Archive for Wow.

Transformative architecture

19 January 2009

The New York Times last week had a marvelous piece on an incredible apartment designed and inhabited by Hong Kong architect Gary Chang. Chang remodeled the apartment he grew up in to contain 24 different  layouts made possible by sliding and folding configurations. I love this example of architecture applying itself to the needs of living in today’s world. We know that density is going to be an increasingly important strategy for more sustainable urban environments, but density also creates problems. For cultures that have spent the past two or three generations migrating out of cities into sprawled suburbs, the move towards denser cities and communities is going to be difficult. We are going to have to learn to live with less space and more people around us.

When space is at a premium like this, it becomes less negative volume than positive element. Like clay, it is a medium to be sculpted and shaped. Chang’s apartment is a great example of how designers and architects can shift their thinking when they really consider the space, rather than the container. This may be a radical example, but it is easily distilled into practical, novel solutions for accommodating many functions in a small space. It is transformative, both within itself, literally, but also as a forerunner of the kind of solutions we will soon be seeing in our cities.

My favorite view is this one, with the hammock. If you could have 24 rooms in your apartment, certainly at least one would have a hammock, wouldn’t it? But all the views are wonderful, and worth a look.

Theo Jansen mechanism

3 October 2008

More on Theo Jansen… This lovely little animation shows the movement of the legs. I particularly like how the author traces the paths of each pivot point as it moves. It’s especially interesting to me that such a graceful and complex movement originates from a purely rotational orbit in the center.

Beyond the beauty of the motion, there is also the intriguing mechanism he uses to effectively store the energy of the wind. I don’t understand all the details of the setup, but essentially he uses nested electrical tubing as a pump that feeds air into a series of bottles. The bottles store the air pressure so it can be converted into kinetic energy. It’s basically a non-electrical form of battery.

I also love the casual invite he proffers on his website to his Ypenburg Laboratory. He offers directions with the coda: “At the end of the hill, on the top, you will see a green cottage. That is where you can find me.” It’s all very zenmaster-on-the-mountain and makes me want to get in my transatlantic rowboat and see what wisdom he might offer.

Theo Jansen’s kinetic sculptures

30 September 2008

My kids-and-movement furniture project has me fascinated by movement mechanisms right now. I still don’t quite understand how Theo Jansen’s creatures work, but they’re amazing.