Menzis Office Building by Cie in Groningen, Netherlands

The following is from the architects’ website:

‘With its high, angular structure, the Menzis office is a distinctive landmark on Groningen’s south-western periphery. Three identical prismatic volumes, each four storeys high, are rotated at 90 degrees to one another, so the building seems to lean. The lowest volume accommodates the public functions; the two upper volumes primarily contain office spaces. The atriums, stacked in a spiral-like fashion, interconnect the various floors and are an expression of the corporate values of Menzis: transparent and communicative. Moreover, in their formal variety the atriums offer some surprising interior perspectives. The building is a successful combination of a distinctive exterior and a varied and exciting interior.’

‘The new construction for the Menzis health insurarce company is situated on the edge of the Europapark urban expansion of the city of Groningen. At city scale level, the construction expresses its iconographic character toward the urban circular and the A7 motorway, the Europaweg. At ground floor level, the street alignment is determinated by the Europapark, where the building, as it rises, gradually leans over into the street space.

The 12-storey building is divided into three identical prismatic segments, rotatred 90º in relation to each other. With dimensions of 43 x 43 m, the segment is characterized by functional yet aesthetic compactness. Each segment contains four storeys, intersected vertically by an atrium. As a consequence, a spiral of atria is generated, forming an internal response to the dynamic exterior.

The foot accommodates the public functions, which are orientated toward the atrium and include service desks, an insurance shop and a healthcare service center. A doctor’s room and several consulting rooms are situated in themore private area. A practical system of partitioning divides the third and fourth floors into meeting rooms, a library, training areas, an auditorium, and a restaurant. The restaurant area can also be deployed flexibly as extra meeting space if required. The spacious staircase, which allow easy public flow though the atrium to the restaurant and meeting centre above, offer an unimpeded view of both the inner area and the water of the Winschoterdiep (canal).

The middle and upper segments are generic. The specific presence of the atrium, which allows the incidence of daylight into the building, contrasts with the neutral character of each storey. The atrium divides each storey into a series of working areas with distinct qualities: peripheral or secluded, light or well-shaded, open or closed. The variation in spatial conditions enables the application of diverse office concepts, geared to the different work processes within Menzis, such as the call center, administrative functions, and stuff functions. The atrium stairs facilitate informal contact between the floors. In combination with the use of natural materials, the magnolia garden around the building with its diverse terraces, water features and illuminations, contributes to creating a pleasant and relaxed ambience.’

Date of construction: 2003 - 2005

For more pictures visit:


‘Eco-house’ based on Medieval architecture could be home of the future -

Architect Richard Hawkes and his wife Sophie have plans for the good life in Kent. Their dream house is an ambitious eco project that will give Richard great scope to experiment

Eco-house: 'Eco-house' based on Medieval architecture could be home of the future

Eco-house: The unusual dome-like design is based on a Medieval technique, originating in Spain, known as ‘timbrel vaulting’ Photo: MASONS NEWS SERVICE
The zero carbon building, developed by University of Cambridge architects as a prototype for future living, is based on a 600-year-old Medieval design that retains heat from the sun while cooling naturally in the summer. Read more…

AWAITING PIX ‘Eco-house’ based on Medieval architecture could be home of the future - Telegraph.

Categories: Conservation · Green Design · Green Living · Green Technology ·Recycle · creative force · eco-living · renewable energy
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MAD organized to design the Huaxi City Centre

In 2008, MAD organized and invited 11 young international architects to carry out an urban experiment: to design the Huaxi city centre of Guiyang, in South Western China. The architects invited by MAD included: Atelier Manferdini (USA), BIG (DENMARK), Dieguez Fridman (ARGENTINA), EMERGENT/Tom Wiscombe (USA), HouLiang Architecture (CHINA), JDS (DENMARK/BELGIUM), MAD (CHINA), Mass Studies (KOREA), Rojkind Arquitectos (MEXICO), Serie (UK/INDIA), Sou Fujimoto Architects (JAPAN). The masterplan was developed by Shanghai Tongji Urban Planning and Design Institute, Studio 6, together with MAD.





In the past 15 years, around 10 billion sqm of built space has been created in the urban areas of China. In 20 years time, another 200 to 400 new cities will be built. Until now, the results of this overwhelming urbanization have been defined by high-density, high-speed and low-quality duplication: the urban space is meaningless, crowded and soulless. Are we going to continue copying the skyline of Western cities created over a hundred years of industrial civilisation? Will Manhattan and Chicago continue to be our model city, even after 15 years of urban construction in China?

Perhaps an alternative future for our cities can be found within the current social condition, where new technologies are leaving the machine age behind, and where the city increasingly invades the natural space. Based on a Chinese understanding of nature, this joint urban experiment aims to explore whether we can use new technologies and global ideas to reconnect the natural and man-made world.

The site of Huaxi is famous for its dramatic and beautiful landscape, as well as a diverse mix of minority cultural inhabitants during its history. Its future is defined by the local government’s urban planning as a new urban centre for finance, cultural activities and tourism. MAD brought the young architects together here in the summer of 2008, for a 3-day workshop to create an experimental urban vision for Huaxi.

Each proposal provided a unique design for a single part of the masterplan, based on their own understanding and interpretation of the local natural and cultural elements. The result is a series of organic individual buildings, growing from the natural environment, and working together to produce a compound of diverse urban activities.

In this high density urban environment, the limits of urbanization are controlled and set by nature; the buildings take on the dynamic topography of the site, touching the landscape in a more interactive way. Generic verticality is replaced by a complex taxonomy of urban activities, defined by a multiplicity of connections, detours and short cuts. The natural and the artificial are fused together, revealing an image of a future architecture.

The ecological method here is not just focused on saving energy; rather, the goal is to create a new, balanced urban atmosphere which can evoke the feeling of exploring the natural environment. The city is no longer determined by the leftover logic of the industrial revolution (speed, profit, efficiency) but instead follows the ‘fragile rules’ of nature. This collaborative experiment thus provides an alternative, responsive model for the development of the urban centre: a man-made symbiosis, in harmony with nature, in which people are free to develop their own independent urban experience.




China has become the global laboratory for urbanization, where the logical endpoint of current architectural trends can be seen, and the effects of leaving private developers to create cities can be most keenly felt. This urban experiment is not intended as an idealized urban reality, but as an attempt to push these trends to their purest forms, with all of the benefits and problems that this brings. MAD is aware of, and actively encouraging, the failings and successes of this project.


Aus university campus in Oman

nra to design AUS $20million university campus in Oman
Brisbane firm Noel Robinson Architects’ (nra) have revealed first images of their design for a new 120 million Australian Dollars Sohar University campus in the Sultanate of Oman which they claim will revolutionise higher education design in the Middle East.

Artists impression of new Sohar University campus, as designed by Noel Robinson Architects

nra will design 12 buildings within the two-hectare campus of Sohar University on the back of their initial master planning commission including a new Library, Sporting Facilities, Multi-purpose lecture theatres, Graduation Hall, Faculty Buildings for Engineering, Business, Health Sciences, Social Sciences and Humanities, Administration, Student Services and post-graduate residences.

nra founder, Noel Robinson, advised that this project is the ignition of the firm’s future in the Middle East and stated that Oman is the “sleeping giant” for sustainable development opportunities in the region.

“Oman is a largely untapped market and our appointment to complete the university master plan and now to design the campus buildings has opened the door to a wealth of new opportunities, which is beneficial in the current global economic climate,” said Robinson. “Oman is more understated than the neighbouring UAE and has a lot to offer in terms of its rich cultural heritage, natural environment, varied climate and beautiful coastline. Oman has immense potential to lead the region in sustainable development in the Middle East, particularly in integrated tourism development and education. His Majesty Sultan Qaboos has set Oman on a path for sustainable development, which is a perfect fit for nra’s design approach.”

And this design approach, nra say is to “contemporise Islamic design traditions with leading international principals of campus planning and innovative environmentally sustainable design.”

nra expects to complete phase one of the Sohar University building designs in early 2009, with construction to be completed by 2011.

via world architecture news


Sketches of Frank Gehry documentary (2005)

"What's so hot about Frank Gehry?" Pollack asks in the opening narration, anticipating the average viewer's skepticism about the purpose of such a movie. "What's the big deal?"

The buildings Gehry has designed are the best answer to that question, and Pollack shows plenty of them, including his masterpiece, Bilbao's Guggenheim Museum. (Frank Gehry page on Wikipedia) While most architects deal with straight lines and easily defined geometric shapes, Gehry favors bizarre curves, twists and oddly proportioned shapes, an exciting blend of form and function. A regular building is a police artist's sketch. A Frank Gehry building is a Picasso painting.

Gehry himself, born Ephraim Goldberg in 1929 (he changed to the less Jewish "Gehry" in the '50s at the behest of his then-wife), comes across as a garrulous, likable old crank, not the loony eccentric you'd expect from viewing his work. He's pragmatic and realistic about his designs and the way they're perceived, mindful of his critics (though he tries not to be) and always aware that a building must be useful in addition to being beautiful.

The film itself is straightforward and functional, following Gehry around in his work but avoiding any particular "plot." We see him build scale models with his assistants, while interviews with admirers (and even a detractor or two) fill out the details.

Via world architecture news podcasts

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Hybrid Solar House, sustainable house

Innovative new homes of remarkable strength, economy, and beauty, brought to life by an elegant new architecture and the discovery of a new source of pollution-free energy. We will show you a method of building homes and offices in which natural materials and natural forces are used to create a comfortable environment without the use of fuel or electricity.

