Wednesday, February 17, 2010

Concrete funnels, shells and arches

[Image: model of Stuttgart 21 station by Ingenhoven Architects]

The competition for a new station in Stuttgart for high speed trains was won by Ingenhoven Architects all the way back in 1997 or so. The project is still not happening or really officially cancelled and thus won't make it to the proposed 2013 completion.

 [Image: Cover of 'Flydende sten' (Liquid Stone) a state of the art for concrete technologies and Architecture published by the Royal Danish Academy of Fine Arts in 2007 and written by Anne-Mette Manelius, myself]

I initially looked at the structure while working at a publication about architectural perspectives for concrete and every now and then wonders if it will be... I come to think about it whenever I come across projects of the slightest similarity, such as Yamamoto in my last post. The project is a more than 400 metres spanding thin shell structure with an urban square park upon and the station platforms below the shell. The project features big, funnel shaped columns which open up and become windows at the roof level to provide natural light and ventilation. Below they narrow down to stand on the platform.

Numerous historical and political issues has impacted the delay of the decision making about the project. Read more about the polemic here. The winning project was designed in collaboration with Stuttgart based engineer Frei Otto. The design was intended as a minimal surface structure and based on the hanging chain model or reversed suspension model developed by Otto.
Apparently the project was changed by the architect without Otto's influence - reversing the initial principles of the suspended shape into a project which acts in compression and thus quite impossible to built... That's what I hear, anyway - and this could be an even heavier reason to why the Stuttgart 21 might not get built.

[Image: Suspension model for form finding of the arches for the new train station in Stuttgart, Germany, 2000 (Christoph Ingenhoven and Partner, Frei Otto, Büro Happold, Leonhardt and Andrae)]

Two other, actually built projects are Japanese. The Namics Techno Core is a structure by Riken Yamamoto which I just wrote about here. And Toyo Ito's fantastic Tama Art University Library

 [Namics Techno Core by Riken Yamamoto/ Photo by Koichi Satake]
[Images above: Facade and interior of Tama Art University Library by Toyo Ito, Photos by Ishiguro Photographic Institute]

Fabulous Japanese prefab

[Image: Top two floors of Namics Techno Core by Riken Yamamoto/ Photo by Koichi Satake]

Last week Riken Yamamoto won the competition to design a billion-dollar mixed use complex at the Zürich Airport called the Circle. I only recently came across Riken Yamamoto's work when, namely the Namics Techno Core (Oct 2008)- it strikes me for several reasons. First of all the lightness of the organic mushroom like structure which seems to grow from the enclosed ground level. This leads to the second reason: the clear division of functions between the ultra clean lab spaces on ground level and the completely open 2nd and 3rd floors.

 [Image: Employee and visitors' level and roof garden of Namics Techno Core by Riken Yamamoto/ Photo by Koichi Satake]
The last reason is the always astonishing Japanese accuracy in building - The structure was completed in mere 13 months and is made from prefabricated concrete elements by the contracting Taisei Corporation. Arup Japan did the structural engineering. Actually the JA 76 Yearbook 2009 states that it is a steel frame structure in which case the concrete is cladding - and still outstanding. Sigh!
It does, however make sense to work with the structure as a continuous surface - a shell structure with very narrow load bearing points. I've seen renderings from the architect of this structural system as a high rise - which brings a 1954 competition entry by Jørn Utzon to mind, the Langelinie Pavilion in Copenhagen. Where the Yamamoto project stacks clusters of funnels of varying top diameters and needle thin bottoms, really quite similar to Frank Lloyd Wright's Johnson Wax Building (1936), Utzon's project is a tower with a core and glass facadea floating down the edges of the stacked plates as one big water fountain.

[Image: Clusters of lily-pad columns outside the Johnson Wax Building by Frank Lloyd Wright, 1936  ]

[Image: concept model of the Langelinje pavillion by Jørn Utzon, 1954]

[Image: perspective sketch of the interior of the Langelinje pavillion by Jørn Utzon, 1954. The window detail is close to identical to the solution at Namics]

As is my experience with many Asian architects I have a difficult time to get much from a Google search. So, here's a link to a nice and reflected blog post which refers to a Riken Yamamoto lecture and a few more, nice projects.

And here's a link to the next post with a few more lily-columns and suspended concrete surfaces.