City of Sound is about cities, design, architecture, music, media, politics and more. Written by Dan Hill since 2001.

Visited the excellent Cedric Price show at Design Museum yesterday and more to follow on that, but with a happy coincidence the first few pages of August's Architectural Review have an appropriately adaptive edge to them. On the one hand, they note the excellent caterpillar-like Hugh Broughton/Faber Maunsell Halley research station for the British Antartic Survey, which has had plenty of coverage elsewhere.


And then news that Frankfurt airport have chosen Frankfurt architect Christoph Mäckler to design their new Terminal 3, with a scheme nicknamed the 'Growing Beetle'. Whilst some of the text on Mäckler's competition entry reminds me of the inimitable, overwrought commentary of Roy Mallard in hilarious BBC pretend-documentary People Like Us – "The modern international airport has all the functions of a major city such banks, shops, bars … even its own fully-functioning airport" – there are hugely encouraging, progressive thoughts regarding the concepts behind the project:

"Airports are … are huge machines, permanently changing, growing or even shrinking. Their primary task is to distribute streams of people and baggages as quickly as possible. Today, the airport has become a city of its own right. However, differently than the buildings within the city, the airport is a solitaire … It needs to be possible that the complete infrastructure, the piers, gates, retail surfaces, baggage systems, lifts, staircases, moving sidewalks and passenger bridges can be transformed or added on to without major disruptions while the airport is in full function. Therefore the concept for the new Terminal 3 is based on an extremely flexible, modular system, a modular order of the building elements – as developed by functionalism. Out of this systematic approach grows the beauty in simplicity – similar to the builders of nature. The beauty in nature is timeless and has a self-evidence, because biological structures never develop for a pure end in itself but always out of necessity The terminal 3 has the form of a beetle. It has a head, a neck and a body with legs. These three parts – the hall, the security building and the piers with the central market – are clearly divided and their dimensions correspond to their functions."

"The entrance hall – portal to the world – is conceived as a huge, transparent structure … with its clear spacial order offers not only orientation to the passengers but also a very special sensation of space. Most of all, it garantees, that future changes can easily be performed. As all building parts of the terminal, also the roof with its lightlessness is not only pure form but foremost a hollow space, offering a place for all technical functions. The roof structure itself can be added on to, again, without disrupting the ongoing activities of the airport. The modular pier systems are an innovation in airport terminal design. The pier consists of a reinforced backbone. Inbedded into these bones are the nerve cords out of metal which consist of horizontal and vertical circulation routes for the passenger flows as well as the technical media. They, too, can easily be transformed and substituted. The gate areas are hung onto this backbone and can therefore easily be adapted to the number of passengers and different types of airplanes."

Frankfurt Terminal 3

Architectural Review note the relationship to "plug-elements within the work of Archigram"; Mäckler maintains that "We must return to the bauwerk (the process of building) and away from the Kunstwerk (art object). For example, the big flying carpet roof typical of airports is inflexible because it's not easily reduced or extended. It has too much form and too little function." Lovetann Finally, a note on the Løvetann [Flash] project from Norwegian architecture firm Snøhetta – a modular home project, which does everything that modular home projects should do: interoperable modules which can be easily reconfigured; services, including wifi, contained within the panels and frame; flat-pack distribution; works in any climate etc.:

"While staying true to the enduring quality of Scandinavian design, the Løvetann modular home can change according to the desires of its inhabitants. The style is dictated by the owners, not defined or restricted by the structure. Customized, interchangeable panels offer functionality and limitless design possibilities, with built-in standards such as wireless networking, kitchen and bathroom appliances, and home entertainment systems. Løvetann promotes an environmentally conscious lifestyle by utilizing renewable, recyclable materials, and integrated technologies. With respect for the environment, Løvetann emphasizes longevity and efficiency. The homes are manufactured for flat pack distribution. The Løvetann home can be built in just under 3 weeks and lasts a lifetime."

"Each module in the Løvetann system is identical. This means that any configuration you design will be equal in quality and function … Every module can bear the load of two modules on top of it, as well as the weight of heavy snow. The roof is designed to function as a rooftop deck that can be seeded with grass or gardened. The infrastructure of each module is installed in a gutter that lies under the perimeter of the interior floor. Heating, cooling, and computer-related wiring runs through this gutter and in between modules to link systems throughout the entire house. The electrical system, provided by Siemens, runs through a single IP-monitored wire that allows easy identification of shorts or errors. Features such as solar power and built-in audio equipment can be easily linked to the electrical system from inside the wall panels. This fully integrated system permits easy access for repairs and upgrades."

But there's an interesting addition, as if drawn from How Buildings Learn's chapters on continual attention and maintenance over a lifetime. The building company appear to take a wider, holistic view of what's involved in building a machine for living in, and offer to stay in touch with inhabitants throughout the building's occupancy, aiding with later modifications and reconfigurations, performing maintenance, advising on interior design, offering organic food delivery services, gardening etc.

"We will plan and design with you, devising an optimal layout and allowing you to select your own combination of panels and features. Throughout the life of your home, we will always be available to help make exchanges and additions, recycle used panels, and install new systems. It is our goal to establish a lasting relationship with you, ensuring a home that always lives up to your ideal. In the spirit of embracing possibility, Løvetann includes a wide array of services to continually enhance your home life. We support a healthy lifestyle, with organic food deliveries and consultations on cultivating your own garden. We assist you in keeping your home beautiful and safe by providing outdoor maintenance and snow removal."

There's a press release [PDF] on Løvetann here.


2 responses to “Journal: Sliding Caterpillar, Growing Beetle and other recent adaptive design”

  1. Joseph Clarke Avatar

    I’ll be very interested to see if this is a long-term engagement for Snøhetta. It’s a fascinating project, because architecture as a cultural production has long been in denial about its temporal nature.
    How Buildings Learn is an excellent book. Greg Lynn also has some interesting thoughts in his “Animate Form” essay, though they’re not really reflected in his architecture:
    “The dominant cultural expectation is that buildings must be built for eternity when in fact most buildings are built to persist for only a short time. Rather than designing for permanence, techniques for obsolescence, dismantling, ruination, recycling and abandonment through time warrant exploration. Another characteristic of static models is that of functional fixity. Buildings are often assumed to have a particular and fixed relationship to their programs, whether they are intersected, combined or even flexibly programmed.”


  2. Traveler Avatar

    Antarctica is becoming a new colony… I see wonderful new bases being built. A Belgian project that I saw was the most interesting.
    What can be so interesting in Antarctica?


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