6/29/2013

The Map of the day | Map of the U.S. nation's Laboratories

…Or probably the map of the week. This map is described as an interactive version of the U.S. Department of Energy's National Laboratories. It has been tweeted by Geographer Javier Arbona, one of the editors behind the excellent website Demilit.
The map originally appeared on Symmetry Magazine in an article entitled Around the US in 17 labs.
U.S. Department of Energy's National Laboratories | Courtesy of the U.S. Department of Energy and Symmetry
The map originally appeared on Symmetry Magazine
"The US Department of Energy has nurtured hubs of innovation in the United States for more than eight decades.
Discoveries made at the national laboratories have saved lives, solved mysteries of nature, improved products, transformed industries and served as a training ground for students who go on to pursues careers in science and technology." - Symmetry Magazine

The legend makes the map particularly easy to read: (1) in blue, the DOE Laboratories; (2) in red the DOE Office of Science Laboratories.
There seems to be several other maps that map out the Department of Energy DOE Laboratories such as these two examples below:
Department of Energy National Laboratories | Courtesy of U.S. Department of Energy


As seen, these two maps are a little bit too conventional in comparison with the interactive and quite ludic Symmetry Magazine's map.
I'm reminded of an interview of Michal Migurski, a (former?) Director of Technology and partner at Stamen Design, a San Francisco-based studio well-known for its data visualization and mapmaking.
Department of Energy National Laboratories | courtesy of U.S. Department of Energy
Originally appeared on Wikipedia


In this interview with Meta Markets, Migurski said an interesting statement about the growing importance of visualization in the age of the web — and the apps. Indeed he pointed out that:
I think that visualization is going to get more and more normal and more and more expected as a part of just dealing with information. The way that we understand the word visualization to be used, often all it means is the next logical step in showing information. It's really more a future-focused word, whereas things that used to be called visualization become normal and day-to-day and aren't considered special anymore. You think about scatter plots, pie charts, colored heat maps, that kind of thing. All that stuff was incredibly cutting edge a decade ago, and then as the data and tools have become more available they become features of other things.
Visualization as an instrument to critically — or commercially — show, address, or to think with, is no longer to demonstrate. An example: Stamen Design's collaboration with NBC to design a real-time visualization of Olympics discussion on Twitter, known as NBC Olympics Twitter Tracker, as reported on a 2010's edition of the New York Times.
At the very least, even serious information can be interpreted as ludic as Olympic Twitter data…


Source: Symmetry Magazine

6/27/2013

Reminder: Call for Submissions | Uncertain Territories vol. 01 ı Contingency

A short post to remind my readers that you have few days to submit your abstract for the first volume of Uncertain Territories. The topic is Contingency. The deadline is Monday, July 01, 2013.

The selected authors, then, will be contacted within 15 days following the 01st July. Submissions can be essays (length varying from 500 words to 4000 words), or photographic essays, drawings, interviews, etc. The final deadline is 30 September 2013.

I then updated the related post dated of March announcing this first editorial project as it contained too many errors. Hoping that all have been corrected, my sincere apology about theses errors.
You can find here the presentation of the first volume of Uncertain Territories including the main guidelines of this first call-for-submission.

I wish you all good luck and I am looking forward to reading your proposals…

6/26/2013

The Editor's read | Origin of Species (Geneses and State of Architecture)

The latest issue of Architectural Design (May/June 2013), addressing the relationship of architecture and landscape within the concept of Pastoralism, gathers a range of authors from Liam Young of Tomorrow's Thoughts Today/Unknown Fields Division, Nic Clear to Geoff Ward and François Roche of R&Sie(n)/New Territories. I shall recommend all these essays, for they all pose, yet differently, the role and position of architecture in face of complexities. In one word, The New Pastoralism. Landscape into Architecture examines the recent contribution of technologies such as biomimetics, hydroponics, cybernetic feedback systems, micro ecologies to architecture as well as more traditional methods of constructions based on natural materials.
Drift Drive ı Floating Frontiers | Courtesy of Petropia, 2012

The ambition is to reconnect architecture and landscape with these soft methods, however not in the naïve way of living with nature. Indeed, this is my point of view, these essays highlight a new position of architecture, or let's say, an emerging desire of rearticulating its agency, of integrating a certain dose of contingency, of uncertainty (see Young's and Ward's essays).
Hypnosis Room | courtesy of R&Sie(n)/New Territories, 2005

It seems to me that this is what Michael Sorkin argues in his essay Origin of Species in which he explores the geneses and state of architecture. Starting with this basic but important question: "where does architecture come from?", he raises a series of questions, of topics, that architecture has articulated, articulates, and will be articulating in the future.
Turtle Portable Theater | Courtesy of Sorkin Studio, 1995

