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Monthly Archives

May 2020

“The new tomorrow – Living and working after Covid-19”

By Stories&News

When we return to our everyday lives after Covid-19, we will look at the world and the spaces we inhabit with new eyes. Part of a globalized interconnected and interdependent world, each one of us will feel the need to be part of a general rethinking of our current lifestyles.

What will the contribution of architecture, design and urban planning be?

THE PLAN has involved architects, designers and urbanists from all parts of the world.
We report the contribution of Mino Caggiula, Steven Holl and Patrik Schumacher to the initiative.

MINO CAGGIULA
Mino Caggiula Architects

STEVEN HOLL
Steven Holl Architects

PATRIK SCHUMACHER
Zaha Hadid Architects

Steven Holl | Great contemporary architects

By Stories&News

Architect and theorist Steven Holl is definitely one of the most interesting figures within the contemporary architecture landscape.

Born in Brementon, Washington, in 1947, he graduated from the University of Washington in 1971 and continued his studies in Rome and London. With the passing of time, apart from being an architect, he also began teaching, first at the Columbia University, then at other prestigious universities in the US, from New York to Pennsylvania.

He was therefore not only a designer, but also a man with a passion for scientific research, as shown by his numerous publications on the grammar of architecture.

Such a multicultural and multidisciplinary background has made Steven Holl one of the most important American architects of our time. From his stay in Europe in the early 1970s, Holl learned how to adapt to different local contexts.

His innate multidisciplinary interest can be found in all of his works, that stand out from the typical contemporary language. In a historical period marked by the rise of deconstructivism, Steven Holl developed his own project vision, in which architecture is made of time, light and matter.

Holl’s works are also influenced by his peculiar attention to the interconnection of architecture and visual and performing arts, physics and music.

His natural inclination to multidisciplinarity has been the key to the success of Steven Holl’s works, the planning of which is influenced not only by the surroundings, the architecture and the purposes, but also by other disciplines.

Steven Holl and Kiasma

One of the most important works by Steven Holl, that was influenced by the mixture of different disciplines and inputs during its design phase, is definitely Kiasma, the Museum of Contemporary Art in Helsinki.

kiasma steven holl

Kiasma from the outside (photo credits: M00ster, wikimedia.org)

The concept of “chiasma” (the part of the brain where the optic nerves partially cross) leads the planning of this museum, that was completed in 1998. The building in fact consists of two intersected parts: one is straight, a prism, while the other one is a curved volume.

The American architect has designed a building that is in line with his ideas. Light has not only a practical role, but is also a means for creating the perfect atmosphere along the exhibition itinerary.

Steven Holl and the Y House

Another project in which the architect underlines the central concept of his mindset, namely that a project must rest on a leading concept, is the Y House.

The Y shape has to do with both Holl’s will to make each and every one of his projects symbolic and metaphorical, and with the importance of opening the residence outwards. The Y shape is therefore perfect as it embraces the outside and brings it inside the house. The two wings of the building are also two observation points towards the outside.

y house steven holl

Y House (Photo credits: Steven Holl Architects)

On the inside, the house consists of a living area and a sleeping area, corresponding to the two wings, while the two large balconies facing south work as passive solar devices, so that the sunbeams illuminate the indoors in the winter, and at the same time prevent the house from overheating in the summer.

On the outside, the building consists of a frame structure made of glass and exposed steel, which has been treated with a specific iron oxide finish that lends it the typical red colour.

Steven Holl and the MIT Cambridge Simmons Hall

Among the most recent works, we must mention the Cambridge Simmons Hall for the MIT, Boston, inaugurated in 2002.

Steven Holl Mit

Cambridge Simmons Hall (photo credits: Diderot/Mido, wikimedia.org)

Commonly referred to as “the sponge”, Holl reveals that he actually took inspiration from sea sponges for designing the sleeping quarters for the MIT students. According to Holl, the space outside and inside the college dormitory has stimulated the students’ interest.

Therefore he created a “porous” structure that absorbs sunlight through a series of large openings, designed to cut the structure, resulting in a skilful play of solids and voids. This project, that covers an area of approximately 18,000 square metres, apart from the college students’ dorms, also includes a theatre that seats 125 people, a coffee bar and a restaurant.

The personality and the peculiarities of the building lie in the play of solids and voids, and in the numerous glass surfaces: every bedroom has got nine windows. Just like in other projects by Holl, nature and sunlight filter into the structure and blend into an indissoluble whole.

Hunters Point Community Library

On September 24, 2019, a new project by Steven Holl was born: the Hunters Point Library, a futuristic 22,000 foot public library in Queens (New York).

hunters point library queens

Photocredits: Steven Holl Architects

Steven Holl and the Sarphatistraat Offices

Finally, another extremely interesting architectural intervention in a European city is the building holding the Sarphatistraat Offices in Amsterdam that was inaugurated in 2000.

This project comes from the extension of a U-shaped federal warehouse located along the Singel Canal that consisted of four storeys above ground. For this intervention, Holl decided to use a façade cladding material (perforated copper) in clear contrast with the surroundings and with the pre-existing cladding made of exposed bricks.

