Web City

The ecological/web city discussed in the Lunch essay, Energetic Organizations, is described as a field of connections between energy production and consumption, the role of architecture playing a fundamental part as the built environment becomes more directly involved in the energy production and consumption process. Architecture, a “machine for living”, can become a living machine, producing its own energy and integrating into the landscape much like designs such as KieranTimberlake’s Sidwell Friends School, an “interior and exterior teaching landscape”. The landscape and building coexist and demonstrate larger systems, systems that can be applied to a broader scope, such as that of the city. Among other things, the building and landscape collect water, recycle water, respond to sunlight in exterior sunscreens, and utilize photovoltaics.

KieranTimberlake Sidwell Friends School

Living machines, transformable buildings, are becoming more prevalent and could possibly be the next era of architecture. The built environment is becoming more compatible with the natural environment, basing itself off of natural systems and forms that just work and optimizing performance based on changing conditions. It is almost surprising that it has taken us so long to realize that the best way to build is to mimic the system that works most efficiently, the natural environment, instead of fighting against it with HVAC systems and completely sealed structures.

Eventually, the city will come to mimic the web of interactions found in ecosystems, trading and reusing energy. The Bay Game that we played earlier in the semester made me realize my misconception of ecological systems. Initially, I diagrammed the interaction of different components of the bay ecosystem in a very linear fashion. I saw a simple structure of cause and effect, with a beginning and an end. By the end of the game, I realized that it was in fact a complex, cyclical web of exchanges, reuses, and mutual cause and effect. It was hard to pinpoint a particular causation. In order for humans to begin to counteract the negative effects our actions have had on the natural environment, we need to stop fighting against natural systems, stop fighting against the current and instead work with the flow of natural systems.

The practice of architecture is shifting in a similar way, from a very linear, one sided process to a more integrated approach, gathering input from multiple sources and specializations. It is going to be necessary to work alongside landscape architects, engineers, contractors, and material scientists if we are going to create an integrated built environment. The typical one-sided approach will come to resemble the web city.

This “web” is applicable at many scales: that of the city, where different areas of the city create smaller networks within the larger one, that of the ecosystem, where organisms exchange energy at varying scales, that of the built structure, which is integrated within the landscape and contains its own web of energy flows, even that of the individual, just one part of the larger web. All expand outward and present the possibility for further expansion.

the web at different scales

I think the most exciting and compelling part of this shift toward integration is the  evidence that new technolgoies are not always necessary. These same principles can be applied to communities that do not have access to resources like Hoberman’s emergent surfaces that respond to changing lighting conditions. A perfect example of this is Anne Haringer’s school in Bangladesh, which was constructed using old technologies, local resources, and responds to local climatic conditions.  This January I am traveling to Honduras with Global Architecture Brigades to build a school that we helped design with the same sort of considerations. Local materials will be used, simple, tradition construction methods employed, and local systems have been considered in the design.  I am excited to put the principles we have learned in Systems, Sites and Building into practice! I anticipate that this is just the beginning in integrated design considerations for myself and other architecture students here at UVA.


the Hoberman Sphere


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Systems in Studio




My building, located at Elfreth’s Alley in Philadelphia Pennsylvania, is a studio and teaching center for Philadelphia’s Mural Arts Program.  As such, tall spaces and lighting were very important to the design. The sections above are a longitudinal view of the site and a lateral view showing sun angles entering the building. The facade of the building is pushed and pulled, and three systems incorporated (translucent glass, frosted glass, and a metal shading device) control the light entering the building depending on program. Northern, diffuse light is maximized and strong southern light shielded in studio and classroom spaces. The copper screening devices (weathered to suggest the the changing nature of the mural walls in the building over time) are located on the southern face, facing Elfreth’s Alley.  Air flows through spaces in accordance with the stack effect and is released through louvers. Air and light also enter through the junction between the three systems mentioned above; where metal screen meets translucent or transparent surface.

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Energy Saving Tips for the Holidays

Energy demand typically increases during the holiday season, with ovens, dishwashers, clothes washers and dryers working overtime. The holidays also mean many more cars on the road and decorations lighting up the streets and sapping up energy. Here are some simple ways to save energy around the holidays:

•Keep your tires inflated so your fuel economy does not decrease.
•Don’t speed. The faster you drive, the more gas your car uses (driving at 55 mph rather than 65 reduces fuel economy by about 2 mpg).

Oven Usage
•Be aware of when you actually need to preheat your oven. Slow cooks like turkeys and ham often do not require preheating.
•Don’t open the oven, use the oven light! Opening the oven while cooking can lower the oven temperature by as much as 25°.

