MONITOR HYPERLINK TOWER

SLADE ARCHITECTURE + JURGEN H MAYER + MAKOTO SEI WATANABE

COMPETITION ENTRY, 2004

LOCATION / MILAN, ITALY

Blurred boundaries are the most distinctive phenomena of technology in the “new economy”.  Virtual networks are layered directly over existing physical systems making existing physical boundaries permeable and imprecise as the virtual and physical structures do not have the same boundaries. In terms of urban space, the boundaries between public and private spaces are blurred.  Public spaces can now be colonized by private functions through technology: a laptop, wireless connection and phone can turn any park bench into a virtual office.  The physical form of the spaces is becoming secondary to the technology in the space.  Increasingly, the infrastructure for the technology is wireless: formless and ubiquitous.  This seamless system allows any space to be reprogrammed, whether it is interior or exterior.  Architecture has not adapted to these changes.

We propose to integrate technology on an architectural and urban scale to actualize and manifest these blurred boundaries by exploiting the relationship between the physical and virtual systems.  This will be achieved through a high-tech surface that we will call a technoweave.  This surface is speculative but based on existing technologies.  The technoweave will incorporate all of the servant functions such as heating/cooling, electricity, water, lighting and enclosure that are traditionally supplied by the architecture and mechanical systems.  It will also include interactive surfaces that can be used to project images and sounds and to receive input from users and the environment both actively and passively.

The material research, with Carol Derby of Designtex, identified several existing technologies for delivering utilities in a woven fabric: light through fiber optics, images through micro light emitting diodes (LED), water conducted through hydrophilic fibers, heating and cooling radiate from microencapsulated phase change materials embedded in the weave.  The surface can be transformable using ferro fluids that become solid when a current is run through them or by sophisticated micro hydraulic mechanisms.  We imagine these technologies being developed further and reduced to the scale of nanotechnology.

The surface will enclose the building core running like a skewer through the building activating and defining functions in the building interior and on an urban scale by activating the public space around the building: the spatial characteristics of each zone are unique so the surface performs differently in each zone.  The skewer intersects the interior of the suspended “tear” volume, the open ground level plaza and ends in the basement space.  The field of influence for the building extends beyond the physical envelope of the structure.  The building is not just a shell to be filled but also a tool for defining how the space beyond the envelope (interior) of the building is used.

Because the technoweave intersects different spatial types it functions as a litmus strip for each zone.  For the basement we propose a space that can be open to the ground level plaza.  The technoweave surface can expand to seal the opening, enclosing the space below.  Inside, the weave could be lowered to subdivide the space, with one space accessible through the core and the other from the ramp to the courtyard.  The spaces can accommodate play areas, nurseries, nightclub, library, theater, exhibit space, etc.  At ground level the techno weave connects or separates the basement from the plaza.  It can activate the area under the building providing heat, cooling, images and sound.

In the main raised tear space we propose a continuous ramp connected to the cores.  The entire ramp can be activated by the enclosing techno surface, either by contracting it tightly around the ramp (and creating two distinct spaces in the tear) or expanding (and creating one fully open space surrounded by the technosurface).  This flexibility of the surface allows for two different types of interaction and scale along the ramp: 1) intimate and personally tactile, activating LEDs and sensors directly 2) expansive and open, viewing items/pieces from a distance.

When the technoweave comes tight against the exterior envelope, the technosurface can serve and activate the entire public area outside of the building by generating heat, light and images.  In this way the entire building takes on the role of urban furniture activating and defining activities on the street and plaza. The building can facilitate activities both inside and outside of the building in the same way that the software programs running on your computer make different activities possible on a desk or in a park.