Once completed, even before you move in, these new homes will have come alive with a natural atmospheric cycle, like the Earth, on which they are based. A built-in "biosphere," in gradual but constant motion, draws energy from the sun, and geothermal stability from the ground, creating a temperate climate that buffers the primary living space.

A better way of bulding homes: Hybrid Solar House


The World, Dubai's islands

The perfect gift for the person who has everything! No one's ever disappointed by real estate, or isn't it?

There are smaller private artifical islands divided into four categories - private homes, estate homes, dream resorts, and community islands. Each island will range from 250,000 to 900,000 square feet in size, with 50 to 100 metres of water between each island. Price: between $6 to $36 million ...


The World is an exclusive development in Dubai made up of 300 islands that together form a map of the planet, an archipelago built 4 km (2.5 miles) off the coast of Dubai, United Arab Emirates.

Dredging for the project began in 2004. By May 2007, 45% of the islands had been sold, 20 of which were bought in the first four months of 2007. As of early October 2007, land reclamation was "nearly complete" and was expected to be finished in 2008.

There have been many unconfirmed reports of celebrities who have purchased, or intend to purchase, an island. E.g. on November 2007 Brad Pitt and Angelina Jolie were reported to have purchased the island "Ethiopia" - (how fitting!).

See more about The World Dubai by watching the video:


Natural Homes Map

Natural Homes has created a pretty mashup of Google Maps and natural homes in the world.To help others who are thinking of going green we have launched our mapping system so that natural homes around the world are more accessible.Click a natural homes icon below to see a picture and follow the links to the owner's website and check if you are Natural.

Works fine in Firefox, maybe a little buggy in IE ...


Will Pearson: Panoramic Photographer London


Will Pearson is a London-based panoramic photographer. He has been taking panoramic photographs, stereographic images and virtual tours for more than a decade - both in London and around the world. His photography encompasses architectural shots showcasing sculpted lines and dynamic buildings to Shanghai skylines, to the wild landscapes of the American desert and windswept Cornish beaches.

Will Pearson: Panoramic Photographer London

And don' miss his 360 Virtual Tours and his Gigal Pixel Panoramic Images! Just scroll down the site!



The Vertical Farm Project

"The Living Tower" by Pierre Sartoux

The Problem:
By the year 2050, nearly 80% of the earth's population will reside in urban centers. Applying the most conservative estimates to current demographic trends, the human population will increase by about 3 billion people during the interim. An estimated 109 hectares of new land (about 20% more land than is represented by the country of Brazil) will be needed to grow enough food to feed them, if traditional farming practices continue as they are practiced today. At present, throughout the world, over 80% of the land that is suitable for raising crops is in use (sources: FAO and NASA). Historically, some 15% of that has been laid waste by poor management practices. What can be done to avoid this impending disaster?

A Potential Solution: farm vertically
The concept of indoor farming is not new, since hothouse production of tomatoes, a wide variety of herbs, and other produce has been in vogue for some time. What is new is the urgent need to scale up this technology to accommodate another 3 billion people. An entirely new approach to indoor farming must be invented, employing cutting edge technologies. The Vertical Farm must be efficient (cheap to construct and safe to operate). Vertical farms, many stories high, will be situated in the heart of the world's urban centers.

The Vertical Farm Project

Vertical Farm Design by Chris Jacobs


Dairy House by Skene Catling de la Peña

The new buzz words of the 21st century—“organic,” “ecofriendly,” “sustainable”—have inundated today’s architectural vocabulary despite their indifference to definition. When you get down to it, whether a work of architecture is “green” is usually a shade of gray.

Architect Charlotte Skene Catling, principal of the firm Skene Catling de la Peña, shrugs off any hard-and-fast characterization of the environmental principles that guided her renovation of and addition to a 1902 building in the historic, 850-acre Hadspen estate in Somerset, England. Although demolishing the old building and replacing it would have been much less expensive, she and her client saw the value in maintaining the integrity of the timeworn masonry structure and its role in the estate as a whole. Catling gutted and renovated the building from roof shingles to reclaimed wood floorboards, adding an extension clad in sheets of glass and oak that houses circulation space between the first and second floors, as well as three bathrooms. An attached, 215-square-foot pool acts as a heat sink for a biomass power source in the summer.

But more than just keep the house’s size small (just over 2,000 square feet) and minimize energy use, Catling sought to keep the project local. The oak, with matching layers of float glass that clad the extension’s second floor, come from cords stored in sheds opposite the Dairy House. Catling hired regional workers who live less than 20 miles from the site: a local cabinetmaker, who constructed the extension; a glass laminator responsible for joining the extension’s layers of glass; and a stonemason who restored the brick facades and fashioned pathways and the pool from locally quarried slate. These moves represent an equally important side of sustainabilty—what her architecture-savvy client, Niall Hobhouse, calls “social sustainability.”

