A massive change of scale has taken place in Fukushima. Before the 11th March 2011, Fukushima was a quiet land of rice farmers and fishermen. If you type ‘Fukushima prefecture’ in Wikipedia, you will barely find any information of this area before 2011. Does this mean it did not exist before? Of course not. Before the nuclear meltdown, Fukushima belonged to the people that lived in it. Now, Fukushima belongs to the world, as this catastrophe affects us all.
A clear image of Fukushima has been created in everyone’s mind. When we say that name we immediately see the power plant’s chimneys with white smoke coming out of them. But even though this image is so clear, the real knowledge of Fukushima and the nuclear crisis in more like a blurred cloud. Self-contradictory information is everywhere and official and reliable sources are very difficult to find. Therefore nobody can really know what is really going on in Fukushima. Or at least nobody that has not been there.
In Fukushima prefecture, time seems to have frozen after March 2011. Just nature continues to grow slowly over the abandoned cities. These razed cities are completely isolated. No services nor transportation is available any more. Curious wander around the ruins while researchers confine themselves in shelters while locals wonder how they will recover their cities back. A very awkward atmosphere can be felt, marked by the invisible sign of radioactivity.
The network of relations and connections that define reality has been broken. The physical connections, with the implementation of border lines that define territories. The physiological relations, between the people and their home land. The productive chains, now stopped as the ground is polluted. Entire communities have been split apart and now people are only individuals and the actions they take to get over the tragedy is minimized.
An architecture for renovating Fukushima must be an architecture of networks. Understanding architecture as the sum of variable networks, assuming the physical and virtual complexity of our world and therefore re-thinking the way we understand our cities, the people that live them and the relation between this two factors is vital to comprehend reality and hence be capable of acting on and improving the cities we live in. Architecture has always been a response to its context, not only to the physical conditions given by its location but also to the socio-cultural context wherever it appears.
The background of this project is focused on the recovery of the broken communication among the different towns along Fukushima prefecture’s shore line such as Tomioka, Ono, Futaba or Namie. The JR Jōban Line used to connect all these villages, but it was damaged by the tsunami and has not been reconstructed yet. The train line has proven to be inefficient in terms of resisting a tsunami as it was very close to the shore line. The traces of the rails are kept but the transportation system changes. After an deep research in urban transportation systems, a suspended cable car proves to be the most efficient in terms of tsunami prevention as well as the speed/capacity relation. Moreover, this system requires an easy-construction infrastructure far cheaper than others.
Along this “high-line”, the stations appear as growing structures elevated from the ground level. These stations would not only be stations, but would also act as reactivation centers for the Fukushima shore line. The program works as an organic structure that grows in time as the needs in the different locations change. Against multifunctional spaces, very specific preexisting programs are chosen to be implemented in this area, covering the productive, industrial and service sectors. Furthermore, a series of transversal activities, related to the cultural development, are also implemented.
Having chosen the programs, they are assigned a code to work with them in an abstract way. To define the physical and virtual relations among this enormous variety, the codes are ordered by diagramatic combination around ten main concepts which are believed to be essential for the recovery of this area: forget, exchange, interact, redefine, grow, reactivate, train, experiment, investigate and remember; and also to the kind of users they are thought for: researchers, tourists or locals. This is how the growing shape of the structure is defined, generating very interesting situations by overlaying and juxtaposing extremely different programs for different kind of users that surprisingly combine with each other in this complex shape.
The building is no longer conceived as a building but as the materialization of physical and virtual networks shaped in a changing structure that combines locals with tourists and researchers to regenerate the pre-existing communities and stimulate new interrelations based in the changing situation of Fukushima.
Reactivating capsules for unstable urban contexts: from Manhattan to Tokyo.
Architectural Design V - UNIT Blanca Lleó
Summer 2013 - ETSAM School of Architecture
Published in 2013 in the book 'Juegos de Equilibrio'
This project was developed during the course ‘In motion surroundings’ as part of the program ‘Games of equilibrium’ developed by Blanca Lleó’s design unit at ETSAM School of Architecture.
Given the swing as object of analysis, two families of movements were studied through it. First of all, the intrinsic movement of the swing itself, the one that the user does to activate the action of swinging. This movement is generated by the variation of the relative position of two points: head and feet. Then, the extrinsic movement of the swing, which would combine all the exterior forces that directly affect to the movement of the swing, such as the Coriolis effect, although they are sometimes imperceptible.
This second family of movements opened a deeper question into the concept of swings: weightlessness. The design process was developed by a series of “artifacts” produced as a result of the previous analysis, experimenting with the concept of gravity and searching for chained movements that would alter relative positions of small pieces or objects.
All of these movements in models and artifacts were mapped and drawn so as to get an approximation to a possible architectural view. Multiple scales were tested, from a furniture-object scale to an outer space satellite structure, but always keeping same principles in mind.
Finally, in a more accurate approach to the precise scale and function of this architecture, the ‘Reactivating capsules for unstable urban contexts’ were developed.
