Reactive Architectures and Responsive Technologies: working from the worst case scenario.

Reactive Architectures and Responsive Technologies: working from the worst case scenario. By: Gonzalo Carrasco Purull + Pedro Livni.


The worst case scenario.

So far this year the world has undergone a process of acceleration in which processes that previously required 5 to 10 years to develop, now can be completed in the span of weeks or days. Acceleration processes are constantly changing priorities and hierarchies of society. A world built primarily by uncertainties than certainties. A world pursue an agenda in a gaseous state. Shaped by events rather than facts based on contingencies rather than on principles.

It is within this changing scene and acceleration, where the disaster has had a leading role. On the one hand, riots in the Maghreb and the subsequent civil war in Libya have been a refugee migration on this scale, which has triggered a humanitarian crisis. Moreover, the earthquake and tsunami in Japan last March produced disastrous consequences in priority areas such as housing and basic services, this in the midst of one of the most developed societies in the world. Furthermore, recent natural disasters such as storms, hurricanes and volcanic eruptions, have tested the nations of the world, highlighting the precarious nature of societies in which it was assumed that the main needs were covered.

Thus the question arises what happens to the architecture in front of a stage dominated by uncertainty? Can we continue to support a discipline based on principles or assumptions made about the architecture? Will the impending disaster to change the priorities, criteria and means which enable the architecture? Can this change of status?

Safe in 24 hours, just add water.

Find a safe haven to be safe in the midst of a disaster can be a decision that can make the difference between life and death. Allowing easy transportation on time to the disaster zone, easy installation that does not require skilled labor, and means that enable a secure environment for life, are some key features that are looking at architectures post-disaster. This is the challenge raised graduate students Peter Brewin and Will Crawford, under the course of Industrial Design Engineering Mechanical Engineering Department and the Department of Industrial Design Engineering at Imperial College London.

Developed over 10 years, the «Concrete Canvas Shelter» ( ) is a shelter designed to provide a safe environment in the early hours following a disaster. Constructed from a fabric with hydraulic properties – which forge 24 hours after wetting – the «Concrete Canvas Shelter» (CCS) needs only two people for installation. After removed from its packaging, the CCS is inflated to take the form of a tent. Later on its outer face wet with water of any kind, be it drinking contaminated or sea. After 24 hours, the fabric acquires resistance and impermeability of the concrete itself, making CCS a haven of excellent characteristics for harsh environments.

The main component of CCS is the fabric that surrounds it, the Concrete Cloth (CC). A cement-impregnated fabric, which one after the cement sets provides a thin layer of fire-proof, water and impacts. The CC is manufactured in rolls of 1.0 and 1.1 meters wide and 200 feet long. Its thickness ranges from 5 mm, 8 mm and 13 mm.

While CCS may seem at first sight an example of inflatable architecture, its behavior after the CC is moist rather makes it concrete building designated as inflatable. Concrete Canvas Co. currently produces the CCS in two sizes: 25 square meters and 54 square meters, modules can also be connected in a row, expanding the areas available.

However, despite how advantageous it would be the CCS as a solution for the field work of many humanitarian NGOs, the CCS is still a very expensive device, with its price of about $ 16,000 per unit. What it has done so far, mainly a more suitable solution to the military rather than civil.

Clean and pure, everywhere.

According to the data used by UNICEF in 2008, 884 million people worldwide have consumed water extracted from non-potable sources, a figure that 37% of this corresponds to the population living in sub- Sahara.
The consumption of unsafe water results in various diseases, many of which are fatal in nature. Globally this means that one of every nine children die in the world, die from diarrhea. That is, an amount equivalent to about 1.5 million per year. A type of death in children that according to the report of the 2009 UNESCO is higher than the total number of children killed by AIDS, malaria and measles, all combined. Human losses are also accompanied by significant economic losses result of absenteeism, just in developing countries.

To these figures must be added the fact that globally 43% of the world’s population is connected to a network home drinking water. It is within this scenario that the company Vestergaard Frandsen ( ) has developed the personal water purifier «LifeStraw» product that has a size similar to a pen and a weight of about 100 grams. To operate the color enough LifeStraw only one end into the source of water and suck on the other end. The water first passes through a filter that removes bacteria iodine and another of activated carbon to improve taste. The LifeStraw removes 99.99% of bacteria and 98.5% of the virus, and blocking the passage of particles up to a size of 15 microns. However, the LifeStraw has the limitation that is not able to eliminate the presence of harmful heavy metals such as arsenic and lead, which can cause serious illness if consumed in large quantities.

Each unit has a capacity LifeStraw staff to purify about 700 gallons of water. Vestergaard Frandsen A capacity has been expanded through the production of family-size LifeStraw equipment capable of purifying up to 18,000 liters of water, enough to provide clean water to an average family of five members for a period of three years.

Vestergaard Frandsen PermaNet ® has also developed an anti-mosquito mesh that maintains its insecticidal properties for years, but this is washed several times. Characteristics that make an ideal barrier PermaNet ® for the prevention of diseases such as malaria, dengue, Chagas and elephantiasis.

Waste is the business.

Today in the world, about 2,500 million people lack access to a bathroom. This fact has the consequences of pollution of rivers and roads. A problem is usually solved through the use of poor latrines, which – and as a result of the poor conditions of hygiene that work – raises serious diseases such as cholera and diarrhea. Even memory is the recent epidemic of cholera that ravaged the population of Haiti, costing the lives of 1.6 million children. Derived from diseases almost all the health problems caused by deficiencies in access to sanitary ware. This implies a global scale, the loss of an average of 60 working days a year off work for millions of people worldwide.

What these numbers show is a situation of incredible global technology gap for the 21 st Century society. Situation which led to a group of MIT faculty and students to question whether these conditions can be reversed. Thus was born the project SANergy ( ), an initiative which had as its first action in the field to know the dimension of the problem. This is how a group of students from MIT in January 2010 he traveled to Kenya, where – in collaboration with the University of Nairobi – which were dug into the factors affecting the availability and health conditions of health services.

This is how the project model created consists of three parts: 1) creating a network of sanitation facilities leased to low-cost working in the slums, 2) the collection of waste, and 3) processing and electricity and fertilizer.

The sanitation facilities include access to both toilets and showers. The bathrooms are built using a very thin concrete frame, equipment which had an initial cost of $ 500, cost has now been reduced to reach U.S. $ 150 per unit. Unlike of the latrines and septic tanks in SANergy artifacts buried waste is not, therefore eliminating the risk of contamination of groundwater. Waste is accumulated in a sealed plastic containers with a maximum capacity of 30 liters, equivalent to be used about 100 times a day. These containers are retrieved daily and replaced with clean, empty ponds, using a collection service formed by residents of the community, at a cost of operation of $ 0.06 per day.

Waste is then transported to plants where it is converted into biogas, which comes into operation generators that produce electricity. The collected waste generated daily for each bathroom fitted earnings of U.S. $ 1,250 per year. This means that waste of 10 million units, can generate total revenue of about $ 178 million a year. They already have installed 6,000 of these teams, most in the population of Kibera, the largest slum in Kenya.

Today SANergy team – the winning of the prestigious international contest of the MIT 100K business – is solving other factors of the health problems in developing countries, such as improved cleaning processes traditional latrines . Challenge which developed the prototype P4, mobile cleaner is a pump that is operated by the action of a bicycle. Service mobility and function are solved and a solution.

Health inflatable.

Disasters do not discriminate on the type of building you destroy, when everything comes down, homes, schools and hospitals face the same fate. And along with the ensuing disaster humanitarian crisis, a problem that becomes even more critical if the network has disappeared from hospitals in a region.

It is this situation that the NGO Medecins sans Frontieres ( ) has faced many times. That is why for nearly six years has been developing a type of inflatable hospitals that can be enabled as soon as 48 hours. These units – which are shaped like huge tents – a surface of about 100 square meters. Air circulates within the tubes inside the walls and roof of the tent, pressure becomes stable the entire structure, which can withstand winds of up to 100 kilometers per hour. These tubes are constructed with the same fabric used to construct inflatable boats, which ensures both its resistance to air pressure, and tightness. On this structure of pillars and beams installed inflatable nylon membrane, which serves as a finish for walls and roofs. The thickness of these walls once completed is 0.46 meters. The basic module can hold inside two operating rooms and post-operative room of 12 beds. Each unit has its own decontamination area, which ensures the necessary sterile conditions.

The first time that MSF was first used inflatable hospital, was in November 2005 to mark the Pakistan earthquake ( ). MSF occasion where installed in the town of Mansehra hospital of 1000 square meters, can accommodate 120 beds by nine inflatable tents. The structure was further provided with four operating rooms, emergency room and intensive care unit facilities, which address some 700 victims of the earthquake. Since that time, MSF has continued to use this type of solution for field work: Indonesia and southern Sudan in 2006, Yemen and the Democratic Republic of Congo in 2008, and Gaza, and Sri Lanka in 2009, have been some scenarios where hospitals have served inflatable.

Architecture for people, not spaces.

About a month ago, Cameron Sinclair was appointed as adviser to the Obama administration, through the Advisory Committee on Voluntary Foreign Aid (ACVFA) member agency of the United States Agency for International Development (USAID). A fact that has made a strong signal about the role assigned to the future of architecture President the most powerful country in the world.

Cameron Sinclair (London, 1973) founded the organization 12 years ago «Architecture for Humanity» ( ). Founded with a capital of U.S. $ 700 today, «Architecture for Humanity, an annual budget of $ 5 million, which makes it one of the architectural initiatives social impact on the planet.

