Thursday, September 22, 2011

The current state of the cyborg

This is an excellent mini-documentary to give you an idea of the current possibilities in bionic enhancement of the human body. It features prosthetic eyes, arms, legs, even fins, all for the celebration of the release of the new Deus Ex game "Human Revolution," and transhumanism in general.

We are indeed entering an era where modifying our own body is becoming more accessible and acceptable. To think that we're all going to have prosthetic body parts is an exaggeration though. That could be based on the idea that technology will somehow 'save' or improve us, or just on an attachment to new technologies. Of course for people who lost a capability of their natural body such technologies are wonderful, plus they open up new exciting and interesting niches for embodied human explorations and operations. But all in all, if we are to physically alter our bodies for the sake of transgressive exploration -not unlike many people are currently doing through plastic surgery, we should as well try to become more deeply connected to that body. We might be able to get beyond seeing it mostly as a physical thing, and discover an energy, an underlying intelligence. Technological modifications like shown in the movie might be very interesting and promising, but they may also tend to blind us from a deeper connection with our own embodiment.

Monday, September 19, 2011

Biological architecture

Here's a little collection of conceptual architecture that shows a shift towards holistic design thinking on both the macro- and the microscale. This kind of work definitely brings a new aesthetic into the world while opening up our minds to the idea that what we are creating as humans might not be that far off in quality from what the natural world has been creating all those millions of years, even that maybe our work lies in line with that process itself. And whereas surely this approach to design is not what will 'save humanity' as it might account mostly for our physical needs, but not for our complete scope of psychical needs, it surely is a wonderful step in the ascent of humankind.

Vincent Callebaut has created a far-future concept for airships fueled by a specific type of seaweed. These organisms would produce not oxygen but dihydrogen through photosynthesis, hence the name of the concept 'Hydrogenase'. Vincent envisions these 400-meter tall ships to not only function as passenger transportation, but also as floating buildings such as hospitals. They would be able to move at 175km/h by means of twenty wind propellors. The ships would furthermore be provided with an intelligent skin that incorporates nano-technologies to make it self-cleaning and self-repairing.

Yheu-Shen Chua has re-envisioned the Hoover dam to be a highly organic and open structure that actually makes transparent the waterflow and the ecology within the water. It would incorporate a bridge, a gallery, and a vertical aquarium.

If it's up to the French guys who created the 'Flat Tower' concept, a global-minded humanity makes no big deal of who owns what piece of land. Instead of building vertically to create more living spaces in the dense urban environment, they take a different approach: open and organic horizontal structures that dome the underlying cityscape. This might be very interesting for hot parts of the world, where such a structure could convert a large amount of sunlight into energy, and provide the city with more shadow area.

The concept skyscraper 'Hydra' is envisioned to provide energy to its inhabitants by means of a lightweight grapheme exoskeleton. This structure would attract lightning bolts which could then charge several mega-batteries.

Finally, here's a concept from the nineties by Eugene Tsui for a sustainable city built in the sea. Of special interest is the structure of the building, which is modeled after the human spine in order to direct and disperse stresses and strains. It would also have a "Living Machine" module that employs marine organisms to transform sea water into drinking water.

By the way, there's an excellent Zaha exhibition in Paris until October 30th. You can find it in a special pavilion just outside the Institut du Monde Arabe. It shows some of Zaha's projects, some experimental work, her working process and underlying design philosophy. I've visited myself and overall, it gives you a good feel of what organic and bio-inspired architecture can become.

Sunday, September 18, 2011

A sofa that follows your body

Swiss designer Alexander Rehn has created the 'Cay Sofa', a piece of furniture that is definitely iconic for an age of increasing unpredictability and complexity. This sofa invites us to relax our bodies but remain in a state of active exploration and body awareness. It gets us out of our minds and into the world. It also gets us out of habitually taking on certain poses when we use furniture items, but instead has us open up and see what happens, while we enjoy the sensations of the current moment.

It's not perfect yet, but it's definitely a step towards a more free, open, and dynamic world of technology. Watch the video for a better impression: