Ebook: Lord of the Wings
Industrialized housing has been a common phenomenon in the building industry since the industrial revolution; the casting of iron components enabled Victorian iron casters to prefabricate entire buildings and to export them to all British colonies. It got a second boost from Modernist architects like Ludwig Mies van der Rohe, Walter Gropius and Konrad Wachsmann; and a third boost in the US when the soldiers came back from the Second World War in 1945 and wanted to buy a ready-made house.
In the later decades of the 20th century composite prototypes were built. Timber frame houses are extremely popular in low density areas worldwide. For densely populated areas housing is now firmly attached to reinforced concrete. The contracting industries have developed efficient building methods for the concrete structures on which separate systems of claddings are fixed to form a house.
However, in the coming decades, designers, builders and scientists also have to keep the environment in mind, working with a minimal amount of materials, and for minimizing embodied energy and energy use. In the coming age minimal embodied energy and low ecological footprints are renewed values that will be added to energy-positive housing and that will have an influence on the building technology of the future. This will lead to a reformation of the building vocabulary. Other materials will have to be chosen and developed to function in building elements and components.
Architects do not conceive nor realize buildings in a vacuum. They are part of a larger team of builders, craftsman, engineers and other experts who join forces and bring together diverse fields of knowledge. In the old days, architects conceived buildings within an accepted and limited system of construction, mastered by craftsman. So seamless was the process of conception and realization, so integrated in the familiarity of masonry and timber construction that much was left by the architect to the master builder to interpret.
The modern era brought about a fundamental change in the conception and realization of buildings. No longer could one rely on an accepted vernacular of construction familiar to all; the choice of methods, materials and systems abound. The knowledge of putting together these building systems is specialized. We are, today, familiar with the teams of engineers and craftsman that might realize a curtain wall, a space frame structure, concrete prefabrication, metal-forming assemblages and others. In each case a highly specialized team is essential to the projects' realization.
Alas, as a result of this new situation, we have all too often seen a disconnect between architectural conception and realization. The architects, on one hand, are often bound by procurement procedures, having to design to the last detail, and place their designs for competitive bid in which the product has been fixed without the input of industry. All too often complex architectural conceptions are conceived without such collaboration, and are realized in a manner in which this interdependency of concept and its material realization are at odds, all to the loss and to the detriment of the final result.
I've always believed that the fundamental principle of great architecture is that it must be inherently buildable. That is to say, it is conceived as the optimal realization of the buildings' systems in which it is to be realized, so that form, function and economy resonate with the capabilities and character of the particular building technology. Towards that end we try to break away from the traditional: conceive-design-bid, and have realized by others' methodology in the building industry.
This book is the story of this collaboration. How the Octatube group, with its team in Delft, conceived and recruited individuals and fabricators from the field of fiberglass production heretofore applied to ship building, novel engineering and cutting-edge technology that enabled the realization of the dramatic structure now standing in Tel Aviv.
As is always the case, team collaboration boils down to teamwork between individuals. I particularly enjoyed working together with Mick Eekhout, who both in his capacity as President of Octatube and Professor in Delft University, conceived of the construction method, and thereafter, spent untold hours together with his staff and myself, personally, in evolving the design to its final form. Mick was supported in this effort by Sieb Wichers, a geometrist who translated our fluid free-forms into buildable components. Sieb went on to join our firm and facilitate the extension of these ideas to the Marina Bay Sands complex in Singapore, and the Art Science Museum within that complex.
I would like to salute both the spirit of collaboration and the fact that the project, in its realization, has demonstrated the importance and potential of architects, engineers and industry working together towards pushing the construction industry towards greater and greater achievements.