| Authors : Carly McQueen, Maximillian Foreman
| Professors: Dagmar Richter, Enrique Limon
| Writing instructor: Daniela Fabricius
| Pratt Institute
The Future City- Robots, Infrastructure + Architecture
The distinction between the metropolis, suburbia and rural/landscape is fading. A new breed, named “micropolitans” are emerging. These are small but significant towns that have now shown better resilience, a higher life quality, and a thriving for freedom from corporate large-scale building speculation and often faster networks than many aged metropolitan areas are able to support.
Self-driving cars, networked drones, robot mass transit, and the ubiquitous individual adaptable networked transit, the house that will not be a house anymore, the office that will not be an office anymore and the redefinition of institutions. Architecture, infrastructure and mass transit will all be subject to mass customization. This studio proposes an alternative to the total centralization of capital and investment towards a much more participatory, decentralized and networked city structure.
The growing prevalence and influence of nanotechnology across disciplines has allowed technology to scale down and speed up at an exponential rate. The future of architecture exists at the intersection of molecular biology, materials science and applied physics. In challenging the discipline of architecture’s relationship to scale, this research aims to provide a basis by which we can imagine completely novel ways to inhabit space.
Architecture has maintained a specific mentality about scale since the earliest human civilizations. It has scaled up to massive infrastructure like the Hoover Dam but not down. For the most part, architecture has been about the human scale, and has yet to engage with the nanoscale.
The ability to view and manipulate matter beyond the human scale aided by microscopes, telescopes, and a deeper understanding of quantum physics has forever changed our perception of the natural world.
Modernism was the first paradigmatic shift in architecture since the Roman Empire, as a result of the new materials made available by the Industrial Revolution and the ability to observe matter at the micro scale.
However, Modern architecture, an international style, was applied as a global solution to inherently regional problems. These modern structures placed in extreme environments require massive internal systems to regulate their temperature. Radical 60’s architecture responded to this climactic inflexibility with Bucky Fuller inspired structures and biomimetic solutions. Micro and nano has the unique ability to produce truly dynamic systems, going further than Modernism and what the radical 60’s started to investigate.
Recent innovations in materials science at the nanoscale will have a similar if not more transformative effect on the discipline of architecture as the Industrial Revolution, and has the potential to realize the imaginary of the 1960s.
Research in the fields of materials science, applied physics, molecular biology can be introduced into architecture, breaking apart architecture’s long affair with the human scale.
Charles and Ray Eame’s idea of exponential scale as seen for instance in the powers of ten are referential to the extents of the known universe, which collapse around the scale of the human body at 101, or 10 square meters—the architectural scale.
Nanotechnology allows us to reconceive the architectural scale by referring to surrounding scales, from the extra [extra] small to the extents of the known universe. Architecture that is dynamic and instantaneously responsive to external forces and the human body requires the manipulation of matter at the nanoscale.
Our research this semester began with experimental investigations of materials that exhibit their inherent atomic structures at the architectural scale.
The 2 systems studied are magnetic forces and crystalline structures. They are diametrically opposed—one creates rapidly reactive forces that form dynamic and temporal structures, while the other is a predictable and slowly self-assembling atomic structure. The dichotomy of these systems produce something that is on one hand ephemeral, and the other permanent, reactionary and static, slow and fast.
In this scenario, the architect has the ability to design parameters for these systems to be unleashed upon. Working at the nanoscale, the role of the architect is to design a scaffolding that encourages the development of different scales of space based on both use and environmental conditions. The architectural DNA is a supportive skeleton structure that allows the dynamic and crystalline structures to grow and react.
Our site is Searles Valley, California, a small mineral mining town in the Mojave Desert. Located on a prehistoric dry lake, it is one of the richest mineral deposits in the world— containing 98 of the 104 known naturally-occurring chemical elements.
Our project supposes the mining of these elements to supply the 2 dynamic and crystalline systems. The mineral deposits of the dry lake are so expansive that they would not be exhausted after a millennia of continuous extraction, making this site a fertile location for the architecture of nanotechnology.
The lake bed is covered in shallow pools of super-saturated salt water that continually produce crystals that grow in cubic fractals, an architectural inspiration. The site is also surrounded by military testing grounds of innovative and controversial matter-manipulating technologies past—including the atomic bomb.
The site is also referential to our critique of modern architecture’s inability to mitigate extreme environments, being that it is in an extreme desert climate with temperatures fluctuating from day to night, sun and shade—a dynamic system is required.
Our program is a gene therapy center and outpatient clinic for genetic repair/ cancer treatment. DNA splicing is a heavily research-based procedure and is minimally invasive, administered as a shot or ingested in a capsule, and doesn’t require a long stay for the patient.
As a result, the facility has the ability to be a flexible spa/ treatment center as opposed to a sterile hospital. Clients can bathe in therapeutic mineral pools at the base of the project shaded by the structure above and use sensory-deprivation tanks.
The approach by clients is helicopter. In the desert landscape, the project appears as a monument. The reflective surface creates a mirage during the day and becomes a pulsating beacon of light by night.
The rectilinear form of the building constrains an arbitrary limit sample of a dense dynamic system, as if it were carving out a slice of the complex matter of the universe.
The alternate approach is by self-driving car where at the edge the road dips down below the horizon line to a valet and a subterranean self-driving car park that create an uninterrupted view of the landscape.
The range of scales designed into the skeleton reflect the need for massive research facilities and small-scale treatment rooms. Dynamic materials allow the space to be flexible and change scale, divide, expand and react to the electromagnetic forces of the human body.
This project is a departure from the humanist idea of the architectural scale, as explored from Da Vinci’s Vitruvian man to Corbusier’s Modulor. The architecture of nanotechnology instead interprets the human body as a series of forces that have the ability to control matter at the nanoscale.