April 30, 2019


Our each collection is based on a certain theme, that was proposed by a person who we started the collection with. Based on those themes we will publish posts in various formats that explore the given topic in depth. Each post is a dive into unknown and is open for contribution from your side.

The current digest is made as a part of Skyscraper collection that was started by Olya

Architecture, as any other field of work, is a reflection of our conditions in the world and is highly influenced by technology. Today it focuses on creating a building that is more in tune with its surroundings (whether it’s nature or a community) and is affected not just by construction and material technologies but also the digital ones. We will start with a few examples that were affected by blockchain.

DOMA is a blockchain-based platform, for networked home ownership and distributed well-being.

By making a monthly payment, which decreases over time, the platform’s users gain equity shares within the network of homes, rather than owning a certain real estate property. This allows people to move between network-owned houses easily without the need to actually buy new property.

Instead of relying on banks and mortgages Doma offers a way that relies on a network of people and places.

Financial and legal operations use smart contracts — blockchain-based protocols that facilitate and record all the interactions between the users and the platform.

Who: Maksym Rokhmaniko, Melissa Frost, Enrico Zago.

More details here.

REAL foundation (Real Estate Architecture Laboratory) promote higher levels of wealth and spatial and civic equality.

Around nine years ago a London-based architectural practice offered some projects that are still relevant today. One of them, The Ingot, was not started as a building but a long-term financial algorithm designed to create social housing in the most expensive parts of the city:

The idea was to replace the standard 20-year mortgage with a term of 80 or 100 years, which would lower rent by distributing the cost of the building over a much longer timespan. It would also take the property out of the short term property market entirely and build up a high return on investment over time.

Jack Self, the principal of REAL Foundation.

As Jack mentioned in the interview to Consortia this idea led to a system in which residents themselves could start to accrue equity in the building, so they might be able to buy shares, for example. Which creates a stronger incentive for communal stewardship of a sustainable place to live.

A more recent project Glass House is a collectively owned housing block. A co-sharing space where there is no circulation space within the plan. All the rooms lead directly into each other, including the lift, the stair, and the elevator. 

It is, in a way, similar to modern cities where you are not completely cut out from public spaces after you entered your home and closed your front door. The whole building is like a gradation of publicness and privateness. 

However, when talking about sharing economy, Jack Self states that we should be careful with it. Even though it is presented as decentralised, network with a more fair distribution of resources, essentially it is still a traditional corporate model that exploits latent values of our cities and personal objects. 

Who: Jack Self.

More details: REAL’s website032c interview with Jack SelfReal Review magazine.

The above mentioned projects are partly focused on redesigning the existing financial patterns of ownership. The following ones connect house with other available services and industries to redesign the usual physicality of it.

House Vision’s participants explore how can modern technologies be used to better our houses.

Kenya Hara is a Japanese designer who started from studying linguistics. Hara expresses that in ever changing context things do not adjust to it that quickly so the role of a designer is to visualise the essence of things. And as a consequence — to visualise the hidden possibilities of industry.

He is known not just for being Japan House general producer and MUJI’s art director but also for organising design exhibitions, which include: Re-Design: The Daily Products of the 21st Century; HAPTIC–Awakening the Senses and the one we are going to focus on here House Vision, in which various architects were asked to use the technologies and conditions of the 21st century to elevate the essence of what we call a house.

There were already three iterations. The latest one happened in Beijing but it’s the second one that was in Tokyo that seemed more close to the ground and relevant even to today. 

Redesigning door-to-door delivery, Fumie Shibata with help of Yamato Holdings (one of the largest Japanese door-to-door delivery services), thought of a system where deliveries are made from refrigerator to refrigerator, allowing a specific kind of product to be delivered directly to your house without the need to be at home at the moment.

House's refrigerator was built in into the outer wall, next to the front door. Today's Internet of Things is already on the needed level to support that.

A different kind of narrative was born through a collaboration between the architect Go Hasegawa and Airbnb. Where usually it’s a person who’s a host, in this case it’s a community of Yoshino town in Nara Prefecture.

