GREEN MACHINE CONCEPT – 1

the big idea happening at a small scale

AFTER 12 YEARS OF PROMOTING THE BIOMORPHIC BIOSPHERE WITHOUT ANY PEOPLE RUNNING DOWN THE ISLE AND THROWING THEMSELVES ON THE STAGE BEGGING TO DEVELOP THE BIOMORPHIC BIOSPHERE WITH REAL BUCKS, I DECIDED TO BUILD MY OWN MINIATURE BIOMORPHIC BIOSPHERE WITH A SMALL AMOUNT OF MONEY. THAT I GOT FROM THE SALE OF THE IRVING GILL HORATIO WEST COURT APARTMENTS BY IRVING GILL. I DECIDED TO BUY A TRAILER COURT AND BUILD MY OWN COMPLEX. THE IDEA WAS THAT THE TRAILER COURT WOULD GENERATE SOME MONEY AND WOULD FALL WITHIN THE ZONING I NEEDED TO DO MOVABLE CLOSE PACKING HOUSING. I COULD RENT THE TRAILER PADS AND GENERATE SOME MONEY.

THE CONCEPT WAS TO BUILD A STRUCTURE WITH ALL THE INFRASTRUCTURE THAT HAD LIVING PADS AS VERTICAL BUILDING SITES. THE PERSONAL LIVING MODULARS WOULD BE CAPABLE OF BEING MOVED AND REPLACED AS NEED DICTATED. THIS WAS THE ERA OF ARCHIGRAM, OSKA 70, AND HIGH TECH SOLUTIONS. THE INDUSTRIAL LOOK OF PROFESSIONAL ROLLER KITCHEN RACKS GLASS BLOCKS. RIVETS, CLIPS, METAL MESH, STEAL SKIN, RUBBER ETC., THAT THE NORMAL PERSON FOUND THE AESTHETICS COLD AND INSTITUTIONALIZED. THE MOVEMENT IS STILL IN VOGUE TODAY. I ALSO BEING CONCERNED WITH BEING SUSTAINABLE, BEFORE THE WORD WAS POPULAR. CONSEQUENTLY, THE LOOK I SOUGHT WAS MORE OF A GREENHOUSE WITH TRELLIS FEATURES THAN JUST AN EXPOSED STEEL FRAME WITH PLASTIC PLUG ONS.

THE SEPARATION OF INFRASTRUCTURE AND PLUG IN UNITS WAS IMPORTANT, ALLOWING FOR UP GRADES AND VARIATION OF LIVING UNITS AND INFRASTRUCTURE WITHOUT PERMANENT CONSTRUCTION LIMITATIONS. THERE IS A LOT OF CONFUSION WHEN THE BUILDING IS COMPOSED OF MODULAR BLOCKS , LIKE HABITAT 67 HAVING TO DO BOTH. INFRASTRUCTURE AND PLUG IN. IT DOES NOT WORK. ALSO A LOT OF THE CARGO CONTAINER PROPOSALS END UP HAVING SEPARATE INFRASTRUCTURES TO PLACE THE CARGO CONTAINERS ON, WHICH DEFEATS THE WHOLE IDEA OF HAVING STACKED CARGO CONTAINERS.

TRAILERS COME IN INFINITE SIZES, SHAPES AND COLORS. SANTA MONICA AND HAD A NUMBER OF TRAILER PARKS AT THE TIME WITH MOST OF THE TRAILERS GROUNDED WITH INFINITE ADD ONS AND UGLY EVERYTHING. I ATTRACTED TO THE AIRSTREAM BECAUSE OF THE INDUSTRIAL LOOK. BUT THIS IS A LOOK THAT FEW APPRECIATE AND CAN ONLY BE SHARED WITH OTHER AIRSTREAM OWNERS AND DESIGN SENSITIVE ARCHITECTS AND DESIGNERS. AIRSTREAM ACTUALLY HAVING CLUBS WHERE THEY COME TOGETHER. THE DESIGN FOR EFFICIENT AIR FLOW WHEN TOWING, REFLECTION OF THE SUN TO STAY COOL, AND THE LIGHT AIRPLANE CONSTRUCTION WITH ALUMINUM FRAME ECT. I WAS INTO COMPACT SPACES AND WITH ACCESS TO EXTERIOR SPACE. I DROVE SILVER, METALLIC GREEN, RED CARMEN GHIAS CONVERTIBLES DURING THIS TIME OF MY LIFE. MY 6′ 5″ BODY FRAME SLIPPED RIGHT INTO THESE COMPACT CARS. WHAT FUN THEY WERE IN THE CALIFORNIA SUN AND RAIN. ALWAYS LEAKING, SOLVING THAT PROBLEM BY DRILLING HOLES IN THE FLOOR BOARDS TO DRAIN..

