Designing For An Aging Generation

My grandfather will turn 90 this August. Very thankfully, he and my grandmother have the means to support themselves at that age. However, many many many others will not be able to do the same. Any report on global populations trends (like this one or this one) will mention the growing elderly population in any developed country; the age balance of such populations are tipping towards the old as never before. Who will care for those who can’t afford senior or assisted living communities?

Architecture isn’t the sole solution but it has a part to play. For my most recent entry in my New Archetypes column—which explores small projects that contain big ideas—I explored a project that realizes one way architecture can help tackle this growing issue. Designed by Susan Fitzgerald Architecture, this Halifax home and office accommodates changes in work and personal life: when the young eventually leave, the old move in for care, a home business grows or contracts, and more. The design expertly divides its living and working areas to accept multiple configurations of living and working. Click to learn how Fitzgerald did all these things, as well as incorporate urban agriculture into the building!

Link to the Architizer Article

Top Photo: King Street Live/Work/Grow project, Photo by Greg Richardson via Architizer.


[Guest Post] The Art of Traditional Wood Craft in Modern Architecture

Dichen Ding is an Architectural Designer in New York City. She was born in China, received her Master of  Architecture from Columbia University and is currently working for TEN Arqitectos.

It’s said Japan is a country “where wood has a soul,” so it’s no surprise that Japan also enjoys the most advanced wood construction techniques in the world. Their designs can range from elegantly simple to devilishly complex. These joints aren’t just beautiful decorative features but functional and vital structural elements. Moreover, they’re hardly relics of the past: they still inspire contemporary architects. This essay will explore some of the earliest and most exquisite examples of wood joinery then highlight their influence on recent architectural projects by world-famous architects.

Top Image: Yusuhara Wooden Museum Bridge by Kengo Kuma & Associates. Image courtesy of Kengo Kuma & Associates.

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A National Park for the Manhattan Project

No a single moment did more to define the 20th century than the dropping of the atom bomb. It was a culmination of centuries of scientific research, an event that touched off the Cold War, and a divisive technology that fueled a generation’s perpetual fear and profound optimism. Given all this, news of a ‘Manhattan Project National Park,’ recently approved by Congress, presents a wholly unique opportunity. What story will curators and architects tell when constructing such a national park?  With almost seventy years of perspective, are there new and nuanced ways to view the science, ideas, and people that shaped that critical event? Read on to find out.

Link to the Article

Top Image: The Hiroshima Peace Center and Memorial Park designed by Kenzo Tange. Image by Wiiii/Wikipedia.

The Military’s Latest Architectural Tool

Military commanders and architects are, in one key respect, on the opposite ends of the same spectrum.

Some have said that warfare is all about creating and destroying infrastructure: all the systems that make the opponent’s civilization function. This means bridges, power plants, airports, communications, etc. An army may destroy a bridge over a river only to see its opponents rapidly construct a pontoon bridge replacement.

While this is a very narrow way of looking at war, it certainly holds some truth. Where do architects fit in? Architecture is the final link of the infrastructure chain: buildings plug into all the all the water, electricity, transportation, food, and communications systems we operate. While an architect figures out how a building will fulfill social, economic, and cultural functions, a general will figure out how to most rapidly destroy or protect the infrastructure underneath it.

I’m always reminded of this dichotomy whenever I see a military tool with immediate architectural applications. Both architects and generals benefit from rapidly understanding a landscape, whether its for battles or buildings. The U.S. Army recently revealed its ARES prototype, an augmented reality tool that can rapidly digitize and visualize a miniature landscape. Read on to see what architects could do with this tool and how it highlights the difference between an architect and a general.

Link to the Article

Top Image: The ARES, via youtube.

Designing for Protest

Political demonstrations, even at their most tumultuous, are enabled by some very thoughtful and deliberate designs.

It’s easy to image the act of design as introspective, custom-tailored to clients and circumstances. However, whenever protesters take to the streets they are forced to rapidly adapt to challenges with minimal material options at their disposal. The designs they produce, under the duress of political confrontation, still manage to be simple, effective, and easily replicable in any global urban area. Examples include turning a plastic bottle into a viable gas mask with some quick cuts and additions. Other designs formulated by demonstrators are unique to their setting: protesters in Hong Kong have used the skills of construction workers adept in strong, cheap, and plentiful bamboo to build blockades. Read on to see the ingenious design of street protest equipment, from both the protesters’ and police’s side.

Link To Article

Top Image: via Business Insider Australia.

How to Stop a Plague: A Brief History of Hospital Design

One hundred years ago, a patient entering a hospital would be filled with dread. Not of medical bills or primitive surgery techniques (though those might have been an issue) but rather infection from the guy next to you. Ever since the 17th century, the Western European hospital had been home to the poor, the dying, and sometimes the mentally ill. And you, the patient, was going to call a large communal ward room filled with these dangerous and unsavory individuals, home.

Today we need not fear the hospital itself. For millennia, hospital design has been slowly evolving based upon our understanding of disease transmission. Interestingly, it seems builders emulated other architectural models when considering the hospital. The temple or hotel in ancient Greece, the modern residential building today. Click through to see the evolution…

Link to Article

Top Image via Yale New Haven Hospital.

Gaming Gets Physical (and Architectural)

Virtual reality (VR) has long been a science fiction dream.

VR usually involves compressing an imaginary digital universe into a piece of technology worn over our heads, where our most important biological sensors (eyes and ears) are placed. It’s an immersive experience meant to wholly transport us into its world. Oculus Rift is an excellent example: the company produces VR headgear to give users a unique gaming experience. Facebook recently acquired Oculus Rift because the social networking company believes that VR represents the next big leap in how we interact with the digital world. They’re not alone in making that bet.

Google’s Google Glass is another example of immersive technology, though it’s different in crucial ways: it’s not an enclosing headset but rather a camera, projector, and computer that resembles a pair of glasses. The camera and computer analyze the world around you and projects relevant information directly into one eye.  This layering of the digital over the real world, called augmented reality (AR), is a middle path between immersion and the direct experience of the real world. Google is betting that AR and not VR is the future.

Enter Microsoft’s RoomAlive. Like Google Glass, it blurs the line between the virtual and the real. However, it does so by analyzing and subsuming the real world architecture it inhabits. It’s a fascinating technology and one that promises a lot of potential change to how we play and how architects practice.

Link to Article

Top Image: RoomAlive’s mapping of pixels over a room.