Wednesday, October 29, 2008

Munich, big and small

Our next big stop was the town on the Isar, where we visited Prof. Richard Horden in his own Micro Home. All of us, 5 girls and 6 boys, fitted in the 2.6x2.6M home. While Richard Horden is trying to make a mobil call from his metallically shielded home, Nespresso was brewing behind him in the compact kitchen. This was one impressive feat for neat freaks.

The large olympic stadium complex, Frei Otto oder Auer/ Behnish-who cares, impressed not only the hardcore biomorphic and fluid-form inclined, but must also scared the jizzas out of CooP and their flow of creativity designing the BMW World across the street.

We finished happily with 1 liter glasses of beer and typical Baverian Food at the Hofbrauhaus, with Prof.Ebner and Prof. Kauffmann, who both teach at TUM. As an after dinner digestive we took in two commercial buildings by H&dM in the center of Munich and a large sphere by Olaf Eliasson; sip.

Next stop Austria, Land of Wood and Pastries.

Tuesday, October 28, 2008

10.28.2008 - Munich

Today was a marathon.

First thing in the morning, we visited the Technical University of Munich (TUM) and toured the surrounding district, which included post World War II reconstructed buildings and an art center extension by Coop Himmelblau.

Once returning to TUM, we received a lecture by Prof. Richard Horden on compact design strategies inspired by aviation and industrial engineering. Prof. Horden’s latest work has been the Micro Compact Home, an example of small scale living outfitted for business class lifestyle. Here, he merges elements of high design with what he defines as the four main functions of living – eating, sleeping, working, and hygiene – into a 2.6 meter cube. After the lecture, we visited Prof. Horden’s personal Micro Compact Home in a student village of 10 cubes, where we saw how he practices what he preaches. All nine of us plus Prof. Mack and Prof. Horden fit snugly into the home, with students perched on the countertop, bunk bed, and into the shower area.

Next, we headed to the Allianz Arena, a soccer stadium designed by Herzog and de Meuron. The outer skin is composed of an inflatable ETFE skin that has changing backlighting based upon which team, if any, is playing there that day. The high level of design, from the overall composition all the way down to the details that permitted the inflatable bladders to operate, was highly impressive.

After the Allianz visit, we toured the Olympic Park, home to the Olympic Stadium roof designed by Frei Otto. As students whom have mainly worked in the digital medium, the complex forms created nearly 40 years ago without the use of these tools was staggering. The landscape melded the various venues together and reinforced the undulating form of the steel and Plexiglas roof.

En route, we spotted the Loft Cube by Werner Aisslinger and were able to visit this prefabricated module home.

Finally, we returned to TUM to meet with Prof. Kaufmann, a leader in innovative wood design. He explained the various capabilities of wood technology available today and stressed the benefits of wood construction amongst a predominately precast concrete building culture. Technologies such as cross-laminated timber panels (i.e. KLH), provide the benefits of building stronger fire-retardant wood structures to heights previously unattainable. This lecture was particularly relevant to our studio research as we head to Austria to further explore the benefits of wood construction.

A f*gly great building

Visiting the KTH in Stockholm was great. The Architecture Design building was the most self-mocking, ugly, strong and aesthetically estranged piece of architecture; so filled with self deprecating doubt that is was in fact intelligent and smart. This building in a way reflects to me the Swedish mentality in the good and bad sense.

In the tradition of Asplund, Leverentz and Celsing the architectural message is never clear, mixed with sophisticated references yet pure and simple. The rawness was captivating and the simplicity refreshing.

I hope we see more of them and I wish the students would blogg more frequent. But we are tired, freezing and wet most of the time. So this is just a filler piece untill we get our bearings again-Salzfrei

Monday, October 27, 2008

10.27.2008 - Copenhagen to Munich

Today, we visited the BIG (Bjarke Ingalls Group) and were greeted by Kai-Uwe Bergmann and then given a tour of the office. We were impressed by the extensive model building facilities and the dynamic work environment. We then proceeded to the Orestad District south of the city to meet with a project manager with BIG, who gave us a tour of both the Mountain House and the adjacent VM House.

We then flew from Copenhagen to Munich and after landing, headed to the BMW Welt to join Prof. Peter Ebner for dinner in the newly opened showroom facility. The project clearly works to further the BMW brand, harmoniously blending innovative architecture with automobile design. It is our understanding that the showroom has become a destination for both visitors interested in BMW as well as those taking delivery of their new vehicle.

Sunday, October 26, 2008

10.26.2008 - Copenhagen

Today’s travels consisted of walking around a rainy Copenhagen, witnessing many multi-unit dwellings as well as many of Copenhagen’s fine cultural facilities. The first visit was to the new Copenhagen Library, locally referred to as the “Black Diamond,” designed by schmidt hammer lassen, which straddles a street and links the city with the waterfront. Next, a visit to the Danish Architectural Center was in order, where we browsed their fabulous bookstore and viewed two exhibitions. The first exhibition was “Building Sustainable Communities,” which showed work by Danish architectural firms that contribute in a positive way to the United Nations Global Compact for improving the lives of people around the world. The second exhibition highlighted the Bryghusprojektet, the first project by OMA / Rem Koolhaas in Denmark, which will become the new home to the Danish Architectural Center as well as house commercial and residential space.

