The Danish architects BIG (the Bjarke Ingels Group) have designed an extraordinary hybrid tower Scala Tower to house the municipal library, conference centre, shopping and a luxury hotel. It also provides public space to the city of Copenhagen.
Although it seems not quite fully resolved as to the programmatic and landscape elements, the way the building emerges from the ground ‘like a tree’ with a glassy bark trunk and yet sits well within the traditional urban fabric like a sinuous counterpoint is truly inspirational.
So apart from contributing to Denmark’s already stellar reputation for being on the forefront of design how does Scala Tower contribute to the quality of life in Copenhagen? Political measures of quality of life in liveability terms are both objective [divorce rates, safety and infrastructure] and subjective [life satisfaction surveys]. So, the Danes have gained a great piece of civic infrastructure in a city which is already considered relatively crime free. I wonder whether that will show up on the next life satisfaction survey!
The Danish artistic trio N55 came up with the concept of the walking house based on the gypsy caravan. Although reminiscent of Archigram’s Walking City, walking house is not an aesthetically sophisticated piece of architecture. However N55 have amazingly managed to achieve real life rather than paper mobility via renewable energy sources – a remarkable feat in anybody’s language!
In Archigram’s Walking City on the Ocean Ron Herron addresses the concept of “indeterminacy” or the idea of an architecture that can change. While N55 are more interested in exploring the idea of property ownership. They describe the walking house as follows:
“WALKING HOUSE is a modular dwelling system that enables persons to live a peaceful nomadic life, moving slowly through the landscape or cityscape with minimal impact on the environment. It collects energy from its surroundings using solar cells and small windmills. There is a system for collecting rain water and a system for solar heated hot water. A small greenhouse unit can be added to the basic living module, to provide a substantial part of the food needed by the Inhabitants. A composting toilet system allows sewage produced by the inhabitants to be disposed of. A small wood burning stove could be added to provide CO2 neutral heating. WALKING HOUSE forms various sizes of communities or WALKING VILLAGES when more units are added together. WALKING HOUSE is not dependant on existing infrastructure like roads, but moves on all sorts of terrain.”
Based on the nomadic culture of the Romani the project asks whether land ownership means some people have more right to stay on the surface of the earth than others. This question is fundamentally anthoprocentric. Of course the basic question could be extended to encompass an ecological perspective and indeed is not dissimilar to eco-centric ethical viewpoints espoused by the conservationist luminary Aldo Leopold.
For landscape architecture the value of land as place rather than passage and the capacity to garden and enjoy gardens are central values. Undoubtably the voice of landscape architects will be heard strongly as the debate proceeds and develops.
Sometimes the best way to see something – is to see it differently. Thanks to Christo and his project Wrapped Trees, Fondation Beyeler and Berower Park, Riehen, Switzerland 1997-98 the humble tree can be seen more clearly as part of the three dimensional compositon of space. The exaggerated sense of presence wrapping the tree affords gives a greater sense of volume, solid and void and perspective to the overall scene.
The Made of Light project by Speirs Major and Associates Lighting Architects http://www.madeoflight.com/mol/site_map.htm is a wonderful e-book that discusses the relationship between architecture and light in 12 simple themes.
The visualisation shown is by conceptual artist Mark Goerner. It would be interesting to surmise what premises might underlie this vision of a possible ‘future’ city? Although Mark is neither an architect or a landscape architect he has produced a vision of a probable reality that both architects and landscape architects can recognise and respond to.
I sent this picture to Tom after realizing I had confused the terms ‘aspect’ and ‘prospect’ in my previous comments [see where is this landscape?]. Tom sent through links to Repton’s discussion of aspect and prospect and Loudon’s response.
Perhaps the oversight (in not first checking terms) leading to this discussion is more valuable than I first realised. It is unfortuneately relatively common in architecture to deal with issues of sustainability by modifying climatic effects using techonology (green or otherwise), often without first having planned the use, proximity and orientation of spaces in an iterative manner. [In this discussion also no regard has been given to topographic (and other) concerns ie. founding materials, volumes and degree of incline etc on the arrangement of space.] This way of proceeding, if Repton’s comments are anything to go by, is hardly new. And, if Loudon’s response is correct (and I believe it is), this oversight is a constant source of chargin to architect’s who seek to optimise (the positive) and minimise (the negative) by design.
Prospect is an essential part of the visual experience of a building from the interior; as much as it is an essential part of the visual setting (perhaps approach…but not always) of a building. Aspect is essential to the bodily experience of a building from the interior; as much as it contributes to how the building and landscape meld in harmony to form a composite at a myriad of viewpoints and scales.
Where might this city most probably be located? Why is it situated and arranged in the way that it is? What is the relationship of built form to landscape? What sort of a place would it be to live in? Is it a sustainable city?