inspiration     Jul 07 2009

Put an Efficiency Unit in Your Garden

Mapos LLC

One of the driving tenets here at Mapos revolves around the act of re-use. By adaptively re-using materials, buildings, and cities, we can tap into the embodied energy of existing projects negating the need to expend redundant new energy. It also diminishes the amount of ‘stuff’ sent to the landfill. To quote Bill McDonough, “when we throw something ‘away,’ where is ‘away?'” We’re always looking for innovative ways to uncover and celebrate the existing context and use it as an integral component and respected companion to any new construction.


I would not classify us as historical preservationists, per se, but more pragmatic situationists. I mean, existing ‘stuff’ is free, after all. If used intelligently, it can only help the budget. But what do we say about buildings that are so far gone and in such a state of disrepair, that to save and restore and adaptively re-use proves illogical? Sometimes this points to mere architectural failure. As an architect, this may be hard to admit, but some buildings just don’t work. Priutt Igoe had to go, for example. And what happens when we encounter a structure of historical and cultural importance that doesn’t work? Ourroussoff recently reported that Kurokawa’s famed Nakagin Capsule Tower is slated for demolition. He argues that this is a loss of culture, and specifically that we are not respecting the importance of this building (and by extension other buildings in similar predicaments) in our own cultural psyche. Its demolition would be like erasing a piece of our own collective history. But it doesn’t work. It leaks. It’s falling apart. We never really lived the way it meant to have us live. What do we do? The architect in me wants it to remain, in some capacity. (We all want Pennsylvania Station back). The realist in me says it’s broken and it can’t be fixed. Do we ship it away and put it in a park? Do we hit the pause button and wait for everyone to feel their way to consensus? Do we knock it down and chalk it up to a bold experiment that ran its course? Maybe we can auction off the units on eBay. Like ancient artifacts from Mesopotamia to Rome, little bits of Kurokawa will become a new diaspora living on in every corner of the world.