Architecture has evolved. So have representation and human preoccupation. So has ecological system. Architecture is forced to confront, do with, negotiate, adapt to a swarm of crises that are articulated ranging from political crisis, economic crisis, social crisis, to climatic crisis, ecological crisis, and anthropological crisis.
Architecture always negotiates a terrain between its defining utility and expression, the frisson of some excess, including the excessive linkage of the two. But what more should a building say? We all speak in a language grounded in the grammars of modernity, the fantasy that meaning is 'objectively' produced, believe that architecture's effects can be measured and the dance and dancer distinguished. Yet we are bored by a trivialised idea of functionality that, claiming some higher rationality, grounds itself in the merely technical, and even the most 'objective' architecture seems invariably in thrall of something else's visuality, failing abjectly without the festive measure of the body.
The second part of the 20th century has been marked with architecture's relationship to technology, as Sorkin states, "derived from engineering's exponential formal evolution within architecture's terrestrial meadows". Parametricism is an example among others. So are computational design and emerging technologies, let me cite 3D Printing. In their editorial of the latest issue of Volume, issue 35 Everything Under Control, Arjen Oosterman and Brendan Cormier mention the "ambition of at least two architecture offices, in Holland alone,  to be the first to print a full-scale building. One is pursuing a pavilion, the other an Amsterdam canal house, complete with gabled roof."
Plugged-in Territories ı Icelandic Energy Master Plan | Courtesy of LCLA Office/ Harvard Graduate School of Design

The same issue discusses architecture's recent interest in synthetic biology, biotechnology, and nanotechnology to examine notions of adaptability, responsiveness, scalability, and so on. What kind of contribution can biology bring to architecture? It is difficult to respond to this question as these cross-disciplinary research are emerging. These essays collected in this issue of Volume nevertheless give us a first glance at possibilities, opportunities for the practice — but also the discourse — of architecture even though one should be cautious and wait for these research showing first results…

Sorkin continues:

What we need more than ever now is both a theory and a practice of excess, the rampant particularities — small and large — to fight the great multinational culture machine as it seizes and markets every difference, creating a field of total abstraction in which no origin, no connection, no authenticity is left undiminished and remains truly vital. Against this, life must fight back both in terms of the glorious and inventive urgencies of building truly sustainable architectural culture that will help save the planet, and in the creation of artistic forms that do not simply shock but satisfy — an architecture of empathy.
What we can retain from this passage, from Michael Sorkin's essay, and more largely from these essays collected in this issue of Architectural Design is that beyond the important — if not urgent — task of defining a frank relationship between architecture and nature — one will notice that architecture is getting engaged in setting an articulation between manmade system and ecological system, hence these ideas of interface or active agent —, beyond the fact of inventing or reactivating new isms, beyond the fact of…, architecture, I will borrow from Elizabeth Diller's take, part of her answer in a conversation with Anthony Vidler in the 28th issue of Log — which poses the question of "what is the state of architecture today?" —, "has not yet discovered its agency". Or, to put it differently, architecture has not yet discovered its contingency…
New Geographies_Control and Political Borders | courtesy of Liz Lessig, Thesis, California College of Arts, 2012

This may explain some hesitations, even some accusation of architecture as being guilty of today's issues. Put it differently, this may justify architecture's vulnerability to existing and future issues. Yet vulnerability is not necessarily negative. Yes vulnerability is a form of innovation, a driving force that architecture should explore…


You can read the full article at Architectural Design.

6/23/2013

Book | Divine Name Verification. A forthcoming book by Noah Horwitz

In my wish-list, this forthcoming book Divine Name Verification, by Noah Horwitz. Horwitz's Divine Name Verification will be published by the excellent Punctum Books this July. What will it be about? I'll be basing on Punctum Books's presentation of the book.
Divine Name Verification | Noah Horwitz || Punctum Books, 2003

First, Divine Name Verification is not an essay on either architecture or art but an essay on philosophy. An essay that can be classified as or related to speculative realism and related movements such as Object-Oriented Ontology, a movement defended by French Quentin Meillassoux and Scottish Ray Brassier. However, the theme the books addresses is threefold: (1) Divine Name Verification is an essay on Anti-Darwinism — speculating that we should turn our back from Darwinism; it also addresses two important issues related to our matter of concern: architecture: (2) intelligent Design; and (3) the computational nature of reality.
I confess not to be familiar with Noah Horwitz's research. This will be an enjoyable occasion to read him. As indicated in Punctum Books' website, the essay defends intelligent design "by attempting to demonstrate the essentially computational nature of reality." The readers of computational theorists such as Wolfram, Chaitin, Friedkin, Lloyd, Schmidhuber, etc. will appreciate this book. Not only, those familiar with designers such as Neri Oxman, Biothing, R&Sie(n)/New Territories, to limit to these examples, will also be concerned.
Other topics discussed in the book are chaos theory (e.g., Brian Goodwin), contingency (I am looking forward to reading his Darwinism's Apotheosis: Quentin Meillassoux's Atheism of Radical Contingency), etc. It will be a good opportunity to read or re-read design theorists, let me cite only one William Dembski. It is not Punctum Books's first time to published books that concern the discipline of architecture as the publisher has published books related to architecture such as Making the Geologic Now (edited by Elizabeth Ellsworth and Jamie Kruse of Smudge Studio) and New-York-based French architect Léopold Lambert's The Funambulist PamphletsVolume 01_Spinoza and volume 02_Foucault. Or this must-read, at least for those interested in topics such as landscape futures, decay, etc., Ben Woodard's On A Ungrounded Earth.
This summer is announced to be rich in books…

