Studio Smedt-Kozlowski Fall15
3rd-year Option Studio
Studio offered with Julien DeSmedt
Here, work sample by: Alice Kao, Blanca Abramek, Jessica Pace, Sam Ghantous and Maxwell Jorosz
In the discipline of Information Technology, “architecture” – the space inhabited by users – and “infrastructure” – the systems that enable use – are increasingly being thought of as a single idea. However, in the more tangibly and ideologically entrenched disciplines of architecture, urbanism, and civil engineering, “infrastructure” and “architecture” remain two separate concerns. Just as the information revolution that accompanied the development of the Internet has created new dispersed networks of exchange, collaboration, and efficiency, an emerging energy revolution calls for dispersed networks of self-sufficient energy collection networked together to maximize efficiency. This is one of the most compelling opportunities for addressing the environmental crisis, and re-conceptualizing architecture as infrastructure, to design buildings and cities as integrated systems for collecting and distributing energy.
Chicago finds itself in a strategic moment where three major initiatives that will shape the future of the city have just been launched.
Firstly, Mayor Rahm Emanuel has publicly announced that Chicago aspires to the greenest city in the world. In 2013 the City was nominated the “Earth Hour Climate Leader,” and started collaboration with the World Wildlife Fund to develop innovative technology and open data programs to engage its citizens on climate issues. With this year’s launch of the “2015 Sustainable Chicago Action Agenda,” which sets the key policies and goals for its sustainable development in the coming years, the City reinforces this position, building a solid and fertile ground to achieve its environmental goals.
Secondly, Chicago is the first American city to set up a metropolitan infrastructure bank, the Chicago Infrastructure Trust. The Trust is Chicago’s response to Washington’s bureaucracy, and intents to give the City autonomy and funds to pursue large-scale infrastructure undertakings by pairing investors with projects.
And finally, the City has recently released a five-year housing plan (2014-2018), Bouncing Back, which dedicates $1.3 billion investment to construct or preserve 41,000 affordable homes.
These measures will have a tremendous impact on the City and its environmental status. However, if not properly planned, all this effort can generate negative outcomes, and this unique opportunity to imagine a new future for the city will have been wasted. This will entirely depend on how development happens.
We will envision a series of projects for Chicago where architecture joins forces with its infrastructural needs to create urban hybrids.
With the premise to address large-scale urban issues with a pragmatic and environmental mind, we will develop research and projects that aim to combine infrastructural needs and architectural outcomes. We will study and design new ways to connect the tremendous efforts and expenses made in the infrastructural sector with the building sector in an attempt to redefine urban development. If infrastructure can literally set the foundation for architecture to occur, we will join the two efforts, and explore ways to densify the urban geography to reach higher levels of efficiency for society. By combining architecture and infrastructure we aim to speculate on new ways the City of Chicago can address its current and future environmental concerns.
Brazilian Pavilion Expo 2020
Team: Gabriel Kozlowski, Gringo Cardia, Bárbara Graeff, Tripper Arquitetura
Our pavilion is inspired by one of the greatest technological achievements of Brazil: the improvement of the Direct Planting System over straw. This agricultural technique protects the soil and maintains the ideal thermal conditions for cultivation. The pavilion conceptually mimics this scheme through its layered arrangement - soil, entanglement of protection, productivity - presenting itself as both a building and a symbolic image of one of our progresses.
Historically, the pavilion is mirrored in the rich Brazilian tradition at International Expos, subtly borrowing from the masterpieces of Paulo Mendes da Rocha at Osaka 1970 and from Sérgio Bernardes at Brussels 1958.
The pavilion’s design decisions were based on technological advances in sustainability, both of construction and of performance. The building explores the plastic potential of laminated timber as a structure - renewable material that sequesters carbon rather than releasing it - and of the rammed earth mixed with reinforced concrete - which lowers its energy of production and the absorption of heat. The pavilion produces its own energy, recycles its own water, and makes the use of air conditioning unnecessary by combining the constant flow of air through an open façade, with the humidity of running water and of the vegetation under shadow.
The ground floor is free and opens up under the protection of an inverted topography that floats above it. This continuous entrance pavement hosts the exhibition Together for Nature,which is organized around 6 walls, representing the 6 main Brazilian biomes. The walls are combined with the soils of each biome and surrounded by totems containing the seeds of their native species, narrating a tactile history of the foundations of our country through colors and textures.
