UCLA

Frank Gehry/Gehry Technologies SUPRASTUDIO_Powerpack

NEWS

Led by Pritzker Architecture Prize winner Frank Gehry, this studio explores the possibilities for intelligent micro technologies that support going “off the grid” at the building and urban scale. Currently, the built environment is organized around networks of distribution infrastructures — for power, water, heat, fuel and other services — that over the past century have dramatically affected the structure of the built environment and people’s way of way of life. Often, this design for the grid comes at the expense of the needs of people. But what if the grid itself were unnecessary? The studio will hypothesize what new cities might look like if inhabitants could control their own creation and consumption of energy, cooling, water and other services.

This studio is about going off the grid at an urban scale.
 
Distribution infrastructures - for power, water, heat, fuel, information, and waste - have dramatically expanded their impact on the built environment over the last century. As technical networks penetrate more pervasively the contemporary way of life, the form and construction of homes, schools,  workplaces, and cities becomes beholden to the physical organizations of these nodal and networked systems. Building designs are dictated by the expense and form of mechanical, circulation and distribution systems. The human form of cities are themselves distorted through the infrastructure required for massive car use. Our modern cities and homes are thus shaped and ordered by the requirements of equipment as opposed to designs for people.



The cost of these networks in terms of form, energy, environmental impact, is increasingly apparent. The challenges to the premise of the grid are urgent. What if the grid itself were unnecessary? Are there solutions that liberate design from the physicality of infrastructure? What if you could generate all the energy you needed in your own home? What new, local infrastructures could appear in place of the old?


POWERPACK takes as a hypothesis that local power generation is possible, literally that a small powerpack could substitute for all the current infrastructure of a building. Power becomes local and portable. It also considers local material cycles - recycling material directly into the powerpack, or harvesting waste material for unprecedented uses or even tectonic expression. What role could machines and robots play in this new ecology? What forms might emerge when the city itself goes off the grid?

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