Sarphatistraat Office holl

A night view from the canal (photo credits: Steven Holl Architects)

The previous material of the extended building can be half-seen from underneath the perforated copper cladding, which also allows sunlight to filter inside. This results in a very interesting play of lights and reflections on the surfaces that create a partial transparency.

Just like in the previous project, the large windows highlight and enhance this type of material by creating a skilful play of volumes and materials.

This building along the canal best expresses itself at night. The coloured lights allow an easier reading of the volume intersection and of the creation of solids and voids.
On the inside, unlike the façade, the passage to the pre-existing building, after it was restored, is less immediate.

The new building was inserted opposite to the main entrance, proceeding towards the canal. As far as functional distribution is concerned, the pre-existing building mainly holds public offices, while the added volume is destined to events and it consists of an exhibition space and a large multifunctional room.

Steven Holl in brief

Light, playing with matter that intertwines into various combinations in order to create solids and voids that give personality to space: we can thus very briefly summarise the works by this great contemporary architect.

As already mentioned in the biography, Steven Holl has been one of architect Mino Caggiula’s “teachers”, with whom he collaborated to complete a few projects such as the Herning Center of Arts in Denmark (inaugurated in 2009), the Museum of Ocean and Surf in Biarritz, France (inaugurated in 2011) and the building of the Linked Hybrid Complex in Beijing, China (inaugurated in 2009).

-> Discover Mino Caggiula Biography and First-class Swiss Architecture Studio Philosophy

-> Discover the amazing Mino Caggiula Architects projects

 

vertical garden benefits

Vertical gardens: its benefits and how to create one

By Stories&News

Vertical gardens are nowadays very common in our cities, where this peculiar treatment for walls is used both on public building façades and for private property projects.

Since Parisian botanist Patrick Blanc came up with the idea, vertical gardens have come a long way, from the first famous creation on the façade of the Quai Branly Museum to the most recent indoor installations.

 

vertical garden systems quai branly

The green façade of the Quai Branly Museum

How does a green wall work?

A vertical garden, also known as green wall, is a composition of different plants placed on a vertical structure, fixed onto the building wall.
The plants, usually chosen depending on the climate and the sun exposure of the wall on which they are to be placed, grow on felt and PVC multilayer panels. This way, it’s possible to make the most of hydroponic techniques. These panels are inserted into a metal grid, placed slightly detached from the building wall, in order to guarantee proper ventilation and waterproofing.
This kind of farming enables constant rainwater and fertilizer supplies, through an irrigation system placed at the top of the green wall.

Another solid and efficient method for the growth of the plants is a structure with basins where each row has its own irrigation system.

The positioning of the different plants that constitute the vertical garden must necessarily take into account the local microclimatic conditions, which also vary depending on the wall’s height, especially for outdoor vertical gardens.
Also, you mustn’t forget about the importance of the aesthetic effect, therefore the positioning of the different plant species will also depend on the colours and the “pattern” you want to get when the work is done.

 

plants in indoor wall garden

Different-coloured plants

 

Vertical gardens: what are the benefits?

The spread of the use of green walls, both indoors and outdoors, is not just because they are aesthetically pleasing, but also because of the clear need to improve a building’s climatic features, both inside and outside.

More precisely, a wall with a vertical garden has not only a great aesthetic effect, but also a climate control function. Vertical gardens in fact improve air quality, both inside and outside of buildings. Plants, as you will know, automatically filter air, absorb toxic chemicals and suppress dusts.

Green walls are also highly sound insulating, which is very helpful in cities as a vertical garden can reduce sounds up to 40 Decibels. Installing a green wall is therefore an effective method for lowering noise levels inside of buildings.

How is an indoor green wall made?

Similarly, vertical gardens installed inside of buildings lend a great personality to the rooms and make beautiful backdrops for both work environments and private residences.

Since the plants are going to stay inside a building, when planning the vertical garden it is necessary to choose plants that best adapt to living indoors.

 

how to create vertical garden: example

An example of indoor vertical garden

 

It’s important to properly illuminate green walls since, depending on their planimetric position, it’s fundamental to combinr natural light with artificial lighting to make sure that the plants have a sufficient light intake.
For this kind of green walls, plant irrigation, through a specific irrigation system placed in conjunction with the supporting structure, is necessary since rainwater wouldn’t be enough.

There are two different types of irrigation systems for indoor vertical gardens:
– the open-loop system includes water supply and drain so that the vertical garden is completely autonomous. The irrigation is managed by a control unit;
– the closed-loop system includes a water storage tank that autonomously waters the plants. In this case, it’s necessary to remember to fill the tank before the water storage runs out.

An equally fascinating alternative for using indoor green walls is the possibility of installing free standing structures with vertical gardens on both sides, that can also work as partition in private or business spaces.
Speaking of installing indoor green walls, green paintings are also a beautiful and greatly evocative alternative. Green paintings are a variation of green walls that allow plants to become a designer element even in narrow spaces.