6/19/2013

Serrana and Quitasueño a drawing project by Luis Callejas and Melissa Naranjo/LCLA Office

My apology for this long silence. I was particularly busy on calls for papers these recent days. Not an easy task! These call for papers, however, drive you to new boundaries, new research. Furthermore, three weeks ago, I visited a site near the city where my parents live, a city located in the Parisian basin, a changing territory, known for being agricultural now becoming energetic territory with the presence of onshore shale oil platforms (or hydraulic fracturing facilities)  in this contested territory. I'm planning to add one of two more next week. Consequently, I will be once again silent for a couple of weeks. I can't say more as I am currently working on a series of posts on this topic of landscape-energy.

Then I profit from this post to remind you this important information: two weeks left for sending me your abstract for Uncertain Territories' first volume Contingency. I will write a short post on this editorial project this weekend. I hope you all work hard…Good Luck!!!


Colombian architect Luis Callejas just launched the 33rd volume of Pamphlet Architecture, a volume entitled Island and Atolls. Some months ago, his office announced to have been awarded by Pamphlet Architecture for their 33rd volume.
Luis Callejas belongs to a list of architects including Mason White and Lola Sheppard of Lateral Office, Neeraj Bhatia of Lateral Office and Petropia, Smout Allen, to limit to these few names, I've been following for awhile.
Note that Luis Callejas regularly collaborates with Lateral Office — I cite a few of these projects: Hydroborders, Klaksvik City Center, and Weatherfield.

This Pamphlet Architecture will be a great occasion for me to have a better glance at his work.
I will order my copy rapidly, this week, (despite a two/three-week wait certainly due to a problem of distribution via Amazon France), and with evidence, will go back to this little publication as soon as possible. This being said, Luis Callejas is presenting a series of drawings at Storefront for Art and Architecture, in New York in the framework of the exhibition POP: Protocols, Obsessions, Positions, until July 26.
For those, me included, who didn't have the chance of visiting the first edition, POP: Protocols, Obsessions, Positions is Storefront For Art and Architecture's annual drawing show whose ambition is to discuss, transform our understanding of architectural drawings in the 21st century. This new edition gathers drawings of Amale Andraos of WorKAC, Adam Frampton, Ada Tolla & Giuseppe Lignano of LOT-EK, Eric Owen Moss, Fernando Romero of FREE, Form_ula, Gia Wold, Hayley Eber of EFGH, Filipe Magalhaes & Ana Luisa Soares of Fala Atelier, Lola Sheppard of Lateral Office, Kohn Pedersen Fox Associates, Marcelo Spina & Georgina Huljich of P-A-T-T-E-R-N-S, Arturo Scheidegger & Ignacio Garcia Partarrieu of UMWELT, Bernard Tschumi, Caroline O'Donnell of CODA, Hedwig Heinsman of DUS, James Wines, Juan Herreros, Mark Shepard, Michel Rojkind, Michele Marchetti of Sanrocco, Neil Spiller, Norman Kelley, Odile Decq, Rafi Segal, Ryan Neiheiser, Giancarlo Valle & Isaiah King of Another Pamphlet, Stan Allen, Veronika Valk, Viviana Peña of Ctrl G, Yansong Ma of MAD and Luis Callejas & Melissa Naranjo of LCLA Office.

It's a good occasion to propose here a drawing of both Callejas and Naranjo for the moment when I will receive my copy. This drawing is titled Serrana and Quitasueño. Luis Callejas and Melissa Naranjo despict this drawing as:
Serrana and Quitasueño ı part of Pamphlet Architecture 33. Islands and Atolls | Luis Callejas and Melissa Naranjo/ LCLA Office, 2013
Hand cut collage on original maps
Courtesy of Luis Callejas and Melissa Naranjo/ LCLA Office


