Tuesday, January 18, 2011

QLD FLOODS 2011



In Brisbane, the seriousness of the floods was probably only first realized after Toowoomba and Grantham were hit by what has now been coined "The Inland Tsunami", up until then I think the distance to Rockhampton and the other outer lying regions affected were so far away that it was almost someone else's problem. On Tuesday morning there was a palatable air of nervousness evident in the city and for many it had hit home, the floods were now heading our direction. Evacuations of businesses both in the CBD and surrounding suburbs were a confirmation of the communities concerns and a panic did begin to become apparent as swarms of umbrellas were seen heading toward bus and train terminals. We left our offices, located at a high point of the CBD just before midday and remained closed until Friday morning, although some of our staff were still unable to make it in due to road closures and most of the city remained abandoned.

My partner and I live in high density residential development area right on the river (previously Woolstores and Warehouses used to transport goods to and from Brisbane up the river), with the predicted levels it was conceivable that our ground level apartment would be affected, but with minimal time before road closures occurred, and in an aim to get to higher ground, everything was encased in large black plastic sheeting and elevated as much as possible, rear and front balconies sand bagged, valuables gathered and we left the river to do what it would do.

Luckily enough we were left unaffected, other than moving to my parents house for three days, and the apartment/ fridge losing power for much of that time, the only real clean up we had to contend with was de-jumble the puzzle of items thrown atop of each other in haste to get them a higher position.


Desperation and Panic set in as the count down to the River peak grew nearer

As far as projects affected, our major project is a residential development currently in its pre-sales phase located near Newstead and Fortitude Valley areas, both impacted by the flood. The project site is however located on a high point and was not impacted directly by the flooding. The true impact on this project is yet to be seen, the floods will no doubt affect the economy and market confidence, during the city's recovery stages, and in turn determine the progress of this project.

Several of the staff from our offices were out in the community lending a hand in both helping salvage other people's property prior to the flood peak and cleanup afterwards.
I was out and about volunteering on Sunday in the New Farm area (on the Northern side of the River 5min from the CBD), and met many people who had had their houses inundated by flood waters.

One gentleman, 90 years of age, living in an elevated timber house, whose only impact had been his garden and driveway, in a street where many had lost so much more, showed interesting insight into the situation. He had lived in the same house since 1950, and said the area was prone to flooding every February, although obviously not to this extent, and when we offered to clean up his garden, driveway and pavement for him, he asked if it wasn't a little premature...Which makes me think with his years of experience he knows something we don't ....
Local businesses close to the River were using what they had as they nervously awaited the high tide

HISTORY of BRISBANE- FLOODS & RIVER
Brisbane was settled in 1824, which is less than two hundred years of European settlement, in which time we have seen many floods both great and small always preceded and followed by great droughts.

Brisbane is a natural flood plain, the areas surrounding Brisbane known as the greater areas " food bowl" is profitable farming land as a result of  the geography and the collection of water and rich soils washed through the valleys.

Even the Crabs were moving to higher ground - as crowds gathered to watch the waters rise at TENERIFFE

The nature of the environment in which we live has many benefits, but on the flip side of the coin it is balanced by its negatives. It is only when we understand the dichotomy of the two and respect both, learning from and setting strict guidelines not persuaded by the temptations of development, that we can truly protect our people and limit the impact on infrastructure in the future.

The cities approach to the Brisbane River over the last few decades has changed, where previously many developments turned their back on the brown meandering Brisbane river, in recent years with the rehabilitation of the Brisbane river from brown slick to a more blue hue, it has become desirable to not only have river views but riverside property. Combined with increased density and housing costs, development both residential and commercial now encroach on the river banks, with council approvals allowing for habitable spaces well below the levels of the 1974 flood heights.

Brisbane River walk collected much debris as well as wayward pontoons before
breaking away and escaping down the river aswell.

It is understandable over time, the collective forget the severity of previous events, people move away from areas previously affected, and others, younger or from other towns and other countries move in, a changing of the guard takes place, but what should stay set in stone are the guidelines unwavering, there to protect people and their houses. It is however with both complacency and almost an air of arrogance, drawn from a lack of knowledge of the area, that we as a community were in agreement, with the employment of the Wyvenhoe Dam after the 1974 flood, it could NEVER and would NEVER happen again.... And you know what they say about "NEVER"

Cnr of Albert & Charlotte Sts Brisbane CBD Thursday 13/01/11

SUGGESTIONS for CHANGE
In regards to the guidelines for the Brisbane area; they need to address both issues related to urban planning and architecture.

As far as urban planning and infrastructure, some are suggesting another dam to alleviate the pressure that was put on the Wyvenhoe, which reached capacity and had to be opened fully during the worst period of flooding.

As a possible alternative to this it might be worth considering a water storage system under the main streets of Brisbane, that could both work in drought and floods to draw away some of the volume of water in the dam as levels rise, but could be paired with localized filtration systems to collect storm water that does not fall in the dam catchment area during drought - at a minimum supplying water for all non-potable requirements.

Boy playing in flood waters Cnr Albert & Margaret Sts Brisbane CBD 13/01/11

Also those properties that have seen their roofs disappear to the rising water should either be; bought out by the government/ council and converted to green space , to be relinquished to flood waters when required, or encouraged to raise property levels and living spaces to limit the impact of future rising waters.

