Could the solution to more sustainable buildings be what’s planted in and around them? Researchers at MIT have discovered a way to turn plants into sources of light and are imagining a new conception of architecture that would integrate them into everyday spaces as a more sustainable alternative to electric lighting. In 2017 MIT chemical engineer Michael Strano devised a method to make plants glow without genetic modification. Plants are submerged in a solution filled with nanoparticles that have been enriched with an enzyme called luciferase, which is what allows creatures like fireflies to give off light. High pressure is added to push the nanoparticles through the pores of leaves. While the techniques have grown in efficiency over the past two years, researchers are currently working to devise nano-capacitors that will store light and allow it to give off illumination over time, as well as adapting the technology for larger plants such as trees. Strano partnered up with MIT professor and Kennedy & Violich Architecture partner Sheila Kennedy to imagine how the technology could shape the built future. Rather than treating the light-up plants as “just another light bulb,” the team wanted to think critically about how plants fit into architecture more broadly. Modern thinking on architecture, Kennedy explained to the MIT Architecture blog, has largely hidden away or hyper-managed everything from sunlight to waste composting. In an architecture that puts people face-to-face with their environment by integrating organic systems, people would have to confront the environment and their impact on it. These glowing plants are a non-toxic, non-fossil fueled lighting system that doesn’t rely on massive infrastructure. “People don’t question the impacts of our own mainstream electrical grid today. It’s very vulnerable, it’s very brittle, it’s so very wasteful and it’s also full of toxic material,” she told the MIT blog. “We don’t question this, but we need to.” Kennedy went on to say that lighting accounts for as much as 20 percent of global energy consumption. This then becomes an architectural problem, as infrastructure has to be designed to accommodate lighting as part of an “internal ecosystem.” New Yorkers can see a version of the project at the Cooper Hewitt Smithsonian Design Museum where Strano and Kennedy have devised an installation that imagines a New York tenement built around a light-up plant as part of the Design Triennial.
Posts tagged with "Massachusetts Institute of Technology":
Hailing from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) Media Lab, Ori is a range of adaptable homeware and furniture designed to maximize the potential of small spaces. With its name coming from the Japanese word "origami," the furniture system combines robotics, architecture, and design to let interiors double-up as bedrooms, living rooms, dining rooms, and offices. Teaming up with Swiss product designer Yves Béhar, founder and CEO of Ori and research scientist at MIT Hasier Larrea has his eyes set on fundamentally altering the "experience and economics of the urban built environment." Speaking in a press release, Larrea added that "Ori’s systems make possible the effortless and magical transformation of interior spaces, providing the totally new experience of having our interior space intelligently conform to our activities, rather than our activities being forced to conform to our interior space." The firm argues that contemporary urban dwellings have become overtly static and unresponsive, an inefficiency that is ill-affordable in today's housing climate. A movable mainframe, containing a variety of concealable furniture and storage, is the core concept in Ori's modular and mechatronic furniture. Using the wall mounted control panel, the module can move across the floor and deploy different pieces of furniture. This can all be done remotely through the Ori app as well (perfect for if you want your space to be ready for an impromptu party.) With words such as "mechatronic," "modular," and "efficiency" being banded around, it would be easy to assume that such a system has aesthetics as an afterthought. That, however, is where Yves Béhar comes in. While being part of the functional design process, Ori's quality of finish makes it an appealing addition to dwellings that are hard-pressed on floor space. In a design statement, Béhar says:
Cities such as London, Seattle, San Francisco and almost everywhere else are seeing an influx of young professionals, yet those urban centers are more expensive and more condensed. People are seeking smaller living spaces as an economic opportunity, and while it meshes well with notions of sustainability, the question Ori is tackling is: how do we accommodate a living room, bedroom, closet and office space in a small 200-300 square feet apartment? While these micro living spaces enable developers to provide more housing options and allow renters and buyers affordability and a smaller carbon footprint, they clearly lack the need for life's different accommodations that larger apartments provide. While some may view these small spaces as a necessity, a group of MIT engineers saw this as an opportunity – how do we maximize our use of these spaces, providing the experience of luxury living without the luxury of size? Better yet, what if your living space could physically transform to create any environment you need? We teamed up with Ori to design a system of robotic furniture: transformable units that can triple the usage of a given space.While not on the market just yet, inquiries can be made via Ori's website here.
