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)

Matt Donham: Delivering on a Vision

Jeff Koons’s Split-Rocker Enlarge [+]

“Jeff Koons’ Split-Rocker is a marvel,” explains Matt Donham (MLA ’03), principal at RAFT Landscape Architecture. This giant flowering topiary with over 50,000 flowering plants — half toy dinosaur, half rocking horse — is at the same time cutely irresistible and almost monstrous in its looming scale. “The sculpture expands our understanding of where landscape can exist and what it can look like.”

It is also somewhat of a metaphor for Donham’s approach to his work: the need to zoom in and out between technical detail and the larger overall goal to deliver on a vision; a love of form; and a passion to build landscapes which are both progressive and expressive.

Matt Donham
Matt Donham Enlarge [+]

In 2012, Donham was hired by Glenstone, a private museum and sculpture park outside of Washington D.C., to reimagine Koons’ Split-Rocker as a permanent installation. The sculpture was first exhibited in Avignon in 2000, and subsequently in Versailles (2008) and Basel (2012). Donham conducted extensive research on Koons’ previous topiary installations — talking to gardeners and engineers, and creating structural models and planting palettes — in order to modify the piece to thrive year-round.

In the spring of 2014, Koons tapped Donham to develop the “living systems” for the sculpture’s newest installation in Rockefeller Center, which opened in June. With just 7 weeks to complete a normally 20-week installation process, Donham and RAFT worked closely with Jeff Koons, Public Art Fund, Gagosian Gallery, Tishman Speyer, engineers, contractors, irrigation consultants, and local nurseries to maximize the project’s success.

Research is an integral part of Donham’s work and this project benefitted from the previous research he’d done for Glenstone. The Rockefeller Center installation required the production and delivery of 50,000 plants in full bloom, specialized soils, breathable surface materials, and highly-tailored irrigation and drainage to help the plants to flourish, regardless of their orientation.

9/11 Memorial
Visitors at the National 9/11 Memorial in New York Enlarge [+]

Prior to founding RAFT, Donham was a partner at PWP Landscape Architecture and project manager for the National September 11th Memorial. During the project, he came to understand the critical role of the landscape architect as design advocate. “Everybody has their individual interest, especially with public works projects. It’s our responsibility to understand the goal of the project vision and advocate for that,” he explains.

Donham’s proximity to the leaders of PWP and lead role in the ongoing conversations with players in virtually every aspect of the Memorial project was transformative, shaping his current approach with clients. He believes strongly in holding to the galvanizing narrative that manifests the vision, while also articulating confidence and caring. “Working for Pete Walker I became adept at delivering on his ideas. It takes political skill to work with a big name, but it translates well to delivering on your own vision.”

Hudson Highlands Camp
Hudson Highlands Camp Enlarge [+]

Today at RAFT, Donham along with fellow CED classmate Rebecca Hill (MLA ’03) are generating a new form language, where shape making and space defining combines with ecological sustainability. Last spring, the firm installed a landscape in the Hudson Highlands where a gentle S-curve designed into an existing road makes room for planted swales that filter runoff while enhancing the overall composition of the landscape. It’s a small example of landscape productivity and form working together. Currently Donham is collaborating with Walter Hood, David S. Woo Chair of Environmental Design, on the garden at the Cooper Hewitt in New York which begins construction this fall.

Donham has also just begun teaching at the Rhode Island School of Design. This has inspired him to reflect back on his experience at CED and what he wants his own students to take away. “CED challenged me to determine, believe, and express my personal convictions about how the built environment should be formed,” he said. “When I am speaking with clients and trying to convince them to invest in my solutions, I find that the strength of my conviction is important. People can feel it.”

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.


Building the Sukkah of the Signs

The Sukkah of the Signs

The Sukkah of the Signs, also known as The Homeless House project, was constructed in New York City’s Union Square as part of Sukkah City, an international design competition to re-imagine the ancient building type of sukkah and propose radical possibilities for traditional design constraints in a contemporary urban site. Twelve finalists were selected by a panel of celebrated architects, designers, and critics, and their sukkahs were constructed in a visionary temporary village in Union Square Park on September 19-20, 2010.

