Wednesday, December 7, 2011

Pecha Kucha

The team is going to hold a Pecha Kucha lecture at the nightclub Berns in Stockholm tonight.
Pecha Kucha is a presentation methodology in which 20 slides are shown for 20 seconds each, so we decided to show you a speed portfolio with 18 different projects.

Wednesday, November 23, 2011


Eerie beaches, sulphur and mercury rivers, spectacular tombs and historical highrises are just some of the things you will get acquainted with in the VD Guide XIII,
If you know some piece that could fit the guide, feel free to drop us a line ( and your name will be credited if we use it.
As always, enjoy the show!
/the vd team

Bologna Towers - 180 tall towers in medieval Bologna
Birth: 12th century Death: Partly destroyed in the early 20th century
Location: Bologna, Italy
Architect: Rich families
VD says: Must have been a spectacular sight.

Between the 12th and the 13th century, the number of towers in the city was very high, possibly up to 180. The reasons for the construction of so many towers are not clear. One hypothesis is that the richest families used them for offensive/defensive purposes during the period of the Investiture Controversy.

Besides the towers, one can still see some fortified gateways that correspond to the gates of the 12th-century city wall which itself has been almost completely destroyed.

During the 13th century, many towers were taken down or demolished, and others simply collapsed. Many towers have subsequently been utilized in one way or the other: as prison, city tower, shop or residential building. The last demolitions took place during the 20th century, according to an ambitious, but retrospectively unfortunate, restructuring plan for the city.
Of the numerous towers originally present, fewer than twenty can still be seen today. Among the remaining ones are the Azzoguidi Tower, also called Altabella (with a height of 61 m), the Prendiparte Tower, called Coronata (60 m), the Scappi Tower (39 m), Uguzzoni Tower (32 m), Guidozagni Tower, Galluzzi Tower, and the famous Two Towers: the Asinelli Tower (97 m) and the Garisenda Tower (48 m).


Bolwoningen Housing - Fifty experimental capsule houses
Birth: 1970s
Location: Hertogenbosch, Holland
Architect: Dries Kreijkamp
VD says: Exploration of housing typologies should always be encouraged

The Bolwoningen housing in Maaspoort, a district of the Dutch city Hertogenbosch were designed in the 1970s as an experimental building. The mastermind behind these livable capsules is Dries Kreij Camp, a famous architect during that time. The houses shaped like golf balls are his attempt at a new social environment that truly stands apart. The Bolwoningen also have some unusual floor plans – the toilets and bathrooms are placed in the middle of the ball while the living room is located upstairs and the bedrooms downstairs.

The capsule has a diameter of 5.5 meters, with a front side shaped like an airplane floor and has six round windows. The advantages with this type of structure are that they need no type of foundation, are low maintenance and low energy. They are lightweight, can be easily put together or transported.


Kawah Ijen - A volcano with glowing sulphur rivers
Birth: A long time ago
Location: East Java, Indonesia
Architect: Earth and miners
VD says: Harsh and beautiful

The Ijen volcano complex is a group of stratovolcanoes, in East Java, Indonesia.
The volcano has a one-kilometer-wide turquoise-colored acid crater lake. The lake is the site of a labor-intensive sulfur mining operation, in which sulfur-laden baskets are carried by hand from the crater floor.
The lake has the same acid content as a car battery.
Flaming molten sulfur flows inside the volcanic crater. Sulfur will melt at just above 100 C, but the temperatures in the crater do not get high enough for spontaneous combustion - the fires are lit by the miner's dripping torches.


Stump House - House in a huge tree stump
Birth: 1900
Location: Edgecomb, Washington, USA
Architect: Gustav Westerlund
VD says: Nice to see some inventive Swedes

Westerlund, a Swedish immigrant, who back in Sweden had worked as a cabinet-maker, took on the task of hollowing out one particularly robust (22-foot-diameter) cedar-tree stump, and Gustav finished up by putting a roof, window, and door on the stump house. A stovepipe through that roof hints at the woodstove inside that kept the family warm for a few months until a conventional house was built nearby. Even after they moved into that new home, Westerlund maintained his quarters in the stump as he liked the independence and privacy it provided.

A newspaper visited the house in 1901:
"Inside it is one good-sized room, which is boarded up and neatly papered and made as comfortable as any apartment could possibly be made. The walls inside slant inward at the top, which gives one the impression rather that it is an upstairs room, otherwise it is not different from any other room."


