4th LIXIL International University Architectural Competition: Nest We Grow

NWG Winter Rendering
NWG Winter Rendering Enlarge [+]

On April 25th 2014, at the final screening of the 4th LIXIL International University Architectural Competition in Tokyo, the team from the CED won top honors for their proposal, Nest We Grow. The project will be built in November 2014 at Memu Meadows in Taiki-cho, Hakkaido, Japan. Below, the student team reflects on their experience.

This past summer we traveled as a team to Tokyo, Japan to complete our design and start construction for our winning competition proposal, Nest We Grow. Earlier this year under the leadership of Hsiu-Wei Chang, a recent graduate of CED, and Professors Dana Buntrock and Mark Anderson, we developed a concept and design that we submitted to the LIXIL International University Architectural Competition. The competition, now in its 4th year, is held annually by LIXIL, a Japanese firm known internationally for its expertise in the built environment.

NWG Sectional Perspective drawing
NWG Sectional Perspective drawing Enlarge [+]

Established by LIXIL JS Foundation, the competition strives to inspire next-generation sustainable architectural solutions by inviting universities from around the world to submit designs in response a unique theme. This year’s theme, Productive Garden — A Space for Enjoying Hokkaido with All Five Senses, solicited proposals from UC Berkeley, along with 11 other universities from a total of 9 countries.

“These students ranged from first-year graduate students to those who finished thesis projects and graduated only a few weeks after winning the competition. They handled a myriad of tasks associated with an overseas award with professionalism, aplomb, and in fact, outright delight. In order to get the best from each other, they worked together and valued their complementary skill sets. We’ve got a lot to be proud of. This team really demonstrates what CED students can do!”

— Dana Buntrock, Professor of Architecture at CED

Our team’s proposed design, Nest We Grow, creates a holistic garden capable of connecting members of the community with the cyclical nature of food. We achieved this by designing spaces in the Nest to pragmatically respond to each element of the cycle, from planting, growing, harvesting, cooking and dining, to composting, which restarts the cycle. Using a 3 dimensional wood frame for the main structure we incorporated all of these elements into our Nest and created a productive garden typology. The Nest is capable of being replicated in size or scale and in many different contexts but with the same goal, to bring people closer to the production, consumption and decomposition of food.

award certificate
Award certificate Enlarge [+]

We were honored that the completion jury awarded first place to Nest We Grow. This set the stage for our summer in Japan where we became responsible for the project from the design phase to completion. In order to do so we worked closely with project architect Takumi Saikawa, of Kengo Kuma and Associates, and Masato Araya of Oak Structural Design Office. With their help and expertise, along with many others, we were able to take our idealized vision of the Nest and turn it into a reality.

Through the period of intense design leading up to the construction of the Nest we learned two very important lessons that we will carry with us into our design careers. First, work in the built environment needs to be done with a considerable amount of cooperation across many different professions, including structural engineers and contractors, and in our case a composting toilet manufacturer. These discussions each require a different set of tools, ranging from drawings to languages, and are critical to a successful project.

The second major lesson is having the ability to re-design or re-purpose a part of the design in order to meet the requirements of these discussions, and to do so quickly enough to keep the project moving towards completion. During our schematic design phase, we focused on how to approach and develop the concept through architectural language. However, when it came time to move into the construction design phase, we switched our focus to meet the demands of the budget, the construction methods, and deadlines, in order to maintain the desired building function. In several cases the concept was reevaluated in order to meet these new demands, allowing for unique solutions that were not at first considered.

NWG team meeting
NWG Team during discussion with project architect and structural consultant Enlarge [+]
On-site Rendering
On-site Rendering Enlarge [+]

This competition is an incredible opportunity for any group of young designers, and with the construction phase now under way we look forward to seeing the completion of the Nest, and to future enhancements in the years to come.

The Nest We Grow team included:
Hsiu-Wei Chang (M.Arch 2014)
Fanzheng Dong (M.Arch 2014)
Hsin-Yu Chen (M.Arch 2015)
Yan Xin Huang (M.Arch 2016)
Baxter Smith (M.Arch 2016)
Max Edwards (M.Arch 2014)

Re-Imagining CED’s Built Environment

As the College of Environmental Design seeks to understand and redefine how people around the world experience the built environment, we are challenged to look at the ways in which our own spaces influence how we work and learn.