Are all green walls the same?

Vertical gardens are obviously not all the same. There are in fact different building technologies, just like for the other elements in a building. The most common techniques are:
– the hydroponic wall, that is a vertical garden grown with hydroponic farming (in which plants don’t need soil to grow). In this case, pouches for plants are made on the building’s “green skin”. This skin is waterproof and therefore blocks the sunrays, so the plants absorb nutrients dissolved in water from an inert underlayer.
– the green wall, the technique developed by Patrick Blanc, in which the plants are placed on self-supporting mats, with an irrigation system installed on the whole surface. The result is a thick drape, about 20 to 30 plants per square metre. The felt panelling works both as support and as water storage for the plants.

Vertical gardens: what about maintenance?

Maintenance frequency for these peculiar “vertical green walls” depends on the plants chosen and can range from one to four times a year, while for indoor green walls maintenance must be more frequent.

In this case, especially when walls are installed in private residences, it’s important to choose plants that don’t have an excessive growth, to avoid that they “invade” the room.

Because of the beauty and versatility of plants, the technology for plant growth on vertical surfaces can be applied practically anywhere, from the large façades of public buildings to small squares skilfully inserted on a private residence’s wall.
Here lies the magic and the popularity of vertical gardens: having the possibility to own, independently from the space available, a personal green spot.

Nizza Paradise, a wonderful vertical garden

An emblematic example of vertical garden was created by our firm, Mino Caggiula Architects.

vertical hydroponics in beautiful house

The green wall of a residential building

 

You can admire this “green work of art” inside the Nizza Paradise Residence, a luxury residence located in Paradiso (Lugano, Switzerland).

Find out more at nizzaparadise.ch.

Kenneth Frampton | Great contemporary architects

By Stories&News

Architect, historian, architecture critic and teacher Kenneth Frampton was awarded the Career Golden Lion in May 2018 during the exhibition Venice Biennale of Architecture, in recognition of his great cultural contribution and of the education given to several generations of architects throughout the years.

KENNETH FRAMPTON: BETWEEN ARCHITECTURE AND CRITIQUE

Born in 1930 in Woking, in Surrey, England, Kenneth Frampton studied to become an architect at Guildford School of Art and, after that, at the Architectural Association School of Architecture in London.

Once he had completed his education, he worked in Israel from 1961 to 1964, and afterwards he continued his work experience in London at the firm Douglas Stephen & Partners, where he designed the Corringham Building. This eight-storey residential apartment block located in Bayswater (London) is characterized by a typically modernist style architecture. It is precisely because of its architectural value that the Corringham is a listed building since 1998.

Simultaneously with the beginning of his career in architecture, Kenneth Frampton took up a teaching career by starting as a visiting tutor at the Architectural Association in London.

In the same period he also started working as a technical writer for the journal Architectural Design (AD), a collaboration that went on until 1965. So he started from the very beginning to pursue research, writing and architectural criticism in parallel with his professional practice, besides his teaching activity.

 

kenneth frampton corringham

Corringham, a modernist residential apartment building in Bayswater, in the city centre of London. It was designed by Kenneth Frampton between 1960 and 1962.

 

KENNETH FRAMPTON AND TEACHING

After the years spent in Great Britain, where he taught at Princeton University School of Architecture (from 1966 to 1971), he started his didactic career in the United States of America.

Since 1972 he was indeed a member of Columbia University and, that same year, he also became a member of the Institute of Architecture and Urban Studies in New York, a prestigious institute that boasts among its members personalities of the international scene such as Peter Eisenman, Manfredo Tafuri and Rem Koolhaas.

KENNETH FRAMPTON: BOOKS AND WRITTEN WORKS

Kenneth Frampton is especially known, besides for his teaching activity, also for his written works on 20th century architecture, in particular for his pivotal role in architectural phenomenology.

Some of his most famous books are certainly Modern Architecture: A Critical History, which was first written between 1980 and 1982, and Studies in Tectonic Culture, published in 1995.

The work that got the most attention and that, in a way, marked Kenneth Frampton’s career by gaining great importance and influence in architectural education is his essay Towards a Critical Regionalism, published in 1983.

As an architectural historian and architecture critic, Kenneth Frampton has published to this day numerous books and essays on architecture, which include a collection of all the works written in 35 years.

His vast production of written works also contains several biographies of world-famous architects, from modern movement exponents such as Le Corbusier, to other contemporaries such as Steven Holl and Alvaro Siza.

KENNETH FRAMPTON AND CRITICAL REGIONALISM

The British architect’s international reputation is also due to his theories on Critical regionalism.

Critical regionalism is an approach to architecture that counters the idea of lack of identity and sense of belonging of some modern architectures, by claiming that the geographical context in which the building at issue is erected is precisely what gives it its identity. This term was coined during the ‘80s in parallel with the birth of postmodern architecture, and it stands as a reaction to and a critique of modern architecture. Let’s get a better understanding of what it is.

