Category Archives: technology

Is It Real or Rendered?

Image Credit: Sotheby’s via Places Journal

As discussions of representation in design schools recognize our current collective shift into the postdigital era, Susan Piedmont-Palladino writes a pertinent article in Places Journal investigating our ever-changing relationship to images and representations of reality.

A professor of architecture at Virginia Tech, Piedmont-Palladino begins with a quote from writer Susan Sontag that emphasizes the acute importance of our ability to discern images:

” ‘A fake painting (one whose attribution is false) falsifies the history of art. A fake photograph (one which was been retouched or tampered with, or whose caption is false) falsifies reality.‘ ”

Piedmont-Palladino goes on to note that design renderings often depict an overlap between real and imagined, but that there are implications for design when architects or others choose to ignore certain realities beyond the point of making beautiful drawings. Not addressing issues of universal access during the design process, for example, can lead to exclusion and failure to meet building codes.

Head over to Places Journal for the full article.

Source: Places Journal

Digitally Fabricated Interior Design

In the near future, there are few industries that 3D printing does not stand to change, if not revolutionize. Interior Design is one industry where 3D printing, also called additive manufacturing, is currently changing the game. The new Loft flagship store in Ginza, Tokyo is a prime example of this fact.

The architecture firm DUS has been using additive manufacturing in their architecture for several years, but is now implementing that expertise in its interior design work as well. For the Loft store, DUS was inspired by Japanese paper folding traditions, and incorporated complex geometric designs in furniture and merchandise displays. These were shapes and ideas that would have been nearly impossible to model or fabricate without digital technologies and additive manufacturing.

When it comes to model making, research has already begun to show that the opportunities presented by 3D printing are beginning to change the way designers think. A study undertaken with interior design students showed that access to 3D technology shifted the modeling process  and resulted in quick prototypes with more consistently accurate scales, compared to model making by hand.

Source: Archipreneur and Emerald Insight

3D Printed Houses Address Homelessness

Photo Credit: ICON and New Story

ICON, an Austin-based construction company, and New Story, a housing non-profit based in San Francisco, have collaborated on developing a 3D printer that builds move-in-ready houses in under 24 hours for just 4,000 USD. The proof-of-concept home was presented at the 2018 SXSW Conference in Austin, Texas. The home has a curved porch, living room, bedroom and bathroom. By 2019, these innovative, highly efficient and economical homes will be used to create the first 3D printed neighborhood in El Salvador, a region hard-pressed for shelter.

The homes are built with a 3D printer called the Vulcan that is set on tracks on an axis, allowing for an unlimited print area. The majority of the home is printed with Portland cement.

Source: Archdaily

California to Launch Fleet of Autonomous Vehicles

Currently, all autonomous vehicles in California must have a human in the passenger seat, but not for long. Autonomous vehicles will be truly autonomous starting April 2, when a human safety-net will no longer be required by California’s Department of Motor Vehicles. In addition, in January, Waymo, a Google-affiliated company, debuted one of the first autonomous ride-sharing services in Arizona.  

Some question the ethical implications for a world with autonomous vehicles. For example, if a driverless car detects a tree branch, it could stop abruptly to avoid swerving outside of the lines, but hitting the breaks could cause a pile-up behind the driverless car. Others wonder whether the cars will truly be able to adapt to traffic in real-time conditions.

To the relief of some citizens, California’s new regulation requires a person to be operating the autonomous vehicles remotely, and companies are required to report how many times a human has to take over for the car. Waymo’s track record is pretty good; the company’s robot cars have traveled over 300,000 miles and remote drivers only intervened 63 times.

While a couple of accidents involving autonomous cars have been reported, the fault did not belong to the driverless vehicle, and the vehicles did not belong to Waymo. Accidents will happen, though, and when they do, who will take the responsibility? One suggested solution is an “ethical knob,” or a button that passengers can switch from complete self-preservation to self-sacrifice, or to an impartial setting. However, if everyone chooses to be impartial, the ethics knob is pointless.

It’s too early to know how autonomous vehicle issues will play out legally or even ethically, but cities in Arizona, California, and possibly even the City of Austin are emerging as leaders in the ride-sharing field. To check out the autonomous vehicle craze yourself, be on the lookout for prototype-driverless shuttles picking up passengers in Austin during South by Southwest.

Sources: New Scientist, The Atlantic, BBC, The Texas Standard, The Verge, Waymo


Space Graffiti

The fluid and much discussed space between vandalism and art has now entered Earth’s orbit in the form of a large mirrored ball. Rocket Lab, a New Zealand company determined to “…remove barriers to commercial space,” launched what is essentially a massive disco ball into orbit on January 21st, 2018. Humanity Star, composed of carbon fiber and reflective panels, will orbit Earth every 90 minutes for 9 months until it enters Earth’s atmosphere and is destroyed. Until then, it can be tracked online via Rocket Lab’s website, and will be the brightest, flashiest object in the night sky. 