CED’s facilities for studio instruction — the hallmark of a design education — are 50 years old. By rethinking the outdated design models that define our current studio environment, we have the opportunity to create 21st century studios with the technology and adaptable design systems that encourage a culture of experimentation and creative interaction. Smart classroom design solutions that are flexible and foster collaboration are critical to educating future environmental design and planning students and preparing them for a world in which cross-disciplinary team work is essential.

Flex Studio
Flex Studio Enlarge [+]

Flex Studio

The Flex Studios initiative will refashion our existing studio space to provide multiple platforms for creativity, research and design collaboration, and to allow learning spaces to serve as better models for collaborative professional spaces.

The studio redesign will incorporate flexible furniture systems and increased space for collaboration and dialogue, allowing for open exchanges during the design process that reflect the challenges and excitement of professional life. that will enable students and faculty to think about the built environment through different lenses.

The new design will bring together students from multiple departments and promote a cross-pollination of ideas.

Our goal is to reconfigure and upgrade seven floors of studio space in Wurster Hall. The redesign requires replacing outdated furniture, offering ergonomic student workstations, providing functional meeting areas, and expanding digital and traditional pin-up areas. The strategy is based on a flexible “studio kit of parts” that can be reconfigured easily and adapted to any number of potential educational contexts. The kit will include height-adjustable desks, work tables, and ergonomic stools; custom fabricated metal grid studio divider system with power speedway, task lighting, shelf and pin-up space; technology facilities including rendering computers and plotters; collaboration tables for model building, group discussion and information interaction; a kitchenette; and two presentation and review rooms featuring extensive pin-up space as well as cutting edge electronic display technology.

How You Can Help

Give to CED

The estimated costs to update Wurster Hall’s studios will total $8–10 million. Our goal is to update all studio floors by 2020. But we are starting with a pilot program to completely renovate one floor in 2014–15. The cost of completing this pilot floor is $1.5 million.

We have a generous and willing partner in our efforts. Recognizing the importance of this studio redesign project for our students and faculty, campus leadership has agreed to provide a 2:1 match for any gifts to the College of Environmental Design’s new Flex Studio Fund.

Please join us in meeting this critical need and ensuring a first-rate educational experience for our students, by donating a new student workstation, putting your name on a new state-of-the art review room or studio bay — or even an entire studio floor. Become a part of the lasting legacy that will propel the CED studios to the forefront of 21st century innovation in design and planning education.

Vertical Cities 2013: Everyone Harvests

How does a rapidly growing Asian city facing issues of sustainability and quality of life also address the region’s food production needs?

This was the exciting challenge that two interdisciplinary teams of architecture, landscape architecture, urban design, and city and regional planning graduate students from the College of Environmental Design took up as they developed and presented their proposals for the third Vertical Cities Asia International Competition in Singapore.

The exponential speed of urban development in Asia requires new thinking around sustainable high-density solutions that reduce the potentially devastating effects of urbanization on land, infrastructure, and the environment. Vertical Cities Asia, a 5-year program organized by the National University of Singapore (NUS), each year challenges teams from 10 schools around the world, including three from the U.S., to contribute to this endeavor with solutions that address a unique theme and location in Asia.

By 2050, it is anticipated that 80 percent of the world’s projected population of 9 billion will reside in urban centers. Food production is expected to increase by approximately 70 percent globally and nearly 100 percent in developing countries. This year’s theme, “Everyone Harvests,” challenged students to create innovative approaches to urban agriculture and food production in the context of Asia’s accelerating urbanism at a site about 17km west of the city centre of Hanoi, Vietnam.

Farmways
Farmways — Growing frames, parkways and boulevard Enlarge [+]

The Berkeley student teams — who participated as part of the studio course led by UC Berkeley associate professor of architecture and urban design, Renée Chow (who is also CED’s associate dean for undergraduate programs) — each selected an area of one square kilometer to house 100,000 people on no more than half of the land surface. Of the two teams of 15 students total, 14 traveled to Hanoi to research the project and two members from each team presented final proposals to the prestigious international jury in Singapore in July.

