Architecture lives as both object and aggregation: buildings and cities. If the pursuit of an environment that is sustainable, equitable, beautiful, and rich with difference is common at every scale, the valence of these values varies by situation. Metrophysics foregrounds projects rooted in the urban, including buildings and sites designed with both practical and polemical intent. The work is from a team that operates as a “traditional” architectural studio responding to clients and as a research practice that formulates its own agenda of investigation and intervention. In 2005, Michael Sorkin Studio underwent a mitosis with the founding of Terreform. Given a long history of activist work in a variety of registers—including design, advocacy, and writing—there’d been a long simmering desire to find a form of practice that was more transparent with the non-commercial—even utopian—projects and ambitions that engaged us. Not wanting to give up the prospect of “ordinary” building, however, we formalized the conceptual split into a “straight” architectural practice and an organization doing research, unsolicited interventions, publishing, and propositions. The studio works in a single spirit with a focus on questions of city, on its morphology, systems of equity, and metabolic behavior. What Terreform has learned over the years from New York City (Steady) State—an elaborate speculation meant to determine just how autonomous our city can become—informs “official” projects Sorkin Studio has undertaken in Wuhan, Xi’an, or Istanbul and vice versa. Each side serves as the lab for the other but we’re all on the same page: the iron fiscal curtain between the two entities is a membrane that’s completely porous to ideas. Michael Sorkin is a distinguished professor and director of the Graduate Urban Design Program.
Posts tagged with "Terreform":
Ecological urbanism to the rescue? Michael Sorkin Studio and Terreform explore green cities at SCI-Arc
In the exhibition Metrophysics, New York-based Michael Sorkin Studio and Terreform (both helmed by Sorkin) have brought their portfolio of eco-futurist-tinged urban designs to Los Angeles’s Southern California Institute of Architecture (SCI-Arc) in Los Angeles, displaying a sprawling retrospective of the symbiotic architectural groups’ collective output from over the years. The work presented by Sorkin and Terreform—the latter of which is a 501(c)3 established in 2005 as a self-described “ ‘friend of the court’ dedicated to raising urban expectations and advocating for innovative and progressive ideas as widely as possible”—traces a broad stylistic and conceptual arc across time spanning from the mid-1990s through today. That arc hewed closely to the always-shifting focus of other ecologically-minded architectural firms: From dramatic landscape design in the 1990s to embodying technologically-derived formalism in the early 2000s and, more recently, a hybrid between the two. The exhibition, displayed neatly and semi-chronologically along a series of mounted display boards set atop wooden sawhorses, aims for grandiosity in content if not format. The collected schemes feature board after board of idealized eco-utopias. Some are depicted with Kazimir Malevich-inspired geometric abstraction, verdant, photo-realistic eye wash, or as techno-futurist blobitecture. According to the firm’s website, the body of work acts as a metaphorical extension of Terreform’s ongoing project, New York City (Steady) State, a “comprehensive investigation into urban self-sufficiency…intended to raise issues and propose solutions for cities around the world that seek to take radical measures to secure their respiration and autonomy and to achieve a more sustainably democratic polity, founded in the local.” As a result, each project presented uses the underlying notions of New York City (Steady) State to speculate on the potential for ecologically-minded urbanism in other locales. The works attempt to imbue their architecture with a sense of cosmological meaning by fusing the naturalistic geometries spawned by ecological, parametric design with old-school New Urbanism. New York City is, in fact, featured heavily across the collected projects, with a thoughtful and dramatically rendered vision for a transit hub in the Bronx from 2002 and the firm’s proposal for a temporary enclosure for the rubble at the former World Trade Center site from 2001 providing eloquent and compelling visions that stand somewhat outside some of the exhibition’s more general themes. Ex nihilo East Asian towns and business districts are also featured prominently in the collection of work, with the Penang Peaks project from 2004 (a horseshoe-shaped cluster of mushroom-shaped towers gathered around a body of water), Skyscrapers with Chinese Characteristics (an exploration that translates Sorkin’s collection