without rainfall) is becoming more frequent at a rate of 7.2% per 10 years. (…) The annual precipitation decreases from the southeast to the northwest, with 550 mm to the south and less 200 mm to the north. This region receives most (more than 60%) of its annual rainfall in summer. Similar to the annual precipitation, summer rainfall also gradually decrease from the North Plain to the northern arid area.

Suggested article: Gong Dao-Yi, Shi Pei-Jun, Wang Jing-Ai, Daily precipitation changes in the semi-arid region over northern China, 2002.

> "A map of China's South-to-North Water Diversion mega-project."
Originally appeared on Water Technology.

Ma Zhuguo and Fu Congbin stressed that rainfall scarcity will decrease habitat quality, as well as environment. Thus a small water deficiency will likely put plants, agriculture, and environment under pressure. Climate change is not the only reason to affect the northern area.

Suggested article: Ma Zhuguo, Fu Congbin, Interannual characteristics of the surface hydrological variables over the arid and semi-arid areas of northern China, 2002.

According to Zhang Qiaoyun, Lu Tingting and Liu Jinglong's study: semi-arid areas of China are the result of land degradation, desertification, and climate extreme. These drylands are also likely to be dramatically exposed by Climate change, these three researchers add.

Suggested article: Zhang Qiaoyun, Lu Tingting, Liu Jinglong, Vulnerability of rural development in semi-arid area of Northern China — Assessment on the Scale of Community, 2010.

As a result, the addition of these factors will constrain natural resources of this region. To respond to water stress, China recently envisions to divert water from water rich south to the country's arid northern regions, Nate Lanxon reports for the UK edition of Wired. This project entitled National South-to-North Water Diversion Project consists of the construction of three new water routes:
National South-To-North Water Diversion Project.
Originally appeared on Wired.

[T]he government has ploughed 115 billion Yuan into the initiative. The "middle" route will see a 4,587 m long and 175 m deep river being created. By the time this phase is completed in 2014, 330,000 people will have been relocated make way for the new river and water diversion channels.
Precisely, according to Water Technology:
The central route diverts water from the Danjiangkou reservoir on the Han River via new canals near the west edge of the Hyanghuaihai Plain to flow through Henan and Hebei Provinces to Beijing — a diversion route totalling some 1,267km in length. The nearby city of Tianjin will also draw water from the trunk line near Xushui in Hebei Province. Initially designed to transfer 9.5 billion cubic meters of water, by 2030 some 13-14 billion cubic metres will be flowing along this system. The work also includes the construction of two tunnels of 8.5m internal diameter some 7km long, with a flow design of 500 cub. m/3. Declining reserves in the Danjiangkou Reservoir to bolster the supply and meet the demands of this part of the project.
National South-To-North Water Diversion Project.
Originally appeared on Wired.

The project began in December 2003, Water Technology writes:
It was planned to be finished before the commencement of Bejing Olympic Games in August 2008 to provide Beijing with drinking water. However, by September 2008, only 307km of the central route had been completed.
It has been postponed to 2014 due to the expansion of the Danjiangkou reservoir, the same Water Technology reports. But this will not be done without any concerns as this diversion is accompanied with environmental stress:
[P]rincipally regarding the loss of antiquities, the displacement of people and the destruction of pasture land. In addition, plans for further industrialisation along the routes of the project pose a serious risk of pollution to the diverted water.
National South-To-North Water Diversion Project.
Originally appeared on Wired.

Certainly, China may answer that risk should be taken when facing such concerns. Be that as it may, I can't wait for detailed information on this project.

Source: Wired and Water Technology


From Hard to Soft: How A New Approach On Regional And Local Levels Leads To Rethink Architectural Practice

How to address urgent issues such as linked environmental and economic crises, population pressure, global warming, sea-level rise, behavior of sea ice, food security, water stress, natural resource scarcity, temperature rising, global migration — due to these global issues —, etc.? does a global approach help solve these issues? Is there any method or tool we can implement to address these issues? Should we problem-solve or problem-address? These questions are arising as we don't find accurate measures to attempt to mitigate these issues.
Originally appeared on Get Resilience, 2012.
> "Remapping is to reconsider our relationship to the place we live." Jens Ambsdorf

I could not but agree with Jens Ambsdorf, CEO of The Lighthouse Foundation which promotes science and research, teaching, culture and the principle of environmentalism and international development in relation to the world's seas and oceans, who poses the question of the capacities of an international approach of global warming.
Arctic Climate Tour 2011 © ScanLAB Project

