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a+t 31. HYBRIDS I is the first issue of the new a+t series related to hybrid buildings. It is a visual analysis of the programs of these complex buildings and its insertion in the territory.
The analysis that a+t does on vertical hybrid buildings is based on the identification and comparison of three concepts on a selection of 12 prototype projects: programme, section and land use.
The relationship between height and use clearly expresses the urban vocation of the project, its openness to the city, its capacity to share the privilege of height and its social permeability. The section of a hybrid is also, according to Rem Koolhaas, a piece of urban fabric that rises up. In this sense, we wished to confront the urban weft with the section, to compare the intensity of uses with the density of the fabric.
The programme is broken down into a bar of uses and a field of vertical representation. On this field the uses of each building are distributed until 100% of the built surface is completed.
Based on the chosen projects, the possibility to integrate very different uses in one building has been observed. The tendency of planners to avoid mixing uses in favour of segregation is contested by this collection of projects where variety and intensity of uses, both public and private, in a unique development.
The analysis of the section shows the location of uses in the section and allows the comparison of tendencies regarding the placement of public and private spheres.
Insertion into the context is analysed from different scales:
- territorial scale, with population density data and a map with a scale of 1:500,000, to establish the area of economic and social influence.
- urban scale, with the mark inserted in the orthophoto with a scale of 1:5000, to confirm the adaptation or imposition to the weft, connection to the surrounding fabric, land use and edificability.
... A large number of current projects–particularly speculative ones– require multiple functions to be housed together. The concentration of various activities into one structure, as Steven
Holl has written, places pressures on the architecture and has a capacity to ‘…distend and warp a pure building type’ (1).
The current boom in high density buildings has in part been fed by exploding economies, astronomical rises in land value and the rise of emerging economic zones, in particular China, over the last twenty years. The increasing tendency among designers in dealing with this problem has seen the re-emergence of the hybrid building, in preference to a ‘sum of all parts’ mixed use solution, a level of concentration and hybridisation is increasingly understood as a way of activating the building, its individual uses and the surrounding urban fabric.
The Specific History of Hybrids
The idea of hybrid or mixed-use buildings is not new. Throughout history, density, the value of land and the overlapping of functions have been inherently linked. In antiquity, the city-states developed borders and walls in order to defend and define the distinction between the civilised and the wild (2). The main forms of movement and transport of goods for a large proportion of the population at the time would have been by foot. Consequently, programs such as workplaces, commerce and housing were located either in the same spaces or stacked on top of each other and in many cases there was little or no distinction between rooms or functions. With space at a premium, the confined city form meant any expansion or construction required amalgamation and overlap, and hence density. Functions, rather than being located in isolated parts of the city, filled whatever space was available and through this, as the cities grew, they formed a single hybrid entity constantly changing and evolving as one.
With the advent of increased mobility and longer range defence systems, the city broke its wall
dispersing the contents into the countryside, from this point the modern metropolis evolved out
of a collection of individualised programmatic structures strewn across the landscape (3). The sprawl which developed opened up access to a new division of land, allowing greater and more affordable land ownership. Cheaper land not only removed the pressure for program to share space and maximise land use, as was the case in the congested walled cities, but also presented a strategy
of covering (and hence controlling) greater areas. Dispersed settlements and military outposts presented a method for states to stake their ongoing claim to their increasing expanses of land
through constant occupation–a good illustration being the Roman Empire. Later, the revolution of mobility brought about by the industrial age facilitated the advent of modern planning and social theory promoting the segregation of functions–living, working, shopping and manufacturing–not only into individual buildings but also into separate ‘city’ zones spread across the territory it occupied.
City form became defined by a functionally determined planning in order to control disease, pollution, and importantly, land rates.
Until Joseph Fenton’s catalogue of the topic in 1985, hybrid buildings had been ignored as a unique building type usually grouped under ‘mixed-use’. Fenton argued that there was a distinct difference between the hybrid building and mixed-use, in that the individual programs relate to one another and begin to share intensities.
