The Millennial Project 2.0

This eco-village concept would be based on a style of architecture which has always been controversial but may become increasingly common as our civilization’s technological infrastructure evolves to become more ‘organismic’ in character. Commonly known today as free-form organic design, this style of architecture evolved from the Art Nouveau movement early in the 20th Century to become the personal obsession of a small community of maverick artists and designers who have carried it on to the present day –their work sometimes confused with the discipline of Post-Modernism. The most well known proponents of the style today are legendary rock album artists Roger and Martyn Dean, Italian industrial designer Luigi Colani, and architects Eugene Tsui, Kendrick Kellog, Anti Lovag, and Peter Vetsch. This style of architecture was briefly discussed by Marshal Savage in the original TMP who proposed its use for the interior design of Aquarius on the premise that its ability to integrate most free-standing furnishings into the physical structure of the colony –one of its most powerful but also complicated virtues– would help in cultivating a junk-free society unburdened enough by unnecessary personal property to be able to freely move to space. Consequently, the Organica eco-village would represent a close architectural analogy to Aquarius, though as we now understand an analogy perhaps closer to it’s later stages of development.

The essential feature of free-form organic design is the use of a non-Euclidean geometry. There are no straight lines and most features of structures appear to have been grown-in-place from a single structural mass often intended to visually and physically merge with a natural landscape. Styles vary from the very abstract to the geomorphic –mimicking the appearance of rocks and land forms– to the ‘zoomorphic’; where the features of the design are intended to in some way mimic the appearance of features of living organisms –plants especially but in more fanciful designs everything from human limbs to mythological animals. Residential designs are typically based on clusters of cell-like semi-spherical chambers with major functional furnishings –sofas, beds, tables, counters, cabinets, etc.– formed-in-place within the complex structural shape. Utilities tend to congregate in and under floors as this is usually the only flat surface in the structures while inter-level utilities links exploit the interstitial spaces formed between wall shells in the clustering of spaces. Lighting typically relies on conformal lighting elements and formed-in-place sconces that can conceal crude rectilinear hardware. With more modern lighting technology fiber optics and high intensity point-source lamps become possible.

The common building method used today for this form of architecture is ferro-cement based on hand-built wire mesh reinforcement with hand-finished sculptural details. Wall finishes are typically fine plasters but in some cases waxed surfaces, painted surfaces, or even elastic foam and textile covered surfaces are used. Foam or pumice insulation is integrated into the thin but wall shells. While generally a very strong and efficient building method, this elaborate approach to design makes it very high in labor and talent overhead. Without either very simple shapes or very great talent, it becomes easy to produce monstrosities. Some attempts at simplifying these techniques using methods such as pneumatic forming have been explored, but in general these limit structures to such very simple shapes that they sacrifice the freedom of design so desired with this style. Better results have been obtained with the use of more complex removable forms which can be re-used in many situations to produce consistent shapes while truly modular structures have been achieved by replacing ferro-cement with prefabricated fiberglass shells –though this limits structural scales even more.

Effective organic design has always tended to be challenging because these non-Euclidean structures do not integrate aesthetically with any rectilinear artifacts –which constitute the vast majority of artifacts common to the human built environment. Thus one tends to be forced to ‘reinvent the wheel’ again and again with virtually every functional feature of these structures in order to integrate them into complex curvilinear shapes. Indeed, it’s not uncommon to find no two elements in one of these structures –windows, doors, built-in furnishings, lamps– to be alike in shape. This, however, is not considered a drawback by most proponents of the design style as this perpetual novelty of form is regarded as creatively liberating. Unfortunately, it is sometimes very difficult to adopt this approach with many common technological devices and appliances which have been factory-produced and take more technological knowledge to re-design and re-fabricate than most designers are versed in. However, with an organic aesthetic becoming increasingly common in industrial design –and much more so in the future as nanotechnology comes into place in manufacturing– there are a steadily growing selection of technology products that could suit an organic styles environment.

In the near future the employ of organic design will become increasingly easy with the benefits of more advanced computer modeling and computer-assisted engineering and the development of new materials. In TMP 2.0 we will later discuss one such possible new material in the form of Sea Foam, an anticipated advanced carbon or nano-fiber reinforced foam geopolymer which would allow extremely strong structures to be formed by the loose piling of foam in rough shapes which would be carved for their final features and finish with robotic milling systems. However, it is more likely that the Organica eco-village would employ traditional ferro-cement techniques.

Organica would be hand-built by a community of settlers who are truly dedicated to the aesthetic virtues of this form of design, see it as exemplary of a new nanotech-based (even if that may come much later) futurist aesthetic, as a kind of community art project, and a testing ground for techniques to use with a marine settlement based on the same design style. Likely employing the more abstract to geomorphic end of the organic design spectrum, its basic form would be a sprawling interconnected structure of clustered spaces that establishes its own sheltered community landscape surrounding gardens and water features that also integrate with the structure. It is likely to be earth-bermed over much of its surface, to provide more growing space, more thermal mass, to disguise the sometimes bizarre convex exterior forms of its shell structures, and to hide infrastructure hardware that defy easy integration. Unlike other community design concepts we will discuss, Organica is not likely to evolve rapidly because of the need for surgical demolition in the replacement of its structures. Its growth will likely be based on repetition of its basic scheme to create radiating branches of the community based on ‘neighborhood grottos’ centered on a shared group landform and garden space. Pre-planned growth may be based on the creation of a central primary land form concentrating more public community features like shopping and recreation facilities which would be at one end of the initial settlement and then become the center as additional grottos are developed around it.

Organica would definitely not be everyone’s cup of tea, since this is a design aesthetic that people immediately find either beautiful or bizarre. It is likely to be costly and time-consuming to create with a high reliance on volunteer labor because of the high talent and labor overhead it requires, though this would be compensated for by its great potential as a tourist attraction. Likely appealing to artists and environmentalists, the community is likely to evolve a very casual, communal, socially tight-knit, yet somewhat introverted culture relative to the rest of the world. This is a sensual environment for sensual people who would tend to become increasingly more comfortable with the soft, flowing, sheltering, sometimes womb-like, environs of their community than with the hard-edged rectilinear world of the built habitat beyond. Indeed, the sense of encroachment by the outside world could be a key motivator in encouraging this community to produce seed marine settlements based on the same aesthetic.

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