As far as architecture we need to be taking a page out of the book of experiences of the early settlers of the region, who learnt to work with the environmental conditions. The early "Queenslander" type of house , employed stumps to separate the living spaces from the terrain, to address issues of ventilation, vermin and excessive rain, creating a living floating platform. In an aim to increase living space and density in our cities, councils have allowed these original type houses to build- in their on-ground levels. Other more "modern" house types have followed, borrowed from our southern cousins or even those further afield, which are both unsuitable in design and in construction and hold little regard for our climatic conditions, more concerned with a prescribed look or a fashionable style.

Eagle St Pier Carpark inundated by flood waters 8 hrs after the peak

We should be encouraging a local vernacular which is both adaptable and responsive to our opposing weather conditions , which is less about dressing and more about planning.

Most recently , what is of greater concern to us that in an aim to return to normal conditions, and in an aim to alleviate the stress of those affected by the floods, those managing recovery efforts are encouraging trades people to lend a hand to speed up the process. Seeing only what was there before reinstated, as opposed to a more considered approach, which may indeed take time and cause slightly more frustration, but it would be nothing compared to a repeat of the current situation and conditions.

Wednesday, January 20, 2010

AVATAR & DESIGNING FROM WITHIN



I am so excited I can barely contain myself...although my mother always taught me to be gracious in both triumph and defeat... but I can't help myself..." I TOLD YOU SO ...I told you so...."

It was just over three years ago now I delivered a lecture to a room of disbelievers and "nah sayers", otherwise known as "too big for their britchers" final year architecture students...

The topic was based around my thesis research and much of the research and reading I had done since graduating in 2001 - My interest lay in how computer technologies were impacting architecture, I had used Gehry, Ito & Lynn as my guinee pigs demonstrating that technology was different things to different people, an inspiration, a liberator and even a generator of design...

Further to this I realized as technology advanced we would need to be skilled with the right understanding and information to both make sense as well as validating our existance as Architects, competing with other designers, ourselves & possibly even Artificial Intelligence to maintain our position in the
construction and design industries.

I tried to inspire the students with images from "Minority Report" and augmented reality research happening in South Australia at the time, and how what was at the time impossible was going to be in no time at all the norm...and were they ready for it...?

- Well they became entwined in the gadgetry imagery...and lost all perspective...- Making me inturn frustrated at their short sightedness....- and to be truthful doubting myself - maybe I had my head in the clouds...none of this was real ...not in our life time...- right?......WRONG.!!!




Please all stand and sing the praises of MR JAMES CAMERON....for he has just changed the world we live in forever...- It may just seem like smoke mirrors and some very good parlour tricks but the truth is the technology that has been developed to create the AVATAR masterpiece...will in turn, turn our world inside out... (Much more than Lucas - if you ever read this Mr Cameron)

One of Cameron's major advancements for AVATAR was the creation of a virtual monitor, which allows the director to see the motion capture results in real-time, as they were filmed, instead of waiting for the computer to render the images. Viewing instead of a blue screen which exists in the real the completely virtual forest backdrop as if it where there on set with the actors...allowing him to move the monitor in any direction to experience and see the 3D modelled virtual environment with the actors & their avatars (pardon the pun) superimposed in real time - no delay(- Imagine standing on site with something similar and holding it up to the sky seeing the ceiling detail in your latest design the lighting layout and maybe the way the sun and breezes were interacting with your completely virtual design....- just the thought gives me goose bumps...)




What is real will become virtual, what is virtual will become so real the differences will be hard to find...
The virtual will give the real a run for its money and it won't be long.... But as I did back when I gave my lecture...I ask the question - ARE ARCHITECTS READY?...I think not....

Below I have included my lecture....
Please take the time to read - I would love to hear your feedback...


DESIGNING FROM WITHIN


I have divided this discussion into 3 segments,

1. RESEARCH

The major segment relates to the research I completed as part of my thesis

It was influenced by Frank Gehry’s Guggenheim Museum in Bilbao which was completed early in my studies, It was so different , striking and in contrast with anything that I had seen before, so I had wondered what had come first the chicken or the egg… Had the idea been dormant until the technology enabled its manufacture, or had architects been released from the confines of rigid thinking to create a new visual styling.

As part of this research it became evident the delayed impact on architecture, and how not only did it take sometimes years for technology to disseminate down to the realms of lowly poor architecture, but that it also took years sometimes decades for the same technology or approaches/ reactions to technology to migrate across the globe to Australia, even in what is suppose to be a new fast paced society of high speed communication.


2. MARKETABILITY,

This is as a response to the challenge to the architects act I believe in… 2002?…

I have found it very hard to substantiate the architects position, being known as “the jack of all trades and the master of none” and as the one profession that straddles the line between art and science…our skill base and areas of unique knowledge are very blurry, especially with the diversification of our profession to other job titles.. such as project manager, interior designer, faƧade designer…


3. The SMART SPACE

This concept relates to a quality of design, that I believe very hard to put a finger on, almost a gut reaction, about what would be right/wrong, or appropriate in certain setting or for a client… as aspect of design it is no doubt informed better over time, but never the less it is an instinct that each of us needs to cultivate. During all my years of study, particular the later, I was told NEVER to substantiate a design by “because I like it”, I thought this meant removing myself from the process of design and informing a project with factual information, such as solar studies, movement paths, area planning … and all those key words and diagrams… however it wasn’t until I attended the Murcutt master class in 2002 and was mentored by Richard Leplastier, that I realized a space could inform. We were told sitting in a field, or on our site for hours on end, coming to terms with the space, wasn’t wrong, it was the right approach. However we reacted to the environment, whatever we FELT was what we should design with that as our inspiration…it was about our senses and how we reacted, and how that made us feel.


It is for these reasons I have titled this discussion/ talk “designing from within”

DESIGNING FROM WITHIN THE VIRTUAL REALM,

DESIGNING FROM WITHIN THE ARCHITECTURE – being inside the building as it grows around you made possible as a result of continuing advancements in the software, hardware and interface technologies.

DESIGNING FROM WITHIN OURSELVES, drawing on our psyche to inform spaces, in an attempt to create smart spaces suited to their function.


I believe that architecture will have the opportunity to justify its existence as a profession through the advancements in computer technologies, but only if we arm ourselves with the right tools in anticipation.


These new technologies are allowing us the paradigm shift, to the virtual, a world of 3dimensions but with none of the other real world qualities….


the ability to visualize not only from the god like aspect, as the bird flies, but to walk around our design as we would when they are built …and with new advancements in virtual reality and augmented reality interfaces


Internet pages will be internet spaces… interfaces will allow for interaction and feedback…sensors will provide a sense of touch…maybe even smell

These internet spaces will be the architecture of a new era, where a new generation will spend a great deal of their work and play … - work place health and safety and where market edge will make or break a retailer, those who not only have the technical ability to create these spaces but the unique knowledge to make them smart spaces / healthy spaces …will be essential…DR SPACE…


In this first segment, the major segment, it is based on extracts from my original thesis; I have tried to update my research for the purposes of this discussion with recent quotes and examples to provide a more current discussion


What I will cover is not so much the technologies nor the resultant architecture but more so the impact it has had on the process of Design and how different architects have responded to the digital era.

1. RESEARCH


If we are to look at the timeline of modern technology, it is hard not to be astounded by the speed at which we have advanced;

During the past 2 centuries society has seen a barrage of outstanding advancements in the field of technology. These advancements have come about mostly as a result of the research and money funneled into the world’s defense forces, in an aim to give each that winning edge.

Machines were the main advancement in technology and lifestyle in the late part of the nineteenth centaury, with the introduction of the automobile and the aircraft, revolutionizing transportation, communication and people’s interaction with others.

In comparison the machine of the late twentieth centaury, the computer has been the driving force behind the re-examination of the way we live, it like its counterpart has impacted on communication and people’s interaction, but also increasing the speed at which society functions and the increased value put on up to date current information.


Just consider it was only 130 years ago that the telephone was patented. Since then we have seen the introduction of wireless, the domestic computer, email, mobile phones, internet, CD technology, and in the last 10 years alone, DVD technology, palm personal digital assistants, and over 100,000,000 internet hosts, that’s hosts not users, and for most of us it is impossible to imagine our lives without any of these.


These technologies have been born in the industries like aerospace, medical, automotive, and information technology, where there exists both funding and the quantity of production to support the research. But is only over time that we seen some of these technologies impact architecture, directly, through the implementation of visualization programs to better inform the designer, or indirectly through the impact these technologies have had on the broader society and the resultant cultural adaptation. For example the introduction of the internet into western societies everyday lives, has provided access to information from any part of the world at any time of the day or night, decreasing the perceived distances and merging both space and time paradigms.


However those who are at the forefront of the utilization of these technologies are the students and the technicians, who lack both the construction knowledge and the design experience. But it is as a result of their reduced construction knowledge and understanding of historical order that the restraints and rules of past architectures have had little weight on the aesthetics of their designs, and the their experimental attitude toward the new technologies that have freed the profession from the previous eras modernistic principles, and minimalist aesthetics. As a result the architecture of the digital era is daring, continually pushing the boundaries, each new technological advancement creating an aesthetic less concerned with the laws of gravity and more interested in the revolutionary forms possible.


But where is the integrity?, If we are to follow this approach to design how does this make and ARCHITECT any more than a designer or an artist, preoccupied with shapes and form. Is this superficial approach of any benefit to the future of architecture or for that matter the future of architects… if there is one??


But it is these visualization tools and rendering programs are assisting clients to better comprehend the architectural vision, bridging the gap that had for so long existed, however at the same time stripping architecture of any prestige, exposing it as a profession , aesthetically obsessed…instead of a medium to decipher and interpret advancements and their cultural impact.


What could have been the key to unlocking the next stage in the evolution of architecture was a misnomer. The people with the skills to drive these digital technologies, lack the technical construction knowledge to make the visualizations a reality, making the designs nothing more than complex shapes masquerading as buildings, doomed to stay locked within the boundaries of the virtual realm….


However there have been 2 responses to the integration of digital technologies that have evolved,

The first, the approach involving the technicians and technology geeks, preoccupied with the variety of forms possible through the use of complex visualization and rendering programs.


The second employs the these same technologies to not only communicate the final aesthetics but to model specific site constraints to obtain comprehensive 3d analysis of external impacts while insuring optimal internally programming. Utilizing the digital technologies to make reality what is possible in the virtual.


