QUINTA MONROY by Elemental

Posted in Architecture, Downsizing, Economy, Interiors, Planning, Reoccupation, Social by RADDblog on January 30, 2010

To put it simply, this project is amazing. From mammoth:

Quinta Monroy is a center-city neighborhood of Iquique, a city of about a quarter million lying in northern Chile between the Pacific Ocean and the Atacama Desert.  Elemental’s Quinta Monroy housing project settles a hundred families on a five thousand square meter site where they had persisted as squatters for three decades.  The residences designed by Elemental offer former squatters the rare opportunity to live in subsidized housing without being displaced from the land they had called their home, provides an appreciating asset which can improve their family finances, and serves as a flexible infrastructure for the self-constructed expansion of the homes.

The first challenge that Elemental faced was a strict budgetary limit of $7500 (USD), the standard Chilean per-family housing subsidy.  This subsidy would have to purchase the land, architecture, and infrastructure of the development, yet is only enough — at market-rate construction costs in Chile — to buy thirty square meters (322 square feet) of built space on such a center-city site.  Because of this, social housing in Chile tends to be produced as outlying sprawl, where land can be bought more cheaply, allowing a greater percentage of the subsidy to be devoted to the architecture.  Unfortunately, for reasons that are not fully elucidated in Elemental’s project description (though I am led to believe those reasons are the low value of the land social housing is usually built on and the low quality of the construction), social housing in Chile tends to depreciate in value, rather than appreciate, further miring families in poverty, as the housing subsidy is the largest single sum of aid that most impoverished families will receive from the Chilean government.  If that movement could be altered — if the housing could be designed so that it appreciates rather than depreciates — it might be the difference between long-term poverty and a gradual climb towards sustainable familial self-sufficiency.

Elemental’s first decision was to retain the inner city site, a decision which was both expensive and spatially limiting: there is only enough space on the site to provide thirty individual homes or sixty-six row homes, so a different typology was required.  High rise apartments would provide the needed density, but not provide the opportunity for residents to expand their own homes, as only the top and ground floors would have any way to connect to additions.  Elemental thus settled on a typology of connected two-story blocks, snaking around four common courtyards, designed as a skeletal infrastructure which the families could expand over time:

We in Elemental have identified a set of design conditions through which a housing unit can increase its value over time; this without having to increase the amount of money of the current subsidy.

In first place, we had to achieve enough density, (but without overcrowding), in order to be able to pay for the site, which because of its location was very expensive. To keep the site, meant to maintain the network of opportunities that the city offered and therefore to strengthen the family economy; on the other hand, good location is the key to increase a property value.

Second, the provision a physical space for the “extensive family” to develop, has proved to be a key issue in the economical take off of a poor family. In between the private and public space, we introduced the collective space, conformed by around 20 families. The collective space (a common property with restricted access) is an intermediate level of association that allows surviving fragile social conditions.

Third, due to the fact that 50% of each unit’s volume, will eventually be self-built, the building had to be porous enough to allow each unit to expand within its structure. The initial building must therefore provide a supporting, (rather than a constraining) framework in order to avoid any negative effects of self-construction on the urban environment over time, but also to facilitate the expansion process.

Finally, instead a designing a small house (in 30 sqm everything is small), we provided a middle-income house, out of which we were giving just a small part now. This meant a change in the standard: kitchens, bathrooms, stairs, partition walls and all the difficult parts of the house had to be designed for final scenario of a 72 sqm house.

In the end, when the given money is enough for just half of the house, the key question is, which half do we do. We choose to make the half that a family individually will never be able to achieve on its own, no matter how much money, energy or time they spend. That is how we expect to contribute using architectural tools, to non-architectural questions, in this case, how to overcome poverty.

Elemental, in other words, have exploited the values and aims of ownership culture (whichmammoth has suggested understands the house to be first a machine for making money and only second to be a machine for living) not to support a broken system of real estate speculation and easy wealth, but to present architecture as a tool that can be provided to families.  While the project is embedded with some of the assumptions of the architects (such as that faith in the potential of ownership culture, for better or worse), this tool is primarily presented as a framework, a scaffolding upon which families are able to make their own architecture.  This seems like an important step — made visually apparent by the strong contrast between the simple lines of the initial framework and the colorful and varied familial additions — in the direction of what Lebbeus Woods describes as offering architecture as “the rules of the game”, or, the thinking he describedbehind a “capsule” which could offer architectural aid to people living in slums:

From the side of the slum dwellers, it might seem an unwelcome intrusion from outside, just another quick fix imposed by the economically advantaged on the desperately poor, serving the interests of the rich by transforming the slum according to their well-intentioned but—to the slum dweller–necessarily opposed values. It is especially important, then, that the transformative capsule enables the slum-dwellers to achieve their goals, serving their values, and does not reduce them to subjects of its designers’ and makers’ will. Inevitably, the values, prejudices, perspectives and aspirations of the designers and makers will be imbedded in the capsule and what it does. Therefore the slum-dwellers should, in the first place, have the right of refusal. Also, they must have the right to modify the capsule and its effects as they see fit. It cannot be a locked system, capable of producing only a predetermined outcome. The implication of these freedoms is that the capsule, whatever its capabilities, could be used to work against the intentions of its designers and makers. Because the effects of the capsule would be powerfully transformative, its possession would involve risk for all the groups, and individuals, involved.