The UN Conference on sustainable development, that will take place this June in Rio, will discuss these crises by reshaping the institutions that govern international development. But according to Jens Ambsdorf:
Agence France-Presse - Getty Images
Originally appeared on The New York Times.
> "Family members checked out their ruined dwelling in Hajaribag,
outside the Bangladeshi capital. Such flooding is expected
to worsen significantly as a result of climate change in coming years."
Joanna M. Foster

Instead of trying to fix a system that itself is the cause of the dilemma we are in, we have to step out of the box and rethink that system entirely.
Rethinking the system, a system — our society — degraded by human activities — supposes the implementation of tools and methods that neither international conference nor a global approach can. On contrast, these can only be addressed through local measures, hence cannot be accommodated only in conventional international governance, Jens Ambsdorf says.

Photo: Abid Katib/Getty Images.
Originally appeared on Subtopia.

Regional and local levels are more appropriate as response to problem-address environmental crises (and we can also add economic crises), Jens Ambsdorf says.
Originally appeared on Domus.
> "In the village of Wlaxlw, near the Iraq-Iran border, remnants of the
conflict between the two countries were recycled in the postwar
reconstruction." Francesca Recchia

The challenges we face are global, but the solutions can only be found on an appropriate scale: the regional scale.
Provided that region and local are viewed as thematic tools. Ambsdorf is not the only one to call for a local and regional approach to tackle these issues, specific demands and resources. An article entitled Q. and A.: How to Save Bangladesh? posted on May 17th on the blog of New York Times, a blog that deals with Energy and the Environment, illustrates the importance of a regional and local approach to pressing issues as each region having its spatial complexity.

Urban Scale Fog Harvesting, © Maurits Ruis

Bangladesh sits at the end of the cone of the Bay of Bengal. The country is infamous for natural disasters. Every year the coastal zones routinely get washed away, and the farmland is destroyed: people lose animals, crops, everything they have. They are very exposed: most of the land is flat and just above sea level, every storm sweeps across the country without any obstacles, and tidal surges pound the coast. If you go further north, there is an area in the Northeast that is essentially a large depression in a large depression in the land. When the monsoon season, starts the water comes down from the mountains and floods the whole area. It fills up with water and takes months to drain. Vast areas are underwater half the time, so farmers can't go into their fields or grow anything then; they have to rely on something else for most of the year. These things have always happened in bangladesh, but with climate change it is expected that these flash floods will occur more frequently, and rainfall will be more intense and erratic. Farmers are already trying to adapt to these changes by sowing their rice earlier and using varieties that mature more quickly so they can get the harvest in before the rains come and they are left with nothing to eat or sell. In the coastal areas, storms are expected to come earlier and be more frequent and severe. In the last two decades, 500,000 people have been killed in storms, and we should expect that this will increase. And then of course, the sea level will rise, and the ocean will come in over what dikes have been built. It is very likely that about 30 percent of land in Bangladesh will frequently be underwater and the soil will be saturated with salt and useless. Many, many people will lose their farmland, crops and livestock and homes and become climate change refugees. Where do these people go then, when there is already not enough land in the country?

Suggested article: Joanna M. Foster | Q. and A.: How to Save Bangladesh? | The New York Times, May 17, 2012.

As seen, these issues cannot be measured by an international conference. Only local measures with great knowledge of the zone, its spatial and organizational complexity, can generate soft tools and methods to problem-address affected and/or weakened regions.

Suggested article: Jeremy Bugler | Population Pressure (and Beware the 'Lovelocks') | Get Resilience, May 13, 2012.

This call for a regional and local approach seems to be already integrated in the field of architecture, landscape architecture and urban planning as seen in a growing number of projects, case studies and workshops. Practitioners intervene at the scale of the city, the rural area, the zone by adding in localized systems. The case of the Arctic region is an interesting example with this just uploaded project of Pamela Ritchot one of the participants of the third issue titled [at Extreme] of the editorial project Bracket* edited by InfraNet Lab and Archinect. Her proposal attempts to create design and process tools to respond to issues that this region is facing.
Whole Arctic Catalog: Access to Tools
for Survival at the Edge of the Earth
© Pamela Ritchot
Originally seen on Bracket
> "The Arctic is emerging as a critical frontier of
global concern and a territory of immediate
action. The Whole Arctic Catalog repositions
Stewart Brand's Whole Earth Catalog to suggest
that we are Upon a timely moment in which we must
strategize the tools and technologies necessary
to secure the future of this fragile frontier. As our
contemporary concern for the rapidly changing
Arctic context alarms a new climate of crisis, this
collection of tools highlights our contemporary
condition as one of opportunity — to inspire a future
of innovation and growth in one of our most
extreme territories." Pamela Ritchot

