Posts Tagged ‘façade

20
Jun
08

Urban Landscape Lights Up with LED Technology

Galleria Seoul

Rebecca Cathcart recently interviewed Sonny Astani, a Los Angeles developer of real estate who turned her on to his vision of a shining city reminiscent of the urban landscape revealed in the 1982 film Blade Runner. As she lyrically describes it:

The illuminated windows of the city’s densely packed towers sparkle like stars in the night, and their facades are covered with bright, animated billboards. A flying car glides past the enormous eye of a smiling geisha hundreds of stories above the wet urban streets.

The Philip K. Dick story from which the movie was derived was titled “Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep?” Now, architects dream of electric buildings. Though the action of the film is set in 2019, Astani wants to hurry things up. He envisions just such a glowing façade on each of the two high-rise condominiums that are his current project. Located in an area some call “Times Square West,” the 30-story towers are scheduled for completion next year.

Various methods of lighting up buildings are in use around the globe. In Seoul, the Galleria West (pictured) shows off electronic façade technology developed by UN Studio and Arup Lighting. The shopping mall’s whole façade is covered with discs, more than four thousand of them, which can each display up to 16 million colors, just like a desktop monitor, combining their colors into any graphic or text combination dictated by the controlling computer. Each disc is 850 millimeters in diameter and each one plays its part in the perpetually-changing appearance.

In Hong Kong, a building’s LED-lined elevator changes color as it moves up and down. The tallest building in Israel, the Moshe Aviv Tower, is topped with shimmering display from Color Kinetics. In Minsk, the National Library of Belarus sports 4646 LED fixtures lighting up the tundra night. In Tokyo, the new corporate headquarters of Chanel employs an art director whose task is to invent new looks for the LED-encrusted façade. Likewise in Barcelona, a single computer controls the 4,500 points of light on the programmable radiant surface of starchitect Jean Nouvel’s Torre Agbar.

Astani’s lighting designer is Frederic Opsomer, whose company System Technologies made a splash by creating a 706 square meter video screen for rock band U2’s 1996 tour. This first and biggest moveable LED video display screen was greeted with rapturous amazement by fans. The company’s website offers a complete list of other music stars whose concerts have been enhanced by similar technology.

What Opsomer has in mind are not discs but “blades” or panels set six inches apart, each half an inch thick and 3″ wide, with a row of diodes. From a distance, the illusion of a solid lighted surface is attained. A similar method was used to clad the T-Mobile headquarters in Bonn.

UCLA graduate Astani, originally from Iran, built up a business that now encompasses two million square feet either currently in development or already built. About five years ago, when the concept of adaptive reuse really started to take hold in Los Angeles, he saw an opening for the adoption of his fantasy. City planning officials are in the process of mulling over Astani’s application, also taking into consideration the objections of residents who are disenchanted with the sometimes obtrusive glare of advertising.

Brightness is not the object here. Astani’s plan is for low-key graphics with an intensity only fractionally that of existing LED billboards. The pictures would move sedately and vary in brightness according to the time of day or night. Only 10 stories of each structure would be involved, and only on one side. The builder’s plan is to allot 80% of the time to paid advertising, but reserve 20% for the use of non-profit agencies and to display works by Southern California artists. The partly pro bono aspect of the plan has complicated matters for the Planning Department.

People who care about the appearance of downtown Los Angeles are divided in opinion. How about it – should buildings shine?

SOURCE: ” A Developer’s Unusual Plan for Bright Lights, Inspired by a Dark Film ” 05/21/08
photo courtesy of zoom zoom , used under this Creative Commons license

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13
Jun
08

City of the Future: Poundbury

Poundbury, U.K.

Sometimes it’s good to step back from the daily demands of work and contemplate the larger questions, like, “What’s it all about?” Philosopher and professor Roger Scruton does this in “Cities for Living,” where he examines the thoughts and creations of anti-modernist architect Léon Krier, as manifested in the model city called Poundbury.

American cities are pretty much a mess, with the rest of the world not far behind. Nowhere has the principle of unintended consequences shown up more clearly than in wrong-headed urban renewal projects. Back in 1998, Krier published Architecture: Choice or Fate, which, though badly received in some circles, seems to have started a movement, with converts on both sides of the Atlantic. Every day there are more New Urbanists, and Scruton lays out one of their tenets:

The confluence of strangers in a single place and under a single law, there to live peacefully side by side, joined by social networks, economic cooperation, and friendly competition through sports and festivals, is among the most remarkable achievements of our species, responsible for most of the great cultural, political, and religious innovations of our civilization.

Krier believes that the rest of the world could learn a lot from the oldest and largest Continental capitals. He is a polycentrist, advocating the supremacy of 5 cities of 10,000 inhabitants each, over one city with 50,000. He is very much against the airport as we have come to know it, and he’s against the hermetically sealed building, which adversely impacts the health of everyone in it. He regrets that most planners want to create glitzy, exceptional buildings, rather than “normal, regular and inevitable” ones.

When it comes to height, he thinks five stories are enough. A good building has some kind of relationship to the buildings around it, rather than sticking out like a sore thumb. It occupies, as should all buildings, a street that can be lived in by humans, where everything they need is no farther away than a ten-minute walk. A good building’s maintenance is economically feasible. Should the need arise for adaptive reuse, a building is, ideally, transformable.

Krier vigorously opposes the “curtain-wall idiom,” which he sees as the worst aspect of modernism. Architectural Graphic Standards, 11th Edition defines a curtain wall as

…virtually any enclosure system supported by the building frame, as opposed to masonry or other bearing walls. A modern curtain wall is most typically thought of as a metal frame, usually aluminum, with large areas of glass.

In its chapter on Exterior Enclosures, AGS describes the various kinds of testing to which a proposed curtain wall must or can be subjected. These include structural capacity, air infiltration, water leakage, thermal performance, acoustic isolation, blast resistance, and forced-entry resistance. Here is Krier on the subject:

Buildings constructed in this way are both expensive to maintain and of uncertain durability; they use materials that no one fully understands, which have a coefficient of expansion so large that all joints loosen within a few years, and which involve massive environmental damage in their production and in their inevitable disposal within a few decades… Even if the curtain is shaped like a classical facade, it is a pretend facade, with only a blank expression. Usually, however, it is a sheet of glass or concrete panels, without intelligible apertures.

Kreir is, by all reports, articulate without being adversarial. A warm and positive kind of guy, he doesn’t waste time vilifying things he doesn’t like, but concentrates on making the world work for everybody. The worst he’ll say about modernism, apparently, is that it’s an error, one that is compounded by our error in thinking it’s inevitable. Although very unhappy about housing projects, business parks, and other relatively recent wrong answers, he doesn’t think it’s too late for some real, viable solutions.

The secret of his charm is that, like all the best teachers and leaders, he convinces his listeners that he is not informing them of outlandish newfangled ideas, but merely reminding them of profound truths of which they are already aware. Probably the most fervent fan of Krier’s worldview is the Prince of Wales, a.k.a. Prince Charles, who initiated the project of designing a whole new English town adjacent to, but not a suburb of, the city of Dorchester.

So: is Poundbury the city of the future?

SOURCE: ” Cities for Living ” 2008
photo courtesy of MarilynJane , used under this Creative Commons license