Africa. Ah, yes. At 30 million km² it covers 6% of the world’s surface and therefore 20% of its land. Africa is recognised as big but it’s still relatively unknown to the West, decades after Conrad’s Heart of Darkness and months after Adjaye’s Africa. LOL. Afrika is a continent of 14% of the world’s population over 54 countries. Compare with Europe: 2% Earth, 7% Land, 11% of Earthlings. 50 countries. Africa is not just bigger and but it’s also older.
So how is Joe Architect supposed to understand ‘foreign local culture’ which might be deemed important when it comes to designing housing? Increasingly today, there’s no site visit. Instead you get a geo-tagged topographical survey augmented by desktop jet-setting. Google Africanism. Wiki Free Town. A rapid sentence-image digest.
Africarchitecture© is about recognising some things will always remain unknown.
A voice said “That Hybridge is ugly!” She’s right… let’s not get defensive – or architectural. This is a project borne of a utilitarian need best resolved through an engineering solution. Architecture treats bridges like sculpture (Calatrava, Wilkinson Eyre, Future Systems et al all see the bridge as a total aestheticised object not something discontinuous): as homogenous sculptural forms yet bridge economics are usually more prosaic. Industrial. Much like the whole history of the site (a former sugar refinery until recently). This is anything but ‘a machine for living’. You cross a bridge, provide a fleeting experience but mainly you create opportunities on the other side! [Finder’s fee cancelled by fee risk]. Architecture is WORDS (abcde…), Engineering is NUMBERS (12345…), Economics is VALUE (£€$¥¢…) but WHAT_ are the Politics? A summation of them all: £BTH+£BN+£PA+£TGD¢+€A=£300K/6months. Better get Boris to smooth out the delivery) to allow this temporary project (£/t) to happen? Built on superficial foundations!?
In the story of Doctor Doolittle, the doctor shuns human patients in favour of animals with whom he can speak in their own languages. Later Doolittle becomes a naturalist, using his abilities to speak with animals to better understand nature and the history of the world. In the Spitalfields City Farm project, animals are positioned centre stage within the project to animate the spaces around them…
Five months to the 2012 Olympic opening ceremony and a request to design a temporary 70m tidal river crossing within 14 days! Think of it as a design exercise though more 100m sprint than marathon. The salient point about ‘temporality’ is that it frees one from the strictures of permanence and the “built to last” culture. Sustainability? Not an issue? Aesthetics? Not an issue. Just build a temporary low-cost large-span pedestrian bridge in the shortest time possible for the least money. We don’t care what it looks like as the crossing is a 100-day event. Could we utilise the spirit of the Citizen Olympian? Could you too build a (Bailey) bridge!? Ready, set go: no time to waste even if Wikipedia is down!
or a Suspended Bailey. Or should we look at an off-site pre-fab lightweight quad-laced truss? Or would we reduce the span with a tower crane providing mid/third-point cable stayed supports? The suspension is gripping… this is a bridge to where?
The evolution of large span structures typically manifest in bridge design suggests that this is an area of design where the architect, the artist, the hairdresser has been squeezed out by the engineer. However there is a participatory role here for the random Joe Public thanks to Yoshiaki Kubota’s systematisation of bridge types: A wide range of otherwise unpredictable variations in form can be readily generated by combinations of simple rules e.g. add a brace, subtract a brace, subdivide a bay, shorten, lengthen, rotate. It is therefore straightforward to generate a multi-dimensional “design space” containing a myriad of options which a rational designer would never consider. The question is then whether any better designs exist within the space of possible bridge shapes, and Stephen Wolfram’s experience in other areas makes him believe quite strongly that they would. His other work also suggests they may look like nothing we have seen before, possible quite “random” in appearance.
So let’s Ready, Set, Go!
Google “70m span pedestrian bridge” to start with and you get amongst ‘our’ competitors, this:
LANE 1: “a 95m span basket-handle arch spans across a freeway consisting of tubular steel arch ribs supporting a lightweight concrete post-tensioned edge girder deck.”
Blablablarchitecture summarises this as being cable stayed or suspension as the structural means, steel as the material means; but it looks expensive. Like a Philippe Starck toilet brush: could cost £1, can cost £187.50) However could we dismantle this idea and make a cheaper/popular assembly/low-tech version? WHAT_ would an Argos Basket Handle Arch look like?
Let’s try tackling the material means by trying to make a 95m span bridge in wood. Google ‘World’s Largest Timber Structure” and we get :
LANE 2: Mayer’s Metropol. Fanciful yes, now let’s run it through the Argos rinse…
Blablablarchitecture summarises this as being, well… let’s not’s spend time on its undoubted formal beauty but it suffers from the same reason as Lane 1: it looks expensive, therefore a bit slower… because it’s worth it. Apparently say Spainomics. We cross to…
LANE 3: TBC
Crowds flocked to the private launch of the New Era Introducing 2011 gallery at Shoreditch Underground in the heart of East London before it embarks on a tour across Europe, The Middle East and Africa. We catch up with Lina Al Amoudi, the creative mind behind this year’s winning entry and several other finalists to find out more.
100th issue launch party at Shoreditch Underground: be your own cover star for 15 minutes.
14 weeks after running aground on the Astrolabe Reef near Tauranga, the cargo ship split in two on Saturday night. The smaller of the two pieces, the bow, remains wedged firmly on the reef. The stern has, for the most part, slipped beneath the waves, with only about a quarter of it above the waterline. Aerial observation flights and a visit by boat to the Rena by salvage experts today confirm no change to the state of the wreck. Maritime New Zealand said the current sea state, combined with the dangerous state of the wreck, is preventing dive operations at this stage but the swells are expected to ease over the next few days…