Hobhouse—whose commissions of a Robert Smithson folly on the grounds and a design competition to reimagine the estate’s beloved Hadspen Parabola garden have created controversy in the landscape design field—was intrigued by the question of how to insert modern architecture in old houses. In England, where many old buildings are “listed,” or landmarked, the issue is particularly fraught. Often houses are either restored to look like period pieces, or modern extensions overwhelm and undermine the old structure. For this project, Catling proposed something in between—she discreetly inserted the addition, using transparency to dematerialize its bulk. ”



Architects: Y. Tohme Architects
Location: Lebanon, Kornet Chehouane
Type: Residential
Design: Development Phase, 2008
Project Total Area: 1.200sqm
Architects in Charge: Y.TOHME/ARCHITECTS
Architect: Youssef Tohme
Project Architect: Anastasia Elrouss
Collaborate Architects: Rani Boustani, Joanne Hennaoui
Consultant Architects: Christophe Hurgon
Construction Fees: 1.500.000 $

Within a huge existing pine forest environment, T-project is a villa situated on a considerably sloping rocky site naturally leveled framing a superb perspective of green mountains and Beirut city scape. The Villa communicates explicitly with this described natural context kept intact.

Our intervention took into consideration the immediate context and the client as primordial elements contributing in the creation of diverse spatial agendas concerning the identity of the overall project image. It is simple and monumental externally complex and organic internally creating quite an interesting contrast. As a result, the intervention produces a duality between the external & the internal discovery of the created moments. A minimal architectural Impact is experienced on the terraced roof structure highlighting mostly the power of inhabiting nature and overlooking Beirut’s horizons.

On the other side an internal organic flow of planes valorize exposed main functions through several instances of nature appropriation: a pool, a patio perforate the habitable roof towards its interiors .The villa is an ongoing promenade of space discovery due to the multiple functionality of its planes: The roof and the slab planes are commonly a terrace, a pool, a patio, a garden, a room, a lived moment.

This multi sided functional aspect led us to a simple intervention by using only two planes sometimes freestanding clearly triggering a conscious spatial empowerment where we become aware of the villa’s presence on site and some other times leaving the space free to disappear between the rocky site levels and its trees.
As a result the villa has only one glass façade expanding on 50m length reminding us of natural caves where the inhabitant lives a cycle of safety and threat .
The abundant southern sunlight allows the planes to float highlighting at a time the power of the built through the power of nature. Actually the villa is in a state of chronic marriage renewal within its context.
T-Project execution will start in May 2009.”


Slideshow of Frank Lloyd Wright's Porjects from Flickr

Enjoy this slideshow and make sure you read the information of each picture


WATG Destination design

Seattle, February 2009 - Destination design firm WATG provided complete architectural design services for Bardessono, a 62-room boutique luxury inn and spa opening this week on a 4.9-acre site in Yountville, California, in the heart of Napa Valley.

Bardessono Hotel Entry at Grand Opening

The inn includes a spa with four treatment rooms, a 75-foot-long rooftop infinity pool, a fine-dining restaurant, and meeting space. The design reflects a blending of the Valley's agrarian character, the high refinement associated with its wines, and the indoor/outdoor character of local living.

Bardessono Hotel Pool

The project uses solar and geothermal energy, sophisticated energy management systems, sustainable building materials, and organic landscape management practices. The project is pursuing a LEED Platinum certification from the US Green Building Council.

Bardessono Hotel Green Wall

Some of the unique elements of the inn include a lobby without a front desk - guests are greeted in the foyer by the staff; every room has its own courtyard that allows for absolute guest privacy; and spa treatments will be available in every guestroom.

Bardessono Hotel Unit with photovoltaic roofs

"Guests will be able to take their showers outdoors, underneath the stars," said Susan Frieson, WATG associate and lead architect on the project. "That’s just one of many experiences at Bardessono that will connect people with their environment."

Some of the sustainable design features of the property include:

• Eighty-two 300-foot-deep geothermal wells to heat and cool guestrooms and to provide hot water.

• 940 solar panels on the buildings' flat roofs, hidden from view by parapets that produce 200 KW of power.

• Rammed-earth sculptural walls and 100-year-old olive trees.

• Paving stones and sand for the entrance road, to allow water to seep into the soil, and valet parking, which will allow guests to walk - rather than drive - throughout the property.

• Automatically-controlled exterior Venetian blinds to let the sun and heat in early in the day and out later in the day.

• Dual-pane glass, designed to take advantage of natural light while controlling glare and heat gain.

• Fluorescent bulbs and light-emitting diodes. Everything electric in the rooms is on motion-detectors that shut them off when a guest leaves. When they return and put their key in the door, the current go back on.

• Dual-flush toilets and low-flow fixtures that save water.

• Filtered water, which takes the place of bottled water.

• Drought-resistant landscaping and underground emitters for outdoor watering.