During their visit, students were awestruck by the transparency of the food system in the urban Hanoi environment. Food was commonly prepared, sold, and eaten on urban sidewalks, with agriculture production beginning just beyond the urban fringe. In an effort to bridge these divided realities and raise the prestige of the farmer, one team developed Farmways, which garnered an honorable mention from the competition judges. Via a three-dimensional framework of vertical farm parkways, Farmways integrates the urban and the agricultural with a closed-loop model of green market arcades, air purifiers, food forestry research laboratories, aquaponics, and clean energy cogeneration. Farmways works as an urban biofiltration system ensuring cleaner resources and healthier food production.

Farmways
Farmways — Active locavore street life Enlarge [+]

The second team’s Edge City proposal responded to the challenge by reconnecting fresh food production and consumption economies through a fingered interface at the edge of the urban boundary. Edge City confronts the notion that an urban edge should be defined by a highway and instead joins urban residents to the source of their food. Re-envisioning Hanoi’s outer ring highway, they created a dynamic corridor that includes production, storage, packaging, processing, and distribution, in so doing, better integrating the urban and the agricultural. The result is a vibrant place where people live and work along the urban edge, maintaining a close connection to fertile farmlands.

Edge City
Edge City — Spine section Enlarge [+]
Edge City
Edge City — School site participation Enlarge [+]

The Vertical Cities Competition stands out as a major opportunity for CED graduate students to gain a truly interdisciplinary experience at an international level. Working closely with fellow students from diverse disciplines gives participants a taste of their potential future where an understanding and appreciation of different urban design systems and tools, planning strategies, and multidisciplinary collaboration are essential in the creation of successful urban-scale developments.

Group photo of Vertical Cities CED student participants
Vertical Cities CED student participants.  FRONT ROW, LEFT TO RIGHT: Jennifer Siquiera, Monica Way, Michelle Gonzales, Minjae Ahn, Rebecca Sunter, Niknaz Aftahi;  BACK ROW: Daniel Prostak, Max Edwards, Gabriel Kaprielian, Luis Jaggy, Ned Reifenstein, Leo Zhou, Stephen Steward, Ben Golze (Missing: Anna Konotchick) Enlarge [+]

From the perspective of a teacher, designer and architect, for Renée Chow this ranked as one of her most rewarding studio experiences. “The students were totally motivated to see and deeply understand another place. They learned to collaborate which also transforms their views. They now feel that as designers they can make a difference.”

Student Teams

FARMWAYS Team

  • Niknaz Aftahi (M.Arch) 2015 ATG
  • Minjae Ahn (M.Arch) 2014 ATG
  • Max Edwards (M.Arch) 2014 ATG
  • Luis Jaggy (M.Arch) 2014 ATG
  • Gabriel Kaprielian (M.Arch/MCP) 2014 ATG
  • Daniel Prostak (MLA) 2014 ATG
  • Rebecca Sunter (MLA) 2014 ATG

EDGE CITY Team

  • Benjamin Golze (M.Arch) 2014 ATG
  • Michelle Gonzalez (M.Arch)
  • Anna Konotchick (M.Arch/MCP) 2013 ATG
  • Ned Reifenstein (M.Urban Design) 2013 ATG
  • Jennifer Siqueira (M.Arch) 2015 ATG
  • Stephen Stewart (M.Arch) 2014 ATG
  • Monica Way (M.L.A.) 2014 ATG
  • Xin (Leo) Zhao (M.Arch) 2014 ATG

ParticiPlace: Community-Based Participatory Research through an International Design Competition

Interwoven Communities
Interwoven Communities by Gabriel Kaprielian, Liz Kee, Marisha Farnsworth, and Jonghoon Im from Berkeley California: ParticiPlace2012 1st Prize winner and co-winner of the Social and Cultural Integrity Prize Enlarge [+]
ParticiPlace2012, an international design competition for the Living Culture Center for the Pinoleville Pomo Nation was organized as part of my PhD. research in Architecture. The competition provided a test bed to explore the gap between global designers and local communities — the users in place.

Environmental psychology provided the framework for understanding place, specifically Canter’s definition of place as the overlap between physical attributes, activities, and conceptions. When interviewing practicing architects, it became clear that in the for-profit design world, architects use a variety of techniques to become familiar with the specific physical attributes of place while activities of place are usually provided in the design brief. However, conceptions of place are harder to communicate across wide cultural and geographical gaps, hence are often neglected. At the same time, in the non-profit world of architecture, while more attention is given to learning conceptions, the information provided is not always enough for the architect’s place-information palette. As technology and particularly the variety of social network tools develop and become widely used around the world, I decided to study whether these tools can be harnessed to bridge the gap between local communities and global designers providing solutions in developing regions.

Based on case-studies in the field of Information and Communication Technology for Development (ICT4D), technology without human motivation is not enough to create development. Empowering local communities requires both a top-down approach and a bottom-up solution. The opportunity provided to Native American Nations in the US to use federal funds to both design and build their own housing solutions is a top-down approach that calls for bottom-up solutions to allow the community simple ways to influence the design — essentially the core of this project. Together with Professor Agogino from the department of Mechanical Engineering and Ryan Shelby, a Mechanical Engineering PhD. student, we established CARES — Community Assessment of Renewable Energy and Sustainability — with the goal to support Native American and other communities in making informed decision about sustainable design solutions.

ParticiPlace2012 3rd Prize co-winner
Kadi Franson, Nathan Pundt, and Leah Nichols from Oakland California: ParticiPlace2012 3rd Prize co-winner of and co-winner of the Social and Cultural Integrity Prize Enlarge [+]

CARES works closely with the Pinoleville Pomo Nation (PPN), a Native American Nation located near Ukiah, two hours’ drive north of Berkeley, to co-design sustainable housing and community design solutions that are culturally appropriate. Our trans-disciplinary design process encompasses faculty and students from architecture and engineering, and community members working together throughout the cycle of design, construction, and post-occupancy evaluation.

In the search for technologies that could facilitate our design process, we decided to organize an international design challenge for a Living Culture Center that the PPN is interested in building. Our proposal for the design challenge won second prize in the Berkeley Big Ideas competition from the Blum Center for Developing Economies, providing a kick-start to the project. We brought in a distinguished jury from leading design firms and received additional generous support from the College of Environmental Design and the College of Engineering, followed by a contribution from the Center for Information Technology Research in the Interest of Society (CITRIS) and from the PPN. These resources allowed us to run a design competition attracting professionals and students from around the world.

Echo of Presence by Elements Architects
Echo of Presence by Elements Architects from Oak Park, Illinois: ParticiPlace2012 2nd Prize winner, Sustainable Engineering Innovation Honorable Mention and Social and Cultural Integrity Honorable Mention Enlarge [+]

Out of 38 registered teams, 17 submitted their design ideas including teams from India, Japan, Spain, Georgia, UK, Dominican Republic, Canada, and the U.S. Three categories of prizes were awarded: the general prize; a Sustainable Engineering Innovation Prize, and a Social and Cultural Integrity Prize — each of these acknowledging different design qualities of the submissions. The blind jury, comprised of contemporary Native-American and sustainable design practitioners, as well as community leaders, evaluated the submissions to select the winners. The first prize was awarded to a team of graduate students from the CED that included Gabriel Kaprielian, Marisha Farnsworth, Liz Kee and Jonghoon Im. The second was awarded to Elements Architects, a firm located in the Greater Chicago area; and the third prize was shared by Kengo Sato from Japan and Kadi Franson, Nathan Pundt and Leah Nichols representing a team from Oakland.

ParticiPlace2012 3rd Prize co-winner
Kengo Sato from Tokyo, Japan: ParticiPlace2012 3rd Prize co-winner and co-winner of
the Sustainable Engineering Innovation Prize
Enlarge [+]
ParticiPlace2012 Honorable Mention
Emily Kwok, Hien Vuong and Gwen Fuertes from San Francisco, California: ParticiPlace2012 Honorable Mention and co-winner of the Sustainable Engineering Innovation Prize Enlarge [+]

ParticiPlace2012 allowed the PPN to define their building requirements and discuss a variety of ideas that they can use as they go forward in realizing the building. The Living Culture Center will allow the PPN to practice, preserve, and revive their unique, native-Pomo culture. The proposed designs encourage active social exchange, cultural education, and living cultural practice. Once built, it will create space for PPN citizens to integrate long-standing traditions with contemporary lives.

On a research level the project demonstrates that even under conditions of cultural and geographical distance between designers and place, community members and designers can bridge this gap by using available information and communication technologies. Based on analysis of a variety of data collected throughout the process, my own research showed that international designers who had never visited the site could provide solutions that were as place-appropriate as the solutions provided by those who were situated nearby. Though globalization may have created a chasm between designers and local characteristics of place, this research calls to empower local community members through common technology to help bridge that gap and to enable designers to become intimate with the places that they help to design.

Energy Efficient Japan

A hallmark of the CED program is its relentless commitment to addressing the most critical challenges facing society today with an attention to sustainability, design excellence, community involvement, and technological expertise. CED faculty continually lead the way in promoting these values not only in the classroom but beyond it as well.

No event demanded the application of these principles more than the disaster that occurred March 11, 2011. The most powerful earthquake ever to have hit Japan caused huge devastation triggering a massive tsunami responsible for meltdowns and explosions at the Fukushima Daiichi Nuclear Power Plant. Along with tremendous rebuilding needs, the country whose lifestyle depended on reliable electricity, was now forced to rethink its energy use.

This became the catalyst for Architecture.Energy.2011, an intensive 4-day workshop, June 23–26, 2011 in Tokyo, developed by CED Professors of Architecture Dana Buntrock and Susan Ubbelohde. Intended as a quick response to the catastrophe with longer-term follow-up, the workshop was designed to introduce advanced concepts of building energy use and occupant comfort through the lens of architectural space and material as a filter for the environment. A subsequent workshop was held in August of 2012 at Berkeley, offering participants knowledge and skills that continue to be applied today.

handbook used in workshop
A page from the handbook used in the 2011 workshop in Japan, produced by Susan Ubbelohde’s practice, Loisos+Ubbelohde. Enlarge [+]

A different way of thinking

Having been involved in architectural research in Japan since the late 1980s, Dana Buntrock has an intimate familiarity with the country’s approach to building design and a strong affiliation with the architectural community there. She reached out to her colleague Susan Ubbelohde, realizing that while Susan and her firm, Loisos+Ubbelohde, had no prior experience in Japan, their leading-edge expertise in technical analysis and energy efficient building practices was essential.

Historically, Japan has placed little emphasis on basic energy conservation approaches, such as insulation, in architecture. Because living and working spaces are typically very small, and households are in the habit of heating only one room at a time, per capita energy use has been relatively low. Energy saving practices that we take for granted in the US — like thermal insulation, day-lighting and energy performance measurement and analysis — are rare in Japan and although a building code related to energy consumption exists, compliance has been voluntary. While Japan places great importance on environmental policy as it concerns greenhouse emissions, there was little relation to efforts to reduce overall energy consumption, especially connected to buildings.

Buntrock and Ubbelohde were not out to champion California energy policy. “We were not interested in suggesting we are better at energy conservation than Japan, but simply that we offered a way of thinking that filled out an area where Japan had not yet developed strengths,” explains Buntrock. Ubbelohde echoes the sentiment, “Japan has a challenge to maintain their current quality of life without nuclear power. Japanese architects now have the opportunity to look at building science as a means of addressing that.”

Light. Heat. Air. Energy.

The June 2011 workshop, funded through a variety of resources that Buntrock and Ubbelohde put together, including money from the UC Berkeley Center for Japanese Studies and personal resources, was designed to provide tools and ways of approaching energy efficiency for architects already leading the profession in Japan. Seminars on the physics of building performance based on daily themes — Light, Heat, Air, and Supplementary Energy — were followed by an Environmental Measurement segment where participants used devices to discover how metrics relate to experience, and a Design Lab where teams were tasked with re-designing a contemporary building. Energy modelers from Loisos+Ubbelohde and UC Berkeley simulated energy performance and gave feedback to the participants as they worked.

