It wasn’t only urban experiences that were hacked this semester! In parallel with other course assignments, students engaged in the hackage of “Stranger Experiences” – a short series of interactions that provided the student with a deeper understanding – through close observation, written reports and spontaneous encounters with strangers – in how real people use real space and produce the messy, overlapping urban realities that exists all around us. Designing and building within existing public spaces is a great responsibility, one architects have always responded to with varying levels of dismissive contempt and unsatisfactory urban schemes, but here the students were challenged to develop the capacity to learn from and adapt with the intangible qualities of history, texture and rhythm that make each block in New York City unique. Ultimately, the exercises were intended to allow the students to sympathetically embrace and deeply understand the qualities of particular urban situations that facilitate engagement with people as they pass through in the business of their daily lives – and meet some people in the process.
Images shown here are from Stranger Experience 02 – in which students, working in teams of two – posed as tourists and asked random strangers to draw them a map to a well-known neighborhood campus landmark. Here, Bernard Tschumi’s Lerner Hall built in 1999 was used, a student center known on campus for it’s glass atrium and series of kinetic zig-zagging ramps. The building also made for a fitting destination point, as Tschumi described the building as a “concept of architecture as a generator of events.” There was some debate about the relevance of this assignment, of which the jury may still be out, but there were a few interesting conclusions: the student’s got a sense of the ease of receiving personal, helpful interactions in public space, as well as pushing the boundaries of acceptable social conventions. For instance, no stranger hesitated to draw a map for a student, but calling or texting for follow up questions and directions seemed to be pushing it. The maps also provided a document to confirm or compare how people in and around the area visualize common space, in a Kevin Lynch-esque manner of nodes, paths and landmarks. As expected, the stairs around the central plaza, Low Library, and the Alma Mater statue were key landmarks that centered the maps. Lastly, since the directions were originally given as a set of verbal cues – only after that were the strangers further asked to draw a map (under the guise that the student was “more of a visual learner”) – it is interesting to see the fidelity of ideas as they translate from audible directions into a physically real map.
While my natural tendency can lead toward convolution, in the interest of concision here is my attempt to sum up the course objectives in one sentence: “to self-initiate and identify a problem statement relating to the urban environment, and then manifest a possible solution through a public, physical object, while confronting the myriad issues associated with that decision.” Problems addressed included the notion that strangers occupying proximate space are too disconnected – how can you encourage interaction? As well as the problem of physical space inducing a heightened sense of agitation during a stressful time (finals on a college campus) – how can a space be created that produces an alternately playful, soothing affect for passersby? So with that, here’s a sampling of self-initiated work from the third iteration of HTUE.
Last year I had the great opportunity to briefly work with David Benjamin and Soo-in Yang of TheLiving by assisting on this project in Seoul’s Peace Park. Their ideas about new, collaborative avenues for architects to pursue using sensor technologies – amongst others – made their courses some of my favorite at Columbia, and it was an inspiration to see this pavilion come together. When I found myself in Seoul last week, this was on my list of sights and it was a true pleasure to experience the work in person.
Described on their project site, as such:
“Living Light is a permanent outdoor pavilion in the heart of Seoul with a dynamic skin that glows and blinks in response to both data about air quality and public interest in the environment. Citizens can enter the pavilion or view it from nearby streets and buildings, and they can text message the building and it will text them back.”
My final submission for the Kinne Research Fellowship at Columbia. Keep in mind this is the first part through the American Southwest and Northern Mexico from late last summer (!), the second session in Mexico City is still looming on the horizon.
Fast, Cheap and Out of Control is research through observation: structures, installations, natural landforms, urban growth and manipulated landscapes constructed in the blank slate of the Southwest Desert. A place where time stretches from Planck’s constant – used to record the chain reactions that produce an atomic detonation – to Robert Smithson brushing up against the infinite on the Great Salt Flats, all of which is tested and implemented under the powerful spell of the Western landscape – a strange entity mixed in with notions of nation and empire, bravery and myth, history and fiction.
The result of a six-week exploration in the form of a road trip lies before you in an ambling, somewhat desultory first-hand narration of a nomadic journey across the desert’s offensively vast spaces. Situated between the region’s fragmented vignettes of activity, I attempt to resolve the disparate nature of the desert’s strange, isolated events into a coherent narrative.
See the edited book above, or browse some of the original posts/chapters below:
I didn’t really cut anything from the presentation included below. So, yeah, there’s a lot of slides. It’s (almost) the entire final presentation. I left it pretty much intact because not only 1) I can never edit my own work, but 2) the project is conceived more as a sci-fi narrative of Beijing and it will hopefully make more sense if read in complete order. And you can always just scroll way down to the end for some sweet images. This was for Ed Keller’s SpeedTerritoryCommunication studio, Spring 2009.
quick project description:
Architecture is a system of control predicated on limitations. This project is a study of the existing control systems in Beijing and a projection of how architecture and technology will merge to change not only prisons, but also the urban environment, the social stratification of society. Also addressed are what confinement and freedom will mean in relation to our relationship with how we build our world.
It was a certainly good times working with Professor Joe Vidich as teaching assistant for the courses Intro to Digital Fabrication and Advanced Fabrication: Component Systems. In component systems we only had five students, and they were pushed really hard, but there was some great work. I appreciated the sensibility that yes, we would make some cool stuff with the machines, but we also would test it for performance using structural engineering analysis, and explore material properties using Solidworks parametric models. It was an ambitious agenda for a short course, and the waterjet was un-operational pretty much the whole time, but the students came through with some sweet projects using the laser cut plexi and the heat bender, the metal mill as well as the 3d printer. Visit the class blog here.
