Ideas, References, and Provocations from Brooklyn, New York



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    Lecture: Alejandro Zaera Polo 03.23.2012

    David de Céspedes
    Mar 23, '12 6:39 PM EST

    Live tweeting [tumbling?] from Stamps Auditorium, University of Michigan...let's do this!


    Monica Ponce de Leon's introduction

    John McMurrough asks to notify the audience that this lecture counts for AIA Continuing Education credits [super important!]

    Monica referencing establishment of Raoul Wallenberg Lecture Series, his work under Rem Koolhass, and later OMA

    AZP explaining the title of lecture [envelopes]

    Points to Yokohama as the point of departure for directed study of "the envelope"

    Study of envelopes develops as a revision

    Two mechanisms on which capitalism is placed [temporal and spatial]

    What is late capitalism? [the ability to] extend time and place at will

    Reality without borders, conducting business across the world with no barriers

    Attempting to crystallize this fluid/liquid reality that we are just becoming aware of [referencing Yokohama]

    The things we thought were gone...borders, barriers, were appearing with a violence, force

    We are realizing the limits of the concept of unlimited growth [economic]

    Limits have received renewed interest

    The envelope is the part of the building that resolves 80% of the interface between interior and environment

    Communities used to rely on the plan or section if the building, though those mechanisms are still important to a degree, but more possibilities are opening with regards to the envelope of the building

    Certain uneasiness about viewing architecture as surface

    "skin" is insufficient in describing the [exterior surface]

    the envelope has had several theories throughout architectural history

    envelope as environmental device, environmental, visual, hermetic

    architects are deprived of opportunity to affect internal structures of building [social housing, office, shopping mall]

    hypothesis: envelopes operate based on four basic categories, related to aspect ratio of the building

    all categories have an implicit capability for political, transformative action

    1st category: flat-horizontal x=y>z

    usually host functions that need to develop on a horizontal space

    has such a scale that is the most capable of solving nature

    these typologies are also developing with the possibility of vegetating the roof

    roofs are becoming new grounds, the ground is being challenged with this new typology

    nature, artificial, ground

    mall of america as one of the paradigms of this typology...vertical exterior surface is devoid of performance, no need to insulate, archtiecture in this void has to try to produce an architecture that is effect, devoid of any other performance than appearing as architecture

    Project: shopping mall

    note: our generation focused more on technical, economic structures rather than political

    project sits next to Ikea

    attempting to naturalize the building, palette used tries to grow out of the colors of istanbul, green, red, etc.

    building becomes destabilized ground

    elements [skylights, inhabitable roofs] are re-engagement between nature and artificial

    2nd project: New Street Station, Birmingham, UK

    context would qualify as progressive, urban, our role was simply to produce the 'wrapping' of the building to make it look good ::chuckles from audience::

    how can we find an argument to do something with this surface?

    tracks of station are below street level, building looks like flat office buildlng

    trying to bring to vertical envelope some sense of what is happening inside building [information, trains, people]

    Birm. is a city of crossroads, idea of station became connected in the project

    Selective choosing of parts of outside that we wanted to show

    surfaces reflect strategically based on showing specific things [sky, people]

    the envelope is not necessarily related to interior, but engages the urban instead of revealing or adding of decor to surface, idea was to reflect what was happening in the city

    2nd typology: spherical

    not literally spherical, but typology that has same dimensions in length, width, height x=y=z

    spherical typology is not functional, sphere has lowest facade ratio of any type, meaning the envelope is free of technical requirements, very iconographic, usually public buildings, usually have horizontal/vertical spaces optimized for specific public functions

    examples [bird's nest, etc.]

    communication, interpretation of surface shows latency of pattern usually of similar materials, disillusion of window through material texture

    project: Ravensbourne: College of Design & Communication

    question is regarding the growing interest of the vertical surface

    building could become silo of activity, dictated by urban rules, therefore doing something like wallpaper as surface

    most important things of building: reconsideration of transparency [loaded term, but has certain political connotations, cannot be completely transparent b/c of not fitting in within urban context] and pattern [

    introduction of equilateral triangle into pentagon

    pattern can sustain array of windows

    covering the surface with array of centers [like roses, gothic windows], series of polar arrays that begin to cover the ground

    removal of tiles create holes, windows

    within every level, two levels of windows, one for looking out, one for bringing in as much light as possible

    unfolding of envelope to see all programs and thus scales of openings

    scale of pattern changes with scale of window

    experience of envelope is not about explaining what's inside, turns it into a cube, transparent

    games have to do with qualifying the envelope, loading it with certain content, not deliberately explained

    3rd category: flat-vertical x<y

    "slab" [example: UN HQ]

    90% of buildings built after enlightenment are this typology

    Reference of Corb's drawing [img]

    flat, vertical envelope becomes explicit, all qualifications disappear, there is no front and back, building is simply occupied by slabs

    this typology was perfect for the welfare state

    vertical surface is device to produce environmental control of building

    envelopes expressive of collective organizations, latent political consciousness that needs to represent plural, diverse, society

    reference MVRDV project

    project: social housing in Madrid

    interested in how envelope is marriage of representation and performance, where each feed the other instead of simply layered on top

    new policies enable differentiation, cultural, political

    interested in producing differentiation

    last typology: vertical x=y<z

    mass, plan tends to be rounded, multi-directional

    not su much about pattern, more about enclosure around tower

    technical constraints are at a maximum

    iconographic requirements, value are at a maximum as well

    regulations [ref. Hong Kong] every room has direct relationship with the outside

    buildings are literal translation of increased environmental exposure

    shape of plan has great effect on inertia of lateral forces

    global manual for highrises [work with students at Princeton]

    last project: world trade center entry

    trying to mobilize concerns of tall buildings, trying to produce new architectural expression, proposal for solution of new world trade center

    how do we increase size of plan without making the building fatter?

    buildings needed to represent some sort of collected effort

    inspiration taken from different agents collaborating together to grow taller, gain strength

    all of the towers are weak, flimsy, but connection allows them to grow taler than before


    i am a great fan of typologies, they generate a great discourse, emphasis on envelope is polemical proposal on generating debate on what is the most active element of the building, that can be most influential on the role of a building within the community

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About this Blog

Now that I'm post-graduate-school, and [for the time being] post-architectural-practice, I'm using this blog as an outlet to generate meaningful conversation on the limitations as well as latent opportunities in architectural practice. Co-Founder @anewyorkagency

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