Wednesday, November 16th, 2011
We’ve already heard about some of New York’s efforts to go green and give the overcrowded city a bit more breathing room by adding public space. The Hudson River Park Trust is continuing this trend in its efforts to transform the shipping docks that line the Hudson River into recreational and small business localities.
They’ve already transformed a few of the piers, but their newest plans for Pier 57 will put an interesting spin on this concept of recycling land. The HRPT has accepted the design of LOT-EK, a group of architects who want to turn Pier 57 into a recreational area built out of refurbished shipping containers.
Most projects that focus on recycling only pay it lip service. They do the recycling, sure, but they mostly just point out that they are doing it to attract attention. It isn’t very often that you see a building flaunt their recycled materials in such a raw condition, especially when the recycled objects are as ugly as shipping containers.
While making Pier 57 visually appealing is going to be a massive undertaking, the project does have a certain historic appeal. Putting aside the obvious environmental advantages of recycling, the project incorporates the shipping history of the region into the design. The shipping containers, while admittedly ugly, will fit right in.
But that’s enough about how the shipping containers will probably be ugly. A lot of the conceptual pictures actually hold some promise, and the pier will offer some interesting features, like an underwater level, an open-air mall in the middle level, and a park on the uppermost level. Overall, Pier 57 will have a quaint charm that will be sure to lure businesses, shoppers, and families who want to spend a day together. After all, the city’s already got Central Park, so it’s not like there’s any need to make it a breathtakingly beautiful space. It will be an interesting mix of waterfront architecture, public space, environmentalism, and New York history.
Tuesday, November 15th, 2011
Japanese architects are envisioning a project that will undoubtedly blow every other architectural achievement in history out of the water, the Green Float Project. Try and follow this. They want to build a 3-kilometer-wide floating island. Out of concrete. And on top of that they want to build the world’s tallest skyscraper out of metal that they extract from seawater.
It’s hard to even pick a point to start describing, because every aspect of this project is ludicrous to the point of reaching science fiction (speaking of that, this company also wants to build lunar bases). We’ll start with the fact that they want to build a layer of the skyscraper, sink it into the ocean, then build the next layer on top of it. In this way, the next highest level of the skyscraper will always be at ground level. Once the entire 3,300 feet of skyscraper is submerged, they will use floatation devices and some undoubtedly mega-powered pulleys to lift it out of the water.
Once erect, the skyscraper will have a vertical farm. That’s right: the walls of the skyscraper will house plant life all the way up to create a green verdant pillar. The surrounding landscape will also act as farm and ranchland, creating the greenest mega skyscraper ever built.
The philosophy behind the ultra-green building is based on benchmark projections with environmental conservatism. As technology advances, we keep developing buildings that come closer and closer to achieving 0 environmental impact. The Japanese want to continue this trend—why stop at 0? The skyscraper will not only be self-sufficient; it will also actively absorb CO2 and generate excess energy.
One way that they are achieving this goal is by extracting magnesium from seawater. As it turns out, it is possible to extract 1 ton of magnesium out of 770 tons of sea water. Additionally, magnesium alloy is even stronger and more environmentally friendly than steel.
It really doesn’t get much more over-the-top than this. You would be hard pressed to come up with something that could make this structure even more absurdly impressive — maybe if it also cured cancer and made dogs and cats stop fighting.
Monday, November 14th, 2011
Architects have been working hard to develop technology to allow families and even entire communities to live on self-sufficient free-floating islands. So, let’s think about that logically for a moment. Suppose that, realistically, we managed to build dozens of floating hotels and islands where people live on a regular basis. What’s the next step?
Floating golf courses, obviously. The root problem that drives architects to create floating islands is that there just isn’t enough land. Floating islands fix that a bit by providing living locations, but inhabitants can’t exactly step outside and go for a walk in the park. We are a terrestrial species, so we need places to get out and stretch our legs from time to time. While floating golf courses might eventually become a necessity to keep floating islanders sane, right now it’s nothing more than a playground for rich vacationers.
This floating golf course design by Waterstudio.nl consists of three boomerang-shaped islands, creating the world’s most brutal water hazards. Each island is connected to the other by underwater tunnels. Golfers can walk between islands while enjoying the sight of fish swimming overhead.