Aggregate knowledge: Scientists at MIT discover how concrete behaves on a molecular level, could spur material advances
Suffice to say, we certainly know how concrete behaves at structural level—the material has been dominating cities and skylines since Joseph Monier invented a reinforced concrete in 1889. But until now, how the material works on a microscopic level has eluded scientists. Now, researchers at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) have unearthed concrete's molecular properties, claiming their findings could lead to structural advances in the future. Traditionally, concrete uses a mixture of gravel, sand, cement, and water. In this case, a compound known as calcium-silicate-hydrate (CSH or cement hydrate) forms when the cement powder mixes with water. It essentially causes all the ingredients to solidify and become one. The phenomenon that has been baffling researchers many for years is whether concrete's molecular structure is comprised of continual bonds as found in stone and metal, or rather, as a sea of aggregate particle clumps bonded by (in the case of concrete) CSH. Researchers from MIT discovered in 2012 that during the first hour of the concrete mixing process, when CSH particles form, the size at which they form is apparently random and "not in homogenous spheres." As a result, such "diversity in the size of the nanoscale units leads to a denser, disorderly packing of the particles, which corresponds to stronger cement paste." However, the question regarding whether concrete was "considered a continuous matrix or an assembly of discrete particles" still remained. Predictably, the answer was "a bit of both." In a press release, Roland Pellenq, a senior research scientist in MIT’s department of civil and environmental engineering explained that the particle distribution facilitated almost every gap in the molecular structure to be filled by even smaller grains. This seemingly iterative process continued to the extent that Pellenq and his peers could approximate the material as a continuous solid. “Those grains are in a very strong interaction at the mesoscale,” said Pollenq. “You can always find a smaller grain to fit in between [the larger grains, hence] you can see it as a continuous material.” Pollenq did however, conclude his findings by stating that concrete could never be considered a true continuous material. This is due to the fact that grains within the CSH, unlike those in metal or stone, cannot reach a resting state of minimum energy. In other words, larger molecules can cause solid concrete to "creep" which makes the material susceptible to cracking and degradation over time. "Both views are correct, in some sense,” Pellenq concluded.
While a chandelier is typically a balancing act between its various arms, Boston-based Matter Design has debunked the typology with a 3D-printed, asymmetrical brass chandelier. Founders of the award-winning design studio, Brandon Clifford and Wes McGee, both professors at MIT, based their design on two calculations to reposition the light fixture’s center of gravity and offset the lack of symmetry. The first calculation generated a relaxation of a string bundling, resulting in a 3D branching network comprising nodes of varying lengths that stabilizes the system. “This positions geometry as reactive and non-authorial,” Matter Design claims on its website. Each unique node is 3D-printed and then connected to brass tubing. Craft, sequence, labor and method are the keys to a non-skewing, 3D-printed chandelier. According to the design studio, which aims to re-engage architecture with the nuances of matter in the digital era, the name Knotta is a play on words. “Knot: intersections, nodes and networking. Knotty: a tangled mess that could also be read as ‘naughty.’ When pronounced, it also reads as NADAAA, the location of the exhibition.”
Höweler+Yoon combine cutting-edge tech and age-old craft to complete the Sean Collier Memorial at MIT
On April 18th, 2013, the Boston Marathon bombers went on a crime spree that included the killing of Officer Sean Collier who was shot in the line of duty on the MIT campus. In honor of the slain MIT patrol officer, the university commissioned Boston-based Höweler+Yoon Architecture to design the Sean Collier Memorial—a somber, grey stone structure that marks the site of the tragedy. The heaviness of the unreinforced, fully compressive masonry structure is meant to convey the concept of “Collier Strong,” or strength through unity. Thirty-two solid blocks of granite form a contemporary version of a five-way vault. "Our goal was to not post-tension the structure, to make it compressive and use solid blocks," Höweler + Yoon principle Meejin Yoon told AN, "It could have been built out of concrete or steel, but we wanted solid blocks." The large stone pieces were digitally designed and fabricated to work as a self-supporting structural system. Forces are translated into form via a robust combination of cutting-edge computational processes and ancient techniques for making masonry structural spans. The stones were precisely milled within a .5 millimeter tolerance, so that they fit together perfectly to form a compression ring with a keystone that caps the shallow masonry arches. In the center of the buttressed vaults is a covered space for reflection. The buttresses act as walls that extend out to the surrounding campus context. The novel concept required many moving parts to work in harmony. "It is very pure. It is a simple idea," Yoon said. "It took so much collaboration to make this simple idea have the integrity that it did. There were students from 8 degree programs, including a PhD student, undergraduate architecture, undergrads in building technology, and grads in engineering and architecture." Engineering and design were intricately linked form beginning to end. The whole design process was influenced by a feedback loop of physical, analog, and digital models as well as digital simulation. Massive quarried blocks of stone were cut with a single-axis robotic block saw, then with a multiple axis KUKA 500 robot. Robotic milling processes made the tiny tolerances possible. Some of the blocks took as long as seven days to carve, with machines running 24 hours. Often, the cutting tools would wear down, causing the tolerances to change mid-fabrication. The team compensated by altering the digital model and then the next piece would change to match what had been previously carved IRL. Sensors were placed at each joint as the project was assembled on site. As stonemasons placed the high-tech monoliths into the 32-part final assembly, the structure was a choreographed symphony of new technology and timeless craft. The legible visualization of forces is parallel with the MIT ethos of openness and transparency, while the poetic nature of a dry masonry vault represents togetherness of the community in recovery. The project team also included structural engineer Knippers Helbig- Stuttgart, masonry consultant Ochsendorf DeJong and Block Consulting Engineers, landscape architect Richard Burck Associates, civil engineer Nitsch Engineering, geotechnical engineer McPhail Associates, lighting designer Horton Lees Brogden Lighting Design, and electrical engineer AHA Consulting Engineers.