Measuring wall surface temperatures
Participants at the 2011 workshop in Tokyo use infrared sensors to measure wall surface temperatures. Enlarge [+]

The workshops were truly a cross-cultural collaboration, with organizers and leaders from both Japan and the US. Along with Professors Buntrock and Ubbelohde, and L+U principal George Loisos, groups were led by L+U staff Brendon Levitt, Ibone Santiago, Eduardo Pintos — all CED alumni — and Santosh Phillip. CED graduate student participants included David Fannon (M.Arch ’12), Kyle Konis (PhD Arch ’11), and Jeremy Fisher (M.S. Arch ’11). Collaborators in Japan who helped with organization and logistics included Shuzo Murakami, Building Research Institute; Masao Koizumi, Tokyo Metropolitan University; Kengo Kuma, Tokyo University; Nobufusa Yoshizawa, Insitute for Building Environment and Energy Conservation; and Balazs Bognar, Kuma and Associates.

Kyle Konis and Tokyo-based architects
Kyle Konis (UCB PhD ’11), now a professor at the University of southern California, reviews performance data with a team of Tokyo-based architects. Enlarge [+]

Response was overwhelming. All together, 57 individuals participated. Many firms and organizations, under pressure to respond not only to the paradigm shifts in thinking about energy, but also to the more immediate need to rebuild in devastated areas, sent different participants on different days.

Workshop presentation
Mr. Norihisa Kawashima, an architect at Nikken Sekkei, and other Japan workshop participants present the results of four intensive days of redesign to Professor Susan Ubbelohde and George Loisos. Enlarge [+]

The follow-up workshop the next year at Berkeley, funded by a grant from the Japan Foundation’s Center for Global Partnership, focused on energy efficiency from a policy and application perspective, and concentrated on a more substantial sharing of available tools. Many of the same participants or participant firms took part in the second workshop along with first-time attendees.

Expressing her amazement at the level of engagement of the workshop participants, Susan Ubbelohde remarked, “These were some of the best designers I had ever worked with. Since the workshop, we’ve had a number of architects and engineers from Japan visiting the office and now there is an ongoing dialog that has really benefited the entire office. It’s been great.”

Bill Burke speaking at workshop
Bill Burke explains the use of the artificial sky during a tour of the Pacific Energy Center in San Francisco, part of the 2012 workshop. Enlarge [+]
Professor Dana Buntrock and Japanese architect Mr. Masatoyo Ogasawara
Professor Dana Buntrock and Japanese architect Mr. Masatoyo Ogasawara, who participated in the 2012 Berkeley Workshop. Enlarge [+]

Making a Difference

While it may be a while before significant results are achieved, participants are beginning to put their experience to use. Norihisa Kawashima, an architect at Nikken Sekkei who came to Berkeley as a visiting scholar and worked with L+U to learn Berkeley-based simulation approaches, is now back at Nikken Sekkei sharing what he has learned.

Partners from the Tokyo-based ADH Architects, designing publicly financed homes in the earthquake region, have been working with L+U to propose upgraded approaches to efficiency. They will work with another workshop attendee, Dr. Masayuki Mae of the University of Tokyo, to do thermal testing after completion.

Not surprisingly, the workshops have also had an impact on the Berkeley student participants and faculty. David Fannon now works as a building scientist and specialist in high-performance design for Syska Hennessy Group in New York. Kyle Konis was moved after meeting young Japanese designers who, though their lives had been dramatically affected by the disasters, were driven to have a positive impact. Konis now teaches sustainability classes at USC and has incorporated his Japan experience into the themes of his teaching.

“There are social implications to energy,” explains Dana Buntrock. “Without electricity thousands of buildings in Japan became at least temporarily uninhabitable because of poor thermal and day-lighting qualities. Beyond reduced reliance on fossil fuels, which Japan now must consider, energy efficiency has larger implications for human comfort. I’m hopeful that we’ll be able to continue working with Japanese colleagues on the energy demands of buildings.”