Other forms of interventions and practices help address critical problems. When used to document landscape, urban exploration as a process tool addresses patterns and shift such as degraded landscape, scars and other traumas to expose the consequences of the relationship between pre-industrial landscape conditions and modern industrial systems. As a large number of observers pointed out, current landscape, infrastructure are the products of the past century; namely not only fordist forms of civil engineering and Euclidian planning policies as well as wars are leaving marks. As a consequence, today's environment is marked with activities and traces of humans. Current infrastructures are now becoming obsolete, in a decay, hence a call for a new approach of planning but based on local and regional data. An approach that no longer deteriorates the bio-physical landscape. An approach viewed as responsive, scalable, adaptive. Recently, a new approach has emerged as 'soft' tools and methods that problem-address degradation of the environment. These tools are localized systems in accordance with local and regional conditions.
It is difficult to affirm whether or not we enter a new way of practising, designing. However given the attempt of acting with the environment, of being softly integrated to the environment, these practitioners are in rupture with the architectural practice of the past century; their projects attempt to function as interfaces with the environment. In a way, these practitioners draw a lineage of tactics and strategies associated with the environment. Be that as it may, these projects raise an array of questions inviting us to rethink preoccupation of architecture and planning now forced to do with nature.
The Fog, The Fish, and the Wave © Marianna de Cola
Originally appeared on Bracket.
> "This is an investigation into the nature of mutable
landscapes — shifting settlements, resources and infrastructures. It
uncovers themes of mutability, shifting, movement, and transience.
As well as recognizing that the needs of a community are diverse.
The theoretical design project exhibits the constant themes of shifting
within a mobile wave power and monitoring system. The versatility
of the speculative infrastructure is intended to allow a response to the
constant shifting needs of the population as well as the aquatic ecology."
Marianna de Cola

Sacred Anomalies: Infiltrating Landscape Surveys ©
Liam Young and Kate Davies.
Originally appeared on Bracket.
> "The vast territories of the Australian outback are
highly contested landscapes. The technologies with which
this ground is surveyed and recorded also become the political
means through which groups claim ownership over it.
In the skies above, mining survey planes track
and forth laser scanning the earth searching for the
topographic anomalies that indicate pockets of undiscovered
minerals and on the ground, the ochre stokes of aboriginal
landscape painters map the songlines of their sacred
dreamtime stories. My proposal explores the space of the
mining survey as a parallel site for intervention,
where I have engineered a seasonal network
of mysterious dreamtime anomalies." Liam Young and Kate Davies.

* The selections for the third issue are just announced and are available here. The second issue [goes soft] will be released in the forthcoming weeks. Like the first issue, both second and third issues will be published by Actar Editorial. Bracket is an editorial project edited by InfraNet Lab and Archinect.


Architecture, Robotics, Nano-engineering, and other Drones

In a recent The New Yorker Magazine issue, Nick Paumgarten reports the expanding-use of drones. In the recent months, I have been developing a strong interest to robotics and architecture, the recent becoming-multivalent drone is getting central to my interest. What can drones and other swarm nano-robots bring to architecture and urban design in terms of construction system? This leads to another one: what can drones bring to specific tasks in fields of geography, geology, landscape architecture, and other fields not directly related to those fields like urban exploration? In a very recent conversation on drones launched by Nick Paumgarten for The New Yorker, a reader asked him what can be potentially positive use of drones beside crime scene investigation, search and rescue, disaster relief. Nick Paumgarten answered as follows:
[T]here are lots of positive applications. They can be used for crop inspection, for wildlife monitoring — counting herds, protecting animals from poaches etc. — for gathering climate data. Good guys can use them to keep an eye on polluters.
And here we are, multi-task drones are getting out of their exclusive field of application: military market to progressively enter the vast but — probably — more or less lucrative market: the domestic market (this including police department but this is another story).
I have already mentioned the growing importance that robotics will take in architecture, in particular in manufacturing applications. In 2010 Harvard GSD's Martin Bechthold wrote an essay entitled The Return of the Future: A Second Go at Robotic Construction for the Architectural Design Magazine. This essay stresses the growing contribution of robotics to construction systems. His article explores current use of industrial robots in the fabrication of architectural components. But now we are expanding our curiosity into drones and swarm nano-robots, their possible use in a field that is in perpetual mutation. Some engineers, not related to architecture and construction, have already open some doors concerning these questions. Let's cite one: Vijay Kumar. But let's him aside for a couple of minutes. Before this, it is important to go back to Paumgarten's conversation on drones to place our discussion.