The second approach implemented by those designers who have long since tired of an aesthetic obsession, uses these same technologies but instead experiments with the program capabilities, creating designs evolved from mathematical equations. Some designers have gone as far as to use knowledge obtained from advanced biological fields to inspire the generative process of ordering of spaces as well as aesthetics.

It is the ability to comprehend the pragmatic site constraints with a much more detailed understanding in a shorter period of time that has allowed the architects the time to concentrate longer on and delve deeper into the conceptual stage of design.


Exemplifying this second approach are three internationally acclaimed architects well known for their use of digital technologies, TOYO ITO, FRANK GEHRY, and GREG LYNN. However the impact these technologies have had on each of their design processes varies greatly.


TOYO ITO

Born 1941, graduated 1965 from TOKYO UNIVERSITY and later establishing his own practice in 1971, has received many awards for his achievements in architecture, his most publicized work to date – Tower of the Winds project in Yokohama.Ito’s philosophical approach to digital technologies aims to hypothesize and respond to the effects digital technologies are already having on the way we live.


He believes the information atmosphere in which we are now submerged, is a vacuum, from which we require shelter, protection and mediation of contact. Ito describes the contemporary architecture as requiring the characteristics of skin, allowing us the means to adjust to the information environment… MEDIA SUITE.


Just as the machine was the dominant metaphor for the modernists of the industrial revolution, the microchip, according to Jennifer Taylor, is seen by Ito as the first compelling contemporary image to replace the machine analogy.Ito uses this theoretical concept to refocus the nature of the physical being versus the virtual, responding with an architecture almost virtual, achieving this through a detail play of opacity of materials, weight of structure and form.


In addition, Ito also employs these technologies in a more pragmatic sense to help resolve complex structural proposals.
The Sendai Mediatheque exemplifing this. Digital technologies enabling the conversion of the structural concept for reflective tubes, the metaphorical umbilical cord, that penetrated the body of the building providing energy, air and light .

FRANK GEHRY


Born 1929, graduated 1954 from the University of Southern California setting up practice in 1962. Gehry has been awarded nine honorary degrees since 1987, and has been the recipient of the Pritzker Prize in 1989, the gold medal from the Royal Architectural Institute of Canada 1998, and a gold medal from the American Institute of Architects 1999.


However in contrast with Ito’s approach, Gehry lacks an ongoing philosophical method, rather he approaches each commission as another sculptural form. He utilizes the digital technologies instead to translate his sketches and cardboard models into computer models, which then allow for faster and more accurate analysis of structure and more cost effective approach to the construction, through the automated preparation of detailed 2d construction drawings.


Gehry most publicized project, Guggenheim Museum in Bilbao, demonstrates the use of these technologies to achieve structural resolution, as the technologies assisted in solving both the technical aspects as well as the most cost efficient approach to the use of titanium cladding on the anamorphous building shape.


Digital technologies are also employed in Gehry’s studio, in form and final aesthetic generation, not as the driving force, or tool of creation but rather as the interpreter.

Gehry stresses that the process isn’t just about creating shapes, and that his process of design begins in considering the programming of space and scale of the site. That through the use of 3d modeling programs to produce realistic perspectives he is able to test the suitability of the sculpted form to its environment and make the necessary changes.


Although Gehry is a leader in his utilization of digital technologies it is unlikely that these technologies will play anymore than a sideline role in his design process, as it is his belief that to turn to the computer as a shape maker is the moment when these technologies move from servant to master.


GREG LYNN


Lynn born 1964, graduating 1986 from Miami University, and 1988 with a Masters from Princeton, and appointed by FORBES magazine in November 2005 as one of the top ten architects who are most influencing the future of the American landscape.


Lynn’s approach to the integration of these digital technologies unlike that of Ito or Gehry is one of complete immersion. The entire process of design completed within the virtual realm. Best known for his love of the blob, he believes that the computer technologies have allowed architects the flexibility to analyze site constraints with much more accuracy than ever before and he is encouraging architects to respond with a less constrained more flexible architecture.


Lynn uses a variety of digital technologies to illustrate complex concept of mathematical equations, unlike Gehry’s models that are built in a controlled modeling environment, Lynn’s models exploit the characteristics of these digital technologies to create a digital model that relies on a relativity of points, where by the manipulation of one area of the form will in turn impact on the form of another area, what he describes a cloud of points. Lynn exploits those characteristics inherent to the new medium, as would any artist working with clay or oils.


On first impressions it may be hard to differentiate Lynn’s approach form that of the aesthetically obsessed computer geek, however his approach is not only an accumulation of virtual experiences but incorporates the consideration of several different variables, and external influences. The H2 House project in Vienna demonstrates this, a visitor centre for the display of new solar and low energy technology is located on the highway, Lynn used the paths of automotive movement to determine the form of several of the facades. Or the The Embryological Housing project which also harnesses the speed and accuracy of processing power of these digital technologies to determine form. This project deals with topic of prefabrication, using the technology to test and determine as many alternate configurations as possible from a kit of over 3000 prefabricated panels, while still conforming to certain design restrictions.




For all these architects, the ability to comprehend the site and the final designs with a more detail understanding, in a much shorter period of time, is allowing them the time to concentrate longer on and delve deeper into all stages of the design process. These digital technologies are facilitating an architecture that is no longer preoccupied by real world conditions, but one that relates to and examines the fluctuating relations of abstract elements conditional of this new era of virtuality.


