Tagged : competitions

On Demand Experience

Six of the best futuristic skyscraper concepts

Several years ago a Jelmer Frank and I developed the On Demand Experience. This skyscraper was our entry for the 2011 eVolo Skyscraper Competition. Every year, architecture journal eVolo runs this international competition. Hundreds of architects and designers participate every year. Out of 715 entries, our entry was awarded an Honorable Mention.

Recently co-participator and friend Jelmer Frank discovered an article on UK technology website TechWorld.com. It’s an article written five years after the On Demand Experience. The article mentions six of the “best futuristic skyscraper concepts”. TechWorld writes:

Architects from around the world participate, and contributions have ranged from an apartment building with an integrated robotic warehouse for on-demand goods to a sprawling eco-friendly data centre highrise in Iceland.

Yep, we’re the “apartment building with integrated robotic warehouse” TechWorld talks about. Five years after we competed in eVolo, people still remember our entry. Amazing! TechWorld continues the article by highlighting six concepts, including the On Demand Experience. Read the full article here.

kiozk accenture innovation award and exchange

Accenture Innovation Exchange

Last week, the 2013 edition of Innovation Exchange took place in Amsterdam. Accenture, which organized the event, provided seven of their partner companies with a list of hundreds of Dutch innovative startups. This list included Kiozk. Three companies were interested in us and invited Kiozk to the event.

This gave us the opportunity to present Kiozk to three amazing companies. And, it’s the first time I attended such an event, which made it even more exciting. We met great people and got introduced to more than just three companies. I’m excited about the future!

kiozk accenture ABN Amro Sanoma Wegener Vodafone KPN

Fyra fiasco

Icedome Almere, fiasco in the making

Forget the financial crisis, global warming or conflict in the Middle East. A high speed train and national ice skate arena is all we currently talk about in the Netherlands. Why? Well, one of these topics is a fiasco, the other will be in a few years.

Fyra, which is should be a high speed train from Amsterdam to Brussels, is something that turned out to be too good to be true. Several years ago, the government and railway officials of Belgium and the Netherlands painted a bright future with two possible outcomes. 1) Everything would work out exactly as planned, thus creating a perfect train connection between the two countries… or 2) the project becomes a fiasco… guess what, it’s the fiasco that happened.

In 2013, exactly the same is about to happen with the national ice skate arena.

Here’s the situation

1. The Dutch are crazy about ice skating (it’s one of our national sports)
2. All the major national and international ice skate events allocated to the Netherlands take place in a single ice skate arena, which is Thialf.
3. Thialf, our national ice skate arena is outdated and needs to be modernized
4. Local politicians waited too long before making any decisions regarding a modernized Thialf
5. This prompted the Dutch national ice skate federation to write out a competition. ‘Which city wants to build the next national ice skate arena?’
6. Three cities responded, including the city where Thialf is located. But another city, Almere, has the best plan thus possibly wins.
7. There only seems to be one problem… Icedome Almere (the best entry), feels too good to be true…

It’s all about the money

Thialf, the current arena, presented a plan which costs about 80 million euros. The plan is divided in three phases, the first and most important one costs 50 million, which is covered for by the local government. The other contender, Icedome Almere, presented a much more ambitious plan which costs over 180 million. Paradoxically, this plan doesn’t need support by the government. Instead, businesses cover all costs involved. Although this sounds great, it feels unrealistic. Especially when the initiators are tight lipped about any (possible) investor involved.

In addition, Icedome Almere expects 1,2 million annual visitors, which equals more than 3000 people a day. To be fair, they plan to host non-skate events like musicals, festivals and concerts as well. Still, it’s a large number which feels a bit optimistic. What if ‘only’ 600.000 people visit the arena (still a huge number). In that case, who’ll cover the investment of 183 million euros + 15 million in annual operation costs?

A perfect stadium or fiasco?

Let me rewrite the second paragraph, but instead of Fyra (the train), It’s Icedome Almere we talk about. Here we go: Recently, initiators of Icedome Almere painted a bright future with two possible outcomes. 1) Everything works out exactly as planned, thus creating the perfect ice skate stadium… or 2) the project becomes a fiasco (which forces the government to help out, again)… Guess what, I think the latter.

Let’s see how this project develops. I’ll keep you posted.

A new capital for Australia, part 1

A while ago, a friend and I participated in an international architecture competition. The task: Design a new capital for Australia. Unfortunately, we didn’t win (oh well, it was a longshot anyway). Nonetheless, I’d like to share our thoughts about this new capital with you.

Why does Canberra look the way it does?

It’s not that hard to figure out which factors influenced the 1912 design of Canberra. Old design documents mention the capital should “suggest grandeur” and “effectively symbolize a national capital”. Which makes sense. After all, back in 1912 Australia was a new country with little to no history (apart from the Aboriginals). They were in need of something that would unify them. A capital possibly?