Suggested Article: Abraham Bachrach, Ruijie He, and Nicholas Roy | Autonomous Flight in Unstructured and Unknown Indoor Environments, 2011.

So what do we envision as some of the potentially positive use of drones? A question I borrow to the participant to the Nick Paumgarten on Drones conversation.

Suggested Article: Nick Paumgarten | The World of Surveillance, "Here's Looking at You" | The New Yorker, May 14, 2012, p. 46.

Until now, drone was confined to military use. Yet, Peter W. Singer of the Brookings Institution and author of | Wired for War, a book about military robotics reveals that:

Suggested Book: Peter W. Singer
| Wired for War: The Robotics Revolution and Conflict in the 21st Century | Penguin Press, 2009.

The nature of technology is that it is introduced for one role and then it slippery-slops into unintended roles.
Indeed, the author of the excellent Wired for War, Peter Singer, pointed up the transformative capacity of drone, similar to other man-made technologies from computer, to tablets, to cell-phones.

Suggested Article: Noah Shachtman | Inside the Rose of the Warbots | Wired, February 4, 2009 (for an expanding read on drones…).
Their intelligence and autonomy is growing. It used to be that an aerial surveillance plane had to fly close. Now sensors on a U.A.V. can detect a milk carton from sixty thousand feet. The law's not ready for all this.

As Paumgarten writes, manufacturers understand an opportunity for diversification of the functions of the remote-controlled robot to broader tasks aiming at seeking out customers — farmers, fishermen, architects, engineers, meteorologists, robotics hobbyists —, from police surveillance to model-plane hobbyistsFrance-Drone, for example, proposes services such as photos, videos, or other data taken from the air to customers in varying sectors from agriculture to art, to sponsoring, to architecture, to urbanism, to construction, to golf, to cartography.
But the risk is that drone can be used for more suspicious functions. In 2003, as Nick Paumgarten writes:
[B]order vigilantes in Arizona began testing two drones to track illegal immigrants.
Suggested article: Spencer Ackerman | Homeland Security Wants to Spy on 4 Square Miles at Once || Wired - January 23, 2012

And drones will be (or are already) unsurprisingly used similarly in other countries where monitoring, tracking informal business, migration, or enemies are needed. But that is another story.

Nick Paumgarten relates this story of a Canadian aeronautical engineer named Tad McGeer, who, in the early nineties:
[H]elped design a drone that collected meteorological and atmospheric data.

Suggested article: Richard Conniff | Drones are Ready for Takeoff || Smithsonian Magazine, June 2011

Accordingly, drone can be used for collecting data, survey hazardous landscape, making a map.
In the below video, Vijay Kumar, a mechanical-engineering professor at the University of Pennsylvania's General Robotics, Automation, Sensing & Perception Lab (GRASP). Vijay Kumar, as Nick Paumgarten learns us, does not have any interest to military and surveillance. As mentioned, Drones, as Kumar confirms, can be used for:
First response (gas and biochemical leaks); Construction (beams, columns, etc.); Transportation; surveillance of multiple buildings; Search and rescue; Large scale environmental monitoring…
And the list of task assignments is far from being closed…

In this video, small-scaled flying robots performed a series of intricate tasks without mutual interference or collusion responding to varying task assignments. Those swarm robots are capable of mimicking avian flight. Vijay Kumar, who also leads the laboratory Swarm, and his team examines behavioral organization inspired by nature, biological groupings such as insect swarms, bird flocks and fish schools, and other specific species that act in groups like termites and ants. Here is how Kumar describes his laboratory Swarm:
This project brings together experts in artificial intelligence, control theory, robotics, systems engineering and biology with the goal of understanding swarming behaviors in nature and applications of biologically inspired models of swarm behaviors to large networked groups of autonomous vehicles.