No doubt if architects in general had their way, the future would allow for an architecture that through the process of translation and transition from the virtual to the real did not compromise the freedom and freshness that the virtual realm and new digital technologies are allowing. However it is because of those characteristics of the virtual, which are radically different from those of the real, that we are seeing a strong shift in the architecture.


The new architecture is a liquid architecture determined by a fluidity of ever changing forces, an architecture modified by the user, ever changing and dynamic. So as we look toward the future of architecture it is important that as a part of our reaction to this new space time vernacular, that architects of the digital era begin to retheorize the body in space.


Architects will have to face the realization that the future will not be about solely designing and constructing real structures, but also web spaces and simulated environments within the virtual realm, or augmented reality, virtual in it spatialities, but built on the bones of the real.


With the development and advancement of digital technologies, and human computer interfaces, the designing of space will not only be revolutionized by new dimensions, or a new space time vernacular, but by a move to comprehend space and form with more than just the sense of sight. The virtual dimension will hold the possibility to totally experience the act of being at any place at any time of day, any time of year, any year.


This poses the question for the future of architecture real and virtual –


WILL THE VIRTUAL BECOME MORE REAL THAN THE REAL ITSELF?

2. MARKETABILITY

In what is being heralded as a transition out of the INFORMATION ERA the new commodity, defining the currency of the new era, is KNOWLEDGE…

How do architects fit into this? Well known as the jack of all trades and the master of none, there seems to be no knowledge area specific to architects, that we might package and sell as our own.


On reading the SEP/OCT Issue, the latest issue of the Architecture Australia publication, I came across an article called WHY ARCHITECTURE MATTERS by Sandra Kaji-O’Grady. Associate Professor and Head of architecture at the University of Technology, Sydney.


She aims to suggest that are many clues in our modern society that reinforce the importance of Architecture to not only people like us, but others too. Just a few of those she suggests are…

- the close regulation and control by governing bodies and councils

- the symbolic potency, and architecture's ability to be a powerful tool, understood by both politicians and terrorists alike

- its ability to add value, exploited by real estate agents“ architect designed” “architecturally inspired”

- and its ability through its position as a marker of status to elicit envy, or pride depending on your view point, as an aspiring occupant or a privileged inhabitant.


But to do all of these, DOES ARCHITECTURE NEED ARCHITECTS ???

None of these attributes of Architecture are unattainable without the input of an ARCHITECT..so what do we bring to architecture? What area of knowledge that in this commodity obsessed society not only enriches the value of the architecture we produce, but capitalizes and reinforces our position and profession.


Alain de Botton’s recent publication “THE ARCHITECTURE OF HAPPINESS”, aims to confront why it is we surround ourselves with environments unpleasant if we are the masters of the creation of our own surrounds, and we could choose to surround ourselves with beautiful environments.

He blames architects both past and present for many of the unpleasant and ugly buildings and surrounds, and suggests that it was as apart of architects of the modern era becoming obsessed by the functionality of the architecture, and renouncing a formal interest in beauty, that the architects of today do not know how to design a pleasing/beautiful environment.

However ill informed or somewhat off mark Alain de Botton’s diatribe, it does suggest some interesting points.  That the space in which we surround ourselves affects us.  Understanding what about a space makes us comfortable or at ease and therefore beautiful is more intuitive or driven from within our psyche, and that we as architects, whether substantiated or not, are seen as the main designers of the urban landscapes, and are blamed for all its short comings.

I will leave this topic open ended for the moment… for you to ponder… and will come back to it in conclusion.
3. SMART SPACE

According to Forbes magazine, Feb 2006, One of the top 10 things that will change the way we live, within the foreseeable future, are haptics. Haptics refers to technologies that interface with the user via the sense of touch. Currently being used in the fileds of medicine, miltary and virtual modelling, the likes of the CyberForce glove by Immersion Corporation lets users interact physically with virtual object, literally feeling the shape, texture and weight of any onscreen 3-D objects. It is proposed that through the intergration of these technologies, people will be able to shake hands virtually over the internet, or doctors will have the ability to remotely diagnose and operate on patients.

Teaming these emerging technologies with virtual technologies already well adavanced, it is possible to see a future of virtual environments, within which we interact, both in work and play, or augmented realites where both the virtual and the real interact, one informing the other… Not yet as advanced are technolgies interfacing with the other senses like smell, however they are in the pipeline…

As architects and designers experiment with the implimentation of these new technolgies will the architecture of the future become one obsessed with the sensory experience….Drowning in an over abundance sensory stimulation, obsessed by the capabilities of the technolgies…

Before we repeat the mistakes or learning curves of the past, should we not consider what tools and knowledge would assist us in creating a more valuable and smart response…

In a not so distant future of webspaces, both virtual and augemented, does it not seem like the best approach to start to investigate, learn and teach the new architects more about not only the aethetics of space but the psychological power these spaces of their creation can wield… The knowledge is there.. in the field of environemental psychology, most of it is just substainitated evidence of what most of us already know in our gut…

As Juhani Pallasmaa explains in his text, THE EYES OF THE SKIN, Architecture and the Senses, “that bad architecture is as much a failure of the psychology as of the design”…he goes on to suggest that “ it is evident that ‘life-enhancing’ architecture has to address all the senses simultaneously and fuse our image of self with our experience of the world” he suggests that as a result of the use of computer imaging techologies, the resultant architectures have become flat, obsessed by the visual journey….

