21 March 2011

Caribbean Winter School: Vedado Escuela Secundaria

The following project was completed during the 2nd Caribbean Winter School in Havana, Cuba (2011) and was jointly produced by myself, Carrie Bayley (Manchester School of Architecture), Ana-Luise Ibarra (CUJAE) and Elke Schingel (Munster School of Architecture).

The winter school programme tasked students to address the idea of a School being used as a tool for social and urban transformation in urban centres - School +. Central to this was the arguement that schools are one of the few instruments available to governments, commmunities, architects or other interested parties but that relevant examples are lacking, particularly when new town building in certain parts of the world have only been concerned with aesthetic issues. Student teams were challenged to move beyond simple 'social engagement' as an add-on to an existing brief and to start from 'first-principles' to fully challenge the programme and meaning of both "school" and "+". This new emphasis on the social role of architecture (and architects) can be seen as a reflection within a wider professional shift as a response to the economic downturn of 2008 (see for example Notes on Metamodernism). The following project deals with a Secondary School building in the Vedado district of Havana, three other student projects dealt with the same brief whilst five tackled a Primary School in Centro district.

Site Issues

The proposed site in Vedado at the corner of Calzada and Calle K.

Currently serving as 2200m2 of car park, the Vedado site was situated adjacent to Calzada street, a corner plot of the city block between Calle L and K. The wider area is framed by buildings and places with both high architectural and social value, including the Office of Interests of the United States of America, the Camilo Cienfuegos Hospital, Anti-Imperialist Square José Martí and the Sport Center José Martí as well as being closely situated to the Malecon. By far the most challenging charateristic of the site however is the fact that it is at high risk of sea penetration, with penetrations of 1.2m or more an annual occurance. Other environmental considerations to contend with include the south and south-west orientation, meaning that it is not shaded by adjacent buildings (a scenario often desired for the cooling effect it brings), and that the existing residential blocks surrounding it reduce the direct impact of the sea breezes from the north-east. Furthermore it suffers from acoustic problems due to the close proximity of traffic (both vehicular and pedestrian) on Calzada.

United States Interests Section, Havana, Cuba near the Malecon.

Vedado is structued by a grid of 100m x 100m blocks that has been orientated 45 degrees of north-west and north-east to "diminish the effects of heatstroke and to take advanatage of the predominat sea breezes". The site represents a place where the dominant grid meets the coastal fringe. Local development regulations stipulate that 33% of the surface area of each plot must be left undeveloped and a series of codes enforce garden and 'green' strips. These, combined, with a network of parks that provide social spaces for residents, give the area a 'green' appeareance. The existing buildings show the damage of annual flooding and on the whole are 1950/60s orthognal, concrete blocks. Calzada breaks the coherence of the Vedado grid, creating a triangular shaped park that has become a scene of conflicting emotions. The presence of Havana's main Funeral Home opposite the site and the close proximity to the United States Interests Section building mean that the park has become a place of gathering for people experiencing a range of human emotions - from joy (at being offered emigration to the US) to great saddness (rejection and mourning). In the evening the park becomes the social meeting point for the local community.


The programme for a standard secondary school set out requirements for a school that serves 270 students across three grade years (7th, 8th and 9th). These students would be taught in standard classrooms of 30 pupils and specialist learning activities would take place in supplementary spaces (science laboratories, art rooms, etc). Certain elements of the programme, including the Dining space and Library were obvious candidates for hosting wider social activities and opening the school up to the wider community. An early decision was made to combine these elements of the brief into one central multi-functional 'Heart' space. This central space would consist of adaptable spaces and break out areas with potential for it's services to function for 24 hours per day.

Key design concepts

A rational analysis of both the site and programmatic issues also meant that an early decision was taken to lift the main elements of the school off of the ground and out of the risk of sea penetrations. Although this would only require raising the building up by 1.2m by lifting the school higher, by 6m, new spaces are freed up beneath that create new opportunities for future development as well as creating new social spaces that open up to the existing park.

