Berlin + Collage City

I went to Berlin this term as part of an essay we’re doing this year but also because I have wanted to visit Germany for a very long time. Above are some of the sketches from the trip.

The essay is to be written about the city but in reference to an architectural text of our choosing. We were given an extensive list but the clear choice for me was Collage City by Colin Rowe and Fred Koetter. It discusses the importance of a layering of different systems in a city, of different ideas and masterplans. The dream of a utopian city or even a modern city is not necessarily a positive one. Cities are constantly evolving and additive processes and nowhere is this clearer than in Berlin, a city of conflicting beliefs and colliding ideas. It has grown and adapted, not only over the last 100 years but since its conception and the essay will hope to focus both on the architectural impact of this but also on the citizens of Berlin and how they have reacted and caused these changes.

Architecture + Film … Amour

I went to see Amour on the weekend, the new Michale Haneke film. I’ve only seen a couple of his films before: Hidden and Funny Games and this was both very different and yet similar. All are films in incredibly close quarters, often only having a few shots of the outside world and focus on a drama unfolding in the home. Amour is just a beautiful film, it was like that elderly couple on the bus that you observe and they’re talking about a classical music concert that they’ve been too. Except its for 2 hours which is great, and one of them’s dying which is not great. It was deeply moving and because of the closeness you had a real familiarity with the characters but also their environment, you got to know every aspect of the flat in Paris. This stands in stark contrast with some films I’ve seen recently when characters are forced upon the viewer and you couldn’t give a care whether they live or die, in this you were effected and drawn in. This was drawn from memory a few days after I saw the film and I really can imagine every corner, really recommend it.

Canada

I went to Canada over the summer, here are some pages from my sketchbook. I went out initially to stay with my friend who lives on the outskirts of Toronto and then after a week my family arrived and we stayed in a fantastic house by a lake near Ottawa and Montreal. We went for a trip to Montreal and Ottawa as well as the time I spent in Toronto so I got a great, month-long tour of Eastern Canada. It was an amazing and utterly inspiring trip.

Modular

 

As part of a new project I am looking at building through modules, neutral units of building. As a result I have chosen a site that can be split into a 3 by 4 grid and have been experimenting with the variations possible within that system. Here are 313 unique variations on the grid and this experimentation will form the basis of the eventual form of the building.

3rd Year Introduction

Our new year has bought a new and wider perspective on the world of architecture. Instead of focusing on individual buildings and small plots of land with ideals of wider impacts we are instead working on adapting the urban fabric itself. With this comes a wider set of parameters and in many ways allows us to break free from the constraints of modern technology, site limitations and, for many I imagine, any grasp on reality as imagination takes the better of them and they drift into the impossible.

At the beginning of the year we were asked to choose our “atelier”, the idea being that the year will be given a general brief with everyone producing the same output but with smaller groups being subscribed a certain focus both in outcomes and in site. I am in an atelier called “work/space/place” with a focus on the changing work practices and concequent urban futures brought about by changes in technology. I’ve been interested in the field generally since I read Mitchell’s City of Bits last year and was also intrigued by the area we would be concentrating on, Salford. Many will know about recent developments in Manchester’s ancient and extremely close rival and, with the arrival of MediaCity and the move of BBC North into Salford Quays it’s an every changing landscape that is changing at an incredibly rapid rate.

Both my parents work or have worked in media and for the BBC for much of their careers so, with the advent of the BBC’s arrival I wanted to observe how the integration into this new territory was being handled. Also, my mother was part of the process of moving, working in an area called “change management” for the BBC for a number of years so I had a personal interest in that area of Salford especially. It’s been a strange experience exploring Salford over this last week as I’ve been so close to it and yet never even crossed the river before. It’s also important to note the prejudice that I experience whenever I tell people where I’ve been: there is a perspective from many students that Salford is a criminal sanctuary where you will be mugged, if not immediately then definitely before you leave.

I will go into more details as to our initial findings in a future post but first I need to explain the format of these entries from now on. This will serve as a diary of what I have been working on in the last week, the readings that have particularly caught my interest and the ideas that are flying about in the group. Not everything will be noted, this won’t be my sketch pad but it will highlight the direction we’re going towards and the areas we’ve investigated.

So, with a view toward regular, twice weekly posts I will leave this brief introduction to the year with a short video, produced in an hour by Lee Goddard, Shahrol Sahlin and myself, exploring the ideas expressed in Code/Space: Software + Everyday Life by Rob Kitchin and Martin Dodge. We set out with the intention of finding local spaces that were progressively more reliant on code to function: Augmented space (like a coffee shop) will offer a gateway to servers across the world and limitless imformation and data but, when wifi is disabled, will still perform its main function of serving coffee. Coded space (like a modern library) will utilise code to speed up or remove human interaction from processes with an eye on improving customer satisfaction and ease of function as a place to retrieve information. However, if the eletronic swiping systems fail there are still methods of stamping books out, checking peoples I.D. Cards manually and finding books without the aid of software. The third example is code/space (like a betting shop): without software to calculate economically viable betting odds and a central system to keep all shops in the network updated the space would simply become a place to watch horse racing. All be it with a ready supply of incredibly small pencils.

code/space

2nd Year

2nd Year is now over, taking the summer off and will hopefully be back midway through August. Here is the sum of my work this year, enjoy.

1st Term Design Report

1st Term Portfolio

2nd Term Design Report

2nd Term Portfolio

Sustainable Studies

I spent this morning in an exam for my Urban Sustainability course that’s been chugging along in the background this term. It comes under the lecture branch in our course called “Humanities” which is effectively the catch-all for anything that isn’t construction or design. Past iterations of the lecture series have covered Manchester’s history, academic theories on observation and some talk of the value of senses in architecture. This term the subject has been on sustainable development and its various forms in planning, construction, building use and design and it’s been a very interesting set of lectures. It’s also been given extra depth through the inclusion of guest lecturers, most of which have been published and their articles placed on the reading list. Over all it’s been great to have an area of study that’s focused on academic problems and the theory of a subject rather than the continual grind of deadlines and work over thought.

My problem comes when considering it’s placement in our time studying architecture. We have had assignments set around designing environmentally sound buildings since first year and we’ve been encouraged to sling PVs on roofs and bioswales around our buildings with only a vague theoretical knowledge of what we’re trying to accomplish. This lecture series has made it clear that not only is there environmental protection to ensure but also social equity and economic growth to encourage. To say “build a carbon-neutral sports centre” speaks only of a close-minded approach to how we should be tackling the problem of sustainability and I think it’s wrong to teach someone how a photovoltaic works before making the point that our development as a culture does not revolve solely around sustainable energies but rather around a holistic approach, creating societies that are responcible but also designed to prescibe better social practices. Enabling more prudent environmental behaviour in people is about more than ensuring that their bulbs are low-energy but rather about making more cycle sheds, creating a more diverse built environment and thinking of a city in terms of how sustainable the transport system, not what the most interesting buildings are.

I just feel that to learn about how something works from a technical level before understanding the whole picture is gung-ho and irresponsible as we, as architects, are extremely culpable for society’s behaviour. This is not just a science, it’s about understanding people and how our futures could evolve.

(below are some readings from the course which I found particularly interesting)

Sustainable Urban Forms – Jabareen 2006

Experts and their approaches – Brand 2007

Hasselt – a Case Study – Brand 2008



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