Pallasmaa goes on to elaborate as to how we measure and interact with architecture through our senses, and how it is through the consideration of the impact of these factors on our experience of space, that we may begin to reenergize our current architecture.

I propose that it is only through a much more intimate understanding of all of these aspects of space and human psychology, that architects may begin to substantiate their position and role in this knowledge based era.

An architect versed with a much more in depth understanding of the impacts of space on the psyche, would have the ability to produce an architecture that could soothe the occupant, making them feel protected, without smothering them, feel part of their surrounds without being exposed, or in a different sitiuation could create a space that invigorates and energizes the occupant, creating an atmosphere or ambience suitable to a particular product/image encouraging them to stay, try or buy.

From Healthy spaces, made to massage the mind to more effective shop interfaces… the possibilites are abundant… Architects could bring to architecture the knowledge to create more than architecture as we currently percieve it, but SMART SPACES not only virtual but real…

The architecture of the architects of the future will be more than ever about the HUMAN rather than the STRUCTURE….I hope ...this more immersive move into the 3D world both opens our eyes and our minds...willing to learn from the virtual in a hope to give back to the real....

Friday, December 18, 2009

ARCHITECTS IN FASHION


As an avid fashion follower...or should I say STALKER....I can often be found with my nose deep within the latest VOGUE or any other fabulously glossy fashion magazine I have found calling me from the shelves of the newsagency....But it was while entertaining my other magazine addiction - architecture and design mags, that I recently found an article about 'ARCHITECTURAL FASHION' - that is fashion inspired by avant guard shapes and form, less concerned with the shape of the body and more interested in creating bold patterns or forms through careful selction  and consideration of material combined with detailed pattern making - creating walking pieces of every day wearable art.

This got the fingers typing and the curiosity bubbling ....I knew of Zaha's fabulous 'Melissa' rubber shoes....which sadly I am told don't look all that good on...but I still think they are a work of art....

I wondered had there been any other Architects to throw their....SHOE into the ring???

Below are my findings.... ENJOY....




ZAHA ' MELISSA' DESIGN

ZAHA - LACOSTE DESIGN

MOBIUS - REM KOOLHAAS


UNITED NUDE - ARCHITECTS & FASHION DESIGNERS UNITED














EAMZ 'CHARLES & RAY EAMES' INSPIRED SHOES






APARTMENT vs APARTMENT

At the 'Property Council of Australia' Xmas Brisbane Luncheon last week it was hard not to notice the pink elephant in the room …the flailing construction industry…probably the one industry hardest hit by the global economic downturn… , but despite the doom and gloom I did manage to find a few optimistic souls who continued to look onward and upward, knowing that there is no purpose in wallowing…


Their focus and in turn the focus of our conversation was the flurry of multi-residential projects beginning to come on line…now these are consultants I was talking to…people at the beginning of the construction pipeline… so the products of their excitement and their hard work will probably not be seen breaking ground for a little while yet… but I too would like to consider myself an optimist…most the time…and this is the best news I have heard in a long while… to coincide with these reports on a quick trip to Melbourne last week, while speaking with a local realtor, he confirmed that the last few months has seen the Melbourne residential market “going crazy”. In some suburbs the average price had escalated so greatly in such a short space of time that several buyers had been priced out where only several months previous they could have quite comfortably afforded…

Meanwhile back on Brisbane’s north side, the release of both Mosaic and Hamilton Harbour, Leighton projects, has been met with eager buyers realizing an incredible percentage of sales in only a few weeks for both developments.

Not one to be behind the band wagon, group Kildey , development company, our brother company, and our largest client at the moment, stands ready to launch Brooke Elise to market early 2010. As some of you may know, we have been working on the Brooke Elise project for over 6 years now; the design and development approval has matured from a 4 storey multi-residential building to a 20 storey multi-residential, with grand lobby space, function rooms, restaurant and recreational facilities…Over this time it has been our goal to stay up to date with the market demands, this is not just as simple as the finishes, but also includes what users want out of a space, this is important no matter who is buying, be it owner/occupier or investor, as the best returns always come from the most desired properties…and in turn the most desired properties are those that are a joy to live in…so livability and living demands are one of our biggest design considerations.

Located close to the CBD, the likely occupier is what in the past has been nicknamed a “YUPPY”, but what we would like to think of as the UPWARDLY MOBILE… Professionals, Career oriented men and women, those who work hard and probably long hours, who want to substitute a commute for a few more hours enjoying the restaurants and cafes the inner City and Valley areas have to offer. They probably don’t spend too many hours at home, but the time they do is about quality, being able to stop and appreciate the moment, maybe sit out on a deck and watch the world go by. In understanding our occupier we hope to design a space that compliments his/ her lifestyle and only goes to add to it , possibly even making it a little easier…. In doing this we take cues from many other developments and keep an eye on what is new on the market, what market expectations are and what does and doesn’t sell…



In investigating the new developments that have come to market in the last 5 years in Brisbane, there seems to be a great disparity between them, in the interest of comparing apples and apples, we have only noted what we observed from the one bedroom apartments on offer.


