Sunday, July 27, 2008

Even More on CelebritURBanism

...and on "starchitecture" in general...

An interview with Rem Koolhaas of OMA in der Spiegel presents the other side of celebritURBanism, which is best summed up with this quote from Mr. Koolhaas:

I have a very hard time with the expression "star architect." It gives the impression of referring to people with no heart, egomaniacs who are constantly doing their thing, completely divorced from any context. I believe that this is a grotesque insult to members of a profession who -- to the extent that I know my colleagues -- go to great lengths to find the right thing, the appropriate thing, for each individual case. At the same time we are, of course, driven by the market -- and by developers who try to pin us down to certain forms. I have spent a lot of time thinking about the best way for us to escape this being pinned down to the purely formal. That's why I decided to simply demonstrate it: There is, in fact, no great difference between the buildings by "star architects" and those designed by others.

And I think that is a pretty valid statement. Some people believe in the trickle down theory of design. I have heard it described by Peter Eisenman pretty well. Basically, there are people in the profession who have achieved a privileged* status, for one reason or another, and are able to produce canonical works of architecture that influence the discipline at large. These works are canonical for any number of reasons: they can be typologically innovative, they break new aesthetic ground, etc. Koolhaas, later in the interview, explains it as "This, in turn, is what makes up the credibility of European architecture in an age of globalization: That we are able to execute our formulas in a less formulaic way than others, and that we can pay closer attention to the circumstances under which other people live." Which is a very profound thought and something all urbanists should heed.

This 'canonical' work (for lack of a better word, although the idea of a canon is way too loaded) then influences other designers and they produce similar work, and it trickles it's way down from the trend setters and taste makers through all levels of the profession. Or we can think of it a different way: that as a profession we are preoccupied with the same thoughts and obsessions, we are all grappling with the similar architectural and urban issues, and are therefore coming up with similar results for the most part.

In Beijing there is a supercharged version of this phenomenon. It is commonly joked that the copy precedes the original here--driving along the ring roads you come across many buildings that are clearly influenced by CCTV, TVCC, the Bird's Nest, LAB's SOHO complex, and others, that were all fast-tracked and finished before the original buildings. This is a by-product of China's lightening fast development, the rapid change in tastes on the part of the public, the flexibility and alertness of the developers abilities to read fluctuating trends, and the slow inertia of western architects, all of which point to the need for new forms of architectural practice.

Koolhaas also discusses another subject near and dear to our hearts, sustainability. He offers an additional critique of the ubiquity of the sustainable movement: it's lack of real thoughtfulness and innovation and the danger of it becoming mere window dressing. Another form of slick corporate branding and advertising. Koolhaas states:

..Another one is the now universal demand for everything to be "sustainable." We have been interested in this idea since the 1960s, so in that respect we feel vindicated. But now sustainability is such a political category that it's getting more and more difficult to think about it in a serious way. Sustainability has become an ornament. Designs are increasingly winning competitions because they are literally green, and because somewhere they feature a small windmill...Because it's become an empty formula, and because, for that reason, it's getting harder and harder to think about ecology without becoming ironic.
*Although this idea of privilege can imply many things, I just mean that they some how exist outside the normal modes of architectural practice and are not as restricted by time, budget, and other constraints as typical practitioners.

Saturday, July 26, 2008

More on CelebritURBanism

Usual Suspects: Hadid, Libeskend, Koolhaas, and Chipperfield's proposals for new cities across the globe.

Via Archinect we come across this article from the Wall Street Journal Called "Designer Cities: The Development of the SuperStar Urban Plan"

From the article:

Name-brand master plans are "an entrepreneurial tool" that are key to getting these large projects built, says Reinier de Graaf, an OMA partner working with Mr. Koolhaas on the Riga and Waterfront City projects. Urban planning is now "a very weird mixture of marketing and urbanism," he says.

Mr. Chipperfield agrees. "It's easier to know about architects than architecture," he says. "A banker won't know about architecture but will know that 'Zaha Hadid' or 'Rem Koolhaas' is a brand."


"We are seeing an emergence of a new industry," says Dennis Frenchman, director of the city design and development program at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology's urban-studies department. "It's not real-estate development; it's not architecture; it's not city planning. All I can do is name it 'the city-building industry.' "

And a name-brand architect can make the product sellable. "It's just like teapots," he says. (emphasis mine)

"Just like teapots?" I shriek in my tiny little brain. "What is this world coming to?"


Collection of projects from Next Gene 20
"NextGene 20" is the latest in a recent rash of celebrity architect developments, joining the ranks of "Ordos 100" in Mongolia, "Jinhua Park" in China, and the "Houses at Sagaponac" in New York. Each of these developments, excluding Jinhua Park, which is a sculpture park in a second-tier Chinese city where international architects were invited to design seventeen pavilions for public use, capitalize on spectacular design by name-brand architects as a marketing strategy for their high-end luxury subdivision. Next-Gene 20 seems to have taken this strategy to a totally different level. Particularly this video, prepared by noted animators Squint Opera, which gives the whole affair a certain Oceans 11-esque flair:

Team NEXT-GENE20 from iMage on Vimeo.

And architects, always willing and able to do a bit of marketing, branding, and self-promotion, are happy to oblige themselves to this campaign as well. For them, it is a win-win situations: They are offered tabula rasa type settings (particularly in Ordos--it literally is a desert), exorbitant budgets, and no nagging clients (at least, it seems as much, judging from their designs). In return, the architects offer their design skills and their advanced sense of aesthetics. More importantly, they offer their superior wit and finely honed skills of repartee to come up with names for their projects that are sure to have the designs selling in no time. Names such as“Elf on the Hilltop”, “Monsoon village”, “Latent dragon”, “In phrase of stratus”, “Twilight”, and the perennial favorite: “Shell under copious rain.” I can't get enough of that one folks, let me tell you!

Next-Gene 20 also seems to be a cut above the rest of these types of developments in terms of the ambitions for environmental integration, i.e., the architectures relationship to the landscape. It says, right there at the beginning of the video: Architecture in harmony with the landscape. If that is not enough to convince you just listen to these quotes from the Gene group's finely soundtracked website:

Building dreams on a vast ground:
Acquire the mansion of your dreams…Not only putting design into architect, also bringing light, water, wind, and nature into the atmosphere…so people can integrate with nature, and buildings can interflow with the earth. Let there be a presence of soul in nature, let there be a presence of world in the architecture, like a futuristic city atop a tranquil ocean surface.