While the project and designs were well-publicized, here is a behind-the-scenes look at the making of the Sukkah of the Signs.

Also known as The Homeless House, the Sukkah of the Signs was constructed of approximately 300 signs collected from indigent people across the United States. Just as the sukkah commemorates shelter provided during the forty desert-wandering years of Exodus, the design for this sukkah brings attention to the contemporary state of homelessness and wandering, and serves as a vehicle to raise awareness of homelessness in the United States. By purchasing homeless signs from the individuals who made them, the project contributed to the short-term needs of people living on the street by transferring the competition winnings directly to the homeless.

Collecting 300 signs from the street at first seemed a daunting task. In the first weeks of collection, I had to discover where people with signs could be found. Perhaps you’d encounter one person on a highway off-ramp or busy commercial street, but many laws, regulations, and actual physical barriers are put in place to prevent people from panhandling, or “flying signs,” as it is often called.

Eventually, I came to know the city from the perspective of those who used the sign as their livelihood. I understood traffic patterns, shopping patterns, and patterns of density and movement that are intimate to the understanding of people on the street. Collecting five signs during a single outing at one point seemed like a triumph. Towards the end of the month spent collecting the signs, I could collect over fifteen in a few hours.

In addition to discovering the city in a new way, the stories I uncovered were perhaps the most meaningful and memorable components of this process. Humor is often used in the creation of signs to draw attention to the person. Perhaps the most profound sign was that of a woman with no legs, whose sign read, “need a new pair of shoes.”

While most of the process was positive, one encounter demonstrated the harsh reality of living on the streets. My typical method was to simply approach someone and ask if they would be willing to sell their sign. I approached one young couple sitting next to a highway off-ramp. They had a two-year-old child and a baby in a stroller, and with a very large sign they were making a plea to passersby for assistance. I approached the father directly and asked if he would be willing to consider selling his sign. His reaction was one of confusion and agitation, and he asked me how I would dare to ask such a question. I explained that I meant no harm, but he aggressively sent me on my way. I felt so bad after this encounter, especially because I had a new baby about the same age as the one in the stroller, that I decided to return and offer them a donation — no questions asked.

When I came close, the mother and father were in a heavy conversation, and the young father turned to me and quickly said, “I thought you asked me if I would be willing to sell you my son.” I was shocked, not only by the miscommunication, but by the notion that such disgusting queries might not be uncommon in the streets.

One of the signs that was most photographed during the exhibition was one on which was written, “what does a homeless person look like,” and which had a mirror attached to it. Another sign had a cup attached to it, and read “spair change” [sic]. This sign was mounted near the door of the sukkah, and the cup was continually filled with money throughout the day.

Union Square Park, where the two-day exhibition took place, is “home” to much of Manhattan’s homeless population. A surreal moment occurred when two homeless gentlemen with signs began shouting at the large crowd admiring the Sukkah of the Signs. One of them stated that he was a “real” homeless person and not a “fake” like the sukkah they were viewing, and he demanded that contributions be made to his cause. I approached the young man, and he began to tell me the problems he had with the project, not knowing I was the author. I then explained to him the goals of the project and that I was involved it its making, and he became very enthusiastic and darted into the crowd with donation cup in hand, announcing to everyone the concepts behind the project. He remained at the sukkah throughout the day and admitted he did quite well that day.

Project Date: 2010

Project Team: Ronald Rael, Virginia San Fratello, Blane Hammerlund, Maricela Chan, Emily Licht

Fabrication: Karol Popek (Modelsmith International, Inc.)

Project Information: Sukkah City | Sukkah of the Signs News | The Homeless House | Out of 624 submissions from 43 countries, 12 winners were selected by a panel of distinguished architects, designers, and critics.

Acknowledgments: Bryan Allen, Steven Brummond, Maricela Chan, Scott Ewart, Alzbeta Jungrova, Blane Hammerlund, Rockne Hanish, Phil and Amber House, Emily Licht, Colleen Paz, Karol Popek and his crew, Lauren Rosenbloom, Randolph Ruiz, Adam Tilove, Jenny Trumble, and many others who offered advice and spread the word.