The first floor of this house is opened up to the townspeople as a community space — for free use. Mothers can let children play while enjoying a chat, and the elderly can stop by on their walk for a cup of tea. The gable-roofed loft on the second floor is space provided for accommodating outside guests.

Who: Kenya HaraFumie ShibataGo Hasegawa.

More details: House Vision 2House Vision 3.

‘Ma’ in Mediatheque.

Japan despite its technological advancement in the past years, has not retracted from all of its traditions. And Japanese architecture at its core still shows loyalty to what it has developed in the past. 

Knowledge from the past, contrasted with today’s technology, is usually seen obsolete or unnecessary. When in reality it is often what is needed to bring balance to the unsteadiness of intensified present. 

There’s a certain mindset of intermediacy, called ‘ma’, that reconciles the things that seem to be opposites. Usually, in houses, it is manifested in engava — a gallery that surrounds a house, following its perimeter.

A more modern example of engava's essence is subtly present in Toyo Ito’s Mediatheque — a seven story building, where each floor is beaded with large ‘tubes’ where light can enter the building, and covered with all-glass walls. 

The whole building is speaking ‘transparency’ on various levels. Outer walls on the first floor can be folded so the building can become a part of the street. Inner walls on all floors can be easily moved or folded as well. 

The facade of the building acts like a human skin — during summer upper and lower mechanism are left open to generate an ascending stream of air inside the doubled skin, so the walls are cooled and there’s a need for less air-conditioning. In winter the openings are closed creating the heat insulation.

Who: Toyo Ito.

More details: Toyo Ito’s lecture at Harvard GSD.

Wiki House — Custom Design Precision Manufactoring.

Wiki House is building a possibility in which a person can design a house according to needed site and all needed manufacturing materials will be fabricated by a one of the local workshops in the project’s network.

All pre-designed houses' designs, which can be adjusted to your own needs, are available at Wiki House library (for now there’s just one available, but you can submit your own for its reviewal by Wiki House team).

All components are designed according to WREN system, that means that they are CNC manufactured using structural-grade timber panel materials (typically, plywood) and can be rapidly assembled by a person without any formal construction skills.

Who: Alastair Parvin, Aaron Gillett, Helen Lawrence, Clayton Prest, John Rees, Justyna Swat.

More details: Wiki House.

The last project we would like to mention here does not have much information in public access, but the reason we will be following it is because there’s one particular person involved in it — Vadik Marmeladov. This is a person with a particular view on design who made Lapka (environmental sensor devices powered by style, taste and beauty) and LOT 2046 (subscription-based service which distributes clothes and much more).

He is a part of Kanye West’s team that state to build affordable social housing based on prefabricated materials. While some project’s details, like using concrete, seem to go against main project’s purpose and today’s context we are still interested in seeing more details of the project.

Who: Petra Kustrin, Nejc Skufca, Vadik Marmeladov, Kanye West. 

More details: Dezeen article.

Build an entire city in order to make love there with only one girl for a few days” - Guy Debord.

Some interesting web findings to round this up: 

  • Cortney Cassidy’s collection of screenshots of Instagram stories that feature people’s houses. 
  • Laurel Schwulst’s collection of homes that are rented on Airbnb. “The Airbnb experience is supposed to be about real people and authenticity, but so many of them were similar, whether in Brooklyn, Osaka, Rio de Janeiro, Seoul, or Santiago”, Schwulst says.
  • Ivan Chtcheglov’s formulary for a new urbanism. Even though formulated in 20th century, Ivan’s observations on social and architectural situations are still relevant today. He is offering to drop the stiffness of the mind and to see that the seeming human’s independence from the cosmos is a dangerous illusion.
  • Bruno Latour’s material about what is design (“to draw things together”) and how there’s actually no means to support it. Even today.

In the next Architecture post we will be focusing more on the visual aspect of architecture and what makes a space feel cozy.