In a land devoid of colour, seven giant blue drones stand on stubby feet. The site looks like something from the opening credits of Star Wars or, for those old enough to remember it, a 1960s Thunderbirds set, but it is in fact the Hugh Broughton Architects designed Halley Research Station in the Antarctic, which this month welcomes its first tranche of summer researchers.
The station will be home to up to 52 crew members over the summer and while the site may look childlike, its design is anything but simplistic. Roughly 900 miles from the South Pole, located on an ice sheet that is perpetually moving and folding into the Weddell Sea this is the sixth Halley Research Station.
The first four were buried and crushed by snow build up. Halley V, which is still in use, overcomes this problem by being jacked up on stilts. This allows it to be raised every year, though it requires the effort of 40 people over several days. And it doesn’t solve the issue of the relentless movement of the Brunt Ice Shelf towards the Weddell Sea, meaning that the area on which the station sits will eventually break off.
To overcome these issues, Broughton’s design is raised on hydraulically elevated feet to stay above the snowfall. The units are also built on skis so can be easily be pulled to a new location. Even the modules’ bright colours — strong blue for the science and sleeping quarters and a vivid red for the largest, central module, which forms the base’s social hub — were purposely chosen to help lift crew spirits in the dark days of winter.
The project has made Broughton a sought-after expert in extreme architecture. He has created proposals for Indian, Spanish and South Korean Antarctic stations and has been commissioned to build a research station in Greenland for the American National Science Foundation. (via)
It’s been twenty years since the demolition of the Kowloon Walled City. To mark this anniversary, the South China Morning Post has created an info-graphic that details the facts and figures of what life was like inside this architectural oddity.
For the best part of the 20th century, the walled city was like a glitch in the urban fabric of Hong Kong; a solid 2.7 hectare block of unrestrained city and the most densely populated place on earth.
The height of the Walled City rose with the rest of Hong Kong. In the 1950s, housing usually consisted of wooden and stone low-rises. In the ’60s, concrete buildings of four or five storeys appeared. And in the ’70s, many were replaced by blocks of 10 storeys or more. The site became chaotically cramped, with buildings so close to each other that in some it was impossible to open a window. (via)
When architects talk about their buildings, what they say is often at odds with the statements of the buildings themselves. This is probably connected with the fact that they tend to talk a good deal about the rational, thought-out aspects of their work and less about the secret passion that inspires it.
The design process is based on a constant interplay of feeling and reason. The feelings, preferences, longings, and desires that emerge and demand to be given a form must be controlled by critical powers of reasoning, but it is our feelings that tell us whether abstract considerations really ring true.
To a large degree, designing is based on understanding and establishing systems of order. Yet I believe that the essential substance of the architecture we seek proceeds from feeling and insight. Precious moments of intuition result from patient work. With the sudden emergence of an inner image, a new line in a drawing, the whole design changes and is newly formulated within a fraction of a second. It is as if a powerful drug were suddenly taking effect. Everything I knew before about the thing I am creating is flooded by a bright new light. I experience joy and passion, and something deep inside me seems to affirm: ‘I want to build this house!’
Metabolism develops a deeply ambivalent attitude towards Japan’s ground, which is usually too densely populated, expensive, mountainous, flood-prone, beautiful, or seismically unstable to build on. So the Metabolist conceive “artificial ground” structures that hover over the ground on platforms or pilotis, still in a close relation with the topography even in its attempts at defiance, and occasionally lunging upwards, desperate for liberation. Kawazoe writes: “The very difficulty of obtaining land is actually unfolding a new possibility for housing…”
With Sakaide’s tradition of salt production in decline and former farmers now living in slum conditions, Otaka attempts liberation from the chaotic, degraded urban plan by creating a housing complex on an urban platform raised six-nine meters. The platform stages social housing; below the platform, parking and shops. Otaka says: “Artificial ground is a means to create an artificial nature, using reinforced concrete. If carefully applied, reinforced concrete can last for more than 200 years, which allows us to use it just like natural ground. Artificial ground should be supplied to people for a very reasonable price as it should be built by infrastructural companies (gas, water, etc.). Artificial ground is … an alternative means of creating new land without reclaiming the sea.” The project grows in three more phases; the last is completed in 1986.
By SARAH WILLIAMS GOLDHAGEN l The New Republic March 17, 2013
Architecture, by definition, lives a world of big money. Buying land. Commissioning, then giving rein to, while reining in the designer. Doling out fees for structural engineers, HVAC technicians, lighting consultants, work permits. Excavating. Selecting, procuring, shipping various building materials to the site. Paying construction workers, site overseers, project managers. It takes a lot of cash.
So when big money, artistic accomplishment, and the public good coincide, it’s time to celebrate. Smile, then, at the awarding of this year’s Pritzker Prize to Toyo Ito, the seventy-one-year-old Japanese architect who hit his stride in 2001 with the completion of the fabulously vitrine Mediatheque in Sendai. The building represents a 21st-century reinterpretation of the public library, housing books, film and video archives and viewing booths, the ubiquitous accessories of digital media, as well as a bookstore, café, and art gallery. That the announcement comes this week is especially fitting: it’s the two-year anniversary of the 3.11 Tōhoku earthquake and tsunami that ravaged that city and the surrounding region without felling Ito’s masterpiece.
In Sendai and two superb follow-up buildings, the Tama Art University Library near Tokyo and the National Stadium of Sports Affairs Council in Kaohsiung, Taiwan, Ito takes architectural motifs and schemas one would have thought well-nigh exhausted, brilliantly reshaping them by concentrating on how each story’s floor plans relate to one another in three-dimensional space. Architects call thisa building’s section, as if a cleaver slices a building top to bottom, to reveal how the spaces relate to one another, bottom to top.