A year ago, Hurricane Sandy swept through the East coast—destroying thousands of homes, shutting down infrastructure, and knocking out substations—which resulted in $68 billion in damage. Yesterday, a day before the anniversary of the super storm, ten finalists in the Rebuild by Design competition unveiled their proposals to remake a more resilient coastline. The competition—launched by Hurricane Sandy Rebuilding Task Force and U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD), among other participating organizations—called on the final teams to provide ideas for making the affected coastal areas more resilient to withstand future storms and climate change. After spending three months investigating and identifying the region's challenges, the teams have have honed in on specific areas—from Red Hook and Newtown Creek to Hoboken and the Rockaways—and come up with a number of strategies to protect coastal communities, including improving communication channels, mapping out new community micro-grids, reconfiguring vulnerable neighborhoods, and implementing hard and soft ecological infrastructure. In the next stage of the process, the finalists will be granted $100,000 to collaborate with communities and government entities to further develop site-specific strategies. In March, design solutions from a winning design team (or teams) will be selected, and then later implemented. Interboro Partners with the New Jersey Institute of Technology Infrastructure Planning Program; TU Delft; Project Projects; RFA Investments; IMG Rebel; Center for Urban Pedagogy; David Rusk; Apex; Deltares; Bosch Slabbers; H+N+S; and Palmbout Urban Landscapes. Team statement: "Our unique team combines the best of Dutch land-use planning, environmental and coastal engineering, and urban water management with the best of American urban design, participatory planning, community development, engineering, and economic analysis and financial engineering. The Dutch contingent, which consists of design professionals who have extensive experience working together to adaptively plan coastal regions around the world, have envisioned, designed, and implemented some of the most important flood mitigation and management strategies worldwide." PennDesign/OLIN with PennPraxis, Buro Happold, HR&A Advisors, and E-Design Dynamics Team statement: "The PennDesign/OLIN team combines the strength of PennDesign in cross-disciplinary research, design, and communication; experience across the Northeast region; and institutional capacity to sustain long campaigns for change with a core team of high-capacity, strategic design practices: OLIN for landscape and urban design, and design and research integration; HR&A Advisors for market and financing strategies; and eDesign Dynamics for hydrology and ecosystems. The core team, led by Marilyn Taylor, John Landis for research, and Ellen Neises and Lucinda Sanders for design, and Harris Steinberg for engagement, will draw heavily on an engaged group of advisors in architecture, planning, sciences, geographic information systems, and climate modeling, and Wharton Business School, which will inform an approach on how best to shape alliances to layer buildings, living systems, social fabric, infrastructure, and economies." WXY architecture + urban design / West 8 Urban Design & Landscape Architecture with ARCADIS Engineering and the Stevens Institute of Technology, Rutgers University; Maxine Griffith; Parsons the New School for Design; Duke University; BJH Advisors; and Mary Edna Fraser. Team statement: "XY/WEST 8 is framing the benefits of a shared approach to coastal protection. Studying systematic and large-scale issues— market failures in the assessment of risk, provision of insurance, and ecological impact, as well as the disproportionate representation of low-income populations in high-vulnerability areas—allows a fuller understanding of the region and nation. This approach leads to investigations of the outermost conditions of the Northeastern American Coastline (its barrier islands, inlets, shorelines and riparian estuaries) and examines a series of prototype transects that run from the shoreline to hinterland, from nature to culture." OMA with Royal Haskoning DHV; Balmori Associaties; R/GA; and HR&A Advisors. Team statement: "With a focus on high-density urban environments, the team’s driving principal is one of integration. The tools of defense should be seen as intrinsic to the urban environment, and serve as a scaffold to enable activity—much in the same way that the dam is the genesis of the city of Amsterdam. This will necessitate an approach that is both holistic and dynamic; one that acknowledges the complexity of systems at play; and one that works with, rather than against, the natural flow." HR&A Advisors with Cooper, Robertson, & Partners; Grimshaw; Langan