The ascent to the upper exhibitions takes place under an oculus that connects the ground floor directly to the sky. Inside a tangle of tree branches, visitors find the Together for Peopleexhibit. Displayed on the inner facades, it showcases our ethnic diversity with the faces of our people and the sounds of our indigenous villages. The center of this space, in turn, houses the exhibition Together for Tomorrowthat embraces the great theme of Biotechnology from water-related advancements in the areas of Desalination, Aquaculture and Biofuel from algae.
After experiencing the textures of the seeds, the roughness of branches on the façade and the coldness of water, after diving into the sounds of our oldest villages, observing our faces, and learning about the future of how we relate to water, our visitors enjoy a viewing space and restaurant that crown the rooftop of the pavilion. Space of rest and conversation.
In this pavilion there is no distinction between outside and inside, between building and exhibition, between sustainability and technology, all together form a single sensory-cognitive experience that describes the richness and progress of our country.
Team: David Birge, Solan Megerssa and Waishan Qiu
Public Good: Our cities and the environment are over-stressed
In a time of limited resources, we believe that personal accountability of each one’s individual footprint in the world in inevitable if we are to change the direction of and begin to revert our collective environmental impact.
Our cities are overburdened. The infrastructure in many older cities is obsolete, inefficient, and operating close to or beyond capacity. Buildings play a key role here as they mirror our sense of individualism, taking from the public system while hardly giving anything back. But it doesn’t have to be this way. Buildings can function as autonomous micro-systems working for - rather than against - society and the environment.
In the same way, cities can shift from serving the private interest to serving the collective, in favor of the public good. W-All was designed to allow houses to significantly reduce their demands on city water and sewer infrastructure, allowing cities to divert resources to solve other critical issues for their citizens.
Challenge: Everyone should be able to access safe and affordable water. It is a human right.
Clean water is becoming increasingly scarce and costly around the world. Reliable access to safe water will be one of the major challenges for society in the coming decades. In developing countries, 3.4 million people die each year from easily preventable, water-borne illnesses, while in developed countries, the combined cost of water and sanitation has increased by 130% in the last 10 years alone.
In the United States, for example, a typical four-person family pays roughly US$1,600 a year for water and sewer services combined, with costs as high as $2,500 in some cities. These costs are escalating quickly. In the next 5-10 years rates are expected to grow an additional 25%, at which point over 40 million American households (35%) will fall below the EPA’s water affordability benchmark.
It is clear that the future of equitable access to clean water is in danger. We believe solutions could come in a decentralized manner, from within our households, without burdening the public system.
Opportunity: Closing the loop for minimum waste
We drink less than 5% of the water we use while the rest goes down the drain, wasted in the process.
What if we could close the loop by removing the impurities present in a household’s water and re-use it over and over again?
As a new household water system, W-All combines multiple, individually proven technologies to provide water that meets or exceeds EPA public-water standards in a footprint of only a few square meters. Our system allows households to achieve over 80% water savings. Instead of sending 280 gallons to the sewer each day, families instead only send 60.
In regions with high precipitation, buildings could even go off-the-grid. This would alleviate the city’s overloaded supply infrastructure, reduce a household’s electricity bill, and benefit the environment.
The Solution: An Integrated, Intelligent System
W-All approaches water use holistically at the household scale, providing affordable and safe water while contributing to the conservation of this important natural resource.
W-All is a house’s motherboard for water management. It integrates all water-related functions in a single wall by capturing, storing, filtering, treating and recycling water.
Our software uses data collected from households to predict, optimize, and reduce future water demand based on user behavior and the weather forecast. The system minimizes withdrawals from the city grid by intelligently managing the stock of rain- and greywater available.
Financial Value: Household Perspective
W-All has the potential to revolutionize the way we think about water-use in multiple ways.
W-All automatically monitors water quality and uses multiple redundant filtration processes to remove over 99.99% of the pathogens and chemicals present in greywater, producing water at or better than EPA standards for municipal potable sources.
Families can rest assured that all of the water they use in their house is safe, regardless of source. W-All reads and provides the data to prove it from each house’s water stream, with a few key indicators measured in real-time. And in addition to providing safe water, W-All allows families to radically conserve water without changing their lifestyle.
Finally, W-All provides these benefits while saving families hundreds of dollars a year in utility costs. In long-term contracts can guarantee customers that water prices won’t grow in real terms. It ensures stable water prices below that of 75% of utilities in the US as of 2018, and up to 90% of utilities by 2025-2030. What they pay today is what they will pay in 10, 20, 40 years from now.
W-All proves it is possible to take care of our waters while bettering the lives of our people, family after family, house after house.