However, like many artists and visionaries seeking to make their mark, Peter Beck and Rocket Lab didn’t seek permission before launching Rocket Lab. Astronomers have voiced concerns, as the bright object in orbit could interfere with research they are completing on actual stars. Those researchers see the satellite as nothing more than space graffiti. Others see Beck’s satellite as another encroachment on public space, the night sky being one of the few landscapes available to almost anyone, anywhere.

That universality was exactly the goal of the minds behind the Humanity Star. They simply hope Earthlings take a moment to look up and consider the space around them and their responsibility to Earth and its people.

Source: Rocket Lab and Dezeen.

Space Race: Dubai

Image Credit: Bjarke Ingels Group

In the desert near Dubai, a team of scientists will live inside four geometric domes for a full year in the hopes of recreating the challenge of building a city on Mars. The Mars Science City will be the largest space simulation constructed anywhere, focused on researching issues related to water, agriculture, and energy on Mars.

The domes were designed by Danish Architect Bjarke Ingels. Dubai has become synonymous in recent years with iconic architecture and landscape engineering. The government of the United Arab Emirates (UAE) wants to continue its meteoric rise by reaching and colonizing Mars by the year 2117. In spite of the UAE’s Space Agency being founded in 2014, it hopes to launch an orbiting satellite by the year 2021. 

Source: Dezeen

Thin Concrete

ETH Zurich has found a way to make an extremely thin, sinuous concrete roof structure, with an average thickness of five centimeters. The thin structure was designed using digital fabrication technologies to calculate a structurally efficient shell structure using the minimum amount of material. The formwork is comprised of steel cables and fabric stretched across the cable net. This system will be used in a residential unit on top of the NEST living laboratory in Dübendorf, Switzerland.

Source: Archdaily

Tesla Installs Solar Panels near a Children’s Hospital in Puerto Rico

Photo Credit: Tesla

Puerto Rico’s power grid was devastated by Hurricane Maria. Tesla has begun rebuilding the power infrastructure with more resilient and sustainable technology. Construction has begun on a solar field near the Children’s Hospital in San Juan. It will take six months before power is restored on the Island. The new, alternative power generation and energy storage facilitates will help keep buildings running even if the grid fails.

Source: Inhabitat

SFMOMA Sends Images of Art to Match your Mood

Photo Credit: Observer

The San Francisco Museum of Modern Art will send you an image of a work in its collection based on your desire by texting one’s request to 572-51. Only 5 percent of SFMOMA’s collection is exhibited at any given time, but the message service pulls from the entire collection of 34,678 works of art, allowing one to view works based on individual taste. The message service has a few kinks, and it cannot evaluate complex sentences, but the range of artwork and efficiency of the service is phenomenal.

Source: Observer

The Mystery of Roman Concrete

Photo Credit: Colin Knowles

Modern concrete on seawalls will eventually erode and need repair after only a few decades, yet the Roman pier at Portus Consanus in Orbetello, Italy has withstood the sea for millennia.  The secret to this concrete’s longevity is a mineral growth after the concrete has cured. When Roman engineers mixed volcanic ash, lime, and seawater to make mortar, the combination also created a pozzolanic reaction. This reaction, named after the city Pozzuoli in the Bay of Naples, caused the formation of crystals in the spaces of the concrete mixture making the concrete incredibly strong.

Source: Archinect

Compact, Portable Architecture Builds Itself in Minutes

Photo Credit: Weburbanist

Ten Fold Engineers, based in the United Kingdom, have developed small portable structures that can unfold and expand, building themselves within minutes. The design of the structures may seem simple, but the mechanics of unfolding are extremely sophisticated. The buildings are off grid, but they have the potential to connect to plumbing and electricity. The company is currently working on larger two-story models to expand the potential of mechanically built buildings.

Source: Weburbanist

Beautiful, Obsolete Technology

Giant concrete acoustic mirrors speckle the British coastline. These massive concrete dishes were used as sound mirrors to warn the United Kingdom of enemy airplanes approaching from across the English Channel and the North Sea. The concrete dish acted almost as a radar, by responding to the sound of the aircraft and focusing the waves to a single point, then, a microphone would catch the sounds. The structures were also able to determine the direction of the attacking plane. After airplanes became faster in the 1930s, the sounds dishes were no longer usable.

Source: ArchDaily