Defining future learning environments

The ability for the school to provide learning environments that suited the needs of Cuba's current education system and that were also able to adapt over time was a key element in driving the design. Cuba has seen rapid change in the way education works in recent years with an increase in technology in the classroom (with televisions, VCRs and computers) that is expected to continue. One of the largest criticisms of Cuba's current school buildings is their inability to adapt to these new technologies and new teaching methods.


The scheme was developed with the use of models. An initial area study in volumes was used to assess the impact of the scheme on the local environment, taking into account the opportunities from site constraints for new interactions.

Model - Initial accommodation volume study

These initial studies were then developed into a preferred option of three 'stepping elements' that was then tested more thoroughly over the two week programme.

Model - Development from initial scheme (right) to final proposal (left)


Informed by a number of constraints on the site and acknowledging that the building will continue to grow beyond its completion date, the proposed Secondary School uses these constraints as opportunities for design, not barriers. The school becomes a new beacon in the community with a civic presence that is reinforced by being raised 6m above the ground. Materials and the use of vegetation should help to fully integrate the school into the wider community and become a tool for enacting social change.

Exterior View

Externally the building is wrapped in a brick screen, with the bricks laid to allow perforations to maintain natural air flow and offer glimpses of the activity taking place behind. The choice of red brick was made after examining the local area and the materials that weathered best in the sea air and withstood flooding, without drastically affecting the visual appearance. This screen also creates a controlled façade that addresses the two main roads adjacent to the site, expressing the irregularity of the grid in this part of Vedado.

Ground Floor and Landscape Plan

The existing park is restructured to tie it in visually and psychologically with the new school and community facilities. A material change on the pavement and road surface helps to signify this link, without the need of rerouteing or drastically changing the road layout in the area. A series of new social gathering spaces, in the shade of the building above, compliment a new outdoor auditorium in the site's northern most corner that can become a new social gathering point with performances in the evening and at weekends hosted by the school or other community groups (there is also the potential for screening films or other events). Within this landscape sits the first element of the main building, an information point and circulation points that take students (and the community) up into the main functional spaces. Large sections of the walls pivot open to help draw people in. This point is designed so that in the event of sea penetrations minimal damage is done.

Upper Floor Plans

From a series of highly functional ramps the main school building is accessed. A simple diagram of three connected 'elements' can be read as one storey of specialist classrooms and administration (north/left) and three storeys of standard classrooms (south/right) that surround the central public functions (Library/Dining). A series of outdoor terraces greet students as they move up through the school and provide additional space for outdoor learning.

Section A

The main school element is lifted 6m above the ground, with three storeys of accommodation at 4m in height each, giving an overall height of 18m. The central element, a series of decks (with differing levels of screening for privacy, etc), is set 2m below the main 6m line so that new visual connections are created.

Section B

The three elements are structured to provide a degree of self-shading whilst they are not so close so as to over power or create restricted places. This stepping also helps to reduce the mass of the structure visible from surrounding properties. The openings also allow cross ventilation of the natural sea breezes to continue and not form a barrier to them.

'Interior' Perspective of Dining and Library 'Heart Space'

The 'Heart' space, with shared functions, is designed as a socially active place that will visibly change through out the day as new activities take place. On the first deck is housed the dining area that can function as a cafe or meeting point. Above this is the library, with a secure book enclosed on two sides by moveable walls that can be opened up to allow easy access from the reading area. As users move up through this space the areas become more private until a roof terrace, shaded by a canvas canopy, is reached.

Standard Classroom Perspective

The standard classrooms are screened by the perforated brick façade and a 2m strip of outdoor space that features seats and areas of vegetation. This strip can be opened up to the classrooms with a folding wall that increases the teaching area and allows for natural ventilation and a private area of outdoor space for each classroom. These classrooms can be changed over time as learning methods change.