THE COMPACT SPACE NOW IN VOGUE WITH THE HIGH COST OF LAND IN THE CITIES. THERE COULD BE GRAPHS COMPOSED OF HOW MUCH MONEY A PERSON HAS COMPARED TO THE SQUARE FOOTAGE THEY LIVE IN. THIS GOES FOR HOUSES AS WELL AS CONDOS. THE MORE SPACE YOU OWN TO LIVE IN THE MORE MONEY YOU HAVE. ONE OF MY SINGLE MEN CLIENTS, BUILT WAY BEYOND HIS NEEDS, LIKE THE GOLD CHAIN AROUND THE NECK OR HUGE DIMOND ON THE FINGER OF THOSE THAT HAVE THE BUCKS. A BASIC DRIVE TO SHOW OFF WEALTH.

the pitch to sell the ideal dream of luxury housing in the wilderness, the vehicle to tow the airstream having to have substantial power and strength to do so. thus having to drive a muscle vehicle when detached.

jaguar xke

my vehicle during my green machine era. a souped up volkswagen not that well built, the older models affordable to give me the artistic look.

at the time i purchased the used 1961 carmen Ghia, i could have bought a used 1961 Jaguar xke for about the same price, but didn’t because of the maintenance and not having a back seat for my kids. a wise move, but the beauty of the xke still haunts me.

body frame and skin

insulation

there is a lot to be said for living in a compact space with access to the outdoors. at this time, airstream was into fake plastic wood, but their earlier models had good quality wood interiors. there are a few examples of architects living and working in airstreams as of late. at the time you could buy a used airstream for about $ 5,000. that is cheap housing.

when i would show this shot in lectures there was a gasp, indicating to me the back lash of the women’s movement, but i could have been lighting the candle just as well and often did. an excitement of all things can happen in a small space. with our computer world it has become real that possessions can be recorded, rented, or bought with ease. life is a lot more simple without having to take care of a bunch of stuff, and yet have access to the beauty of the world.

look at all that room.

the in crowd of airstream owners. celebrating the affordable best. i being a visual control freak architect banked on tight aesthetics that the green machine committee would enforce to make sure of keeping the look.

i bought a new gmc motor home bare inside to put my office in and yet be able to travel. here sitting in the driveway of a rented dingbat, with erik my son on tricycle. a huge mistake, because of all the things necessary to make it work for living and cost of gas and insurance. it was too much for me financially and design wise. so i ended up selling it to sci-arc for a bus for field trips. that worked out well and they sold it to jim hubble which used it to put restored cars in to travel. like a yacht, if you have to think about the cost you can not afford the motor home. hubble was rich.

I LOCATED A TRAILER COURT FOR SALE IN CARSON {A SMALL COMMUNITY NEAR SAN PEDRO, THE HARBOR OF LOS ANGELES ). I BUILT A QUICK MODEL OF THE IDEA. IT WAS THREE STORIES WITH A WIDE PUBLIC GREEN HOUSE CORRIDOR DOWN THE MIDDLE. OFF THE CORRIDOR WAS A SERIES OF PADS TO PUT TRAILERS AND MODULAR HOUSES ON. THE GROUND LEVEL WAS PARKING UNDER THE STRUCTURE SURROUNDED BY A GARDEN PARK. THERE WAS A LARGE GANTRY CRANE THAT RAN OVER THE TOP CORRIDOR FOR LIFTING OF THE TRAILERS AND MODULAR HOMES AND A WIND MILL AT ONE END. THE CONCEPT WAS TO MAKE THE PROJECT ECOLOGICALLY SELF SUFFICIENT AS POSSIBLE. HIGH TECH WAS THE DESIGN EMPHASIS. THE ARCHITECTURE OF USING THE LATEST TECHNOLOGY. THE GOAL BEING AN ARCHITECTURE OF A KIT OF PARTS FROM THE MACHINE AND ELECTRONIC AGE THAT MASS PRODUCED WOULD MAKE IT ECONOMICAL.

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kisho kurokawa business mans capsule housing tower. a huge inspiration to do the most with the least. i visited the tower when i was in japan 1982, like a true monument, it was not being respected at the time.

crystal cathedral space frame by philip johnson and john burgee,

THE LIVING UNITS WERE INSPIRED BY AIRSTREAM TRAILERS. THE CADDILAC OF THE TRAILERS. I WAS ATTRACTED TO THEIR INDUSTRIAL SILVER AREO DYNAMIC SHAPE. SO MUCH SO THAT I DECIDED THAT I WOULD MAKE ONE OVER INTO MY OFFICE. I PUT CASH DOWN FOR A USED ONE, BUT I NEVER TOOK DELIVERY, BECAUSE I UPPED THE MOVABLE OFFICE IDEA TO A GM MOTOR HOME.