via mammoth

Cannon for Shooting Supplies into Space by John Hunter

Posted in Apocalypse, Downsizing, Economy, Technology by RADDblog on January 18, 2010

John Hunter wants to shoot stuff into space with a 3,600-foot gun. And he’s dead serious—he’s done the math. Making deliveries to an orbital outpost on a rocket costs $5,000 per pound, but using a space gun would cost just $250 per pound.

Building colossal guns has been Hunter’s pet project since 1992, when, while a physicist at Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory, he first fired a 425-foot gun he built to test-launch hypersonic engines. Its methane-driven piston compressed hydrogen gas, which then expanded up the barrel to shoot a projectile. Mechanical firing can fail, however, so when Hunter’s company, Quicklaunch, released its plans last fall, it swapped the piston for a combustor that burns natural gas. Heat the hydrogen in a confined space and it should build up enough pressure to send a half-ton payload into the sky at 13,000 mph.

Hunter wants to operate the gun, the “Quicklauncher,” in the ocean near the equator, where the Earth’s fast rotation will help slingshot objects into space. A floating cannon—dipping 1,600 feet below sea level and steadied by a ballast system—would let operators swivel it for different orbits. Next month, Hunter will test a functional, 10-foot prototype in a water tank. He says a full-size launcher could be ready in seven years, provided the company can round up the $500 million. Despite the upfront cost, Hunter says he has drawn interest from investors because his reusable gun saves so much cash in the long haul. Just don’t ever expect a ride in the thing: The gun produces 5,000 Gs, so it’s only for fuel tanks and ruggedized satellites. “A person shot out of it would probably get compressed to half their size,” Hunter says. “It’d be over real quick.”

How to Shoot Stuff into Space

The gun combusts natural gas in a heat exchanger within a
chamber of hydrogen gas, heating the hydrogen to 2,600˚F and causing a 500 percent increase in pressure.

Operators open the valve, and the hot, pressurized hydrogen quickly expands down the tube, pushing the payload forward.

After speeding down the 3,300-foot-long barrel, the projectile shoots out of the gun at 13,000 mph. An iris at the end of the gun closes, capturing the hydrogen gas to use again.

via popular science

Zeppelin Construction Photography

Posted in Apocalypse, Architecture, Downsizing, Photography, Sculpture, Technology, Texture by RADDblog on January 13, 2010

Some photos of the construction of zeppelins (above = USS Macon / below = USS Akron / far below = Hindenberg on a visit to NJ) and the ridiculous ladders that it took to get there.

from b3ch:

In the first half of the twentieth century, there were great airships that sailed the skies, quite majestically. They were used both for transportation, and also in war in world war I and II. The German Zeppelin Airship company built the Graf Zeppelin and Hindenburg for transcontinental and transatlantic travel. They were the cruise ships of the sky.

In the early days the Zeppelins were inflated with hydrogen gas for bouancy which worked very well, but was also very dangerous. Later the Americans found a way to effectively produce helium gas, so we had much safer airships. Although hydrogen has better bouyancy, it is highly explosive. In times of war, we would not share our safer helium with the Germans.

The German Zeppelin Airship LZ-126 “Hindenburg” had it’s famous flaming crash at the Lakehurst National Airport in New Jersy in the USA.

via b3ch.com

The What Watt? Chandelier by Tim Fishlock

Posted in Abandonment, Downsizing, Ecology, Installation, Interiors, Lighting, Sculpture, Technology, Texture by RADDblog on January 10, 2010
What Watt? is a memorial to the incandescent lightbulb. It’s a spherical chandelier made up of 1243 suspended bulbs of various shape and size, illuminated by a single low-energy light source. By 2011, all forms of incandescent light bulb will have been phased out in favour of greener alternatives. What Watt? marks the passing of a design that has remained relatively unchanged since its invention 130 years ago.An edition of ten.
via Tim Fishlock

Nueva Esperanza School by al bordE

Posted in Architecture, Downsizing, Ecology, Economy, Landscape, Reoccupation, Social, Texture by RADDblog on January 8, 2010

from the Teacher:

“For all of we, who belong to the Puerto Cabuyal Community, it´s been a cause of pride to have our new school. Our community is located on the beach, on the field, in a far away site, been fishing and agriculture the basis of our daily meals. Until 4 years ago there was no school in the community and because of that, most of its inhabitants were illiterate. We began with our school in a small cottage, but as the time passed, the space was got smaller because of the number of children, that’s why we undertook the construction of a new place”.