Catatumbo Lightning - An almost continuos lightning storm
Birth: A long time ago
Location: Catatumbo river, Venezuela
Architect: Earth
VD says: Thunderous

The Catatumbo Lightning is an atmospheric phenomenon in Venezuela. It occurs strictly in an area located over the mouth of the Catatumbo River where it empties into Lake Maracaibo. The frequent, powerful flashes of lightning over this relatively small area are considered to be the world's largest single generator of tropospheric ozone which refers to ozone that does not replenish the stratospheric ozone layer.
It originates from a mass of storm clouds that create a voltaic arc at more than 5 km of height, during 140 to 160 nights a year, 10 hours per day and up to 280 times per hour. It occurs over and around Lake Maracaibo, typically over the bog area formed where the Catatumbo River flows into the lake.


Pristina National Library - Huge library with 99 glass cupolas
Birth: 1982
Location: Pristina, Kosovo
Architect: Andrija Mutnjakovic
VD says: A somewhat overseen pearl of architecture

The library was designed by the Croatian architect Andrija Mutnjakovic. The outside of the mammoth 16,500 square metre space-age building features a total of 99 white glass cupolas of different sizes and is entirely covered in a metal fishing net. The library was once home to a huge depository of Albanian literature, much of which, thanks to the enlightened leadership of Slobodan Milosovic, was turned into cardboard in the early 1990s. The equally beguiling interior which has some photos of old Pristina still contains over 5,000 fine examples of old and rare books and manuscripts, dating back to the 16th century. The library also holds many foreign titles, and membership is open to anyone.


Boeing Factory - Worlds largest building
Birth: 1967 and extended in many phases
Location: Everett, outside Seattle, USA
Architect: Various
VD says: A building that can accumulate clouds and rain is mad respect

The Boeing factory near Seattle is so massive, it once began generating its own weather systems.
A state-of-the-art air circulation system had to be installed inside the monolithic manufacturing plant because clouds - the product of accumulated warm air and moisture - were forming inside.
About 25,000 people work at the site, which boasts its own security force and fire department, a fully equipped medical clinic, a childcare centre, a water treatment plant, its own electrical sub-stations, and 19 cafeterias which serve around 17,000 meals per day.
They say 2142 average-sized American homes could fit inside the factory. Just the hangar doors are each roughly the size of an American football field.


Sonic Boom - When an object goes faster than the sound, a cloud cone is created
Birth: With the first high-speed planes
Location: In the air
Architect: Moist air and pilots
VD says: A delightful effect

Many people have heard a sonic boom, but few have seen one. When an airplane travels at a speed faster than sound, density waves of sound emitted by the plane cannot precede the plane, and so accumulate in a cone behind the plane. When this shock wave passes, a listener hears all at once the sound emitted over a longer period: a sonic boom. As a plane accelerates to just break the sound barrier, however, an unusual cloud might form. The origin of this cloud is still debated. A leading theory is that a drop in air pressure at the plane described by the Prandtl-Glauert Singularity occurs so that moist air condenses there to form water droplets.


Samarra Mosque - Tower with a spiral ramp
Birth: 848-851
Location: Samarra, Iraq
Architect: commissioned by caliph Al-Mutawakkil
VD says: Old-school classic

The Great Mosque of Samarra is a 9th century mosque located in Samarra, Iraq. The mosque was commissioned in 848 and completed in 851 by the Abbasid caliph Al-Mutawakkil who reigned from 847 until 861.
The Great Mosque of Samarra was at one time the largest mosque in the world; its minaret, the Malwiya Tower, is a vast spiralling cone 52 meters high and 33 meters wide with a spiral ramp.
The mosque had 17 aisles, and its walls were panelled with mosaics of dark blue glass. It was part of an extension of Samarra eastwards.


Skansen - A zoo and a collection of vernacular Swedish buildings
Birth: 1980s
Location: Stockholm, Sweden
Architect: Various
VD says: An architectural catalogue that we are proud of

When people from abroad that are interested in architecture comes and visit us, they usually asks if we can recommend any piece they should see while staying in Stockholm.
Well, truthfully there are not so much yet, at least not any modern delights, but there is always Skansen; a collection of old typical houses from around Sweden that is located within a zoo with Swedish animals.
Some of the sights include a Sami storage house that stands on wooden stilts with the roots still on the wood thus stabilizing the whole house on the ground. Quite spectacular.