More information about Architecture.Energy.2011

John Wong: Making Cities Livable

Suzhou Center Forest Ring-Sky Garden & Sky Terrace
Suzhou Center Forest Ring-Sky Garden & Sky Terrace Enlarge [+]

Whether it’s designing a garden or the groundscape for one of the world’s tallest structures, for John Wong (B.A. Landscape Architecture, 1974) there are three things that characterize the role of landscape architecture: creating a space where people can interact, inspiring sustainable innovation and defining a sense of place.

As managing principal and chairman of SWA Group in Sausalito, John Wong is an internationally renowned landscape architect with an impressive portfolio of prominent and sustainable projects throughout the world, from new communities and cities to public plazas and gardens. He is most recently recognized for his expertise in designing the groundscapes for super-tall structures—an area that now comprises over half of his practice. In addition to creating the ground planes for the world’s tallest building, Burj Khalifa in Dubai, and the Shanghai Tower, scheduled to complete in 2016, he is also currently working on designs for Kingdom Tower in Jeddah, which will rise to an estimated 1000 meters in 2017.

Burj Khalifa aerial view
Burj Khalifa aerial view. Photo by David Gal, SWA GroupEnlarge [+]
Suzhou Center Illustrative Plan
Suzhou Center Illustrative Plan Enlarge [+]

Designing for tall buildings poses a unique challenge: to connect an imposing structure with the existing fabric of the surrounding area to create an interactive environment that makes people’s lives better. Wong is a strong believer in the sustainable benefits of high density, multi-use tall buildings with habitable open areas. He views sustainability in both ecological and human terms and sees landscape architecture as the discipline that can have the most profound impact when it comes to solving one of today’s biggest problems—how to make cities more livable.

In his winning competition proposal for the Suzhou Industrial Park Central Business District, Wong highlights not only the beautiful natural location, but also the connection between ecological and social environments. The project is organized along a central urban axis, Suzhou Corridor, surrounded by five distinct rings of landscapes and pedestrian walkways that unify the landscape and the architecture while providing intimate encounters with the environment. The design links dispersed neighborhoods and creates a lively outdoor mall connecting commercial and residential developments.

John Wong, Managing Principal & Chairman, SWA Group
John Wong Enlarge [+]

Wong was attracted to the field of landscape architecture because of its holistic approach to solving today’s environmental and urban problems—connecting a variety of disciplines including architecture, engineering, urban planning and transportation with an understanding of natural systems. As landscape architects are called upon to bring ideas to life on a much larger and more complex scale, he feels this collaborative approach will become increasingly important. And as sustainability continues to demand innovation, this is where landscape architecture can have the greatest impact.

Wong’s design for Guthrie Green in Tulsa is a showcase for sustainable innovation. With the idea to create a beautiful “outdoor living room” to encourage rejuvenation of the emerging mixed-use neighborhood, SWA transformed a 2.7-acre truck loading facility into a vibrant community gathering space for artists, urban professionals, students, and visitors. SWA took advantage of the natural geothermal energy and abundant sun to create a high-performing system including photo-voltaic panels and a grid of 500-foot deep geothermal wells that help offset the park’s energy demands and provide heating and cooling for adjacent buildings.

As the 100th anniversary of Landscape Architecture at UC Berkeley approaches in 2013, Wong appreciates what he gained from his experience there and what he sees the college continuing to provide: a big picture, multi-disciplinary approach that opens the mind and brings a fuller understanding of the challenges and possibilities for the future. As a new Cal parent—his daughter is at the College of Natural Resources—he’s pleased that she’ll be exposed to these critical thinking skills that will be even more highly prized in the future.

Guthrie Green, Tulsa Oklahoma
Guthrie Green, Tulsa Oklahoma. Photo by Jonnu Singleton, SWA Group Enlarge [+]

Dry to Wet: A Network for All Ages

In their second year participating in Vertical Cities Asia, the 5-year series of competitions focused on high-density urbanism in Asia organized by the National University of Singapore School of Design and Environment, two student teams from UC Berkeley’s College of Environmental Design were presented with the theme, “Everyone Ages.” This year’s competition sought innovative design solutions for a balanced environment for high density urban life addressing the complexities of a rapidly ageing society. Each year, a one square kilometer territory is chosen, with teams challenged to design a visionary and holistic community for 100,000 residents. The solution must incorporate areas for work and recreation with the residential component allowed to comprise only fifty percent of the total site area. This year’s site was located in Yongshan, part of Seoul Metropolitan City, Republic of Korea.