I TOOK THIS MODEL TO THE CITY HALL OF CARSON TO GET THEIR REACTION. I ENDED UP IN THE PLANNING DEPARTMENT AND WAS TOLD THE IDEA WAS GREAT, BUT IT NEEDED A MAYAN MOTIF, SINCE THE CITY HALL AND NEW CHURCH IN TOWN HAD A MAYAN MOTIF. THIS WAS 1977, I COULDN’T BELIEVE THEY WOULD ASK FOR SUCH A STRANGE REQUEST. I HELD MY COOL AND LEFT QUIETLY. I WENT ALSO TO SANTA MONICA AND CULVER CITY, BUT THEY WERE NOT IMPRESSED.

AT THE TIME I WAS HAVING TROUBLE WITH DEGENERATE ARTHRITIS OF THE HIPS, AND WENT ON A WATER FAST, AFTER A COUPLE DAYS ON THE FAST I RECALL I WENT TO SEE CALVIN HAMILTON.

I WAS URGED TO GO TO CALVIN HAMILTON, THE DIRECTOR OF PLANNING FOR LOS ANGELES. CALVIN WAS AN ENERGETIC, AN ECCENTRIC DRESSER, AND POSITIVE IN ATTITUDE. HE SAID I SHOULD NOT INVEST MY OWN MONEY, BECAUSE THE CITY COULD GIVE LAND AND GET THE MONEY FOR THE PROJECT. THIS WAS THE FIRST BUREAUCRAT, BESIDES CHARLES BLESSING (THE CITY PLANNER FOR DETROIT), THAT I COULD RELATE TO. HE NEEDED MORE INFORMATION AND A LARGER MODEL TO GENERATE INTEREST. I RECRUITED A COUPLE OF STUDENTS, GREG DAVIS AND JANIS KAPRALIS TO HELP AND I CHARGED INTO THE PROJECT WITH ALL MY ENERGY.

los angeles

calvin hamilton, the city planner of los angeles, the door to yes

I LITERALLY CREATED A NEED AND A CLIENT. QUITE THE REVERSE OF CLIENT SEEKING OUT AN ARCHITECT TO DO A JOB. THIS APPROACH HAS AN ADVANTAGE OF BEING ABLE TO SET UP A PROGRAM AND CONTROLLING THE DESIGN. THE DOWNSIDE IS HAVING TO FIND A CLIENT TO FINANCE THE PROJECT.

the city owned lot of the old red car rapid transit right of way. i got some flax for the site, because some planners had dreams of the red car returning. now it is a parking lot with a library across the street where i stood to shot the this picture. the green machine could still be built.

the apartments on the left were the state of the art of the day. and are there today . the ocean is at the end of venice blvd. on the right.

early space frame model with housing modulars 1977

space frame model that sat diagonally on the site, the white flat pads being the individual sites. 24 in total on one acre of land

THE CONCEPT IS A VERTICAL TRILER PARK WITH A DEMOUNTABLE FRAME (SIMILAR TO STEEL SCAFFOLDING). A TRUNCATED PYRAMID WITH CANTILEVER PADS TO RECEIVE MOVABLE LIVING UNITS. THE SPACE AROUND THE PADS WAS WELL DEFINED WITH A SAW TOOTH PATTERN THAT GAVE SEPARATION AND 17 FEET HIGH. THE ENCLOSED WALKWAYS (17′WIDE X17′ HIGH) , FUNCTIONED AS COMMUNAL SPACES FOR KIDS TO PLAY, ADULTS TO TALK, GREEN HOUSE GARDENING. THAT PHYSICALLY PUT PEOPLE IN YOUR FACE EXISTENCE. ISOLATION IS THE CURSE OF OUR AGE. REMEMBER THE STREET PARTIES, RUMMAGE SALES, EARTHQUAKE GATHERINGS AND THE BLOW OUT OF A FEW BEERS AFTER A HARD DAY. 24 PADS FOR LIVING UNITS (1150-1250 SQUARE FEET EACH) WERE ADJACENT TO THE WALKWAYS. LIVING UNITS SAT ON EACH PAD. FROSTED GLASS SLIDING DOORS ALLOWED FOR PRIVACY OR OPENING ONTO THE THE WALKWAYS. VERTICAL CIRCULATION WAS TWO INCLINED STAIRS AT EITHER END OF THE WALKWAYS AND AN INCLINED OPEN CAGE ELEVATOR AT ONE END AND AN ADULT SLIDE AT THE OTHER END. KIDS HAVE ALL THE FUN. THEY CLIMB TUMBLE ROLL SKIP AND RUN. ADULTS ORGANIZE IT ALL INTO SOMETHING SERIOUS LIKE TENNIS, GOLF, AND GYMS. THE SLIDE BYPASSED THE NORM AND ALLOWED ADULTS AND KIDS TO SLIDE TO DIFFERENT LEVELS OR THEIR CARS AT THE BOTTOM.