Fujian Tuolon - Buildings that acts as small villages in themselves
Birth: 12th century - 20th century
Location: Fujian, China
Architect: The Hakka people
VD says: A highly interesting typology

Fujian Tulou is a type of Chinese rural dwellings of the Hakka and others in the mountainous areas in southeastern Fujian, China. They were mostly built between the 12th and the 20th centuries.
A tulou is usually a large, enclosed and fortified earth building, rectangular or circular in configuration, with very thick load-bearing rammed earth walls between three and five stories high and housing up to 80 families. Smaller interior buildings are often enclosed by these huge peripheral walls which can contain halls, storehouses, wells and living areas, the whole structure resembling a small fortified city.
The fortified outer structures are formed by compacting earth, mixed with stone, bamboo, wood and other readily available materials, to form walls up to 2 meters thick. Branches, strips of wood and bamboo chips are often laid in the wall as additional reinforcement. The end result is a well-lit, well-ventilated, windproof and earthquake-proof building that is warm in winter and cool in summer.Tulous usually have only one main gate, guarded by thick wooden doors reinforced with an outer shell of iron plate. The top level of these earth buildings has gun holes for defensive purposes.


Bio Bay - A bay with water that glows in the night
Birth: A long time ago
Location: Puerto Mosquito, Puerto Rico
Architect: Micro-organisms
VD says: A superb swimming experience

The Bioluminescent Bay (also known as Puerto Mosquito, Mosquito Bay, or "The Bio Bay"), is perhaps the world's largest and brightest[citation needed]. The luminescence is caused by micro-organisms (dinoflagellates) which glow whenever the water is disturbed, leaving a trail of neon blue. A combination of factors create the necessary conditions for bioluminescence: red mangrove trees surround the water (the organisms feed off the dead leaves); a complete lack of modern development around the bay; the water is cool enough and deep enough; and a small channel to the ocean keeps the dinoflagellates in the bay. This small channel is the result of Spanish ships' attempts to choke off the bay from the ocean's waters. The Spanish believed that the bioluminescence they first encountered was the work of the Devil and tried to block the ocean's waters from entering the bay by dropping huge boulders in the channel. The Spanish only succeeded in preserving and increasing the luminescence. Kayaking is permitted in the bay and can be arranged through local vendors. Swimming is allowed on limited basis through guided tours.


Wigwam Village - A motel chain with the rooms built as teepees
Birth: The first village was built in 1933
Location: Around USA
Architect: Frank A. Redford
VD says: Americana at its finest

The Wigwam Motels, also known as the "Wigwam Villages", is a motel chain in the United States in which the rooms are built in the form of teepees, hence the name "wigwam". It originally had seven different locations: two locations in Kentucky, a location in Alabama, another location in Florida, one in Arizona, one in Louisiana, and another one in California. They are very distinctive historic landmarks. Two of the three surviving motels are located on historic U.S. Route 66, in Holbrook, Arizona and on the city boundary between Rialto and San Bernardino, California.

Wigwam Village no 6 in Holbrook was built in 1950 by Arizona motel owner Chester E. Lewis, the plans were based on the original of Frank A. Redford. Lewis first became aware of the distinctive wigwam designs when he was passing through Cave City in 1938. He purchased the rights to Redford's design, as well as the right to use the name "Wigwam Village" in a novel royalty agreement: coin operated radios would be installed in Lewis' Wigwam Village, and every dime inserted for 30 minutes of play would be sent to Redford as payment.


Cappuccino Beach - A beach was temporarily covered with massive amounts of foam, created by a cyclone
Birth: 2007 Death: A couple of days later
Location: Yamba, New South Wales, Australia
Architect: Earth
VD says: An unexpected spatial experience

Suddenly the shoreline north of Sydney were transformed into the Cappuccino Coast.
Foam swallowed an entire beach and half the nearby buildings, including the local lifeguards' centre, in a freak display of nature at Yamba in New South Wales.
One minute a group of teenage surfers were waiting to catch a wave, the next they were swallowed up in a giant bubble bath. The foam was so light that they could puff it out of their hands and watch it float away.
It stretched for 30 miles out into the Pacific in a phenomenon not seen at the beach for more than three decades.
Scientists explain that the foam is created by impurities in the ocean, such as salts, chemicals, dead plants, decomposed fish and excretions from seaweed.
All are churned up together by powerful currents which cause the water to form bubbles.
These bubbles stick to each other as they are carried below the surface by the current towards the shore.
As a wave starts to form on the surface, the motion of the water causes the bubbles to swirl upwards and, massed together, they become foam.
The foam "surfs" towards shore until the wave "crashes", tossing the foam into the air.
As for 12-year-old beachgoer Tom Woods, who has been surfing since he was two, riding a wave was out of the question.
"Me and my mates just spent the afternoon leaping about in that stuff," he said.
"It was quite cool to touch and it was really weird. It was like clouds of air - you could hardly feel it."