of “scholar’s rocks” into tall buildings), and an Ecological Golf Resort for Australia from 2014 best showcasing the firms’ ability to generate a sort of contextually-based, ecologically-driven formalism. Central to the groups’ experiments are several notions due to be tested in coming years, namely that cities are in fact resilient and nimble democratic systems that can countenance the ever-growing list of maladies they face, including climate change, growing income disparities, and the ever-increasing flow of antiseptic global capital. Sorkin’s team implies with its research that both new and existing cities have the potential to overcome these stresses, but only if thoughtfully and ecologically designed. This will certainly be a challenge as a new era of incompetent authoritarianism takes hold globally. Terreform’s showcase at SCI-Arc, with its broad stylistic mantle and critical urban approach, has the potential to inject a dose of inspiration for a university in transition and city searching for a new moral compass. The cornucopia of drawing styles alone should provide fertile ground for the current generation of students hungry to cut and paste their way toward new modes of formal expression. And though the works in question vary greatly in terms of representational techniques, muses, and thought bubbles, Sorkin’s detail-oriented gaze remains consistent, whether it involves the tiny white ribbons representing pigeons drawn onto the firm’s Bronx transit plans or the technicolor landscapes of the Weed, Arizona project. The question—for after the exhibition closes—is whether SCI-Arc students will be inspired by techno-ecology and what a transition from designing at an urban scale to designing ecologically-driven urbanism might look like moving forward. --- Metrophysics SCI-Arc Gallery 960 East 3rd Street Los Angeles, CA 90013 Through December 4
Eavesdrop> Everyone’s a winner? Mitchell Joachim and Michael Sorkin square off with rival anti-Guggenheim competitions
What is it about architect Mitchell Joachim that he cannot let go of his Oedipal desire to go after his former "father" employer Michael Sorkin? Not happy about the direction of Sorkin’s non-profit Terreform, Joachim went out and founded his own 501c3, Terreform ONE. Most recently, Sorkin co-organized and sponsored The Next Helsink—with Checkpoint Helsinki, Terreform, Occupy Museums, and Global Ultra Luxury Faction (G.U.L.F.)—a protest “call for ideas” to the high profile Guggenheim Helsinki Design Competition. This alternative competition received hundreds of entries and allowed multiple voices to critique the official Guggenheim one. With Sorkin’s project about to publish a book of its entries, Joachim has now posted online a page of his own where he declares Terreform One the winner of “The New Official Alternative Award Winners of the Guggenheim Helsinki architecture and urban design counter-competition.” It is hard to tell how Mr. Joachim wants us to take the competition. His "winning" design features a bare rear-end with windows. Also, the “competition” seems not have had jurors and or even a call to submit. He claims it was co-sponsored by Anonymous Finland, the Libertarian Anti-Ellsworth Toohey League, Occupy Helsinki, and Eco-communalism. This anti-anti-competition seems to believe it is showing up Next Helsinki, but who can save Sorkin from Joachim? Politico doesn't seem to mind all the fuss, however. The online magazine recently profiled Joachim in the video below.
Through Stormproof, an open international design competition for building resilient cities, Terreform One has pursued many viable solutions for a stormproof future. Students and professionals were challenged with preparing cities for imminent confrontations of extreme climate change. Twenty finalists were chosen from 168 teams comprised of 310 participants based in over fifteen countries, and by employing complex designs such as barrier islands to mitigate storm and flood impact, participants have recommended solutions that revive and repurpose present infrastructure. Finalists include SLIDE, a resilient scheme for stabilizing mudslides in Los Angeles by recycling debris to produce an opportunity for open ended growth, and Hybrid Edge, an approach that suggests the re-invention of the coastline edge of Dowtown Miami by conflating urban and wetland ecologies. Others, such as A Working Waterfront for NY Harbor utilize shipping infrastructure as coastline defense through an ecologically-minded tactic. The jury involves a renowned panel of designers including Stan Allen, Principal, SAA, former Dean of Princeton University School of Architecture, Michael Arad, partner of Handel Architects, and Dan Barasch, Co-Founder of The Low Line, among several others. Jurors will meet to select the winners by the end of the month. Explore all of the finalists here.