Now, I don't mean to sound cynical about such developments because they offer excellent opportunities for the fields of architecture and urbanism. Fertile ground for exploration, innovation, and experimentation, with ample budget to do it. It's a once in a lifetime opportunity for many of these architects, and since many of them are young or have built relatively little, it is a portfolio building opportunity as well. And these architects seem to be heeding the call. As one commentator put it, with this showcase you can "talk about every architectural cliche from the last ten years on display. Certainly formal exuberance, innovative building systems, and exotic materials all seem to be on display in the designs.
Fig. 2: Masterplans of Ordos 100 and Houses at Sagaponac

My only problem is that there is never enough urban experimentation (see fig. 2, or read Lebbeus Woods' critique), or truly innovative processes on display. This is no "futuristic city atop a tranquil ocean surface." No way buddy, not even close!! Because we all know that would look a little more like this. I wish that one of these days a developer would come along and attempt the kind of thing that only this type of project would allow designers to experiment with. What if, with one fell swoop, both of these demands were met through what I like to call "radical collaboration." Two options present themselves as viable for this scenario.
SITE's Highrise of Homes
Option 1: Let one of the architects be the master planner. Allow her to create a radical framework for the project--a matrix, as Lebbeus Woods would call it. Something that none of the architects could avoid, something they all have to contend with, such as SITE's "Highrise of Homes" concept, or Archigram's Plug-In City. The designers have to design an object that plugs into said matrix, which could act much like a shelf that showcases the designs as precious objects. It could be an updated version of the Megastructure as defined by Reyner Banham. Or, in SITE's own words, it could be in an urban setting and become a "vertical community" to "accommodate people's conflicting desires to enjoy the cultural advantages of an urban center, without sacrificing the private home identity and garden space associated with suburbia."

Next Gene 20 reconceived as siamese twin monstrosity

Option 2: Force the designers to collaborate together to create a megaproject. It could be done in a way that allows them to maintain their individual signature but forces them to respond to each of the other's projects. Maybe it is set up like that game where everybody sits in a circle and one person starts by whispering a sentence into the ear of the person sitting next to them and that person passes it on the next and that person passes it on to the ne-....ok, you get the point. One architect starts by designing an unfinished object. The next architect comes along, uses the first architects project as DNA for his project, but transforms, and so on. Each one could choose a particular theme before hand, but is forced to reconcile the previous architects theme with his own. The best results would probably come from connecting two designers who would make unlike bedfellows--the original odd couples.

What kind of monstrosity would this produce? What type of hyper-object would result? I don't know, but it'd be a super cool thing to witness--like some bizarre version of architectural Frankenstein-ism. Better yet, let's catch the whole thing on celluloid! "The World's Next Top Architect", or "So You think You Can Design." How great would it be to watch Kengo Kuma react when he has to connect to JDS' Twirl House? How could anything marry itself to the Latent Dragon? It sounds like the making of a good mockumentary.

Sunday, July 20, 2008


I've been thinking a lot about cyborg urbanization this past week after watching a lecture by Matthew Gandy and reading one of his articles. I want to do a more extensive post on the subject, but tonight I came across this video from the Colbert Report and had to post it. The piece is about the "Bumbot" - a robot designed by a bar owner to shoo vagrants off of his property at night. It just happens to be in my home town, Atlanta. I'm so proud. Anyways--is this one potential for cyborg urbanization? Urban infrastructure and services become more dispersed and grassroots--people taking security into their own hands, for example?....errr, well, into their robot's hands I guess.


Friday, July 18, 2008

Thoughts on a Geoengineered Future

It has rained every Friday for the past month here in Beijing. Like clockwork. A little too much like clockwork. I've already written about Beijing's forays into weather modification. Beijing, as a possible representative of the geoengineered future that might be globally inevitable, has made a few questions pop into my wee little brain:

In a geoengineered world, will meterologists be out of a job?
Weather prediction..hah! A thing of the past. The weather report will show up next to the weekly television programs in the newspapers. As predictable as what night of the week all the Seinfeld re-runs get re-ran. "Rain: Every weeknight at 11, weekends at 10. This week on Sunday a 4 hour special." All those weatherman, trained to point their fingers and gyrate their hips in front of a blue screen, motioning to figures and images that just aren't there...what will they do with themselves?

Or, in a geoengineered world, will weathermen get to
choose the weather?
Oh man oh man...let's hope he's not having a bad day! Like suffering from a hangover or going through a divorce. That would ruin us for the entire season!
But, as a colleague and I were discussing today, perhaps meteorology would be less a pseudo-science and more about data collecting, assessing, and predicting the
affects of rain, rather than whether or not it will actually happen. If so, I guess it would just follow the general trends of science.

In a geoengineered world, will geographic locations be distinguishable by their climate? Or will there be an undifferentiated everyplace. Why wouldn't everyone want Hawaii's weather 24/7, 365 days a year, sometimes 366?

In a geoengineered world, will planning focus on climatic zoning, similar to the functional zoning made popular during modernism's period of hyper-rationalization?
If weather modification became so precise as to control which part of the city got rain and which got sun, you can imagine a planning model based on the spatialization on particular building type's precipitous requirements. And you might find soci-economic disparities--those who can afford to live in rain zones, with nice lush lawns, and those who cannot.

In a geoengineered world, will winter sports become a historical fact?
Something to tell the grandchildren about..."See, there used to be this frozen white powder, and these things called 'skis' and 'snowboards', see...and we used to kind of just, well, sort of glide, not exactly like on water, it was different. Boy, we had some times out there, let me tell you. We used to make these things called 'snow angels', by lying on our backs, like so, and flapping our arms and legs. Hey, you got it! Hehehe, 'Don't eat the yellow snow' we used to joke to eachother, cuz see, the dogs, well they would go out and..."

In a geoengineered world, will there be clouds to spark children's imaginations?
"Look mom, an oliphaunt." "Over there, it's a bicycle ridden by a donkey." Or will there be just a continuous mass of grayish greenish haze covering our cities?

In a geongineered world, will there be a color called "sky blue?" How could we tell?

In a geongineered world, will polar bears move to Antartica?

In a geongineered world, will we all live in bio-spheres? Or worse yet, biodomes? Or will it be a utopian return to Eden? 1

hmmm...looks like we have a lot of things to ponder...

Thursday, July 17, 2008


Just when we thought we were safe…just when we thought we had bright green and beautiful futures, it turns out that sustainable, or green, or eco-friendly, or whatever it is you want to call the branch of design that wants to do less harm to the environment (which, on a side note, should not be merely a branch but THE WHOLE STINKING KIT AND KABOODLE, but I digress)…just when you thought there might an alternative to all the doom and gloom dystopian futures out there, it turns out that sustainable design has been pulling the old “cloak and dagger” trick on us the whole time. Well, maybe not the whole time and maybe the primary practitioners are not even aware of what they are doing, but they are doing it.
THE CLOAK: Sustainable design = good design.
That’s it. No questions asked. If it’s environmentally friendly, it’s allllll goooood.
Not all sustainable design is good design. This is something I think is generally known among most architects, but not all, and certainly not the public at large. But two recent articles have highlighted only a couple of the myriad critiques against the sustainable mythology: First, that just because it is hurts less, doesn’t mean it doesn’t hurt at all, and the label “eco-friendly” may mask some irreparable harm caused to ecologically sensitive areas. Case in point: Norman Foster’s proposed eco-resort in Bulgaria. The second critique is potentially more damaging to the sustainable design movement and our architectural pride: that many “sustainable” projects are just down right UGLY.
First, let’s deal with Foster. The proposal by Foster et co. uncovers a whole host of problems about sustainable development. The Guardian's description of the project makes it sound quite pleasant and benign:

Having been considered ripe for development since the collapse of communism 19
years ago, the area is set to be turned into a luxury €1bn (£780m) settlement.
Dubbed the Black Sea Gardens, it will include five new hill towns, artificial
lakes, a marina and an extensive leisure area and will be self-sustaining,
thanks to biomass power and construction from local, natural resources, say the
And from Foster’s website, this quote should make us all feel warm and cozy: "a series of car-free hill towns in an unspoilt setting of oak forests, meadows and river gorges."
Unspoilt…humph…For now, maybe. Beneath that cloak of sustainable niceness lies a cruel dagger for those people who currently enjoy the area’s environmental exceptionality:

On Karadere beach, in north-east Bulgaria, a smattering of families have set up
camp for the summer, as they have done for years. But this year the
happy-go-lucky mood has been punctured by fears that the small corner of
paradise is under imminent threat by Bulgaria's first carbon-neutral resort…They
say it will destroy the Black Sea coast's last remaining virgin stretches of
beach and will have a devastating effect on the rich biodiversity of an area
which has environmental protection status under the EU's Natura 2000 programme,
which aims to protect endangered species and habitats.

Whoa, whoa, whoa! Now that doesn’t sound too sustainable, now does it? Should sustainable design be a veil that covers our eyes to the destruction of virgin habitats? No matter how incredibly ‘green’ this project is it will cause ecological damage for sure. My feeling is that developers and politicians are jumping on the sustainable bandwagon to pony projects through a tricky political and planning process for proposals that would otherwise not get the go-ahead.
Georgi Stanishev, the director of Projects Ltd. Stanishev has stated “‘What we as the Bulgarian team of architects and Foster and Partners are doing is absolutely adequate to the legislation and the laws of this country,’ he said, adding that the construction would be sympathetic to its surroundings.” Begging the question: Just because it’s legal, does that make it right? And shouldn’t we, as sustainable architects, urbanists, and developers, take a higher moral and ethical stance than just following what is legal? Sir Norm—take a stance man, I implore you!! It’s not like you need this project—your coffers are already quite deep, I am sure.

Now, on to the ugliness critique. An article in CSM has made public a dirty little secret about sustainable design that some of us have known for quite some time: despite their ecological necessity sustainable buildings are typically not very easy on the eyes.
The article raises the question
“How can architecture most effectively offer us the beauty we crave in our
everyday lives – while being protective of the environment? Global warming is
catalyzed by greenhouse gases, nearly half of which are generated by creating
and maintaining architecture. Given that reality, it might seem downright
superficial to care about whether our buildings can be beautiful.”
But James Wine, directore of SITE and one of my most favorite artist/architects cuts to the heart of the matter when he said ““[W]ith-out art, the whole idea of sustainability fails. People will never want to keep an aesthetically inferior building around, no matter how well stocked it is with cutting-edge thermal glass, photovoltaic cells, and zero-emissions carpeting.”
How true—see, we can’t forsake and aesthetics and cultural relevance just because a building doesn’t pollute as much. Balancing these issues maybe difficult, but it’s something that architects have dealt with from day one. Vitruvius’ firmness, commodity, and delight is so fundamental to architecture and sustainable design is something that fits into all three categories and must be addressed as such. The article states that “A beautiful green building requires a team effort to juggle the potentially conflicting values of utility, beauty, cost, durability, and sustainability.” Hey, that’s just architecture baby!!

The article lists some common aesthetic critiques of green buildings, and I must say that to me they all sound kind of interesting. So, maybe the era of sustainability will need some aesthetic judgment adjustment on our parts, much like the transformation of architecture during the modern period demanded. Here is a list of their critiques:

• Industrial shipping containers starkly stacked in a Mondrian-like maze with
minimal ornamentation.
• Building exteriors highlighting extreme, rough-hewn
surfaces that suggest neoprimitive cave or mud dwellings, or high-tech buildings
with sci-fi-scaled jutting rooftop solar collectors.
• Structures imitating
animal or geological forms that are aesthetically at odds with conventionally
designed architecture in the area.
Well, to me that all sounds pretty cool. But maybe not to you. Anyways, we’ll have to work on that. To close, let me close with the article’s closing (cuz I’m lazy like that):
What these examples share is a repurposing of ancient symbolic forms – quilt, straw roof, ark – blurring stylistic distinctions between folk and professional design, between low and high technology. To paraphrase the English poet John Keats, if architectural truth is beautiful, these alluring creations are the true soul and substance of artful sustainable architecture.

Monday, July 7, 2008

Beijing: A Snaphsot of the City

Model View of CBD from Beijing's Planning Museum

This is an article I recently wrote for a forthcoming publication by the Croatian Architects Association. The piece is on, well, you guessed it, Beijing. I wanted to try and give a broader perspective on what is happening in Beijing at the moment rather than just focus on the Olympics and Beijing's exciting new architecture. Don't worry though, they are also included.

I have to thank two people: Ivan Rupnik for inviting me to write the article, and Bert de Muynck who helped expand my knowledge of Beijing and introduced me to a few of the subjects discussed in the article.
Note: All images shown are taken by the author.