Qin Shi Huang Mausoleum - An enormous tomb, as large as a city, with mercury rivers and the famous Terracotta army.
Birth: 215 BC
Location: China
Architect: Qui Shi Huang
VD says: You had us at "mercury rivers"

Calling himself the First Emperor after China's unification, Qin Shi Huang is a pivotal figure in Chinese history, ushering nearly two millennia of imperial rule. After unifying China he undertook gigantic projects, including the first version of the Great Wall of China, and his own tomb.
In 215 BC Qin Shi Huang ordered General Meng Tian with 300,000 men to begin construction of his mausoleum.
Sima Qian's (a historian) description of the tomb includes replicas of palaces and scenic towers, "rare utensils and wonderful objects", 100 rivers made with mercury, representations of stars made of jewelry and crossbows rigged to shoot anyone who tried to break in. Secrets were maintained, as most of the workmen who built the tomb were killed.
As this was not enough an army of life-size terracotta statues was guarding the mausoleum. The figures vary in height according to their roles, with the tallest being the generals. The figures include warriors, chariots and horses. Current estimates are that in the three pits containing the Terracotta Army there were over 8,000 soldiers, 130 chariots with 520 horses and 150 cavalry horses, the majority of which are still buried in the pits. Other terracotta non-military figures were also found in other pits and they include officials, acrobats, strongmen and musicians.
The inner core of the well sealed mausoleum is not documented yet, but they found a mercury prescense which is 100 times higher than normal.


Heidelberg Project - Abandoned houses in a poor slum turned into art
Birth: 1986 and ongoing
Location: Detroit, USA
Architect: Tyree Guyton and Papa Sam
VD says: A vital example of how design can change things in a community

The Heidelberg Project is, in part, a political protest, as Tyree Guyton's childhood neighborhood began to deteriorate after the 1967 riots. Guyton described coming back to Heidelberg Street after serving in the Army; he was astonished to see that the surrounding neighborhood looked as if "a bomb went off".
At first, the project consisted of painting a series of houses on Detroit's Heidelberg Street with bright dots of many colors and attaching salvaged items to the houses. It was a constantly evolving work that transformed a hard-core inner-city neighborhood where people were afraid to walk, even in daytime, into one in which neighbors took pride and where visitors were many and welcomed.
The Heidelberg Project hopes to offer a new approach to the growing problems of urban sprawl and decay facing many American and other international "Shrinking cities". This approach has gained international attention, especially since the Heidelberg Project continues its maturation.


Mestia Towers - Village with high defense towers
Birth: 9th to 12th century
Location: Mestia, Georgia
Architect: The Svans
VD says: A well prepared village

Svanetia is known for their architectural treasures and picturesque landscapes. The Botany of Svanetia is legendary among travelers. The famous Svanetian towers erected mainly in the 9th-12th centuries, make the region’s villages more attractive.
Mestia is a highland townlet in northwest Georgia, at an elevation of 1,500 meters in the Caucasus Mountains.
The townlet is dominated by these "Svan towers". A typical Svan fortified dwelling consisted of a tower, an adjacent house (machub) and some other household structures encircled by a defensive wall.


Pando - Largest living organism on Earth
Birth: 80000 years ago
Location: Utah, USA
Architect: Earth
VD says: Mind-boggling

Pando (or The Trembling Giant) is a clonal colony of a single male Quaking Aspen located in the U.S. state of Utah, all determined to be part of a single living organism by identical genetic markers and one massive underground root system, although whether it is a single tree is disputed. The plant is estimated to weigh collectively 6,000,000 kg (6,600 short tons),making it the heaviest known organism. The root system of Pando is estimated to be among the oldest known living organisms in existence at 80,000 years of age.
Pando is located in the Fishlake National Forest, near Fish Lake on the Fish Lake Plateau located at the western edge of the Colorado Plateau in South-central Utah. The name "Pando" was chosen because it is Latin for "I spread."


