Friday, 26 December 2014

Feeling really really guilty

Along with most people I know, I was really amused by a clip of Pakistani building workers driving piles by bouncing up and down in time to a suitable Bollywood tune.  I linked it as an example of ingenuity, in a post which actually featured a colleague's use of a team of workers to do a structural 'Excitation Test' on a Gulf building site.

What I forgot was that the funny clip is in reality the mask for horrific practices on building sites in developing countries.  I think more people ought to know.  Architects in particular should do what they can to eliminate these barbaric ways that people are used and used up.

Sunday, 21 December 2014

Touching the earth lightly

The phrase was irrevocably appropriated to describe the work of Pritzker Prize winning Australian Architect Glenn Murcutt.  Which is a pity.  Not that Glenn's houses on the whole don't deserve the description.  Rather, because the work of some others may deserve it just as much.  Or, more subtly, because to identify the phrase so closely with a particular spindly shelter on pad footings, may actually do a disfavour to other approaches with less impact on the natural world.

I was reminded of this, by this year's winner of the Best Building in the World at the World Architecture Festival, the Chapel on the outskirt of Ho Chi Minh City, Vietnam, by local architecture practice a21studio.

Saturday, 20 December 2014

That heliostat again: enough already.

Now that Jean Nouvel's One Central Park apartment building has been invested with the exalted status of “Best Tall Building Worldwide” by the Council on Tall Buildings and Urban Habitat (), it's time to put that infamous heliostat to bed.  Especially as it hardly got a mention in the metaphorical shadow of the breatless claims for the world's biggest, ot tallest green walls by Patric Blanc.

Up front:  The heliostat works as described in an earlier post in this blog.  See the diagrams and descriptions at "Clued in on the heliostat".  And a video here. No, it doesn't do anything to improve winter sun for the apartments at all.

Friday, 19 December 2014

Overwinding the clockwork city

Now that Dan Hill is back, based in London as executive director of Futures at the UK’s Future Cities Catapult, he also seems to be back to posting more incisive critiques of our urban futures, based on his specialty in 'urban informatics'.  It's what he used to do so well on his blog City of Sound,  I got pretty irritated at the more social chit-chat while he headed Benetton's Fabrica, the communications research centre and transdisciplinary studio in Treviso, Italy.

So I am back to reading him.  This article is the in-depth version of an 'Opinion' column posted in Dezeen earlier this year, around the impact of predictive analytics on cities.  Hill develops a proposition that contemporary 'disruptive technologies' may be bad for society.  His central argument for all intents and purposes concentrates our focus on the lack of social contract between startups and most societies, and how they can therefore pick off the services that are the most lucrative, without any obligation to maintain equitable access for all.  Simply put, Hill argues that the greater access is not better access.

Effortless good maners: Paris Underground

There is a class of architecture, which – when possible to be used – solves in a fully integrated way most problems of sustainability, as well as good manners in responding to sensitive contexts. It is not expensive to build, and often affords freedoms which most conventional ways of building do not offer. In spite of its simplicity, robustness and other clear attractions, it is surprisingly rare.

I have been a long-standing fan of underground or at least earth sheltered buildings.  Depending on your definitions, this mode of construction is either rare, or quite the opposite, almost everywhere.