Repair Manual for Architects

Drawing the Line, Daniel A. Barber, Places Journal:

Like much else — everything else? — in the modern era, architecture has been shaped by fossil fuels, by the materials, forms, and environments made possible by the extraction and combustion of coal, oil, and gas. Many iconic buildings of the 20th century deployed copious quantities of concrete, steel, and glass, and found expressive ways to conceal their energy-intensive mechanical systems. Indeed, it would be difficult to come up with a more carbon-hungry type of construction. Yet now we know with ever-increasingly clarity that these formally compelling structures, with their carefully conditioned interiors, are contributing to the climate crisis that is suddenly, it seems, impossible to ignore. The science is clear, the changes are happening now, the transition is upon us.

Architects know all this; we know there are more responsible ways to design, and to build, and there is fervent collective aspiration to do better. Still, the field struggles to achieve even half-measures. The profession is reluctant to disrupt practices that have long driven and defined the design disciplines, practices that reward creation not maintenance, novelty not repair. Reluctant to cross the line that would mark a decisive shift from our carbon-profligate past to a future in which the environments we design have a wholly different metabolism, a different relationship to energy and the countless ways in which it shapes, even controls, our society and our politics…

Today we are compelled to recognize that the historical importance of architecture lies not just in its cultural dynamism but also in the energy systems it has depended on, deployed, and facilitated. To put it plainly: in the modern era, buildings have been a primary means through which fossil fuels, once extracted from the earth, have been processed and made social, and then entered the atmosphere in the form of carbon emissions. Buildings regulate throughput; metabolize forces. Buildings are in essence processors of energy, from construction to occupation to demolition to decay. One imagines that a history of 20th-century architecture, perhaps written in 2050, will emphasize this carbon-processing capacity as much as (or more than) the debates over modernity and postmodernity, or the indulgent thrills of parametricism. The buildings that exist, the buildings we are designing now: all perpetuate the fossil fuel economy. Architecture can be understood as the cultural frame — an apologist, even — for this processing of fuel…

Drawing the Line, Daniel A. Barber, Places Journal. This is the first article in the series Repair Manual. Thanks to Milo.

Amish Hand-Demolish Building in Tennessee

Who to call when you need your building “hand-demolished”? To the general public, “Amish” often equates to handcrafted – meaning hand-milked cows, handmade quilts, hand-built furniture, and the like (whether that perception is always accurate is another question).

And in that spirit, one Tennessee city found that an Amish hands-on approach was exactly what they needed to remove a historic structure. The Clarksville Leaf-Chronicle reports that an Amish crew of workers has been deconstructing the city’s 140-year-old Hodgson/Dabbs building, brick-by-brick.

Read more: Amish Hand-Demolish Building in Tennessee, Amish America, June 27, 2019. Image by Henry Taylor for the Leaf Chronicle.

A World Made of Rotor Blades

public seating rotor blades close

Almost a quarter of a million windmills worldwide will need to be replaced by 2030. The rotor blades are made of valuable composite materials that are difficult to recover at the end of their energy generating life. New generation rotor blades made of glass or carbon fibre composite material have average lifespans of between 10 and 25 years. Recycling of glass fibre composite is possible though complex. Recycling of the more highly valued carbon fibre composite is currently impossible. In many EU countries landfill of carbon composites is now prohibited. Thus, many rotor blades at the end of their wind turbine life are currently shredded and incinerated. At current growth rates, by 2034, there will be about 225,000 tonnes of rotor blade composite material produced annually, worldwide.

The Dutch firm Superuse Studios has found a solution to the growing mountains of waste generated by the wind industry: making use of end-of-life rotor blades in design and architecture. The realised projects demonstrate the technical applications and potential for blade made designs and architecture. In their second life as design and architectural elements, rotor blades could be used for a further 50-100 years, or more. Blade made designs are durable, iconic, compete economically, and reduce the ecological footprint of projects in which they are used. [Read more…]

Repair is Beautiful

Paulo-goldstein-repair-beautiful“Brazilian, London-based designer, artist and all-around maker Paulo Goldstein has lended his model-making talents to such films as The Fantastic Mr. Fox and Frankenweenie, but after receiving a Master’s Degree in Industrial Design from Central Saint Martins in London, it appears he is opening a whole new chapter. His graduate project, called Repair is Beautiful focuses on repairing broken objects from a craftsperson’s eye.”

Via REculture.

The repair process of all objects (a chair, an anglepoise, headphones, an iPod) is explained step by step with photographs.

Harvesting Steel Wire

harvesting steel wire

“There is a huge need for construction materials, at the same time the planet everywhere is littered by millions of used car tires. A way has to be found for re-using the materials that car tires are made of: rubber and steel. Large scale processes for this are well known. At the smallest scale of use better methods of recuperation have to be developed.”

“Each car tire contains 70 meters of steel wire with a 1 mm cross section. When the properties of the composing parts of a used rubber tire are well understood, then the practice of recuperation can be adapted to it.” Illustrated manual at Demotech.