Walls of Air (Projects) - Roma, Beirut, Mexico City
- Brazilian Embassy in Roma -
- Brazil-Lebanon Cultural Center -
- MEXTROPOLI Festival de Arquitectura y Ciudad -
Rome, Beirut, Mexico City, 2019-2023
Curators: Gabriel Kozlowski, Sol Camacho, Laura González Fierro, and Marcelo Maia Rosa
This exhibition approaches the theme Walls of Air from the scale of the architectural and urban interventions. It attempts to measure the ability of Brazil’s recent architectural production in mediating conflicting relationships between public and private domains.
As opposed to the cartographic approach, which maps the multiple types of barriers that build the Brazilian territory, this section presents architectural objects that encourage the transposition of walls present in our cities. The selected proposals share the drive to investigate new ways of dealing with the limits, divisions and ruptures within urban fabrics. At the same time, they raise to surface the pressing need to use design as a way to transform conditions of exclusion into possibilities of bringing people together.
The projects were selected through an open public call—an unprecedented initiative for a Brazilian pavilion in the Venice Biennale—with the clear goal of widening and democratizing the dialogue about contemporary Brazilian architecture. Widely publicized throughout Brazil, the call invited architects to submit projects through the website www.murosdear.org.br, which hosted a series of sections for public participation in the Walls of Air research.
The open call considered any project within the Brazilian territory eligible for submission, regardless of the nationality of the architect. Either built or unbuilt, projects were accepted for selection as long as they were grounded in reality, meaning it had to have a real client or be part of a competition—academic projects or ideas proposals were not accepted. The submission period opened on December 19th, 2017, and closed on January 19th, 2018, with 289 proposals received from more than 60 cities in the country.
The submitted projects confirmed the high concentration of architectural firms in the southeast region of the country, the rare presence of foreign firms building in Brazil (especially if compared to regions like North America, Asia or Europe) and, lastly, the hardship of turning proposals into real buildings, demonstrated by the high number of unbuilt projects. Nevertheless, they also represent the high quality of the contemporary architectural scene in this country.
Seventeen projects were chosen for their inspiring and tangible ideas, sharing the clear desire to transform their environment into one that is more fluid and inclusive. These projects, displayed in the first room of the Brazilian Pavilion at the Giardini in Venice, aims to show a plurality of solutions that engage—through different lenses—with the concept of Walls of Air.
The projects address issues such as: how to bring people together to fight for a common cause against forces of pure financial land speculation; how to rethink our technological limitations; how a community can learn by building collectively; how to merge industrialized construction processes with vernacular techniques; how to disrupt legal frameworks through the proposition of innovative architectural and urban forms; how to make use of punctual strategies to generate a network for fostering urban renewal; how to use the void as a way to stitch two sides of an informal community; how to bridge large infrastructure corridors; how to densify uses as a means of bringing a community together; and how to rethink preserved areas as carefully calibrated public spaces, among other strategies.
Finally, the presentation of the 17 projects was developed in a collaboration between the curatorial team with each architecture firm. The choice of a graphic representation with few but impactful line drawings, each specifically crafted to establish a dialogue with all other projects, aims at highlighting not only the nuances of design with its variations in scale, but also to focus on the actions that connect them with the broader exhibition theme. The actions of fostering, seeding, revealing, interpreting, stitching, repurposing, framing, interconnecting, articulating, comprehending, bridging, densifying, converting, and learning, ultimately reveal each projects’ ability to break down walls and build a more generous and collectively Freespace.
POLES is a studio for Architecture, Urban Design and Landscape Architecture based in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil, and Boston, US.
The name is an acronym for Political Ecology of Space.
Our work’s foundations lie in the intersection between politics, ecology and space, as a way to problematize the shifting notions of “nature,” “urbanization” and “the environment” in relation to the socio-economic processes that structure them.
The word POLES, simultaneously, refers to opposite points on a surface, or of an argument, which allows us to see Architecture as a practice to tension or bridge disparate forces or opposing conditions. Less intentionally perhaps, POLES are also structural elements, bringing back the other more conceptual meaning to our disciplinary home.
In Brazilian Portuguese, or more precisely in Rio de Janeiro, where we come from, the word POLES is naturally pronounced as POLIS, the birthplace of the city and democracy: a subtle connection and homage that we feel fortunate to have embedded in our name.
POLES’s interest does not lie solely in cities, or metropolises, or the countryside. In fact, we align our practice with views that understand the limitations of such concepts when discussing our current living conditions. We prefer to address urbanization in its broader sense.