two versions Storefront's facade as a 220 km long line extending over the degrees in latitude. The Sf's facade aligns with the newly redefined aquatic border between Colombia and Nicaragua in the currently redefined aquatic border between Colombia and Nicaragua in the currently disputed archipelago of San Andres and Providencia. What are the new scales of exchange between the small banks and Islands that are trapped in the legal battle for the sovereignty of the archipelago? What will be the new mechanisms of regulation that will affect the aquatic landscape that so many Colombian fisherman depend on? As in the beginning of making the drawing the two players could not agree on the answer, it was decided that each author would play the game of trying to depict the interest of each nation by representing the possible exchanges through opening and closing the 30 km long pivoting walls in different degrees. While the Colombian version (right) tries to leave more spaces for open international fishing routes, the Nicaraguan side (left) opens in specific point of intense exchange while isolating others for potential oil exploration by US and European corporations.
In addition to the POP: Protocols, Obsessions, Positions exhibition, Serrana and Quitasueño is a part of this 33rd volume of Pamphlet Architecture, a volume that includes an interview with Geoff Manaugh and Mason White, and an afterword by Charles Waldheim. For those of us who cannot visit this exhibition, we will have an opportunity to discover this series of drawings. I hope to go back over Luis Callejas' work rapidly, at least on this new Pamphlet Architecture
For the most impatient among us, I will merely say that Luis Callejas is regularly described as a landscape architect. If the scale of the landscape constitutes his medium, Luis Callejas's interest focuses rather on non-built phenomena, namely, "things one cannot easily control and design" than on the notion of landscape. 
What interests me in Luis Callejas and LCLA Office's matters of concern is this question of 'non-built phenomena' that convokes a set of problems ranging from scale, infrastructure, space, production, complexities, contingencies, and so on.
Natural phenomena are the raw materials used to generate a projected landscape. In this way architecture is not separated from Phenomena, it doesn't resist them or reject them, it lets them interact. When a given site has no expressive natural phenomena, or none that are appealing to us, we should consider the possibility of de-contextualizing a foreign phenomenon and artificially relocating it.*
Let's wait and read this new volume of Pamphlet Architecture.
Those among my readers living in the North America, you can have your copy as it is announced available on Amazon. For the rest of us, let's be patient…



* See: On Ash Clouds | Harvard Graduate School of Design, Department of Landscape Architecture

6/04/2013

The Exploratory turn ı Knowledge-based practices 1

The classical conception of the architect as a solver, as Jeremy Till puts it in his Architecture Depends, seems outdated. The reason of this erosion can be explained within a set of complexities that we will sum up into one: crisis. Put the point differently, this erosion however can be mere productive for the profession. But what outcomes might erosion produce? In what extent can erosion be creative for architecture? This question will be partially remained unsolved in this post. Let me take an example of outcomes that the erosion of the architect's traditional role can produce: knowledge.
My interest in the place of knowledge within the architectural sphere, first, departs from two projects by Canadian Lateral Office: (1) a recent project entitled Knowledge Clouds designed in the framework of an exhibition titled Deep Freeze Exhibition at the Habourfront Centre for Arts, in Toronto that gathers a series of projects regarding the North Canadian region; (2) The Arctic Food Networks that reveals a anthropological approach to design. Another position, if I can qualify as such, that invites me to develop a research on knowledge production is urban expedition ranging from the same Lateral Office, MAP ArchitectsUnknown Fields Division, to Vanishing Point (founded by photographer and urban explorer Michael Cook) and the recent BLDGBLOG and Edible Geography's project Venue Project. My ambition is not to discuss the historical relation of architecture and expedition but to look at (1) if and how expedition can be a form of knowledge production for architecture; (2) what kind of outcomes expedition can afford for the architect; and (3) what kind of knowledge these research-based practices generate. Second I am particularly interested in the shifting paradigm of architecture, namely that architecture is becoming contingent. And I take the risk of associating the growing interest for expedition with the validation or integration of contingency within the architecture sphere. But a first remark is that expedition, as we will see, is forcing architecture to break the however solid ramparts of its ivory tower. In other words, it participates in the shift of the architect's role into a facilitator.
Iceland Expedition | Courtesy of MAP Architects and the Bartlett School of Architecture Unit 3, 2012

Third, I assume that knowledge production entails a detailed analysis that includes education. Rather education should be placed at top in the preoccupation as knowledge means, among others, teaching. Indeed, there is a vast but important debate on reforming architectural education — I will merely cite these two examples here and here to limit to the UK.
My point, however, is far beyond teaching. Thus, what interests me resides not necessarily in these new economies of practices but much more in their articulation, their engagement in reality. For this matter, I will merely talk about a part of knowledge production. It seems to me that expeditions is a good method to be engaged with the world since expedition is articulable. It can provide a set of tools, skills for the architect not necessarily limited to this one whose preoccupation or field of interest concerns certain regions — hostile regions, sick regions (I am referring to these regions threatened by ecological crises such as flooding, or drought). It also encompasses this one whose field of intervention is located in his/her surrounding, namely local communities, and so on.
Workshop in Ilulissat, Greenland | Courtesy of MAP Architects, 2012

I will limit the question of expedition to two examples: extreme environments — I confess that this choice is dictated by my interest for the scale of landscape-infrastructure — and another but quite similar in terms of scale: Venue as it addresses the geographical scale. I let aside the other urban expeditions for another post as the field is too rich to be reduced into one post.
Mylar Resilience Test in Greenland | Courtesy of MAP Architects, 2012

As has been said, growing articles, lectures, events and books announce, debate the emergence of new economies of practices. These practices articulate a series of examples of practices ranging from the community enabler, the generalist, the historian to the educator. Two examples of books are Future Practice by Rory Hyde and Till's already mentioned Architecture Depends. Both, written in the beginning of the second decade of the 21st century — respectively 2012 and 2009 —, stress the shifting status and position of architecture as facilitator, community enabler and interface.
Greenland Migrating | Courtesy of MAP Architects, 2010

