Prototypes and Protocols

Iñaki Ábalos 

0. Preamble. Mies malgré lui.

The current proliferation of the skyscraper with its mono-functional configuration (divided between dwellings and office space) and its ring encircled tectonic and circulation core offers an urban milieu without attributes, identical to itself, the norm in the high density city, canon indifferent to climates, economies or every day uses.

What would happen if for a moment we suspend gravity and with it the tectonic tradition central to the modern project of the high-rise? What would happen if we forget the fixed image of the skyscraper and reevaluate it exclusively based upon thermodynamic criteria? What if we explore the possibilities of intervening in this medium without attributes, instead reconsidering this very young typology from radical thermodynamic laws that incorporate a mix of public and private uses, turning the air into the protagonist of its spatial organization?

This idea seems to be metaphorically reflected in an image published in the March issue of Life Magazine in 1957 with a dual collage by Frank Scherschel that, seen from our perspective, triggers questions that were not posed back then as much about the object of creation, the relations among techniques and beauty, or the nature of space and the environmental logics at play in the typology of the skyscraper. The smoke that emanates from Mies’s solid head and the clouds that reflect the glass of the Lake Shore Apartments; as well as the interaction between a technified air and certain weather conditions constitute a kind of provocation, an essential mix of elements – clouds, smoke, grids, and subject – that when assembled properly can open new ways to explore the nature of contemporary high-rise construction.

Our aim is to construct a laboratory that isolates the skyscraper from its tectonic noise following a systematic protocol based on thermodynamic principles to generate new entities based on energetic equilibrium. This not only leads to new prototypes but also to an alternative way of approaching the programming of uses, incorporating a public dimension reactive to the magma of the contemporary vertical city, interacting with it, and suggesting another way of intervening in its regulating and organizing mechanisms. Applying thermodynamic principles to the mixed use high-rise building supplants the tectonic principles of the primitive skyscraper, along with its grid structure, circulation core, and mono-functional rings. This methodology encourages innovative exploration of the typology’s potential...

Included Tags: