Jardins de Metis Competition



We had a great team for the project Neeraj Bhatia (the Open Workshop), Cesar Lopez, Mauricio Soto and myself (Anesta Iwan). Although we were not amongst the winning entries, we still think we had a great concept for the garden!

In Canada, 486 invasive plant species exist, several of which were introduced during the colonization period of the 1800s for ornamental purposes — to create gardens. Ironically, it is the success of these plants in flourishing in non-native environments that now makes them a threat. Simultaneously, several of these ‘alien’ plants have resided in Canada longer than Canada’s own formation in 1867. Our proposal produces a living archive of 22 of the earliest invasive plant species to Canada that were intentionally introduced for their beauty. Organized within a tensile structure that allows each of these species to hover behind a transparent veil, these plants are separated from the ground below where they could pose a threat. As the festival continues through the summer, these plants will develop and their weight will pull them closer to the earth — the tension of the flexible portico structure aligning with the tension of the approaching species. In plan, the proposal forms a threshold — an outdoor room for relaxation, contemplation, and admiration of these species while framing the context beyond. Our garden celebrates these species by allowing people to interact with them and re-positions them as a part of Canadian culture.

If you’re curious, see more of it here.


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just a thought….

In our current linguistic era, we find definition through repeated assumptions. “Green,” “Sustainability,” “Performative” have too often been cherry picked for their one-liner definition. And more political settings, the term “affordability” can strike both a high and low note.

“Affordability” is “being within the financial means of most people”, or in its simplest definition, “costing little.” It often evokes a sense of modularity, light assembly, micro, and aggregates. But why is that always the overriding connotation of it? One after another, design competition winners exhibit pod-like structures, shipping containers, or module clusters as a part of their affordability planning.

What if affordability can be achieved through an interchange between different households with varying financial strata? Because of its financial nature, the business model becomes the key player. The “new affordable” project doesn’t necessarily have to be bounded by its low budget. An exchange of services between two neighborhoods can help bridge the financial gap. Services either as environmental filters or climate data sensors, though may drive a project’s budget beyond its intended limit, the cost difference can potentially be made up through neighborhood subsidies. Affordability comes through projects that become infrastructures that go beyond their own purposes and physical boundaries. Affordable housing can become housing plus infrastructure for the city. Does it also become an emergency gathering space, a water supply, or a a research center? This business model recognizes the limitations of per-unit infrastructures within the existing fabric and instead taps into new development that have both site and scale potentials to support the new and existing sites.

In an attempt to resolve the issue of affordability, its definition expands and is redefined to also include a sense of accessibility. Affordable housing is one that would allow for its city neighbors to tap into its resources in exchange for a subsidized start-up cost.


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define: function

As architects and thinkers we often pride ourselves on designing the most “perfect” solution. Each space is logically located and sized appropriately (often to meet the per-occupant standards). Materials are selected to convey a certain aura or emotion. Sometimes design revolves around efficiency (of space, of energy use, of flow, etc.). The slogan “Form Follows Function,” coined by Louis Sullivan and preached by other early modern designers, still resides with us today.

But can we reverse our thinking and design something that is non-functional?

Echoing the premise of the golden ratio, for an object or space to be functional, proportion is key. Whether it is between human and door, or a crowd and a stadium, or machinery and factory, there are basic minimum requirements for each space to function properly. So what happens when designers offset this proportion and pose the Goldilock dilemma, where there is no “perfect” size to the objects? Would it be considered non-functional?

The same concept applies to materiality. Some objects, like in Meret Oppenheim’s playful piece, Object, 1936, toy with function and material. Is it still usable if only its form remains true to the “original”? Or must it have 95% of the characteristics born in the original?

It depends on how we define “function.” Is “function” always attached to a label? –meaning is “sit” a function of “chair” because we have predefined a “chair” for “sitting”? Or is “function” simply a verb? A free-standing action detached from any given object. If, for the sake of the argument, assume function to be independent from the object, then we can also assume we can mix and match object and function. With each pairing, there is a degree of workability, for not every couple is a perfect fit.

This degree of fitness is related to the capacity for adaptation. As human beings, it is within our nature to be adaptive to our environments, in both the form of a space or of an object. For any given “thing,” our minds work to figure some use for it, whether or not it is appropriate. A part of the creative exercise is to break away from any presumptions and think of the other potential what-ifs. What are ten other ways to use a paperclip than to bind papers?

Any object is functional to some degree, but nothing is without any function –non-functional.


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Resilient SF Design Challenge!

San Francisco’s been long overdue for the “big one” (since the 1989 Loma Prieta and the 1906 Earthquake)… what can we do to prepare? What is projected to fail during times of crisis? What services should we emphasize? … 

For the past couple of weeks, a number of us at Perkins+Will SF have been working together on a proposal for a Resilient SF. Come by and listen to our presentation and panel discussion! We will also be joined by two other firms who have also been invited to participate (CMG Landscape Architects and David Baker Architects).