Afterwards, we continued through the Christianshavn district, where we found the Torpedohallen, designed by Tegnestuen Vandkunsten and occupied in 2003. The concrete hall was constructed in 1952 to build motor torpedo boats, but has now been converted into 67 condos. While mostly new, the building retains the original concrete frame and boat slip. The material palette emphasizes the maritime heritage of the site.

Next was a visit to The Opera by Henning Larsen Architects, which opened in 2005. It is sited on a direct axis with the Royal Danish residences, directly across the harbor. The large cantilevered roof allows for a protected public space.

Within view of the Opera across the harbor is the new Playhouse by Lundgaard & Tranberg Architects, which opened just this year. The rich material palette consists of deep red-brown klinker bricks, dark wood decking, colored glazing storefront system, and deep red interior accents.

After that, we schlepped up to the Østerbro district, which has seen a recent surge of high density residential development. The first stop was Fyrtanet, a residential complex by Lundgaard & Tranberg Architects, which contains 89 condos. The structure consists of precast concrete panels, the predominant building system in Denmark, and clad in dark gray slate. The architecture takes advantage of the trapezoidal site formed by the street grid and the adjacent train corridor.

Nearby was the Nordlyset by C.F. Möller, also constructed from precast concrete panels and skinned in an EIFS system. The multi-color lighting and fritted glass inserts provide interest to the otherwise stark design. The apartments flank a courtyard.

Lastly, we stumbled upon a still under construction housing project, also constructed of precast concrete and making a direct connection to the courtyard by elevating one end of the housing block.

Saturday, October 25, 2008

10.25.2008 - Stockholm to Copenhagen

The day began as we headed south of Stockholm to Woodland Cemetery, designed by architects Asplund and Lewerentz, competed in 1915. The vast landscape, designated a UNESCO World Heritage Site, consists of a gently rolling terrain, large open lawns, and densely wooded burial sites. Scattered across the site are numerous chapels and a crematorium, each of a distinct design. The landscape and buildings are an example of early modernist design.

The public transportation system in Sweden was impressive for its efficiency, speed, and comfort. Both the Metro system in Stockholm as well as the regional rail system ran smoothly, quickly, and on-time.

After arriving in Copenhagen, we checked into the Danhostel Copenhagen City, the first design hostel in Europe, appointed with designer furniture by Möbi. We met for dinner and drinks with UCLA alumnus Kai-Uwe Bergmann, who currently works for Bjarke Ingalls Group (BIG) in Copenhagen. We dined at Wagamama, an inexpensive Asian fusion restaurant, outfitted with high-end interior finishes an articulated façade composed of twisted aluminum louvers designed by 3XN Architects of Copenhagen.

Friday, October 24, 2008

10.24.2008 - Stockholm

In the morning, we met with Dr. Bo Göran from KTH Stockholm who led us on an architectural bus tour of Stockholm and outlying areas. He gave a brief history of State and institutional buildings in the central city area and spoke to us about the historical building methods, primarily masonry in response to the city’s history of fire.

Just south of Stockholm, we observed several different multi-unit residential housing projects under construction as well as prototypical conditions for single-family suburban dwellings. One of the salient features of Swedish suburban developments was the preservation of greenspace and provision for community services, such as preschools and parkspace.

Dr. Göran informed us of the energy strategy of Sweden, where approximately 50% of electricity is produced by hydroelectric and the other 50% by nuclear. To offset the need for fuel oil, natural gas, or electric heating, many communities have developed a district heating infrastructure, which provides for up to 5,000 homes. This is further assisted by geothermal loops, which can be drilled as deep as 200 meters through rock.

According to Dr. Göran, most modern dwellings have been constructed from high-quality precast concrete systems, some of which utilize an aerated autoclaved production technique, but wood framing systems have seen increasing popularity over the last decade. These systems can either be a precut wood stud wall systems or “massive timber” cross-laminated timber panels.

One project that we visited that does not fit into either of these categories was the IKEA / Skanska BO KLOK system, which is comprised of volumetric modules constructed from wood stud walls. These modules are shipped with all finishes already installed and an entire building consisting of six dwelling units and twelve modules can be finished in one week after all site work is completed. The system is placed upon a prefabricated concrete slab on grade and the modules are installed on a highly precise construction schedule. The project can only be placed in locations that meet particular criteria, including a flat site to reduce site grading costs, proximity to public transit, and creating a mixed income community.

The BO KLOK program has been wildly popular in Sweden, with thousands of families applying for the 3,000 units produced so far, with Skanska limiting production to 800 units per year to keep both quality and demand at a high level. The program has been highly successful from a public relations standpoint for Skanska, where 98% of BO KLOK buyers who have been polled would recommend the homes to friends and colleagues. BO KLOK is designed to be affordable enough so a single nurse with one child, the average Swedish family, can afford to purchase a home that would otherwise be forced to rent an apartment. The units cost approximately 20% less than similar units since the designers focused on optimizing functionality on a smaller footprint and not allowing any customization.

Sunday, October 19, 2008

Welcome to the future

This Research studio focuses on the subject of prefabricated multi story housing as an intelligent and sustainable alternative to the high cost of providing housing today. 
As a group we will investigate the current state of prefabrication in various European countries and in the Americas. 
Our first step is a fact finding excursion to Scandinavia, Germany and Austria, sponsored by the Charles Moore Traveling Fellowship at the Department of Architecture at the University of California at Los Angeles. 
The following posts will chronicle our findings and our explorations. 
/ Mark Mack, Professor at UCLA