Suggested article: Spring Berman, Quentin Lindsey, Mahmut Selman Sakar, Vijay Kumar, and Stephen Pratt | Study of group food retrieval by ants as a model for multi-robot collective transport strategies | School of Engineering and Applied Sciences, Harvard University/GRASP Laboratory, University of Pennsylvania/Department of Mechanical Engineering, Massachusetts Institute of Technology/School of Life Sciences, Arizona State University, 2010

More precisely, as Ani Hsieh, Adam Halasz, Spring Berman, and Vijay Kumar wrote:
Our work is inspired by experimental studies of ant house hunting and empirical models that predict the behavior of the colony that is faced with a choice between multiple candidate nests.
See this article: Ani Hsieh, Adam Halasz, Spring Berman, Vijay Kumar | Biological Inspired Redistribution of a Swarm of Robots Among Multiple Sites.

This is possible with algorithms that allow drone for processing complex functions. 
Such as architecture, robotics engineers also develop a strong interest in the study of biology for inspiration in the manufacture of robots. 
Researchers in varying fields from military to engineering are trying to engineer robots and airborne machines capable of imitating:
the movements of fish and the "echolocation" abilities of bats.  
This has been well documented, for example in Hsieh, Halasz, Berman and Kumar:
In nature, we often see complex group behaviors arise from biological systems composed of large numbers of organisms that individually lack the communication and computational capabilities required for centralized control. Such decentralized consensus-building behaviors are observed in a variety of social organisms, including ants, honeybees and cockroaches and have inspired much research on the development of self-organized task allocation strategies for multi-robot systems.

New opportunities… in a way. Kumar and his laboratory are not the only ones to engineer drones and remote-controlled swarm robots. But according to Kumar, as quoted in The New Yorker:
We are the only people to bring the physical design, the algorithms, the software for autonomous operation together in a holistic approach.
Still in the United States, Harvard School of Engineering and Applied SciencesRobobees. According to laboratory, RoboBees will be able to realize varying tasks such as hazardous environment exploration, traffic monitoring, search and rescue (in the aftermath of a natural disaster, the Harvard Group say), high resolution and climate mapping, and of course military surveillance, among others. In short, the same functions. You see how robotics labs are now investigating this field of research as demands for drones, and more broadly, nano-robots seem to be growing fast. RoboBee, a swarm robotic project launched by Harvard School of Engineering and Applied Sciences, is a nature-inspired robot. The website provides some keys on this project:
The collaborators envision that the Nature-inspired research could lead to a greater understanding of how to artificially mimic the collective behavior and "intelligence" of a bee colony; foster novel methods for designing and building an electronic serrogate nervous system able to deftly sense and adapt to changing environments; and advance work on the construction of small-scale flying mechanical devices. More broadly, the scientists anticipate the devices will open up a wide range of discoveries and practical innovations, advancing fields ranging from entomology and developmental biology to amorphous computing and electrical engineering.

RoboBees © Harvard School of Engineering and Applied Sciences.
Originally appeared on Harvard School of Engineering and Applied Sciences.
> Three categories: body, brain, and colony: "The Body involves all aspects of the proposed work that revolve around construction of a flapping-wing robot; The Brain incorporates all of the sensors, control (i.e. algorithms and software), and circuitry (i.e., hardware) to coordinate flight and target identification capabilities of the RoboBees. And; The Colony encompasses higher-level support required to accomplish objectives of a complex task in a collaborative manner." Harvard School of Engineering and Applied Sciences.

The form of this robot, a bee, may have been influenced by the fact that, as Paumgarten points out:
I recalled a conversation with a warfare expert and robotics Cassandra who'd told me that robots now had the intelligence of insects, and that, according to Moore's Law, in seven years they'd have the intelligence of rats.
RoboBees © Harvard School of Engineering and Applied Sciences.
Originally appeared on Harvard School of Engineering and Applied Sciences.
> "From flies to fish to lobsters, small insects and animals have long been ideal models for roboticists. Bees, for example, possess unmatched elegance in flight, zipping from flower to flower with ease and hovering stably with heavy payloads." Harvard School of Engineering and Applied Sciences.

But, and back to our introductory question, what can drones bring to architecture? First off, the possibility for using drones in particular site of construction where humans won't be able to intervene in such sites.

