some sketch models

here are some sketch models exploring the opportunities to use the space. they start off with some pipes forming a shelter, then a fireplace that is used by the squatters which then heats a boiler above, which pipes into the metal bench across from the one used by the dealers and hookers. the next model explores multiple boilers feeding into a steam chamber which has been put in place of the metal bench across from the one that is being used. after this is refinement of the placement of the boilers and then the pipe pumping water from the canal. 

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start with a detail

What is it about heat that can modulate a space?

Is HVAC an erasure of true fire or does it trigger its memory?

A purely scientific and numerical outlook on heating is a failure to understand it, a psychological component is mandatory in order to be able to control and tune a space with the phenomenon.

I began to think about my detail by reflecting on what the important aspects of my project are, and what might be an indicative element that would provide a strong basis for exploring the modulation of thermal memory in a building proposition. It is difficult for me to articulate what it is exactly that I am interested in with this project, but it lies somewhere with the need for both a scientific and psychological examination of heat and thermal memory (the psychoanalytic portion missing from my Berlin investigations) and the ambiguity of the role of the human; whether we program our temperatures or whether they program us.

I started considering the “part” in terms of a construction detail, but it is too sterile to simply specify radiant heating in a concrete surface, and to focus on the HVAC seems too broad of a starting point for the detail, but it began to generate some good ideas about how to treat temperature in a building. In Winnipeg we heat all of our spaces to the same constant temperature with few exceptions, in Berlin unused spaces are often unheated and it is common to have a coal burner in the middle of a space as its main source of heat; we don’t see that mechanism that generates our heat in Winnipeg, only the component that delivers it.

With this in mind I would like to include visible, live sources of heat in my building proposition, as well as completely silent and unseen sources. It is in part due to “The Psychoanalysis of Fire” that I find it compulsory to see the fire, as Bachelard describes this act as both contemplative and sexual, while I personally believe that feeling heat without being able to see its source or distributor (such as feeling heat radiating from a surface) will be a trigger for thermal memories. The thermal memory of the materials that would be used in the project is another thing that can play a role through this detail, and bring the scientific and numeric components (that were too focussed on last term without the integration of the psychological) back into the mix.

I am not completely sure where to start with the actual physical detail, but I am going to look at Vitruvius and the Roman hypocaust, along with a couple of books on the history of fire. Hopefully this will give me some material to start sketching out ways to use fire and heat in a way that differs from the typical treatment they get today, and to tune them to the needs of the different people such as the prostitutes, the falafel vendor and the squatters.

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First Site Plan

First site plan at an urban scale, more drawings to follow very soon

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who/what was on the site:


dog walkers


bike riders

falafel vendor

mentally unstable man who yells


tourists on canal tour



sun sitting

casual strolling

pram pushing

drug pushing

making out in bushes


child walking



talking with friends


dog brushing

public urination

the site is a metal “bench” along an overpass bridge and the vaulted space in the east pier of said bridge. in terms of a program for this site, the most prevalent activity that occurs on the bench is the selling of drugs, the dealers sit on the bench almost all day, in shifts, asking people if they want marijuana. apart from that there is a falafel vendor nearby that is there most days, lots of people walking their dogs or jogging past the bench occasionally rest on it, very few cyclists going by, a small amount of children play near by because there is a massive park on the other side of the river, and i saw some women hanging out there that i strongly believe were prostitutes.

as for the vaulted cavern of the bridge pier, the west cavern is being used presumably by the ever present squatters as either storage or a hangout space. the east pier however is filled with a small layer of garbage and the only activity i witnessed on two separate occasions was a man (not the same man both times) stepping off the path, unzipping his trousers and beginning to urinate while i was standing right there, in broad daylight.

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Review: Thermal Comfort in Practice

De Dear, R. “Thermal Comfort in Practice.” Indoor Air 14.S7 (2004): 32-39. JSTOR. Web. 21 Sept. 2010.

An amazing article about the history of thermal comfort research and the future of the area of study. Two main methods of analysis of thermal comfort in buildings are mentioned; the deterministic “engineering” method which uses climate chambers to recreate reality, and the holistic “architectural” approach which looks at the context of the building and its occupants among other things. Missing from these methods, the author argues, is a psychological one which could lead to the most accurate results in the field of study, although it is conceded that the architectural school somewhat includes the techniques and considerations associated with the psychological method.

The most interesting point made is that memory plays a role in the experience of a thermal environment. This argument is similar to the one in a previous article, “Thermal Comfort in Outdoor Urban Spaces,” in that it looks at the context in terms of the physical and psychological modes, a sum of all of the parts of the environment working together which includes humans and memory, a sum that is greater than the individual components.

“Contextual Gestalt.”

