Center for Systems Biology by Heikkinen-Komonen Architects

I have been a fan of Heikkinen and Komonen Architects for a while. As one of the few Finnish practices with an International profile, they practice a form of Finnish Rationalism in which clear forms and grids are often juxtaposed in compositions betraying a deep understanding of the program.  Their ability to create forms  and describe them with clear structures that are simultaneously modern are not at all cold.
The Centre for Systems Biology in Dresden finished in 2017 is a beautiful study in a three dimensional grid in which objects are offset within producing deep, comprehensible, and poetic spaces, even accounting for the fact the building is a laboratory. It follows their Max Planck Institute of Molecular Cell Biology and Genetics, also designed by them in 2001 also in Dresden.

Read moreCenter for Systems Biology by Heikkinen-Komonen Architects

Cities are not Computers

We must also recognize the shortcomings in models that presume the objectivity of urban data and conveniently delegate critical, often ethical decisions to the machine. We, humans, make urban information by various means: through sensory experience, through long-term exposure to a place, and, yes, by systematically filtering data. It’s essential to make space in our cities for those diverse methods of knowledge production. And we have to grapple with the political and ethical implications of our methods and models, embedded in all acts of planning and design. City-making is always, simultaneously, an enactment of city-knowing — which cannot be reduced to computation. -Shannon Mattern, “A City Is Not a Computer,” Places Journal, February 2017. Accessed 31 Jan 2018. https://doi.org/10.22269/170207

A Burglar’s Guide to the City by Geoff Manaugh

A Burglar’s Guide to the City by Geoff Manaugh. (Amazon us/uk).

Welcome to the world of the Burglar, its a different one from the world we live in. To them the buildings we live in and use as we are supposed to are full of possibilities, treasure, secret entrances, underground exits, alternative uses.

A Burglar’s Guide covers a historical spread of daring heists, the exploits of George Leonidas Leslie, The hole in the ground gang, and the Roofman1 to name a few. It looks at the art of lock picking, talks to burglars who know the fire codes so well they can read the apartments inside from looking at the fire escape stairs.

“burglars are idiot masters of the built environment, drunk Jedis of architectural space.”
― Geoff Manaugh, A Burglar’s Guide to the City

We also see the people pitted against the burglars, from the LAPD helicopter patrol pilots, the designers of saferooms, the burglar trap houses built by the British Police, and in the process we get a flavour of the ever evolving game of cat and mouse they play.

This book could neatly be placed alongside Mike Daviss’ City of Quartz,  Hollow Land by Eyal Weizman, Ground Control by Anna Minton, and theorists from the Situationists onwards and its a punchy and worthy addition to this reading list.

Geoffs insight is that with Architecture comes the Burglar and also those that try to prevent burglars. This ‘misuse’ of Architecture is also another way to see design and the built environment. Its a fun snapshot of many interconnected ideas and it could be another way to explore and think of  the city for all of us.

Links:

  • webcast of Geoff talking about the book.
  1. I particularly like the Roofman as he breaks into MacDonalds Restaurants using his knowledge of their layouts and procedures. As MacDonlads follows the same formulae in every place he can make the same burglary again and again! His burglaries are Simulacrae of the perfect Macdonlads burglary that would work in every MacDonalds on the planet maybe? []

Cricket Bread

Last November Finland updated the regulations covering food preparation to allow for insects also, a few days later at our lunch restaurant a bowl of cricket popcorn was served. It actually tasted really good, though I might have had my eyes closed to eat it! There are plenty of reasons why societies that otherwise have social taboos about eating bugs might want to start to change. The moral questions around animal husbandry and slaughter, the environmental effort for the same amount of protein, about 12 times less, makes it attractive as a foodstuff, it’s easy to see why the UN recommended it.

Meanwhile Fazers, Finlands largest Bakery group came out with a bread that had powdered crickets added. Crickets in Finnish is Sirkkä, and so Sirkkäleippä was born. Although the breads rollout is limited to major urban centers in Finland right now due to cricket supply I bought the bread last week and I can say we all tried it and it tasted just like bread! There are about 70 crickets per loaf it just tastes like normal, good quality bread. Crickets as a food is of course not a new thing but powdering it and adding it in a hidden way is a clever idea to get around our western squeamishness and adding a lot of protein to an otherwise normal product.

Further Reading:

Under by Snøhetta

 

Always it’s nice to see a clear idea translated so directly to a building under by Snøhetta is such a project. Located on the Southern tip of Norway in the village of Båly it is a concept restaurant that plunges under the water to put the diners almost literally into the sea, making it Europes first underwater restaurant and with 100 seats the worlds biggest one.

Read moreUnder by Snøhetta

Astroturfing Leed

leedexposed

LEED and BREEAM are the two competing certification schemes for ‘green’ building in Architecture. I have made a few BREEAM reports and have read a little up on LEED in case I should ever need to take part in certifying a building I’m working on. These schemes are a little bit of hassle and consume some time, also some points to gain credits in the scheme look a little easy to achieve especially considering the different regulations we have here in Finland say to the UK where the BREEAM scheme is based. But overall I think these to certification systems are fantastic. Why is that?

Well the short answer is that they add value to a project. The longer answer is that they add a layer of QA to the design that can be justified back to the client and contractor. It also allows the design team to quantify and properly cost environmental measures that save money to the project in the long-term but are often more expensive up front. They encourage environmental standards up and allow clients to better audit their assets down the line. These two tools in short should be used a lot more. They help make building more environmentally friendly and they help drive change not only in the building industry but in the way we use buildings.

They are gaining in popularity so it shouldn’t have come as a surprise that an Astroturfing organisation has been set up in the USA to oppose LEED. The organisation is called leedexposed and thanks to Lloyd Alter at Treehugger and Sara Johnson at Architect Magazine the arguments they make have been debunked and the man behind the Astroturf organisation has been partially exposed to the light. The man behind it is Rick Berman, who appears to be able to say anything for the right price. I have a simple idea just boycott the companies who fund his company (and tell them why) here is the list.