Berlin Templehoff

Finally getting round to posting photos from the Berlin field trip in easter of the 2009/2010 year. Berlin's vast abandoned nazi-era airport, Templehoff, is just one of many huge relics of twentieth century history that can be found in the city. makes for good photos too. empty corridors, hallways, sports halls, disused planes, and lots of smudges and fingerprints:


Supersize Ant Architecture

an anthropological study has filled an ant colony with cement, and then dug away the surrounding earth to reveal the huge structure.

Giant Ant Colony is a World Wonder - Watch more Funny Videos

this video has gone a bit viral, at least with the people I know, but its unbelievable. my initial reaction was that i wanted to ditch being a human and jump on the ant wagon, live inside one of those things, be part of something of that scale that is a complete communal effort of epic proportions. and there are obvious reasons to why a person would think that, but clearly being an ant, you wouldn't appreciate your own creation. this basic thought had initially failed to enter my mind. There's a quote from Carl Sagan's cosmos series that i've been talking about a lot with a friend at the moment as well that sums up this dilemma completely, 'We are a way for the cosmos to know itself'. The fact that we can examine, marvel at and understand the beauty of this ant colony, is crazy in itself.

Ants have the perfect blueprint for intelligent life. Whereas humans are largely focused on selfish gains, the ants are biologically programmed to share life, the workload and the product. and they don't even have to think about it. There are clearly examples of where humans have combined to create a huge feat of engineering or building, but this is usually overshadowed by a tyrannical source of power. maybe the internet, world wide web, is our equivalent to this huge infrastructure?it seems that although we are endowed with this huge cocktail of conscience and intelligent thought there will eternally be the ones who use this to bad effect. could you see a person, group of people, linking up to span a bridge across a huge gorge and then letting the rest of the population walk over them to get to the other side?even if it was possible.

Heres an old related article i read recently, from New Scientist:
An ant "empire" has been found stretching 6000 kilometres from Italy to Portugal. The supercolony of Argentine ants is thought to be the largest cooperative unit ever recorded, says Laurent Keller of the University of Lausanne in Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences (early edition). The ants, which were introduced to Europe by accident in the 1920s, instantly accept genetically similar newcomers into nests even if they are from distant colonies. The empire's reign is threatened, however, by a second supercolony of hostile ants that has established itself in eastern Spain.

glad i've finally covered ants, there was some greater point to this post. I forgot it.


Haiti How-to: Shelter.

Over the last 2 days, a workshop has been taking place at Brookes University run by Bill Flinn of CENDEP; The constructing of a temporary timber structure for disaster situations, such as Haiti at present. Though essentially a simple and cheap structure, it is structurally very strong, and hurricane and earthquake-proof to relatively high standards. The aim was to film or photograph the exercise as an educational resource for redevelopment.

It is a basic design of four joining wall panels and a roof structure of rafters and batons constructed in situe. It is the smaller details, bracing and connections which are key.

The 2 side walls have 1 diagonal wooden brace each, the timber offering strength in both tension and compression. The taller wall, to demonstrate an alternative, has a metal cross brace (the metal is only strong in tension).
Joints between many timber strips have metal taping nailed across, which increases the strength of connections immensely. A test conducted at the end of the 2 days showed how much stronger the metal taping made the joints; a small strip of metal made such a difference that it had to be repeatedly pushed back and forth until the metal snapped. This  behaviour is very unlike that of wind, showing that simply adding a strip of metal to each joint effectively makes the structure hurricane proof. The diagonal wooden bracing is flush with the verticals. This makes cladding easier and more flexible. In reality the cladding can be made from any available resources; sheet wood/metal, bamboo, leaves etc

We were amazed at how easy and quickly this temporary home for 5 could be erected, and really got us thinking. The shelter is only intended as a temporary solution, potentially housing a family for 3 years.
The possibilities also extend to ideas for summer shelters at home and just as easily an entire house, and show ways to simply build modular communal life.

Pictures and video from the Haiti shelter workshop are going to be made into a PDF and publisised on the internet as an educational resource for survivors in Haiti. Hopefully it will be picked up quickly enough to make a difference on the ground before hurricane season begins.