“Relationships between stimuli in the environment could be every bit as important as the individual stimuli themselves (Canter, 1975). This Gestalt notion of “the whole environment being more than just the sum of its constituent stimuli” emphasizes contextual effects on environmental perception. Here we mean both the context within which the stimuli occur, and also the psychological context of the subject performing the perception (cognitions, expectations, etc). Therefore environment-behavior relationships must be studied as integral units within their natural contexts (Canter, 1975; Bell et al., 1978) and research methods must endeavor to preserve the integrity of that setting.”

pg. 37

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Nondescript White Box No. 1

Thermostat coil mounted inside of a cube and attached to a paper shutter that moves as the coil furls/unfurls to open/close and opening.

The problem with this experiment is that the heat source, an incandescent light bulb, is right next to the coil, and in the case of a radiant heat source what will the response of the coil be when it moves further away?

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Dissection 2

I dissected another thermostat, this time an older model that was not meant to be taken apart. As a result the compartment housing the coil had to be broken in order to be accessed, and the bimetallic coil was mangled. It still works though, and has become an opportunity to look at its movement in other configurations than a spiral.

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Temperature Readings

I took measurements of several places around the architecture building at 9:00 pm today, after the sun sets the temperature outside is quite cool these days providing a good contrast from outdoors to indoors. I found out a few things from this experiment, first of all that I need more patience because a couple of the readings don’t make sense. Why does the first floor of the building have a different temperature than all the rest? Is it because this is the level with the entries to the building from the outdoors and that these holes in the envelope bring down the temperature slightly? Or is it because I did not wait long enough after getting inside to record the position of the needle? The latter could be the case because after placing the coil near an incandescent light bulb it registered a different temperature for my studio space than before, causing me to believe that the influence of the previous environment has an effect on the coil. The coil has a short term thermal memory, just like us, but how can it show the long term and possibly genealogical thermal memory that I believe we possess?

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Review: Measuring Thermal Comfort

Powitz, Robert W., and James J. Balsamo. “Measuring Thermal Comfort.” Environmental Health December (1999): 37+31. JSTOR. Web. 21 Sept. 2010.

The article cited above is about human thermal comfort indoors and problems that create thermal discomfort. One of these problems is what is called a “radiant-field asymmetry” which is basically when a window or wall is in direct sunlight and begins to radiate heat from its inside surface. The same principle applies to a cold wall that begins to lose heat, and the result is areas that are too warm in the summer and those that are too cold in the winter. According to the article, if the wall or window is 10 degrees warmer than the air temperature then occupants will feel discomfort, and the same applies if the surface is 20 degrees cooler than the surrounding air.

This article has shifted my mind from an image of a radiant heat object sitting in isolation in the middle of a room to a whole building full of different volumes of heat lurking in spaces and sometimes colliding with each other. I now want to look a building as a heat volume within a city, and possibly even perform a thermal section of one using a sensing device to see the wide variety of change from the outside through the many volumes inside of it.

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Review: Thermal Comfort in Outdoor Urban Spaces

Nikolopoulou, M., N. Baker, and K. Steemers. “Thermal Comfort in Outdoor Urban Spaces: Understanding the Human Parameter.” Solar Energy 70.3 (2001): 227-35. JSTOR. Web. 21 Sept. 2010.

This article argues that a purely physiological approach to understanding human thermal comfort in outdoor urban spaces is inadequate, and that a psychological approach must also be taken. After taking data from 1431 interview subjects over the spring, summer and winter of 1997, the team of researchers came to many conclusions.

The problem of thermal comfort outdoors needs to be recognized as being a function of more than just the temperature and clothing levels of people, but also of the built environment. “Problems created by importing architectural vocabulary without adapting it for the local climate” (p. 227) are on the rise with international design and globalization of culture.

The study also showed that people in hot climates prefer to be cool, and that people in cold climates like to be warm. This was no surprise.

The most interesting suggestion brought forth by this research is the idea that memory plays a significant role in the thermal experience. Not only the history of one’s thermal life but of the recent past, the last year, month, day, and even the previous environment that someone came from such as a chilly office. This obviously affects the clothing choices that a person makes when starting the day, but also the mental preparedness of the individual. Expectation is a factor in increasing thermal comfort outdoors, I wonder if being able to see the weather from where one sits would have an effect on them in changing their indoor experience or desensitizing them for when they finally do get outside?

Once outside, adaptation to the thermal environment occurs, and comfort levels change from the initial reception. The activity of people watching or other environmental stimulation can also change the experience one has outdoors, affecting their thermal history and changing their thermal perception.

This article has brought forth the idea that sensing heat is more than just a physical process,  it conjures memory and can deeply affect people on a more than just physical level. In my study of the thermal bounds of radiant heat objects I wonder if memory plays a role? I wonder how far back our thermal history goes, is it genealogical? Does our experience of sitting next to a hot radiator bring to mind the sensation of sitting next to a fire?

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