Sunday, 30 October 2011

Tackling Desertification Through Architecture

Magnus Larsson has a proposal to build a 6000km living sand dune across the entire continent of Africa. The structure is made from bacteria that reacts with the sand to form a structure. It would be habitable and could provide homes to African people whilst tackling the spread of the Sahara. 

Architecture that repairs itself - A different Approach to underpinning

Metabolic materials in Architecture is a very interesting a new concept being developed by Rachel Armstrong. The technology is still in very early stages and is currently more to do with micro biology rather than architecture. It is predicted that it may be commercialized by 2014 and thats when we could actually see breathing buildings that repair themselves.

She talks about the repair of timber piles that support buildings in Venice and how a artificial limestone reef can be created using protocells. This TED talk made me think of the many cases where this could be used. Last month New Civil Engineer (NCE) published a report on the sinking of the Tajmahal because of its failing timber piles. 

This protocell technology is not something convenient for conservation but something essential.


Preconstruct are specialists in creating animations for developments and some large industry players like Jaguar, Pepsi and Ben and Jerry's. My father introduced me to the company after he found them in an article in Advanced Photoshop magazine.

Buildings are now becoming more and more like general products and soon it will be essential for a client to be 100% sure of what they will be buying from architects and contractors. The only way to give them this assurance is to create visualisations such as those created by Preconstruct.

This company has given me an idea of the quality of animations needed in the modern construction industry. The videos on their site will serve as an ambitious benchmark throughout the year in Architectural Technology and Design. 

Friday, 28 October 2011

Are Architectural Expo's Sustainable?

On the 28th October 2011 John Chilton gave a lecture in NTU titled Shanghai Reflections. The lecture was a description of his experience when visiting the expo and was delivered as a series of photos of the pavilion that most interested him and that would be most relevant to a class of mixed architectural students.

The title of the expo was Better City, Better life and the purpose of the expo is to promote architecture and to attract 70 million people to Shanghai to enjoy the different cultures of 200 countries. The majority of the pavilions were dismantled after the expo so this begs the question whether or not it is sustainable to construct so many temporary structures on such a large scale.

All of the structures focused on the buzz word of the time which is sustainability. Even the oil pavilion has used materials derived from oil in a new green processing method. The Spanish pavilion was the most appealing in my opinion as it was completely clad from the traditional method of basket making called wicker weaving.
The more permanent structures such as the impressive entrance to the Expo and the China building have also used as much sustainable materials as possible. The China pavilion used dougong panels which are the traditional cladding to Chinese buildings which date back to over 2000 years ago.

Mr Chilton's favorite feature of the expo was the main entrance which consisted of a steel frame formed in polygonal shapes and then made watertight using a PTFE membrane.

In conclusion the attention to architecture brought by these expo's and the revenue created by the large number of visitors justify their existance. The promotion of different cultures and the massive commercial benifits created for businesses such as the Heatherwick Studio, who designed the United Kingdoms pavilion.

The next 2012 World Expo is in Yeosu, Korea and is themed "living ocean and the coast" and here of some of the designs we can look forward to:

Thursday, 27 October 2011

Vergilio Ferreire High School

When browsing through Archidaily blog I spotted this building with vertical lumars. It was a excellent example of how well they could work on the lifetime home development in Langar. Refer to the video further down the page.

Designing out crime

This video is a excellent example of the design process and how it was used to make the average pint glass safer. It highlights all the aspects involved in redesigning a pint glass which may have been previously  perceived as something simple to do. This video proves otherwise and shows just how much thought is involved in the design process.

Wednesday, 26 October 2011

Americas Cup Venue 2007 (Veles e Vents)

David Chipperfield Architects designed an iconic pavilion in 2007 to become the focal point of the Americas Cup which is a world class yacht racing competition. The building was designed in a record time of 11 months and is a amazing addition to the coastline of Valencia.

Sailing is a sport that is very close to me and one similarity every sailing club has is that it has to have sea views. Smaller clubs achieve this through balcony's. Wexford Harbour Boat and tennis club has a viewing platform that doubles as a start line for laser racing during the cold winter months. Veles e Vents takes this a step further by creating a cantilevered viewing platform that forms the main structure of the building with outstanding views onto the competition area that is the ocean.

Yacht Club design is something I will be researching further on this blog.

Photo from (2011)

Langar Housing Development Proposal

Rapid Prototyping

Yesterday I found out that when rapid prototyping a solid block with support material, it has to dry out for 24 hours or it will leak acid until its fully dry.

Final Concrete Exploration Poster

Friday, 21 October 2011

Benson Lau

Benson Lau visited NTU as a gusest lecturer on the 20th October and he delivered a excellent presentation on the measurable and unmeasurable in Architecture. He highlighted how the unsustainable use of glazing is being exploited in the majority of high rise buildings in majoe citys such as Singapore, Hong Kong and London. I completely agree that the use of glazing is insufficient for sustainability but I'm struggling to think of any other viable options. A solid mass with small windows would not be a ideal solution because of the cost and weight of the cladding on the structure compared to the lightweight and cost effective properties of glazed facades. The other solution is intelligent systems that are reactive to the environment.

The Commerzbank Headquaters in Frankfurt, Germany was designed by Foster + Partners and was the most ecological office tower of its time in 1997 but even this building has a high use of glazing to provide light to the offices. The building uses 4 story gardens around the structure at different levels to draw fresh air into the central atrium to cool internal offices. One of the differences in this building from the typical high rise is all windows can be manually opened reducing the need for artificial cooling. I think that all new high rise buildings need to have a reactive system to assist air flow through structure without using large amounts of energy.

A few brainstorming ideas of how to power interactive buildings

  • Tidal flow if beside the sea of tidal esturarys
  • Grey and waste water to run through tubines with high pressure created from height of building
  • Solar
  • Wind
  • Biomass used to heat building in winter and sevice ventilation systems in summer
One of the most interesting projects Mr Lau introduced was the Bruder Klaus Chapel designed by Peter Zumthore. This Chapel was built by creating the interal structure out of tree brunks and casting concrete around them. Then the tree trunks were set alight leaving a tee pee shaped room with a hole in the top exposing the room to light and the exterior elements.

Another basic architectural concept that I was unaware of until yesterday was the use of sun path diagrams invented by Corbusier. Sketchup and Revit provide the modern day solution to sun path but Benson highlighted the importance of using real models and light to predict the lighting of space. Modern day programmes sometimes give a misleading prediction. This theory is backed up by our visit to the architectural practice Dixon Jones in our first week of the MSc. This practive also believes that model making is the only true was to predict how a building will behave.   

Thursday, 20 October 2011

Concrete Rapid Prototyping

This is something that came up in conversation when myself and Joe (Fellow MSc Student) were visiting the studio to get our chair models checked for rapid prototyping. The chair models are supposed to be built from concrete in full scale. When the subject of wether it is possible to rapid prototype in concrete came up further research revealed that the technology is currently under development.

The link below is to Rael San Fratello Architects who seem to be leading the way in concrete rapid prototyping.

Wednesday, 19 October 2011


The use of Sketchup is becoming more acceptable in architectural practices and here are a few videos as to why it is gathering pace. The majority of the videos have used other programmes to assist with rendering but the majority of the modeling has been done in Sketchup.

One of the most appealing aspects of these videos are the music and sounds used to create different atmospheres.

Gehry Technologies

Gehry Technologies seems to be one of the leading consultancies in developing the BIM process along with AutoDesk. What I admire from the press releases of Gehry Technologies is that they refer to BIM as a type of workflow rather than a type of program.

Modular Housing used in Iraq