• Re-use and treatment of gray and black water for irrigation through Yountville's water system.

The project is managed by MTM Luxury Lodging and was developed by Phil Sherburne, who also developed Willows Lodge in the Seattle area and Inn of the Spanish Garden in Santa Barbara, CA.

WATG has a legacy of environmentally sensitive planning, architecture and design. A hallmark of WATG is its sensitivity to the influences of the local culture, the natural resources, the people and the spirit of the place. From its offices in Seattle, Irvine, Honolulu, Orlando, Singapore and London, WATG has designed hotels and resorts in 160 countries and territories across six continents. For more information, visit


Smart Sweet Smart Home









Smart Home: Home in 90 Seconds


Putting the Green Back in Community Development

Kaufmann Urban Design image

There is certainly a stigma attached to community developments. I mean where do I start? Building a mcmansion an hour away from work only to spend your life sitting in traffic. Building more house than you need, wasting supplies and sucking up energy. But it doesn't have to be that way. In fact, community living can be greener than you think.

Acclaimed green architect Michelle Kaufmann is now trying to parlay her success with prefab homes into green community living in her new white paper Embracing Thoughtful, Walkable Neighborhoods. Green communities are critical to changing the face of American growth because currently "if everyone in the world lived in a style similar to that of an average American, we would require three Earths to support the demand on our natural resources,” says Kaufmann.

In the white paper she designs a road map for the future of green development. It's put simply with her 10 EcoPrinciples for Communities. These principles include smart design, energy efficiency, water conservation, reducing waste, creating a healthy environment, diversity, smart location, respecting the land, smart auto strategy, and sharing resources. Read a detailed description of each EcoPrinciple.

By building green communities close to urban areas thereby reducing the dreaded sprawl, she asserts that we can change the green image of our generation. Additionally, Kaufmann's building methods reduce consumption, waste, costs, and building time by between 50 percent and 75 percent over conventional building methods. These modular homes come in several configurations or you can choose a custom made green home.

If more architects, urban planners, and designers would start to see the importance of not just green home construction but creating self-sustaining communities as well it would really have a green impact on our future development. Communities like this not only lend themselves to sharing resources like organic gardens, playgrounds, and mass transit but they also create a healthy atmosphere that improves air quality, makes exercise easy, and decreases the stress that goes along with a long commute.


Top 10 Buildings of the Modern Era

Top 10 Buildings of the Modern Era
Greatest Buildings of the Past 100 Years
By Jackie Craven,

1. 1905 to 1910 : Casa Mila Barcelona
Spanish architect Antoni Gaudi defied rigid geometry when he designed Casa Mila Barcelona. Casa Mila Barcelona is an apartment building with a fanciful aura. Wavy walls seem to undulate and a comical array of chimney stacks dance across the roof. "The straight line belongs to men, the curved one to God," Gaudi asserted.

2. 1913 : Grand Central, New York
Designed by architects Reed and Stern and Warren and Wetmore, the $43 million dollar Grand Central terminal building in New York City featured lavish marble work and a domed ceiling with 2,500 twinkling stars.

3. 1930 : The Chrysler Building, New York
Architect William Van Alen lavished the 77-story Chrysler Building with automotive ornaments and classic art deco zigzags. Soaring 319 meters / 1,046 feet, the Chrysler Building was the tallest building in the world... for a few months.

4. 1931 : Empire State Building, New York
When it was built, the Empire State Building in New York City broke world records for building height. Reaching a height of 381 meters / 1,250 feet, it rose above the Chrysler Building. Even today, the Empire State Building is nothing to sneeze at, ranking within the top 10 for building height. The designers were architects Shreve, Lamb and Harmon.

5. 1935 : Fallingwater, Pennsylvania, USA
Frank Lloyd Wright fooled gravity when he designed Fallingwater. What seems to be a loose pile of concrete slabs threatens to topple from its cliff. The house is not really precarious, but visitors are still awed by the improbable structure.

6. 1936 - 1939 : Johnson Wax Building, Wisconsin, USA
Frank Lloyd Wright redefined space with the Johnson Wax Building in Racine, Wisconsin. Inside the Johnson Wax Building, opaque layers of glass tubes admit light and create the illusion of openness. "Interior space comes free," Wright said of his masterpiece. Wright also designed the original furniture for the building. Some chairs had only three legs, and would tip over if a forgetful secretary did not sit with correct posture.

7. 1946 - 1950 : Farnsworth House, Illinois
Hovering in a green landscape, the Farnsworth House by Ludwig Mies van der Rohe is often celebrated as his most perfect expression of the International Style. All the exterior walls are glass.

8. 1957 - 1973 : Sydney Opera House, Australia
Jorn Utzon broke the rules with his modern expressionist Sidney Opera House in Australia. Overlooking the harbor, the Opera House is a freestanding sculpture of spherical roofs and curved shapes. A scandalous political affair forced architect John Utzon to withdraw from the project in 1966. The Opera house was completed by other designers under the direction of Peter Hall.