Hasting Net Huts - Three story sheds for storing fishingnets
Birth: 16th century
Location: Hastings, UK
Architect: Fishermen
VD says: Cute typology

For as long as fishermen have put to sea from the beach at Hastings, there has been a need for storage facilities on shore. For some time during the last century over 100 net shops reflected this need.
At the time while all the smaller boats were fishing locally – as the boats do today – the larger luggers would set off on voyages lasting many weeks, and they in particular needed stores. In August they would set out in search of the herring shoals in the North Sea, and they would return for Christmas and the New Year and would change their nets and then put to sea again – this time to seek the mackerel up-Channel sailing as far as Cornwall.
In early summer they would return and overhaul the boats, and their nets, ropes and other tackle.
So, while the luggers were fishing for herring they needed storage space at home for the mackerel nets, and visa versa. As these larger boats carried as many as 100 nets each, the stores had to be sufficient size to accommodate those not in use.
It is hard today for us to appreciate how limited the space on the Stade was in the last century when the Hastings fishing industry was at its height: there was only a strip of shingle beach on which to build stores. The broad beach as we see it today simply did not exist, and the tide came within yards of the cliffs and houses. So it is that the netshops had to be tall, and compact on plan.

The formal layout with double rows of close-set net shops with a large space in between – dates from the 1830's when the Council laid down detailed regulations for the location of all net shops, including a rule that they should not exceed 8 feet square.

All the net shops are built of wood and the framing is very slim and incorporates diagonal bracing to give strength against the wind. Headroom on each floor is limited and simple vertical ladders are nailed to the walls inside, with small openings through each floor. The doors at each level open outwards and can usually be hooked back. Some net shops have small shuttered windows; many have stable doors at ground level and sometimes a fisherman can be seen in the doorway repairing his gear.
Today there are around 45 of these net huts left.


Habitat 67 - A modular mountain of housing
Birth: 1967
Location: Meudon, France
Architect: Moshe Safdie
VD says: Highly seductive

Expo 67 was nicknamed "Man and his World", taken from Antoine de Saint Exupéry's memoir Terre des hommes (literally "Land of Men"), translated as Wind, Sand and Stars. Housing was one of the main themes of Expo 67. Habitat 67 then became a thematic pavilion visited by hundreds of thousands of visitors who came from around the world. During Expo 67 it was also the temporary residence of the many dignitaries coming to Montreal.

It was designed to integrate the variety and diversity of scattered private homes with the economics and density of a modern apartment building. Modular, interlocking concrete forms define the space. The project was designed to create affordable housing with close but private quarters, each equipped with a garden. The building was believed to illustrate the new lifestyle people would live in increasingly crowded cities around the world.The complex was originally meant to be vastly larger. Due to its architectural cachet, demand for the building's units has made them more expensive than originally envisioned.
The building is owned by its tenants, who formed a limited partnership that purchased the building from the Canada Mortgage and Housing Corporation in 1985.
Its design was created by architect Moshe Safdie based on his master's thesis at McGill University and built as part of Expo 67.


Harbin Ice Sculpture Festival - Huge festival with a lot of ice architecture
Birth: 1963
Location: Harbin, China
Architect: Various
VD says: Ice, lasers and ambitious Chinese artists

The annual Harbin International Ice and Snow Sculpture Festival has been held since 1963. It had been interrupted for a number of years during the Cultural Revolution until it was resumed in 1985.
Harbin is located in Northeast China under the direct influence of the cold winter wind from Siberia. The average temperature in summer is 21 degrees Celsius and -17 degrees Celsius in winter. It can be as cold as -38 degrees Celsius in winter.

Officially, the festival starts January 5th and lasts one month. However the exhibits often open earlier and stay longer, weather permitting. Ice sculpture decoration technology ranges from the modern (using lasers) to traditional (with ice lanterns).

Swing saws are used to carve ice into blocks, taken from the frozen surface of the Songhua River.Chisels, ice picks and various types of saws are then used by ice sculptors to carve out large scaled ice sculptures, many of them intricately designed and worked on all day and night prior to the commencement of the festival. Deionised water can also be used, producing ice blocks as transparent as glass to make clear sculptures rather than translucent ones.Multicoloured lights are also used to give colour to ice, creating variations on sculptured spectacles when lit up especially at night. Some ice sculptures made in previous years include: buildings and monuments of different architectural types and styles, figures including animals people and mythical creatures, slippery dips or ice slides and lanterns.
Apart from winter recreational activities available in Harbin, these exquisitely-detailed, mass-produced ice sculptures are the main draw card in attracting tourists around the world to the festival.