In his book “Modern Architecture: A Critical History”, Kenneth Frampton states that critical regionalism must be intended as a fringe activity that on the one hand is critical towards modernization, but on the other hand refuses to abandon the emancipatory and progressive aspects of the legacy of modern architecture. Moreover, Critical regionalism promotes the creation of architecture as a tectonic event rather than reducing the built environment to a series of badly arranged scenographic events. Critical regionalism has got a local nature in so far as it inevitably emphasizes certain factors that are specific to a site, starting from topographics, which is considered a three-dimensional mould into which the structure is inserted in order to obtain the changing play of the light of the location through the very same structure.

KENNETH FRAMPTON AND THE MODERN ARCHITECTURE

According to Frampton’s theorizing, modernism and critical regionalism often intertwine, to the point of giving birth to a series of lessons held by Kenneth Frampton at the Academy of Mendrisio between 1998 and 2002.

A volume arises from this teaching experience. It includes a series of projects that move away from the established precepts of the modern movement, and it describes numerous works that, despite taking inspiration from certain modern movement dogmas, such as the flat roof, create a series of elements in a purely personal way, from the curtain wall to the reinforced concrete structure. It is no coincidence that the title of the volume, the other modern movement, implies a certain distance from the “stylistic doctrine” that was written during the CIAM (the International Congresses of Modern Architecture) from 1928 to 1959. Frampton himself defines his work in these words: “I have elaborated the topic of “another” modernity (…) because I wish that this collection, otherwise apparently arbitrary, would be read as the key to an unconventional approach that, instead of striving for universal abstraction, is on the contrary articulate and expressive (…)”.

THE CAREER GOLDEN LION

Thanks to his dedication to architecture criticism and the history of modern architecture, Kenneth Frampton has received several awards throughout his long career. He was given the Career Golden Lion, the latest award, during the 16th edition of the Venice Biennale of Architecture.

Among the reasons of the curator Yvonne Farrell and Shelley McNamara who brought this important award to Kenneth Frampton’s career, it was stressed that his experience as a professional architect has promoted a profound understanding of the organizational and design process of buildings, thus also promoting criticism of the various forms of practice and architecture.

Bestowing the Career Golden Lion on Frampton is the proper way to pay tribute to a master, and at the same time it’s an important acknowledgement to the critical teaching of architecture. May it be a model and a guide for all of the new generations of professionals.

 

From 2004 to 2005 Mino Caggiula attended Columbia University in New York with Professor and Architect Kenneth Frampton.

-> Discover Mino Caggiula Biography and First-class Swiss Architecture Studio Philosophy
-> Discover the amazing Mino Caggiula Architects projects

 

 

Photo description at the top of page:
Kenneth Frampton during a conference at the GSAPP (Graduate School of Architecture, Planning and Preservation) Columbia University in New York City.
Photo credits.

Elia Zenghelis | Great contemporary architects

By Stories&News

Born in Athens in 1937, Elia Zenghelis is world-renown not only as an architect but also for his long career as a teacher.

The Greek architect studied Architecture at the Architectural Association School of Architecture in London and graduated in 1961. When he approached the world of architecture, radical utopian ideas were being spread at an international level by groups such as Archizoom and Archigram.

During those experimental years, architecture was also utopia, a transformation of the concept of city planning and of the role of the architect. This new research was a sign of the widespread need to formulate new theories, a research towards a new way of interpreting space and the connection between form and function.

In the following ten years he worked for architects Douglas Stephen and Partners in London, starting his teaching career, and at the Architectural Association under the guidance of Hermann Senkowsky from 1963.

Professor Zenghelis stood out at the school for introducing the concept of radical avant-garde into education, an idea of which he was firmly convinced as soon as he started his studies. At first he was a fervent supporter of Archigram’s mindset, while later on he developed a large-scale vision of architecture.

Elia Zenghelis’ research on city planning

Elia Zenghelis’ research on city planning began early, during his academic years, first with Team 10 and then with Archigram. After meeting Rem Koolhaas when the latter was still a student at the Architectural Association School, their relationship grew stronger with their joint participation in the contest “La città come ambiente significante”, literally “The city as a meaningful environment”, which was announced by Casabella in 1971.

For this contest, the architects presented project Exodus, which consisted in a linear city over London’s urban pattern, delimited by two long parallel walls, like some sort of reversed Berlin Wall.

The Greek architect worked with various firms in London, Paris and New York between 1971 and 1975. After that he established the “Office for Metropolitan Architecture”, better known as OMA, together with Rem Khoolaas, Zoe Zenghelis (Elia’s former partner) and Madelon Vriesendorp.

Since they first met, Elia Zenghelis and Rem Koolhaas’s collaboration went on for over fifteen years. They had a common interest in the great dimension of architecture and, especially the Dutch architect, in Manhattan, from which a series of “imaginary” projects originated, such as the “big city”, that will become the leitmotiv in OMA’s works during the 70s and 80s.