9. 1958 : The Seagram Building, New York
Ludwig Mies van der Rohe and Philip Johnson rejected "bourgeois" ornamentation when they designed the Seagram Building in New York City. A shimmering tower of glass and bronze, the Seagram Building is both classical and stark. Metallic beams emphasize the height of the 38-story skyscraper, while a base of granite pillars leads to horizontal bands of bronze plating and bronze-tinted glass.

10. 1970 - 1977 : World Trade Center, New York (Demolished by terrorist attacks)
Designed by Minoru Yamasaki, New York's World Trade consisted of two 110-story buildings (known as the "Twin Towers") and five smaller buildings. Soaring above the New York skyline, the Twin Towers were among the tallest buildings in the world. When the buildings were constructed, their design was often criticized, but in the aftermath of their destruction, they became a valuable part of America's cultural heritage.


Why The Future Of Architecture Doesn't Need Us

What becomes of Louis Kahn when buildings
actually know what they want to be? By LANCE HOSEY, AIA

In April, 2000, Sun Microsystems founder Bill Joy published an article in Wired magazine entitled, "Why the future doesn’t need us." Joy argues that emerging technologies such as robotics, nanoscience, and artificial intelligence threaten to spiral out of control and endanger humanity. As we slip deeper into dependence on machines, he says, we will rely on them to make every decision for us, and existence without them might become impossible. Eventually, machines may decide that existence with us is unnecessary. When we can’t live without them, and they can’t live with us, what will happen?

Not everyone agrees with Joy’s fatalistic view, including the scientists whose work he cites. The possibility of HAL—the intelligent computer from 2001, A Space Odyssey—and his brethren eliminating the human race is probably not something we will have to worry about for a while, but new technologies have already begun to redefine daily life at an astounding rate. The information age has ushered in a well-documented revolution in design and production over the past decade. So far these changes mostly have affected our ability to envision and illustrate new forms, but soon the entire artificial environment may be restructured. Our understandings of architecture may quickly become outdated.

Nanotechnology alone offers exciting and disquieting possibilities. Originally proposed by Nobel physicist Richard Feynman forty years ago, nanotech manipulates individual atoms and molecules to build things—anything, in fact. Experts anticipate that within the next few decades, large-scale objects, including buildings, could be fabricated using microscopic robots called assemblers, which would join to make a cybernetic glue, able to assume any shape and size. Such an instrument would eliminate traditional constraints of design and construction. Standard, irreducible components, such as the 2 X 4, the brick, steel shapes, nails and screws, will be replaced by microscopic parts. Form, texture, color, and strength would be defined at the cellular level. Orthogonal geometry, demanded for efficiency by standard frame construction, could disappear altogether.

This is not science fiction; nanoscience is quickly becoming reality. In the last year or two, IBM researchers have fashioned a computer circuit from a single carbon molecule, and Cornell scientists have built a microbe-sized motor, the first nanoscale machine. Eric Drexler, who coined the word "nanotechnology" in his 1986 book, Engines of Creation, expects dramatic benefits for design, manufacturing, electronics, medicine, and every other human endeavor. Everything we make will become better, faster, stronger, smaller, and cheaper. For architects, nanoconstruction could finally accommodate the restless search for new forms, allowing varieties never before achieved or even imagined. We will be able to construct anything we envision through a virtual wave of the wand. Buildings may be conceived and executed through computer programming by entering only a few parameters and requirements. How big is it? What does it feel like? BANG! Instant architecture.

But this assumes that designers will control the process. Nanotech’s opponents see it as an untamable force, because its potential for self-replication could get out of hand. Picture trillions upon trillions of invisible mechanical pests filling the environment and utterly consuming the earth. Assuming we can avoid catastrophe, an important question is whether architecture will require architects. Will expertise become unnecessary when anyone could punch her desires into a keyboard and produce her dream home? Moreover, a building may not necessitate anyone at all to summon it into existence. Spontaneous assembly could allow nanobots to go on auto-pilot. While Feynman saw nanoscience as arranging atoms "the way we want them," in actuality they could develop unpredictably, in ways we may or may not want.

Such technology may both fully realize and ultimately subvert many of architecture’s most enduring paradigms. The notion of "organic architecture," which Frank Lloyd Wright defined as "building the way nature builds," will no longer be just a metaphor. By modifying themselves over successive generations, ebbing and flowing in endless cycles of reproduction and adaptation, nanoassemblers could produce architecture through a process similar to genetic evolution—only faster—and therefore build exactly "the way nature builds." On the other hand, Wright intended to establish a method through which designers could shape the entire visible environment at every scale: sites, structures, furnishings, and fixtures. While buildings may become literally organic, they may also become autonomous, free from the control of designers. Design itself may become an antiquated concept. Artificial creation will be pointless when all things organic and synthetic develop "naturally."

