JUNGLE THEATER 1984

IN THE SPRING OF 1984 AN INTERNATIONAL COMPETITION WAS ANNOUNCED FOR TIMES SQUARE THEATRICAL AREA. PHILIP JOHNSON (THE LATE PROMINENT EVER CHANGING COMMERCIAL ARCHITECT AND ARCHITECTURAL BROKER) HAD UPSET NEW YORK WITH A LARGE DEVELOPMENT PROPOSAL FOR THE WORLD FAMOUS TIMES SQUARE AREA. THUS, A COMPETITION WAS PUT TOGETHER TO SHOW ALTERNATIVES TO DEVELOPING THE AREA. THE PROGRAM STATED THAT PROPOSALS WOULD BE CONSIDERED FOR THE AREA IN GENERAL, THAT THE TIMES SQUARE BUILDING COULD BE TORN DOWN, AND CREATIVE SOLUTIONS WERE BEING SOUGHT. FOR ME THESE WORDS WERE FRESH MEAT IN FRONT OF A TIGER. I PUT TOGETHER MY SCI-ARC SECOND YEAR STUDENTS AND WE KNOCKED OUT A PRESENTATION IN THREE DAYS. A REAL SHAME, BECAUSE THE CONCEPTUAL IDEAS DESERVED MORE.

JUNGLE THEATER - NEW AND OLD CONNECTING

I PERSONALLY DETEST NEW YORK. IT IS DIRTY, ROUGH, UNKEMPT, AND FORBIDDING. THE BUILDINGS ARE TALL, UNINVITING AND BANAL. IT IS HOT IN THE SUMMER AND COLD IN THE WINTER. THE PEOPLE ARE ON THE TAKE AND GANGS LEER AT YOU IN SUBWAYS AND FROM STREET CORNERS. THE LAST TIME I WAS THERE, WHILE ENTERING A CROWDED SUBWAY, A HAND FROM BEHIND WENT FOR MY WALLET. IT MISSED, BUT IT MADE A BIG IMPRESSION. THE CITY SUCKS LIFE OUT OF THE SURROUNDING COUNTRYSIDE FOR MILES AND ITS SLUMS ARE THE WORST. FOR YEARS NEW YORK HAS BEEN USED IN MY SLIDE LECTURE AS THE ULTIMATE PINNACLE OF MANS BUILT MISTAKE. IS THIS THE CLIMAX OF OUR ACHIEVEMENTS? WHAT A MISERABLE HUMAN RACE. AND YET MORE THAN ANY OTHER CITY IN THE WORLD IT ATTRACTS THE RICH, FAMOUS, ARTISTS, AND INTELLECTUALS. MY MOVE FROM THE BEAUTIFUL OREGON COAST TO SAN FRANCISCO TO TEACH AT A UNIVERSITY WAS A STARK CONTRAST FROM LIVING CLOSE TO NATURE TO CONFRONTING A JARRING FILTHY CITY, BUT AT THE HUMAN EXCHANGE LEVEL OF IDEAS AND AVANTE GARD THOUGHTS WENT WAY UP. WHY CANNOT THE CITY DO BOTH?

MAN, THE ANIMAL, NEEDS CONNECTION TO NATURE. WHAT IS A VACATION? TROPICAL BEACH, MOUNTAIN RETREAT, RAIN FORREST,YOSEMITE. IF WE DON’T HAVE THIS CONNECTION WE BEHAVE IN A CRASS MANNER. THEREFORE IT IS OUR TASK TO RESTORE NATURE TO THE CITIES. WITH THIS LOFTLY GOAL I UNDERTOOK TO REMODEL NEW YORK’S MESS. I ACCEPTED THE DENSITY OF THE NEW PHILIP JOHNSON SCHEME. NEXT I TORE DOWN THE TIMES SQUARE TOWER, BECAUSE IT DIDN’T HAVE THE SCALE I WANTED. BOTH DECISIONS WERE A NO NO WITH THE JURORS. NEXT I DESIGNED THE NEW BUILDINGS TO BE CRYSTAL MASSES, SHIMMERING GLASS TOWERS.NOT A NOVEL IDEA. THE FINAL MODEL WAS MADE OUT OF WHITE CARDBOARD AND NEVER REALLY DEPICTED THE CRYSTAL IDEA. AFTER THE COMPETITION I BOUGHT PLASTIC TO BUILD A NEW MODEL, BUT NEVER DID GET AROUND TO FINISHING THE IDEA.