Defining future uses through flexible spacese

Potential exists between the structured grid of the columns for volumes to be appropriated by up to two floors in places, through light-weight, adaptable construction. The school remains above as a more visually static element although behind the brick screen it to is flexible. This approach recognises that cities change and grow over time, with users often appropriating space incrementally.

Model - View along Calzada, Funeral Home on left

The use of 'V' shaped concrete columns can be read as a reinterpretation of the traditional colonnade that characterises so much of Havana. These columns also allow the required 5m of garden space (a Vedado building regulation) to flow under the building but the existing building line to be maintained.

Model - View from adjacent properties

The central element has a different structural expression, resting on concrete shear walls (that enclose the information point) and two slender concrete columns.

Model - Aerial view

The overall form is designed to work with the existing urban fabric, respecting the existing building heights. The highest point of the proposal being opposite the Funeral Home, one of the most important civic structures in the area.

In summary then School + (and the Secondary School proposal) is not about architectural statements (genius sketches or image-making) but about a rational process that responds to and then informs the existing urban fabric. It is about new social agendas and architecture is only a vessel for that agenda. School + should not represent a school, it should be a school for today and for the future.

20 March 2011

Ravensbury Square

The following project was completed as part of my third year BA (Hons) Architecture studies at Manchester School of Architecture (2008-2009 academic year).

A proposal for new housing in East Manchester.

Ravensbury Square looks to respond to the problems of urban and socio-economic decay occurring in the peripheral areas of Manchester City Centre, focusing on a community of East Manchester (subject of the largest Pathfinder scheme in the UK) – West Clayton.

West Clayton sits in an inner city zone, neither truley urban nor suburban.

The specific site was the subject of a Compulsory Purchase Order in 2008 and the traditional Victorian terraces that once occupied it have since been demolished. It occupies a key location within the community, adjacent to the main arterial link road into the area and a primary school. Despite recent investment in the area the quality of the housing and the overall built environment is poor.

Abandonded site in West Clayton, earmarked for development. Circa 2009.

Ravensbury Square is a proposal for 54 socially inclusive dwellings and associated community space, in an attempt to raise the standard of the built environment within West Clayton. The proposed dwellings challenge preconceptions of affordable housing in the UK and calls for a new adaptive typology to meet the challenges of contemporary lifestyles.

The proposal works within (then) current UK Government Policy and Development
Frameworks, such as requirements to build to densities of 30 dwellings per hectare.

Adaptive density is proposed as a solution that has the ability to meet the needs of today without compromising its’ ability to meet the needs of future generations. A flexible approach allows individuals to appropriate the home, developing them as and when required, whilst taking ownership over semi-private and communal areas. The terrace house is seen as the ideal model to provide a medium-density solution in our towns and cities.

The development seeks to bring together the surviving and the incoming community.

Current government legislation and local development frameworks have been used to inform the design process, steps taken include retaining the existing street grid and working to Lifetime Home standards. The primary materials, brick and slate, are designed to evoke the traditional terraces of Manchester. These traditional construction methods create opportunities to train local unemployed people, giving them new transferable skills. The use of lightweight construction for internal partitions allows for flexible alterations to the homes.

A dynamic elevation is animated through voids, alcoves and terraces. The
façades, with their controlled use of three separate bricks that gradually blend down
the street, help to bring definition to the building forms whilst providing a stable backdrop.

The final design reflects the local environment, being a location situated neither in the urban core or the suburban periphery, and also respects the existing residential fabric, offering new space to the existing community.

The one and three bedroom properties are seen as an interlocking unit to
maximise space whilst retaining a controlled elevation.

The development of semi-private and zoned open space is integral to the scheme, with a series of communal play/leisure areas that, like the houses, do not prescribe specific functions but suggest possible uses. New links are opened up to existing public parks with the aim that streets, liberated from the car, are used by the existing and the new community alike.

The building blocks, constructed from a restrained palette of materials,
frame a series of urban rooms. These losely programmed spaces are designed
to allow residents and the local community to adapt the spaces over time.