“A huge change in the children´s learning process has been made since the very beginnings of the school. The action of opening the entrance door is a physics lesson. The space is generous in every way, which is why the kids feel freer finding each one their own place in which they are going to develop their activities. The model and the structure transmit a freshness and imaginative environment that has favored the development of artistic and academic activities through the lessons that gives the best teacher ever, nature”

Most of the schools near the area are made of concrete, with a rectangular shape, with window bars that make it look more like a jail than a school, and the level of defection is very high. That is the reason why the project is looking for solving not only immediate problems but generate long-term solutions.

It was extremely necessary to design the space according to the principles of an active school. The project must be intimately closed with the natural environment nearby. A space were kids can wake up their imagination, their creativity, their desire of learning new things, and not an space were kids feel repressed.

he project uses the same materials and building patterns the community has been using for building for years. A timber basis above the foundation piles, bamboo walls, wood structure and a roof made of knitted straw scarf or “cade”. The difference lies in the conception and conceptualization of the space. A place for education that encourages learning through action.

Now, the children and their parents are proud of their school. Proud of the change that this school has made, been a motif of union and self-esteem for the whole community. When people from outside admire it, when they see it and know it.

via archdaily

Sharker Monocoque Motorbike

Posted in Downsizing, Sculpture, Technology by RADDblog on January 6, 2010

The basic fundamentals of motorbike design have remained pretty much the same over the last 50 years, but that could change if the Sharker ever lands in a showroom. While most cars switched to monocoque construction back in the ’60s or ’70s, motorcycles have stuck with a traditional supporting framework, sometimes with an added fairing for aerodynamics, pretty much since they were first invented.

The Sharker breaks this tradition by using its sexy carbon bodywork to support the rider, engine, and wheels, resulting in both lower weight and improved stiffness. Performance is impressive, with 140 horses ready to propel the Sharker to over 60 MPH in four seconds. Top speed can vary between 125 and 174 MPH depending on gearing choices.


The Known Universe by AMNH

Posted in Apocalypse, Downsizing, Ecology, Sculpture, Technology, Texture by RADDblog on January 4, 2010

The Known Universe takes viewers from the Himalayas through our atmosphere and the inky black of space to the afterglow of the Big Bang. Every star, planet, and quasar seen in the film is possible because of the world’s most complete four-dimensional map of the universe, the Digital Universe Atlas that is maintained and updated by astrophysicists at the American Museum of Natural History. The new film, created by the Museum, is part of an exhibition, Visions of the Cosmos: From the Milky Ocean to an Evolving Universe, at the Rubin Museum of Art in Manhattan through May 2010.

For more information visit http://www.amnh.org

via youtube (Thanks Josh!)

D-construction 2 by Hyungshin Hwang

Posted in Architecture, Downsizing, Ecology, Economy, Furniture, Performance, Reoccupation, Sculpture, Texture by RADDblog on January 3, 2010

from the artist:

Buildings have a life cycle that can last anywhere from a few years, to several decades or longer. Once a building has reached the end of its life cycle, it is taken down. By deconstructing a building, the components can be reused and recycled but also it creates additional waste as demolished concretes. I focused on the possibilities of bringing usage of industrial waste and shifting the value by using it.

via Hyungshin Hwang

SOGABE HOUSE / Japan by matidesign

Posted in Architecture, Downsizing, Interiors by RADDblog on January 2, 2010

Kids’ Room Renovation / Paris by h2o architectes

Posted in Architecture, Downsizing, Furniture, Installation, Interiors, Social by RADDblog on January 2, 2010

A baby’s arrival is cause for celebration—and for many, it’s also a time to confront limited living space. For one Parisian couple, living in a cramped but loved apartment in the 10th arrondissement with a four-year-old, a new baby on the way, and one tiny bedroom to work with, a space-saving solution was needed badly. Enter h2o architectes, a young firm led by principals Charlotte Hubert, Jean-Jacques Hubert, and Antoine Santiard. The trio decided the smartest way to approach the problem was to subdivide the older child’s room in two, making separate places for both children to sleep and play.

Rather than simply building a partition down the middle of the 140-square-foot bedroom, which would have created two constrained rooms, the architects decided to build up and within. “The idea of putting the bed on a higher level came up quite quickly in order to win space,” explains Santiard. “At the same time we decide to incorporate many ways to use the bed/partition (storage, office, climb, hide with interior windows, doors, etc).”

The result is a massive piece of what is essentially furniture, crafted out of several large sections of painted MDF and secured to the ceiling to keep it from toppling. Six-year old Eva plays and sleeps in the upper level, while small cubbies hold her toys, books, and dolls. There’s also a built-in desk for schoolwork and drawing. Jean, now almost two years old, mainly scampers around on the bottom level, where easy access to his bed and toys defines his area. The whole structure is painted light blue, keeping it lightly ethereal. And hidden staircases and peepholes abound to create an overall effect is of a fantastical modern playground for two very lucky children.

via dwell


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