put your ideas (and values) into your creations (and actions)

” Ideas are cheap. Always be passionate about ideas and communicating those ideas and discoveries to others in the things you make.”            Richard Feinman
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establishing aCapitol Hill eco-district

Broadway performance hall was filled as Capital Hill Housing Authority hosted a discussion around developing an eco-district for Capitol Hill. A presentation (see report here) followed by an engaging panel discussion identified key benchmarks to reach for. There is a growing momentum towards ways to move our cities towards a more integrated practice of sustainability. And its great to see that even though as a practice, we often pitch towards the edge of the ‘far future’, many of the ideals and principles are being seeded for the near future with a wide appeal and support. All essential steps towards making cities more vibrant.

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It was been a week of presentations on [gu]. Paradoxically,we traveled first to Chelan for the Washington Trust for Historic Preservation’s conference ‘Revitalizing Washington’ and then Josh spoke at the Pecha Kucha’s 35th city wide event “Future: Forward: City”. An interesting time warp/schism/melding (or whatever that was) that seemed to fit into one of the threads of our talk which quotes William Gibson, on the quotidien now: “This new found state of No Future is, in my opinion, a very good thing it indicates a kind of maturity, an understanding that every future is someone else’s past, every present someone else’s future. Upon arriving in the capital F future, we discover it, invariably, to be the lower case now.”


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working in layered resin
Watch this video it is quite amazing to watch him work.

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ARUP sustainable to evolvable

Can urban environments be transformed from static machines into evolvable biology? Are humans separated from nature by machines or are machines just an extension of nature and when biology is fabricated by machines which is it? I hope that this series by Arup might bring us closer to understanding what choices we are going to have to make and what are the potential outcomes of those choices and perhaps are these explorations just examinations of the inevitable?
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exspace interview

Our proposal for the 2012 expo in Yeosu Korea called bio[da]ta has been featured in this Polish website. Recently they contacted us and interviewed Josh in more detail about the project here:
Here is a copy of the full transcript of the interview as it gives some background about the project.

KR: Where did you get the idea of BIO(da)TA? What was your inspiration?
J: We have been researching and pursuing the idea of an architecture that comes closer to living and adaptive system for quite some time. Like biological examples that are brilliantly designed to be able to maintain and balance themselves as they manage complex ‘infrastructures’ like water, energy, air and waste efficiently and without toxic bi-products, buildings can be thought of in a similar fashion. Looking at the site for the 2012 expo in Yeosu, Korea, we found that although it is a very rich and beautiful setting, the bay itself had been very damaged by years of industrial impact from the surrounding area. We were very interested in a solution that might begin to repair natural ecology of the bay over time using panels on the underside of the walkway that are seeded with filtering bivalves and sea plants that would begin to remediate the pollution and destruction that occured and begin to re-establish the dredged seabottom. These walkways were also meant to move and respond to tidal conditions so it moves throughout the bay. We imagined that this would actually be an amazing way to engage and educate visitors in imagining ways that the buildings we created could be beneficial and symbiotic to its surrounding rather than just containers that consume and pollute. In the end, it was created to be an entirely emersive experience, with the idea of attracting people to the building repeatedly, due to changing conditions, the experience would be different over time.

KR: How long did you work on the project?
J: It was designed over the course of about 4 months. During this period the building evolved quite a bit and there was a lot of intense discussion amongst our team members during development as to how and why to move away from simply creating a typical “iconic” expo building especially knowing that such a proposal would be a long shot as a competition winner. But the proposal gives an alternative way to think about a visitor experience that is not simply a slick building but one that also increases one’s sensitivity and perception about the surroundings as it becomes an integral part of the biological process of the bay.