Trained as an architect at the University of Westminster and studied at the Bartlett School of Architecture and University College London, Sinclair has received numerous awards for their work on Architecture for Humanity, most notably within the TED Prize 2006 ( ), National Design Award presented by the Cooper Hewitt National Design Museum in 2008 and have been included in Fortune magazine’s list made in 2004 of seven people that will help make the planet better.

Cameron Sinclair’s philosophy can be summed up in his aphorism «architecture for people, not places,» which can be translated as a change in the objectives of the architecture. A change that happens to reallocate where efforts are placed: in the design of the building or the people it serves architecture. For this reason, Cameron Sinclair has worked in the care of victims of major disasters in recent years.

What differentiates Architecture for Humanity of other NGOs, is its system of organization and administration. Which is mainly characterized by decentralization of knowledge, which makes Architecture for Humanity more than an organization with local chapters, a global network. With 70 working groups worldwide and nearly 4,500 members, Architecture for Humanity takes itself relocation of computer networks to hire local professionals to address high-impact social projects, mainly working in collaboration with communities in poverty.

All project documents are available to any person, a transparency feature that seeks to create synergies among members to share information, knowledge and ideas. The platform for achieving this is the Open Architecture Network ( ), where you can share ideas, designs and plans, view and review the designs submitted by others, collaborating with other professionals and community leaders , managing design projects from conception to execution, as well as easily communicate among its members.

Reactive architectures and technology responsibly.

The architecture at least since the Renaissance has been working for the project with the physical reality of the work, as well as their representations. Comply only with the response to a feature of the architecture used to simple construction. Architecture while fulfilling a utilitarian purpose, was considered primarily as art.

Although Immanuel Kant and the architecture was relegated into the category of «utilitarian art» modern architecture never left at all times even in its most radical the idea that architecture is essentially a plastic made.

What brings catastrophe to the architecture in contrast, is a reconfiguration of the scope of this, where what matters is primarily the ability to respond to a specific contingency. An architecture where all media are at the service of highly defined objectives. Providing a safe haven anywhere, can enable a hospital in hours, provide drinking water to a population, or improve living conditions in developing countries are some of the objectives with which it works a part of the discipline today.

This post-humanist architecture, that aims to create a language or the construction of a story or narrative, but is directed towards a pure purpose, can be grouped under the category of «reactive architecture.» An architecture in which the meaning is suspended while it is replaced by the collaboration of a media that knows little. An architecture where the same project idea are overwritten, thus broadening the field of work. An architecture for which the design rather than composition (ars combinatorial ) is the conceptualization of an idea. A process that approaches the architecture to the work of a publicist, an engineer or an entrepreneur.

To deliver the best possible solution is that any reactive architecture needs above all the power to clearly define the problem to solve, and be aware of available resources. Condition that requires the architect reagent can read better than anyone the time and the society from which he works.

The reactive architecture is not intended to build an ideal state, which makes non-utopian deeply. Is managed from the existing possibilities, which makes it more range, a field that is an idealization. Your time is the immediate present, pure contingency, immanence rather than transcendence. Feature that makes it an open and loosely hierarchical. Anyone can make and use the reactive architecture. No such thing as a model citizen, a noble savage or a man destined to inhabit this new architecture.

Poorly reactive architecture is the object, although many times is the size of an artifact. Not meant to be photogenic, or framed within a tradition. Is strongly present and therefore weakly resists time. Not age, it becomes obsolete nothing else. Its nature is the prototype.

To make this type of architecture, the architect reagent needed to produce or choose a particular kind of technology, which can be grouped under the term responsive technologies. These are characterized by being strongly linked with a finality. Although much of this technology could have been designed for other purposes, responsive technology works from the relocation. Served according to the possibilities and opportunities. One day we can see her perform in a meeting a goal, then used elsewhere appear and adopting a new way. Responsive technology looks to be always available, always on hand. Its effectiveness is measured by its massiveness, not exclusivity. Its technological opposite would be the I-Pod, I-Phone and I-Pad. Share hence the anonymity of the first technologies. Accepts hybridization, combined with other technologies. To work from as possible, always seeks responsive technology to be cheaper. Its strength is the reproducibility at low cost.

Architecture both reactive and responsive technologies are activated by the imminence of the catastrophe. It is with the disaster in which these technologies are completed. They consist of objects that are pure instrumentality, without the possibility to sustain any kind of narrative.

This type of architectures and technologies are those that bring us disasters, disasters that seem very far from leaving us. Despite this, if there is anything that characterizes both reagents as architects who work with responsive technologies, is its strong optimism. Optimism based on the certainty that you are working from the worst case scenario to help build the best possible world. VKPK.


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