Sumit Singhal loves modern architecture. He comes from a family of builders who have built more than 20 projects in the last ten years near Delhi in India. He has recently started writing about the architectural projects that catch his imagination.
GREENOPLASTY by Labtop
June 29th, 2013 by Sumit Singhal
Article source: Labtop
“It may come to mind to the designer to make a design that can release around him creative energies, suggest possibilities, open minds, take action, find references and connections that one may find for himself, if he wants to find them, and that everyone can find.”
«Too many good people have been defeated because they tried to substitute substance for style, they forgot to give the public the kind of visible signals that it needs to understand what is happening.»
We believe that the key to a successful green corridor lies in the ability of the built environment to inspire its residents to look beyond the common, the materialistic and the easily consumed in favor of the stimulating, the daring and the whimsical. Only with this premise may we start to break our old habits and consider radically new, more environmentally conscious ways of living. The urban approach we took in designing the Cleantech Corridor was to compress the nearly four mile site by implementing a local tram way, then rezoning specific areas in order to give space back to the pedestrian. At the local scale this translates into the opportunistic retrofitting of the existing environment along with the inclusion of highly visible urban markers. At the scale of the Cleantech facility we sought to embody our commitment to keeping as much of the existing context intact while also giving the residents of the corridor a monument to the seemingly impossible.
THE URBAN SCALE
At this specific moment in the evolution of green architecture and urbanism we believe that an engineered approach to a green standard of living is no longer sufficient. Speaking specifically about new technologies, whether it be telecommunications, microprocessors, cars or composite materials, the world has seen a mass migration of technological goods production move to developing countries. For this reason we have taken a more holistic approach rather than an engineered one with the hopes of creating a Cleantech Corridor with a distinct local character which would attract new green companies on the basis of standard of living rather than pure efficiency.
The overall vision of the Cleantech corridor is based on creating a very distinct, very local urban space, a space whose residents will take pride in their neighborhood and not feel the need to commute long distances in order to live in a neighborhood with more amenities. We believe that a local rail line servicing only the Cleantech corridor is a way to compress the almost four mile site to more walkable distances. This strategy also exposes its residents to more area in less time, negating the need for cars within the corridor. Furthermore, as a need for housing arises lightweight mixed use building mass is populated evenly throughout the site, above the warehouses. This is done in hopes of allowing all areas of the corridor equal chance to develop while sustaining the still functioning warehouses. In the long term, we believe that these areas with more exposure and more potential residents necessitate more business, giving short term architectural propositions the power to provoke zoning changes from a loose homogeneous industrial district to a more consolidated, dense, heterogeneous neighborhood.
THE NEIGHBORHOOD SCALE:
If we are to provoke the residents of the Cleantech Corridor to help society change the way it perceives energy use, it is only fair to give them “the kind of visible signals that it needs to understand what is happening.” We believe that for the Cleantech Corridor to be the kind of environment which truly inspires radically new perceptions, it should literally start with the street. For this reason the tranverse streets of the corridor, running perpendicular to the streetcar on Mateo Street, would be cut off from traffic, essentially given back to the pedestrian. These pedestrian streets would then be finished with colored pigment or punctuated with elephants, each terminating at a vertical garden in order to shift the function of the streets from spaces of conveyance to a series of destinations. Furthermore, this strategy means to replace the Cartesian grid as the only way in which the Cleantech Corridor might be negotiated– “You can find me on Industrial Street, just past Jesse,” becomes “You can find me on the green street just past the elephants.” Our strategy reinforces the way in which people commonly clarify places in metropolises like Los Angeles, where, for example, the intersection of Wilshire Blvd and S Curson Ave is described as “Across from the tar pits.” It is our view that urban interventions of minimal environmental impact yet high visibility have the power to shift the perceptions of a neighborhood and hopefully shift common thought into the realm of what has never been done before, or what could be done.
THE ARCHITECTURAL SCALE:
At moments when the light catches the model Cleantech Facility just so, it floats over the city like a balloon restrained only by thin cables. A cube sits on a mirrored base, its connection to the ground obscured by a chaotic cloud creating a trompe l’œil that evokes the impossible. This is our intent, to present the resident of the Cleantech Corridor with what appears to be impossible. We believe that the ability of society to free itself of non-renewable energy sources and replacing them with clean sources of energy, is also a seemingly impossible task. Yet the building is remarkably straightforward. The construction of the model Cleantech Facility, like the work of the sculptor, Louise Nevelson, is composed of salvaged elements softened by a monochromatic wash. The building is committed to retaining the character of the industrial context which is an integral part of downtown Los Angeles’ short history, while also avoiding the waste demanded by the scrapping and rebuilding of new developments. American writer Elbert Hubbard reminds us that “No one ever gets far unless he accomplishes the impossible at least once a day.” Ultimately, the Cleantech Facility stands as a tribute to the impossible.
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