is a Chicago based office founded by Sean Lally that builds teams of architects, landscape architects, engineers and researchers to explore new opportunities for how we design and build the environments we live in.
The greatest challenge facing architecture and our broader society today is the need for advancements in harnessing energy. Rather than continue to focus on maximizing efficiency for its conservation and consumption we must provide an architecture with lifestyles for the future that give us new worlds to strive for and realize. In our projects we test the social, organizational, economic and aesthetic implications of these new architectures.
Without this fundamental rethinking between architecture and energy, both will remain to be seen as distinct; architecture as a building of walls and energy as a fuel for filling it. Instead, architecture is at a unique and adventurous stage for questioning and reinforming our definitions of architecture and the environments and lifestyles they foster.
Photo credit: Untitled ONE: (c) Sean Lally
The Air from Other Planets
A Brief History of Architecture to Come
By Sean Lally
Published by Lars Müller Publishers
In The Air from Other Planets, Sean Lally introduces the reader to an architecture produced by designing the energy within our environment (electromagnetic, thermodynamic, acoustic, and chemical ). This architecture exchanges the walls and shells we have assumed to be the only type of attainable architecture for a range of material energies that develops its own shapes, aesthetics, organizational systems, and social experiences. The book is a story in which energy emerges as more than what fills the interior of a building or reflects off its outer walls. Instead, energy becomes its own enterprise for design innovation: it becomes the architecture itself.
The Air from Other Planets is a book nostalgic for the future, rooted in the belief that the architect's greatest attributes lie not only in harnessing the latest technologies and advancements in building materials, but also in exercising our imaginations through speculation and the projections of worlds and environments yet to exist. The book shows us that some of our greatest discoveries come not from seeking something new but from re-examining what we already have around us.
The Art Institute of Chicago
Curated by Alexander Eisenschmidt & Jonathan Mekinda
04.05.4 through 01.04.15
(c) Art Institute of Chicago_Chicagoisms
Throughout its history the city of Chicago has inspired myriad urban and architectural innovations, many of which have had far-reaching influence. Indeed, urbanists and architects today still look to many of these historical moments in Chicago as exemplary instances of progression and development. This exhibition surveys Chicago’s rich urban history and explores contemporary approaches to five Chicagoisms—key historical principles that have powered the city’s distinctive evolution.
As part of a series in which the department enlists contemporary architects and designers to organize installations that investigate critical issues within their practices, architectural theorist Alexander Eisenschmidt and art historian Jonathan Mekinda have extrapolated key ideas from their recent publication, Chicagoisms: The City as Catalyst for Architectural Speculation. Along with designer Matt Wizinsky, the team engaged contemporary architects to undertake their own investigations and interpretations of five Chicagoisms. Developed as architectural models with corresponding manifestos specifically for this exhibition, these contemporary explorations are presented with historical black-and-white photographs that are emblematic of the five Chicagoisms. This juxtaposition of the historic and the contemporary underscores how the architectural and urban history of Chicago can act as a catalyst for new forms of speculation and innovation.
- Alexander Eisenschmidt & Jonathan Mekinda
Sean Lally / WEATHERS
(with Shifa Virani and Maged Guerguis)
The myth of the skyscraper and its start in Chicago is well known, especially the role played by technological ingredients such as steel, electrical lighting, and the elevator. Technological advancements continue today; the most important are in the fields of energy and bio-engineering. The first will give architects a new building material to sit alongside the steel, concrete, and glass of the past, while the second offers the means for the human body to sense the boundaries made with such material energies. Once again, Chicago must nurture technology in order to define the aesthetics and typologies of a new architecture and the urban experiences that it might yield.
(c) Art Institute of Chicago_Chicagoisms
2012 Installation Proposal
with (Evgeniya Plotnikova, Maged Guerguis)
Proof 001 is a proposal to provide a flexible architectural space for the public parks and plazas of Chicago. Embedded into the existing stone paving of the plaza, the project sits flush on grade. Two openings are covered with a porous, walkable surface. The larger opening pushes air out and launches it on a circular course before it is pulled back down and recycled by the smaller opening to the rear. The energy mass within the plaza creates a physical shape and space usable during Chicago’s winter months) and the shape of the space can be tuned in intensity to accommodate changing recreational and public programming needs and can even go dormant when not needed. The boundary edge of the space can be held tightly as the air moves out from the source below and into the environment above. Air temperature, velocity, and the release of particulates into the air join together to inform the spatial boundary edge. Spatial boundaries can be both visually detected from a distance as well as sensed through tactile means, triggered by the thermal and electrical charges and resistance of air particulates that the human body comes in contact with as it approaches and enters the spaces.
Interior / exterior boundary condition
Ground plane without material energies
Past Futures, Present, Futures,
Storefront for Art and Architecture, New York, New York
10.05.12 through 01.12.13
Past Futures, Present, Futures presented 101 unrealized proposals for New York City, dating from its formation to today with 101 reenactments by inviting artists, architects, writers and policy-makers to create alternative visions for the present and future of the city. With the belief that art and architecture, beyond the production of new forms of capital or building solutions, has the power to re-imagine new forms of collective aspiration, the exhibition presented a past and future historiography of novel ideas in New York to open discussion about relevant actions in the city, their vectors of desire, methodologies, limits, audiences and agents. - Storefront for Art and Architecture
Does Central Park Dream of Electric Shapes, 2034
Central Park goes electric. It wasn’t always lit, or even open at night. But that first gaslight saw to it that our relationship to its outdoor spaces would never be the same. Street lighting choreographs our movements and pauses through the park, re-tuning our bodies to the same geographies we might have strolled past hours earlier when the sun had not yet set. More than one hundred and fifty years later, we do more than shine a light into the dark park. Energy is more than a light bulb and it does more than meet our eyes in dark places –it’s capable of building its own architecture. Central Park has always suffered from wanting more, in fact, needing more-- more people to populate it with even more activities-- but more activities have always meant more buildings. Buildings with structures, canopies and walls. And unfortunately, this isn’t something Central Park can have. No new buildings in Central Park I’m afraid.
“If we can’t have more buildings in our park, we’ll simply build our architectures without walls and roofs”. Or that was at least the general sentiment at the time; it wasn’t something that was chanted in the streets, as much as just blurted out in the bars by drunken opportunists. Could we get the activities and control that we associate with a building interior from expanding the role of the energies that generally just fill those buildings up? Was it possible that we had been going about this all wrong? The solution wasn’t to make our buildings look more like the park (buried below or covered in plants) but starting with the streetlight and layering additional forms of energy (electromagnetic, thermodynamic, acoustic and chemical compositions) until it becomes robust enough to meet the needs of our growing activities – thought to only be capable of occurring behind walls and roofs. If street lighting gave us new opportunities to explore and relate to our parks and city streets at night, one could only imagine what our experiences could be with these new shapes of energy.
Central Park has done more than go electric over all these years. The shapes that began in earnest as simple beams of light from over head, used to illuminate a path, have advanced to become their own architecture of aesthetics, shapes, boundaries and activities. Architecture is in the park! Be careful not to trip on the cord, I’d hate to see it all disappear.
Photo by Naho Kubota