MOSAIC - FORTITUDE VALLEY - BRISBANE

The “Mosaic” development offers no balcony to their one bedroom apartments, in my mind a grave error no matter how presales are going, having lived in Dubai in a climate where temperatures are prohibitively hot a majority of the seasons and you are forced to live most the year round in air-conditioned circumstances, very very rarely having the opportunity to enjoy the balconies provided, and if you are lucky enough to escape cabin fever you really do learn to appreciate the fantastic weather Brisbane has to offer. Having lived in London in considerably different climatic conditions where balconies are less of a draw card, but cabin fever a similar threat, you learn to appreciate the other commodity living in Australia has up until now afforded, and that is space….now the windows in Mosaic above balcony height might slide back giving a “Juliet” balcony but I dare say with traffic noise and sun loading this is not going to be a pleasant space to live.


CHARLOTTE TOWERS - CHARLOTTE ST - BRISBANE CBD

Charlottle Towers a Divine development offers something similar, what they call an “Alfreso” in most of their South East facing apartments, which is an undrained, tiled balcony like zone, that has no step down like a normal balcony, but has bi-folding glass windows above balustrade height at the edge of balcony and sliding glass doors between lounge and balcony. This at least offers additional space and a variety of living options…and possibly even enough room for a dining room table for 3 or four people, enough for guests.

The development at Kelvin Grove’s Urban village has moved the laundry to the balcony, obviously as a response to Brisbane’s perfect climatic conditions, negating the need for a dryer, they have also been mindful of other environmentally friendly design solutions, by adding two levels of doors to the apartment entry, a conventional fire door and a pair of louvered security doors , allowing breezes from open air lobbies to be drawn in through the apartments creating cross ventilation, and providing for natural ventilation a much more pleasant atmosphere for living.

MIRO - FORTITUDE VALLEY - BRISBANE








MIRO, a Fortitude Valley development has maximized living space by reducing space in other areas, the bedroom is only as big as absolutely necessary, even borrowing the central corridor space to form part of the bedroom at the entry, with only a thin veil of chiffon curtain separating the two, what could have easily become a small one bedroom apartment becomes a studio apartment, no matter what the realtors say…
The laundry and bathroom each encroach on each other’s space so much that little all else space remains for storage…the Kitchen in most cases is a galley setup , which considering that cooking in this apartment would most likely be for one, is ample, and the bench top carries on to become a sit-up bar dining table capable of accommodating 3 or four….the living space is tight but at least there is a balcony with privacy provided by mesh screening.

One item which seems to have not caught on during this time despite plenty of momentum initially was the SOHO, or for want of a longer explanation the “Study or Home Office”. In the beginning these spaces where big enough to provide for what now functions in many apartments as the poorer second bedroom, despite the lack of natural ventilation. These small rooms had a translucent door panel which at least allowed for some reflected natural light if the doors ran parallel to the balcony, but in a few I’ve seen, developers have even gotten away with hiding them down a long dark corridor. In time the SOHO shrank as few could afford the luxury or justify the extra floor area for space that could not buy them another rung on the bedroom/bathroom/ car space ladder.

And last but not by any means least, there still remains the two big debates, WIR vs Mirrored Robe in the Bedroom debate & the bathtub vs shower debate.

Now I believe the the WIR vs mirrored cupboard within the bedroom is really a female vs male debate , most woman enjoying the space and options an open WIR affords, being able to peruse the wardrobe for the days selection of clothing and accessories, whereas a man is more likely to know where his slacks and his shirts are and pick one of each, either as a selection of what remains washed and ironed or what is closest (sorry gentlemen– but it is true….more often than not).

However I believe the bathtub vs shower debate I believe is quickly becoming a moot point, as water conservation and greener approaches to living are being encouraged through several state and federal government initiatives, I believe it won’t be long before tax incentives or tax penalties will apply for those who do not convert to showers with water saving shower roses and possibly even timed water outlets.

So where do we land in response to all of these approaches…

BROOKE ELISE APARTMENTS - BOWEN HILLS - BRISBANE









Well we have a STUDY not a Soho, although big enough for guests it actually becomes part of the living space when not in use, and provides an entry space– unlike almost all our counterparts.
We have a WIR , men you will just have to learn to live with more options, we have decided to incorporate our laundry discreetly into our bathroom, which can operate as both bathroom and ensuite, with the closure of an additional slider. We have large linen cupboard and a closet to the study space providing for additional storage space usually forgotten in the smaller apartments, but very much needed….
And our kitchen is a galley not a dual bench, as we resolved our occupier was more likely to eat out, order in or be cooking for only a handful…not a football team…we DO have a balcony and we have treated it as the main dining space, as we believe our weather is too good to ignore, and our views probably an even better reason to enjoy the outside.

See for yourself….does the “YUPPY” in you like it ???

Thursday, October 8, 2009

Just call me the "Dr of SPACE"...