KR: What was the main technical difficulty in design?
Engineering of the walkways to deal with the realities of a changing tidal condition was a big challenge. We worked with ARUP to develop a solution on a schematic level and were forced to go back to the drawing board and modify our expectations of the original floating” seanet” walkways to make it much less extensive than we originally conceived. It was also difficult to maintain the articulation of the walkways. You know that because it is designed as a living system that is not a static thing, we don’t necessarily want to control how it transforms but allow it transform based on site influences. Within the ocean, but that might mean growth that could eventually restricts movement. It was very interesting to wrestle over that idea.

KR: What you think about building BIO(da)TA in Poland? Would it be possible?
A bit of research would need to be done to determine the exact conditions.This design grew out of a response to a very specific place and program. It could be interesting to adapt it but conditions of the site are critical consideration that would inevitably modify and influence the design.KR: Have you thought about modification of the project? Floating bar/restaurant at the seashore would be a fantastic idea.

Actually, as we were working on the project, we thought that it would be spectacular depending on pollution levels to create an oyster bar or seafood restaurant that harvested from the building and actually became a destination for the very freshest spicy kim chi and clam soup and fresh oysters from the bay.KR: What about winter time, can the building function when water freezes?

No, it would not function, but that in itself could be a very magical experience, different from floating.KR: Is BIO(da)TA storm proof?;) have you consider this, while designing? 

We imagined that when storms were predicted, the walkways would need to be secured to prevent damage.

KR: I have read about DEWelectric on your blog, are you mainly interested in Eco-design?
We have an interesting practice in that we engage in many built projects where the main focus is more on traditional building approaches rather than development that focuses on eco-development (for whatever reason-clients, budget, program etc — although we carry much of those sensibilities into every project.) But we also make a large effort to focus on research and theoretical projects that allow us to explore and experiment with how architecture might evolve into the future and provide new ideals and examples of efficient and responsible building that push the boundaries of conventional practice.
DEWelectric was one of these research projects. Designed as a passive water and power generating land art installation in the coastal dessert climate of Dubai. In this project we looked at how we might begin to address the increasing demands for power and water resulting from rapid development in the region. Currently water supply is very limited and most clear water is obtained through desalinization. This process requires large amounts of energy as well as creating a saline sludge that is damaging to the environment—our solution proposed a natural evaporative process to produce clean water thus reducing energy consumption as well as eliminating polluting by-product.

KR: What do you think, does ecological design have a future, everyone is talking about it but who really cares?
We have yet to see where this goes, architecture is at a very interesting point where old *means of building remain the prevelant and somewhat entrenched, yet technology, materials development, our understanding about incorporating and emulating natural processes and so many other possibilities are expanding rapidly and are ripe for application.
It is challenging for us all to explore new ways of doing things. Cost, risk aversion and the tremendous effort required to develop and test new systems discourage it, but it is becoming ever more important as we look at our human impact- industrialization and globalization has made our capacity to do damage so more rapid and dramatic. The goal of harmonizing and integrating buildings as part of their living surroundings is an effort to minimize and manage our impat.
(*old is not necesarily bad, but when not updated in regard to current circumstances, could miss a great opportunity)

KR: Do you talk much about ecology in Seattle?
Seattle is progressive in this respect, there is always a concern for the ecology but generally in building trades it is still considered more in terms about ‘sustainability’ than approaching it from the standpoint of an integrated ecological response, which we are interested in exploring.
But we are lucky to live in a city that is concerned with looking at different approaches to answering these larger questions of sustainability which relates tangentially to this larger picture.
KR: If you had a chance to design the building again would you create it the same way, or you’d change something? If yes, say what would be different?
It has been several years since we designed the project, things have moved on, so I am certain the outcome would be influenced by the subsequent projects and investigations we have done since that time although I think the general idea is still powerful and interesting on many levels.
KR: Do you think that your project may be an inspiration for young designers?
I don’t know what young designers might think of the project but I do hope that regardless of the specifics of the execution of the solution, the underlying principles might be inspirational and influential to how they think about architecture and building in general.
Biodata project is very fascinating for me because it seems like an living organism being brought to the water surface- it starts to breath and move like a plant, and it could survive in the ocean. This is a new form of life in some way. What you think about projects/buildings that starts to be alive? 
I think it is very interesting to move towards buildings that function in this way. We also worked on a proposal for Seattle 30 years in the future that envisioned a building envelope system that would begin to process air, water, power much like a membranes within the body. The important question is how this would be implemented with responsibility and sensitivity.

