interview with Ben Behin featuring some beautiful images of his amazing graduate thesis from the Harvard GSD which one the prize for best thesis this past spring.
The project, titled Stack City, is a proposal for a zero-carbon development in Ras al Khaimah in the UAE. It uses Jorg Schlaig's "solar chimney power generators" as a jumping off point for re-thinking the role of technology, nature, and utopia in contemporary urban development strategies.
Here are some choice quotes from the interview:
Behin: Here I would refer to Melvin Kranzberg's first law of technology: "Technology is neither good nor bad; nor is it neutral." My intent in this project is neither to celebrate technology, nor to demonize it, but merely to point out that it underlies an emerging form of urbanism, and that it will ultimately be only what we make of it. Technology presents us with a series of choices, with both pitfalls and opportunities. To address them, we require not additional technology, but rather its integration with culture and politics. It is precisely here that I think architecture has a role to play; it can provoke discourse about the ethics which will shape the nature of technology in our future environments. The "machinistic" in Stack City is intended to provide such a provocation.
On the other hand, faced with the futility of a positive social/cultural/ecological project for architecture, giving up and regressing to an empty cynicism or retreating into formal and stylistic navel-gazing seems to get us nowhere. I think the answer is to find new ways of being earnest which are, perhaps, more nuanced, and difficult to pin down.
Specifically, as you pointed out in a previous discussion, cities are an accumulation of technological infrastructure which enables all the experiences we have in them. I think this is especially true in the "zero-carbon" urban developments that are being proposed today. By articulating this infrastructure as a zone that can itself be occupied, I hope to bring it into the open, and to exploit it architecturally and urbanistically through its relation with the other strata.
interview for more great images and thoughts from Mr. Ben Behin.