That architecture today — its current form of practice and thinking — is not adapted to the multiple challenges we are facing with. Hence the important task of redefining the architecture's business model, as Dan Hill of City of Sound/Fabrica puts it in his preface for Future PracticeFuture Practice and Architecture Depends highlight that architecture has become a discipline not only of innovation, creativity but also of opportunities, of exchange between experts and non-experts. Architecture has become a contingent, crossbench discipline, a discipline that dialogues with other fields. But not only, it also dialogues with those for whom it builds — the people. Consequently, architecture is forced — by all means and at all costs — to emerge from its isolation with the risk of putting its status as expert, as solver in jeopardy. Citing Peter SloterdijkMarkus Miessen writes:
[T]he individual designer needs to attempt to mount a certain universe of competency, a territory in which one can exist as a sovereign individual, not in the sense of relative specialization, but rather, the reverse: the contemporary "expert" needs to become not a more specified master of a singular terrain, but an incompetent master navigating the ocean of practices. For [Peter] Sloterdijk, design is the skillful mastering of incompetence. Skillful in enables a type of neutral gear, a parallel reality, in which practice, even in the presence of those who attempt to render themselves unconscious, can be sustained in an optimistic mode of production.
Indeed, as Miessen argues, a collaboration with other actors will be providing new possibilities, new perspectives, new modes of engagement for the architect. His idea of building a discipline that will provide 'constructive critical productivity' can be an innovative force for a profession in crisis. The concept of 'crossbench' is defined as a "structural component that is designed to leave space for those who want to remain disassociated in order to provoke, motivate, and eventually stir change." The 'crossbench architect' could be an architect who is involved outside of the market. An architect who does not necessarily build but whose practice, research, or discourse contributes to the discourse, to the evolution, the transformation of the profession and the world with which he/she is engaged. An architect who positions his/herself as a strategic outsider. 
Greenland Migrating | Courtesy of MAP Architects, 2010

This raises three questions: How to rethink architecture vis-à-vis the unstable, uncertain disturbances? What is the role of the architect presently and potentially? Is architecture equipped enough for these challenges? I could not agree more with Jeremy Till who calls for profiting from crisis to redefine the discipline, to put architecture at risk. Peter Sloterdijk claims that the expert needs to become an incompetent master navigating the ocean of practices. What does he mean with incompetent master? He only posits that the architect as expert can no longer have the solutions for all the problems. Or, the practitioner needs new design protocols, new methods to approach to challenging contexts. This obviously poses the question of the understanding of 'expert'. What is an expert today? 
Greenland Migrating | Courtesy of MAP Architects, 2010

A description commonly accepted presents the expert as the one who analyzes the terrain, evaluates and proposes solutions. This is the commonly validated understanding of today's expert. In the face of the multi-format, multi-scale crises, the architect now problem-forms; he speculates; he elaborates scenarios that might or might not be built. In doing so he goes beyond architecture, beyond the simple act of building in search for new skillset, new expertise. These new forms of expertise, however, must remain scalable, mutable, responsive, as Lola Sheppard and Neeraj Bhatia write in the second volume of Bracket [Goes Soft]
Svalbard Architectural Expedition | © MAP Architects, 2013

The complexities of external conditions, as has been said, are deeply transforming the profession. This resonates with a form of practice that is not new but reflects a re-interest for knowledge production. Let me take the risk of summarizing this into knowledge-based practice — or research-as-practice. This form of practice, accordingly, requires specific tools, methodology, new protocols, new approach to practising and thinking. The architect as facilitator. This, with a strong evidence, supposes this following question: to what degree might architecture be not just the engineering material of life but also a facilitator, an active agent? This question presently animates a set of research, discourse, events.
Bio Mimicry of Polar Plants | Courtesy of Clemens Hochreiter || MAP Architects, 2013
> "Based on the mechanisms of plants to increase the temperature in their flowers for growing their seeds in the very short reproductive periods in polar regions, this device is a reconstruction of different flower shapes. Therefore the flowers of three different on Svalbard domestic plants were researched and got translated into the technical device, aiming to evaluate which typology of flower is able generate the highest temperature within the flower. Beside a reconstruction close to the natural example modified test series with different materials got used. This should clarify if it possible to improve the microclimate within the flower shaped volumes by using transparent, light absorbing or light reflecting materials. Every single volume got a thermometer to measure the temperature inside and outside, completely independent from the other test set-up to get comparable results. On site the device got positioned in the open landscape of Svalbard to gather as much natural light as possible in between the steep mountains surrounding Longyearbyen." - Clemens Hochreiter 