What does that mean for contemporary architecture- is it this a new way of looking at design? 
These days there seems to be a trend towards looking at buildings as objects, sleek and beautiful forms generated somewhat arbitrarily. If we could begin to make buildings that are shaped by their ability to adapt and respond to their conditions like sun wind water light, program, need etc… not only would they become exponentially more efficient, they would be in harmony with the natural systems that support our lives.

Can building be brought to the point that it starts its own “living”?
The idea that buildings can self organize, self repair and perhaps even replicate themselves is an idea that we must come to terms with it is only a matter of time before this is possible the bigger question is how long will that take? When will technology and our ability to manipulate biological processes reach the places we inhabit.  

Additionally, Biodata, incorporates humans to be part of that live form. It is like symbiosis. Isn’t that great? Have you thought about that while designing the project?
Yes, as we approach projects, it is important to us that our buildings encourage inhabitants to tune themselves to their surroundings and we are interested in investigating ways that the building can evolve to become more intricately intertwined in the networks of systems that already exists on a site rather than destructing a place to build invasive infrastructure based on aging paradigms.


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John Grade Sculpture at MOHAI.


The fabrication of a new sculpture by our favorite artist and client and his new piece at the new MOHAI opening November 2012.  

John’s meticulous creation of a natural world in his work is inspiring to us and this piece adds the dimension of scale and interactivity not seen in his work before.  Thanks to help from Arup and Rhino/Grasshopper. 


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[gu] transformation in Seattle

It’s Not a Fairytale: Seattle to Build Nation’s First Food Forest

Forget meadows. The city’s new park will be filled with edible plants, and everything from pears to herbs will be free for the taking.

Check out the first implementation of [growing urbanism] , this part of our scheme envisioning a more ecological Seattle 25 years into the future reappropriates ‘leftover’ places and portions of freeways (made obsolute by a variety of high efficiency new vehicles) to provide an abundant food supply to the community within the city. Though food forest gardens (as well as living machine permaculture) were just one element of an overall comprehensive vision of the urbanscape as a vibrant self sustaining ecosystem, it is exciting to see this idea developed.

Some of our original images:

These videos of ancient systems inspired our design, high output minimal maintenance systems perfectly balanced to specifics of climate and culture:
permaculture is not a new idea, but figuring out how to incorporate it in the densest urban locations is.
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possible impossibility

well, looks like we might chock it up to a loose cable for this paradigm shift…it is easy to be beguiled with these times so ripe with potential for change, undoubtedly long standing realities are changing and the fact that any watcher changes the circumstance, it seemed none too surprising.

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afternoon light, fans a-whirring

look up and breathtaken

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Robot Readable world

Robot readable world from Timo on Vimeo.
One of our favorite futurists Bruce Sterling posted this Vimeo of robot eyes, quite intriguing when you imagine they are all taken from actual machine footage.   

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more about permaculture

This is an image from one of two ponds that are part of a garden and residence of a friend of ours that we visited while we were in Hawaii. The pond is filled with water collected from the roof of the house just barely visible in the background. The pond grows fish and a rich layer of aquatic plants harvested and used as mulch in the surrounding gardens (the brown bits in the foreground).  Specific trees were selected to surround the pond because a certain caterpillar grows and occasionally falls off the tree to feed the fish in the pond. Along with a diverse layered set of edible, medicinal and supportive plants chickens, ducks roam about providing eggs and lot of fresh fertilizer. This example starts to describe a few of the composting systems we can develop that might help us complete waste loops that are now left open, with many other possibilities. Not does the land provide amazing fresh sustenance to feed the body but being amidst the rich ecosystem in delicate balance is fantastic food for the soul.