Among the works by the Office for Metropolitan Architecture, Elia Zenghelis’ great influence can be seen in the first works, among which we must mention the Dutch Parliament Extension (1978), the Parc de la Villette in Paris (1982) and the Checkpoint Charlie Apartments in Berlin (1990).

While the first two projects weren’t actually implemented, the works for the Checkpoint Charlie Apartments started in 1982 and were completed in 1990.

After OMA’s project for the Parc de la Villette, Paris, Zenghelis opened an OMA section in Athens in 1982. Only five years later, in 1987, he ended the partnership with Rem Koolhaas and established Gigantes Zenghelis Associates with compatriot architect Eleni Gigantes. Despite the new firm, Elia Zenghelis’ main job was still teaching, first in Düsseldorf, then in Zurich, Mendrisio and Rotterdam.

The Checkpoint Charlie Apartments

The Checkpoint Charlie project carried out by Zenghelis and OMA takes advantage of the site’s hidden qualities. The building is structured like a series of pavilions for border control that together form a pedestal. The ground floor is meant for customs control activities, that also concern the rest of the site and include a parking garage.

 

checkpoint elia zenghelis

One of Checkpoint Charlie Building’s façades (photocredits)

The building is currently located in the area where the ruins from the pre-war and post-war periods prevail, in particular the Berlin Wall and Checkpoint Charlie, which was the crossing point between East Berlin and West Berlin.

The starting point for the drafting of the project was the clear separation of the military purpose from the private purpose. The building, on the other floors, consists of 31 apartments facing inwards, with a little garden for each duplex apartment. The apartments are simplex, duplex or even penthouses (the latter are located on the sixth floor) and thus have got different sizes and planimetric dispositions.

The façade overlooking the street consists in a vertical surface with alternating ribbon windows and thin black metal panels. The building’s appearance shows a clear connection with functional architecture, with clear references to Le Corbusier’s school, especially as far as the façade treatment and the use of ribbon windows are concerned. But Elia Zenghelis and OMA go beyond that and introduce elements typical of the 1950s architecture on the façade, while the choice of creating apartments of different sizes and on different levels comes from the Dutch residential interventions that were implemented in the same period.

When the Berlin Wall fell, the ground floor was no longer useful for border control and was thus destined for commercial purposes.

Conclusions

We can say that Elia Zenghelis’ life has been completely dedicated to radical architecture. From the early 1960s, when he realised that architecture was undergoing a crisis (thanks to the Architectural Associate where he taught), the Greek starchitect has succeeded in gathering other major professionals of the time in London.

During his long career as a teacher and an architectural theorist, he can boast of having been a chief for the great personalities of contemporary architecture, such as Steven Holl, Rem Koolhaas to whom he has been a teacher (in a time when teachers and students would always debate on architecture) and Zaha Hadid.

zoom elia zenghelis

Elia Zenghelis and the firm Mino Caggiula Architects

Elia Zenghelis has been a “teacher” to Mino Caggiula and a “friend” to the entire firm. The Swiss architect obtained the Master of Arts in Architecture at the Academy of Mendrisio thanks to a project for the urban renovation of the entire Venetian Lagoon, developed with Architect Elia Zenghelis. The project was awarded first prize SIA, Switzerland, and first prize Veneto Region.

As already mentioned in the biography, the partnership with Elia Zenghelis has made it possible for the firm to enter the global market and bridge the gap that often exists between Theory and built Architecture.

 

“Arcology”: the city by Paolo Soleri and future

By Stories&News

Human beings have always dreamt of a free society in which to live in harmony and justice with others. Throughout the centuries, several intellectuals have wondered how to create a fair society based on upright principles. From Plato to Thomas More, numerous utopian ideas were conceived, but they never left the unrealisable World of Ideas.

Architect Paolo Soleri, with his works and writings, questioned the very concept of modern city and how we live on this planet. He tried to provide a practical alternative to the contemporary urban sprawl and the scenario of the predicted catastrophic future due to global pollution.

His idea, Arcology, a crasis of “architecture” and “ecology”, suggests a highly integrated and compact three-dimensional urban structure in contrast with the uncontrolled consumption of land, energy and time.

PAOLO SOLERI AND ARCOLOGY

arcology

A sketch by Paolo Soleri

 

Soleri graduated from the Polytechnic University of Turin in 1946 and moved to the US the year after, where he worked at Wright’s school-studio Taliesin West for two years.
His learning experience was mainly based on the empirical observation of his master’s teachings. He had arrived in America without knowing how to speak English and was therefore given the task of handyman/cook/waiter. He held the job enthusiastically, as it allowed him to move and study freely everything that happened, without being constrained in a single field.

Wright believed that the current problem with the city was its separation from the countryside. Therefore he theorised Broadacre City, an urban system based on decentralization and lengthwise expansion, in order to provide each inhabitant with minimum space to build their home and cultivate their land, depending on the person’s needs.

As he started to disagree with his master’s theories, he went back to Italy and decided to go to Vietri and learn at best the typical art of ceramics from the Solimene family, at first as an apprentice, while later on he opened his own factory. Throughout his entire journey, the sense of touch, touching and kneading clay and other materials were key elements.