Student work above from left: HoKyung Lee, JiYoon Oh, Kiseok Oh, Dave Kwon and Christo Logan
For our living architecture course, we created an interactive light installation in the elevator of Avery Hall, controllable by anyone with a cell phone and a twitter account. The simplified process includes texting an emotion to twitter from any cellular phone using the #livarch hashtag. That tweet is then picked up by a realtime search, fed through our twitterfeed rss, then added to our own twitter account. For a more detailed explanation, see this previous post on getting multiple twitter users onto one twitter feed. That emotion is then directed to our pachube feed and sent through processing to an arduino microcontroller that controls the color and pulsing of the individual leds. The installation non-invasively attaches to the surface of the elevator via magnets. Allowing it to be placed on any metal surface, such as a building exterior, furniture, or a vehicle.
The lights within the elevator respond to the mood of the user. For instance, if a student texted “happy #livarch” the space within the elevator would begin to slowly pulse with a greenish/blue hue. However, if another student sent “angry #livarch” the first light will quickly flash a bright red. There are twelve lights total and show the collective mood of the twelve most recent users.
In this way, the elevator becomes a living representation of the collective mood of the building, but it is also hoped that a feedback loop can be created, a loop that actually influences the mood of those that ride the elevator. The emotion felt in the lobby will be altered by the time you reach the sixth floor. And that new emotion becomes what gets texted back to the elevator.
Lastly, future installations will be physically located away from the target user. For instance, Avery’s mood will be projected to the elevator in Uris Hall and vice versa. In this manner, we can both create a new form of pen-pal with distant locations, but also hope that our mood, whether angry, sad, happy or nervous, will both manifest itself in a new form of architecture, but also have an effect on the greater world around us.
The project team also included Talya Jacobs and Guanghong Ou.
See more for video and code:
My proposal for a post-graduate Kinne travelling fellowship was accepted. Not only does it further delay the inevitable job search, but it affords me the means to visit what I consider to be some of the most interesting territory in the world – the American Southwest and the US-Mexico Border area. It’s an area I’m familiar with having lived in California and Texas, with frequent detours into Mexico, but it’ll feel good to re-visit with a more critical eye. Dean Wigley also seemed to particularly relish reading the title at graduation, giving extra emphasis to “won’t.” Download the entire pdf proposal here. See Abstract below:
The bureaucratic, welfare-state housing policy approaches from the mid-twentieth century have unquestionably failed, but what comes next? The urbanization of the developing world has lent this question a desperate sense of urgency, and while central planners slowly test solutions, it is squatters—lacking developer or nation-state support—who have created a living laboratory of multiple failures and successes. Where the experiments become truly interesting is along the nearly 2,000-mile-length border of Mexico and the United States—the most asymmetrical border in the world. A nomadic, aterritorial space that is neither American nor Mexican, symbiotic in nature, and, while arbitrarily physically split, maintains a cultural porosity. Here is where the aspirations of a whole class of people wash up against an increasingly inward-looking first world barrier. What are the delicate political systems of control that allow this ecosystem to experience unparalleled growth? How does the built environment respond to these systems? What hidden systems can be extracted from a firsthand look at vast informal settlements, which in turn provide a framework for precise applications in architecture, technology and urbanism? Most importantly, this proposal is not merely about the collection of research data, but rather the formulation of a constructed argument regarding alternative future potentials of the built environment based on uncovered models existing within the border region.
The research will be completed through three mutually supportive phases. The first involves an intensive, first-hand documentation of the urban development in the two largest transnational border areas in the Western Hemisphere: El Paso/Juarez and San Diego/Tijuana. The research will be supported by an investigative journalist, a political science professor and the Juarez Department of Urban Planning. Secondly, a self-guided road trip will be taken through the southwestern desert to document historically how, without architects, ecologically sustainable structures have survived through the ages. This notion will be further developed by exploring responses ranging from artists Donald Judd and Robert Smithson to the self-sustaining Anasazi cliff dwellings at Mesa Verde and the U.S. missile testing ground at White Sands, New Mexico. Lastly, guided by a local Mexico City Architect, I will explore the “Tijuana-ification” of Latin America, with a study of the successes and failures of implementing an informal urban growth model, free of infrastructural support, into a metro area of 22 million people.
This was my final project for David Fano’s (of DesignReform.net fame) Meshing Course. It was an intense introduction to using Grasshopper with Rhino. My goal was too make a parametric array of cells, where each cell could be controlled individually, but changing one would affect all other neighboring cells in the system. Creating this type of recursive system led to a giant 18mb Grasshopper file, but the logic of the node-based layout made it surprisingly simple if you break it down into steps. See more for Vimeo Vids: more »
Mark Collins & Toru Hasegawa, the masterminds behind Proxyarch, and instructors of the course Search: Advanced Algorithmic Design at Columbia, ‘remixed’ the audio waveform code into something much more smooth and elegant. They’re awesome, and there were a lot of super interesting projects from the course which can all be viewed in the video here.
Working on a sustainable prison cell unit for future Beijing. Because of their high population density, prisons are actually prime contenders for tests of renewable energy methods, such as waste to energy, and water recycling features. Much like the panopticons of yore, each prisoner generates energy for their own confinement, but also send excess energy back to a central grid, acting like capacitors. Here, the sankey diagram is parametric, the size of the flows are tied to the things like the volume of the cell, the square footage of the plant growth surface, and the amount of solar heat gain. more »