The project was exhibited as part of the Manchester School of Architecture End of Year Show in 2009 inside a purpose built installation that tested the model of pre-fabricated 'Shed-units' that could be used to grow the houses incrementally.

Exhibition testing 'Shed' typology.


Winner, Manchester Society of Architects Design Awards 2010, Student Category, May 2010
Commendation, KPF/AF Student Travel Awards, May 2010
Nominee, RIBA President Medals, Bronze Medal for Part 1 Students, October 2009
Winner, Steacy Greenway Prize "Outstanding 3rd Year Studio Porject", June 2009
Winner, Hays Architecture "Best Design Report Award", June 2009
Winner, Sheppard Robson Prize for Best BA (Hons) Architecture Design Project, June 2009


Further information is available here.

The project has been exhibited in Manchester ('End of Year Show', Manchester School of Architecture, 2009 & 'MSA Design Awards' CUBE Gallery, 2010), London ( 'KPF/AF Student Travel Awards', Architecture Foundation, 2010) and Vienna ('Blue Award Exhibition', Vienna University of Technology, 2010).

The exhibition piece was featured in ‘Architectural Modelmaking’ by Dr Nick Dunn (Architectural Modelmaking, N. Dunn, Laurence King, 2010, p142).

Get Over It! Symposium

On May 12th 2011 the students from the MA Architecture + Urbanism course at the Manchester School of Architecture will be hosting the second in a series of annual symposia. Building on last year's highly successful 'Hive Minds' event, this year the event, entitled 'Get Over It!', will tackle a range of pertinent issues currently afflicting the world of architecture and urbanism.

Recession. Creative Opportunity? A symposium organised by the 
MA Architecture + Urbanism at the Manchester School of Architecture MAY 12 2011

"In a time of economic austerity, political uncertainty and social crisis, how can the city move forward? GET OVER IT! will bring together a range of speakers from diverse disciplines to investigate methods for extracting potential from the current recession. Architecture, technology, sociology, politics, economics, culture and education all have a role to play in the reconfiguration of the city. Instigated by the MA Architecture and Urbanism students at the Manchester School of Architecture, the aim of the symposium is to address new creative opportunities for redundant city spaces and the broader built environment."

Further details will be confirmed in the next few weeks. For the latest information keep an eye on the blog or twitter feed.

19 March 2011

Caribbean Winter School: Debrief

View of La Habana from Casablanca (across the bay).

I recently returned from attending the 2nd Caribbean Winter School in Havana, Cuba (see earlier post here), with another representative of the Manchester School of Architecture - Carrie Bayley. Organised by the Muenster School of Architecture, in cooperation with the Universitat Politèchnica de Catalyna (Barcelona) and University CUJAE (Havana) the programme ran between February 21st 2011 and March 13th 2011. The three week programme was a fascinating, if intense and at times over whelming, experience that allowed me to explore various different areas of the city which I will be exploring in the coming weeks on this blog. To start with I will use this piece to provide a debrief and over view of the winter school and the programme it was challenged with addressing - "School +".

International Perspectives: The winter school brought together a range of
individuals from across Europe and Central America

The winter school brought together 35 students from 4 countries and 5 different academic institutions - 15 from the Munster School of Architecture, Munster, Germany, 5 from HTWG Constanz University, Constanz, Germany, 3 from Technion (Israel Institute of Technology), Haifa, Israel, 2 from the Manchester School of Architecture and 10 from CUJAE, Havana, Cuba. The student contingent was complimented by a team of professors, tutors and invited critics from 4 countries and 6 different academic institutions: Prof. Prof.h.c. Herbert Buehler (Muenster School of Architecture), Prof. Dr. Ruben Bancroft (CUJAE), Prof. Myriam Gautschi (HTWG, Constanz), Prof. Gavriela Nussbaum (Technion), Prof. Jorge Pena (CUJAE), Prof. Barbara Schmidt-Kirchberg (Muenster School of Architecture), Prof. Jordi Sutrias (Universitat Politècnica de Catalunya, Barcelona), Prof. Frid Buehler (Chairman ASAP, Berlin / Muenchen), Prof. Zeev Druckman (Academy of Arts and Design, Jerusalem), Prof. Dr Joiselen Cazanave and Prof. Yanamari Bancroft. A number of the Professors gave lectures during the programme and these will be highlighted in future posts.