Arizona’s pure landscape and untamable nature brought him back to the United States, where he founded Cosanti, some sort of school-construction site in which the students of the University of Arizona experienced communal living by building an ecological environment, that was self-financed thanks to the manufacturing and selling of handcrafted items using sand.

Cosanti is an “urban laboratory” conceived as Taliesin’s continuation. Its name comes from the union of “cosa” (thing) and “anti” (before), meaning therefore “before things”. Cosanti is based on a priori procedures, and on the studying and testing of new housing ways and solutions. It’s the foundation on which Soleri will build his city, Arcosanti.

PAOLO SOLERI

Paolo Soleri was therefore an experimenter of architectural language, and not only. His work interlaced architecture with biological and social aspects by introducing the themes of environmental sustainability and overpopulation.
The architect from Turin strongly believed that man needed to be put at the centre of everything in modern city planning, in order to recover the sense of social relationships and of a fairer society.

ARCOSANTI: THE DEVELOPMENT

arcosanti arizona

Arcosanti from above

 

Several volunteers, inspired by Soleri’s dream, travelled to the desert in 1970 to build the first arcology prototype from scratch: Arcosanti. The city consists in a permanent experimentation construction site, on which new aggregation solutions are tested with an eye towards evolution.

All projects by Soleri are preceded by in-depth considerations about society and the instincts that arise among human beings. He succeeded in carrying out a careful analysis of the historical period he was living in, and his conclusions are now more current than ever. Soleri spent his entire existence being almost entirely neglected by his peers, who couldn’t understand him, but his project is an important message for today’s world, in which overpopulation, pollution and lack of resources are becoming more and more predominant.

It’s necessary to completely rethink architecture and the “use and consumption of the Earth’s resources, instead of its capital. It’s essential if we wish to keep open a few options for the future”.

In the modern city, man has become a hermit, and society forces him to chase the myths of wealth and success by making him spend several hours of his free time stuck in his car in traffic, to cover the greater and greater distances between the residential areas and the workplaces-service places. The slavery of man with his car is thus established, and it determines the current urban planning.

This leads to the urban sprawl phenomenon in American suburbs, in which residential areas spread for kilometres, in line with the American dream of the single-family house with the white fence. In order to contrast this uncontrolled urban expansion and the supremacy of the car, the city must grow upwards and become three-dimensional, while adapting to the surrounding nature and protecting it.

Cities must go back to a human scale, so that cars are no longer necessary and pedestrians can move freely, safely and efficiently.

Buildings are densely populated thanks to the union of functions and services, in order to limit travelling and needless areas, by following minimalist principles as opposed to the materialistic ideal of compulsive hoarding.

A passive energy system is used which takes advantage of technology and the use of highly insulating materials that guarantee efficiency and thermal comfort. Energy is obtained from both the sunlight and the heat produced by the very same inhabitants, without any further energy waste. The city is thus optimised, and it heats up and cools down naturally. It’s also autonomous thanks to a sewage system and water treatment.

Modern cities are separated from companies and production plants, which are located outside its boundaries. It’s necessary to reclaim the production methods by bringing agriculture and manufacture back in the city. Everything that is necessary for the town’s sustenance and functioning must be found inside and must be easily accessible to everyone, thus creating a connection between food, energy and people.

The city and its parts become one. It’s no longer a mere container, but rather it reflects the single lives that it’s made up of.

Public space is fundamental as it goes back to being a place for gathering and exchange, and it creates a sense of community.

 

arcology game

A sketch by Paolo Soleri

 

Arcosanti’s function plan is based on the creation of a terraced city, also because of the morphology of the land. The town consists of two large structures that hold approximately 5,000 inhabitants.
The buildings are partly made of cast-in-place concrete and partly built with the ground moulding method, thus taking advantage of the site’s clayey soil to make the shapes into which the concrete is going to be cast.

This technique lends a peculiar colour to the elements, which, once ready, are assembled to create even complex structures.

The South Vault is the most significant construction of all, and the first structure on the hilltop. It consists of twelve curved concrete panels and its diameter is over eighteen metres long. The North Vault was added afterwards in order to use the underlying covered space for shows and events.

 

arcosanti arizona

A sketch by Paolo Soleri

 

Another strongly emblematic construction in Arcosanti is the Ceramic Apse, used for ceramic manufacture. The apsal structure was built by combining the cast-in-place concrete technique with prefabricated elements. The apse faces south, therefore the microclimate inside is perfect for outdoor activities.

And finally, the Soleri Office Drafting is a three-storey housing and studio complex, in which the very same architect lived until his death in 2013. The top floor holds an apartment, the intermediate floor is occupied by the administrative offices of the Cosanti Foundation, which currently represents the nonprofit institution, focused on the study of new urban design solutions and on financing new projects, at the base of Arcosanti’s financial administration, while the ground floor holds a conference room with an attached greenhouse for heating the rooms in the winter.