Beijng: A Snapshot of the City

Enter Beijing, stage left; rapidly, aggressively, approach center stage; wait for applause…

I arrived in Beijing eight months ago and ever since I have existed in that perpetual state of excitement, anticipation and anxiety that the cast of a play experiences in the final weeks leading up to opening night. I came just in time to witness, no, wait, participate in, the dress rehearsal—in the process I have been exposed to a behind the scenes look at this grand city as it places the finishing touches on the set, makes final adjustments to the costumes and last-minute changes in the leading characters—all leading up to opening day. The entire world is focused on Beijing at this very moment, watching it’s every move, looking for signs of weakness, impatiently waiting for August 8, 2008, the day the Olympics begin. Triumphant entry into the global arena or dismal embarrassment—what will be its destiny? While I hold no crystal ball and can not predict its fate, I would like to take this opportunity to share a snapshot of Beijing in its present state: poised and ready to take the center stage.

First Impressions

When I first arrived in Beijing I was initially struck by the extreme disparity one feels in the city’s intense differences of scale—particularly between the small scale nature of the hutong, the traditional residential lanes in Beijing and the large scale super block style developments rapidly endangering them. Driving along one of Beijing’s six elevated ring roads—one of the primary defining features of Beijing’s metropolitan morphology—is a surreal experience which cannot be described without evoking images from the film Blade Runner. Indeed much of the city seems to emerge out of the pages of a science fiction novel—futuristic and vaguely anthropomorphic building forms materialize from the eternal haze that saturates the city’s atmosphere while traveling 10m off the ground. Coupled with the knowledge that Beijing’s administration has been experimenting with various strategies of cloud seeding and cloud busting to both clean the highly polluted air and control the weather for the opening ceremonies and you begin to feel like you are living in one of Philip K. Dick’s dystopian futures.

Back on the ground again you have the opportunity to experience a vastly different scenario. Walking through the hutongs, which still comprise a large area of the central portion of the city despite rapid encroachment, gives you an impression of what Beijing used to be like when the largest architectural gestures were the imperial structures of the Forbidden City and the religious structures of the Temple of Heaven. The hutong, which literally means “water well,” is a tightly knit urban ensemble of courtyard homes and alleyways—the courtyards originally centered on wells connecting to the underground aquifers where Beijing’s settlement was laid out. Hutongs have been likened to modular units that metabolically organize the city from the ground up, providing nested scales of inhabitation and a subtle transitional gradient from private to public. At this very moment the hutongs are suffering a double threat—first, from the aforementioned large-scale development taking place around the city and secondly from a Disney-fication process intended to dress them up for the Olympic Games and the onslaught of tourism. The high-rise development mostly occurs between the second and fourth ring roads creating a donut of high rise structures around the historic core.

At this point however there are still plenty of vintage hutong to explore. Their labyrinthine spatial quality makes it an utter delight to wander through as you never know when you will chance upon a cozy tea house, or an entire four-generation family playing a game of mahjong. The challenge for the hutongs in the coming years will be the one of preservation—how can the hutongs be upgraded with proper infrastructure and allowed to evolve to meet contemporary living standards? This issue of preservation in Beijing was the focus of Rem Koolhaas’ most recent “Project on the City” seminar which took place this past year at the Harvard Graduate School of Design. Hopefully Beijing will learn from European examples such as the Ciutat Vella district in Barcelona, which was renovated to allow it to exist as a live-able part of the city through a series of acupunctural interventions.

While the hutongs romantically represent the city’s traditional urban forms, the city is largely composed of three additional architectural typologies: communist-era low-rise residential slabs built in the mid twentieth century, and more recently repetitive towers clusters and gated villa communities that exist on the edge of the city. While the last two types may be seen as derivative of familiar western typologies each has gone through a mutation. Bert de Muynck, architect, writer, and director of the urban research foundation Moving Cities told me that is a mistake to view them as direct simulacra of our familiar types because of three unique characteristics of the Chinese condition that have effected a transformation of the type: the drastic increase in scale, the speed of architectural production and construction, and the cultural influence of a focus on landscape rather than building throughout china’s history. Not only do these characteristics transform architectural form and typology, de Muynck believes these have the potential to have a profound influence on architectural practice in the 21st Century. De Muynck argues that young practitioners working in China are shying away from the development of a signature style in favor of a practice that is focused on the development of intelligent and flexible strategies of design. I would argue that what we are seeing in the best offices operating in this Asian context is an ability to engage the developer driven logics in a thoughtful and creative way to invent forms that resolve these complex issues while simultaneously transcending them.

Jian Wah SOHO by Yamamoto

These three qualities—scale, speed, and landscape—have a profound effet of our perception of Beijing. The city is in a constant state of flux—it literally transforms itself right before your eyes. The first two characteristics are symptomatic of China’s transition to a late-capitalst economic model and it’s ever increasing global ambitions. They have resulted in two distinct architectural and urban strategies. The first is the aforementioned tower clusters which efficiently deal with economies of scale through the mass repetition of the same building design. This strategy dominates the Beijing cityscape resulting in a ceaseless banality. There are some examples, such as Yamamoto and Field Shop’s Jianwah SOHO complex, which demonstrates the potentiality of the strategy at producing urban places of high quality.

The second strategy is one we are all familiar with due to its predominance in recent architectural discourse—the Icon.

The Icons

Among Beijing’s many ambitions for the Olympic Games using architecture to create significant landmarks in the city ranks as one of the highest. This ambition has also spread like an infectious disease to various institutions and individuals not directly associated with the Olympics, generating an atmosphere in which a considerably high number of significant iconic structures have been produced. Many of the usual suspects are involved, Holl, Foster, Alsop, Herzog and de Meuron, and Rem Koolhaas/OMA, for example; some unusual suspects (at least at this level of play), such as Paul Andreu and PTW Architects; and some new suspects, such as GRAFT and MAD.

The ambition of the Olympics venues themselves is demonstrated by their significant location in Beijing’s urban composition. Six hundred years ago when Beijing was rebuilt by the Ming Dynasty it was laid out on a symmetrical north-south axis with its most symbolic structures constructed along this axis. Throughout Beijing’s history each successive ruling power has left its mark along this route, including the Forbidden City, originally constructed by the Ming Dynasty, the Temple of Heaven, the Drum and Bell Towers, Mao’s Zedong’s mausoleum, and Tian’anmen Square. The sprawling 2800 acre Olympic Green was situated directly ten miles north of Tian’anmen Square where it now stands as a testament to China’s rising position as an economic power in the global arena. Straddling the axis are the Olympics two most prominent structures: the Chinese National Stadium, designed by Herzog and de Meuron in collaboration with Ai Wei Wei, sits on the eastern side of the axis while Aquatics Center, designed by PTW Architects, sits directly opposite it on the western side of the axis. These two structures, along with the nearby CCTV and TVCC towers designed by OMA represent probably the three most highly anticipated works of architecture of the last few years. Taken together, it would appear as if a “non-standard” convention had conferred upon Beijing.

National Stadium, aka Bird's Nest, by Herzog de Meuron

The National Stadium, affectionately known locally as the “Bird’s Nest” is the most successful works of architecture of the Olympic venues. The geometric form of the stadium is quite stunning and difficult to comprehend in the approach because it is constantly shifting as you move around it. It gives the impression of a prowling feline about to pounce and there is something extremely dynamic in the potential energy wound up in this form.

The lattice-like stainless steel exterior dissolves the stadium’s façade into pure structure. Intended by Herzog and de Meuron to create an archaic quality, the building has the effect of a ruin—simultaneously timeless yet intimate—and the dissolution of the skin allows the exterior plaza and stadium’s interior to seamlessly blend into one another. Once inside the stadium you enter a spatially complex interstitial zone between the outer structure and the inner concrete shell with vertiginous views up and through the three-dimensional trusses and stairs that are perfectly integrated with the diagonal members of the exterior. Circumambulating the stadium in this zone is probably the most spatially intense experiences I have had in recent years. One critique I had of the stadium was that the upper seating comes too low in your sight line disrupting a potential view all the way through the stadium to the other side of the plaza.

Whereas the exterior of the structure is unpainted stainless steel that reflects the changing quality of the sky, the enclosed concrete “bowl” is painted a deep, rich red color—probably a choice based on nationalism as much on aesthetics—which transforms the stadium into a warm and glowing egg when lit at night.

National Aquatics Center, aka Water Cube, by PTW Architects

The Aquatics Center was designed with a more cubic and pure global form. Because of this minimalist formal approach it appears that all of the architectural energy was focused entirely on the design of its geometrically complex outer skin. Inspiration for the façade came from soap bubbles and I cannot help but be reminded of Charles and Ray Eames’ film “Blacktop: The Story of Washing a Schoolyard” every time I see the building. It is quite successful at achieving the same feeling of water bubbles slipping across a slick surface. The irregular pattern was developed by slicing through a Kelvin Structure, a three-dimension honey comb structure comprised of polyhedrons made up of hexagonal and octagonal faces, developed by the British mathematician Lord Kelvin. Although it appears completely random the pattern is actually not entirely non-standard—a patch of cells is created that is repeated across the surface of the building. One nice feature of the façade is that not all of its secrets are exposed from the first glance. From the exterior, the inflated ETFE pillows give the surface a feeling of depth and layering while achieving a certain tautness at the same time. Once inside, however, the full complexity of the three-dimensional space frame structure—comprised of the irregular polyhedrons of the Kelvin Structure—is revealed. Again, as in the Bird’s Nest, the most interesting space turns out to be the circulation space between the swimming arena and the exterior skin, where the highly complex skin is juxtaposed against the smooth white surfaces of the interior, the vastness of which is given measure by the steady rhythm o f the diagonal structural members of the seating.

Bird's Nest and Watercube in advertising, demonstrating how the Olympic venues
have made their way into China's collective consciousness.

The Aquatics Center’s stark rectilinear design was designed as a counter point to the Bird’s Nest’s sensuous curvilinear form. The contrast between the pair creates a symbolism that resonates with the ancient Chinese Proverb tian yuan di fang, which literally means “the sky is round and the earth is square.” While this reference might seem superficial, and in fact it is merely a branding concept for the two buildings, this cultural reference has been fundamental in gaining the support of the Chinese population despite the fact that the designers of the two most important contemporary buildings in China are western architects. Now, however, the Chinese community not only condones the structures but actually identifies with them because of this and other important cultural references. For me this has to do with the fact that each building maintains its individual integrity but simultaneously offers itself to multivalent readings.

National Theatre, Paul Andreu

The same cannot be said for Paul Andreu’s National Theatre, whose egg shaped form appears to have landed from outer space when compared with the strict order of the government buildings at Tian’men square which it sits next to. This building has not faired as well as the Olympic venues at garnering support from the local community. The overt imagery of the façade—designed to look like stage curtains opening up—is metaphorically shallow, and the building’s lack of engagement with the urban context makes for an awkwardly empty plaza in an area of Beijing not lacking in large open plazas. The other ‘icons’—Steven Holl’s ‘Linked Hybrid’ complex and the CCTV/TVCC buildings by OMA/Rem Koolhaas are not complete so it is difficult to gauge how they will be received.

Holl’s buildings attempt to offer a new riff on the tower cluster typology by connecting the individual buildings with a continuous public sky terrace. Although I would typically be suspicious of such “street in the sky” designs it has the potential to work in the Asian context if anywhere. Asian urbanites devour public space of all kinds and there are plenty of precedents for highly successful vertically organized public and semi-public spaces. The ‘Linked Hybrid’s’ greatest contribution, however, may be not the architectural design but its sustainable ambitions, boasting the largest geothermal heating system in the world and the first of its kind in Beijing. Beijing desperately needs to invest more in sustainable architecture to help cure it’s serverely low air quality, although electric cars would probably help even more.

CCTV is Koolhaas’ treatise on bigness in physical form. It is a stunning structure which massively dominates the skyline of Beijing, particularly in the fledgling CBD area in the eastern part of Beijing. It has been particularly amazing to watch this hulking ungainly mass come to a certain level of completeness during the last eight months. TVCC, CCTV’s often over-shadowed little brother, is also a surprising structure. Whereas CCTV is about tautness and self similarity (at least in external appearance), TVCC is all about texture and collage—from the pixilated façade of the hotel rooms in the tower down to the interpenetrated voluminous base—seamlessly integrated through a highly figured wrapper. In Koolhaas’ essay on Atlanta he describes John Portman as the architect who revived the atrium from the tomb of dead architectural typologies. Having experienced TVCC’s vertigo inducing interior atrium under construction, I can vouch that Koolhaas and co. have done it once again. The floor plates ebb, flow, and graciously distort when necessary to receive the free standing structure of the earth quake bracing, which for its part enjoys the role of spatial protagonist. TVCC will also feature an über-flexible theatre at ground level that due to its mobile floor and double aspect will be able to transition from a high tech theatre and television recording studio to completely open public thoroughfare when not in use, and all sorts of interesting configurations in between.

With all of the construction of iconic structures it could be easy to say that Beijing has become an architectural playground, subject to the whims of western architects who are taking advantage of a political, social, and economic context that allows them to construct every figment of their imagination. This cynical attitude would both belittle the aspirations of the architects and urban designers working here and the intentions of the individuals and organizations who patron such work. In Beijing there is the desire to become part of an international design community on the one hand and to empower the creativity of its home-grown talents on the other. Bert de Muynck makes the oft-used comparison between China and Dubai but underscores the contrast between the two when he says that “Today when you look at China everything has to be international…because it [has] an ambition to be a part of this world and absorb and ‘become’. China is not becoming a playground for architecture, which was the original critique of CCTV and the Bird’s nest, but it is open for international [relationships] and we want to be a part of that, which is not happening in Dubai. In Dubai they do not want to present an international community but they want to be the exception.”

The Rise of China’s Creative Class

This desire to create a design community is part of a national objective for China to become a ‘creative superpower’ through the development of its creative industries—art, film, architecture, media, even innovative business. Even this puts it into a league of other nations and communities that are espousing the virtues of the “creative class”, to borrow a term from Richard Florida, and constructing a creative infrastructure as a means to engender economic and urban development. Again, what initially sets China’s initiative apart from others is the sheer scale of the operation. In the US this strategy is usually implemented at a local level—typically at the scale of a city but sometimes at state level politics, such as Michigan’s creative class initiatives. The Netherlands also has creative industry initiatives, but there again you have a nation about the size of a typical US state. China’s operations have been institutionalized at the scale of the most populous nation on earth.

What does this means for architects and urbanists? The creative industries initiatives first affect us at an economic and urban policy level through the formation of “Creative Industry Districts” within the city in order to incubate creative companies. In Beijing six such districts have been designated. The most successful of these districts is the Dashanzi Art District, perhaps because it existed as an organically grown art district prior to the zoning. Dashanzi, commonly known as ‘798,’is situated on the outer limits of Beijing in a series of factory buildings designed by East German architects in the 1950s for the Chinese military. In the early 2000’s this area emerged as the epicenter of Beijing’s avant-garde art scene. Much like New York’s Soho district, what began as a few artists taking over large inexpensive spaces has developed into a full blown cultural complex featuring large number of galleries, performance spaces, fashion boutiques, cafes, bookshops, and artist residences.

798 Art Disctrict, aka Dashanzi

Unfortunately the designation of official ‘creative industry zone’ might inadvertently be the kiss of death for organically grown arts districts such as Dashanzi. Not necessarily because it has become an official creative industry zone, but because it has recently suffered the same commercial exploitation that ended up being the downfall of Soho. This has lead many people to exclaim that Dashanzi has lost its creative edge and sold its soul through the commoditization of its art. Now, honestly, I still think that Dashanzi is an interesting place to hang out, even though it now features a commercial Nike Gallery and is beginning to open international galleries design well-known institutional architects like Richard Gluckman. In fact the current mix of international commercial galleries and locally grown talent makes the district even more rich and ripe for cultural exchange than it had been previously. The problem is essentially the same as gentrification everywhere—the rise in real estate prices forces the smaller scale galleries and artists somewhere else, which will eventually kill the diversity of the area. Additionally, the zoning provides incentives for the large scale development of high tech office parks that would kill the informal character of Dashanzi and other such districts within the city.

Recently another art district has started in close proximity to Dashanzi but somewhat farther out of Beijing. Known as Caochangdi, it features a small number of galleries and artist residences designed by artist-cum-architect Ai Wei Wei sporadically nestled in an existing ad-hoc residential neighborhood (read: slum). One in particular, the Urs-Meille Gallery, is a masterful complex of galleries and artist studios surrounding an irregularly shaped courtyard. Constructed entirely out of grey brick the courtyard is a serene and contemplative space and offers a greatly needed contrast to its context.

The Caochangdi-Dashanzi story is representative of a fundamental flaw in the concept of “creative industry districts.” Art districts need to grow organically and rely on the availability of spaces conducive to creating art at reasonable prices as much as on government involvement. This is not a critique of the entire notion of the creative industries initiative, just to serve as a reminder that new dogs sometimes require new tricks—new cultural and economic concepts will not always adhere to tried and true methods of urban planning policy.

One interesting outcome that might provide an unexpected solution is the emergence of a developer driven art scene. As strange as it may sound, two recent development ventures represent a promising fusion of real estate and the arts which operates at a broad range of social and economic scales. The first is a project called “Ordos 100” which is actually not taking place in Beijing but in the nearby city of Ordos located in the Inner Mongolian desert, and represents the potential of high end architectural patronage.

Ordos 100 is a development by Cai Jiang in which 100 young, international (not necessarily in that order) architects are commissioned to design a 1000 square meter villa in 100 days. The architects, chosen by Ai Wei Wei together with Herzog and de Meuron, represent some of the hottest under-40 designers from around the world. This is quite an interesting proposition for a couple of reasons. First, is that for many of these architects this will be their first major commission and there are practically no limitations: no nagging client, no budget cap, and no pesky context, only pure, unadulterated tabula rasa. This is fodder for pure architectural manifesto. Second, Ordos 100 is probably the most well organized consortium of international architects since the IBC in Berlin, if not the Weissenhof Seidlung and is being seen as a potential generation defining moment. Actually, it is the generation in search of a definition one might say. Nevertheless it is an opportunity for a new generation of architects to place themselves on the map, so to speak.

Ordos 100 again demonstrates the desire on the part of leadership here to encourage an international discourse, to learn from the rest of the world, and to exhibit a culture of artistic benefaction. One of the interesting things about the Ordos 100 project is that the housing development is located within the Creative Industry zone of the larger master plan of the area. This suggests two things: first, a zone focused on innovation requires an exceptional environment, perhaps to serve as an architectural muse for creativity; and second, an expanded notion of the creative fields which includes wealthy businessman.

Today Art Museum, by Atelier FCJZ, and Pingod residential community

The second project that demonstrates the strategic link between real estate and the arts is the Pingod Community in Beijing located just south of the CBD. Pingod’s development strategy features a combination of residential and cultural activities constructed in a former industrial area. Most of the industrial facilities were abandoned except for one structure that houses a contemporary art museum designed by Atelier FCJZ, a Beijing design firm whose principal is the director of MIT’s architecture school. The museum is the focus of the development and will soon be joined by a series of galleries and restaurants currently under construction. The design of the museum is fascinating—the banal industrial box is transformed through the introduction of perspective distorting projections that create new spatial relationships between the former factory and its context. The development is exciting because it demonstrates the confluence of culture and commerce which I find so fascinating about Beijing and it shows an alternative future for creative districts. In Pingod, a symbiotic relationship is made between middle income housing and affordable artist lofts and studios—one subsidizes the other while the other attracts the one in a kind of cyclical feedback loop.

To conclude, this is an exciting time to be in Beijing. As I hope I have demonstrated, there is substance here that extends beyond the Olympics arriving in August. In August, Beijing will attempt to present a holistic image of wealth, power, and innovation to the rest of the world. The truth is actually much more invigorating—Beijing is in a state of transition, and as such it is an environment of friction, sublime beauty, and inspiration. It can be compared to Europe or the United States at the beginning of the Twentieth Century when the dawn of the metropolitan age provided much intellectual and artistic stimulation and some of the most drastic changes of thought in science and the arts in history. If the frenetic energy of the current period in Beijing and the rest of China can be properly harnessed it may also prove to be one of the most fertile periods of creative thought in history. For now, though, the world patiently waits…

Saturday, July 5, 2008

Steven Colbert on America's Skyline

Steven Colbert from the "Colbert Report" discusses America's ailing skyline with New Yorker architecture critic, Paul Goldberger...hilarious!

Has it finally become time for a little T-O-D?

You cannot escape the rising gas prices these days: either on the real road or here, in what you might consider the safety net of the information superhighway. But media outlets, bloggers, pundits have a never ceasing output regarding OPEC and the rising cost of driving.
Some recent articles posted on Planetizen this past week had me thinking of something I had written last year as part of the text I wrote for my master's thesis. The articles discussed the mass exodus that is, and will continue to, take place from America's streets as gas prices impede on people's self-mobility. The article discusses that the mass exodus will hit the low-income commuters the most:
Over the next four years, we are likely to witness the greatest mass exodus of vehicles off America’s highways in history. By 2012,there should be some 10 million fewer vehicles on American roadways than there are today—a decline that dwarfs all previous adjustments including those during the two OPEC oil shocks (see pages 4-8). Many of those in the exit lane will be low income Americans from households earning less than $25,000 per year. Incredibly, over 10 million of those American households own more than one car.

Soon they won’t own any.

In the development of my thesis, which focused on new prototypes for mass transit interchanges in Atlanta, GA, one of the driving forces behind it were the social inequalities that arose in automobile based urban environments. When I wrote it, and was doing my research two years ago on the subject, the inequalities were severe, but mass transit had an opportunity to reduce them if it became more efficient and more pervasive. At that time gas in Atlanta was below $2/gallon but rising fast--now it's at $3, still rising, with the potential to get as high as $7.
With these types of numbers, is there any doubt to the fact that we need to do something about our public transit? Only a few cities have mass transit systems that really work. Now, I would love it if all of a sudden tons of public money was invested into mass transit systems in order to enlarge and upgrade the systems. But this is unrealistic. Other strategies need to be examined. One problem is that the architecture and urban design around transit stations is undercooked--too low density, not enough imagination. Peter Calthorpe and the TOD contingent offer one potential strategy. But there is still the need for more research, more strategic development, and definitely more implementation.

To conclude, I want to include an excerpt from the text I wrote last year:

For many people, Atlanta is synonymous with the automobile, one of the preeminent poster-children of car culture. From the first automobile show in Atlanta in 1909, the car has been the driving force behind the city’s urban morphology. Historically this was not always the case. Atlanta was founded in 1837 as a railroad town; it was initially called Terminus, because it was the terminating point for the three main railroad companies in the southeast. Due to its lack of natural resources, rail oriented industries such as freight and goods markets were its early sources of economic generation and urban growth. Therefore, since it’s most humble beginnings, Atlanta has maintained a strong focus on the potential of mobility, of both goods and people, as a catalyst for urban growth and change. Historically, the city has benefited from this investment in transportation infrastructure both in terms of its physical expansion and it’s generation of outside investment in the city. It can be inferred from the history of transportation planning policy in Atlanta that this latter benefit has often prompted the city’s most extravagant infrastructural investments. Evidence of this permeates throughout the city’s history, the two most notable examples today being the city’s immense investment in airport infrastructure and in the highly criticized heavy rail mass transit system known as MARTA.

Unfortunately, along with this optimistic view of the blessings bestowed upon the city of Atlanta from its investment in transportation infrastructure run two dark undercurrents. The first is a history of increased marginalization of Atlanta’s lower classes, particularly her African American citizens. This has been caused by two main phenomena, one economic and one spatial. As the city shifted to an emphasis on auto-mobility, the high cost of entry precluded her most destitute citizens from gaining access to jobs as Atlanta’s economic epicenter migrated to the north along with her most affluent citizens. The spatial phenomena was a much more malicious act as Atlanta’s political and business leaders have often utilized transportation infrastructure as a means to sequester, enclave, and dislocate Atlanta’s lower class citizens.

The second negative affect of Atlanta’s transportation policies involves the emerging awareness of the harms placed on both the physical well-being of her citizens and the environment from its overabundant reliance on the automobile. Atlanta consistently ranks among the most polluted cities of the United States—it has failed to meet the EPA’s ozone standards since 1978. In 1996, the EPA threatened to block future federal funding for highway construction if it did not take significant steps to reduce ozone and smog levels. Additionally, Atlanta also ranks high among pedestrian fatalities and obesity. While these two phenomena may be seen as unrelated, research performed at the Center for Disease Control has demonstrated the health impacts of physical environments, sedentary lifestyles, and long commutes.

These two critiques against current transportation practices—one pertaining to social equity, one to environmental and health costs—demand that the hegemony of the automobile in Atlanta’s urban policy and design come to an end. Fortunately, the city has recently taken measures to expand her transit options in ways that operate across the various scales of mobility: local, regional, and global. This thesis explores the opportunities for converting Atlanta’s hierarchical system of transportation into a meshwork of multiple transportation modes by strategically capitalizing on the various modes of transit being introduced into the city. As such, this thesis will attempt to address the two main problems that have historically plagued the city’s typical transportation strategies: the inability to create a seamless integration across various modes of transit, and the missed opportunity of utilizing the city’s investment in mass transit as a catalyst for urban development.