Minya cemetery - A cemetery comprising of thousands of small dome huts
Birth: A long time ago
Location: Minya, Egypt
Architect: Various
VD says: Massive

This extraordinary cemetery, one of the largest in the world, stretches for miles. The endless domes of mud-brick Islamic mausoleums defy description when viewed from above, and present a challenging maze to wander through.
Comprised of innumerable white conical domes, that stretch out across a wide plain, the necropolis appears similar to waves in the sea. Each of the several hundred mud-brick mausolea of the necropolis is topped with a dome. The cemetery stretches for several kilometers and was used by Muslims and Coptic Christians alike.


Mingun Paya - Huge unfinished temple
Birth: 1790 and never completed
Location: Sagaing province, Myanmar
Architect: King Bodawpaya
VD says: Another stupendous reason to visit Myanmar

The Mingun temple is a monumental uncompleted stupa began by King Bodawpaya in 1790. It was not completed, due to an astrologer claiming that, once the temple was finished, the king would die. The completed stupa would have been the largest in the world at 150 meters. Huge cracks are visible on the structure from the earthquake of 23 March 1839, Like many large pagodas in Myanmar, a Pondaw paya or working model of the stupa can be seen nearby.

King Bodawpaya also had a gigantic bell cast to go with his huge stupa, the Mingun Bell weighing 90 tons, and is today the largest ringing bell in the world. The weight of the bell in Burmese measurement, is 55,555 viss or peiktha (1 viss = 1.63 kg), handed down as a mnemonic "Min Hpyu Hman Hman Pyaw", with the consonants representing the number 5 in Burmese astronomy and numerology.


Sagrada Famillia - A cathedral under construction that already is a World Heritage
Birth: 1882 and ongoing
Location: Barcelona, Spain
Architect: Antoni Gaudi
VD says: A highly-elaborate architecture feast by a true mastermind

Sagrada Família, is a large Roman Catholic church in Barcelona, Catalonia, Spain, designed by Catalan architect Antoni Gaudí (1852–1926). Although incomplete, the church is a UNESCO World Heritage Site,and in November 2010 was consecrated and proclaimed a minor basilica by Pope Benedict XVI.
Though construction of Sagrada Família had commenced in 1882, Gaudí became involved in 1883, taking over the project and transforming it with his architectural and engineering style—combining Gothic and curvilinear Art Nouveau forms.
Gaudí devoted his last years to the project and at the time of his death in 1926, less than a quarter of the project was complete.
Sagrada Família's construction progressed slowly as it relied on private donations and was interrupted by the Spanish Civil War—only to resume intermittent progress in the 1950s. Construction passed the mid-point in 2010 with some of the project's greatest challenges remaining and an anticipated completion date of 2026—the centennial of Gaudí's death. The basílica has a long history of dividing the citizens of Barcelona—over the initial possibility it might compete with Barcelona's cathedral, over Gaudí's design itself, over the possibility that work after Gaudí's death disregarded his design, and the recent possibility that an underground tunnel of Spain's high-speed train could disturb its stability.

Gaudí's original design calls for a total of eighteen spires, representing in ascending order of height the Twelve Apostles, the four Evangelists, the Virgin Mary and, tallest of all, Jesus Christ. Eight spires have been built as of 2010, corresponding to four apostles at the Nativity façade and four apostles at the Passion façade.
The completion of the spires will make Sagrada Família the tallest church building in the world.
The columns of the interior are a unique Gaudí design. Besides branching to support their load, their ever-changing surfaces are the result of the intersection of various geometric forms. The simplest example is that of a square base evolving into an octagon as the column rises, then a sixteen-sided form, and eventually to a circle. This effect is the result of a three-dimensional intersection of helicoidal columns (for example a square cross-section column twisting clockwise and a similar one twisting counter-clockwise).
Essentially none of the interior surfaces are flat; the ornamentation is comprehensive and rich, consisting in large part of abstract shapes which combine smooth curves and jagged points. Even detail-level work such as the iron railings for balconies and stairways are full of curvaceous elaboration.