In this above video, a team of swarm quadrotors is building tower-like cubic structures out of prefabricated beams. Of course, this team has weakness; among many others: their battery which is currently limited to up to about 20 minutes. But use of drones is not limited to construction.
Liam Young and Darryl Chen of Tomorrows Thoughts Today (TTT), are among these architects with strong interests in robotics. TTT recently built prototypes for their project entitled Electronic Countermeasures presented at the 2011 GLOW Festival in Eindhoven, the Netherlands— a project largely commented and reviewed. Electronic Countermeasures is inspired by the U.S. Government's air-drones. About Electronic Countermeasures, Liam Young says to The Urban Future an editorial project arm of The Urban Times:
Electronic Countermeasures © Tomorrows Thoughts Today.
Originally appeared on DOMUS.

Suggested articles: Electronic Countermeasures | Domus, 12 March 2012.
Alexander Phillips in conversation with Liam Young | Back to the Futurist: Liam Young | The Urban Future, 13 February 2012.
The Funambulist | Science not so Fiction /// National Security Drones vs Liam Young's Electronic Counter-Measures + Warsaw Scout Drone | The Funambulist, 11 March 2012.
For the skies above the city we have built a drone flock that drifts into formation to broadcast a local file sharing network. Part nomadic infrastructure and part robotic swarm they form a pirate internet, an aerial napster, darting between the buildings. These drones fly off and hover above the city, and create ad hoc connections and networks in a new form of nomadic territorial infrastructure. They are their place specific, temporary, local, WIFI community - a pirate internet. They swarm into formation, broadcasting their pirate network, and then disperse, escaping detection, only to reform elsewhere. Impromptu augmented communities form around the glowing flock. Their aerial dance and dynamic glowing formations gives expression to the digital communities of the city.

Electronic Countermeasures address both design and manufacture systems of an air-bone nomadic infrastructure. In a fashion, the way these flocks of swarm robots fly is similar to remote-controlled drones' way of fling. Some studies tackle the principles of controlling a group of robots over a wireless network. This, indeed, requires three interacting components: decentralized control, decentralized estimation, and a networking protocol.

See also: Mac Schwager, Nathan Michael, Vijay Kumar, and Daniela Rus | Time Scales and Stability in Networked Multi-Robot Systems | 2011 IEEE International Conference on Robotics and Automation, Shanghai International Conference Center, May 9-13, 2011, Shanghai, China.

In the case of TTT's drones flocks:
Electronic Countermeasure © Tomorrow Thoughts Today.
Originally appeared on DOMUS.

We have built a flock of GPS enabled quadcopter drones from components that were originally intended for aerial reconnaissance and police surveillance to create this flying pirate file sharing network. The drones are autonomous and drift above the public spaces of the city as a balletic interactive aerial choreography. Part nomadic infrastructure and part robotic swarm we have rebuilt and programmed the drones to broadcast their own local wifi network as a form of aerial Napster. They swarm into formation, broadcasting their pirate network, and then disperse, escaping detection, only to reform elsewhere.

Or a sort of pirating internet service, in a way, as people can upload files, photos and share data with one another as the drones float above the significant public spaces of the city. Beyond this, Electronic Countermeasures uses aerial reconnaissance and police surveillance components creating connections and networks in a new form of nomadic territorial infrastructure:
Electronic Countermeasure © Tomorrows Thoughts Today.
Originally appeared on DOMUS.

Revolutionary communities are coalescing around social networks and text messages and occupy the city with the force to topple governments. The U.S. military's has development autonomous aerial drones that they can be launched across a place like Egypt, when the government cut off internet access to prevent people from organizing protests. These drones would fly off and hover above the city, and creating ad hoc connections and networks in a new form of nomadic territorial infrastructure.
Electronic Countermeasures © Tomorrows Thoughts Today.
Originally appeared on DOMUS.
I am particularly curious with this growing interest to drones, nano-robotics, swarm robots in the architectural and engineering fields. And while use of drones and swarm robots appear to be currently vague, in fields and tasks such as urban exploration in regions with extreme climates and/or suffering from contamination and other hazards, remotely-controlled aircrafts can be useful to collect data from these areas. And I am thinking of guilt landscapes such as Chernobyl, Fukushima, or regions with extreme weathers like Arctic, to name a few. Another way of using drones in the architectural and engineering fields can be to analyse landscape pattern change facing pressing issues such as climate change, drought, floods, etc to communicate environmental issues. As one can see, use of drone in architecture and engineering is as inexhaustible as my curiosity can be…

Suggested book: Koert van Mensvoort and Hendrik-Jan Grievink | Next Nature ı Nature Changes Along With Us | Actar Editorial, 2012.