Urbanization is not only measured by the development and growth of cities, but also by the dissemination of urbanization values to society. It is understood as a spatially-continuous process of the subordination of the agrarian to the urban, or, better yet, the natural to the urban. The term stands for the spatial imprints of society in any environment. It not only refers to the physical built form, but also concerns the different ways in which modernization processes are reflected onto space, including the territorializing forces that reconfigure locations from afar; the commodification of land and its natural resources; and the networks of communication and the transient patterns of occupation that cross these locations.
Within the framework of urbanization, our studio sets itself to articulate a more precise understanding around the notion of urbanization of nature. This implies a break with the distinctions between the inside and the outside of the urban towards a more interconnected relation between the socio-spatial processes of transforming environments for the use of humans, regardless if they take place in cities, in the hinterlands, or elsewhere. It aligns with ideas that, under capitalism, nature is reframed as an economic asset and transformed, simplified and put to work for social and cultural purposes in order to sustain urbanization. The urbanization of nature, as a concept, can be further explored as a form of metabolism whereby politico-economic projects become inseparable from the material constituencies of the built environment they are prone to modify. This way, it is increasingly hard to maintain the binary urban–natural, as the two are no longer distinct entities but complementary instances within a broader socio-spatial reproduction process. As David Harvey had already suggested:
“[A]ll ecological projects (and arguments) are simultaneously political-economic projects (and arguments) and vice versa. Ecological arguments are never socially neutral any more than socio-political arguments are ecologically neutral. Looking more closely at the way ecology and politics interrelate, then becomes imperative if we are to get a better handle on how to approach environmental / ecological questions.” (David Harvey, Justice, Nature and the Geography of Difference, 1996)
The question is then, on the one hand, to understand how nature is socially mobilized, commodified and forced into a process of transformation with the purpose to structure and enable urbanization. And on the other, how urbanization in itself creates specific modes of ingraining socio-economic orders (capitalism, for example) in time and space that modifies the material conditions of nature. These two sides of the relation between urbanization and ecology become for us ways to inquire into our current modes of inhabiting space, as well as to articulate where these practices are taking us.
The relations just described lead us to political ecology as an arena of practice. Political ecology can be seen as a way to re-center the political question within the environmental and spatial discourses. Thus, the political within political ecology orients actions, environmental or otherwise, toward a program of social justice and emancipation where nature and culture are considered the two sides of the same coin, rather than detached entities in a hierarchical relation. It is the means through which to recognize the conflicting nature of socio-political positions vis-à-vis ecology and the ways we occupy space.
In this sense, political ecology draws from poststructuralism, postcolonialism, and feminist geography, bringing back the political question within environmental discourses. The engagement with socio-ecologic questions is put in practice to dismantle the economism of environmental management and erect in its place a dialectic relation of co-production between nature and capital. It allows one to confront the apolitical nature of insular environmentalism that fails to integrate questions of economy systems, power structures, political conflicts, social struggles, labor reproduction, and more, on their analytical frameworks.
Political ecology, within our practice, equally seeks alternatives to the overreliance on the notion of “adaptation” insofar it represents a technological determinism and a managerial solution as a way guarantee the maintenance of hegemonic systems as societies adapted to ecological crises. In such a view, the degree of social and economic resilience would be directly proportional to the capacity of the prevailing systems to maintain in place their basic functioning and structures after a crisis. This means that “adaptation” to human-induced environmental problems would be a way to preserve the very structures that led these problems to occur in the first place, without the need to change them: adaptation as a path to continue creating more of the same. At POLES we try to break free from this thought pattern. We need to devise new solutions beyond adaptation.
In the end, design matters to the extent it is political and have real impact in the world. This is a positioning that allows us to not lose sight of the interrelation between our actions—regardless the scale—and the larger ecosystems they are inserted in. It opens a path to place the social, environmental and spatial struggles pertaining to specific locations under intervention critically within the broader umbrella of global systems, such as the evolution of global political economies and geopolitical disputes over natural resources, as well as the flows of people and capital. Above all, it allows us to engage with the multi-scalar processes of urbanization, both locally and globally, in their dialogue with nature. Now, let’s see how much we can contribute!
“We have no choice: politics does not fall neatly on one side of a divide and nature on the other. From the time the term “politics” was invented, every type of politics has been defined by its relation to nature, whose every feature, property, and function depends on the polemical will to limit, reform, establish, short-circuit, or enlighten public life. As a result, we cannot choose whether to engage in political ecology or not; but we can choose whether to engage in it surreptitiously, by distinguishing between questions of nature and questions of politics, or explicitly, by treating those two sets of questions as a single issue that arises for all collectives.”
To the famous question “What Is to Be Done?” there is only one answer: “Political ecology!”
— Bruno Latour, Politics of Nature.