Date: September 18
Location: Interface Showroom, 457 Pacific Ave.
Time: 6:00 pm – 8:30 pm

RSVP: (free event) http://resilientsf.eventbrite.com/

for more info: http://www.publicarchitecture.org/blog/index.php/2013/08/resilient-sf-designing-for-the-big-one/

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a b walker stacked

Keepsakes, national archives, historic landmarks. These “archives” become a part of today’s significance in both history/story-telling and space planning. Before the digital era, we record history through preserving physical artifacts, written texts, sketches, and (since the early 1900s) photographs. Although by then, the archival process already went beyond the one-to-one, meaning that the “archive” is comprised of both the artifact and documentation of it. But with today’s digital capabilities, this ratio is exponentially growing. The act of reproduction is quick in gaining momentum and often times, we are not even aware that we are “reproducing” it. When we see an image on google search, that image also is reproduced on another screen (without necessarily hitting “save as”). Along with the growth of digital data comes two seemingly opposing situations: (1) as technology evolves, smaller physical disks have a much higher capacity than before and (2) with the growth in data-storage efficiency comes a greater demand for more storage. Data and server centers are not to be overlooked. Sometimes buildings have dedicated floors for the servers and other times servers are located offsite in large monolithic towers. We are still in the phase of “as long it is unseen, we are okay” but as the demand grows, these large towers will start to populate our urban blocks. What would it be like to encounter these on a daily basis? (read more on our recent competition entry: data farm) Are server towers the new museums?

On the other hand, we are also experiencing more pressures from the preservationists and archaeologists to restore and preserve physical artifacts from our “history.” Restoration of these artifacts often follow their “historic landmark” designation. (read more on an earlier post regarding these “historic landmark” criteria). In some cases a replica is needed in order to fully preserve its original. When we talk about preserving a rose petal or a love letter, it doesn’t add up to a lot. But in other instances, where either architecture or sculpture is “stored” or kept, a larger footprint needs to be accounted for. Even when the cathedrals in Europe were built, the existing city states layout were kept and preserved. Today, both the cathedral and the underground cityscape are preserved. If we briefly refer to the sketch of A.B. Walker’s skyscraper (later reinterpreted by Rem Koolhaas), in which each floor were built of a different environment, cities in the future are both growing with the future time span as well as the past, all stacked upon the previous.

We will soon run out of space.

The question becomes: is it possible to hold all additional loads? (the growing population, the expanding city, etc.) If so, by what method? (stacking? floating? sinking in water? etc.). If not, what is the selection method? Can we live in an archive-based world where the only tangible reality lies in the shell of these data centers?

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280 Freeway Competition

Congrats to the winners of the 280 Freeway Competition (which was hosted by the Center for Architecture and Design)! The announcement was made this past Friday during the Architecture in the Festival Opening Party at the Obscura Digital.

My friend and I also submitted an entry (as new emerging professionals!) … if you’re curious, here’s our entry. We’re planning on developing bigger ideas around the topic of data.

Data Farm : http://anestadesign.wordpress.com/portfolio/data-farm/



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is it “historic” enough?

803_1590a(sorry it’s been a while… graduation, vacation, new changes in life… but I’m currently trying to get back on this… plus update the text/book for the past research project… This recent vacation back to Indonesia had me thinking about the notion of preservation).

In the well-acclaimed story of Atlantis, “there occurred violent earthquakes and floods, and in a single day and night of rain all your warlike men in a body sunk into the earth, and the island of Atlantis in like manner disappeared, and was sunk beneath the sea.” But up till now, many historians and archeologists are still intrigued by its possible existence and even believe it to be preserved in some form or another. This sense of loss and longing for the past reality has provoked many of the preservation activists today to guard cities –one of which is San Francisco –from further changes. The tension between architects/designers and the Historic Preservation Commission has long sparked major debates that have resulted in both innovative and conservative design thinking. The fear of losing the “San Francisco” identity has somehow translated to a static catalog of Victorian facades.

I hadn’t started realizing the value of preservation within the city until my visit to Indonesia. As a recent graduate, I was still stuck in this Utopian mindset –seeing a city as a complete “living organism” that changes with each month, season, or year. I disregarded the need to preserve or to hold on to any part of any city as a keepsake. For me, San Francisco felt stuck in an era that it no longer belongs to. Why are we consistently putting on record one building after another and deem them as a historic landmark?

In May of 2013, I stepped out of the plane and into the Jakarta Soekarno-Hatta Airport. It was first built in 1985 and has incrementally expanded both in 1992 and 2008 (and is currently undergoing another major construction). Designed by the French architect Paul Andreu, the building was design to reflect the local architectural “style” – the Pendopo (a square pavilion topped with a double pyramidal roof). But throughout the ride into downtown Jakarta, we passed countless burnt or abandoned buildings. The whole city has somehow transformed into a checkerboard of development (and urban voids). Unlike San Francisco, there isn’t a significant jurisdiction to control the deterioration of the city. Almost none of the buildings are ever preserved or restored. It is that “living organism” I had often speak of, but never really what I had mind. Is this the epitome of a city free of preservation laws?

Even back in 1996, this condition was already apparent. A German historical writer commented on Jakarta’s historic site, “When the citizens of a city do not know and respect its history, its purpose and its genius loci, where the people fight for themselves and themselves only, the solidarity between them to keep the security, cleanliness, environment and ownership will be hard to grow.”1 How would we determine that golden proportion between what we keep and let go within a city? Is there a universal percentage that applies to all cities or is it always dependent upon the breath of a city’s “history” per se? And by what criteria should any piece of architecture be judged upon to determine if it is to be “historically significant”?

*Let me know what you think!



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