This design studio focuses on architecture’s potential to manifest and transform ecological relationships amidst ongoing uncertainty within contemporary climate research and environmental activism. (Core One M.Arch)
Here the theme of atmosphere, common to all First Year Core studios, lends the notion that architecture relates organisms and environments through the construction of literal life-supporting envelopes of air, matter, and areas of influence at a vast range of scales. If design is indeed to play such a significant role in the construction of landscapes, ecosystems, biomes, and climates both interior and exterior, then what is to characterize a successful one? What are its desired effects? While the signs of climate change are undeniable, uncertainty still proliferates: the relationship between global dimming and warming remains unresolved, species grow and die off an unpredictable rates, policy makers debate about the funding and regulation of ecology experiments, building technologies’ effectiveness and social impacts remain unknown, and infrastructures are built with ever unanticipated consequences. How then can architecture operate within such a shifting playing field? What is to be done if we don’t know what to do? The charge of this studio is for students to experiment with the relationships between organism, environment and enclosure, ultimately to take a stance on the problems and potentials of scientific and political uncertainty.
CORE 1 STUDIO, MASTER OF ARCHITECTURE PROGRAM. FALL 2009.
THE PROJECT: Design the AirLab, an atmospheric research lab headquarters for an Columbia University-based interdisciplinary team of scientists and policy makers in New York City. We will develop concepts and design strategies directly from project 3 with new speculations on the laboratory’s broader organization, a more rigorous relationship to its New York City site, and by experimenting and developing structural and envelope ideas at the scale of the building and beyond. Design strategies and techniques used throughout the semester will be synthesized and cross-referenced at a higher level of complexity and broader scales of influence, from the material, program, building, and urban scales to the global.
This project seeks to provoke the diverse publics of Chelsea and the diverse body of scientists within the laboratory into questioning what they believe to be absolute and how we become aware of information. It is not a didactic project; it is not a museum. Rather it inspires this new awareness through a language of mystery and tactics of selfish motivation.
The public is invited to come through the building; it gives them access from 10th avenue to the high line park and serves as its own outdoor/indoor landscape, providing comfortable places to lounge out of the weather, and on occasion asks them to participate in scientific experimentation. On the street they are granted fragmented views of activities inside through a perforated screen, but the true nature of the programs remain shrouded in mystery even once you have traversed through the building to the high line.
The language of the building becomes one of clues, hints, moments that unravel the meaning of the interior programs, enticing one to find out more than what meets the eye/hand/body.
This mystery is just as important for inspiring exchange between the scientists themselves. The labs are isolated from one another, becoming furry columns within the public field. The spaces the columns hold up are open and contain shared monitoring/administrative and storage programs, where the members of the otherwise independent columns.
Inspired by the 1960s Megastructures of Archigram, and present day missile silos and server farms, this project questions the relationship of building and environment and how a pro-growth model can be used in a time of environmental uncertainty. It rethinks the present aim of limited urban growth and construction by placing importance on the reuse of a building’s exhaust energy. The model I am proposing looks at server farms as heat islands. Heat exhausted by the server is reused for other programs within the building as well as for constructed landscapes for public use.
A server farm or data center is a collection of computer servers to accomplish server needs far beyond the capability of one machine. Their buildings consist of entire floors crammed with computer servers. There are various internet giants such as Google, Yahoo, and Amazon who use server farms for storing, processing, and moving of data for an increasingly digital society.
The design places a Mega Data Collector adjacent to the Highline, NY, at 20th Street and 10th Avenue. The Servers act as a database for climatologists around the world. The structure includes a climatology lab to both test the exterior and interior conditions produced by the servers. The program of the lab consists of interior and exterior observation areas to observe temperature relationship and Wet/Dry Labs to obtain data of vegetative growth occurring in the larger voids that penetrate the exterior of the building.
The Mega Data Collector becomes a machine to circulate heat to tenants within the building and onto the Highline. The structure uses a chimney effect to both circulate warm air and help cool servers by bringing air both through the base and through the building’s envelope by a louver system.
Based on the Geomagnetic Prediction Center, an existing organization that studies the earth’s magnetic field, this lab program invites full integration of visualization experts with scientistific research. Architecturally, the idea of visualizing invisible, abstract phenomena is the conceptual basis for this project.
The architecture responds to disturbances in the electromagnetic field made by servers, satellite dishes, cell phones, and other equipment. EM frequency sensors (an existing technology) are embeded into hundreds of small “flags” arrayed around the exterior of the building. Inside, the field takes on a more utilitarian role. All electrical wiring runs through these nodes, allowing for greater flexiblity of space. The nodes can be used as light fixtures or a place to plug in your computer.
Our general understanding of the Earth’s climate is mired in uncertainty. However, experts agree the effects of anthropogenic global warming have become so severe that immediate action must be taken to stabilize the Earth’s climate system.
In 2009, the U.S. House of Representatives passed the American Clean Energy and Security Act, a bill that would radically reduce carbon emissions (at enormous cost) through a policy of cap and trade. Should the bill pass the Senate, a new type of research center will become necessary to investigate the bill’s effects. In this research center, climatologists and economists would synthesize an understanding of a paradigm where one’s right to pollute is commodotized in order to stabilize climate change. A political advocacy group aligned with the climatologists and economists would broadcast this understanding to the multiple publics affected by climate change and climate change policy.