Traditional cities all over the world tend to expand horizontally, and in places such as New York or Tokyo, the private ground is far larger that the public ground. But as we start moving upwards from the ground level the city starts to fluff, leading to a gradual fading of the borders of the city itself. And it is here where extremely interesting interstitial and unstable spaces appear.
These unstable spaces have never been considered as a matter of design, treated as leftovers from the buildings that conform the city itself. It is where pigeons live, where the cloth lines are, the air conditioners blow or the chimneys cough. But it is also where the relation among buildings happened. Where we can see our neighbors from the other side of the street living their lives.
These capsules would create a multi connected network of public spaces suspended over the city. They could be attached to the actual façades of the preexisting buildings as well as move from one building to another. A new real and physical network of uplifted public spaces would be established, besides the ground level, that would provide a completely new vision of our cities. We will not see our cities from the ground or from the safety of our buildings anymore. We will experience our cities inwards, from their inside.
Inside of these capsules we feel inside of an infinite network, even though the capsules are physically isolated one from the other. It is its transparent membrane skin and its tensegrity structure what lets us see through and loose the perception of the space limits. The capsules are not conceived as spacial units, but defined by all the possible connections -visually, physically and virtually- with their surrounding environment and the other elements that conform this system.
'Matrioska into matrioska' by Gadea Burgaz, Paloma de la Quintana, Jorge Suárez-Quiñones & Diego Iglesias Gómez
Finalist proposal in the international competition ‘Art Ovrag 2013: balancing pavilion’.
Exhibited at Vyksa Museum and at the State Museum of Architecture named after Schusev - Moscow, Russia.
Understanding, comprehending and deeping into the concept of матрешка -matrioska- and all its possible meanings.
As an architectural concept, itineraries and spaces would be generated between layers, introducing the concept “matrioska-space-type” in section as well as in plan. Culturally, matrioskas understood as a recognizable and universal image of the Russian cultural folklore, a link between Russia and the rest of the world, a cultural sign of identity. From the handmade traditional matrioskas to the current serial production, thinking about the unique artistic creation besides the massive consumption product. In terms of materiality, matrioskas would be perceived as objects with own inner qualities: how much they weigh, what material are they made from, the sound they produce when they crash, how light passes through them, what shades appear, how they smell…
This pavilion would be an interactive experience where people would touch matrioskas, watch them above themselves, lye under a nebula of matrioskas, tiptoeing to reach them… A vision of this object as nobody has ever experienced before, creating a deep interest that exceeds architecture and extends to an endless number of knowledge fields.
Step #01: the structure of the pavilion consists of a series of welded steel arches made of concrete reinforcement bars so as to generate a direct relation with the metallurgical origin of the city of Vyksa. The plan of the pavilion generates a free 30 m2 space and its shape can be adapted to the different needs of the possible locations where it might be placed.
Step #02: using this solid structure as the main support, a thread net substructure is created, much more flexible and sensitive to wind changes and atmospherical changes. This substructure would also change every time the pavilion is built and would depend of the choices of the builders.
Step #03: given this main structure, different sized matrioshkas would be given to Vyksa citizens and visiting artists so that everybody could participate in the pavilion’s construction process, creating a participative atmosphere in which every particular decision would be essential in the final image of this architecture proposal.
There is not only the impression that this space generates to the visitors but also the participation and involvement of the visitors in the creation of new meanings that will last in time as well as in space. Therefore, the pavilion would be the sum of small decisions made by every visitor appearing a whole range of intermediate situations depending on an infinite amount of changing factors such as the activity taking place in the pavilion, the number of visitors and the time they stay and so on.
Connection network for a disconnected urban context: ‘Plaza de España’, Madrid
Architectural Design IV - UNIT Alberto Campo Baeza
Winter 2012 - ETSAM School of Architecture
Published in 2013 at the book 'Establecer el Orden del Espacio'
The origin of the Plaza de España in Madrid gets back to 1950s, conceived to be the new modern core of the city, where the highest buildings –the Tower Madrid and the Spain Building– were built. But due to a set of facts, this aim was not achieved and, nowadays, most of the buildings in this plaza are partially or totally empty and it has not become relevant in the city’s urban structure.
Between the Royal Palace and the Debod Temple gardens, the location of this huge public space in Madrid’s urban context is very interesting. The first aim of the proposal is to improve the connection (physical and visual) between these two green areas. The masterplan includes the design of a multifunctional building conceived as a pile of suspended pedestrian and traffic public-access bridges that wind around the edge of the actual Ferraz Street.
The design responds to the physical landscape of the site and the floor plan is conceived as a landscape park enhancing the public realm with easier walk-by connections. The first level bridge corresponds to the Ferraz Street, which rises to let people walk freely beneath it. Over this first bridge, a pile of public-access bridges and platforms are suspended and its shapes adapt to the surrounding context.
The building is conceived as an infrastructure that provides the city and the users basic support to settle temporary substructures as amenities-packs over the platforms, but always leaving some free-access space so as not to interrupt the generated physical connections.