The CED teams, led by Professor of Architecture René Davids, aimed to address the needs of all, removing the barriers created by age, social and family structure, and physical mobility.

Revitalizing the connection to the river through landscape integration and optimizing views, Team A’s entry, Succulent City, embeds a dynamic and productive natural network into the existing urban context. Integrating rainwater collection, grey water filtration, recreational public space and herbal healing practice into a branching building/landscape system, the network weaves into the existing urban fabric at the ground level and extrudes vertically into programmatically efficient, branching towers. The interaction and transition between wet and dry systems permeates the city at every scale, from the urban to the individual.

Inspired by the human aging process, Succulent City nurtures a relationship with the environment through sinuous bioswales and filtration basins that continuously and seasonally evolve, while respecting and responding to the diurnal fluctuations of contemporary urban life. Sculpted by the natural forces on site such as sunlight and wind, and by cultural influences such as feng shui and family relationships, this organic network is oriented along commercial routes to optimize accessibility for everyone.

The building network of towers, ground, and sky branches is thoroughly integrated with the wet and dry landscape, serving all ages with a gradient of mixed-use programs. Views of the river, accessible vertical swales that wrap the buildings, and ground branches that form a familiar commercial continuation of the existing streets, encourage residents and visitors to form a culturally and ecologically dynamic relationship with the landscape.

Succulent City’s approach to the Vertical Cities Asia challenge preserves the deep connection to the site’s historic and contemporary water systems, presenting a dynamic and revitalizing solution that changes, grows and adapts to the evolving needs of its urban population.

More information about the competition:

  • http://www.verticalcitiesasia.com/?q=competition
  • http://www.ced.berkeley.edu/departments–programs/arch/arch-202-spring-2012-davids.htm

Student Team

Team A members Aine Coughlan, Kristen Henderson, and Ekaterina Kostyukova are all part of the M.Arch. program in the Department of Architecture at CED.

Designing Sustainable Tourism in the Tlacolula Valley: The Mezcal Route | La Ruta Mezcal

How can tourism improve the lives of poor people? Must tourism always destroy existing cultures? Can indigenous people plan and manage their own tourist resources? These are just a few of the difficult questions that CED students in the graduate studio, “Just” Tourism in the Tlacolula Valley, Oaxaca, grappled with during Spring, 2012.

The studio was based on the idea that to be equitable and sustainable, tourism planning needs to build on the existing environment, society and economies of the local area. Sponsored by the Ministry of Culture of the State of Oaxaca and in collaboration with professors and students from the Universidad Iberoamericana in Mexico City, students from all three CED departments—Architecture, Landscape Architecture and Environmental Planning, and City and Regional Planning—traveled to Oaxaca Valley to investigate its rich history and culture and to understand its current challenges.

Raul Cabra (M.A. Design, 2011)—Director of Oaxacalifornia, a cultural exchange program between Oaxacan craftspeople and California designers, who is also a local resident—led us through ten intensive days of fieldwork that covered nearly every meter of the valley. We surveyed local agriculture and gastronomy, craft traditions, markets that date from pre-Columbian times, unique Zapotec governance systems and the techniques of artisanal mescal production—the most important local industry. We met a range of Valley residents including government officials, returned migrants, organic farmers and American expats.

Returning to Berkeley, we incorporated different concepts from the anthropology of tourism, everyday urban design, local economic development theory, infrastructure planning and land-use law to create a strategic tourism plan for the Valley. Organized around flexible itineraries, the plan makes the valley accessible to tourists while protecting its physical and cultural resources.

Multi-dimensional and decentralized, the plan offers numerous options. Since villages value their independence and autonomy, each element can be adapted to local conditions. Last summer, local officials, businesses, and artisans enthusiastically responded to the Mezcal Route strategy, so we are optimistic that the rest of the plan will have an equally positive impact in Oaxaca.

Team