ONE Lab, New York School for Design + Science is a non-profit research and education collaborative that plans to begin year-round programming when the historic renovation of Building 128 at the Brooklyn Navy Yard is complete in 2014. This innovative, interdisciplinary school currently operates out of the Metropolitan Exchange, a professional cooperative at 33 Flatbush Avenue in Brooklyn, NY. The co-chairs, Maria Aiolova and Mitchell Joachim of urban ecology thinktank Terreform ONE, seek to promote "research and education at the intersection of design and science." The ONE Lab Summer Session 2012 on Future Cities, an annual summer program, will take place July 9th through August 3rd and brings together innovators across design and technology to explore the relationship of the fields and what impacts they can have on our cities. Special attention will be paid to ecology with radical solutions the goal. Programming will include three parts: a design studio, a series of seminars, and workshops. Previous summer sessions have focused on bio-design (2011), and urban farming (2009 and 2010). The design studio will focus on the project's mission to "establish new forms of knowledge and new processes of practice at the interface of design, technology, engineering and biology." New York serves as the laboratory, and over 100 hours of design studies will explore the possibilities of self-sufficiency in New York. The seminar is comprised of 40 hours of TED style talks delivered by experts from the fields of architecture, urban design, biology, physics, and art, including Dr. Dickson D. Despommier, Vito Acconci, Natalie Jeremijenko, Marc Forens and Graham Hill, the founder of world renowned media outlet Treehugger. Four workshops will teach participants processes of biotechnology (including technologies such as genetic engineering, tissue culture, and cloning), growing materials, grafting trees and plants, scripting and computational modeling for controlled growth. The program is open to all college level students and post graduate professionals interested in design and its relationship to science and technology. For information on how to apply to ONE Lab: Summer Session on Future Cities 2012, or to register for the design studio, seminars, or workshops, please visit www.onelab.org. Students attending the seminars series only do not need to apply. Deadline: May 15, 2012.
Last week at the Phaidon Bookstore in Soho, White Box held a benefit for their new sustainable art garden by organizing a panel discussion called "Sustainable Work Lab: new projects in art, architecture and urban design." Ali Hossaini moderated the discussion between landscape designer Frances Levine, architect David Turnbull, and urban designer Maria Aiolova. Hossaini yielded to Turnbull's freewheeling conversation about Socratic love, i.e. the coupling of poverty and invention. Inspired by his fresh-off-the-plane-from-Kenya presentation, the crowd indulged in the philosophical debate. Turnbull balked at biennials and instead encouraged artists "to make artifacts that are useful and have that magical quality that keep them from being thrown away." "Sustainability should be the bare minimum," concurred Aiolova. She should know. Her firm, Terreform1, held a sustainability love fest all summer long, which culminated in winning the Victor J. Papanek Social Design Award on August 17. Aiolova said that impetus for entering the Design for the Real World competition came after she and partner Mitchell Joachim were approached by Ron Labaco of the Museum of Art and Design (MAD). Though Aiolova was unaware of any financial aspect of the award, she seemed more interested in the conference to be held at the University of Applied Arts in Vienna in the fall, where Paola Antonelli will be the keynote speaker and the winning work will be exhibited. The exhibition will come to New York at MAD in the spring 2012, sponsored in part by the Austrian Culture Forum New York. There, the group will discuss "Urbaneering Brooklyn" at a symposium on social design. The model takes a look at downtown Brooklyn one hundred years in the future, a place where all necessities—food, water, and energy—are provided from within the area's boundaries. "We are projecting what the technologies are going to be to achieve the state of self reliance." For her presentation at Phaidon, Aiolova revisited the more practical aspects of some smaller scale projects, like the group's Fab Tree Hab designs, which combine a natural scaffolding made of vines with fully grown trees that are grafted to act as a support structure and columns. Aiolova acknowledged that the design may not be everyone's cup of tea, but for the client who wants to live off the grid, literally at one with nature, the Fab Tree Hab might hold the answer. What about the time it takes to grow the house? "It takes three to nine years for a good bottle of scotch," she said. Back at the studio, Terreform had just completed ONE Lab: Biodesign, a summertime boot-camp where architects, scientists, and artists met to explore design with living matter:
The Biennale Architettura 2010 in Venice will open a month earlier than usual this year, with the media vernissage set for August 26–28. The Architect’s Newspaper will be there blogging daily on Kazuyo Sejima’s curated exhibition People Meet in Architecture, bringing you reports from all the national pavilions, collateral exhibits, and of course the parties. Invitations to events have been coming in to our office every day this month, and on August 20 we’ll publish a complete itinerary for those of you attending the biennale. This year, the United States pavilion is being organized by Atlanta’s High Museum and the publication 306090, under the direction of curators Michael Rooks of the High Museum and 306090’s Jonathan D. Solomon. The pavilion theme is Workshopping, and it presents projects that “involve the architect as the initiator of a transdisciplinary cooperative team focused on research, social engagement, and private initiative for public benefit.” Featured practices include Hood Design, MOS, John Portman & Associates, Guy Nordenson, Catherine Seavitt, ARO, the LSU Coastal Sustainability Studio, Anthony Fontenot, Chicago’s Archeworks, Michael Sorkin’s Terreform, and UCLA’s cityLAB. If you want to know more about the exhibition, check out its new website!