The concept of hybridisation originates from genetics and refers to the cross breeding of different species. While in the past, uses have often been combined into a single structure for example the shop-house or as an inhabited bridge, such as the Ponte Vecchio, the hybrid building at full scale did not appear until the nineteenth century (4). Escalating land values in city centres at that time required new forms of development. Structural steel and the invention of the elevator in the middle of that century revolutionised construction and enabled vertical structures and signalled the rise of the skyscraper. With these tools, developers shifted their approach from building for need to speculation and built for maximum volume and floor area to make the most of valuable real estate. Their inability to fill the new towers with a single use led to the combination of programs and through this the emergence of hybrid buildings (5).
Fenton’s catalogue presented a selection of American examples (and he argues that they
have evolved out of the conditions of the American metropolis) grouping them into: Fabric
Hybrids–volumetric infill of the city’s gridded fabric; Graft Hybrids–which express each programme in the resultant form of the hybrid building; and Monolith Hybrids–programmatic
elements being subsumed into a continuous envelope (6). The distinctions of a hybrid from
other mixed use megastructures are defined by the fact that these buildings retain the
underlying city grid and are contained within a single form or building.
The role of planning codes within these developments cannot be understated. The inception
of the New York Zoning Resolution in 1916 limited the mixing of ‘functionally incompatible uses’ in buildings and in certain parts of the city, designating residential districts and in turn
slowing the further evolution of such hybrids (7). Versions of this policy were adapted and are still in use in many cities across the world. Under the combined pressure from renewed
escalations in land value, a shift away from ideals of urban segregation and advances in environmental technologies, the law was amended and now promotes the mixing of functions in an attempt to invigorate the city.
The Return of the Hybrid
What modernism professed as a new and better order, in reality never eventuated as it failed
to deal with the inherent complexity of life. The critiques brought by post-modernism saw a resurgence of interest in testing program and challenging predominant typological models.
Most importantly, post-structuralist thinking created a position which allowed dialectic
concepts, and in this case uses, to co-exist and interrelate. Several writers and architects have
since spent the last three decades exploring the implication of program on architectural form.
Rem Koolhaas in particular, identified the unique conditions of the Manhattan skyscrapers in
his book ‘Delirious New York’ (1978). Unlike Fenton’s zoological history of hybrids, Koolhaas
identified a generic quality to the skyscraper which allows an almost endless combination of programs to co-exist on separate floors (8). The Downtown Athletic Club, which also appears in Fenton’s catalogue of hybrid buildings, fascinated Koolhaas in that its ‘serene’ and monolithic
exterior hides the ultimate in ‘urban congestion’ and is a ‘…constructivist social condenser: a machine to generate and intensify desirable forms of human intercourse (9).’ If we look at almost any city in the world today, there is a constant flux in the programming of the generic fabric of the city which allows such juxtapositions and is almost impossible to control or design. These early observations have surfaced repeatedly in the work of Koolhaas’ office, Office for Metropolitan Architecture (OMA). In experiments such as the Hyperbuilding (1996), which was intended as a new city within a building and more recent speculative towers like that in New Jersey (p. 74 -79); and while Koolhaas has previously professed the mantra of ‘bigness’ as the ultimate in architecture, scale alone is not the pre-requisite for congestion and OMA’s critique of prevalent typologies and the injection of indeterminacy into programmes has extended into many of their smaller buildings and even parks as was the case in their competition entries for Parc de la Villette in Paris and also Downsview Park.
In recent times an interest in hybrid techniques has resurfaced, facilitated largely by a number of economic and political factors. Firstly, the global real estate boom driven by economic growth in China and the Middle East has created a climate in which developers are increasingly keen to maximise built areas on prize parcels of land and pushing to combine multiple programs. However, unlike previous periods in the 1980’s and the ‘dot com boom’, the mood is less receptive to speculation having learnt lessons from the square kilometres of empty office space which appeared in the recession which followed the crash (10). Out of this, a push has come to plan for tenancies as early on in the process as possible, facilitating accountable financing strategies and also the potential for large tenants to input into the design process rather than offering empty shells to be adapted post construction. The need for specificity is allowing some architects to engage program rather than simply building for maximum (and generic) flexibility as was the predominant case previously.
A few developers are themselves more and more interested in the idea of ‘lifestyle’ and imagine that the inherent complexity of the city and the linking of disparate programs can be harnessed to invigorate what may otherwise be a lifeless collage of distinct uses. In aid of this, a trend in government policy toward building new neighbourhoods or rejuvenating others has been to require developers to include a minimum proportion of mixed uses and sometimes public programs. Geographer, Jane Jacobs has explained the central position of difference and diversity in making cities ‘city-like’ (11), and in many ways this heterogeneity and congestion, which also fascinate Koolhaas, are being used to market new developments by harnessing images of metropolitan life, highlighting diversity of experiences, programs and people. While sadly there are countless examples where these images are no more than that, glossy advertisements, the opportunity exists for architects to argue for blurred distinctions and new possibilities in the way programs are combined.
Alongside speculative development, the same increases in land and construction cost and a more conservative approach by governments in spending on public infrastructure has forced
many civic institutions to find new ways of housing and funding themselves (12). Often this has meant a need to combine traditional functions of say a library or a museum with commercial development or space. In some cases this is simply the grafting of retail or ospitality functions into or onto the main institutional space as a means of revenue generation.
In more extreme cases this can be as large as pairing a new museum building with retail, housing and commercial development in order to maximise income, or more so, make the project economically viable and possible in the first place. A recent example of this is the Seattle Museum of Art by Allied Works Architecture, which combines the new museum building with the headquarters for a bank, generating finance for the expansion and allowing a flexible zone of space which can allow either program to expand or reshape over time.
A similar case is the Scala Tower in Copenhagen, by BIG (p. 38-45), which combines a new
city library with hotel, retail and other commercial spaces.
These mutually beneficial models work beyond the spatial implications of mixing uses creating an even closer link between culture and commerce which also operates on a financial level and provides commerce a tangible link with cultural pursuits. Dialectic pairings on such a big scale present another quality whereby both entities are forced to give up some part of their individuality.
Where previously civic buildings were icons or monuments scattered through the city’s fabric, they are now becoming amalgamated into the smooth anonymous containers which make it up. To add a shop or a café to a museum, the museum is still the iconic destination; add a 60 storey hotel and retail tower, the museum becomes one of many related parts of a monumental building.
Many current projects and recent buildings which deal with hybridisation and some form of programmatic ‘chemistry’ could fit into the categories set out in Fenton’s catalogue, however these rely heavily on retrospective classification based on the final outcome and less so on design tactics. Looking closely, there appear to be a number of broad trends which could be grouped not as categories, but more as strategies being employed (often in combination) to address heterogeneity and density.
Monolithic and Hybrid Form
An inclination towards formal solutions which diminish the expression of individual programs, and in that sense, the modernist functional expression and pure examples of Fenton’s graft hybrids are less prevalent. Such an approach allows the separation of the external image and structural logic of the building from its programmatic and spatial articulation internally.
This tendency is present at all scales of buildings from houses to mega-towers.
Cities within cities
Hybrid buildings which combine the programs of an entire town or city. Led by the pace of new construction in Asia and the Middle East, large buildings outside city centres of teninclude a wide range of functions to allow a certain level of self-sufficiency in response to a dislocated location. The need to provide the level of diversity available in urban zones makes these buildings into microcosms or city-buildings. Also, because of the isolated or harsh surroundings, like a desert for instance, these buildings create a defensive or protective space for their inhabitants much like the walled city of antiquity. There are many theoretical examples such as the Hyperbuilding by OMA and theoretical utopias like Sky City 100 by the Takenaka Corporation, a kilometre high structure housing 135,000 people.
More recent examples, now under construction, include projects by Steven Holl in Shenzen
and Beijing (p. 20-29).
One of the implications of the very tall buildings is the complexity of structure, aerodynamics
and the infrastructure required to service them and allow people access. A single tall tower requires more and faster lifts, much greater areas for service shafts and more importantly the stability of a post and beam system is insufficient in stabilising such huge structures.
As a result cores get deeper and effective usable space is diminished to a point of unviability.