In Sendai, Ito took the conventional 20th century motif of stacked floor plates supported internally by a regular grid of columns, and transformed it into an internally varied, spatially unified, and impressively dynamic, glass-enclosed public monument. He did so by knocking the structural columns supporting the floor plates off the grid this way and that, and by transforming them into biomorphically shaped, bulging and contracting lattice-wrapped hollow tubes to create structural supports of unusual seismic strength and flexibility that multitask as light shafts, stairwells, and more.
At the Tama Art University Library, Ito reconsidered the venerable Roman tradition. Roman masonry arches are heavy, muscular. They illustrate their transfer of a building’s compressive loads from sky to ground, and when they cross one another to span and enclose interior spaces, they form arch systems deployed along the predictable grid. At the Tama Library, Ito deploys, skews, and subverts the roman arch motif in multiple ways. Arches that seem almost impossibly thin are constructed not in the traditional, block-on-block manner; instead they are cut from thin steel plates, then surfaced with finished concrete. The spans of these arches are not semi-circular but elliptical, varying in dimension from a body-hugging five feet to a community-embracing 52 feet wide. And these arches are deployed not on a regular grid but along irregularly curving lines, creating highly varied interior spaces, some tight, acutely angled; others expansively oblique. Perched atop a grassy hill, the first floor of the Library contains a cafeteria serving the entire campus population, and its ground level floor slopes upward, following the topography of the hill on which the building sits.
All this tampering with structure, with section, with historical precedent—what’s Ito’s point? These buildings manifest his important, even visionary realization that contemporary architecture must be ever more, and in better ways attuned to two complex dimensions common to all human experience, the body on the one hand, and nature on the other. Whether you’re in Japan, Taiwan, London, or Barcelona, whether you are Japanese, Taiwanese, British or Spanish Basque, you live, because we all live, in a body, and you move, because we all move, along pathways and through spaces, upon the ground. Ito told Nicolai Ourosoff in 2009: “I sometimes feel we are losing an intuitive sense of our own bodies … I am looking for something more primitive, a kind of abstraction that still has a sense of the body.” And in the last decade, Ito more and more frequently has spoken of the dynamic, fluid systems of nature, which grow and flourish in patterns that are extremely complicated and variable. Ito is trying to develop a compositional and structural aesthetic that will, as he puts it, engage the human body sensorially, and, as he put it in his Forces of Nature, “bring buildings closer to their surroundings and the environment.”
Ito’s artistic transformations of traditional architectural motifs draw upon our experience of nature, bring us closer to the site’s environs, and anchor us in the body, the zero-degree coordinates of human experience in the built world. The patterned complexity of the Sendai and Tama Art University interiors resembles the patterned complexity found in nature, which keeps us exploring, looking, prospecting, finding places to settle in and places to survey the social and environmental scene. Tama’s elliptical arches frame individual bodies and social groups, creating pockets of spaces where people can make their own nests, while leaving the overall spatial organization open enough so that you can always glance around to see what else is going on. Tama’s curving banks of arches direct users’ movement patterns through space. Sendai’s lattice-covered tubes seem to float upward through the building like branches of trees, waving in the wind. And so on, in dozens of ways.
Evolving over the last two decades, Ito’s artistic project is such that it also produced built experiments with less fortunate experiments. Just as not every natural landscape, and not every body, qualifies as beautiful, some of Ito’s compositions, like Tokyo’s Za-Koenji Public Theatre or the Mikimoto Ginza 2, are less than wonderful. Never mind. For an architect, producing even a handful of masterpieces makes him more than deserving of veneration. That Ito is developing an architectural vision that both has and should clear a path for tomorrow’s architects and buildings—now, that man deserves a prize.
The 14-story high building has 140 capsules stacked at angles around a central core. In accord with the principles of exchangeability, expansibility and flexibility put forward by the Metabolist movement, architect Kisho Kurokawa developed the technology to install the preassembled capsule units into the concrete core with only 4 high-tension bolts, making them easily detachable and replaceable when needed. Kurokawa’s idea was that every 25 years or so, the units could be replaced, giving the building a 200 year life span.
In reality however, none of the capsules were ever replaced and the lack of maintenance over the last three decades has taken its toll on the building. Until his death in 2007, Kurokawa fought to keep the structure and update the capsules as he originally planned. Today the tower remains under constant threat of demolition.
”[…] But, you are asking me now about what is my, kind of, philosophical background, what is the common idea of everything. The common idea is this idea of making an object or an architecture that reacts or that acts like ‘one thing’. This is what I call an organism.
Like an organism where all the parts in an orderly sense are dependent on each other and kind of grow out of each other into a next part of the whole thing. Like when you take a piece away it does not fit anymore. And it’s not that when you take a piece away it doesn’t look good anymore or it’s not good anymore. I really want to make buildings, when you take a piece away then they break apart.[…]
When you say that you object or your architecture is ‘one thing’, then the consequence of this is also that you are not a composer. You’re a divider.
A composer is one that puts things together in a modular way, that means that at the end —the organism that is created, or let’s say the settlement that is created by the architect as a composer doesn’t have a clear form from outside or it doesn’t have a defined form.
And when you do one thing, you have one idea, then you divide it up. So the consequence is that I always work with a square or with a cube, of course I don’t believe in the square or in the cube as an almost religious idea. But the more you think about something, the more you are this divider, the more you start with an absolute form.”