Monday, 25 March 2013

Review: City Sense - Shaping our environment with real-time data


Image1. The cover image of ‘City Sense - Shaping our environment with real-time data’
Since 2005, the Institute for Advanced Architecture of Catalonia in Barcelona, which is a provocative architectural school and research institution, has opened architectural competition once in every two years. This competition seeks new types of architectural experiments in the fast changing urban environment and is gaining an international reputation over the world. The most recent competition was held in 2011, and 275 groups participated in from 98 countries. The themes of the competition have expected ideal projections in the future rather than current urban situations; therefore, it is a bit harder to articulate architectural ideas of the themes than other competitions.
The book “City Sense - Shaping our environment with real-time data”, which was published by ACTAR, is the outcome of the competition in 2011 and the title of the book is the same as it of the competition. 
High speed information and communication technologies have created more possibilities of diversity, mobility and change in the city that comparatively the speed of change is lower than the speed of the technologies by its physical nature. Therefore, urban design and urban planning in the future would claim not traditional approaches for physical urban structure but more and more concerns of immaterial and invisible urban factors based on the development of the technology. In the preface of City Sense, Manuel Gausa, Dean of IAAC, argues that new urban dynamics will emerge from interactive, synchronous and integrated information in multi-level of urban areas, not physical characteristics any more. He explains the purpose of this competition was to find innovative ways of urban design for increasing civic participation, interactive response with the urban environment and real-time information. 

Image 2. page 76-77. Honourable Mention- THE DATA-CITIZEN DRIVEN CITY

Image 3. Second prize winner- THE CYBORG LANDSCAPE
Image 4. Third prize winner- RCNHA 2030+

Image 5. Honourable Mention- 0kWhcity

 The publisher divided competition entry works into six categories: Sensors & Data, Adaptive & Reactive, Behavioural systems, Parametric technology, Social & Collaborative and Theories & Strategies. There are many fresh and fascinating ideas to show various approaches to architectural and urban design. For example, enhancing digital networks in urban areas by social media and applying to urban management, reducing the rate of risky incidences of Chicago through making 1/25 scale testing model of Chicago, creating on-offline network for exchanging second-hand goods and suggestion for architectural system to checking environmental pollution in the site of landfill.

Among lots of entertaining works, Francisco’s work, which is the first prize winner, is outstanding. Francisco Castillo Navarro is an architect and interactive designer. After he graduated from ETSAS and UPF, he set up his own research group: Responsive Environments and has been doing several research projects focus on the urban environment changes.

Image 6. pp.82-83. First prize winner- CITY DATA SENSING


Image 7. Panel image of CITY DATA SENSING
His idea is to collect invisible but influential data for urban life such as the flows of energy, transportation and economic, and to provide these data with citizen based on real-time. It leads the change of citizen activities and then new information are generated by these changes, as the result, the citizen and the information in urban endlessly foster the interaction between them.
The most participants are bound in physical architectural suggestions as the outcome of the competition; however, Francisco illustrates that integrated system for real-time information, which would stimulate sustainable interactive actions of citizen, could become an aggressive outcome of urban design in the digital era. Unlike other entry works which started from architectural ideas, his approach began from the other fields such as collecting real-time data, visualisation of big data and urban modelling. His final images for the competition could be understood as pretending to describe multiple urban data; however, his actual final work is a movie file to display collecting urban information on tidal system and visualising it.  As the result, other participants demonstrate images and systems at the moment; however, Francisco’s work suggests that the tidal changes of urban information and the visualising structure of real operating situation. Please check his movie image here.  On his blog pages, there are nice information of 3d printing and robotic fabrication as well as his works. Blog1 and Blog2. 
The new book of ACTAR is too full of suggestions to regard just the outcome of idea competition. Above all, this book clearly points out that new urban environment based on the rapid developing technologies pushes architects need to collaborate with other fields more than before. It reminds us to consider how the urban environment will be changed by integrated set of information from individuals and institutions, and how new technologies impact on architecture.
Secondly, all winning projects of the competition propose specific own urban system connecting with all urban area not separate buildings. Traditional design approach, which means the sequence of analysing site, finding similar cases, making concept idea, developing mass and building up 3d model, cannot be available anymore for new urban design that needs to understand and develop urban networks and its system.
Of course, there are some disappointing parts.
All participants submitted three panel images through the internet, but it is doubtful whether traditional panel images would be applicable to explain invisible flow of data in urban areas or not. As we regard that the real outcome of the first prize winner is a movie image, IAAC needs to revise the format of the submission. On the one hand, there are many fresh ideas and well finished projects. On the other hand, I think the most projects are not far away from pre-existing design methods and are rooted in technical optimism that the city could be effectively controlled by one system. Also, the size of the book is relatively small. It is convenient to carry, but uncomfortable to look at images.
But it is obvious to allow this book as a good reference to designate the influence of the technologies on the city and alternative ways of urban design in digital era.
The detailed contents and the entry works of last competitions are well arranged on the homepage of IAAC. Please visit there.  
1st competition- Self-Sufficient Housing, 2005
2nd competition- Self-Sufficient Housing, THE SELF-FAB HOUSE, 2007
3rd competition- THE SELF-SUFFICIENT CITY: Envisioning the habitat of the future, 2009
4th competition- THE SELF-SUFFICIENT CITY: Envisioning the habitat of the future, 2011

Basic outcome is below.