One solution has been to deform the core and skin to triangulate forces, an example being the Burj Dubai by Skidmore Owings Merrill which will ultimately reach a height in excess of eight hundred meters.
Another technique being used is to coalesce many elements or towers, combining them to form a single system. Museum Plaza in Louisville by REX (p. 90-101), also uses this strategy to maximise several small parcels of land and minimise its footprint, linking them twenty three storeys above the ground. Each site alone would limit the scale, both structurally and economically.
Sectional Juxtaposition and Spatial Indeterminacy
There appears to be a general tendency to subjugate ‘program’ as brief and to re-evaluat requirements and use, pushing for a level of indeterminacy and creating overlaps and juxtaposition of spaces. Previously, as Koolhaas has identified, the plan was king when it
came to the skyscraper. Now, with a greater focus on the section and three-dimensional modelling, the vertical separation afforded by the economy of stacking floor plates on top of each other is challenged in order to link spaces and cross pollinate program over several levels. Several projects by OMA serve as good examples such as the Jessieu Jussieu Library competition entry and Seattle Public Library, while these are not mixed use, but they do work as hybrids at a programmatic scale.
Partly driven by government incentives and partly by interests in public space, many hybrids engage with the public realm either by pulling some part of the surface of the city over or onto the building, or by distributing it vertically through the building as a series of elevated plazas, gardens or arcades. Public space and landscape become hybridised with other programmatic elements of the building. Office DA’s Kuwait Sports Shooting Club uses a canopy mega structure which is used to articulate programmed spaces as well as creating a series of public spaces throughout the building. With a lineage back to the mat buildings of ancient cities and more recent modern developments, some examples favour a connected matrix or landscape of built and open spaces, these include JDS Architects’ Moussaka in Athens or, Transform’s new city centre for Asane in Bergen. BIG’s Scala Building in Copenhagen, on the other hand, critiques the mute exterior of monolithic towers and fuses its façade with the surrounding street and square through a series of terraces creating an articulated public landscape as part of its facade.
So why are these tendencies and a resurgence of hybrid buildings of interest to us? Firstly, the evolution of hybrid buildings and the conditions which have allowed them or required them to exist, have developed alongside a constant renegotiation and evolution of public space in relation to the city–from the walled city which protected the civilised from the wild, to the formality of civic spaces in the metropolitan city and now to a new kind of dispersed definition of public space in today’s networked world.
In certain cases, this evolution has coincided with increasing land scarcity, land value and density of city centres necessitating new models of land use combining seemingly (or traditionally) incompatible programs. In other examples, the density and diversity created by hybrids has been utilised as a tool for regenerating city centres which through the rise of suburbia and restrictive legislation had been left as business districts struggling for life, filled with commercial buildings with little or no relationship to their surroundings.
The intensification created by combining uses, as well as public with private functions and integrating new buildings with their surrounding fabric have all offered techniques to reintroduce civic life into these barren centres. Unlike previous functionalist ‘one size fits all’ models, such an approach considers the intricacies of the contemporary city leading to hybrid conditions existing not only at a macro-programmatic level, that is through housing different rganisations, but also across a number of scales from the point where individual spaces meet, all the way up to the urban scale...
1 Holl, S. Foreword to Pamphlet Architecture no. 11: Hybrid Buildings, Princeton Architectural Press, New York, 1985, p.1
2 Nijenhuis, W. ‘City Frontiers and Their Disappearance’, Architectural Design, v. 64, n. 3/4, 1994, p.14
3 Nijenhuis, W. pp. 15-16
4 Fenton, J. ‘Hybrid Buildings’ in Pamphlet Architecture no. 11: Hybrid Buildings, Princeton Architectural Press, New York, 1985, p. 5
5 Fenton, p. 5
6 Fenton, p. 7
7 See: http://www.nyc.gov/html/dcp/html/zone/zonehis.shtml
8 See: Koolhaas, R. Delirious New York, Thames and Hudson, UK, 1978
9 Koolhaas, R. p. 128
10 Canary Wharf in London being a case in point
11 Jacobs, J. Hybrid Highrises, 2005, online papers archived by the Institute of Geography, School of Geosciences, University of Edinburgh
12 See: Newhouse, V., Towards A New Museum, New York: The Monacelli Press, 1998
... Modern architects thought of the skyscraper as associated with the organization of work, with the office. In fact, the prototypic skyscraper of modernity is the expression of such organization; a optimized arrangement for archiving and connecting workers that archive and connect data. This reification of bureaucracy, without and pejorative connotation, was symbolically interpreted in steel and glass rectilinear prisms, artificially climatized, ordered in rings around nodes of communication. Buildings as the Seagram Building in New York gave the definitive and everlasting shape to this conception. That was Modernity with capital M: the triumph of organization, the beauty of organization. Today the skyscrapers under construction are manly located in Asia. They are residential buildings with concrete structures and natural ventilation. Deprived
of any monumental aura, they are consumer products, not exceptional anymore, a norm. Without dramatizing, one can say that all contemporary metropolises are doomed to densification and even the most recalcitrant mayors are beginning to understand
that they have to familiarize with this instrument. Meanwhile, some architects seem abducted by the iconic character of these constructions, as if we were witnessing the terminal phase and mannerist of the history of the typology.
Nothing further from the forecoming reality. ‘Verticalism’, the conception of the space and the contemporary city in vertical terms has only just started. We are witness of a passionate transformation process. We have just begun to think the city from positions that efficiently substitute the bi-dimensionality of urban planning for a new verticalism. Blossoming in the professional work of our generation we see vertical libraries, vertical laboratories, vertical fashion buildings, vertical universities, vertical museums, vertical parks and vertical sport facilities as well as combinations of all them mixed with residential, hotel and office typologies (a.k.a. mix-use buildings), sometimes conforming complete cities in which the section of the of the building becomes what the plan just to be for the city. The successful experience of the modern skyscraper, essentially grounded on the private business, is being rethought in the public realm–or in an agreement between public and private benefit–testing new modalities of urban management that prefigure the future. The incorporation of public and institutional
typologies, caught for years in 19th century conformations, points to certain adaptation also in the institutional domain. The mix identical towers with variety of uses (a.k.a. ‘bundle of towers’) is also an effective and appropriate alternative to large vertical mixuse
in multiple contexts. Compared to the Parisian boulevard, the infiltration of small towers, a sort of acupuncture strategy, has the benefit of a minimized footprint and maximizes its transformative capacity. The public space liberated by a small footprints and the evident sustainability of a synergetic utilization of a mix-use section are factors that are increasing the acceptance of skyscrapers.
The public Space in the Skyscraper–a mix of streets, comercial spaces and parks inaugurated with Central Park–is one of the most successful collective spaces, with an incredible capacity to achieve universal acceptation. It possibly contains the genetic code of the contemporary public space.
This studio is an exploration of the possibilities that the T line, the MTA new subway line under construction beneath 2nd avenue, opens for implementing ‘Verticalism’ and contemporary public space in Manhattan. Originally proposed in 1929, and planned again in 1945, 1947, 1949, 1954 and 1964, under construction in the early 1970s and abandoned in 1975, the new T line is schedule to open in 2014 and to be fully operative in 2020, connecting 125th Street in Harlem with the Lower Manhattan and reorganizing the public transportation in the East side of the island. The public investment that such infrastructure requires is only comparable to the projected real estate benefits that will redraw the blueprint of neighborhoods like el Barrio (East Harlem), Alphabet City or the
Lower East Side.
Taking advantage this future conditions, the students are asked to imagine and design models of development that substitute the omnipresent condominiums for cohabitations between institutional and residential typologies. The final goal is to test different vertiticalist strategies (super tall mix-use, bundle of towers, súper block, etc) in Manhattan. The sites will be defined by subway stations, traditional spaces of experimental cohabitations between public and private developments guarantors of an intense of public use. At least 60% of the program will be residential, while the rest will house a 19th typology (libraries, laboratories, casinos, zoos, observatories, aquariums, asylums, fashion institutes, universities, museums, parks, sport facilities, etc.) ...
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