The leaders of Australia hoped their new country would be a perfect democracy, a perfect country. They tried to reflect this on the nations capital, because this city could be the symbol for their new nation. This is exactly why Canberra is a perfect master planned city with plenty of parks and lots of public services. Ironically, because of its master planned characteristics, many Australians view their capital as a city unlike the rest of Australia. This is something which could be fixed with a new capital.

Does Australia need a new capital?

Tthe not-so-good feeling many Aussies have about Canberra doesn’t justify a new capital. Instead, there’re more compelling reasons, like the rise of the Internet, global warming, terrorist attacks and a global economic crisis. These are factors which influence our daily lives in a big way and couldn’t be more different than a hundred years ago (when Canberra was founded). This new reality brings new challenges and prompts questions like:

– Can Canberra be transparant and terror-proof at the same time?

– What does the rise of the Internet mean for government?

– Government grows bigger, while individualism is on the rise. How can a capital bridge this ever growing gap between individuals and the (mega) government?

In a way, the current Australian capital represents the old (check out the Canberra mega parliament building below). But times have changed. This all leads to a single question: Is a conventional capital like Canberra even capable of fulfilling her duties in this modern age? One could argue that a new capital is needed to represent the new and modern Australia.

What is a capital

OK, so we might need a new capital (without the need for a new capital, there wouldn’t be an architecture competition anyway). But what’s a capital exactly? In my view, a capital is just a city… a place where a lot of people live, work, study and relax. But there’s one major difference between a capital and any other city. The capital is a symbol. A symbol of power and, for western countries, democracy. It’s the symbol for what a country is or wants to be. For western countries, this symbol is embodied by a parliament building, a home for democracy. Since Australia is a democracy, a parliament building should be the centerpiece of this new capital as well.

But this home for democracy can be more than ‘just a building’. It’s much more powerful when it embodies the era in which it’s built. Which is true for buildings like the US Capitol and the German Reichstag.

US Capitol (1811)

This parliament building embodies the era of democracy, which started just after the US became independent from Britain. Democracy is the reason why the US Capitol is built on a hill in the exact center of the city, thus visible throughout Washington DC. It shows everyone that the people are in power. Which is also why the US Capitol is much bigger than the White House, residence of its head of state (bigger = more power). Until then, this was something unheard of in other western countries. It’s not surprising why people regard the US Capitol to be a symbol of democracy.

Reichstag (1999)

The historic Reichstag with its new glass dome symbolizes the era of unity, and not just for Germany. Instead, it symbolizes the unity of the entire western world. Inside, graffiti from both Nazi and Communist soldiers is preserved, thus reminding everyone Germany won’t forget its history. The glass dome, which tops the Reichstag symbolizes the long wished for transparency of government. And, not coincidentally, it was designed by a British (!) architect, Sir Norman Foster.

These two examples illustrate the era’s in which these parliament buildings were built. Currently, we live in the era of the Internet, which changed everything we know, including politics. Which prompts the question: Why not create a parliament building which symbolizes this era?

Where should the capital be located?

Well, that leaves us with one final important issue. Where to locate this new capital? That’s a tough nut to crack, since the size of Australia’s land surface is incredible. Still, the country is one of the most urbanized in the entire world. An incredible half of the population lives in just four (!) cities. Let me repeat that: Half the population lives in four cities! For the new capital, this could be an ideal situation. Why not situate the capital near these four cities, which allows the city to serve at least half of the countries population. And it’s easily doable, since there’s only 4000 kilometers separating some of these cities… hold on… did you say 4000 kilometers?

I guess that’s not gonna work.

Another option is to locate the capital in the exact middle of the country (near Alice Springs). However, this results in a natural barrier of thousands of kilometers for almost the entire population. That’s no good as well.

Let’s go unconventional

Apart from the everything mentioned above, constructing a new capital involves more than just erecting a parliament building. For a new, conventional, capital, an entire ecosystem of houses, offices, stores, entertainment and public services is needed. It takes some time to build, but ultimately this new city won’t be that different than Canberra. No problems will be solved, but a lot of money is wasted.

This is why we believe a conventional capital is not an option. Let’s go unconventional.

End of part one.

6 hours, 6th place

A while ago me and my brother participated in a ProRail competition. Since we didn’t have much time but really wanted to compete, we decided to come up with something as quick as possible. We spend a total of six hours on this project. Weeks later, it turned out these six hours put us in sixth place (out of 75 participants).

We designed a heated seat which is shaped like a cube (yep, that’s why we named it HotCube). During winter time, this heated seat will be installed at train stations. Passengers use these HotCubes to warm themselves while waiting for a train.

The cubes will be LED-lighted. Using sensors, a popular HotCube will be lighted more intensely compared to a not so popular one. This results in many different colors and color intensities, which looks fun. Also, it offers ProRail data on where HotCubes are most needed. After all, when a HotCube isn’t intensely colored, it’s not very popular thus should be moved to another area of the train station.

On a side note, if six hours results in a sixth place… what would’ve happened if we spend just five hours on the project? Or four…?