The various Professors, Tutors and Critics at the Interim Crit

Working under the title "School +" the students (myself included) worked in 9 international teams (with at least one Cuban student per team) to develop solutions for either a primary or secondary school on a restricted site in the Centro and Vedado districts respectively. Each team had to make use of the local resources (light, sun, air, local materials) to "preserve the valuable urban tissue" of the area and deal with the complex social problems of a school as well as addressing what extra benefit (the "+" element) a school can bring to the wider community.

Group Dynamics: how the international teams broke down

The idea of "School +" was envisioned as part of a UIA working programme and seeks to move beyond simple 'social engagement' or 'community outreach' and become an active component, even a catalyst or tool for urban transformation as opposed to a reactionary response. Furthermore, currently little examples of new purpose-built schools exist in Havana's urban centre (schools are present however they make use of appropriated buildings that are not always suited to their needs) and as such the projects will be presented to the Cuban Ministry of Education to help inform the next phase of school building. The projects will also be presented at the UIA World Congress in Tokyo later this year.

Students from Europe packed model making materials in their luggage to aid the
design of the projects. Spare materials were then donated to students at CUJAE.

The Convento de Santa Clara acted as the winter school's base, with the students staying in the hotel that is now part of the second cloister. The Convento is one of the oldest and most typical Colonial religious buildings in the New World having been founded in 1664 by Sister Catalina de Mendoza to originally offer refuge for the wealthy girls of the city. Two of three original cloisters remain intact, one houses the aforementioned hotel and the other to the Centro Nacional de Conservacion Restauracion y Museologia. It was in the Convento that the project work was undertaken and evening lectures held. In addition to various trips in and around Havana excursions also took place to Matanzas and Varadero further along the east coast of the island.

Students sat in the patio of the Convento de Santa Clara

Overall the winter school experience was a highly enjoyable one which was heightened by the challenge of working on a project in condensed time period with an international team who all brought their different cultural perspectives to the process.

12 March 2011

Small Scale, Big Change Exhibition (MoMA)

Between October 3rd, 2010 and January 3rd, 2011, the Museum of Modern Art (MoMA) in New York held an exhibition entitled 'Small Scale, Big Change: New Architectures of Social Engagement'. The show presented eleven projects, across five continents, and sought to highlight both the social commitment of the architects (and others) involved and the functinonal, pragmatic requirements of the designs. The scale of the projects are relatively small, ranging from a Primary School in Burkina Faso to Metro Cable in Venezuela, but reveal a renewed emphasis on socially responsibility within pockets of the architectural profession, to enact social, economic and political change on a much wider scale through interventions.

Quinta Monroy Housing, Chile, by Elemental
(Image: Tadeuz Jalocha)

This renewed emphasis on the socially enabling qualities of architecture reflects a return to the social ideals championed by proponents of the Modern movement, in the 20th cenutry (particularly organisations such as the Congres Internationaux d'architecture moderne - CIAM). However, these schemes are set apart from their 'Modern' forebears by their commitment to practical, pragmatic solutions as opposed to autocratic utopian visions which weren't implemented, in part, because of their massively unrealistic scale. Furthermore, as the exhibition description states:

"These projects have been selected from an increasingly large number of similar initiatives around the world because they exemplify the degree to which architects can orchestrate change, prioritizing work that has social impact but also balances very real concerns of cost, program, and aesthetics. They succeed in providing communities not only with physical spaces but with opportunities for self-determination and an enhanced sense of identity. As a result, these architects are both designers of buildings and moderators of change. Their integrative methodologies could serve as models for the profession at large."

