Fall 2020

ARC 561R / ARC 696 / Studio Topic:

Dense Cities are the best and simplest response towards a sustainable and vibrant living environment. Building cities dense is a simple recipe to reduce costs for infrastructures, or the need for energy and material. Dense cities are more affordable not only by the capabilities to share resources through proximities but by enabling extra places, becoming the educational, cultural, or economic hubs through density alone.
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A straightforward argument opposes all arguments towards dense cities: the desire for free space. Suburbia is the city's counterpart by providing the one extra experience: individual green for everyone. During the last months, the public, urban life shifted into the private sphere, the home. The inexcusable precarities challenge the city. It requires pro-actively to re-architect how a city provides free space. Future architecture requires more diversity of public, semi-public, quarter-private, beyond the scale of assemblies, a whole range of grains for small groups, for individuals.
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The drop in prices for high-rise estates accuses above all the architecture of building an enclosed interior between streets but without extra free space. The binary confrontation between an enclosed program and infrastructure has led to modern cities consisting almost exclusively of space-dividing materials: concrete, walls, and glass. Like an aftereffect, green is applied additive, after the design of a conventional building, and unlike a staircase, not a driving ingredient in its figuration. Fragmented and dispersed, urban free spaces miss continuity. Landscapes are ecologies and can just thrive by being intertwined, entangled, and connected.
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The momentum towards green enables numerous new technologies and initiatives to the point where new green building typologies become viable. Beyond the economic promises of vertical farming, its underpinning technologies provide lightweight solutions to integrate large-scale ecologies into vertical structures. Today, cities pro-actively promote, incent, and foster green space in cities. However, cities beyond a specific density can just add a green, as, e.g., roof, terrace, or balcony, to their existing building masses. Austin has a definite advantage here. Austin is one of the greenest cities to the number of its inhabitants, simply because it is not densely urbanized. Can we build denser buildings with an equal share of green space? Can Austin become the first city that is green and dense, that is green and affordable because it needs less material, energy, or infrastructure? Which is livable because of open space so vibrant that it will become a hub, a park, a market, a school, an auditorium, a range of grains that we so desperately require?   
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In contrast to the Add-On, we will think of free spaces from the exterior. As parks, like gardens, as an additional building part of an interior, it prefigures. What can it impose on the way we inhabit, work, and play with it? Projected and cast by many, such free spaces are multidimensional, situated between the scale of flats of buildings, 3Dimensional caves (canyons) between the parts. Like a poche space, it has the pockets to enter. Like a shelter, affordable living drives its formation.
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Enabling thinking, green offers a paradigm shift from mechanical to ecological ontologies. Driving a new generation of construction software, design shifts from BIM/ data logistics towards interactive, biological inspired real-time design. Parallel to the rise of the sharing economy, real-time design shifts from functional assignments, space as containing assets towards participatory performance. Here, continuity translates to the possibilities of exchange and interaction by merging geometry with autonomous behavior through simulation techniques. In contrast to the additive and subsequent steps of modernistic design, differentiating in additive steps between drawing, planning, building, living, we will design real-time, simulated, but integrated. We will arrange, construct, layer, nest, group living, housing, working, walking, dining, trading, by shifting, sharing, merging spatialities.
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