On the subject of the extremely long construction period, Gaudí is said to have remarked, "My client is not in a hurry."


Floating Barn - A barn that defies gravity
Birth: Unknown Death: Unknown
Location: Ukraine
Architect: Unknown
VD says: A structure that could make Arup green with envy

This strange structure can be found in the Ukraine, it is supported by a single cantilever. It was apparently once used as a barn for storing fertiliser.
It is now demolished.


Toraja Tribe Funerals - Burial grounds carved in rock or trees
Birth: A long time ago
Location: South Sulawesi, Indonesia
Architect: The Toraja Tribe
VD says: Interesting approach to the dead

The Toraja Tribe of South Sulawesi, Indonesia, is known for the cheerful way of treating death, and its unique burial grounds carved in sheer rock.
One of the most beautiful tourist destinations of Indonesia, the green hills of South Sulawesi are home to the Toraja, a tribe that still honors the old Austronesian lifestyle, similar to Nias culture. Most tribe members are Christians, converted during Dutch colonization, but traces of their old beliefs still remain and are most visible during funeral festivities and burial customs. The Toraja are obsessed with death, but not in a tragic sense; to them funerals are a lot like going-away parties celebrated by sacrificing dozens of buffaloes and pigs for a feast enjoyed by the entire community.

The main concern of a Toraja tribe member is to make sure he raises enough money so his family can throw the best party in town, when he leaves this world. Their bodies are stored under the family home for years after their death. During this time the remaining relatives refer to that person not as “the deceased” but as “the sick”, and raise money for the actual funeral, which is usually attended by hundreds of guests. Tourists are welcome to attend the festivities, as long as they don’t wear black or red.

While churches dot the Toraja countryside, tribe members are rarely buried in the ground. They are either placed in tombs dug into nearby cliffs, or in wooden coffins hanging on the side of mountains. Lemo, one of the most popular burial sites in the area, looks like a big piece of rock Swiss cheese, with holes carved to fit coffins and balconies for the “tau tau” – life-size wooden effigies representing the deceased. In the old days, effigies only showed the deceased’s gender, but now master carvers try to make them look like the actual person. After the body has been placed in its rock tomb, the dead’s effigy is placed along others, in a carved balcony, so his spirit can watch over his descendants. Unfortunately, so many tau tau effigies have been stolen to be sold to tourists that people have started to keep them in their house.

At Ke’te’ kesu’, the dead are not placed in cliff-dug graves, but in wooden caskets hanging from the side of cliffs. The coffins are beautifully decorated with geometrical shapes, but over time the wood begins to rot and the bleached bones of the deceased often exposed. Some Toraja members are so resourceful that they pack the bones of several family members into a single coffin, which eventually causes the sustaining poles to break under the weight. But, judging by the piles of wood and bones at the bottom of the suspended burial ground, this doesn’t seem to bother anyone.

The smallest of the Toraja burial grounds are the “Baby Trees” where the tribe’s young are placed. If a child dies before he has started teething, its mother wraps his body in cloth, makes a another hole in the Baby Tree and places the dead infant inside. The hole is then sealed and as the tree begins to heal, the child is believed to be absorbed.

Tuesday, November 15, 2011

Peak Series in Nano House

Our beloved prodigy the Peak Series are featured in the new book Nano House - Innovations for small dwellings by Phyllis Richardson, published by Thames & Hudson.

From the publisher:
Nano House presents the latest and most exciting solutions for houses where space is at a premium, nature must be preserved or accommodation created for those who need it most.
In our growing cities, space is at a premium. In the countryside, we want to preserve the landscape and build as ‘lightly’ as possible and in impoverished parts of the world the need for sustainable, economical shelter is stronger than ever. At the same time, digital design tools, eco-materials and new prefabrication technologies have all led to an explosion in innovative ideas for our domestic spaces.
Today’s challenge for architects and designers is to produce small-scale habitats that are more ecological, flexible and efficient, as well as adhering to modern standards of style and comfort.

Friday, October 21, 2011

The Patient Gardener

Visiondivision was invited as guest professors by Politecnico di Milano for their week-long workshop MIAW2.
The workshop, playing with the metaphor of forests, aimed to generate new visions to explain the contemporary and immediate future ways of being in the spirit of green design, resilience, recycling, and ethical consciousness.
Our intention with our project was to construct a study retreat at the campus with patience as the main key for the design. If we can be patient with the building time we can reduce the need for transportation, waste of material and different manufacturing processes, simply by helping nature grow in a more architectonic and useful way. The final result can be enjoyed at Politecnico di Milano in about 60 years from now.