We've added a few links on the right to other peoples blogs and websites, either people we know, or interesting strangers:

aM laboratory : website of a guy called andre michelle, described by himself as a "collection of my studies, extracted while developing my commercial projects or just by researching new technologies". basically this guy works with flash programing. i dont know a lot about what he actually does to make this things but they are fun to play with. 'ToneMatrix' is cool.

- BLDGBLOG : the blog of Geoff Manaugh, speculation on architectures of all sorts. the book is also worth a long read, especially the chapters 'music, sound and noise' and 'landscape futures. book.

- Kit Penn - Joe Penn's dad. Creative photography experiments and relevant poems/texts.

- Shaun Ryder - fellow architecture student. shaun can draw like a chinaman.but with such good theorys and concepts as well. his project last term for a nudist club was sick! have a look. do it now

- Atlas Obscura - A site with loads of nuts places in the world that you can marvel at and will probably never visit. personal favourites: 'newnes glow worm tunnel' and 'ministers treehouse'. my perfect house would be a combination of the two.

- Tomorrows Thoughts Today - another architecture blog, the webspace of Liam Young and Darryl Chen. loads of interesting posts on there ideas about dystopia/utopia/urbanism etc.



If anything it sounds like its going to get worse rather than better.
you can still donate here.


Grow your own

while wasting away the last days of my long hard christmas holiday i thought i'd catch up on some light entertainment from the beeb. After watching the hilariously funny new series of newswipe by charlie brooker, this caught my eye, How the earth made us.

it was quite interesting,although it did seem like it was recycling examples of phenomena better explored in the david attenborough series life, and the presenter seemed only to be able to express things in one tone, with his voice rising to a particular note of emotionless exclamation at the end of every sentence without fail. ANYWAY, there were however a quite a few epic examples of pretty amazing places, some of which are here....

In the first episode,
'deep earth' , iain stewart explored this huge cave of massive crystals that looks like somethign out of a lebbeus woods sketch, and i really do mean MASSIVE....

The crystals formed because the conditions in the cave were so extreme,  "for millennia the crystals thrived in the cave's extremely rare and stable natural environment. Temperatures hovered consistently around a steamy 136 degrees Fahrenheit (58 degrees Celsius), and the cave was filled with mineral-rich water that drove the crystals' growth"

Something later on in the program, in episode two. 'water', led me to think about how this could be used in architectural terms. in India, villagers have learned to lead the growth of a trees roots into the shape of a bridge. the tree grows stronger over time and will not rot like other wood would. so could the crystals potentially be manipulated in a similar way into the shape of a building?or a bridge?they certainly looked strong enough to me. the applications of manipulating the living environment for our own benefits are endless, and of course completely zero-carbon and renewable.should we maybe be thinking about slowing down the pace of modern life and putting our efforts into something more permanent like an entire community built out of living trees?it would allow the owner/client to really decide exactly what their own abode looks like as well, you could simply grow your own. As we move into more hostile environments, ie other planets (yes i know, fantasising somewhat), we could grow entire cities made out of crystal just out of the minerals available..

This all reminded me of a couple of posts i found on BLDGBLOG sometime last year during Geoff Manaugh's 'underground' phase,  one about a project of a student at the bartlett and its applications, called The bioluminescent metropolis. and another about a large underground lake underneath budapest, which sadly the video for has been taken down, heres the link anyhow. At the time i thought it would be interesting to combine the two and create a huge underground bioluminescent culture, could this be present in the cave of crystals?it would be beautiful if it was possible.

There was another slightly more down to earth (or up?) reference during the program which i thought was interesting. In cambodia whole communities function on the tonle sap lake, and the river that feeds it. Its about halfway through this video.communities like this could be used as a blueprint for the way we deal with situations that would increasingly arise in the future. Or with disaster zones, for instance just after the new orleans flood, whole temporary communities could of been relatively easily erected to float on the water..
Anyways thats enough for now, i did notice that on bbc Iplayer the film perfume was available. based on the book by patrick suskind, its pretty good and if you get a chance to watch it then do. I did my first design project at brookes based around the main character and his lust for smell, which i will upload one day..

Posted by Joe of the Giddings variety.