Wright felt that architectural form should stem from the inherent "nature" of its materials: "Each material speaks a language of its own." In his mind, the proportions, heft and texture of brick logically translated into structures like the Robie House, which extends horizontally and hugs the land. Clay, shaped and laid by the hand, returns to the earth; craft transforms nature. But when the constituent parts of a building are too small to be seen with the naked eye, the relationships between form and materials will change. What is the "language" of a nanobot? Because the character of a building may vary upon command—hard and opaque one minute, soft and transparent the next—the fabric of buildings may become fluid, fluctuating states from solid to liquid to gas and back. The notion of truth in materials will become irrelevant. In fact, the word material may go away. When the basic building blocks of architecture have no strict definition, structure and substance will separate. Matter won’t matter.

Artificial intelligence poses similar conundrums. In The Age of Spiritual Machines (1999), inventor and technology guru Ray Kurzweil maintains that if current trends continue, computers will surpass the memory capacity and computational speed of the human brain in the next twenty years. Complex machines will begin to exhibit processes resembling awareness and emotions, and by the end of the century, human and mechanical consciousness will become indistinguishable. There is no reason to believe that buildings will not also get smarter. At first they will learn to perform conventional functions better by adjusting to circumstances without being told to do so. Already, computers are being integrated with building systems to monitor and respond automatically to variations in temperature, airflow, energy consumption, wind loads, and other conditions. At the moment, these features simply act in ways predetermined by programmers, but it is only a matter of time before smart buildings begin to calculate for themselves how to behave. They will adapt, and eventually they may exercise free will. A thinking building—sentient architecture —will answer for itself Louis Kahn’s question, "What does this building want to be?" Architects’ conjectures about the desires of buildings will be beside the point; the buildings will tell us what they want, or they may just take it without consulting us. Sheltering us may prove to be less than fulfilling for an intelligent structure. Kurzweil predicts that in this century we will concede that machines have legal and civil rights. Will buildings become as privileged as their inhabitants?

When we begin to see buildings as our equals, our psychological relationship with architecture will be completely redefined. Buildings will become more like us, but we may become more like them, as well. Kurzweil is certain that artificial enhancements of the human body will increase until we are more synthetic than organic. Inevitably, new types of bodies will be considered. It will become possible to scan the mind and download it into more durable or flexible containers, and the need for shelter from the elements might become unnecessary. Our future bodies may look and act nothing like our current bodies. The humanist tradition in architecture, which depends upon the reciprocal relationships between the body and buildings, will collapse as age-old standards of scale, proportion, and habitation become meaningless. Existing concepts of space and place may be discarded. Kurzweil foresees a time when all conscious beings will no longer have a permanent physical presence. Not just buildings but all material things will come into question as existence begins to be defined separately from tangible experience. Virtual reality may become the only reality, and the form life will take is probably unfathomable to us now.

Clearly, the impact of technology on the future of humanity will be more momentous than the fate of any particular discipline or profession. Nevertheless, profound changes in architecture are happening right now, and how we confront change is an urgent question. As a software developer, Bill Joy is concerned primarily with the ethics of design: "As a toolbuilder I must struggle with the uses to which the tools I make are put." Architects, however, rarely consider ethics before aesthetics. In our love affair with technology, we often forget to question its use. All great buildings are a marriage of technique and purpose, but in much recent architecture, built and unbuilt, technique overshadows purpose. Today our facility with making form is unprecedented, yet the most sophisticated methods are irrelevant if our intentions are misdirected. If the task of architecture is to create exotic forms, eventually we may find that our tools will overtake us in this ability. But if our aim is to provide meaningful, humane places, we must be vigilant in pursuing this goal, or the future of architecture may not need us.

Lance Hosey is featured in November 2003's archrecord2 and has previously contributed to In The Cause — "Food for thought ".


Engineering an Empire - Carthage

"Carthage, a remarkable city-state that dominated the Mediterranean for over 600 years, harnessed their extensive resources to develop some of the ancient world's most groundbreaking technology. For generations, Carthage defined power, strength and ingenuity, but by the third century B.C., the empire's existence was threatened by another emerging superpower, Rome. However, when the Romans engineered their empire, they were only following the lead of the Carthaginians. From the city's grand harbor to the rise of one of history's greatest generals, Hannibal Barca, we will examine the architecture and infrastructure that enabled the rise and fall of the Carthaginian Empire"


Engineering an Empire - The Byzantines

As much of the world descended into the Dark Ages after the fall of Rome, one civilization shone brilliantly: the Byzantine Empire. With ruthless might and supreme ingenuity, the Byzantines ruled over vast swaths of Europe and Asia for more than a thousand years. It was Byzantium that preserved the classical learning and science that would one day give rise to the Renaissance. The Byzantines constructed the ancient world's longest aqueduct, virtually invincible city walls, a massive stadium, and a colossal domed cathedral that defied the laws of nature.


