A Typological Study of a Kinetic Architecture: Culture + Commerce Mill

STUDENT David Coole, University of British Columbia

LOCATION Vancouver, British Columbia

Today’s intensification of social and urban change coupled with issues of sustainability amplify the demand for architectural solutions that accommodate change. Kinetic architectures offer the promise of easy, rapid and reversible ingenious mechanical transformations in response to changing program and occupancy pressures. This thesis investigation takes the form of a typological study in which a specific design was developed that incorporates a set of kinetic architectural strategies to accommodate a credible range of occupancies and programs.

Windmills and water mills were the earliest forms of working machine buildings that harnessed energy available from their immediate surroundings to perform the crucial tasks of pumping water or milling grain. Clock towers and theatres were also among early forms of machine buildings that served cultural needs.

What developed in this thesis was a specific example of a machine building, a culture + commerce mill. Change is the focus of the program: change can occur over a period of hours, days, weeks, seasons, years or generations. Movement is the tool to address architectural problems, and qualities of flexibility, versatility, durability, specificity, and longevity were sought, together with delight and fascination. The site is a typical downtown Vancouver triple lot measuring 75 * 120 with a party wall condition to the adjacent properties and a service lane to the south-facing rear faade. The program categories considered include assembly, institutional, commercial, residential, light industrial and combinations of these.

Energy Mythologies

Gravity is possibly the most benign energy that society is aware of. Solar energy fuels powerful weather systems that shape the environment, slowly, constantly, incrementally, minutely, and cumulatively, to monumental scale. The earth is a huge molten sphere with more stored thermal energy than imaginable. Combustion of fossil fuels is understood to be responsible for the current troubled environmental state. Hydrogen is a storage medium, not a form of energy. Considering the harmful nature and longevity of the wastes produced by the release of nuclear energy, its use should be prohibited. All forms of plant matter can be eaten, burned, or decomposed. Muscle power from people and animals previously served much of our energy requirements for many centuries. There is no lack of energy; there is only an inability to harvest and distribute energy in an efficient and sustainable manner.

Berke: One couldn’t help but be entranced by the aspects of this project, as the work involved in investigating all the moving parts of each element developed by Mr. Coole was very impressive. There was an obsessive thoroughness to the kinetic models that was captivating: and, the models were beautiful.

Sweetapple: A nicely executed study on kinetics in architecture. Usually studies like these are non-committal, vague and not feasible, but this student took everyday architectural elements such as stairs, walls, and roofs and made them respond to programmatic or climatic factors through the machine-like devices. The seriousness of the drawing and the modelling made the proposition believable.

Teeple: The thesis produced a large number of very pleasurable machines within a machine. The result is dynamic, extremely well crafted and witty. It is an excellent example of how the whole can be greater than the sum of its parts.