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We were thrilled to host a conversation between Ron Rael and Nicholas de Monchaux, honoring the release of Local Code: 3659 Proposals about Data, Design, and the Nature of Cities, at University Press Books on November 29, 2016. During the conversation, Nicholas shared some of the design choices he made in developing these wide ranging proposals for vacant lots in San Francisco, New York, and Venice. For example, after realizing that fine-grained detail such as park benches and electric lighting required community collaboration, he focused on the natural resources of these spaces — that is their natural lighting and watershed — to produce proposals that provide ecological and urban resilience. Much of the inspiration for this style of design, Nicholas revealed, developed after a conversation with mayors from across the country, in which they explained how owing to earmarked funding and lobbying, certain infrastructural projects were not feasible. Nicholas developed a distributed, community-built model out of these constraints. In a political climate in which many of the BCNM community are struggling to find opportunities for activating change, it was uplifting to hear of discrete, actionable models that can improve our local sphere.
Check out the photos below!
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Join us as we celebrate the launch of Local Code: 3659 Proposals about Data, Design, and the Nature of Cities (University of Princeton Architecture Press) by BCNM Director Nicholas de Monchaux! On November 29th, University Press Books will host a conversation with Nicholas and Ron Rael around data, urban planning, and code to celebrate!
With three billion more humans projected to be living in cities by 2050, all design is increasingly urban design. And with as much data now produced every day as was produced in all of human history to the year 2007, all architecture is increasingly information architecture. Praised in the New York Times for its “intelligent enquiry and actionable theorizing,” Local Code is a collection of data-driven tools and design prototypes for understanding and transforming the physical, social, and ecological resilience of cities.
As much design speculation as narrative, the book contains 3,659 digitally tailored drawings of designs (by Nicholas!) for vacant lots and spaces in New York City, Los Angeles, San Francisco, and the Venice Lagoon, highlighting how such spaces can play an essential and unique role in providing ecological, social, and cultural resilience. Inspired originally by Gordon Matta-Clark’s Fake Estates project, the book has become a graphic and intellectual meditation on cities, networks, data and resilience.
Between these illustrated case studies, critical essays present surprising and essential links between such designs and the seminal work of urbanist Jane Jacobs, artist Gordon Matta-Clark, and digital mapping pioneer Howard Fisher, along with the developing science of urban nature and complexity. In text and image, Local Code presents’a digitally prolific, open-ended approach to urban resilience and social and environmental justice; At once analytic and visionary, it pioneers a new field of enquiry and action at the meeting of big data and the expanding city, focusing on the ecological and social potential of underutilized and unmaintained public land—like that under billboards in Los Angeles, along dead-end alleys in San Francisco, and in city-owned vacant lots in New York City.
Nicholas de Monchaux is Associate Professor of Architecture and Urban Design and Director of the Berkeley Center for New Media. He is the author of Spacesuit: Fashioning Apollo (MIT Press, 2011), an architectural and urban history of the Apollo Spacesuit, winner of the Eugene Emme award from the American Astronautical Society and shortlisted for the Art Book Prize, and Local Code: 3,659 Proposals About Data, Design, and the Nature of Cities (Princeton Architectural Press, 2016). The work of de Monchaux’s Oakland-based design practice has been exhibited widely, including at the Biennial of the Americas, the Venice Architecture Biennale, the Lisbon Architecture Triennial, SFMOMA, and the Chicago MCA.
de Monchaux received his B.A. with distinction in Architecture, from Yale, and his Professional Degree (M.Arch.) from Princeton. Prior to his independent practice, he worked with Michael Hopkins & Partners in London, and Diller, Scofidio + Renfro in New York.
de Monchaux’s work has been supported by the Graham Foundation for Advanced Studies in the Fine Arts, the Hellman Family fund, the Macdowell Colony, the Santa Fe Institute, and the Smithsonian Institution. He is a Fellow of the American Academy in Rome.
Ronald Rael is an applied architectural researcher, design activist, author, and thought leader in the fields of additive manufacturing and earthen architecture. In 2014 his creative practice, Rael San Fratello (with architect Virginia San Fratello), was named an Emerging Voice by The Architectural League of New York—one of the most coveted awards in North American architecture. In 2016 Rael San Fratello was also awarded the Digital Practice Award of Excellence by the The Association for Computer Aided Design in Architecture (ACADIA).
His first book, Earth Architecture (Princeton Architectural Press, 2008) is a history of building with earth in the modern era to exemplify new, creative uses of the oldest building material on the planet. A forthcoming book, Borderwall as Architecture (University of California Press 2017), advocates for a reconsideration of the barrier dividing the U.S. and Mexico through design proposals that are hyperboles of actual scenarios that occur as a consequence of the wall. Emerging Objects, a company co-founded by Rael, is an independent, creatively driven, 3D Printing MAKE-tank specializing in innovations in 3D printing architecture, building components, environments and products (a short documentary of thier work can be seen here).
At Berkeley, Ronald Rael is the Director of the printFARM Laboratory (print Facility for Architecture, Research and Materials), holds a joint appointment in the Department of Architecture, in the College of Environmental Design, and the Department of Art Practice and is both a Bakar and Hellman Fellow. He often teaches graduate design thesis, undergraduate courses on Design & Activism, and has twice directed the one year post-professional Master of Architecture program, Studio One.
Rael earned his Master of Architecture degree at Columbia University in the City of New York, where he was the recipient of the William Kinne Memorial Fellowship. Previous academic and professional appointments include positions at the Southern California Institute for Architecture (SCI_arc), Clemson University, the University of Arizona, and the Office for Metropolitan Architecture in Rotterdam. His work has been published widely, including the New York Times, Wired, MARK, Domus, Metropolis Magazine, PRAXIS, Thresholds, Log, and recognized by several institutions including The Museum of Modern Art, The Cooper Hewitt Smithsonian Design Museum, La Biennale di Venezia, the Graham Foundation for Advanced Studies in the Fine Arts, and Storefront for Art and Architecture.