Let me, now, limit to two questions related to what we are concerned: Is knowledge a question of scale? What is knowledge production? Knowledge is power, both been intricately interconnected as Michel Foucault forthrightly stated. As known, knowledge production can serve to re-empower architecture. Allow me to look at the art area that has long addressed the question of knowledge production under the pen of Irit Rogoff, Stephen Wright or Simon Sheikh. Related questions are presently discussed in the art area that include the present status of artwork, the traditional role of the artist, and the decline of the artistic education, among other issues. Like the discipline of architecture, art must be re-empowered. According to art theorist Simon Sheikh "the notion of knowledge production implies a certain placement of thinking, of ideas, within the present knowledge economy, i.e., the dematerialized production of current post-Fordist capitalism." What kind of knowledge can architecture produce? How to relate knowledge production to architecture to offer new possibilities for design? I am particularly interested in a form of knowledge production: architectural expedition. What kind of knowledge production might expedition bring to architecture?
Ice Tiles: A Study on Insulation Properties and Light Transmission | Courtesy of Daniela Miller || MAP Architects, 2013
> "If we think about appropriate ways of construction in extreme environments it is always useful and relevant to reflect upon the vernacular. That means for the Arctic regions of our world the image of an igloo often appears in our mind. One study in particular focused on the insulation resistance of the different ice and snow tiles. The tiles are produced in different thicknesses and some of them encase different kinds of material. Using a heat source within the box, the insulation properties of the tiles can be measured with a thermometer. The other series of studies deals with the translucency of the tiles. A light source is placed inside the box and the light intensity and quality crossing through the tile can be measured with a luxmeter. Designing in synergy with natural environmental conditions is an essential goal of the ice-box project. The idea of the ice-box was to look into the potential of benefiting from ice and snow in architecture. Therefore different ice and snow plates were produced by use of a mould system. These tiles have been registered and analysed to quantify the most relevant data." - Daniela Miller

Iceberg Living Station | Courtesy of MAP Architects, 2010

As has been said, there is a growing interest for urban expedition — practitioners and non-practitioners exploring the world to survey the transformation of our society. This is evidently not new. History has demonstrated architects' interest for expedition, the Grand European Tour in the 17th- and 18th-century constituting the illustrative example. For the most, these not yet established architects traveled to survey art, language, geography and architecture in Europe. As a result, for the architects, upon their return from their continental travel, the purpose of this long expedition was to improve architecture and culture. 
Iceberg Living Station | Courtesy of MAP Architects, 2010

Today's architects' ambition, however, is far from the only desire of crossing the world to study architecture, art and geography. Their ambition resides in the investigation of the world's complexities at the territorial scale, the interaction of the human scale, the scale of the built environment and the scale of the natural environment. Denmark-based MAP Architects' founder David Garcia recent trip drove him and his students of the Lund University's Extreme Environments & Future Landscapes program to the hostile environment of the far North, to Svalbard, a 61,022-square-kilometer (21,561-square-mile) isolated landmass located in the Norwegian part of the Arctic Ocean. There, David Garcia and his students study the "growing communities affected by the melting ice cap and the large opportunities for transportation and resources that the northeast passage now offers." Not that MAP Architects are specialized in urban structures in the extreme cold. The reason of MAP Architects' interest, rather, lies in the study of opportunities for architectural design in these extreme situations using adaptive instruments designed for these environments. Furthermore, MAP Architects' architectural investigation resides at the heart of the question of process, namely, how spatial formats came about and how they will evolve. Their folded, recto-verso-A1 publication MAP (Manual of Architectural Possibilitiescollects research data of their architectural investigation on the recto and speculative project on the verso into now six issues. Extreme environments entail specific, adaptive knowledge. Concerning their regular investigation in the North Canadian part of the Arctic region, Canadian Lateral Office, for whom expedition plays an important role, describe their motivation as follows
We're looking at what kinds of architecture might come out of that region, if it were treated not as the globe's for northern attic condition but as its own local context.
Architects are not the exclusive explorers. Architectural expedition is of high importance for non-practitioners too. Their motivation is quite similar to that of architects: they investigate the built/natural environment-population nexus. Put it simply, they attempt at unfolding the intricately anthropogenic impact on the landscape. Many of these non-practitioners carry on fruitful exchanges with architects throughout expeditions, workshops, lectures or exhibitions. Take Venue, a sixteen-month curatorial-based project launched by BLDGBLOG's Geoff Manaugh and Edible Geography's Nicola Twilley in collaboration with the Nevada Museum of Art's Center for Art and Environment, Future Plural and Columbia University's Studio-X NYC, and Preservation (GSAPP). Within Venue, both Manaugh and Twilley traverse the United States to document existing landscape "through the eyes of the innovators, trendsetters, entrepeneurs and designers at the forefront of ideas today" on a series of different expeditions. Topography, speculative landscapes, landscape-infrastructure, geography, but also military devices, video games, human interactions with the built, natural, and virtual environments are amid the topics that will be surveyed during this long tour. Nicola Twilley defines Venue as follows:
Mount Angeles | Image courtesy of © Venue, 2012-13