Vaults, apses and circles are recurring motifs in Arcosanti, in both the structures and the decorations on the buildings, some sort of geometric and structural reference to the Earth.

To this day, only 5% of Soleri’s project has been implemented, but the inhabitants of the community are still following his teachings and are constructing the buildings that he imagined. They are still dependent on energy supplies from outside, but it is estimated that energy self-sufficiency will be reached within the next few years.

WORKSHOPS AND ARCOLOGY

The community of Arcosanti is visited by thousands of tourists every year and workshops on agriculture, design and much more are arranged every day, in which the tourists can take part too. It’s some sort of gateway to the town project to let the tourists know what it means to live in this peculiar community.

Paolo Soleri wasn’t the only intellectual to try and theorise a new model of society over the last century. Ville Radieuse and Hiberseimer’s Vertical City were fundamental within the considerations on green areas and the building as an organism that integrates functions and infrastructures. However, the theories expressed previously were still based on the economic and production needs imposed by capitalism, and didn’t take into consideration a radical transformation of the community. According to Le Corbusier and Wright, the car is the very same engine of the city, it brings benefits and improves people’s lives. The issue addressed is the road, and how to make mobility smoother and more practical, not the car itself!

Soleri carries out his analysis. He considers global warming and how to slow down our planet’s current decay. This is only possible by radically rethinking the way we live, by “reformulating”, that is creating a brand new system by moving away from the previous attempts to improve a preexisting system, attempts that were considered “reforms”.

ARCOLOGY AND THE FUTURE

 

arcology: the city in the image of man

A sketch by Paolo Soleri

 

Urban planning in China and in other developing countries needs to face a high population growth followed by rapid urbanisation, and at the same time it must take into consideration the limited unoccupied land and natural resources, as well as climate change. The Chinese people mainly live in the cities, where cars are more and more needed.

Within this context, Soleri began to take an interest in creating cities in which soil, farmland, energy and resource consumption is cut down to a minimum. Lean Linear City was first introduced in 2004 during a conference in Macau, and after that it was presented at the “3-d City: Future China” exhibition in Beijing in 2009.
This new type of city stems from the concept of arcology, which is developed in one single three-dimensional entity that crosses continents and connects people that are kilometres apart.

Soleri defines it an urban superorganism, in which separate functional aspects work together and create a more logical system where urbanism, power generation and logistics are tied together. “In an arcology, the built environment and the inhabitants’ life processes interact like organs, tissues and cells in a highly evolved organism”. The city becomes a live and functioning body in which three key elements coexist. The mobility, the city’s circulatory system, connects its inhabitants and brings them sustenance with its arteries. The structure, the skeleton, shields the city from potential natural disasters and deals with passive energy production. And lastly, all of the interconnected cultural aspects make the system work.

The city is made of linked modules that create two continuous urban axes connected by bridges, which stretch out in parallel for kilometres by following the prevailing winds of a region or its waterways.
These modules come together like the vertebrae of the spinal column and can hold 3,000 inhabitants, thus creating micro urban centres that are self-determined, as the very same residents decide which functions and services there are going to be, depending on their needs. Each module is one of a kind, as the approaches and relationships will be unique, and they will satisfy all needs. It’s a place to live, work, create, exchange, produce energy and food, and spend one’s free time at the parks. This way the city is given back to the farmers, who are gradually moving from the countryside to the major centres.

The Linear City can be created anywhere, as its structure follows the natural landscape, but a period of experimentation and testing is fundamental. The same building process is designed to create one module at a time, so that the city unfolds on the land in a gradual and uninterrupted way.

 

lean linear city render

A rendering of Lean Linear City

 

paolo soleri arcosanti

A portrait of Paolo Soleri in Arcosanti

consequence urban sprawl

Consequences of urban sprawl: social challenges and possible countermeasures

By Stories&News

A city that spreads chaotically using more and more land: we can thus summarise in brief the urban sprawl phenomenon, also known as suburban sprawl.

This peculiar urban phenomenon occurs on the outskirts of a city and this uncontrolled urban expansion is linked to a low population density in the same areas.

urban sprawl

An example of urban sprawl in Le Beausset, France

 

More and more outskirts of major European cities are undergoing the urban sprawl phenomenon.

Also because of the land’s lower cost, the growing trend is to move away from the city, while remaining within the so-called hinterland, which becomes littered with scattered built up areas that don’t seem to have any planning.

The consequences of urban sprawl (or suburban sprawl)

The main negative effects of urban sprawl are, apart from the lack of planning for the city expansion, the high land use corresponding to a low population density.

It goes without saying that these elements are not positive for the environment nor for the reduction of energy consumption, which is fundamental for preserving our planet.

In the past, a city consisted in a settlement around a touchstone, which was usually a strategic point for commerce or defence. Around it, the city developed and grew, but with a very high population density. From insulae romane (“Roman islands”, similar to council houses) to modern multi-storey buildings.

The desire and individual search for a more “isolated” dwelling resulted in the city expanding throughout the surrounding land by building new houses in a disorganized way.

