the way we live

nouvel in doha

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one of jean nouvel’s latest projects is currently under construction in doha, qatar and scheduled to be completed in 2008.  the 45-story office building is making headlines for its surely iconic stature and unavoidably phallic form.  the project, however, is, like a great number of nouvel projects, full of culturally significant geometry and composed of a diaphanous and seemingly translucent luminous material.  what strikes me most about the structure is the unavoidable comparisons to mr. nouvel’s, sadly, unbuilt proposal for the tour sans fin in paris.  the tour sans fin, or “tower without ends”, was to be sited just near the grande arch and dissolve both effortlessly and seamlessly into the clouds drifting through the sky above (seen below).

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excitingly the design for the doha office tower picks up on this conceptual dematerialization as the tower strives upwards.  i only wish the form of the building was more akin to the richly layered sequence of the proposed tour sans fin rather than the sleek organically curved shape it currently takes on.

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in an interesting detail similar to other projects of mr. nouvel’s, like the brilliant institut du monde arabe, the skin of the doha office tower will be clad in arabic geometric patterns (above).   the ima had wonderful geometric sun-control diaphragms (below).

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regardless the doha office is sure to be a breathtaking building when completed.  the culturally sensitive geometric detailing coupled with the dematerialization of the building’s facade are sure to leave a lasting impression upon anyone.

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30 April 2007 Posted by | architecture | 1 Comment

prefab showhouse

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yesterday i found another incredibly beautiful prefab.  the showhouse, designed by jennifer siegal and the office of mobile design, is located in venice, california.  coincidentally, jennifer was part of a panel discussion on creating a sustainable future at the last day of the symposium c6 conference here in chicago, the panel also included bruce mau, natalie jeremijenko, and lucy orta.  regardless, the showhouse is a brilliant example of prefab done right.  nothing in ms. siegal’s design gives the structure that kit-of-parts/off-the-shelf feeling that many other prefabs suffer from.

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the best part, however, is the use of sustainable materials and and systems throughout the house.  included are radiant heated ceiling panels, tankless water heaters, and translucent polycarbonate wall sheets.  additionally, the house makes use of bamboo, coconut palm, and kirei board flooring.  the office of mobile design has prefabs starting at around $240/square foot, which means their prefabs won’t break the bank either.  for me though, the warm palette of colors and materials that is used so seemlessly throughout the house as a result of some wonderful detailing really makes this house come alive.  i’m always a fan of luminous translucent materials like the polycarbonate wall panels employeed on one facade.  simply put this is a subtlety gorgeous prefab.

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29 April 2007 Posted by | architecture, green, prefab | Leave a comment

artillery for rain

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there’s a really interesting story that has been floating around as of late regarding beijing’s plans to control the weather for the opening ceremonies of the 2008 summer olympics.  a few days ago we discussed the more than beautiful herzog and de meuron stadium and national swim center for the ’08 games, now the story is the weather.  apparently, chinese meteorologists have forcasted the weather as far out as the august 8th 2008 opening ceremonies and decided that the chance of rain is 50/50 (ironic, no?).  well the chinese government is not willing to risk rain during the games’ opening ceremonies.  to prevent any such precipitation the chinese are prepared to fire silver iodine bullets using anti-aircraft artillery.  the silver iodine, in turn, forces the clouds to dump their precipitation, thus eliminating the threat of rain before it can occur.  china currently has the world’s largest  employeed rain-making force, totaling over 3,000 people.  treehugger has more great information regarding the beijing olympics fake rain and the potential health hazards as a result of routinely poor air quality.

27 April 2007 Posted by | society | Leave a comment

street sections

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the other day, another one of my favorite blogs, a daily dose of architecture, pointed me towards a wonderful website that is, quite literally, a collection of street sections.  street sections, as it is aptly called, has a goal of documenting, via both diagram and photograph, 1,000 different street sections the world over as contributed by registered users.  a quick tour of the site proves to be extremely interesting; after all, there is nothing like a well drawn street section to really convey the urban scalar experience.

26 April 2007 Posted by | society, urban planning | Leave a comment

adjaye prefab

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a couple of days ago building design online and architechnophilia were reporting on a new prefab designed by well-renowned british architect david adjaye.  currently, construction of the east london prefab is all but complete.  at 150 square meters, or 1615 square feet, the timber clad structure was errected on-site in only five days as the majority was prefabricated and prepared off-site.  according to adjaye, the timber cladding was employed to perform better acoustically and for its thermal capabilities.  additionally, building design online reports that, “each cubic metre of timber saves almost a tonne of carbon dioxide emissions compared with a brick or block structure.”

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personally, i love the simplicity, the  subtle beauty of this elegant structure.  the natural tones and hues and organic shapes of the timber cladding juxtaposed with the traditional, rigid, expanse of glass presents the viewer with an incredibly unique aesthetic.  you can see the adjaye associates website here.

24 April 2007 Posted by | architecture, green, prefab | 1 Comment

the chicago spire

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this afternoon the city of chicago planning commission gave a green-light to the proposed 150-story, 2,0000 ft. spiraling skyscrapper that will rest just south of navy pier at the mouth of the chicago river on an untouched 2.2 acre parcel of land. the santiago calatrava designed chicago spire, as it is known, is but a few small approvals away from breaking ground as early as this spring (it will take nearly 4 years to complete construction). the project will go before the zoning committee this coming thursday and then the full city council in early may (with mayor daley backing the project these final approvals seem to be forgone conclusions).