Engineering; W Architecture; Hargreaves Associates; Alamo Architects; Urban Green Council; Ironstate Development; Brooklyn Navy Yard Development Corporation; New City America. Team statement: "Our team focused on the resiliency challenges of key commercial corridors across the region. We explored solutions that fully integrate design and engineering of buildings and infrastructure with programs, financing tools, and management strategies. Commercial property, including local retail and services, forms the critical backbone of a community, supporting it in everyday conditions and serving as a lifeline for supplies, information, and recovery efforts during storm conditions, including Sandy." SCAPE Landscape Architecture with Parsons Brinckerhoff; SeARC Ecological Consulting; Ocean and Coastal Consultants; The New York Harbor School; Phil Orton/Stevens Institute; Paul Greenberg; LOT-EK; and MTWTF. Team statement: "SCAPE has brought together an energetic, experienced design team that has been both at the forefront of innovative, speculative thinking on resiliency and a key public sector partner in re-building critical infrastructural systems. We have, together as a team and in separate initiatives, mapped, modeled, and studied in depth the Northeast region’s vulnerabilities and developed precise, innovative solutions that tie the regeneration of ecological and water networks directly to economic benefits, community development scenarios, coastal protection solutions, and public space enhancements." Massachusetts Institute of Technology Center for Advanced Urbanism and the Dutch Delta Collaborative with ZUS; De Urbanisten; Deltares; 75B; and Volker Infra Design. Team statement: "The team of MIT+ZUS+Urbanisten proposes a grouping of resiliency districts at the edges of the flood zones of the metro area of NY-NJ. Each resiliency district will have its own layered approach that combines emergency infrastructure, evacuation capacity, ecological protection/absorption landscape infrastructure; as well as a development mix of light manufacturing/warehousing with residential. Every dollar of federal investment should help address a wide portfolio of risks – storm surge, rainwater events, and heat islands; and cover a spectrum of vulnerabilities – economic, social, and pollution." Sasaki Associates with Rutgers University and ARUP. Team statement: "The Sasaki-led team, with Rutgers University and Arup, leverages the interdisciplinary perspectives of designers, planners, ecologists, social scientists, and engineers to design opportunities and strategies for long-term coastal resilience. Sasaki’s research focuses on the value of “the beach,” a place of special significance to human memory and economy, and a vital component of coastal ecosystems. New Jersey’s northern shore (Ocean and Monmouth counties) is an ideal place to study the identity and function of the beach; it includes the three coastal typologies found across the eastern seaboard of the United States: Barrier Island, Headlands, and Inland Bay." Bjarke Ingels Group with One Architecture; Starr Whitehouse; James Lima Planning & Development; Green Shield Ecology; Buro Happold; AEA Consulting; and Project Projects. Team statement: "BIG Team brings together significant international experience in Denmark and the Netherlands with a deep understanding of this Sandy region’s economic, political and social environment. Team Leader, BIG, is a group of architects, designers and thinkers operating within the fields of architecture, urbanism, research and development with offices in New York City, Copenhagen and Beijing. For over a decade, BIG has been building a reputation as one of the most creative and intelligent architecture offices in the world. Our projects are also widely recognized as sophisticated responses to the challenges of urban development that create dynamic public spaces and forms that are as programmatically and technically innovative as they are cost and resource conscious." unabridged Architecture with Mississippi State University; Waggoner and Ball Architects; Gulf Coast Community Design; and the Center for Urban Pedagogy. Team statement: "There are places that are too valuable to abandon, even in the face of climate change. Such places hold our traditions and memories, our past enterprises and dreams for the future. The design opportunities we chose have demonstrated their value over generations of inhabitation, and are worth continued investment to make the people, structures, and systems more resilient. Resiliency is not a fixed target, but a strategy with technical solutions, such as elevating structures or constructing structural defenses, and adaptive solutions to encourage new behavior. Adaptive resiliency changes human behavior as well as the physical environment."