The research center is sited next to the High Line in the Chelsea neighborhood of Manhattan. Since its creation in the 1930s, the High Line has undergone a series of ecological transformations from infrastructure to “opportunistic landscape” to designed public park; critically, the ecology of the High Line has always been reified, politcized, and recontextualized to suit the interests of various publics and politicians. Just as the High Line is subject to transformation via political/public will, so to is the direction of the climate change debate, and in turn, the purpose of the research center. Ecology, for all our efforts to stabilize it, can be at times unpredictable and volatile. Ironically, we can only understand it over long periods of study. The research center situates itself in this dynamic between the volatile short-term and stable long-term. Its architecture seeks to address the many tensions underlying: the imprecision of climatological and economic sciences and their justification for political action; the efficacy of market solutions for climatological problems; the interests of the developed world versus the developing world; and the immediate cost imposed on the contemporary for the sake of benefiting posterity.
As a result of the rapid, continual population growth and other economic, social, political forces, the massive, global-scale trend of urbanization extending into the coming decades has become a certainty. High density urban areas may become preferable for its ability to maximize the sharing of resources (such as infrastructure) and an increased interaction between people to generate new social conditions. Airlab, to be situated in Chelsea district, NYC, is designed to exploit these benefits of density. Internally, programs are organized according to its determinacy to generate more flexible spaces that could be adopted for the use of different publics at different amounts. Externally, the building offers spaces for public use while also taking the city for its own use. The bottom levels provide public access to the Highline, while sharing the garage space to mobile facilities in the city (food trucks or bodega carts for instance). The mid-levels provide an auditorium that connects to the highline for public use, while taking the Highline as stage of visual attention. The top levels offer the opportunity for large scale display that will face the Highline.
The Indian Tsunami; Hurricane Katrina; and Typhoon Morakot. In the past decade, the increasing frequency of environmental disasters has sparked a major debate on pre-disaster preparedness and post-disaster response. One of the major criticisms which have risen after the fact is that scientists, climatologists and relief workers alike do not yet have an adequate understanding of the regional environmental conditions of disaster vulnerable areas around the world. This project explores the role of the lab this context of uncertainty. The Pre / Post Disaster Lab is a portable cell which can be brought on site to gather environmental data and samples through instruments embedded within its external apertures. In New York, the pods accumulate within an armature which serves as the infrastructural hub for sample storage and data collation.
My project is about the multiple. The design is centered around a collection of individual labs which cater to the diverse needs of our scientists (outside/ inside spaces, size, public/ private access, location, orientation, etc). The labs can be inhabited by scientists and researchers from various fields, while all sharing a common data hub. The data hub contains a variety of material samples (mineral, deep-sea sediment, ice, etc) and data information (via computers, journals, books, maps, diagrams). The scaffolding system binds the individual labs physically and figuratively, acting as structure for the lab containers, storage for data, and infrastructure for the city. The multiple is important because it allows for multiple interpretations and research activities to happen simultaneously. This kind of research process encourages researches to generate multiple and perhaps different conclusions in response to questions about our earth, climate, and environment.
Where does a laboratory start? Where does a laboratory end? In order to emphasize the idea that laboratories do not need to remain confined to the boundaries of a footprint, the gradient laboratory will serve as learning resource for the surrounding schools in Chelsea that do not have immediate access to major public libraries. By mixing a gradient of expertise within the laboratory, scientists and students will work and collaborate with one another, mutually offering the laboratory to the community and bringing the community to laboratory.
The project was centered around the the issue of the historical expulsion of the public out of the laboratory space and the public’s subseqent detachement from, and apathy to, the concerns of scientific knowledge and impending biological doom. The goal of this ecology lab was to reintroduce the public to the lab—in a controlled manner so as to not interfere with experiments—and reinvigorate the public’s interest in ecology. Two sets of stairs, a “slow” and a “fast” stair, cut through the lab. The public uses these to get from the street level to the highline. The walls of the stair have been thickened so that they perform as useful space (storage) on the lab side, and as educational spaces on the stair, or public side.
For this project, I became interested in the role media plays in science. I researched how scientists represent their findings and focused on how the public interacts with the various forms of representation. My goal was to integrate various forms of media and see how the public’s experience could be affected. I defined media as any source from which information can be extracted. The six media types I used were the core sample, audio, video, text, interactivity, and imagery. There were two main ideas incorporated into the design. The first idea was the degree of participation among the public within the building. The people could either be actively or passively involved with the various forms of media. The second was the idea of “science in the making” versus “ready-made science”. Science in the making can be defined as any type of experiment/research that is still in the process or developing stages. Ready-made science can be defined as experiments/research that have been published or considered at a more complete stage. Each media type has a specific function within the building mediating between the scientists and the public. to incorporate these two ideas into a laboratory, I designed two media centers that correspond to the two labs (wet and dry lab). There are three main media walls shaped in a corrugated pattern. This corrugated pattern allows more function within the wall system.