the way we live

mile high


today archinect pointed me to a fascinating press release by hyder consulting in which they claim to be designing a 1600m tall building…that’s one mile high.  of course immediately i’m reminded of the infamous frank lloyd wright design for the illinois, a mile high building itself (below).


the current world’s tallest, though not yet completed is the burj dubai in dubai, uae slated to rise some 800m, or half as tall as this recent proposal (below).


bldgblog whipped up the comparative picture at the top of the post; additionally though, a recent bldgblog post has even more significance with the announcement of a mile-high structure.  tapei 101, the world’s tallest structure prior to the burj dubai, has actually caused the land around it to become tectonically unstable (it was previously 100% safe), ie. prone to earthquakes.  the massive weight of the building itself is essentially causing earthquakes.  i can only imagine what kind of forces a mile high structure would impose upon the earth.  but the bigger issue here is not environmental effects or even architectural articulation of such structure, but the sociological implications they bring with them.  are supertall, supermassive, buildings ideal for living in?  isn’t there a serious concern with scale, at a point these buildings are no longer in line with any human scale.  furthermore, are these building even applicable to the way we live?  in a world of global transience, impermanence, and instant everything we no longer live like we used to (see the thesis category).  i can’t help but wonder if it’s even worth designing such a tower regardless of whether or not we can practically build it.

20 February 2008 Posted by | architecture, society, technology, thesis | Leave a comment

plug-in city


proposed in hay days of modernism (and anything but in the architectural movement sense of the word) in 1964 by archigram, this hypermodern futurist project was, in many ways, ahead of its time. plug-in city is literally, to borrow le corbusier’s words, “a machine for living.” i’ve been doing some investigation on this project as part of a set of case studies for the thesis project i’ve been working on. interestingly, the plug-in city proposal is actually devoid of actual “buildings;” rather, the idea is to provide a framework, or a megastructure, that acts as a dwelling unit host. this is an idea we’ve talked about previously in andrew maynard’s corb v2.0, which in many ways is a contemporary redesign of the archigram project. nonetheless, the plug-in city is fascinating in it’s approach to flexible living arrangements. the megastructure, as designed, is intended to house dwelling units. these standardized units literally plug into and out of the the provided framework allowing for an ever evolving transformable piece of flexible architecture.  to further the “machines for living” analogy, people essentially serve as raw materials being “processed” in what is, hopefully, an enjoyable living experience.


one’s mind can’t help but imagine a world in which people actually live in what amounts to true mobile homes. complete dwelling units capable of driving down the road from megastructure to megastructure stopping off over night or for months or years on end and plugging-in, effectively becoming part of the building. this fluid world seems to be approaching more readily than we’d like to admit and it seems, now, 40 years later that archigram may have really been truly ahead of their time.

3 December 2007 Posted by | architecture, modern, society, thesis, urban planning | 1 Comment

lab zero


slowly stumbling out of my turkey coma today still stiff from friday’s ninth annual turkey bowl i found a post over on bldgblog, one of my favorite blogs, on a topic near and dear to me: flexible architecture.  as i’ve been discussing recently, notions of flexible architecture are at the heart of my thesis project and yesterday’s bldgblog post talks about the ubiquitous shipping container architecture that seems to be popping up everywhere, specifically a fascinating design firm and proposals from lab zero.  mr. manaugh appropriately discusses the current critique with such projects and i think he hits the nail on the head with his assessment that people view these proposals in light of two factors: comfort and universality.  but mr. manaugh refutes this analysis, as would i, saying:

“what i think is, actually, the point of reusing shipping containers as architecture is: 1) when you can, you should reuse existing materials for somewhat obvious environmental reasons, and 2) the spatial, logical, and combinatorial systems that cargo containers imply are simply awesome.”

i couldn’t agree more, it is actually about prefabricated reuse of materials and the spatial synthesis of the way we live.  if you have a few minutes i would head over to bldgblog and read the full post including the wonderful projects by lab zero highlighted throughout (partially pictured above).

