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Tag Archives: Horizontally

Living in a cloud: What nanotech means for architecture and the built environment

Could there come a time when buildings will become less about bricks and mortar and feel more like mists or fogs?

JULY 02, 2019 |

Last month, I wrote about how automation and AI are dramatically changing all four fundamental relationships between buildings and machines. For example, nanotechnology, which manipulates individual atoms and molecules to assemble things, could make the modernist metaphor of a “machine for living in” into reality, since the building would actually be composed of many tiny machines.

In fact, that’s not quite accurate. The definition of “machine” is “an apparatus using or applying mechanical power and having several parts, each with a definite function and together performing a particular task.” 

So machines are made of distinct parts, cobbled together to fulfill a function. They are characterized by their composition, as assemblages of singular bits and pieces in which the whole is greater than the sum.

 

SEE ALSO: Assessing AI’s impact on the AEC profession and the built environment

 

But nanotech will completely change this. When entire buildings can be shaped from microscopic components, the visible distinction between the individual parts will evaporate. A structure built from invisible machines will not appear to be a machine at all, since it no longer will be perceived as an assembly of parts. An edifice made of congealed cybernetic butter will look to be all whole, no parts. The very concept of a “building” could become meaningless, since it will no longer be “built” in any traditional way. 

Remember “Terminator 2”? Arnold Schwarzenegger’s T-800 is a machine: steel and servos wrapped in human skin. Robert Patrick’s T-1000 is made of liquid metal (“mimetic polyalloy”). He’s like sentient mercury, morphing into any shape he needs. A nanotech building (“nanotecture”?) would make conventional structures seem like Robby the Robot (of “Forbidden Planet” fame).

Buttery buildings could change everything we think and know about architecture. Frank Lloyd Wright felt that architectural form should stem from the inherent “nature” of its materials: “Each material speaks a language of its own.” In his mind, the proportions, heft, and texture of brick logically translated into structures such as the Robie House, which extends horizontally and hugs the land. But when the constituent parts of a building are too small to be seen with the naked eye, the relationships between form and materials will change. What is the “language” of a nanobot?

Because the character of a building could vary upon command—hard and opaque one minute, soft and transparent the next—the fabric of buildings could become fluid, fluctuating states from solid to liquid to gas and back. The notion of truth in materials will become irrelevant. In fact, the word material could go away. When the basic building blocks of architecture have no strict definition, structure and substance could separate. Matter may not matter.

Could there come a time when buildings will become less about bricks and mortar and feel more like mists or fogs, vaguely enveloping space in ways we can barely picture now? What will it be like to live in a cloud?

Lance Hosey, FAIA, LEED Fellow, is a Design Director with Gensler. His book, The Shape of Green: Aesthetics, Ecology, and Design, has been an Amazon #1 bestseller in the Sustainability & Green Design category.

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New in Brooklyn: 10 Hip Coffee Shops, Offices, Apartments, and More

With NYCxDESIGN and Brooklyn Designs at the Brooklyn Navy Yards about to get underway, we’ve rounded up the most recent projects in New York City’s buzziest borough, including warm cafés and reading rooms, fresh offices, and light-filled apartments.

1. The Center for Fiction by BKSK Architects Brings Books and Sustainability to Brooklyn

The Center for Fiction started out as the Mercantile Library in 1821 and moved locations throughout Manhattan over the years. In 2008, it was rebranded, and more than 10 years later, the Center has a permanent home in a new downtown Brooklyn building by BKSK Architects with sustainability in mind. Read more about the bookstore/library/café

2. StudiosC Creates Positive/Negative Volumes for L&R Distributors in Brooklyn

L&R distributes more cosmetics than any other American company—25 brands and 8,000 SKUs in all. Its new corporate headquarters in Brooklyn’s Industry City circulates something else: a wide variety of staff, each with their own spatial needs, within what StudiosC principal Stephen Conte calls “an industrial blank canvas.” Read more about the office

3. Gensler Fashions a New Brooklyn Showroom for Lafayette 148

Brooklyn’s Navy Yard is among the most fashionable new areas in the borough, but until Lafayette 148 decided to leave its seven-floor SoHo digs and venture across the water, there wasn’t a fashion brand that called the historic concrete warehouse home. Gensler made sure the 68,000-square-foot headquarters, comprised of 15 different departments and large community work cafes, was as rousing as the exterior landscapes. Read more about the showroom

4. Idan Naor Thinks Horizontally for a Brooklyn Brownstone

The archetypical Brooklyn brownstone is a study in verticality, with a few stories of narrow corridors and dark rooms piled atop each other. However, when the local Idan Naor Workshop got the chance to reprogram a gem from the 1920s into a 5-unit apartment building, they decided on a different direction: horizontal. This 2,350-square-foot apartment jettisons the piles of hallways and instead utilizes a gallery to connect public areas to the three bedrooms, while ample natural light floods the expansive open plan. Read more about the brownstone

5. Five Retail Wonderlands Subvert Reality

This retail environment at Gray Matters brings customers into a product-inspired wonderland. Riffing on the brand’s Mildred Egg mule, Bower Studios chose table bases that are ovoids of painted resin composite. See all five stores

6. The Wing Brings Custom-Designed Mother’s Rooms to Brooklyn Office Buildings

When thinking of comfortable and relaxing spaces for a mother to pump or otherwise care for an infant, the office is likely ranked dead last. Audrey Gelman and Lauren Kassan, cofounders of the women’s co-working space, The Wing, want to change that. Gelman and Kassan have mobilized The Wing’s internal design team to bring secure, private spaces for working moms into the close-knit community of offices in DUMBO, starting with office buildings under Two Trees Management. Read more about the rooms

7. Jessica Helgerson Interior Design Brews Up a Stumptown Café in a Brooklyn Firehouse

New York relies on coffee shops almost as much as municipal services. Now the two are merging—architecturally, at least—thanks to Stumptown Coffee Roasters’ first Brooklyn café, housed in an 1860’s former firehouse in leafy Cobble Hill. Jessica Helgerson Interior Design re-envisioned, along with the help of Structure NYC, the 1,875-square-foot space, most recently an indoor archery studio. Read more about the café

8. Coliving Goes Grand at a Restored Clinton Hill Mansion

A 6,200-square-foot row house on Grand Street in Clinton Hill, Brooklyn is the newest of Common’s coliving spaces. Built in 1901, Common restored the five-floor home to function for 23 people. Rather than keeping with the two-family tradition, Common densified the historic mansion in order to make the most of the much-desired square footage that Brooklyn has to offer. Read more about the house

9. LOT Office for Architecture Designs Oasis-Like Digs for Devoción in Downtown Brooklyn

When Devoción‘s first location opened in Williamsburg, Brooklynites delighted at the roastery’s oasis-like design and authentic Colombian brews. The beloved coffeehouse has returned for round two with a 1,700-square-foot space near the borough’s bustling downtown corridor. Greek-American firm LOT Office for Architecture spearheaded interiors that honor local traditions and mother nature in equal measure. Read more about the café

10. Inside Ample Hills Creamery’s Brand-New Exhibition Space in Brooklyn

As if the ice cream wasn’t draw enough. Jackie Cuscuna and Brian Smith, founders of Ample Hills Creamery, have just opened the largest ice-cream factory in all of New York City—and have included an interactive museum, like a cherry on top. A brick building, part of the former Beard Street Warehouses complex in Red Hook, contains 12,500 square feet of production space, plus 2,000 more for exhibits, party areas, and of course a retail shop by Danielle Galland Interior Design. Read more about the factory

Continue reading New in Brooklyn: 10 Hip Coffee Shops, Offices, Apartments, and More

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