In addition to the eleven built projects - situated in Bangladesh, Brazil, Burkina Faso, France, Lebanon, South Africa and the United States - highlighting the social values of architecture, they also highlight an interest in local architectural styles and traditional materials. The use of local materials and styles shows how the ideals of postmodernism, when history and local conditions were once again allowed to inform architectural form, are still influencing architects but that certain elements, such as wit and irony, are being replaced. This is also reflected in the particpartory design processes being implemented by the architects, to ensure that the local communities, the end users, are involved in the design and decision making processes. The built projects are supplemented by three internet-based networks, highlighed by the exhibition. These networks look to expand upon the themes explored and share information and experiences, through community leaders, architects, and nongovernmental organizations, to other parts of the world not directly influenced by these projects.

In a recent lecture to at the Manchester Architecture Research Centre (MARC) Dr Gavin Melles (Swinburne University, Australia) used the exhibition to reinforce his proposition that there is currently a generational shift taking place within the profession, a zeitgeist of new pragmatism within architecture and design. He described the exhibition's featured projects as having "pragmatist aesthetics" but that the architects "want their buildings to make a difference". Whilst Sharon McHugh in her review of the exhibition on World Architecture News described the work as being "appropriate for our time and a call for 'Incrementalism'". Furthermore, the growing interest in socially responsible architecture projects can be seen in the November 2008 issue of Icon Magazine ('Activist Architects') and even the American pavillion at the Venice Biennale 2008 (reviewed here) which responded to specific problems with practical (if experimental) solutions.

The full exhibition is viewable online through an accompanying interactive microsite.


This piece was originally prepared for Notes on Metamodernism on the 18th Feburary 2011 here.

8 March 2011

OMA: Netherlands Embassy, Berlin

In 2003 Dutch practice OMA, headed by Rem Koolhaas, completed the new Netherlands Embassy in Berlin, Germany. The embassy building has been derived from the strict building regulations of Berlin that define a block of 27m in height for the site, reflecting the 19th century architectural forms that are prevalent in the local area. The end result though is a surprising structure that, in the words of OMA, combines "an obedient approach (strictly fulfilling the block's perimeter) with a disobedient one (building an isolated cube)".

Netherlands Embassy, November 2008 (Image: Luke Butcher)

A video of the Dutch Embassy by myself, completed during the Third Year of my BA (Hons) Architecture course at the Manchester School of Architecture, along with Carrie Bayley, Amina Bhaimohmed and Karen Harper, can be viewed on the 'msa field trip films' You Tube channel here.

Netherlands Embassy, November 2008 (Image: Luke Butcher)

The embassy takes the block form and divides it into two parts: a cube, with offices and the main accommodation, and a 'L-shaped' wall, with the embassy residences. These two structures define an internal protected courtyard, with a dramatic, projecting box (a 'sky office') cantilevered into the space, and a series of pedestrian bridges that link the two structures.

Netherlands Embassy, November 2008 (Image: Luke Butcher)

The internal arrangement of the space is defined by a 'trajectory' that unfolds through the cube, circulating movement from the entrance to a top floor restaurant. This route can be seen to be wrapping around the building, appearing and disappearing behind the regularity of the cube's glass and steel façade. At one point the route 'crashes' out of the cube, escaping it's  constraints, and cantilevers over the street below. The dynamic route regulates the eight floors of the main embassy building, creating an interesting spatial arrangement and giving animation to building, particularly at night.


Office for Metropolitan Architecture, 'Netherlands Embassy' [Online] [First Accessed 18th February 2011]

2 March 2011

BIG plans for 'Hedonistic Sustainability'

Bjarke Ingels Group (BIG) has recently won first prize in a competition to replace a 40-year old incinertor operated by Amagerforbraending in Copenhagen. The practice is headed up Bjarke Ingels (1974) a Danish architect and the 2010 Laureate of The European Prize for Architecture. Scheduled to start in 2012 and be completed by 2016 the new waste and energy plant will add to the practice's growing portfolio of Copenhagen based buildings which already includes the VM Housing and the Mountain Dwellings (both started as PLOT and completed with JDS).