This $500 million project will be more than a decadent symbol of excess. It will also be at the forefront of environmental conservation by including water desalination facilities and floating solar blanket fields. Solar blanket fields, if you were wondering, are basically blankets with solar panels sewn onto them, which get draped out in the sun to collect energy. While the golf course might be ultra-fancy, it is also ultra-green.
A great side effect of this project is that it will encourage people to look at floating living spaces in a new light. Sure, we think floating hotels as neat, futuristic, and possibly practical, but most of us only view such structures as vacation spots or tourist attractions rather than lifetime residences. Structures like this floating golf course will encourage investors and average citizens to realize that there is more to floating houses than novelty – we could actually live on floating communities and live relatively normal, happy, and productive lives.
Friday, November 11th, 2011
I’ve covered some designs that are pretty out there, but the New Orleans Arcology Habitat (NOAH) takes the cake. A floating “megacity” is ambitious enough, but when you design the structure to look like a giant triangle, at that point it’s almost like you’re just trying to be weird.
We should start with the basics before we get into how weird it is. What is an arcology? The reason why you’ve (probably) never heard that word before is because they don’t really exist outside of science fiction. Arcologies are cities contained within a single structure that have all of the technology and resources that the population needs to survive. The NOAH would theoretically enable all 40,000 inhabitants to live in it without any need to trade with terrestrial cities.
The triangular shape, allegedly, is to help dissipate wind. The curves and the enormous holes allow for the wind to cut right through it without causing any real damage. The triangle sits atop an enormous disc, which would allow it to float in the Mississippi. Why does it have to sit in the Mississippi, exactly? Well, it has to be next to New Orleans, because then they wouldn’t be able to call it the NOAH. It might be a bit petty to gripe about the name, but I’m not sure that’s the best thing to call a floating city. After all, Noah built the arc to escape worldwide cataclysm as a result of rising water levels. Invoking that image seems a bit grim, doesn’t it?
And exactly like Noah’s Arc, NOAH would include 3 hotels, 3 casinos, and 1 million square feet of commercial real estate. Come for the poker tables, stay to escape the coming apocalypse, I suppose. Fortunately, they left enough room for public facilities, schools, and 20,000 residential spaces.
A lot of the NOAH is quite impressive, all jokes aside. I’m all about floating cities, and the triangular design, while weird, does make sense. Also, adding the casinos and hotels make sense because the pyramid has to be able to bring in revenue somehow. I’m just concerned that this project might be a bit too ambitious too soon. Are we as a race really going to go from 0 worldwide floating cities to this monstrosity? The wisest thing to do would be to start with a smaller floating town or floating hamlet, I’d think, where the stakes aren’t so high and learn from there.
Thursday, November 10th, 2011
When Beijing earned the privilege to host the 2008 Summer Olympics, they had to set about building a swimming pool to host the various competitions. The government held a design competition, which was won by an international consortium composed of several different architectural groups. Together, they designed and built the Beijing National Aquatics Center. The locals refer to it as “Shui Li Fang,” otherwise known as the “Water Cube.” I wonder why they call it that.
As expected, the building has deep meaning in Chinese culture. The cuboid shape represents the earth, while the circle, created by the stadium, symbolizes heaven. The exterior bubble pattern represents, well, bubbles, because the whole thing is a giant water pool, after all.
Many believe that the cube is the most high-tech Olympic pool in the world, which isn’t terribly surprising because it is also the most recently built. How, exactly, is one swimming pool faster than the other? Evidently, deeper pools allow swimmers to swim faster, because the extra depth enables the waves caused by swimmers to break up more easily, thus causing less turbulence for swimmers. The Water Cube is one meter deeper than most swimming pools. The reason why it is only 1 meter deeper and not, say, 20 meters deeper to minimize waves is because swimmers need to be able to see the bottom of the pool to gauge distance. On top of all that, the sides of the pools have perforated gutters to break up waves. Who knew pools were so high tech?
