The selected submissions to BRACKET [goes soft] have just been announced. Bracket 2 invited the submission of critical articles and unpublished design projects that investigate physical and virtual soft systems, as they pertain to infrastructure, ecologies, landscapes, environments, and networks. In an era of declared crises—economic, ecological and climatic amongst others– the notion of soft systems has gained increasing traction as a counterpoint to permanent, static and hard systems.
The editorial board and jury for Bracket 2 included Benjamin Bratton, Julia Czerniak, Jeffrey Inaba, Geoff Manaugh, Philippe Rahm, Charles Renfro, as well as co-editors Lola Sheppard and Neeraj Bhatia.
Here are just a few selected submissions we picked out - the full list is here.
Soft goes hard
Colin Ripley, Geoffrey Thun, Kathy Velikov
Although air design has been an area of architectural concern since the 1960’s, it has remained largely a hard system of predetermined control, as opposed to soft, in the terms of Negroponte, and is often in crisis with its actual hard counterparts (building envelopes and air modifying equipment). This article considers the design of spatial envelopes as soft systems, in constant interplay with informational, sensing and energetic envelopes and spheres. An approach to taking advantage of the hard in service of the soft is explored through The Stratus Project, a proposal for a light and air based architectural environment.
SKY_NET: A Power Migration Network
The Electrical Grid of Iceland is re-imagined as a phenomenological element of the sky through its coupling with high-altitude wind turbines. The new power migration network generates electricity and supports its distribution at +20,000 feet, held aloft by the consistently strong wind speeds found in the troposphere above Iceland. Now power generation and its high voltage distribution are intertwined in a symbiotic trajectory tracing over the skies of Iceland like a kite, while taking advantage of the vast distances between populated settlements as an in-transit power generation opportunity.
Situated in a landscape of petrochemical plants and industrial chemical run-off, this project aims at providing methods for monitoring, alerting, and revealing the everyday conditions of toxicity. An alarm system for the unseen, a network of devices will present levels of groundwater, river water and air contamination through recognizable and decipherable forms of display: a new kind of public utility. The subterranean will be mapped above, while the air will be inscribed. Through the use of phyto- and sensor-technology, passive and active systems alert of toxic levels, as well as provide the infrastructure for improvement in an altered, augmented landscape.
KVA MATx, MIT SOFT CITIES research, Jan Knippers/ King Advanced Engineering, ILEK Stuttgart, Buro Happold and a consortium of European building industry partners.
The SOFT HOUSE project won the IBA (International Building Exhibition) competition and will be constructed in 2013 in Hamburg, Germany. The SOFT HOUSE explores how domestic infrastructure can become supple—engaging low carbon soft wood construction, flexible live/work scenarios, a responsive energy harvesting textile cladding, smart building software and a set of mobile curtains which distribute solid state lighting and low voltage power.
Landscapes of co-option: soft power and the environmental turn in corporate America
If soft power, which emerged as a new paradigm of world politics at the closing of the cold war, can be considered as an attempt to affect political outcomes through a careful design of environments, then certain threads in architectural thinking, namely those relating to environmental manipulation, can be seen as early articulations of similar ideas on different scales of operation. The 1971 Weyerhaeuser headquarters, designed by SOM and Sasaki, is scrutinized as a radical materialization of such concepts, in which every aspect, from the microscopic to the atmospheric, was controlled and mediated through a soft, precise and totalizing environment.
As a response to London’s classification as a city of ‘serious water stress’, a model for the extension of the city’s ailing water cistern is proposed. The Bladders are a billowing municipal water storage and treatment system unveiled as a legacy of the 2012 Olympic Park, engulfing Populous+Peter Cook’s Olympic Stadium and the Aquatic Centre by Zaha Hadid. Giant inflated water bladders and anaerobic digester stomachs are the structural elements of an architecture that returns a segment of the Lea Valley into a ‘backyard’ for Londoners to explore. Substituting the spectacle of the Olympics for a spatially performative utilitarian architecture.
Of Pop and Prostheses: Vienna 1965-72
Concerning the brief but intensely focussed design interest in pneumatics and transient environments affecting avant-garde European scenes in the late 1960s, Vienna’s comes down to us today as arguably the most prolific, poetic, and hermeneutically opaque. This paper positions the work as demonstrating pop sensibilities concerned with prosthetic expansion of the architect’s space-making capacity, its origins steeped in Semper’s notion of clothing as the original architectonic device, and its cultural moment inflected by cold-war anxieties and liberated sexualities. The material nature of these transparent, bodily responsive devices were dually architectures for survival, and clean prophylactic environments for the sex act.
Contesting Limits: Architecture and Boundary Conditions in Israel/Palestine
Suzanne Harris Brandts
Almost 16 years after the 1995 Oslo Interim Agreement attempted to resolve the complex geopolitical conditions of the Isreali occupied West Bank by transferring authority over to the Palestinins, the status of a two-state solution seems more distant than ever. Boundaries continue to divide this ever-scarred region. Capitalizing on their unresolved status, architecture is able to put stress on the elasticity of these boundaries and work towards the creation of new realities by preemptively operating on the ground. In a region where boundary conditions are produced, shaped, and multiplied at the junctions of space, architecture and the law, a design approach that is responsive, adaptable and evolving allows the Palestinians to position themselves in a manner that is not longer purely defensive but anbles them to gain greater control.