Treetop level perspective

Ground level perspective

Initial sketch for workshop - section and project evolution

Plan ground level & treetop level

Initial sketch for workshop - ground level

During the workshop we gave nature all the guidance and directions to help it grow into useful structures and objects.
There are different methods and tools to guide and control the growth of trees and plants; bending, twisting, pruning, grafting, braiding, weaving and to control the amount of water and light the trees get are just some examples of these.
We used almost all of these techniques in our creation, which involved creating a structural system for the building and also stairs and furnitures, all made out of trees, plants or grass.

Project components - structure, some of the furnitures and the stairs

Different techniques for guiding the trees

Our structural frame for this project became ten japanese cherry trees that was planted in a circle with a diameter of eight meters with a six meter high temporary wood structure in the center that is acting as a guidance tower for the growing structure.
The trees were planted with an equal spacing from each other, except for four of them that became two pairs of stairs to the future upper level.
The cherry trees was ideal to plant at that time of year and also had great features for achieving the desired structure.
Thin ropes were tied around the plants and were slightly bent towards the temporary tower.
As time passes the trees will form a dome when they reach the tower, and then designated by to change its direction so the final form will be an hourglass, a suiting shape for the project and also a very practical form as we now have two rooms with different modes in the building.

Planting the trees and initial guidance of the stairs

Tree guidance and stairs

The temporary tower for guiding the building

The temporary tower and growth diagram

The small branches on the plants that will grow into stairs are guided with wires to each other and will hopefully be useful later on. The rest of the stairs can later be grafted in the stair trees.
On the ground level we designed furniture out of grass, trees and plants.
There are a dining group consisting of a table with four chairs.
The chairs are plum trees where one sit at the lowest fork and the branches are guided into canopies so the future visitor can sit in the chair while at the same time eating delicious fruits.

The dining furnitures; four plum trees and a hedra table

The table is made out of slender wooden pieces with strings in the structure, which forms a skeleton where hedras can grow and later take over the structure completely.
A comfortable chair made out of grass are located on the other side of the ground floor.
The grass chair is put together with the use of a custom made cardboard structure, shaped for maximal relaxation and that is painted with a protection coating and that is later filled with soil on site and draped with grass.

'The grass armchair with the structural cardboard frame

A grass puff is also made and placed in the tower where the floor of the upper level will be.
The puff is a big potato bag filled with straw, soil, fertilizer and grass seed.
An organic rope is placed with a third of its length inside the bag, and the bag is later sewn together.
The rest of the rope is placed in water so the puff gets water and will later be covered in grass, so when the trees finally reaches this level and becomes the floor, it will already be furnished.

The puff - soil, straw, grass seed and rope in a potato bag

Together with the students we worked out a maintenance plan and instructions to future gardeners that is simple enough to actually work.
On the structure, we instructed that a pattern of wood will be grafted in, leaving two spaces between the trees as entries/exits and the rest is closed in ornamental patterns with branches.
On the upper level which is reached by the two staircases with exquisite handrails, is different fruit trees grafted into the cherry trees so the visitor can have a variety of fruits while relaxing in the canopy. Branches are also grafted in for security reasons between the tree trunks.
In about 80 years from now the Politecnico di Milano campus will have a fully grown building and the students will hopefully have proud grandchildren that can tell the story of the project for their friends and family.

General view of fully grown project

Upper level and ground level of fully grown structure

The end of the workshop and the beginning of

The team

Many thanks to our excellent students:

Rachele Albini
Giada Albonico
Jacopo Biasio
Sara Caramaschi
Elisa Carraro
Desislava Dimitrova
Cristina Gatti
Elisa Gulino
Mariya Hasamova
Nina Mikhailova
Ottavia Molatore
Joao Molinar
Azadeh Moradiasr
Mohyedin Navabzadeh Navabi
Giuseppe Maria Palermo
Riccardo Somaini
Bogdan Stojanovic

and thanks to the curators:

Oscar Bellini
Laura Daglio

and the organizers:

Luca Maria Francesco Fabris

Efisia Cipolloni

and all the other people at Politecnico di Milano that we came in contact with during the workshop.

See you in 60 years from now.