Now that Beijing doesn’t have to host the world Olympics anymore, they have transformed the interior of the pool into a giant water park. Because the entire park is inside, the bubbly blue walls make the entire place look as though it’s underwater. The place really brings out the kid in you. Even as a grown up, it’s hard to look at the place and not feel excitement. This is the type of water park that makes other water parks jealous.
All together, the Water Cube is astonishing whether you view it from the outside or the inside. That’s not really all that surprising, though. Who would expect anything less from a Chinese Olympic building?
Thursday, November 10th, 2011
New York is the city that never sleeps. To pull that off, the world’s most iconic metropolis needs to pump an incredible amount of electricity into the thousands of street lamps dotting the city. Engineers have developed a green solution to this problem by creating docking systems with turbines along the Hudson River.
Designed by Richard Garber and Brian Novello, these modular docks would float in the river, providing a source of high-value artificial real estate while pumping out thousands of kilowatts of power. Each of these docks hold vertically-mounted turbines on the bottom. To accommodate the modular design of the docks, the turbines are capable of generating power no matter which way the water is flowing.
To top it all off and make the project even more appealing to environmentalist out there, the design incorporates green spaces and tidal pools into part of the aesthetic. These areas offer local wildlife a place to flourish while enhancing the beauty of the docks with a bit of natural foliage.
What makes these docks so great is their efficiency. They power themselves, pump extra energy into the city, promote wild life growth, look beautiful, and offer more real estate in the middle of an already overcrowded city. It pays for itself, it powers itself – all it doesn’t do is build itself.
Unfortunately, this design isn’t actually being used by New York. The city is, however, working on building hydropower systems in the East River, but these don’t have all of the extra advantages that the modular docks have.
Thursday, November 10th, 2011
Creating aquatic architecture can be difficult from an environmental standpoint. Creating a reliable foundation often requires that builders dump tons of gravel onto the sea floor in order to create a reliable foundation. Unsurprisingly, this can have a devastating effect on indigenous aquatic wildlife and local ecosystems.
Alexander Asadov has developed a solution to this environmental dilemma with his Aerohotel design. Rather than building an enormous foundation so that the aquatic building can rest wholly on the sea floor, Asadov wants to use a handful of slender poles to hold the structure aloft. The poles take up significantly less space on the sea floor, which means that the builders will not need to disturb the sea much at all.
The aesthetics of the building mirror the ecological design benefits, as both echo the philosophy “use a light touch.” Just as Asadov intends to use the poles as a way to only slightly affect the local ecosystem, the building itself seems to have no real weight at all. Suspended on elegant poles, the massive 200-meter-wide structure looks more like a weightless spider’s web than multi-ton building. That criss-cross web design supports the weight of the structure while keeping it relatively light.
To add to the effect, the appropriately-named Aerohotel comes with blimp docking stations. When enormous, drifting blimps are viewed alongside impossibly-huge Aerohotel, the whole scene will look more like an underwater encounter between whales. Indeed, the design looks more aquatic than aerial. That is a lot of the appeal. Anybody who looks at pictures of the Aerohotel is immediately thrilled by the prospect of navigating the structure. At the same time, we expect the whole thing to topple at any moment. This mix of emotions creates a tension that is exhilarating.
Considering every feature of the Aerohotel, Asadov’s vision is truly quite breathtaking. The light design and long poles create the maximum amount of surface area for cafes and hanging gardens while requiring the least amount of environmental damage. On top of all that, Asadov has designed a building that is an aesthetic experience in itself. As you walk along the slender walkways that are suspended high above the surface of the sea, it would be impossible not to feel terrified, giddy, amazed, and alive.
Thursday, November 10th, 2011
What do you get when you cross a jellyfish, a skyscraper, and environmentalism? You get the hO2+ scraper, a waterscraper that extends into the depths of the ocean. This completely self-sufficient building design is intended to be the next step in eco-friendly architecture. Consuming no land and completely independent of terrestrial resources, the hO2+ scraper could literally float across the ocean without concern for trade or dependency on land-based nations.
From the island-like tip of the waterscraper to the jellyfish-like tentacles that drift beneath it, the entire building focuses on efficiency. A garden on the surface of the structure grows plants and livestock for the inhabitants. Wind turbines extend above the tree line to collect energy. Beneath the garden, near the surface of the water, are the living quarters. Here, inhabitants can benefit from the strong natural light without occupying the vital sundrenched platform at the top of the waterscraper.
