Think of a city at a given moment. Traffic jams mean most people are on the move towards work or returning home while both workspaces and living ones remain unused. During the day, suburbs and average neighborhoods stand almost empty. If one made a heat map of activities in the city, it would not be surprising to find that a big chunk of it (even a dense city) being blue, that is unused or perhaps more precisely latent, waiting for the users to activate it. Think when the last time was you used your great living room in your apartment, perhaps it remained unused 80 or 90% of the time last summer. The bathroom gets used for 15 min and then remains empty for the next 23 hours and 45 minutes until it is used again, not to mention the bedroom or the storage spaces. The story can go on to most functions of the housing block or the city. This reading would be irrelevant if space would be endless and the environment would be in perfect shape. However, it is not.
Humans consume and demand more and more space, so the answer given since time immemorial has been to compress the living quarters of those at the bottom of society to maximum levels and give to those at the top the sensation of power by space abundance. Density indeed has come with significant advantages; it has brought affordable dwelling to millions and with it transport access, infrastructure, schools and so on. However, the price tag of this has meant that families must live in fixed environments. Can we challenge this?
Now as new technology emerges, we are suddenly able to locate our position, and crucially for architecture, we are now able to manipulate our space from a distance. Software and architecture seem to be merging into one. At last, it seems plausible to rethink what density means and introduce a key factor to the equation that has been largely ignored: time.
With this we think that another conception of architecture is possible, an architecture that can provide what users need in real time, to then compress and transform into other functions when not needed to achieve maximum use. In an ideal scenario, we can immediately think that a city perhaps could shrink enormously if it only offers the space that real-time demands. Alternatively, one can think of keeping our current footprint, but instead of living in a fixed area we could ditch this concept of austerity and invent a new one where current use is what matters, space expands and compresses. Finally, a generous scenario would mean our cities could hold much more people than expected, perhaps double or triple our current densities.
Now perhaps one could say that if everyone goes to work at the same time and returns at the same time, there would be little space for improvement. That scenario is to be tested with real schedules of users. Gaps in time from the different schedule of neighbors would mean that space is available for usage. The best way to test this scenario would be to consider a contemporary context of users. In that sense, we arrive at a contemporary condition where x-pats, asylum seekers, home starters, students and so on share a common envelope, and everyone is on the move.
IPRO OnTheGo asks the team to design a prototype capable of accommodating the different needs of each of its temporary residents and maximize the space to arrive at new levels of both compression and expansion. We want to achieve this without sacrificing the specific requirements of its users, that is OnTheGo is a tailor-made house on the move!
So how can a housing block evolve, in real time, as newcomers arrive, and old comers depart, as users coincide for a few minutes in rush hours? Can we explore the potential of time gaps for expansion and compression? This IPRO project is interested in finding intelligent and innovative solutions for ever-changing environments and maximum customization within a highly constrained envelope. We will be searching for constructive solutions to facilitate real-time spatial transformations. Realist solutions will be part of the core of the proposal.
OnTheGo challenges the IPRO team to reflect on the problematic of maximum desires and pressing needs. What sort of organizing principle is needed to accomplish 100% adaptability in real time to ever-changing demands of temporary users? How can time be considered to use the maximum potential of space resources?
This IPRO project has two phases:
Phase 1. The Spaces: Spatial consequences of user desires
What spaces are used and when? Which spaces are seldom used? When do functions of the home become unused and hence unnecessary?
This phase aims to understand what the spatial requirements are when carrying out different activities of the home. What space is needed when cooking? Can we use Neuferts collection of standard housing components to define these special requirements? Alternatively, can we use motion tracking technology (Microsoft Kinect) to be more precise? Can this be called the ACTIVE SPACE; i.e., the minimum space required when these elements are in use?
How does each users space change in time?
How can we create a timeline for each user profile? What kind of usage patterns can we derive for each over the course of a 24hr day? What spaces are used and when? When do functions of the home become unused and hence unnecessary?
How can the ‘active space’ be compressed to a minimum when not in use?
How much needs to remain when a space is not in use? Can it disappear entirely or is there a minimum state for storage, appliances, and so on? Can this be called the PASSIVE SPACE; i.e., the minimum space required when these elements are not in use?
How can the ‘active space’ space be expanded to maximize specific desires?
What is required to turn each of those spaces into its most mind-blowing state? How many different configurations could the ‘active space’ be able to assume? Can this be called the DESIRED SPACE; i.e., the desired space that can be reached when these elements are in use?
Phase 2. The Technology: Facilitating Change
What is change made of?
The IPRO will research and test current and upcoming technologies regarding material possibilities for accelerating transformation. The research aims to find ultimate solutions beyond architecture, high and low tech can be incorporated. We aim for something exciting, yet buildable in the short future.
What common denominator/ structure hosts these transforming spaces? How do walls, ceilings, roofs, furniture, and pipes take form, and how do they facilitate this compression and expansion?
Final Studio Output
In the second phase, the students will choose a selection of technologies and will develop them further in detail with the intention of testing their changing capacity in a scale model. At least two transformation activities will accompany the selection of technologies. The scale of the model is to be defined, but it cannot be a static model.
References and bibliography
Ecosystems of Bits, Bytes, and Biology
By Keith Evan Green
Architecture of the Well-Tempered Environment
By Reyner Banham
The University of Chicago Press Books
Architecture or Techno-Utopia
Politics after Modernism
Ubiquitous Computing, Architecture, and the Future of Urban Space
Edited by Mark Shepard
Life in the Fully Adaptable Environment
By The Why Factory
Winy Maas, Ulf Hackauf, Adrien Ravon, Patrick Healy
ISBN: ISBN 978-94-6208-253-3
Nai 010 Press