A couple of things recently came up on my radar that coincided and that I thought I would write about.
Firstly was a list made by Patrick Collison called fast which is about projects which were made quickly enough to appear anomalous and impressive. This hyperlinked list is really nice and I have already spent some time clicking through and reading.
Today I went to The Helsinki Design Week Design Market in Kaapelitahdas. It’s billed as the largest design stock sale in the Nordics and its a great place to get a sense of what is going on in the Finnish Design scene. Mainly fashion and product design but food, interiors and jewellery etc was there to see and it was great to see how many future worldwide brands could be bubbling up here.
I found a project by Joel Simon called Evolving Floorplans (via Kottke) which is all about the algorithmic generation of floorpans, specifically in reference to a school design. Evolving Floorpans is the first time I have seen a clear visualisation of an algorithmic architectural design, it’s quite beautiful.
Firstly I should note I’ve no experience in the writing of code such as for the alogorythm that Joel wrote and only an interest in the experimental zone of 3d architecture printing, so having said all that some observations;
Just programming for efficiency of circulation gave a remarkably ‘organic’ plan structure but maybe this is not be surprising given how things are designed ‘bottom up’ in the natural world.
The plans, optimised for traffic flow didn’t translate at all for classroom use, building usability or internal legibility. Square up the classroom sizes a bit and use something that errs towards more modern classroom layouts like joined classrooms etc and lab spaces. The structure was not addressed, and we probably shouldn’t kid ourselves that new structural materials or techniques will either come soon or deliver greatly enhanced results than right now. The hierarchy of the room types could also be factored in, ie. the gym and cafe of larger volume, environmental site factors accounted for. Joel already understands much of this though,
‘The metrics could be expanded to include terrain maps, sun paths, existing trees and other environmental input, allowing the buildings to be highly adaptive to their context. The physics simulation could force certain boundary shape constraints.’
If developed further this could easily inform outline design and progress until some baselines and agreements in the basic design have been set. It could provide very soon a tool to help the design team and Architects, how much further it could go I don’t know.
Nasa hosted a 3d-printed habitat competition for Mars (video) (via things)
My home town of Helsinki dropped off the top10 most liveable cities list down from 9th in 2017 to 16th in 2018. (ref) though I’m not too sure about how these things are calculated I think that they do give a good general indication. Although I would say I think you can potentially live anywhere being rich. I would love to see an index that attempts to show how well you can live in cities as your income goes up or down. Quality vs income then the gentler the slop up or down might indicate a better place to live.
Added Urbanfinland.com to my blog list in resources. Some great writing and research here by Timo Hämälainen. I hope to go over some of his ideas in a separate post soon.
Early in this Autumn last year I went to see a photography exhibition by Heikki Willamo in the Finnish Photograpghy Museum called The Mythical Journey or Myyttinen matka. It’s Nature photography at its best but this exhibition was a little different. It was photograpahy from Finland and Scandinavia by Heikki but trying to capture the ice age Hunters experience of Nature and the Landscape. Images of animals as they were seen by Ice age peoples.
Heikki had long been interested in the rock paintings the oldest dating from forty thousand years ago. Until the bronze age and the beginning of a farming culture these images, made by hunter-gatherers appreciated the world in animalistic terms where the great animals took center stage.
“Of the animals, the large mammals were especially important. They had powers and had a connection to the spirit world. They were perhaps the mythical ancestors of clans, spiritual guides for hunters, and familiars for shamans. Images were created of them deep in the ground – in the depths of the caves charged with powers.” – Heikki Willamo
As hunter gatherers became farmers and the bronze age dawned then animals faded from center stage and animal images in the form of property of people became common as man as the subject of art took center stage. The way we saw the animals and our relation to them changed fundamentally. Heiki tried to recapture a feeling of how they were seen during the birth of man, when we too were one of the animals hunting, eating, living in the same landscape and in much the same way as them. When the world was made of a primordial space full of magic and the sounds of the animals were of the Gods calling!