25 November 2007 Posted by | architecture, prefab, society, thesis | Leave a comment

photo friday: ghostly visions

station-left-a2.jpg station-right-a2.jpg

so i mentioned last week i’ve been spending a lot of time in the darkroom recently. that being said, i finally got the chance to print some of the thesis related images i took. above are two of those images. intended to be a two-part photo, the idea of this composition and the others, in the series is to capture people in transition. ultimately the collection of images will become a personal documentary of the human aspect of flexibility and transition as it applies to my thesis. the technical information: i shot these photos using kodak plus-x 125 black and white negative film, hand processed and developed in a dark room. there are a couple of things about these photos that i love. first, the two-part perspective really captures the depth and the long perspective of the interior space. second, the long exposure did a phenomenal job at ghosting the people as they moved through the train station during morning rush hour. finally, the mood, i think the photos do a great job of capturing the hustle and chaos of the morning commute at the train station, and in a larger sense it’s a snap shot of the way we live.

16 November 2007 Posted by | architecture, photo, society, thesis | Leave a comment

flexibility in architecture

as we discussed in my last thesis update, at the heart of my thesis is the issue of flexibility in architecture.  as part of an exploration into what this means i spent some time breaking it down into flexible typologies (from here i will begin to distill out the most appropriate types of flexibility for my project).  i more than welcome any thoughts you may have on the issue (diagrams i sketched apply to the category immediately following).


adaptable.  adaptable structures features repositionable partitions or are changeable per user/occupant (case studies: rietveld schroeder house, japanese housing).


universal.  what typifies a universally flexible building is its ease of adaptation per use.  these buildings are often characterized by open floor plans and typology free design (case studies: s.r. crown hall, eames house).


movable.  movable flexible buildings consist of relocatable or repositionable structures or buildings capable of being torn down and reassembled in another location (case studies: nomadic tents, airstream trailers).


transformable.  characterized by modular design (capable of adding or removing units or components) transformable structures can also open and close, change form, or change color (case studies: plug-in city, university of phoenix stadium).


responsive.  responsive buildings can respond to a number of external stimuli, including, but not limited to, energy/environment, interaction, usage, or occupation (case studies: allianz arena, institut du monde arab).

15 November 2007 Posted by | architecture, thesis | 47 Comments

thesis intro



well, as i mentioned the other day, we’re trying new things around here, and since thesis is taking up so much of my time, we are going to try and incorporate it into the occasional post. as a start, the paragraphs to follow are a preliminary draft of the introduction to my thesis. this draft spells out the thesis question and the project in which these ideas will be manifested (note the picture above really has nothing to do with my thesis just that it shows chicago’s skyline from the roof of the sear’s tower, yes the roof, not the observation deck). at any rate please feel free to post your comments and critiques as this dialogue progresses, your help will be valuable to me. so without further adieu, the intro:


chicago 2016 housing: flexibility in architecture

            shelter and dwelling have always been an integral part of what it means to be human, a place to be safe and a place to be warm and dry. it is this desire to protect ourselves and our well-being that has guided our development from humble hunter-gatherers to nomadic herders to settled farmers. our dwellings have always followed suit; caves gave way to tents that allowed us to move with our herds and food sources. tents and movable structures gave way to buildings with foundations, immovable dwellings that allowed us to reside in one place for an entire generation or more.

however, after hundreds, if not thousands of years, of static lifestyles and farming communities, something has happened. something has changed. we are no longer a community of static individuals; with global communities and worldwide infrastructure we live in an era of impermanence, one of transition. no longer are we grounded in one place for an entire lifetime. rather, we move constantly, job to job, house to house, country to country in a constant ebb and flow undulating across the world as if to display that after a millennia, yes we are living breathing creatures, rational creatures who move and change their mind, creatures who develop new and ingenious technologies and alter both the landscape and the environment around us. one question is omnipresent: is it still appropriate that we continue to build such static, permanent dwellings?

in the not so distant summer of 2016 the city of chicago aims to host the olympic games. the city of chicago has a rich history of worldwide cultural gatherings beginning with the “white city” of the 1893 columbian exposition, and as the city competes worldwide for the 2016 games it becomes increasingly clear that a number of infrastructural upgrades as well as new sporting, business, and housing facilities must be built in order to host another such globally significant event. while chicago is seemingly prepared in the area of sporting venues it is certainly under-prepared in the area of olympic housing.

there are innumerable architectural situations in which impermanence and flexibility are merited, if not required. of all of these there is one that speaks to the very global phenomenon that spawned a shift back to flexibility, one architectural typology that chicago finds itself face to face with: the olympic village, more specifically, olympic housing. this thesis, in the pages to follow, will propose a flexible olympic village for the 2016 chicago summer olympic games that will be intended to house the world’s 17,000 athletes and coaches and create a thoughtful, more contemporarily significant, flexible dwelling.

25 October 2007 Posted by | architecture, thesis | 3 Comments