Apart from the high land use, that can no longer be allowed nowadays, this spreading also leads to the creation of the so-called dormitory suburbs, those parts of the city that don’t have access to any kind of services and usually consist in dwellings near the road and nothing more.

It’s easy to understand that this has nothing to do with the definition of city.

sprawl survival guide

Urban sprawl and a compact city in the distance (Ankara)

At this point, it’s necessary to make an important distinction: urban sprawl does not mean growth. It’s rather the passage, as we were saying before, from the past compact city to the modern sprawling city.

An “exploded” city, sprawling, the term that best describes this phenomenon.

Apart from the phenomenon of land use, that might be already sufficient to classify this sprawling expansion as not environmentally sustainable, this city explosion forces the inhabitants of low-density areas to travel on a daily basis. As a consequence, they often use private cars to reach working places and services, deployed in the compact city, and thus fine dust pollution tends to rise

The social challenges caused by urban sprawl

The consequences of all of this are obvious. On the one hand, as already highlighted more than once, the problems regarding environmental sustainability. But we must also consider the social challenges that the sprawling city has caused.

The new lifestyles shaped or determined by urban sprawl are often characterised by the loss of a sense of belonging and identification with a place. The new districts created by urban sprawl might in fact isolate their inhabitants from the rest of the city and become “cities in the city”. As a consequence, the inhabitants will no longer feel connected with a place.

consequence of urban sprawl new jersey

A view of New Jersey from above. A clear example of American urban sprawl

 

Sprawl survival guide: possible countermeasures

An accurate implementation of urban planning policies is necessary for ending this phenomenon, and in a way for fixing it, and for pushing the cities towards an organised development that preserves green areas and spaces for agricultural purposes. Moreover, short-term remedies can also be adopted in order to try and contain the negative consequences of the already ongoing urban sprawl.

One of these solutions tries to end the phenomenon of mass migration from the sprawling city to the compact city by private car.

Hence the various possible means of transport, of which the most used are:

carsharing, that is sharing one’s car to go to work every day, which would reduce the number of cars entering the city;

bikesharing, that allows to rent a bicycle to reach places of interest and avoids having to enter the city by car.

It’s almost impossible to cancel the phenomenon, but what can be done is reduce its effects and prevent the sprawl from propagating even further. This can only be done through accurate urban planning policies that bring the trend back to a compact city and a higher population density, which has been “demonised” for years.

It’s no coincidence that the city, throughout the centuries, has succeeded in evolving and adapting to the times, without losing its identity. This proves that the compact city is a functional settlement pattern unlike the sprawling city.

The compact city is a concentrated city, as the definition suggests, with complex yet few connections that allow an easier mobility management, resulting in a decrease in energy waste and a drop in consumption. Moreover, as already said, unlike the sprawling city, this city model doesn’t rely exclusively on private means of transport in order to function, but rather it promotes and implements public transportation.

This city model, that is nothing more than the evolution of the historical model, includes all of the features integrating urbanity and infrastructures that have disappeared in the sprawling city.

For this reason, urban sprawl leads to a residential built up area without any rules or planning.

The negative effects of urban sprawl: publications

Great awareness of the negative effects of urban sprawl is shown in the Journal of Environmental Economics and Management ,an academic journal on environmental economics published by Elsevier. The journal is managed by Roger H. von Haefen, Agricultural Economics professor at the University of North Carolina) and by Till Requate (New Institutional Economics professor at the CAU, the University of Kiel), international experts on economy and environment, and it publishes theoretical and empirical articles about natural resources and environmental issues.

Another publication that is quite relevant in this field is “Land Use Policy”, an on-line interdisciplinary periodical that covers every aspect of urban and rural land use. They both aim at giving directions and useful information to governments and institutions that deal with architecture and the environment.

Urban sprawl in Switzerland and Italy

The urban sprawl phenomenon, born in America in the early 1960s, has unfortunately spread throughout Italy and in a large area in the Canton of Ticino in the last few years, involving thus Northern Switzerland.

Only the natural features (the surrounding valleys, such as the Gotthard Pass) can mitigate this event.

Urban sprawl has reached noteworthy dimensions. From the 1950s until today, almost 8 million hectares of agricultural surface were lost. To give an example, that corresponds to Lombardy, Sicily and Sardinia put together.

Moreover, until the 1990s land consumption went parallel to demographic growth and industrialisation development. But around 1995 the population stopped increasing and economic growth began experiencing the first warnings of its decline. Nevertheless, land consumption had a remarkable acceleration.

Leche Park Residence, an example against urban sprawl

leche park residence versus urban sprawl

Leche Park Residence

In the Swiss and Italian urban sprawl context, the studio Mino Caggiula Architects concluded in 2017 the housing complex Leche Park Residence, in Bellinzona, Canton of Ticino. This project aimed to go against urban sprawl and the small and medium volumes that cover the Ticino landscape to the detriment of green areas and drawn aggregative spaces.

Leche Park Residence: find out more

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