Architecture: BIG Unveiling plans for Yongsan International Business District, Seoul

BIG just unveiled plans for a two-in-one skyscraper in Seoul, South Korea, much known as Yongsan International Business District.
An order of interlocked horizontal and vertical parallelepipeds in form. Two vertical towers — the East Tower and the West Tower — interconnected by bridges. A skyscraper shaped like a # symbol, Bjarke Ingels says.
Yongsan International Business District, Seoul © BIG.
Originally appeared on Wired UK.
> Aesthetically, one may have noticed that this pixelated skyscraper does not break down
with surrounded pixelated towers. The voids creating by this spatial and organizational strategy
allows for circulation of light and ventilation to the below ground level and surrounded streets.

As usual, BIG's diagrams are very wordy, in a way. They show in various angles, interlocked volumes, green features and paths,  the relationship of the skyscraper and its surrounding.
Skyscraper in Seoul © BIG.
Originally appeared on Wired UK.
> This aerial view provides information concerning the organization of green features and other activities on the
top of these bridges. Trees, and other plants will be planted on the top accessible via staircase.

The # symbol creates voids that may facilitate circulation of light, and ventilation. It may participate as a landmark in Seoul, as well.
Skyscraper in Seoul © BIG.
Originally appeared on Wired UK.
> This view shows the domination of green features, or landscaped bridge to quote Bjarke Ingels. As said, a part of this bridge will be perforated to connect inner spaces to these garden.
Staircase will be used as a connector as well.
Note the path to circulate on the top of the bridge.

According to the Wired UK, tops of the bridges, situated at 140m and 70 m in height, will feature roof gardens accessible to residents. Other green element is the courtyard located below the ground level with paths. Ingels says to the Wired UK:
Skyscraper in Seoul © BIG.
Originally appeared on Wired UK.
> Below the ground level, a communal courtyard including a promenade, trees as a quiet space within the city. At least this may be the function of this courtyard.

The Cross # Towers constitute a three-dimensional urban community of interlocking horizontal and vertical towers. Three public bridges connect two slender towers at different levels -- underground, at the street and in the sky.
Skyscraper in Seoul © BIG.
Originally appeared on Wired UK.
> With its form, this skyscraper may act as a landmark in this part of Seoul.

The diagram below shows the articulation of these horizontal parallelepipeds acting as connectors to the two vertical towers.
Skyscraper in Seoul © BIG.
Originally appeared on Wired UK.
> Note the integrated green features. A communal courtyard including paths (after some diagrams) and
bridges covered with gardens that will be accessible to the residents.
Bjarke Ingels continues with:
Skyscraper in Seoul © BIG.
Originally appeared on Wired UK.

Catering to the demands and desires of different residents, age groups and cultures, and the bridges are landscaped and equipped for a variety of activities traditionally restricted to the ground. The resultant volume forms a distinct figure on the new skyline of Seoul — a "#" that serves as a gateway to the new Yongsan Business District signaling a radical departure from the crude repetition of disconnected towers towards a new urban community that populates the three-dimensional space of the city.
For those who study the role of diagrams on BIG's architecture, or simply appreciate diagrams, check out BIG's website for more details.

Source: Wired UK.

Building Facts

Project: Yongsan International Business District
Architects: BIG
Partner in Charge: Bjarke Ingels, Thomas Christoffersen, Finn Nørkjær
Project Leader: André Schmidt
Project Manager: Kamilla Hasjke, Cat Huang
Team: Buster Christensen, Jeppe Ecklon, Tobias Hjortdal, Jakob Sand, Mikkel Marcker Stubgaard, Camila Luise de Andrade Stadler, Lorenzo Boddi, Karol Borkowski, Igor Brozyna, Edouard Champalle, Erik de Haan, Shun Ping Liu, Enea Michelesio, Daram Park, Lucian Racovitan, Teresa Fernandez Rojo, Julian Salazar, Laura Youf, Seung Huyn Yuh, Paolo Venturella, Yang Du.
Type: Commission
Client: Dreamhub
Collaborators: Arup Dublin (SMEP, Façade) & Amsterdam (Lighting), Martha Schwarz Partners (MSP), SIAP
Size: 96,534 sq m
Location: Seoul, South Korea
Status: In Progress

Pageviews last month