Paperback: 368 pages
Publisher: ACTAR / Institut d'Arquitectura Avançada de Catalunya (IAAC)
                 (2 Jan 2013)
Language: English
ISBN-10: 8415391293
ISBN-13: 978-8415391296
Product Dimensions: 16 x 12.2 x 2.3

Saturday, 23 March 2013

Having a lunch at Duck and Waffle, Heron Tower in London

Looking at Heron Tower on the street (The image is taken by Networking City)

Some days ago, I went to Heron Tower near Liverpool Street Station in London.
This 46 floors and 230meter remarkable high rise building,
which is designed by KPF with structure design by Arup, was built in 2011.
Duck & Waffle restaurant is located on the 40th floor of the building.

Looking down toward Liverpool Street (The image is taken by Networking City)

The bar on the 40th floor of Heron tower (The image is taken by Networking City)

The interior of Duck & Waffle (The image is taken by Networking City)

The ‘Duck & Waffle’ at Duck & Waffle (The image is taken by Networking City)

My friend recommended this place because I can see an incredible cityscape of London, although the menu is pricey.
Not only the beautiful scenery of London but unusual food, which is crispy fried duck and fried-egg covered a waffle with maple syrup, are there.
The interior design of the restaurant is not looking good as much as some photos on their website.
It feels like rather refined, but some materials such as yellow wave ceiling do not make a nice combination altogether.  

However, looking down 30 St Mary Axe (or Gherkin) designed by Foster and 122 Leadenhall Street (or Cheese Grater) by Rogers just beside them was a strange and exciting experience. It gives a reason to go there.

Looking at 30 St Mary Axe and 122 Leadenhall Street (The image is taken by Networking City)
I recorded a film image in a high-speed elevator of Heron Tower.
The feeling of coming down from the 40th floor to ground level by the elevator is similar to that of dreaming flying dim London air but immediately returning to desert reality.

Friday, 8 March 2013

BSP Seminar - Compact cities or garden suburbs?

Dr. Nicolas Falk presented for Bartlett School of Planning. Image is taken by Networking City

In this year, Bartlett School of Planning run BSP seminar series over the semesters. On 6 March 2013, Dr. Nicolas Falk, Director of URBED (Urbanism Environment Design), provided a presentation the title of “Compact cities or garden suburbs?” at Central House of UCL.

Because I was bit late, I could not watch all his presentation. He suggested simple but well-summarised planning keywords and showed relevant examples over the European cities. For example, he argued there are five key elements to reach Smart Growth. The five keys can be represented as 5C: community, connectivity, character, climate and collaboration. And he mentioned the meaning of the community with examples such as  ‘Schools as community hub with Houton, NL’ and ‘Places for all ages with Reiselfeld, Freiburg, Germany'.

Connected city, Five finger strategy and Redefining Greenbelt were mentioned as the future direction for smart growth in the UK as the conclusion of the lecture. In particular, he had expressed the negative feeling against current Greenbelt policy. According to him, the greenbelt of London is little bit old-fashioned and the greenbelt has been a strong obstacle to expand development areas and connecting between London and other cities. Although he said Redefining Greenbelt as one issue of the future direction, all three items should be accompanied with the reorganisation of London’s greenbelt. 

During his lecture, some questions were emerging by myself. Is really Green belt the obstruction of smart growth? Is there smart growth? If possible, how are different process and method needed compared to typical urban development? How can it work in high density?

I think there are two reasons why the questions were come up.
In the first, he emphasised the term of ‘smart’ and ‘smarter’ several times in his lecture. However, the term, smart, has been considering with the development of technology in our built-environment while his suggestions and examples were more familiar with sustainable urban planning and design.
Secondly, the key issues what he argued are too abstract and vague. We know community, connectivity, character, climate and collaboration are crucial factors. People might want to listen from him how we can achieve those factors, what kind of process, the roles of stakeholders and so on.

One of his lecutre slide. Image is taken by Networking City

There are good materials of urban design, field research and regional study on the homepage of URBED. They have run urban design and architectural design studios at University of Sheffield, so we can find the links of interesting students’ works. Also, they published ‘Sustainable Urban Neighbourhood’ in 2010 what includes some contents of today’s lecture.