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of the issues approved by the planning commission two of the most interesting to me were the increase of dwelling units to a staggering 1,350 and an increase in the floor area ratio (f.a.r.) to a whopping 32. the remaining issues of concern with the project do not revolve around it’s height, f.a.r., or density but rather with the slighted dusable park that sits next door. the city has had plans since the mid-80s to reclaim this unused land immediately next door to the tourist haven of navy pier, but until now those plans have gone unrealized. developer garrett kelleher from dublin, ireland has promised to kick-in $6,000,000 of the necessary $12,000,000 required to complete the neighboring park.

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i, like many chicagoans, are excited to see this project become reality. i’m anxious to see the shimmering and delicate twisting organic nature of mr. calatrava’s spire in dialogue with bruce graham and fazlur kahn’s stoic black, blue-collar, structural behemoths in the hancock and the sears towers. formally, i love how the spire creates a wonderful arc across the city’s skyline from north to south.

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the chicago tribune has a great recap of the planning commission meeting here and lynn becker has an insightful blog post prior to the planning commission’s meeting today.

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19 April 2007 Posted by | architecture, modern, society, urban planning | 3 Comments

herzog and de meuron’s beijing

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with the announcement this past saturday that chicago will be the usoc’s bid city for the international competition to host the 2016 games, i was reminded of a pair of projects under construction for the beijing games in 2008 that i cannot wait to see completed.  two of my favorite architects, jacques herzog and pierre de meuron, have prepared a breathtaking stadium to be home to the 2008 beijing olympic games (seen below).

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the stadium, which features an elegant and beautifully proportioned lattice exoskeleton, will, like so much of herzog and de meuron’s work, become a softly glowing beacon at the core of the games.

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but the building i am most excited for is the national swim center, commonly known as the bubble-building for its organically-undulating, and otherwise other-worldly, bubble-like etfe skin (seen above).  the soft diaphanous glowing quality of the backlit etfe gives an almost magically aura to the structure.  truthfully, the material reminds me of the 3-form chroma we talked about a while back.

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if both of these buildings follow through on the ambiance presented in the interior renderings they will each present a stunning experience to the user (stadium just above, swim center just below).  what’s even more interesting is that these two buildings, the stadium and the national swim center, are siting within a stone’s throw of one another, in constant, and very unique, dialogue (as seen in the first image at the top).

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additionally, herzog and de meuron were recently awarded the 2007 royal gold medal in architecture, they had previously received the 2001 pritzker prize.  i can’t wait, bring on beijing 2008.

19 April 2007 Posted by | architecture, materials | 4 Comments

one family

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it pains me to see the tragedy at virginia tech unfold, to see young men and women engulfed and embroiled in senseless acts of violence, to see lives  of 32 collegians, their families, and their friends the world over shattered.  it hurts my heart deeply.  the thoughts and prayers of all of us are ever so humbly with the students, faculty,  staff, and families of virginia tech.  today, today we all all hokies.

17 April 2007 Posted by | society | Leave a comment

architectural trees

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this morning i found a very unique article about an interesting tree phenomenon in which a significant number of trees scattered throughout one region of the country bend 90 degrees not far off the ground, and run horizontal only to bend 90 degrees again and continue in a traditional upward pattern of growth (as seen in the picture above).  this most bizarre tree growth is, as one could guess, not natural.  in fact, it has recently been hypothesized that these trees were systematically altered by indigenous peoples as a sort of architectural marker or way finder to designate a trail.  when plotted on a map a number of these trees form a path that actually mirrors the appalachian trail.  in fact, the trail tree blog documents much of this work.  as the theory goes, native americans would cut off the primary trunk/branch just above the first secondary branch of a young sapling tree.  this would essentially force the tree to grow sideways for a period of time thus establishing their trail marker.

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what strikes me here is two-fold.  first, this is what amounts to bonsai training but in large life-sized trees.  in my eyes it’s an incredible eastern culture/western culture parallel in which both societies practiced essentially the same rituals but for entirely different reasons with very similar effects.  second, i’m amazed by the use of trees as architectural markers.  i guess one could argue the beginnings of architectural organicism here.  additionally, these trees are wonderful objects to behold.  their unique geometries and forms seem to defy nature and the large scale/old growth aspect of each tree only makes the situation that much more impressive.

13 April 2007 Posted by | green, society | 1 Comment

transparent cement

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this is fascinating stuff.  treehugger this morning is reporting on a story about a newly developed transparent cement; and, as if that prospect wasn’t exciting enough, the stuff is capable of conducting electricity like a metal.  apparently, japanese researchers, “have altered the crystal structure of alumina cement and turned it into a thin, transparent membrane that conducts electricity.”  i for one am excited by the possibilities of both transparent cement and electricity conducting cement; walls could potentially carry electrical currents leading to a variety of breakthroughs and advantageous designs, not to mention possibly saving on the cost and production of miles of wiring and electrical cables (the picture above illustrates the description below).

  • “ordinary alumina cement made from a lime-alumina compound (c12a7) has a crystal structure consisting of asymmetric cages, making it a poor conductor of electricity. but by sealing the alumina cement compound along with titanium inside a glass tube and heating it to 1,100 degrees celsius, the researchers were able to create a homogenized, symmetrical cage structure that conducts electricity like metal.”

how strangely bizarre and wonderfully creative.  of course, similarly, we discussed the holy grail of concrete, litracon, a while back (note that concrete and cement are very different.  cement is one of a number of ingredients used in concrete.  concrete is the material of curbs, sidewalks, foundations, and many building cores and walls).  nonetheless it will be interesting to see where this new cement takes us.

12 April 2007 Posted by | materials | Leave a comment