Engineering an Empire - The Persians

The Persian Empire was one of the most mysterious civilizations in the ancient world. Persia became an empire under the Cyrus the Great, who created a policy of religious and cultural tolerance that became the hallmark of Persian rule. Engineering feats include an innovative system of water management; a cross-continent paved roadway stretching 1500 miles; a canal linking the Nile to the Red Sea; and the creation of one of the Seven Wonders of the World, the Mausoleum of Maussollos.

The rivalry between Persia and Athens led to a 30-year war known as the Persian Wars, the outcome of which helped create the world we live in today.


Engineering an Empire: Egypt

Twenty-five hundred years before the reign of Julius Caesar, the ancient Egyptians were deftly harnessing the power of engineering on an unprecedented scale. Egyptian temples, fortresses, pyramids and palaces forever redefined the limits of architectural possibility. They also served as a warning to all of Egypt's enemies-that the world's most advanced civilization could accomplish anything. This two-hour special uses cinematic recreations and cutting-edge CGI to profile the greatest engineering achievements of ancient Egypt, and the pharaohs and architects who were behind them. Includes Djoser's Step Pyramid at Saqqara, Senusret's Nubian Superfortresses, Hatshepsut's Mortuary Temple at Dier el-Bahari, Akhenaten's city at Amarna, and the temples of Ramesses the Great at Abu Simbel.


2009 Open Architecture Challenge: Design The change

This year's Open Architecture Challenge -- a biennal open, international design competition run by Architecture for Humanity and Orient Global -- asks designers "to work with students and teachers to design the classroom of the future for a school of your choosing."


Click the image above for more information. Registration deadline is May 1, and the submission deadline is one month later.


TVCC Building on Fire

IHT reports On Monday, February 09, 2009 , "A fierce fire engulfed a major new building in Beijing that houses a luxury hotel and cultural center Monday, the last day of celebrations for the lunar new year when the city was alight with fireworks." That major new building is the smaller of the two buildings Rem Koolhaas designed for CCTV (China Central Television). The Television Cultural Center (TVCC) was set to open in a few months.

[photo by Alfred Cheng/Reuters | image source]

IHT further states, "The fire was burning from the ground floor to the top floor, the flames reflecting in the glass facade of the main CCTV tower next to the hotel and cultural center. ... Flames were spotted around 9:30 p.m., and within 20 minutes the fire had spread throughout the building. ... The main CCTV tower appeared to be untouched by the fire."


The Ice Hotel

A hotel made entirely of ice, yaah right, an ice hotel located about 200 kilometer (124 mile) north of the Arctic Circle in Sweden. Ten thousand years ago, glaciers carved a riverbed and the Torne River was born. Since then, the crystal-clear, pure water of the Torne River has flowed freely along its 600-kilometer path through Lapland out to the sea in the southeast.

The entire Ice Hotel is on loan from the mighty Torne River and is a place where time stands still. When the spring comes and then finally the summer, the entire creation will once again become part of the rushing rapids coursing toward the sea.

Thousands of tons of snow and ice make up this hand-crafted fantasy land. Thousands of guests and voyeurs will experience it every year, before it melts.

This documentary is your chance to see one. Witness the construction and disappearance of this most megastructure.

MegaStructures: Ice Hotel by National Geographic, 2004
Duration 47 minutes

Enjoy this amazing structure

Sweden's no 1 destination: Ice Hotel in Jukkasjärvi.



Dubai - One of The Fastest Growing City on Earth

Dubai is the most populous and second largest emirate of the United Arab Emirates (UAE) and is located in the Middle East, bordering the Gulf of Oman and the Persian Gulf, between Oman and Saudi Arabia. The UAE was formed 1971 when the Trucial States of the Persian Gulf coast (previously under control of the United Kingdom) merged.

Today UAE's per capita GDP is on par with those of leading West European nations. Dubai has however received its world-wide attention as a result of numerous enormous innovative real estate projects such as:

  • The world tallest hotel, Burj Al Arab.
  • The world's tallest building, Burj Dubai is under construction with a planned height of over 800 meters.
  • Dubailand, the world's largest theme park (280 square kilometers) is under construction (more than twice the size Walt Disney World in Florida).
  • Bawandi, a development of 31 hotels featuring 29,000 rooms, including the world's largest hotel with 6,500 rooms (MGM Grand in Vegas has 5,034 rooms).
  • Palm Jumeirah and Palm Jebel, the world's largest man-made islands.
  • Hydropolis, an underwater hotel.
  • Business Bay, a central business district under construction, will have upwards of 230 buildings.
  • and more ...

This 71 minute film is an overview of Dubai's megaprojects.
Enjoy this eye-popping city with it's highlights without leaving home!

Enjoy your time!