Holiday Lights
•Turn off your holiday lights before you go to bed, or use timers. The lights do not always need to be on, and can waste lots of energy.
•Use energy efficient LED lights:
LEDs, Light Emitting Diodes, are semiconductor light sources that are being increasingly used for lighting. They offer many advantages to incandescent lighting, such as lower energy consumption, longer lifetime, small size, and great durability and reliability. While LEDs were initially used only as small light sources and indicator lamps in devices such as remote controls, they are now being used in larger appliances such as televisions DVD players.
LEDs have a higher efficiency, measured by their light output per unit input, so produce more light than incandescent and fluorescent lights for the same amount of energy used.
•Unplug home electronics, or switch off the power strip when not in use. 75% of the electricity used to power home electronics is consumed while the products are turned off.

Keep these tips in mind this holiday season! Increased energy usage by one household compounds with increased energy usage across the country. It feeds into a larger system, but everyone can make a difference in the larger result if each household cuts back.

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Integrated Design

Integrated design is a collaborative method for designing buildings which emphasizes the development of a holistic design. This method has become increasingly emphasized in the design world with the rise of environmental concerns. It is important for architects, engineers, etc to collaborate early on in the design process to create an integrated structure.

Examples of integrated design include the Community Center in Ludesch Austria by Hermann Kaufmann and the Museum of Contemporary Art in Kanazawa by SANAA.

The Community Center in Ludesch uses almost all local materials and all wood is untreated. Almost all of the insulation used is from renewable resources and there are no solvents or softeners in any finishes or adhesives. It was built tot he Austrian passive house standard with triple pane windows and high levels of insulation. The building also uses careful shading strategies and photovoltaics. Thes design is very rational, with simple details and shading.

The Contemporary Art Museum in Kanazawa is a simplistic integrated design. It fully utilizes natural light, having a mostly glass skin. One of the architects, Kazuyo Sejima, explained hte design saying, “We want people to recognize the relationship between parts without a dominant finish. Too much emphasis on secondary levels is distracting.”

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Bus stop/ Bike share final design



The bus/bike stop is located on the corner of University Way and Rugby. It cuts into that corner to allow for improved pedestrian circulation across and around Beta Bridge. A slanted roof clad in photovoltaics blocks the occupant from strong summer sun while harnessing the energy of the sun’s rays to power lights within the structure.

A solar powered “light table” illuminates the structure and displays the bus schedule. The table implies the continuation of the boundary that is Beta Bridge and  is sheathed in a concrete shell on the side facing the street so that students can continue the tradition of painting the bridge.

The slanted roof allows winter sunlight to enter the structure and warm the concrete benches. A water collection trough is connected to the concrete bench on the northwest side. Water from the roof gets directed here to cool the structure in the summer when wind blows up from the railroad tracks below. Cooler air from below the bridge also cools the bus stop in warm weather. Louvers on the northwest side of the structure can be controlled by the occupant to block wind in the winter and some sun (sun filters through trees on that side) if necessary.

A large tree on the other side of Rugby Road shields street-side of the structure from low sun at the end of the day. Bike racks wrap around the corner down University Way.

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More on ventilation and lighting

Constructing a difference between one side of a building and the other generates a draw- no need to do this mechanically

Commerce Building, Frankfurt
built in the late 1990s
•    Commercial spaces at street level, major public plaza leads into smaller lobby space
•    The structure weaves technical and urban considerations
Basic structures
•    Major structural corners with “trays” spanning between
•    Every office worker has access to daylight- no office could be more than 7 meters from boundaries.
•    Interior gardens create lateral connections

•    conditions of stacking break up atrium to decrease speed of air flow due to “stack effect”
•    building becomes porous in summer to allow airflow in and out
•    office areas have a thicker façade to allow a higher degree of control in working areas (thicker buffer zone)
air coming in chills the ceiling (summer)
heat source next to window for winter
ventilation process separated from heat source/cooling source.
Must make choice between AC and natural ventilation- cant have both
Windows allow air flow through buffer zone

James Turrell & Lighting

James Turrell is an installation artist who focuses mainly on light and its transformative qualities within a space. He uses light within spaces to play with viewers’ perception of depth and geometry, deconstructing corners and making voids disappear.

Turrell’s work usually encloses the viewer and manipulates how they perceive light within the space.

Turrell creates tunnels and geometric volumes that appear to have mass  but are really nothing more than light.

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Preliminary Bus/Bike Stop considerations

The bus/bike stop would be located on the northwest corner of Beta Bridge, where University Way meets Rugby Road and where a UTS bus recently collided with the bridge. The open space left by the bus provides an opportunity to build out past Beta Bridge in the direction of the train tracks. The bus stop would open up that corner to allow for more fluid circulation for pedestrians and cyclists.

To imply the continuation of the boundary that is Beta Bridge, part of the structure (see plan with red arros) would be a sort of solar powered light table sheathed on one side in concrete so that students can paint the structure as they do the bridge. The light table would display the bus schedule and would be powered by solar panels on the angled roof of the structure.

The ravine through which the train tracks run provides a corridor of wind to ventilate the bus shelter in the summer, as well as a new viewpoint for occupants of the bus/bike stop. Rainwater could be collected off of the roof to cool the area in warmer months. In the winter, low angled sun would warm the concrete benches and screens could be pulled down to guard against winds whipping up the train tracks.

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