THE BIG OVERRIDING IDEA WAS TO CONNECT OLD AND NEW BUILDINGS TOGETHER UNDER A TENSION STRUCTURE ROOF, CREATING A GIGANTIC GREEN HOUSE. GREEN HOUSES HAVE ALWAYS HAD A SPECIAL APPEAL TO ME. THE IDEA OF FEELING LIKE YOU ARE OUTSIDE, BECAUSE OF THE LIGHT AND AIRINESS, BUT ALSO PROTECTED FROM THE ELEMENTS IS THE BEST OF BOTH WORLDS. THE CRYSTAL PALACE WAS THE ULTIMATE BUILDING FOR MY TASTE. IT HAD THE COMBINATION OF NATURAL LIGHT, AIR, PLANTS AND PEOPLE. THE NATURALLY LIGHT INTERIORS OF THE AVERAGE SHOPPING CENTER HAS VALIDATED THIS APPEAL. TO MY AMAZEMENT, BECAUSE I AM NAIVE ENOUGH TO THINK THAT OTHER PEOPLE WILL LIKE THE SAME THINGS I DO, SOME PEOPLE ARE OPPOSED TO THE BIG GREENHOUSE INTERIOR SPACE THAT REPLACES THE STREET. IF YOU LIKE TO HUDDLE IN WINTER CLOTHING SIPPING COFFEE IN FREEZING WEATHER YOU DEFINITELY WOULD BE OPPOSED. OR BECAUSE WE HAVE ALWAYS HAD OPEN STREETS THAT ARE EXPOSED TO THE ELEMENTS IS REASON ENOUGH TO KEEP IT THAT WAY. EVEN IN CALIFORNIA, WHERE ALL SORTS OF VARIED WEATHER OCCURS, TO ENCLOSE SPACE IS QUESTIONED BY MANY. DO YOU FIND PEOPLE DRIVING AROUND IN WINTER WITH THEIR CONVERTIBLE TOPS DOWN? RARELY AT NIGHT, WHEN IT IS RAINING, COLD OR WINDY?

AS OF LATE NEW YORK HAS BEEN HERALDED AS HIGH DENSITY SUSTAINABLE VS SPREAD OUT COMMUNITIES ON THE LAND. RIGHT ON, BUT AT WHAT COST? I AM ALL FOR DENSITY WITH THE AMENITIES OF SUBURBIA AND NATURE.

JUNGLE THEATER MINIATURE ELECTRONIC YOSEMITE VALLEY

WINDMILLS ARE THE NEW ROOFTOP ORNAMENTS. ROOFTOPS ARE THE OUTDOOR SUN DECKS. A PERISCOPE IS USED TO VIEW THE SKYLINE, PROJECTING THE IMAGE ONTO A GIGANTIC SCREEN MOUNTED ON THE NEW TIMES SQUARE BUILDING ALONG WITH A BARRAGE OF ELECTRONIC NEWS IMAGES AND CRASS COMMERCIAL SIGNS. IMAGES ON THE BIG SCREEN, WERE MARTIN LUTHER KING AND LADY DI.
AS AN ADDED PUNCH I WROTE A POEM TO SELL THE IDEA. ERIK CHAVKIN HAD INSPIRED ME WHEN HE WROTE ONE FOR THE HONG KONG PEAK COMPETITION. MINE WAS DASHED OFF IN FIFTEEN MINUTES MUCH TO THE AMAZEMENT OF MY STUDENTS.

THE COLD WIND CHILLS OUR BONES AND THE ICY PAVEMENT IS TREACHEROUS.

WE GINGERLY DART DOWN THE SUBWAY STEPS, AND ENTER THE GRAFFITI DRAGONS.

AS WE JOLT TO A STOP AT TIMES SQUARE, WE THAW IN A TROPIC HEAT.

THE ROAR OF WATERFALLS IS HEARD OVERHEAD AS WE ASCEND UP CASCADING STAIRS TO A MINIATURE ELECTRONIC YOSEMITE VALLEY.

CARS SURROUND US, BUT WE CLIMB TO THE ELEVATED PEDESTRIAN WALK.

SLOWLY WE HIKE UP THE PATH ON THE SIDE OF THE BUILDING, STOPPING TO GAZE AT THEATERS AND SHOPS, OR VIEW THE MULTIPLE ACTIVITIES WHICH SURROUND US.

ALWAYS COGNIZANT OF THE EXTERIOR WEATHER PROJECTED ON THE BIG SCREEN,

WE ARE SUSPENDED IN TIME AND SPACE IN A KINETIC MOVEMENT WITHIN THIS GIANT CENTER STAGE.

 

SUSTAINABLE SYSTEMS OF JUNGLE THEATER

ACCEPTING THE CONCEPT OF NEW AND OLD HIGH DENSITY VERTICAL GLASS TOWERS ON A GRID PLAN TO BE THE FUTURE OF NEW YORK, JUNGLE THEATER HAS A KINETIC TRANSPARENT SUSPENDED ROOF SLUNG OVER THE CANYONS OF NEW YORK. THIS ROOF SKIN IS AN ADJUSTABLE TO SHADE OR VENT. DURING THE SUMMER THE COLD NIGHT RAYS CHILL THE CONCRETE AND ARE TRAPPED, THE SUN SHADES DURING THE DAY TO PRODUCE NATURE AIR CONDITIONING. DURING THE WINTER THE REVERSE HAPPENS WITH THE BUILDINGS HEAT COMPLEMENTING EACH OTHER AND THE SUN’S HEAT IS TRAPPED TO WARM THE AIR. PHOTOVOLTAICS ARE WOVEN INTO THE SKIN SHADES. THE MAIN FUNCTION OF THE SKIN IS TO CREATE A GIGANTIC GREEN HOUSE, COMPLETE WITH WATERFALLS, FISH PONDS, LUSH PLANTING, AND PATHS UP THE SIDES OF THE BUILDINGS. THE WATERFALLS CLEANSE THE AIR. THE FISH PONDS PRODUCE FOOD, THE TOPS OF THE BUILDING BECAME PARKS. TO NEW YORK’S AND CHICAGO’S CREDIT THE ROOFS OF THEIR BUILDING ARE TURNING GREEN. CARBON DIOXIDE FOM THE VEHICLES IS HEAVIER THAN AIR AND IS BLOWN OUT THE ENTRANCES. WITH ALL THE NEW GREEN TECHNOLOGY NOW THERE ARE MORE GREEN GOODIES TO IMPLEMENT.

SCALING THE FACADES AND BRIDGING TO BUILDINGS OF JUNGLE THEATER

THE HOMELESS HAVE A WARM PLACE TO SLEEP.THE PATHS UP THE BUILDINGS PRODUCE STOREFRONTS ACCESS. BRIDGES CONNECT OLD AND NEW BUILDING, AUGMENTED WITH ELEVATORS AND AIR SHAFTS.RAISED PEDESTRIAN WALKWAYS DOUBLE THE STREET STORE FRONTAGE AND CREATE SAFE PASSAGE ACROSS BUSY STREET.. I REALLY DO NOT UNDERSTAND WHY OUR CITIES ARE NOT USED IN A 3 DIMENSIONAL MANNER LIKE THIS PROJECT? SHOPPING MALLS GO THREE STORIES WITH BRIDGES AND STORE FRONTAGES WITH NO OUTCRY, WHY NOT THE OUTSIDE OF BUILDINGS. AS OF LATE THERE IS MORE INTEREST IN THIS DIRECTION, AND IT IS JUST A MATTER OF TIME BEFORE ALL THIS WILL BE PRESENT DAY. THIS LAST WINTER OF 2010-2011 ATTESTS TO THE FACT THAT A WARM SPOT IS NEEDED IN NEW YORK. JUST THE SNOW REMOVAL ALONE WOULD BE A DOWN PAYMENT SAVINGS.

THERE WAS A GROWTH PATTERN OF SHOWING A SLOW EXPANSIONOF HOW THE SCHEME COULD EXPAND TRANSFORMING NEW YORK INTO THE JUNGLE THEATER CITY.GROWTH IS A VITAL PART OF CITIES AND IN THIS PARTICULAR CASE IT COULD STOP, START, AND GO AROUND OR BE REMOVED OR REMOLDED AS NEEDED OR DESIRED. THE IDEA WAS SO COMMERCIAL AND IMPLEMENTED WITH CITY GOVERNMENT, BECAUSE IT WAS PART OF THE EXISTING STREET PATTERN.

JUNGLE THEATER ON THE MOVE

THE FUTURE IS REMODELING THE EXISTING CITIES, BECAUSE OF THE VESTED INTEREST AND LOVE OF THE PAST AND PRESENT.

HOW TO GET THE CUMBERSOME LOCAL GOVERNMENTS TO IMPLEMENT SUCH IDEAS IS THE MAJOR TASK.WAY BEYOND MY SOCIAL SKILLS.
MAYBE YOU READERS COULD SUGGEST HOW THAT COULD HAPPEN.

TOTAL REJECTION. NOT A WORD FROM THE JURY OR PRESS. THE PRESENTATION HAD BEEN RUSHED. 3 DAYS. BUT THE CONCEPT WAS THERE IN ITS STARK BOLDNESS. THE WINNING SCHEMES ALL RESTORED THE EXISTING TIMES SQUARE BUILDING AND DIDN’T GET INTO URBAN PLANNING. THIS IS A COMMON COMPLAINT ABOUT COMPETITIONS: THE ARCHITECTS THAT PUT TOGETHER THE PROGRAM HAVE NOTHING TO DO WITH THE JUDGING. LOTS OF TIMES THEIR GOALS ARE LOFTIER THAN HARD NOSE POLITICAL JURORS. OUR PRESENTATION BOARD SIMULATED A FILM STRIP CONVEYING THE EVER CHANGING JUNGLE THEATER OF NEW YORK.

IN 1992 I TOOK THE IDEA TO JAPAN. FUKUI A CITY OF ABOUT 500,000 PEOPLE DIRECTLY EAST OF TOKYO ON THE OPPOSITE SIDE OF THE ISLAND INVITED ME TO GIVE A KEYNOTE SPEECH IN A CONFERENCE EMPHASIZING SUSTAINABLE DESIGNING. BECAUSE OF THEIR VERY SEVERE WINTERS, I THOUGHT THE IDEA OF JUNGLE THEATER WAS PERFECT FOR THEM. I KNOCKED OUT A SCHEME TO ENCLOSE THEIR DOWNTOWN AREA.

THE RESPONSE WAS ZERO. I WAS THEIR GUEST SPEAKER, NOT THEIR ARCHITECT NOR URBAN PLANNER.
HERE IS TO LAUGHING IN THE FACES OF THE NEW YORK SNOBS THAT HAVE THEIR DRINKS AT THE FOUR SEASONS BAR, GIVE EACH OTHER AWARDS, FORM RAT PACKS, LIVE IN AN URBAN MESS AND EMBRACE THE LAST GEHRY TORTURED HIGH RENT NOTHING SPACES. CENTRAL PARK AND BROOKLYN BRIDGE ARE THE ONLY SAVING GRACE AND THEY HAD ZERO TO DO WITH THEM. OH YES, HIGH LAND PARK IS A GOOD START IN THE RIGHT DIRECTION AND YOU CAN NOT FORGET A LESSER VERSION OF MY TURF TOWN 1982 DONE BY SOCIALITE ARCHITECT BJARKE INGELS, NOW BEING CONSTRUCTED.

AS EVER,

GLEN

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6 comments

    • ERIK

      THANKS FOR THE STARTLING NEWS, BUT THIS PROJECT WAS DONE IN 1984, 27 YEARS AGO, BEFORE MOST PRESENT STUDENTS WERE TAKING THEIR FIRST STEPS.

      IT CAN BE DONE SO MUCH BETTER NOW, BUT IT HASN’T HAPPENED.

      WHY?

      GLEN

  1. Glen

    BTW went to the alumni cheerfest announcement: SCI-Arc has a home and bought their building. Mentioned several of the SCI-arc originals, Thom Mayne, a couple others but not you…wrong direction, up to a point….

    Now that SCI-Arc mainstreamed the avant-garde as Moss implies and I agree , so where does SCI-Arc go from here; the next 25, 10, 20, 40 years?

    One path is overtly political. As I suggested we should make time and create, and articulate new archi-social typologies.Very much in the attitude of the Soviet revolutionary typologies. Types such as collective housing, green markets, free to sell swap markets, preventive medical and free health clinics, free universities. Strategies such as suburban takeovers, urban farming, dismantling of the punitive court system, …

    The forms that I envision mimic the organic, and differ from the soviet models in that they work with nature. Turf town, Jungle theater, .. i do need to brainstorm more.

    But that is the idea, a set , a series of new architecture proto-typologies: inspired by natural forms, designed to predict and solve the new emerging social needs. Now that is exciting to me.

    I am sure that you have a few ideas….

    eric

    • ERIC,

      THANKS FOR THE OBSERVATIONS AND SUGGESTIONS,

      ERIC MOSS HAS A TENDENCY TO FORGET ABOUT ME, EVEN WHEN WE TAUGHT A CLASS TOGETHER, WE ALWAYS WERE DIFFERENT ANIMALS, AND TO GET US TO REALLY OPEN UP TO EACH OTHER WAS DIFFICULT. BUT WE HAVE OUR MOMENTS WHEN WE CAN LET OUR GUARD AND TALK.

      RECENTLY WHEN I CONTACTED HIM TO CONGRATULATE HIM, HE PRAISED ME FOR STARTING SCI-ARC. MAYBE ERIC MOSS HAS A MEMORY LOSS WHEN HE GETS IN PUBLIC. I THINK WE WOULD MAKE A GOOD COMICAL ACT. WE HAVE ENOUGH SELF CONTROL TO BATTER WITH EACH OTHER WITHOUT LOSING IT.

      YOUR SOCIALIST RALLY TO DEAL WITH THE TRIALS AND TRIBULATIONS OF THE USA ARE WELL MEANING AND AN OBVIOUS FLAW IN OUR CAPITALIST SYSTEM. I TRIED TO DEAL WITH THIS WHEN I DID THE BIOMORPHIC BIOSPHERE, AND REALIZED THAT TRUE ARCHITECTURAL CHANGE HAS TO COME FROM A SOCIETY THAT VALUES EVERYONE AND THE SOCIAL ECOLOGICAL NEEDS OF THE PLANET. AS YOU ARE AWARE, A MAJOR PART OF OUR PRESENT CITIZENS HAVE BEEN WRITTEN OFF.

      ARCHITECTURE IS THE MOTHER OF THE ARTS. ARCHITECTS BY PROFESSION ARE DIRECTORS THAT ARE COMFORTABLE DEALING WITH ALL RHELMS OF ORCHESTRATING MAJOR PROJECTS. THUS GOOD CANDIDATES TO RUN THINGS. BUT REALISTICALLY THE VESTED INTERESTS ARE IN CONTROL AS OF THE MOMENT AND UNLESS THERE IS A PUBLIC OUTCRY TO THE CONTRARY, IT IS BUSINESS AS USUAL. SO HOW TO EXIST WITH NOTHING OTHER THAN AN EDUCATED BRAIN IS CHALLENGING.

      I AGREE WITH THE HOLISTIC BUILT ENVIRONMENT INVOLVING NATURE AS THE DESIGN CONTROL.

      KEEP COOL,

      GLEN

  2. Glen,

    Of course JUNGLE THEATER is a re-working, albeit adapted to a smaller scale and urbanized context, of the BIOMORPHIC BIOSPHERE. The skyscrapers are the compressive supports for the tensile skins. The implied self-sustaining food production that is called-out in the sections are similar in concept to the self sustaining aspects of BIOSPHERE. In that way also BIOSPHERE and JUNGLE THEATRE are similar to the GREEN MACHINE . Both have self-sustaining concepts in the design; GREEN MACHINE has fruit trees within the corridors, grey-water recycling, and solar-powered generators.

    Both GREEN MACHINE and JUNGLE THEATER are derivatives of the concepts first developed in BIOSPHERE.

    Your Managua project, the addition of a canopy park down-slope from the building, to me is also like JUNGLE THEATER but as landscape design not urban eco-infill. I would like to see more of the Managua canopy park developed, in section. I know that this is old news to you but I like it so much as a concept. This project, reworked as a prototypical shade park, or as a proposal for one, I believe will grab the public imagination and is easily publishable anywhere. Just need good graphics for publication.

    A tensile shade park especially self grown and self-sustaining aspects is interesting and a serious solution to global warming. Shade parks, that the concept, the answer.

    eric chavkin

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