Strange Weather Part II - GeoenginURBanism

Fertilize the oceans with iron in order to sequester carbon dioxide; launch fleets of ships to whip up sea spray and enhance the solar reflectivity of marine stratocumulus clouds; use trillions of tiny spacecraft to form a sunshade a million miles from Earth in perfect solar orbit. (Mooney)

As an interesting follow up to the initial “Strange Weather” post from a few weeks ago, this month’s issue of Wired magazine features an article on Geoengineering, the branch of science which explores mega-scale modifications to our planet in order to reverse the detrimental environmental and meteorological damage we humans have subjected our planet to since the start of the industrial revolution. Entitled “Climate Repair Made Simple” the article primarily discusses the work of Ken Caldeira and Lowell Wood, two scientists at opposite ends of the political spectrum who have come to some sort of consensus that a science-fiction inspired intervention of epic proportions may be our last resort at resolving our climate crises. Treaties and regulations can only go so far, they argue, and they maybe too slow in reversing our trends. They think that “the only solution lay with technology: direct, aggressive intervention…to turn down the volume knob” on the global warming problem.
Geoengineers’ two most promising solutions involve the two remaining frontiers left to humanity: the oceans and space. One popular geoengineering proposal is to “inject sulfur dioxide into the stratosphere to reflect a portion of the sun’s rays back into space, thus cooling the planet.” (Mooney) This is the technique suggested by Wood and Caldeira. Wood first proposed this back in the 80’s with his partner in crime Edward Teller, better known for inventing his own environmental catastrophe: the hydrogen bomb. Caldeira, a computer scientist with a green heart, began studying this idea using computer simulations of the Earth during the 90’s in order to disprove Wood’s crazy theories. The only drawback: Caldeira’s simulations proved that geoengineered solutions might actually work.
In an article called “Geoengineering our way out of trouble”, Patrick Huyghe discusses the various strategies of geoengineering and the people/institutions that are at the forefront of this exploration. Another solution proposed by geoengineers “involves dumping tons of iron into the waters of the Antarctic to stimulate plankton growth and thereby absorb the buildup of CO2 and slow greenhouse warming.” (Huyghe) Huyghe points out the controversial nature of geoengineered solutions, even among geoengineers themselves.
The general consensus regarding radical geoengineering schemes is that it's too early to be talking about them--if it's not broken, don't fix it. But the future could well bring a change of mind. ‘Geoengineering may most likely become necessary if looming anthropogenic climate change becomes a disaster that can be avoided in time only by a temporary technical fix,’ notes author Martyn Fogg: ‘Natural climate change might also be mitigated in the more distant future, such as to prevent the next glaciation which, if unrestrained, would bury the wreckage of Northern civilization under several hundred meters of ice. It is also possible to imagine a situation in the remote future where geoengineering is permanently applied to extend the life of a biosphere no longer able to conduct satisfactory homeostasis due to a hotter, more evolved Sun.’

What I think could be interesting for architects and urbanists would be to thing of ways we can start providing geoengineering solutions on a building or city scale. Of course sustainable architecture and urbanism both help to do their part, but I want to speculate on what geoenginURBanism might look like.
In 1960 Buckminster Fuller, famed inventor of the geodesic dome among other things, proposed building a giant dome over the island of Manhattan, in order to create a large scale biosphere. Although living in a super large, climate-controlled interior space for our entire lives (probably on film, a la Truman Show) is probably not a good idea, could we invent a porous membrane that is breathable and only allows good UV rays in and reflects back the bad UV rays? Perhaps this could be a way of combating the urban heat island effect—build a gigantic shading device over the entire city! It could also incorporate PV cells, Wind Turbines, and other power generating devices. It could be a filigree of sustainability.
On a side note, there is renewed interest in Bucky Fuller now due to an exhibit this summerWhitney Museum of New York. Regarding Bucky’s life’s work, curator K. Michael Hays says “We didn’t talk about sustainability in Fuller’s day. But he was trying to develop ways of living that would benefit the largest number of people with the fewest possible resources.”
Early in the 2000’s, Yosuke Obuchi, a professor at the Architectural Association in London, designed Wave Garden as a prototype for an ocean-powered power plant using the piezo-electric effect, which is ” a flexible electric generator, where bending the material or applying stress creates an electric charge.” Just by resting on the ocean this giant surface can generate electric power from the oscillation of ocean waves. What is great about the wave garden is that it turns a technocratic solution into a socio-cultural-technical solution. For this is no mere power plant—on the weekends it has the potential to turn into a vast public park half the size of Central Park. It also fits neatly into our current capitalist system by offering incentives for reducing energy consumption. According to Obuchi:
Demand for the energy the Wave Garden produces on weekdays determines its function on the weekend, when energy consumption declines. If Californians have consumed little energy, they are rewarded: the tiles rise to the surface to form recreational platforms and swimming ponds. But if weekday demand is too high, the garden remains strictly a power plant. Acting as a barometer of energy use, the Wave Garden makes invisible power visible.

What if in addition to its great power and public space generative qualities, the Wave Garden also became part of the geoenginURBanism arsenal—stick some iron panels on that sucker to grow some plankton, inject it with sulfur dioxide, let it whip up some sea spray! Infuse it with geoengineering capabilities! Now, these are just two examples of what geoenginURBanism might be. I’d love to hear from you people out there if you know of other examples or what your think could be a potential for this exciting new branch of urbanism.
(crickets chirping in background)
Umm…Ok, well…here are some definitions from Wikipedia to keep you occupied:
Planetary Engineering
Planetary engineering is the application of technology for the purpose of influencing the global properties of a planet.[1] The goal of this theoretical task is usually to make other worlds habitable for life. Perhaps the best-known type of planetary engineering is terraforming, by which a planet's surface conditions are altered to be more like those of Earth. Other terms used for particular types of planetary engineering include caeliforming,[citation needed] for the creation of an Earth-like atmosphere, and ecopoiesis for the introduction of an ecology to a lifeless environment. Planetary engineering is largely the realm of science fiction at present, although some types of climate change on Earth are recent evidence that humans can cause change on a global scale.
Terraforming is the hypothetical process of deliberately modifying the atmosphere, temperature, or ecology of a planet, moon, or other body to be similar to those of Earth in order to make it habitable by humans.
Geoengineering is the deliberate modification of Earth's environment on a large scale "to suit human needs and promote habitability". [2] Others define it more narrowly as focusing only on the mineralogy and hydrology of the Earth.[3] The term geoengineering is distinct from accidental anthropogenic climate change.
on Fuller at the