So, as many of you may not know, there is legislation that protects the use of the word “Architect”, ensuring that those who use the word are professionals, with the necessary education, skills and experience to qualify. It is called “The Architects Act”. As you can imagine accumulating those requirements isn’t a short or easy process, and takes at least, and I mean at the very least, an arduous and grueling eight years. So at the end of that process and after successfully completing the necessary registration exams and interviews and being admitted to the Board of Architects, I get more than a little miffed when some Tom, Dick or Joe Bloggs comes along and uses “the word” I worked so hard to be 'allowed' to use…


It seems of late "the word" has gained popularity, being used much more liberally, there are now ads in the employment section advertising for “Enterprise Architects” as well as degrees offered by local universities in "Enterprise Architecture", there is a salon on the west side of Brisbane called “the Hair Architect”, and recently many of the morning talk shows have taken to speaking of someone as "being the architect of his/her situation…"


Although I have issues with some of these examples more than others… the one I have the biggest concern with was one I saw by chance the other day – "Business Architect" the brochures and flyers offered by this particular business used building blueprints as the graphic background, a woman wearing a hard hat in one image and in another, she was perusing plans with collegues on a construction site, there were also additional references to Project Managers as a comparison …but admittedly no where do they say they offer “Architectural services”…


When I contacted the Board of Architects, I was told if they didn’t hold out to being an Architect or suggest they offered Architectural Services then it was okay…


Well it is at this point, that my blood boils, with so many blatant uses of architectural symbolism...aren't they at least playing on the word...and surely there would be another word of the millions in the English language that could be used to better explain the particular service they offer… after all what is a business architect ???...


But using this theory… I from this day forward am not only going to call myself an Architect, but I am going to call myself “Doctor of Space” (not to be confused with DR WHO) and anyone who reads this…I would like you to address me as such, e.g “ Good Morning Dr of Space. How are you today?” … If I am not offering any of the services of a Doctor, and not holding out that I am a medical Doctor… then I can see no problem…


But what’s the bet that the Doctors and Doctors Act, if there is such a thing…might have something to say about that…

Monday, July 27, 2009

FURNITURE MAKES THE HOME

"Clothes make the Man. Naked people have little or no influence over people". - Mark Twain
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And if alive today I am sure he would agree...
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Furniture makes the Home. An empty house is of little or no use to anyone.
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So bearing that in mind....
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I thought I would provide you with a few images of some beautiful "HOME" making furniture,
I have found in my internet travels.
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Some of these images come from great second hand dealers ( links below), some are from new designers, some from eBAY, some I own, and some I wish I did....
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Remember - Architects are trained to design space, INSIDE and OUT, from urbanscapes to interiors.
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By employing an Architect you are not only getting a well trained aesthetic eye, but a bredth of knowledge relating to many aspects of the built environment...which inturn provides a better more thorough reponse and in the end, a better quality design and product for you.
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Enjoy the eye candy...









Friday, May 29, 2009

THE MECHANICS OF SHOWERING


...So I joined the “1 million women” campaign the other day...the campaign aims to rally together “...daughters, mothers, sisters, and grandmothers committed to protecting our climate, our communities and our future - leading change for the better”. The great thing about the website and campaign is you can log your progress, through simple behaviour changes you can see how you are reducing your carbon foot print...it makes grand and small suggestions as to how you might achieve this... the first of one of the easier changes I am willing to make to my daily behaviour is my showering...and if you knew how much I like my warm showers ...well you’d know I mean business...

So this morning armed with my four minute shower timer thanks to TODAE...I confronted my fear...a short shower...so not to false start...I stood readied, leaver in one hand shower timer suctioned to glass screen ready to flip with the other.

On your marks.......


Get set..........


GO!!


Well the blue sand started making its way thru the bottle neck...way too fast for my liking...and yet the hot water was nowhere to be seen...”come on ...hurry up...I’m running out of blue sand” ...it was a fifth of the way thru the blue sand ....the hot water kicked in...- thank goodness...yet I still had to wash my hair & shave...maybe I was asking too much...for my first try...
Previously ...although my showers had always been much longer...I had always taken to only pulling the lever half way out...reducing the water pressure and I am sure the amount of water I was using...so therefore in my mind justifying the longer shower time....

But this morning with time passing way too fast for my liking...

Shower power full speed ahead....

First ginger shampoo which doubles as body wash...natural, good for the environment and my scalp and kills two birds with one stone...washed once...two washes I have decided is a theory perpetuated by large hair product manufacturers ...so you use their products twice as fast....
Next ...the conditioner...- sadly I haven’t yet found a natural alternative that moisturizes my hair as well leaving it smelling good and shiny...but open to suggestions....
So while conditioner is soaking...shave....oh ohhh sand check ....very very little left....I’m not going to make it out without opening a vein and suds in my hair....Just as I have finished one leg...my time runs out...so I go to flip the timer...”let’s see how long I really take!”


....but the Timer knows!!!


The game is up!!!...


It drops from the wall...shattering....- not the sand thank goodness...just the outside container....- thankfully repairable for another time trial tomorrow...
Maybe I will alternate tasks...but either way...the egg timer is going to go on the outside of the glass screen....to stop the inevitable happening again and to prevent me from cheating....and if I invested in one of the preheat things...that makes the water come out hot straight away...I might win back those valuable seconds I spent hiding in the corner of the shower where the cold spray can’t reach....and maybe even a water saving shower head....(check out WELS - Water Efficiency Labelling and Standards)


With water restrictions not set to be reduced until December... (don’t even start me on this)....I hope my bathroom time trials help to reduce our household water consumption...at least a little...and put me that one step closer to reducing my carbon footprint by 1 tonne


So all in all I like my new blue sand 4 minute shower timer...
It makes for some interesting times in early morning hours when really it is the only piece of equipment I am qualified to operate pre -caffeine...