Here’s a nice little slice of near-future urbanist architecture-fiction; Australian architectural outfit Lara Calder have come up with a speculative scheme for “parasitic” urban housing, designed to recolonise otherwise unused vertical surfaces in the urban landscape. Architects tend to have a grasp of bombastic language far superior to my own (no, really!), so I’ll let the words speak for themselves:
To achieve sustainable densification the dwelling attaches itself to blank building fabric found in the city. It grows on empty facades, rock faces and bridges. It finds value by turning dead public space into lively private space.
The Prefab Parasite is a parametric dwelling which incorporates many considerations into its flexible design. The facade reacts to orientation. The footprint can be wide or narrow depending on the site and always maintains its 36 square meters. The structural ribs are tuned to the exact building form using an algorithmic modeling system.
The fabrication and construction of the prefab parasite rely heavily on digital methods. The facade paneling system is designed and sent to fabrication to be machine cut out of an eco solid surface material consisting of compressed bamboo and recycled paper. The structural facade members are all controlled parametrically, as are the main structural ribs. The integration of the structure with the design system increases efficiency and accuracy of the construction process.
While it’s not completely implausible to imagine cities ordering the construction of buildings like this, it’s much easier to imagine them being a “favela chic” development, thrown up by guerrilla architects in the parts of big cities where the authorities no longer dare go… or just can’t be bothered to control any longer. [via Inhabitat; image ganked from Lara Calder Architect, please contact for immediate take-down if required]
Imagine for a moment a rogue city-state cordoned off from the country surrounding it; with no way of expanding horizontally, and insufficienct engineering power to expand vertically, all that’s left are the interstitial spaces. Slowly the city becomes a hive, the line between public space and private dwelling blurring to a point where the two terms become meaningless synonyms… and J G Ballard is worshipped as a visionary prophet in the hollow concrete temples of bridge piles and skyscraper foundations.
Seems like hardly a week can pass by without some new example of architectural futurism cropping up in my RSS feeds. Here’s the latest nugget: The Citadel is (or rather will be, when it gets built as something more than a conceptual model) an example of the sea-beleaguered Dutch attempting to come to terms with the geography of the tidal plain that is their country.
The project will be built on a polder, a recessed area below sea level where flood waters settle from heavy rains. There are almost 3500 polders in the Netherlands, and almost all of them are continually pumped dry to keep flood waters from destroying nearby homes and buildings. The New Water Project will purposely allow the polder to flood with water and all the buildings will be perfectly suited to float on top of the rising and falling water.
A high focus will be placed on energy efficiency inside the Citadel. Greenhouses are placed around the complex, and the water will act as a cooling source as it is pumped through submerged pipes.
The Citadel seems to be an officially sanctioned project, but it’s easy to imagine that once the concepts behind it are loose in the market, buildings like it could become commonplace in marginal or disputed regions considered useless because of their water-logged state… something like a half-way house between regular land living and seasteading. If the increasingly alarming data coming from climate scientists is valid, there’s certainly going to be a lot of floodplains and polders to build on. [image by WaterStudio.nl]
A final thought: if architecture is a kind of science fiction (as Chairman Bruce and others have implied), are shiny Bright Green projects like The Citadel equivalent to the boldly optimistic pulp stories of the fifties and sixties? Will the actual buildings of the near future turn out to be something less lovely, more pragmatic, weathered by environmental compromise and gloweringly Ballardian?
In what might be some bizarre manifestation of hyper-rapid Zeitgesit symbolism adoption, the repurposed shipping container really does look like it will be one of the visual memes of 2009. Here’s the latest contender, the proposed Lotto Turm of Stuttgart, Germany:
The Lotto Turm tower will be constructed of 55 shipping containers stacked on top of each other, and will be designed to include a noise-free courtyard as well as a spiral pathway that circles around the building. Balconies, terraces, and stairs accent the tower from top to bottom, giving the stacked block structure a fantastical quality, and Gardens and plants will accentuate the varied vertical landscape. The public may enter and go all the way to the top of tower for a view of the city through the lotto sphere.
I don’t know what local development policy is like in Germany, but there’s no way that a shipping container tower block would get a green light here in the UK (more’s the pity). That said, I’m not entirely sure how straight-faced the Lotto Turm idea really is – there’s definitely an element of humour in Behrendt’s design.
Still, given the amount of shipping containers that have started piling up empty in docks and factory lots around the country, they’re just waiting to be reused for something worthwhile; pragmatism may defeat NIMBYism in shorter order than anyone might expect. [image by architect/designer Lars Behrendt]
A fascinating article here at Physorg on American versions of German “passive houses” – houses that maintain a comfortable temperature in cold climates without the need for active heating systems:
Because there is no furnace, the rooms are quiet. The only sound in the kitchen is the hum of a refrigerator, which along with other appliances, helps supply heat to the airtight 2,300-square-foot Batavia, Ill., home.
Katrin Klingenberg, founder of the institute in Urbana, Ill., said that typically, passive-house owners use 10 percent of the energy used in a standard home.
More info on passive housing can be found here.
[image from popaver on flickr]
The humble shipping container has been reimagined quite a few times in recent years, and has appeared as a potential housing solution in sf novels and stories from (among others) Ken MacLeod, Neal Stephenson and Gareth L Powell, as well as starring as a plot McGuffin in William Gibson’s latest; the BBC are even following a shipping container by GPS for a year.
But nothing quite prepares you for the bright day-glo architectural enthusiam of the guys who’ve come up with CORB v2.0, a kind of mutating condominium made from shipping containers:
Changing your view or neighbours with the seasons or on a whim is not a problem at Corb. Changes in family dynamics or space requirements are easily dealt with.
Traditional hierarchies determined and reinforced by wealth are void here. When you live at Corb, everyone gets a penthouse just as often as they get a ground floor apartment.
One can only hope that, unlike Hiro Protagonist, you don’t end up with a choice of views over the runways of a major airport… or, as seems more likely, over a busy freight port. [image borrowed from Maynard Architects site; all rights reserved by owner, reproduced here under Fair Use terms; story via Justin Pickard]