Wednesday, 24 October 2012

Living on Spaceship Earth


Following the thinking on space architecture as a potential future for life on earth, we've been looking at some inspired aesthetic and functional space structures. Like the idea for a Helicopter House by Future Systems that draws inspiration from the Apollo landing craft and the floating spaceframe platform by N55 that like Voyager has it's own soundtrack. Is this the future for habitat in a future extreme habitat or just a cool retro space reference that exploits prefabrication?


References: Fernie, Jes (2006) "Space Art". Blueprint October pp 82-88. ArtSudjic, Deyan (2006) Future Systems (Phaidon Press, London).

Sunday, 21 October 2012

From Earthrise to a Small Blue Dot

Reading about the journey of Voyager leaving the edge of the solar system and remembering some of the amazing aspects and images of the journey so far. Perhaps the best image is looking back to the couple of pixels that represent the earth as a 'small blue dot' in the image below - as described by Carl Sagan.


A relative close up of the same image of the earth in context together with a family portrait of the planets passed by Voyager - a view from 6 billion kilometers.


The amazing aspect is the human content of Voyager 1 and 2. Sagan placed on board the ultimate mix tapes of the music of the species (with a strong bias towards Bach) as a set of gold records to represent the planet and a message in the very unlikely event that they are ever discovered. Yet there is also the probability that Voyager will last for millions of years, and far outlast the earth. They may well be the last evidence of our species in the universe once our small blue dot is gone. It is all about perspective on our spaceship earth and how we understand ourselves as a species and as a planet. Carl Sagan's description of the 'small blue dot' and the accompanying images are as inspiring as Stewart Brand's interpretation of NASA's 'Earthrise' view from Apollo 8 moon mission as Spaceship Earth.

Wednesday, 17 October 2012

Passive Straw Bale Self-build


Does this project have it all? I always assumed there was some conflict between the cost and affordability aspirations in the self-build tradition and the need for technical performance and innovation in materials and supply chain. Then I found this project in a recent book by Jessica Kellner that demonstrates low cost passive design principles using local straw bales and a great reclaimed grain silo (although this later conversion is cool but not passive principles). Why didn't this make it onto 'Grand Designs' - apart from being based in Idaho that is? 

Reference: Kellner, Jessica (2011) Housing Reclaimed: Sustainable Homes for Next to Nothing (New Society, Gabriola Island).

Sunday, 14 October 2012

Non-viable Urban Space


There seems to be a reactive planning trend to addressing non-viable spaces in our cities.  Non-viable in the sense that there is clearly demand for space but the space is unaffordable either due to the low incomes of potential creative and SME users or that property owners have over-valued the space on the back of a retail boom.

While there seems to be lots of ideas regarding the way the spaces could be used, the gap is in the lack of integration with underlying property finance, mixed uses, residential densities and the impacts. The danger is not only criticism of faddism but the lack of legacy and long-term social sustainability. We hear about localising the economy, recirculating finances, bartering and LETS without considering how these underlying socio-economic ideas can creatively benefit our high streets and vacant sites in the medium to long term.

References: Lewis, Tim (2012) "Is this the future of the high street?". The Observer Magazine 29th April, pp22-28. Hatherley, Owen (2012) "The holes in cities need imagination to fill them". Guardian 8 May p30.

Defaced Coins


Some of the current content of British Museum on defaced coinage as part of the suffragette movement, and the criminal nature of defacing coins even for political purposes, reminded me of some of the political coins from my childhood in Belfast. All very tit-for-tat regarding political acts. Would be interested to know if there are any occupy defaced coins out there, or placed in the collection plates of St Paul's during the summer camping on the steps.