Posts tagged with "Harvard GSD":

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Landscape architect Bradley Cantrell on “cyborg ecologies” and new ways to look at nature

In a basement laboratory at Harvard University’s Graduate School of Design, Bradley Cantrell flips a switch, and a river begins to flow. On a table surveilled by movable sensors and a Microsoft Kinect, pulses of water carry bits of colored sand down a model riverbed.

As an associate professor of Landscape Architectural Technology and director of the GSD’s Master in Landscape Architecture Program, Cantrell runs experiments like these to better understand the natural elements that make up his profession’s palette. But by using computational methods to analyze and even redesign nature, he’s also breaking new ground in the field. Cantrell’s work blurs the lines among environmental engineering, landscape architecture, and artificial intelligence. He sat down with The Architect's Newspaper contributor Chris Bentley in April.

The Architect’s Newspaper: Your work has been described as “computational landscape architecture.” How would you define it?

Bradley Cantrell: I like the term “responsive technologies.” I use a slightly more provocative term sometimes and talk about “cyborg ecologies” or “cyborg landscapes.” It’s really that there isn’t this differentiation between natural systems and human constructed systems. Our technologies actually augment and, yes, change these, but we should celebrate that synthesis as opposed to setting up a duality. We think about nature as being bound in this one place, humans being bound in another. My take is that we should celebrate the connections between those two. It’s not my goal to put computation into everything. But my work uses computation to set up this set of interconnected relationships in a more advanced way.

You talk about embedding sensors and computational technology into the physical landscape, so the landscape reacts to its users in a kind of conversation—what are some of the possibilities of that?

We have this fluid modeling table, but we’re not really modeling a known landscape like the Mississippi Delta. What we’re really doing is using the dynamic nature of that fluid flow and looking at the way the sediment behaves within that. And we’re trying to then use ways of sensing the surface morphology so we can get a digital model of that surface. We can also get spot elevations so we understand how high places are; we can understand how fast water is moving. But then using that data, trying to imagine what are the interactions with that data in real time. We could begin to calculate the actual power of the river to build land or erase land. We could use it to stabilize certain portions, allow other portions to be more in flux.

But the idea there is that by using computation we could take on multiple goals. So it could be about building land, but also that land ebbs and flows because there’s another cycle of a bird species or something like that. Right now we’re taking a very naive approach and just saying, “What are the possibilities of how we can manipulate the system?” And then ideally beginning to layer complexity into that. Right now, when we want to change a river system, we dredge or build a levee to hold water over here and make it dry over there. So it’s a much more traditional construction method, and this one speaks to this kind of real-time interaction with the landscape.

That feedback is one that I think is really important. It speaks to the flora and fauna, too. There’s the idea of resistances among all of these different actors, that there is a form of evolution. And that leads to more resilience within that system because in some ways we’re not depending on a single moment that holds everything together.

You want to let natural systems run their full range of behaviors, but it’s risky to engineer unpredictability into our landscapes. What’s the right amount of uncertainty?

This is a really big question that I don’t have an answer to. But I think it’s a really interesting one. If you think of the way we’ve manufactured something like the Mississippi River, the current state of it has all been put into place for human beings. It’s about navigation up and down the river; it’s about protecting human settlements. And then there’s a whole series of effects from that that alter the surrounding ecosystem. But we then build other things to remediate those effects. My take would be that the relationship could just be more advanced between all of those systems. Sure, there’s going to always be these issues that pop up. But ideally the way things are being managed can propagate those changes back out to the system.

It’s not about taking all the levees down. It’s about how we’re interacting and changing the way the flow occurs in one spot, but we aggregate that off of a thousand points and suddenly the whole river system behaves slightly differently. Can we hold the river in place for a certain amount of time with some certainty? And then can we open that up and allow the river to take on a new course?

When you use terms like “cyborg coast” and “synthetic ecologies,” it sounds like you’re the Dr. Frankenstein of landscape architecture. But building responsive landscapes does not mean replacing natural systems with technology, right? What’s the ideal balance between reengineering nature and conserving it?