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World’s  lightest  material  developed

With a density of 0.9 mg / cc – about 100 times lighter than Styrofoam.  

“The trick is to fabricate a lattice of interconnected hollow tubes with a wall thickness 1,000 times thinner than a human hair,”  lead author Dr. Tobias Schaedler of HRL.

“Modern buildings, exemplified by the Eiffel Tower or the Golden Gate Bridge, are incredibly light and weight-efficient by virtue of their architecture. We are revolutionizing lightweight  by bringing this concept to the nano and micro scales.”  William Carter, manager of the architected materials group at HRL

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   progress on the new space they say drywall is halfway……..

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its the end of the world as we know it…

in more ways than one!

This equinox finds our realities shifted as we close one chapter and open another…
Today we moved our first load of office stuff to our new space. After being on ‘the hill’ for over a decade we have found an fantastic new place to call home…still work to be done, but exciting none-the-less.Thanks to our wonderful friends and colleagues from Kevin of Urban Wilds and Bud and Neil of River Ranch Construction for their invaluable support and assistance with heavy lifting! We love you!

okay, now, the real mind expander that I am trying to wrap my head around…a few days ago they announced that ghost particles appear to be moving faster than the speed of light. Okay, I guess its all mathematics and who knows what it looks or feels like, or if it exists beyond intellectual equations and wild experiments, but all that strangeness and irrationality holds the makings of yet another paradigm shift that breaks down an immutable(?) law of  understanding the world. While announced with caution because of  its ‘potentally great impact to physics’, this discovery by the Cern is something to contemplate for some time to come.

…andI feel fine.

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this guy thinks like zeroplus

or so says our friend Dan McCloy…

this comes as the highest of compliments (for us anyway, hopefully that comparison wouldn’t scare Rueben 🙂 )
not just because of his sweet and quirky demeanor
or because his work is beautiful and intelligent,
but mostly because he so eloquently describes seeing wonder and light in the world, and within that, learning to search for the core of what lies behind these external appearances.

a man after zeroplus’ heart!

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shishi 011

annual trip out to a wilderness beach on the Washington Coast, this year with a new addition “The KELTY” and a new word:
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a bit of magic that must be shared…

<iframe src=”http://player.vimeo.com/video/18305022?title=0&amp;byline=0&amp;portrait=0&amp;color=ffffff” width=”290″ height=”163″ frameborder=”0″ webkitAllowFullScreen mozallowfullscreen allowFullScreen></iframe>

our planet inspires awe and a deep response


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miscellaneous robotica

We are excited to have been chosen to work with Microsoft’s Stratpro division in imagining the future — assisting the six.Here are two interesting related items that have turned up in the last week. I decided to post them, because of course, the future (and in this case, the past as well)  includes robots. These videos are interesting to watch to see how kinds of different challenges are solved and how criteria shapes the end result.

This video of the treebot has been posted at various points around the web, you may have run across it:


“The design of Treebot is fairly unique: it uses a set of flexible linear actuators connecting two gripping claws to allow it to move around like an inchworm. While the back gripper holds on, the front gripper releases and the body extends forward, allowing the robot to literally feel around for a good place to grip.
Keeping to the inchworm theme, the robot doesn’t use much in the way of fancy sensors. Instead, it’s all tactile. You can tell the robot which direction you’d like it to go and how far, and the robot will grope its way to its destination, adaptively navigating from trunk to branches.”

Although the treebot is “blind”, researchers are working on the treebot optimizing its climbing path to enable faster and higher movement.

These examples called Karakurihave no actuators but are amongst the first lowtech ‘robotic’ prototypes, a fine craft developed 200- 300 years ago during the Edo period.


I am reminded ofTheo Jansen’sbrilliant ingenuity in creating family of strandbeests that roam the beaches, completely analog sensing, actuating, and responsive which carries the quality of both – the fine craft and completely lowtech ‘programming’ of the Kamakuri and the real time reactiveness of the treebot.
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