Tuesday, September 18, 2007

004. The urban futures of rising tides.

3 bays


I recently discovered a great review of the 2005 Rotterdam Architecture Biennale over at Core 77, which highlights the progressive way in which Dutch architecture, landscape designs and urbanism, is tackling issues of rising sea levels and flood defences.

Under the theme of The Flood, and curated by landscape architect Adrisan Geuze of West8, the biennale was structured to give an overview of how water has historically influenced the Netherlands's architectural and civil engineering traditions, and compared these initiatives with others from around the world.

One of the most intriguing parts of the exhibition was Three Bays, with work by Hidenobu Jinnai (Tokyo University), Marino Folin (University of Venice) and Maarten Kloos (Arcam) comparing Tokyo, Amsterdam and Venice as three cities built by water during a similar period.

As a detailed review of the Venetian portion of the exhibition expresses:

"Reclamation technics, settlement rules and urban foundation dynamics are very similar, sometimes completely alike. Observation of the three cities and their territory shows, between other things, that reclamation through building of coves and sandbanks (the famous Dutch polders) is not an exclusive of the Dutch tradition, as it has often been theorized right in Holland, on the contrary it is common to the three lagoon environments, where it takes, since remote times, surprisingly similar shapes and technologies."

The great stuff coming out of the NAI and the Architecture Biennale only convinces me further that Rotterdam's secret history is as an experimental urban laboratory.

003. A bridge too far?

Just nearing completion in China is the Hangzhou Bay Bridge. At 36km, it is the world longest sea-crossing bridge in the world, supplanting the Donghai bridge (32.5km). However, the Lake Pontchartrain Causeway, at 38.4km remains the longest bridge in the world, for the time being.

The Hangzhou crossing, with six lanes of motorway in both directions, shortens the distance between Shanghai and Ningbo, in the Zhejiang province, by 120 km, and is sufficiently long to merit a service station along it, built on a platform raised above the sea.

At a cost of nearly $2 billion, it is doubted whether this project will ever reap the benefit fo the huge investment cost.

But the advent of these super-long bridges now makes it possible to speculate where else could conceivably be joined by a bridge - it is economics or political whim rather than engineering that dictates. Thus proposals to link Helsinki and Tallinn are touted (approx 80km), and the Friendship bridge between Qatar and Bahrain is on the drawing board, whereas a tunnel linking Spain to Morocco seems unlikely, despite only being 12km. Perhaps one day there will be fixed links between mainland UK and Ireland.

A recent proposal to link Abu-Dhabi to Qatar was quashed by the Saudi's, who objected to a bridge that would cut-across their coastal waters.

The will to connect urban centres is becoming greater than the geography that divides them.

Saturday, September 8, 2007

002. Parametric Urbanism on the Thames Estuary

Parametric Urbanism

Parametric Urbanism

Parametric Urbanism

Parametric Urbanism

Parametric Urbanism

As found on the Zaha Hadid Blog, 'Form Informing Urbanism - Parametric Urbanism' is an animated film created by Zaha Hadid and Patrik Schumacher for the recent Global Cities exhibition at Tate Modern.

"The film presents a range of experimental design solutions for the Thames Gateway regeneration corridor to the east of London, based on “parametric” techniques pioneered by Hadid."

The Thames Gateway, one of Europe's biggest urban regeneration projects, is seen as a unique opportunity to create an urban laboratory for London, and explore new typologies to housing and urbanism, responding to the particular requirements of the site.

From the Commissions section of the Global Cities website:

"Hadid and Schumacher’s project is underpinned by research into the historic permutations of different building types in London and internationally. This information is presented in illustrated bands along the panels in their installation. They examine four main building types: individual villas, high-rise towers, slab-shaped buildings and city-blocks. These can be thought of as points, lines, planes, and volumes. Four rapid prototype models give examples of how each type might be dispersed in a landscape.

"Hadid & Schumacher use advanced computer modelling software to project these four building types over a base map of the Thames Gateway. They have adjusted this model to reflect the area’s current conditions, and used it to speculate on possible forms of future development. They have tested multiple combinations of the different building types, often fusing them to create hybrid structures. The outcome of these experiments is documented in a large-scale image with a range of striking new forms, and an animated sequence which shows the evolution of an intensely urban pattern across the area."

The animation presents an almost hynoptic dance as the four basic typologies are stretched and squeezed to create a range of forms at various densities and building heights. These are then applied to the site constraint and boundary conditions of the London Gateway. This modelling reminds me of the Game of Life, and other generative art experiments. There is an aesthetic Darwinism at work here, a form and function survival of the fittest.

001. Seattle Art Museum Sculpture Park

Seattle SculpturePark

Seattle SculpturePark

Seattle SculpturePark

The new Seattle Art Museum Sculpture Park by Weiss/ Manfredi Architects, takes am uncompromising urban brownfield site and turns it into a dazzling, tightly controlled journey. Responding to it's difficult shape and size with a zig-zagging series of layers, and switchbacks that fly over roadways that bisect the site, and present "choreographed vistas" that address the skyline and the waterfront, and into which the various pieces of sculpture help create a narrative journey.

Panoramic views can also be seen here.