Exterior of the New Waste Treatment Plant (Image: Bjarke Ingels Group)
The project looks to tie together the two opposing sides of Amager - the factories and the residential areas - by considering Amagerforbraending not as an isolated object but as an architectural tool to "mobilize and intensify" the existing relationships. Many industrial areas of western cities are witnessing new, non-industiral, uses take hold within them and this area of Copenhagen is no different with a series of recreational activies reappropriating the area. A number of physically challenging sports already take place close to the site and the project looks to engage with these (including cable skiing, go-karting, sailing, and rock climbing) by providing an artificial ski slope on the roof scape of the new waste-to-energy plant. The end result has recently been described by Bjarke Ingels as being "hedonistic sustainability" as they "try to look at some different approaches where sustainable cities and sustainable buildings actually increase the quality of life" (New York Times).

Strategy Diagram for the three ski pistes (Image: Bjarke Ingels Group)

BIG acknowledge that that the internal volume of the plant is largely determined by engineering and technical criteria, with the primary structure having to be integrated with the machinery. However, they were determined that this should not be a building simply wrapped in a beautiful facade (reflecting a growing trend in Europe for waste incineration plants to be "highly designed works of urban architecture" - such as the Teeside Power Station) but should have added functionality. There were able to make a series of 'moves' to manipulate the form, including integrating the smokestack into the overal architecture of the plant and expanding the envelope to accomodate an administrative and visitor centre, and by adding an average of 10m of additional vertical structure across the roof, a new artifical ski slope, suitable for use all year round, can be created. Instead of a large empty roofscape a functional space is crafted to create new social opportunities that is a direct contrast to the energy intensive, indoor ski slopes. Due to the geometry of the roofscape over 1500m of ski runs can be created, accommodating a range of experiences across three slopes of different gradients. Additionally the envelope is constructed of a series planter modules, stacked like bricks, to give it a green facade.

Smoke ring highlighted at night (Image: Bjarke Ingels Group)

Whilst there is a growing awareness of 'environment issues' across the globe, with increased focus amongst media and politcal circles, it remains difficult for people to quantify the issues being discussed, in particular the impact on modern consumption on the environment. The proposal for the Amagarforbraending plant seeks to address this by engaging the public directly. One such engagement takes place in the elevator that takes skiers up to the slopes, with the elevator being adjacent to the smokestack and a glass wall offering glimpses into the internal workings of the plant. The other seeks to quantify exactly how much one ton of CO2 is produced by the plant through a simple modification of the smokestack. A chamber at the top of the smokestack colects '1 ton of fossil CO' before release it as a smoke ring into the air, Bjarke Ingels describes this as turning "the symbol of pollution into something playful". At night the smoke rings are transformed into glowing artworks through heat tracking lights that position lasers on the rings that can then displat graphical information such as CO2 levels as a pie chart. Undoubtedtly these gestures will serve as "gentle reminders" about "the impact of consumption" however it remains at present unclear exactly what '1 ton of fossil CO2' equates to or if this could, unintentionally, trivialise the issue. It is encouraging nonetheless that architects are engaging in the discussions about raising awareness of resorces consumption in a dynamic and engaging way.

The smoke rings can be seen rising above the plant (Image: Bjarke Ingels Group)

Amagerforbraending then represents the latest in socially, economically and environmentally engaged architectural projects that seek to create added valuye. Whilst the mixing of two seemingly incompatible typologys also represents the new interest in 'hybrid buildings'. As BIG put it themselves "now is the time to re-brand the factory".


Bjarke Ingels Group, 'AMF' [Online] [First Accessed 18th February 2011, 22:34]
New York Times, Green Blog, 'Skiing Your Way to 'Hedonistic Sustainability'' [Online] [First Accessed 18th February 2011, 22:35]