architecture | reurbanization | sustainability


Currently at MOMA —

“Abandoned neighborhoods. Boarded-up harbor facilities. An oil refinery submerged under several feet of brackish water. The Statue of Liberty slowly sinking into the sea.

“Rising Currents: Projects for New York’s Waterfront,” a new show at the Museum of Modern Art, reflects a level of apocalyptic thinking about this city that we haven’t seen since it was at the edge of financial collapse in the 1970s, a time when muggers roamed freely, and graffiti covered everything.

Organized by Barry Bergdoll, the Modern’s curator of architecture and design, the show is a response to the effects that rising sea levels are expected to have on New York City and parts of New Jersey over the next 70 or so years, according to government studies. The solutions it proposes are impressively imaginative, ranging from spongelike sidewalks to housing projects suspended over water to transforming the Gowanus Canal into an oyster hatchery.”



Photo by Kimberly Bradley, NY Times

A quick NY Times piece on urban infill and the ‘real estate frontier’ of post-wall East Berlin. There’s a bit about the difficulty in reconciling contexts of the old neighborhood with the new architecture tht is worth thinking about.

Filling the Gap


“1st prize in the international “Solar Decathlon 2007” competition to find the most attractive and energy-efficient solar home in 2007 went to Germany. The competition rules require a fully energy-independent building with a floor area limited to 75 m². The prototype is laden with new technologies and concepts: Vacuum insulation (VIP), thermo-active building systems using phase change materials (PCM), solar power generation (PV) integrated into the facade and roof and many other features ensure energy autonomy. The team from the Technical University in Darmstadt, headed by Prof. Manfred Hegger, triumphed in Washington D.C. against 19 other top universities from the USA, Canada and Spain. This high-tech building will be erected as a project office on the “Lichtwiese” campus at TU Darmstadt, serving as an EnBau model project for detailed testing and optimisation in everyday use.”


On Tuesday, 12th May 2009 the international urban and landscape architectural competition for the Columbia Quartier along the boundary of the vacant Airport of Tempelhof was decided.
After a first round with 80 proposals, in December 2008 only 12 projects were chosen for the second phase of the competition. Three of them received the final prize as follows:

# Graft Architekten / Büro Kiefer Landschaftsarchitektur, (Berlin)
# Urban essences Architektur / Lützow 7 Landschaftsarchitektur, (Berlin)
# chora architecture (London)/ gross.max Landschaftsarchitektur (Edinburg)

The Team of chora architecture/gross.max combining architects and landscape architects developed an energetic, sustainable and infrastructural concept, together with Buro Happold from Berlin.

This team conceived Tempelhof as collective public space and alternative Energy plant, the Air Bridge to the Future:

“The Airport of Tempelhof has the function of a bridge, like the future of our cities can reflect. Cities, which consist not only of energetically passive structures, but also of active energy producers networked with intelligent systems.

A ring surrounding the central park should give a new form to the landscape, a place, where Technology and Nature melt themselves, where Energy should be produced out of different technologies and where a field for learning, experimenting and researching may be developed.

Along this ring, different quarters regarding an IBA (International Building Exhibition) should be raised. The nucleus of our proposal is the development of a Management instrument allowing diverse companies and dwellers coexist through a sustainable financial process. This instrument may also achieve the possibility of coordinating resources to meet decisions aiming an ambitious objective: Tempelhof as an Energy producer, taking care of the surrounding neighbourhoods, bringing people together and radically reducing carbon emissions, as the Government requires.”


An innovative concept on the principle of ‘saving energy rather than paying to generating it’ has resulted in a ‘zero-energy building’ for Eawag and Empa in Dübendorf: a model of sustainability in action, awarded by the World Sustainable Building Conference. The orientation, massing, envelope, storage mass and solar protection of the office building were optimised so as to avoid the need for a conventional heating system. The building’s heating needs are met by using geothermal storage, solar energy and the heat energy produced inside the building by its occupants, computers and lighting.

The rooms are organised into various functional zones, grouped around a five-storey atrium. Cantilevered conference pods, the main staircase and views linking one part with another turn the atrium into a spatial experience. The spaces along the outer walls can be divided flexibly to enable new ways of working and freely networked workplaces. Seminar rooms, a lecture theatre and a staff restaurant broaden the wide variety of rooms provided.


Club Watt features a LED-laden dance floor that is lit up solely by the kinetic energy generated by dancers. The new nightclub will also feature a variety of efficiency standards established by the Sustainable Dance Club group that allow it to save 30% on energy consumption, 50% on water use, cut CO2 emissions by 30%, and reduce waste by 50%.
Home to a thriving young, creative, and diverse population, Rotterdam is the ideal location for Watt. The new club functions as an iconic representation of what the Sustainable Dance Club group is trying to replicate in nightclubs and festivals around the world: an environmentally aware, interactive, sustainable experience.

Watt features a variety of sustainable strategies that include the use of energy-efficient LED lighting instead of powerhungry spotlights, a rainwater catchment’s system that supplies water for its toilets, and waterless urinals which will save an expected 1000 cubic meters of water per year. The club’s LED laden dance floor converts each dancer’s kinetic energy into 20W, allowing it to power itself. These features put the club well on its way to reaching the 50% decrease in CO2 emissions mandated by the Rotterdam Climate Initiative…


An old farmhouse in the mountains of Switzerland, which for generations had belonged to an alpine farmer’s family, had been passed on to their direct descendants. These descendants, now living in the city, approached the Swiss architect Peter Zumthor in 1990 to modernise the house for their holidays, yet “without loosing its magic”.

Gugalun means, “looking at the moon”. It is a name of a house built by farmers on a northern slope in Grisons canton in Switzerland. Its long life, originated from 1709, has been linked to the serene life of the successive generations. Nowadays, the direct descendants of this family have a very different life characterised by the speed of life imposed by having both their work and their house in the city.

Life in the Swiss canton was characterized by an austerity, which still is present in Gugalun House. The method of construction was typical of Grisons tradition of knitting massive wooden beams. It was heated by a primitive hypocaust, a Roman technique of a central heating system, which relied on a wood fire, and the circulation of warm air that heated the house by means of a big stone stove. All of these qualities of Spartan austerity brought an appreciation for timeless values…