Posts Tagged ‘architecture

Accumulative Design

10, نوفمبر 2010

The idea of accumulative design is that individual additions and informal gatherings create a fabric of input that can then be viewed as a single design instead of many individual parts. Even if these parts are dissimilar, their grouping can be seen as signifying a perhaps ambiguous and nameless agency. This concept arrived from stripping down design understanding to two basic qualities that seem to be examined in design: what is the artifact and what does it respond to? Accumulative developments are the direct embodiment of a common drive spurned in response to some event. If design isn’t being judged on its form, it is more than likely being judged for its responsiveness. It’s usually assumed that if the design does not work it will fail and cease to be used or exist, so the continued or repeated existence of a thing must mean that on some level it is doing something right.

Urban Slums

The past 50 years has seen a drastic influx of people to urban centers from rural areas, and in many developing countries this means that infrastructure development cannot keep up with the demand thereof. The result is areas of self-developed residences at fringe areas of major urban cities. This means that basic infrastructure, such electricity or sewage, is improvised, stolen, or simply not present in these areas. The living conditions are only as good as the inhabitants are able to maintain within their already limited means which often drives people toward opportunism and desperation. Cut throat attitudes combined with limited resources lead to many slums becoming enclaves of crime and crippling poverty with scant hope for escape or upward mobility. For many, these slums became an unsurpassable web between them the city proper.

However, despite their many obvious problems and often bottomless-pit nature, the thing that urban slums do right is provide housing to poor, itinerant people near the areas they may work or desire to work. The common juxtaposition of slums next to more affluent and “properly” developed urban areas is, until recent efforts, not a matter of the city proper’s expansion into the areas of the slums, but the slums’ development near these centers as a necessity to maintain close proximity between the working-class slum dwellers and the establishments where they can find employment. Another result of this limited mobility is that individual slums themselves form, for better or worse, distinct cultures of their own.

While slums’ informality may cause an infrastructural headache, it also provides a fluidity and extemporaneity that allows them to respond almost instantaneously or reflexively to new pressures and stimulus presented them. This lack of rigidity or plan allows them to negotiate the gaps between supply and demand, concept and production, production and availability, and even adaptation and replacement seemingly instantaneously. In a lot of ways, the fluid nature of slums is echoed in capital-D Design’s contemporary drive to achieve the same level of impromptuity and customability in product design and deliverance. Additionally, the generalized understanding of slum nature also allows for the boundaries of privacy, permanence, definitiveness, and ownership to be blurred as slum populations fluctuate, interact, and adapt to challenges and opportunities that arise within their hectic frame of existence.

Unsurprisingly, the density of a slum then depends on both the existing boundaries its expansion might face and of course the demand for residence within the area. These boundaries are often the city on one side and geography on the other. Sometimes the city-side boundary may not even be the city itself, but a direct inlet to the city. Such is the case in the favelas of Rocinha and Vidigal in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil.

In some rare cases the boundary might be the city all around where the slum acted as infill to unused land, but in the amazing case of the Kowloon Walled City the boundaries were actually political. This lead to sporadic development vertically instead of horizontally, resulting in block of individual dwellings that appears to be one collected whole.

Interestingly enough, this interrupted uniformity in vertical construction is also echoed in contemporary design. Namely, in the explorations of “erosion” and “disappearance” in buildings by OMA and Herzog & de Meuron.

“Fun” links for slums:

Google Maps:
Rocinha / Vidigal, Rio de Janeiro
Kowloon Walled City, Hong Kong
Kibera, Nairobi
Dharavi, Mumbai

Favela Chic
Life in Rocinha
Epic Kowloon Walled City Thread

Makeshift Memorials<!–

Even on a smaller scale, accumulation can still create solid fabrics of input.

Post walls and makeshift memorials to dead or missing persons also rely on an accumulative process, but instead of seeking a necessity these informal spaces act as a means of expression. The sites chosen aren’t necessarily pragmatic, but perhaps symbolic of or related to the person. In the case of missing people walls these spaces are often understood or explicitly labeled, but when disasters occur the line between proper and improper posting space disappears.

The patterns of development here are similar to patterns in slums in that they are both spontaneous and that both are limited by geography from their point of origin. Curbside memorials are limited by the street and posting walls are limited by the frame of the wall, or by the accessibility of the wall. The size of the spread depends on the amount of individual input and the input itself is never organized formally beyond having a starting point from which is spreads out like a dense brush, leaving only the very periphery with any sense of openness or breathing room. They are contiguous and in their sheer magnitude of information often achieve a sort of monumentality that amplifies their presence beyond just the messages they stand for. They negotiate the gaps between the living and the dead, those present and those missing, emotion and expression, hope and despair, and many others. Sometimes they even negotiate physical boundaries when missing people are actually found.

Granted, makeshift memorials are not always so public, and posting boards with similar fabric are not always about missing people.

Not-so-“fun” links for makeshift memorials:
Wall of Pain, Croatia
9/11 Missing Person Fliers
Beichuan Memorials
Some douchebag
Oakland Makeshift Memorials
Cheonan Memorial
Virginia Tech Memorials

post by: archdork (for reference)