Physically, Venue is a collection of measuring tools and recording devices mounted on surveying tripods and a custom-designed pop interview desk. In addition to standard video, audio, and still photography, we'll also be deploying a range of more whimsical, poetic, and obscure instrument to reveal invisible forces and impose alternate perceptual frameworks on the landscape. I'm particularly excited about this part of the project, as part of a longstanding interest in exploring how the technologies we use to explore and describe the landscape both shape and are shaped by the way we understand it.
Manaugh and Twilley are fascinated by these Grand Tours dated of the 17th and 18th-centuries. While, in particular, in the United Kingdom, the Grand Tour was regarded as an obligation, or rite of passage, architects, artists and writers enthusiastically participated in these expeditions with the aim of expanding their knowledge of the world. Manaugh and Twilley share the same desire and interest. They define Venue as a mobile interview studio, a multi-format event platform, better: "surveying expedition and forward-operating landscape research base, a DIY interview booth and media rig". These expeditions — Venue, urban exploration, and so on — require adapted equipment and instruments such as camera, robotic devices equipped with camera. 
Mount Angeles | Image courtesy of © Venue, 2012-13

The common denominator of these knowledge-based practices lies in the attempt at reconfiguring by all means and at all costs the discipline of architecture into a process-based approach. Indeed, these research-based practices, therefore, coincide with the crisis of the discipline arguing that we should go beyond the act of building. Not that building and site do not matter anymore. Rather, there are other preoccupation that architecture should involve with that include scales, dimensions, conditions — infrastructure, territorial mutation as a result of local, regional, global-scale implications, politics, and so on.
Stiltsville | Image courtesy of Venue, 2012-13

Expedition does not necessarily suppose that these architects develop exclusively speculative projects. Most of their proposals are buildable. If many of these explorers-architects are readers of science-fiction like J.G. Ballard, China Mieville or Bruce Sterling their projects can be realized. About his research-based projects, David Garcia states,
We believe that all of the projects that we create would be realized. We do not think that we are doing any science fiction. Even the most radical ones, such as the Iceberg project. All you need is a caterpillar and then start by making a whole into an iceberg technologies.TheZoo for contaminated species is the most radical one, but it's not science fiction, its just a high hole in a ground with a dome. Some of these projects are just the most simple solutions to the problems approached, the 'ready Made Antarctic base Station' for example is a project where you would just land a series of retired air crafts on Antarctica instead of Arizona to to create a work station. For us they are just alternative ways of engaging with the built environment, but I don't think we make any of our buildings float in the air or stand by wishful thinking. I think what we challenge are other aspects, we challenge way of design and building that are not necessarily traditional ones.
The Iceberg Living Station proposal, as David Garcia describes it, ambitions to "design a living station for 100 visitors with minimum environmental impact."
To achieve this, we aim to avoid "building" by traditional means, which would implicate transporting materials foreign to the continent, which never leave Antarctica again. Instead, the 'architecture' is holed out in a super large iceberg (about 2.5 square kilometer area), which would eventually melt in 7 to 10 years time. (…) Caterpillar excavators, traditionally used in the Antarctic to move and clear snow, would cut out the spaces inside the iceberg. The geometric logic of the movement of these machines, now used to 'design and cut' the spaces inside the iceberg. The geometric logic of the movement of these machines, now used to 'design and cut' the spaces, create the curves of the interiors. To access ramps (one for the pedestrians, the other for vehicles) give access t the main hall and canteen, with access to kitchen, medical services, and toilets. From this public area the living station grows into an array of passages, which give access to the sleeping quarters, clustered in groups of eight or nine rooms around a common lounge. A lecture/conference hall allows for cultural activities. Containers would transport food and reusable solar cells and energy equipment, and would be used to store waste and grey water residue, which can be shipped of regularly.
Two projects departed from regularly expeditions to extreme environments are Knowledge Clouds and Arctic Food Network. The list of projects for the Canadian part of the Arctic region is long ranging from Health Hangars, Iceberg Rigging Stations, to Caribou Pivot StationsLateral Office are concerned with the social, economic and ecological drives at play in this landscape. In each project, the aim is to design adaptive architectural propositions for this region.
Knowledge Clouds ı Stills from Inuit Knowledge and Climate Change (2010, Isuma) by © Z. Kunuk and I. Mauro
Originally appeared on Lateral Office

Lateral Office noticed that the creation of a Pan-Arctic university provides a frame for locals to communicate their knowledge of the Arctic, first, to one another, then to the rest of the world. The purpose here is to facilitate "an inclusive common ground for learning and sharing traditional and scientific knowledge" about the region.
Knowledge Clouds | Courtesy of Lateral Office, 2013 
An itinerant territorial campus, the proposed aerial movement patterns of classrooms and labs

Knowledge Clouds examines how architecture can engage the scale of geography and tests the possibility of an incremental, expandable, mobile system of education that can serve as seeds of knowledge exchange and production into the North.
This knowledge-based structure consists of a series of lightweight units based on the Arctic airship technology "predicted to supply logistical mobility with a 40-ton capacity." These units "can be shipped by air and remain on sites for varying periods of time." Lateral Office propose responsive forms and materials to climatological conditions. 
Knowledge Clouds ı Courtesy of Lateral Office, 2013
Installation of animated models at Harbourfront Centre showing the 1:200 and 1:75 models