I think a lot of people have issues with the idea that we’re actually extending even more control over the landscape. I think there is a fear of that we’re constantly in discussion about how we relinquish control. I think it’s an open question. I would say that you do run the possibility of basically manufacturing everything. As our technologies have gotten more advanced, what we’ve seen is really having more and more control over deeper and deeper levels of biological life. Commercial agriculture is a good example of how we’ve extended that control in a way. But one of the issues there is that it all hinges on basically one variable, and that’s productivity. When everything is hinged on that, then we get a very homogenous situation across commercial agriculture. And that’s where I think this idea that there are competing goals and that humanity might not always be at the center of all of those goals—that takes somewhat of an enlightened viewpoint, but it also is one that is necessary for us to have.

Where do digital representations of the environment still come up short? Is it impossible to model a natural system without oversimplifying it?

I think there’s a kind of clarity in terms of the actual changes we’re making. It’s very difficult for me to say that when I perform this operation, it propagates up through the system in this way. It’s not all about us having better models and better simulations. Part of that is about having a clear understanding of what we’re modeling and the relationships in those models. I think that part is one that’s somewhat missing. Some of these get ironed out just by convincing someone in a small plot of land that this might be an interesting idea and going out and starting to test it.

Even an art project that takes the sediment diversion and uses it as a way to kind of print or paint the landscape—that isn’t all about exactly how the ecological system performs—may sound silly, but it’s a step in that direction. Then people start to see the potential. Building the system and letting people see how it operates is an important step—even if it’s art first.

What’s the next step in actually implementing these ideas?

All the work now is in the lab. I try to make the work a bit more robust by actually working with civil engineers, computer scientists, and ecologists to make sure that they understand that this work exists, because those conversations are the ones that become the most interesting. When an ecologist says, “I never really thought of the idea that you would create basically a robot that would create an ecological system that was outside of human construction.” Suddenly there’s a new place where, is that wilderness? Is that commercial agriculture? Is that design, when you’ve made a robot that thinks for itself and is actually changing the world around us? If we haven’t really manufactured it and it’s a place that we don’t actually understand how it completely works, because it’s this other thing making it, it’s almost wilderness on one hand. The genesis is human construction, but the actual actions are computational logics.

We’ve tried our hardest throughout time to make sure we’re not part of nature. In some ways we’re realizing that there is no separation. We’re actually remanufacturing the Earth similar to any other species that has the same capabilities we might have. That’s something for us to come to grips with. When we do, we suddenly have a new responsibility in the world. It’s not about us doing something and nature responding. What we’re doing is possibly just wrong. It’s not about responding. It’s that we need to be the ones that rethink our processes.

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Four Finalists Compete for the Harvard GSD’s $100K Wheelwright Prize

There are four finalists competing for the Harvard University Graduate School of Design (GSD) international travel fellowship this year. For the uninitiated, the Wheelwright Prize is almost like a Fulbright research grant, but for young international architects. Aimed at architecture graduates of the past 15 years, the winner will receive a sweet deal: they’ll take home $100,000 towards research outside of the United States (or if living internationally, outside their country of residence). Additionally, there are opportunities to lecture at the Harvard GSD and publish research in a GSD publication. The four finalists are presenting their work at the Harvard GSD this April 20th. Last year’s award went to Erik L’Heureux, an architect and assistant professor based in Singapore. His proposal centered on studying architecture in equatorial zone cities like Jakarta and São Paolo. The prize was founded in 1935 in memory of Arthur W. Wheelwright, and originally awarded to top graduates of Harvard’s GSD program. The prize opened up four years ago to young international architects beyond GSD. The prize has gone to a roster of notables that include I. M. Pei, Paul Rudolph, and Eliot Noyes. Here is a rundown of the four finalists and images of their past work. The GSD selected the four finalists from a pool of over 200 entrants from 45 countries. Samuel Bravo Chilean architect and assistant professor Samuel Bravo has a background working on earthquake reconstruction in historic areas in South America. His proposal is titled Cultural Frictions: A Transference, From Traditional Architecture to Contemporary Production. Matilde Cassani Architect, designer, and curator, Matilde Cassani, from Milan, has worked on sustainable developments in Germany and rebuilding after tsunamis. Her studies have focused on public space, migrant communities, and modern sacred/religious spaces. Her proposal is titled Once in a Lifetime: The Architecture of Ritual in Pilgrimage Sites. Anna Puigjaner Barcelona-based architect Anna Puigjaner (MAIO) focuses on the impacts of flexibility in architecture and design. Her past work has explored adaptable, site-specific installations, as well as the connections and tensions between urban and domestic life. Her proposal is titled Kitchenless City: Architectural Systems for Social Welfare. Pier Paolo Tamburelli The fourth finalist is architect and visiting professor Pier Paolo Tamburelli, cofounder of baukuh architects (based in both Genoa and Milan). He has worked on mixed-use and public buildings, as well as masterplans and historic renovations. His proposal is titled Wonders of the Modern World.
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Harvard GSD material processes students build an intricate ceramic wall at Cevisama

Cevisama is the largest annual ceramic and terracotta exhibition in the world. Architects and designers from the whole world are here, but there is almost no North American representation—either displaying products, media reporting on building advances with the material, or architects looking for new products. Thus it was surprising to run across this Harvard University Graduate School of Design (GSD) project from their Material Processes and Systems Group student studio. It is one of the most advanced and exciting projects in the entire fair. Have a closer look below.
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Benjamin Prosky Named Executive Director of AIA New York

The AIA New York has named Architizer co-founder and minority owner Benjamin Prosky as its new Executive Director. He will step away from his role as Assistant Dean for Communications at Harvard University Graduate School of Design (GSD). Prosky has been overseeing events, publications, multimedia content and special projects since 2011. He will begin his duties at the AIA in early 2016. “It is a tremendous honor to serve as Executive Director of the AIANY and the Center for Architecture,” Prosky said in a statement. “I feel privileged to have the opportunity to expand the scope of both organizations—I look forward to engaging with the professional architects who are the backbone of the constituency, and also cultivating the broader public which, in the context of New York, recognizes the profound impact that design and the built environment have on the vitality of the city and all aspects of our lives."
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Harvard GSD establishes Office for Urbanization to tackle social conditions through research

On November 6, Harvard's Graduate School of Design (GSD) launched the Design Office for Urbanization, a program that will draw on resources from the school's three departments to address the "social conditions associated with contemporary urbanization" through applied design research projects. Charles Waldheim, Professor of Landscape Architecture, will lead the office. Helen Kongsgaard, research associate at the GSD, explained that the office is interested in "questions on urbanization that are extreme but can be generalized into other areas." Its first project will generate design responses to rising sea levels that could affect the City of Miami Beach's culture, identity, economy, ecology, and infrastructure. For this and future programs, the office will partner with nonprofits, NGOs, community leaders, as well as Harvard's Center for Green Buildings and DesignExecutive Education, and the Joint Center for Housing Studies.
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Architecture’s Two Percent: Black in Design conference at Harvard tackles complex social and economic issues

In recent months there has been increasing awareness and discussion around the built environment's impact on a number of complex social and economic issues that also intersect with race and class. Architecture critic James Russell has written about Ferguson and even New York Times critic Michael Kimmelman has written about Eric Garner. This momentum for a long-overdue public conversation on these issues among those in the design and planning disciplines is also being fostered by a group of predominantly black and predominantly women students at Harvard's Graduate School of Design.

The GSD's African-American Students Union (AASU) has challenged themselves, their peers, their institutions, and the built environment disciplines at-large to seriously engage the real differences that race can make in design practices. This led to the Black in Design Conference—organized by AASU and held at Harvard GSD this weekend.

A range of ideas, projects, and provocations by nearly 30 speakers from different disciplines were organized into panels according to scales of impact: buildings, neighborhoods, cities, and regions. There were also sessions on the role of race in the pedagogy of design and global design practice.

But this was not your usual design conference. Beyond the presentations and discussions, there were collective breathing and dance exercises, throwback Goodie Mob music video clips addressing urban conditions, and even a choir performance with many participants singing along to anthems for social equality and progress. The conference lunch was programmed as a workshop around the issue of food access and quality that affects many black and low-income communities. The conference's structure created a space to share and question what it means to attempt to address the difficult issues that affect black communities as a designer—and further, what it means to be black in design.

Phil Freelon, an award-winning architect of the new Smithsonian African American museum, asked who was going to be the "Miles Davis of Architecture" to provoke the notion that in the built environment design fields black designers do not yet have the weight of influence seen in other creative fields, such as music or fashion, that shape and inform our larger culture and everyday lives.