As the structure narrows, the building becomes more focused on utility and production. Here, the hO2+ scraper processes energy, purifies water, and performs other vital functions for the inhabitants. Long weights stretch beneath that to ensure that the waterscraper always remains upright. Bioluminescent tentacles drift through the currents, attracting fauna. The movement caused by the fauna will generate power for the vessel.
We’ve seen designs for eco-friendly, low-impact housing options, but the hO2+ scraper sets the bar at a new high. Not only does it design cause zero negative impact on the environment, but it is also does not rely on production-heavy factories or urban environments to sustain it. It is the ultimate green (or in this case, blue) building.
Thursday, November 10th, 2011
When people say that they’re walking on cloud nine, they typically mean it as a figure of speech. With Diller and Scofidio’s Blur Building, that phrase takes on a much more literal meaning. Located on a lake in Switzerland, the Blur Building is designed to look like a hovering cloud of fog over the water.
This UFO-shaped building collects water from the lake, filters it, and then sprays it out with nearly 13,000 nozzles to perpetually envelop the structure in a white mist. To add to the effect, the Blur Building stands several meters above the surface of the water on stilts to give distant onlookers the impression that it is floating. The heavenly building is not completely unapproachable, luckily; visitors can enter the cloudy island from a 400 foot long bridge.
While the Blur Building is truly a remarkable structure and lives up to its name, it is a particularly interesting spectacle in that it is not a spectacle at all. It is an amazing building, but only if the structure successfully does its intended function and becomes completely shrouded. The architecture is impressive, but it becomes impossible to directly appreciate the structure because onlookers can’t actually see any of it.
Even after stepping foot on the Blur Building, visibility doesn’t improve much. There is a small wave-shaped overlook where visitors can stand just above the cloud cover, but it does not offer a reliable view of the architecture. Visitors to the Blur Building experience a sort of white-out, where the sense of sight and sound are dulled away. Once again, the spectacle here is that there is no spectacle.
Despite this seeming hindrance, the Blur Building does an impressive job of aweing anybody who beholds it. When the air is still, it truly does take on the apparent image of a cloud floating above the lake, even with the oddly conspicuous bridge jutting out of its side. When the wind picks up, however, it resembles something out of a science fiction movie, like a space ship that is breaking free of the clouds. If you do happen to find yourself in Switzerland, the Blur Building is a must see – just be sure to bring your rain coat.
Thursday, November 10th, 2011
Not all aquatic structures are multi-million dollar mansions for playboys or glitzy underwater hotels. Some structures are built underwater purely for convenience. The Channel Tunnel, the 31 mile tunnel that connects the United Kingdom to France, is one such structure. This impressive feat of modern architecture has the longest portion of undersea tunnel on earth and is perhaps the most famous underwater tunnel ever built.
Working from both the British and French shores, builders used 11 gargantuan tunnel boring machines to cut through the thick mud on the ocean floor. The tunnel is wide enough to accommodate passenger and freight trains. Unfortunately, the tunnel does not permit open traffic. Deep in the middle of an ocean and 15 miles out from shore, the potential danger posed by a car crash is much too great, so all vehicles are transported by a rail-mounted shuttle service.
While the project took 12 years to finish and a massive £11 billion by today’s standard, the “Chunnel” represents a true feat in human and architectural achievement. Considered to be one of the Seven Wonders of the Modern World, the structure is as useful as it is impressive, linking the United Kingdom to the rest of Europe. The Chunnel facilitates international travel and trade by offering a cheap alternative to boats and planes.
Sadly, the utility of the structure requires that it is all function and no flare. For such an amazing piece of architecture, it is difficult for travellers to appreciate it beyond its mere use value. You cannot see the tunnel, watch others travelling along it, or really experience much beyond a train ride, which isn’t that different from a subway ride. Compare it to the Golden Gate Bridge, which serves a similar function. The Golden Gate Bridge, however, is an iconic symbol of San Francisco and one of the most beautiful bridges in the world. It truly is a shame that such a valuable and impressive structure is essentially invisible.