The subtitle of this book is Living More with Less and its an examination of a post materialistic future for our society today.
Taking the book title of Stuffocation James Wallman shows that in developed economies we have started drowning in too much stuff. Then he looks at different movements and how they address this problem. From Minimalism, The Simple Life, The Medium Chill to the Experientialists. The experience economy and a new view of whats important in our lives is what this book finally comes out in favour of.
The Minimalists who cut out more and more ruthlessly their material possessions can maybe be a little to ascetic for James’ taste. The Simple Life followers who follow Henry David Thoreau who tells in his book Walden of getting back to nature for two years also comes up short, it’s often too hard, Thoreau himself only lasted two years and then went back to the city.
The medium chill a sort of midway between following a completely aspirational life and chilling out is what many people might be doing already and anyway it’s not that aspirational is it?
Experientialism is James Wallmans’ answer to the materialist society and the economic never ending chase of raising GDP and I think I agree and see something to be taken from all these ideas.
One thing that kind of rubs me though is that as an Architect it is easy to see a sort of minimal style that just drips opulence. This shows itself in interior design, art, fashion and I think I detect it also in some of the minimal lifestyle guru set. It’s rather easier to cut out the things you own if your socks count as one thing or you ripped all your cd’s and dvd’s to your laptop. If you only own three sets of 250 dollar jeans, and can buy another in a heartbeat, how is that not fully partaking in materialistic Western society? This type of minimalism somehow doesn’t seem that much more than a different type of ostentation, one that leverages the feel good factor of youtube and facebook as you sit atop your influencer network while sipping your fruitshake on a Bali beach (Instagram moment!). The book to be fair does touch on this subject but only just in passing.
I do also see the point in a kind of empowering minimalism when it comes to personal finance. Mr. Money Moustache to take one example shows a way of looking at finances and savings, possessions and even experiences which I think can really empower people. Again this personal finance side of the coin is not touched on in the book.
So overall I really like Stuffocation and it does really make you think about your life and provide a jumping point for further reading and maybe action in your own life. You should definitely read it, but just don’t stop there!
Rehome are ten student furniture designers from Lahti University. They have designed cardboard and plywood furniture that can be assembled without the need for tools. Because they can be manufactured and deployed quickly, among other things they can be used to help house refugees where an efficient, quick and flexible response is needed. From first concept to implementation this is a really great idea.
They have just been to Milan design Fair so hopefully their ideas will be exposed to as wide an audience as possible.
Mimoa has been around for a while, it’s a great resource for finding good modern architecture anywhere in the world and is the first site I go to when planning to visit a new city. So this morning when I signed up for the office architectural trip in the spring I saw that they are running a kickstarter campaign to raise money to update the site.
Also I saw John Hill over at DDA posting about their campaign so I put in a pledge. With crowd sourced photos, reviews and project information it harks back to a more open time on the web. It’s become a great took for anyone interested in Architecture while travelling, but it is not optimised for mobile and nowadays thats of primary importance, so they need money to redevelop the site for mobile first.
An exhibition Secret Cities will start 3rd May at the National Building Museum in Washington. The Manhattan project sites where Americas Nuclear program built the first atomic bomb are now national monuments read about them here, also a great essay or two about the building of the secret cities that had to be built alongside.
The Building of the city to support this effort is fascinating, the scale of it required immense planning and of course prefabrication so these projects give an early glimpse into the way buildings more and more are conceived now. Looking at the floorplans from them the only thing really that looks out of place with a contemporary plan is that the kitchens are separate from the living and dining spaces.
In 70 years the typical housing layout of kitchen, dining and living room as separate rooms has given way to the open plan living space where all of these spaces are in a single space, kitchens in most Finnish new builds are open. It is through the Kitchen that we see the most change over time in the design of homes and it’s through the kitchen I think we learn the most about our ancestors, Though maybe things will change?