Next Progressives: Future Cities Lab

Nataly Gattegno, 35, and Jason Kelly Johnson, 39, founded Future Cities Lab in 2003.

Exhibited at the San Francisco Museum of Modern Art as part of a 2012 show entitled “The Utopian Impulse,” the Hydramax Port Machine project proposes how the San Francisco waterfront can respond to rising sea levels. Rather than barricade the city with dykes and seawalls, Hydramax offers soft tidal edges with responsive, biologically inspired architecture—aquatic parks, gardens, and wildlife refuges—that harness the water for drinking, power, and food production. The model displayed at the museum incorporates motion sensors that, when triggered by visitors, cause featherlike solar collectors and fog-catchers to wave slowly in the air.

A detail drawing of Hydramax.

A social media “whispering wall,” as the architects describe the project, Datagrove was exhibited last year outside the San Jose, Calif., opera house. The installation monitors trending Twitter feeds in Silicon Valley and, when visitors approach, broadcasts them on LCD displays and over speakers. The firm designed and fabricated all the digital and electronic equipment and actuators.

Super Galaxy, a post-apocalyptic reimagining of Trump Tower in New York City, is, in classic visionary fashion, both fantastical but also grounded enough in pragmatics—with a workable structure and scale drawings—to make it seem like a real possibility. A nomadic dwelling with sleeping pods and a suspended hostel, the architectural system harvests rainwater and captures wind energy.

Designed for a 2005 competition in Seoul, South Korea, Energy Farm explores the role of architecture in the city’s physical, cultural, and environmental ecosystems. The hypothetical structure uses responsive site technologies to enhance and boost its environmental and energy performance, making it responsive to user needs on a microscale.

Exhibited at the Van Alen Institute in New York in 2009, Glaciarium reflects the firm’s engagement with responsive digital technologies, experimental materials, and environmental issues—namely, climate change in the Arctic. A block of ice inside the irregularly shaped structure, covered with a plastic skin, slowly melts—the sound amplifying and speeding up when visitors approach.

Also designed for a 2009 exhibition at the Van Alen Institute, Aurora, like Glaciarium, highlights the global warming crisis. The exhibit, composed of a web of cables, LEDs, and tensile elements, is a spatial representation of the Arctic landscape that includes real-time data on ice field movement. The project lights up in response to viewers—a metaphor for our complicity in climate change.

Trilux, an art installation commissioned in 2011 by the Museum of Craft and Design in San Francisco, was displayed at Proxy, a temporary urban activation project in Hayes Valley that featured food vendors housed in transformed shipping containers. The project explored fabrication techniques and served as a gathering place for visitors, who could walk inside the latticed wood.

Join the Discussion

Please read our Content Guidelines before posting

Close X