When Architecture meets Infrastructure to address urban Environmental and Growth challenges.

In the discipline of Information Technology, “architecture” – the space inhabited by users – and “infrastructure”– the systems that enable use – are increasingly being thought of as a single idea. However, in the more tangibly and ideologically entrenched disciplines of architecture, urbanism, and civil engineering, “infrastructure” and “architecture” remain two separate concerns. As advances in new energy technologies become more economically feasible, it is increasingly possible and necessary for buildings to harness all of their own energy from locally available renewable energy sources.

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Given that buildings consume 30-40 percent of all energy produced and contribute equal proportions of CO2 emissions, one of the most compelling opportunities for addressing the environmental crisis is to re-conceptualize architecture as infrastructure, to design buildings and cities as integrated systems for collecting and distributing energy. Just as the information revolution that accompanied the development of the Internet has created new dispersed networks of exchange, collaboration, and efficiency, an emerging energy revolution calls for dispersed networks of self-sufficient energy collection networked together to maximize efficiency.

From JDS ARCHITECTS ’Agenda: Can We Sustain Our Ability to Crisis?’
Why Infrastructure Architecture Matters

With the premise to address large-scale urban issues with a pragmatic and environmental mindset, we will develop research and projects that aim to combine infrastructural needs and architectural outcomes. We will study and design new ways to connect the tremendous efforts and expenses made in the infrastructural sector with the building sector in an attempt to redefine urban development.

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From September through December 2015 I’m running a studio at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology on Infrastructure-Architecture in Chicago. Chicago finds itself in a strategic moment where three major initiatives that will shape the future of the city have just been launched.
Firstly, Mayor Rahm Emanuel has publicly announced that Chicago aspires to be the greenest city in the world. In 2013 the City was nominated the “Earth Hour Climate Leader,” and started collaboration with the World Wildlife Fund to develop innovative technology and open data programs to engage its citizens on climate issues. With this year’s launch of the “2015 Sustainable Chicago Action Agenda,” which sets the key policies and goals for its sustainable development in the coming years, the City reinforces this position, building a solid and fertile ground to achieve its environmental goals.

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Secondly, Chicago is the first American city to set up a metropolitan infrastructure bank, the Chicago Infrastructure Trust. The Trust is Chicago’s response to Washington’s bureaucracy, and intents to give the City autonomy and funds to pursue large-scale infrastructure undertakings by pairing investors with projects.
And finally, the City has recently released a five-year housing plan (2014-2018), Bouncing Back, which dedicates $1.3 billion investment to construct or preserve 41,000 affordable homes.

These measures will have a tremendous impact on the City and its environmental status. However, if not properly planned, all this effort can generate negative outcomes, and this unique opportunity to imagine a new future for the city will have been wasted. This will entirely depend on how development happens.
We will envision a series of projects for Chicago where architecture joins forces with its infrastructural needs to create urban hybrids.
The studio’s results will be reviewed on December 10th 2015 at MIT, Cambridge.

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From September 2016 through June 2016 I’m running a studio at the Royal Institute of Technology, on Infrastructure-Architecture in Stockholm. Stockholm faces a rather drastic challenge in the next 15 years: to house half a million new inhabitants. This condition gives Stockholm the privilege to outtake London as the fastest growing city in Europe but also raises a serious question as to how our profession will approach this challenge and how we will take part in shaping the future of Stockholm, the largest Scandinavian metropolis.