More than once, speakers raised the need for more people of color to get into the design fields and increase the number of licensed black architects which today stands at a paltry 2 percent. Architect and planner Maurice Cox advertised to the audience 30 new urban designer and planner job openings in the predominantly black city of Detroit, underlining the need for black designers to work in black communities. The discussions at the two-day event highlighted that the personal and professional contributions that black designers make to their fields, and by extension to the global and local contexts and populations that they serve, is all too rare.

More information about the conference can be found at blackindesign.com and some of the ideas and images from the event can be found on social media using the #blackindesign and #blackdesignmatters hashtags.

Justin Garrett Moore is an Adjunct Associate Professor of Architecture at Columbia University's GSAPP and was a speaker at the Black in Design Conference.

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Diane Davis to head Harvard GSD’s Department of Urban Planning

Just days after the Harvard Graduate School of Design announced that Anita Berrizbeitia would be the new chair of its Department of Landscape Architecture, the school has announced another big appointment: Professor Diane Davis will be head its Department of Urban Planning. "Davis teaches courses and options studios that examine the role of politics in planning and design, relations between urbanization and development, and socio-spatial practice at the scale of the city," the school said in a statement. "Her research focuses on urban transformations in the global south, particularly the urban social, spatial, and political conflicts that have emerged in response to globalization, informality, and political and economic violence. In her capacity as co-director of the Risk and Resilience track in the Master in Design Studies (MDes) program, Davis explores overlapping vulnerabilities in the built and natural environment and assesses their significance for planning theory and design practice." Both Davis and Berrizbeitia will assume their new roles on July 1.  
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Anita Berrizbeitia to head Department of Landscape Architecutre at Harvard GSD

Anita Berrizbeitia has been named as the new chair of the Department of Landscape Architecture at Harvard GSD. Berrizbeitia is already quite familiar with the department as she is currently a Professor of Landscape Architecture at the GSD and the Director of its Master in Landscape Architecture degree programs. "Berrizbeitia is a landscape architect specializing in theory and criticism of 19th and 20th-century public landscapes in the United States and Europe, with particular interests in material culture, design expression, and the productive functions and roles of landscape in processes of urbanization," Harvard GSD said in a press release. "Her research on Latin American cities and landscapes centers on the creative hybridization of local and foreign cultural practices as a response to a centuries-old process of global cultural exchange; the role of large-scale infrastructural projects on territorial organization; and the interface between landscape and emerging urbanization." Berrizbeitia will assume her new role on July 1.
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Erik L’Heureux Wins 2015 Wheelwright Prize

The Harvard Graduate School of Design has named Erik L’Heureux as the winner of the 2015 Wheelwright Prize. L’Heureux is an American architect and current professor at the National University of Singapore; he also heads up his own firm called Pencil Office. Along with the prestigious accolade comes a $100,000 traveling fellowship for L’Heureux to study new approaches to contemporary design for two years. L’Heureux's proposal, Hot and Wet: The Equatorial City and the Architectures of Atmosphere, asked how architecture can help Jakarta, Kuala Lumpur, Pondicherry, Lagos, and São Paulo mediate the impacts of climate change while simultaneously responding to urbanization. L’Heureux presented his proposal in mid-April at the GSD alongside other finalists Malkit Shoshan from Amsterdam and Quynh Vantu from London. “We commend L’Heureux, Shoshan, and Vantu, who are each working impressively to broaden the definition and possibilities of architectural practice,” said K. Michael Hays, Eliot Noyes Professor of Architectural Theory and Associate Dean of Academic Affairs at Harvard GSD. “L’Heureux is an example of an architect with a strong practice who has developed a serious intellectual project that relates organically to his own work. His proposal is not just about technology and efficiency, but deals with the politicization of ecologies and economies in a complicated region and architecture’s complicity in difficult global issues.”        
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John Peterson, founder of Public Architecture, to curate GSD’s Loeb Fellowship

Harvard's Graduate School of Design has named John Peterson, founder of the non-profit Public Architecture, as the new curator of the Loeb Fellowship. The fellowship consists of architects, landscape architects, journalists, and more studying the built environment. Peterson will step into the role in January, succeeding James Stockard who served in the position for 16 years and is an alumnus of the fellowship. "John has built an impressive organization and impactful career focusing on societal engagement through the agency of design,” said Charles Waldheim, Chair of Harvard GSD’s Department of Landscape Architecture and head of the Loeb Curator search committee, in a statement. “His capacity to articulate and enable design to play a role in the service of broader publics, often in very challenging conditions, promises to renew the Loeb program’s longstanding commitments in this area." Peterson founded Public Architecture in 2002 and led his own practice, Peterson Architects, from 1993 to 2010. He holds degrees from RISD, taught at the California College of the Arts as well as the University of Texas at Austin, and was a Loeb Fellow in 2006. In a statement, the GSD said, "Peterson has played an important part in defining the concept of “public interest design,” which has evolved in recent years into a significant field of practice."
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Harvard GSD announces finalists for the 2015 Wheelwright Prize

The Harvard Graduate School of Design has announced the three potential awardees of the 2015 Wheelwright Prize, a travel-based architectural research grant valued at $100,000. Each year, one architect from approximately 200 applicants bags the prize. Established in 1935 at a time when foreign travel was limited to an elite few and then known as the Arthur C. Wheelwright Traveling Fellowship, the prize used to be awarded solely to GSD alumni. It has now become an international competition welcoming early-career architects (within 15 years of earning an architectural degree) from around the world to bring in new blood, fresh ideas, and cross-cultural exchange. The number of countries represented has grown from 46 the previous year to 51 this year, including Bosnia, Cuba, Egypt, Iran, Kazakhstan, Morocco, Poland, Sri Lanka, Ukraine, Zimbabwe and more. The seven-person jury of architects has selected three finalists to present their research proposals at the Harvard Graduate School of Design on April 16, with the winner to be announced at the end of the month. To inspire the next generation of Wheelwright prizewinners, the winner of the 2013 Wheelwright Prize, Gia Wolff, will present "Floating City: The Community-Based Architecture of Parade Floats," reporting on her research on over the past two years on carnival festivals. "The idea is not just about travel—the act of going and seeing the world—but it is about binding the idea of geography to themes and issues that hold great potential relevance to contemporary practice," said Harvard GSD Dean Mohsen Mostafavi in a statement. The three 2015 finalists are as follows: Erik L’Heureux, Assistant Professor at the National University of Singapore, presenting: “Hot and Wet: The Equatorial City and the Architectures of Atmosphere.” Malkit Shoshan, founder of think tank, FAST (Foundation for Achieving Seamless Territory) Amsterdam, presenting: “Architecture and Conflict: Pre-Cycling the Compound” Quynh Vantu, Award-winning Architect, London, presenting : “On Movement: The Threshold and its Shaping of Culture and Spatial Experience.”
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Richard Rogers just gave this colorful modernist house to the Harvard Graduate School of Design

Hailed as one of the most important modern houses in the United Kingdom, the Wimbledon home that British architect Richard Rogers designed for his parents in 1967 has been gifted to the Harvard Graduate School of Design. Situated on a long and narrow wooded plot adjoining a major road, the house was designed for maximum privacy and seclusion by Rogers and his then wife Su. Rogers reportedly described it as “a transparent tube with solid boundary walls,” and a precursor to the acclaimed Pompidou Center in Paris which he designed with architect Renzo Piano. Unification of skin and structure is a permeating theme throughout both edifices, with a delicate lattice of steel and glass meshing together. Inside, the house is supported by five prefabricated steel frames. To compensate for the all-glass principal facades, the boundary walls are made of prefabricated insulated panels to provide a sense of closure. The home has stayed with the family since its construction, despite briefly going on the market in 2013 for nearly $4.8 million just five months after being awarded a Grade II heritage listing. In 1998, Rogers’ son Ab and his family moved in, adapting and extending the home for their own needs, but the signature yellow-painted steel frame and double-glazed facades prevail. The glazed roof, meanwhile, zipped tight with neoprene (a substitute for putty), is solar-reflecting, evidence that Rogers was thinking ahead of his time. The residence, which represented British architecture in the 1967 Paris Biennale, is noted for its adaptability, with moveable partitions on a neoprene jointing system facilitating reconfiguration of the space to create private areas or open it up for guests. Inspired by the USA’s West Coast, the sunny facade bespeaks a love of color that permeates the interior, with surfaces in lurid Crayola hues such as apple green and sunflower yellow. The donation of the landmark residence is being handled by Rogers’ charity, the Richard Rogers Charitable Settlement.