Soft Tower - Research Studio | Kivi Sotamaa | UCLA AUD 2011-12
A research and development project on advanced tall buildings
UCLA AUD in collaboration with the ADD LAB Aalto Digital Design Laboratory & Kone ltd.
Background - a technological paradigm shift
Digital design, fabrication and material technologies are causing a paradigm shift which is fruitful ground for a new, ecological era in architecture. We are moving away from serial reproduction towards serial permutation, from copies towards iterations. New digital technologies introduce variation, mutation and flexibility into industrial mass production at an unprecedented scale. Design, fabrication, and materials are becoming more responsive, intelligent and differentiated, which enables complexity, uniqueness and user-friendliness as never seen before – design and construction which is able to create nuanced differences and new kind of combinations of units and spaces, offering unique experiences.
Soft Tower is a Research+Design venture dedicated to researching the possibilities opened up by the digital revolution focusing in particular on the unfolding of experiences in a tall building. The high rise is heavily reliant on the elevator and repetition of units and building components. In most cases this creates a monotonous experience. This is precisely why it is the exciting typology to explore when trying to uncover the ecological and experiential potential of digital design, fabrication and construction in architecture. The aim is to create a ‘soft tower’ - a new way of designing and constructing a high rise building, which creates new more ‘ecological’ experiences of vertical living.
Sustainability and experience
Buckminster Fuller had a point when he said "vertical is to live, horizontal is to die." The tower is perhaps the most powerful device for sustainable building due to the optimization of the urban infrastructure. Most of tall buildings however have a bad image cause by serial reproduction and technocratic atmosphere. Elias Canetti famously compared corporate towers to shining white teeth which in their "smooth rows (were) mankind's first inspiration for order, weapons, and eventually prisons."
Is it possible to develop better, more exciting, ecological and humane high-rise typologies? Is there a potential for a friendly, soft skyscraper? How could change and responsiveness be incorporated in high-rises? How could we create more exciting sequences of experiences in vertical buildings? Can towers become material constellations where form, program, pattern, color and ornament all are co-coordinated to produce new, more ecological sensations when people flow through them?
There are eight individual projects in the studio each focusing on a different point of departure for their development of the Soft Tower - scale, flow, transformation, effect, structure, ornament, atmosphere, and figuration. We believe that these culturally and ecologically motivated, and digitally powered designs can take on existing cliches and create ideas for a new Soft Tower, beautiful enough to seduce us into exploring new, and more sustainable ways of being and feeling in the world.
Soft Tower project is a part of the official Helsinki World Design Capital events in the fall of 2012. Selected works from the studio will be exhibited in the city on large billboards adjacent to their sites. The project is supported by ADD Aalto Digital Design Laboratory.
During spring break of 2012 the class travelled to Finland in order to examine the project sites and work at the ADD LAB Aalto Digital Design Laboratory.
Metamorphose : Transformation at the building scale
Metamorphose explores the potentials of transformation at the building scale. Situated near the end of a historical railway trench in the heart of Downtown Helsinki, the tower feeds on the potentials of a new public datum that slices through the heart of the city. The "void," that cuts through the city is re-programmed to activate a new pedestrian life below street level. The tower is a catalyst for public space to be turned from horizontal to vertical.
In order to take on cliches of the typical static, non-sensational tower, Metamorphose physically transforms over time. The transformation, which happens over the span of roughly 1 week, morphs the tower from a closed, non-stimulating, efficient office type to a fully stimulating experiential type that activates the city during the most publicly energized time of the week. When opened, the tower reveals its own void in the form of a semi-exterior atrium, perfectly in line with the void of the city. This new and surprising configuration of tower-to-city forces the continuation of the vibrancy of public life up through the heart of the tower. As the user continues from the horizontal to the vertical, one would find new and exciting public space that is programmed into the very top of the tower.
Lining the exterior of the tower void is a new sustainable, wind-energy-generating technology. Inspiration from Ned Kahn’s sculptures led to the concept of combining the aluminum panel grid that reacts to the environment by moving with the wind, with technologies that deal with sustainability. The aluminum “leaves” would catch the wind, and would generate electricity through vibration. Not only would the leaves generate electricity for the building, but they would make apparent natural forces that aren’t usually visible (wind). The effect would stimulate the interior environment, counteracting the dreary climate conditions of Helsinki, and would produce a more productive and stimulating work or living environment.
Status: School Project
Location: Helsinki, FI
My Role: Individual Research and Design Project