The second project Arctic Food Network problem-forms the interrelated issues of health, poverty, and loss of culture in the Arctic region. Restructuration of the communities articulated with a productive infrastructure system allows for the Inuit communities to adapt to the changing conditions of their environment and to sustain the growing young population located in northern settlements
Arctic Food Network | Courtesy of Lateral Office, 2012
Food Distribution Diagram: 1960 - Present (left) and 2014 - Onward (right)

Lateral Office describe this project as 21st-century arctic snow highway, with arctic rest-stop cabins; a new model for cold climate survival. Arctic Food Networks is composed of
Arctic Food Network | Courtesy of Lateral Office, 2012
hubs […] distributed at 160km intervals. [These] hubs occupy varied sites: land, water/ice, or coastal conditions. Each of these sitings offers a specific harvestable food product.
Arctic Food Networks functions as an interface between the communities on the one hand, and the communities and their environment on the other hand. It also unfolds the contingent character of architecture in the face of external contingencies of the location. It also unfolds another aspect of the discipline. 
Arctic Food Network | Courtesy of Lateral Office, 2012
Map of indigenous people of the Arctic, percentage that is food insecure, and a comparison cost of 'food baskets' in the north revealing the high costs in Nunavut

There is an anthropological approach in these two projects and more broadly the whole projects concerning the North Canadian region in their way of problem-forming the critical issues relative to this region.
Iceberg Rigging Station | Courtesy of Lateral Office, 2010
The Iceberg Rigging station combines the industrial and touristic sectors.

Mason White employs the concept of productive, he judges, as more adapted to changing contexts than sustainability. 
Caribou Pivot Stations | Courtesy of Lateral Office, 2010
Mapping of caribou migration routes and calving grounds, in relation to existing and proposed research stations

The difference between the productive and the sustainable lies in optimizing delicate, intricate interdependencies of inhabited environments and natural ecosystems — thinking at an articulated scale of the human and non-human — with innovative but soft, scalable design protocols envisioned at a territorial scale. 
Caribou Pivot Stations | Courtesy of Lateral Office, 2010
Studies of required grazing areas and availability, across the seasons.

A productive, he writes, "refers to the capacity for a design surface to generate a usable component — agriculture, renewable energy systems, water harvesting systems, et al." The productive, he continues, "is an extension and evolution of sustainability — without any dubious empirical or technological determinism."
Health Hangar | Courtesy of Lateral Office, 2010
Proposed new network of air travel and airports for medical care in these Nunavut communities with no roads and insufficient health clinics.
Health Hangar | Courtesy of Lateral Office, 2010
Entry with ice formation curtainwall system
Caribou Pivot Stations | Courtesy of Lateral Office, 2010

Lateral Office's possibilities of generating adaptive expertise, and decision-making adapted to these regions, MAP Architects' architectural investigations to afford specific, responsive design decisions once again for these regions, the contribution of non-practitioners like Venue/BLDGBLOG and Edible Geography to question not architecture as such but the interaction of the built and the natural landscape through the scale of geography, are possible in accordance with a knowledge-based practice and thinking that integrates expedition, exchanges and collaboration with local institutions and community actors, lectures, exhibitions and, writing — respectively Bracket and Manual of Architectural Possibilities, and blogs
Caribou Pivot Stations | Courtesy of Lateral Office, 2010
Map showing caribou migration routes, communities, existing research stations, and proposed stations

Expedition of course is not the only method, or the saviour of architecture. This is not its pretensions. It nonetheless can be a tool, a dispositif de pensée (device of thinking) and of practice aimed at rescaling, expanding the profession, the architect's role not as an expert-solver but as an active agent.

to be continued…



Jeremy Till, Architecture Depends, The MIT Press, 2009
Rory Hyde, Future Practice: Conversations from the Edge of Architecture, Routledge, 2012
Geoff Manaugh, The BLDGBLOG Book, Chronicle Books, 2009
Geoff Manaugh (ed.), Landscape Futures, Actar Editorial, 2013. Preview in ISSUU.
Markus Miessen, The Nightmare of Participation, Markus Miessen, Sternberg Press, 2011
Peter Sloterdijk, Sven Voelker, Der Welt Über die Strasse Helfen, Fink Wilhelm GmbH + Co.KG, 2010,
Mason White, The Productive Surface, Design Observer, 2011
Simon Sheikh, "Talk Value: Cultural Industry and Knowledge Economy," in On Knowledge Production: A Critical Reader in Contemporary Art, Maria Hlavajova, Jill Winder, and Binna Choi (eds.), Revolver, Archiv für Aktuelle Kunst, 2008.
Manual of Architectural Possibilities: Antarctica, Quarantine, Archive, Floods, Chernobyl, Greenland
Lola Sheppard, Neeraj Bhatia (ed.), Bracket Goes Soft Almanac 2, Actar Editorial, 2013

Pageviews last month