THE FRAME WAS A PYRAMID IN ELEVATION WITH A CUT OFF TOP. IT SAT DIAGONALLY ON NORTH SOUTH AXIS ON A ONE ACRE SITE. ( 208′X 208″) THE BUILDING WAS HIGHEST IN THE MIDDLE OF THE LOT AND TAPERED TO THE CORNERS. THUS SHADOWS FROM THE SUN CAST BY THE BUILDING WERE KEPT TO A MINIMUM. COMMONLY REFERRED TO SOLAR ZONING.

a green pyramid trellis rising up out of the landscape, i was concerned about the hash look that this building might have, but now realize it would be quite wonderful as a green trellis structure tapering away from the street. all so logical with the space frame organic look.

happy corridor for interaction in public space

walkway corridor in color, the inhabitants to be section 8 low income housing. it was of interest to me, whether the average poor would appreciate living here? the idea to have private ownership of living modular, and shared communal spaces. the shared part taking a lot of time. vegetable gardens, green house plants, public park, recycled trash, etc. what would probably happen is this all would appeal to the educated poor that wanted to demonstrate sustainability and social interaction living.

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on the private pad with ocean view

the pad with paste on realism, a departure from drawing that i have recently recovered from and i am now drawing again

THE GROUND LEVEL WAS DEVOTED TO A PARK, VEGETABLE GARDENS, FRUIT TREES, RECYCLING BINS PARKING ON TURF BLOCK ( A CONCRETE BLOCK THAT YOU CAN DRIVE ON, BUT ALLOWS FOR PLANT GROWTH AND DRAINAGE) AND STORAGE LOCKERS UNDER A PLANTING BERM. THE ONLY ELEMENTS TOUCHING THE GROUND WERE A FEW COLUMNS AND TWO CIRCULATION SHAFTS.

the wire model on the site

the wire model in elevation, concentrating tracking collectors to co generate electricity on the top. jimmy carter ,president, had been pictured with one on earth day.

the concept had changed from an installed crane to a movable crane coming to the site and lifting the modulars into place.

lining unit modulars in the airstream spirit with retractable roof

presenting to pat russell, los angeles city coucil woman and curtis rostier her assistant on the right. notice magazines on table of projects of mine to sell my credibility.

WE CONSTRUCTED A HUGE WIRE MODEL AT 1/4 ” SCALE AND DID A ROUGH SET OF PRELIMINARIES. THE PROJECT RECEIVED INSTANT PUBLICITY AND GOT ON THE WIRE SERVICE. I STARTED TO RECEIVE LETTERS FROM ALL OVER THE USA AND CANADA. WHAT MADE THIS HAPPEN WAS THAT IT WAS ALL SO REAL AND BUILD ABLE, AND YET NEW AND EXCITING. THE PUBLICITY WAS SELF GENERATING , I DID NOT HAVE TO SEND OUT LETTERS OF INFORMATION, THE NEWS SERVICES JUST PUBLISHED WHATEVER IMAGE THEY COULD FIND OF THE PROJECT.

AT THE TIME I WAS LIVING IN A STUDIO ON THE BEACH IN VENICE WITH MILICA AND OUR TWO CHILDREN YASMINA AND ERIK. I HAD A BLOW OUT 40TH BIRTHDAY PARTY WITH THE GREEN MACHINE ON DISPLAY. TIMOTHY LEARY WAS PRESENT, BUT WAS INSULTED BECAUSE HE DID NOT GET ENOUGH ATTENTION. IT WAS A TIME OF GREAT HOPE THAT ANYTHING WAS POSSIBLE. THE LA TIMES DID A BIG ARTICLE ON THE GREEN MACHINE, BY RICHARD DRYFESS WHO HAD COVERED THE FAMOUS FUTURIST PANEL IN 1976 WHERE I HAD EMBARRASSED FRANK GEHRY AND THE ESTABLISHMENT GANG. DRYFUSS GIVING ME A PLAY SET OF BOWLING BALL AND PINS, INDICATING I LIKED TO KNOCK PEOPLE DOWN.

THE MISTAKE AT THE PARTY WAS TO INVITE THE LANDLORD FROM NEXT DOOR. AFTER SEEING ALL THE PEOPLE, SHE RAISED THE RENT ON ME, THUS FORCING ME OUT OF THE MOST LIVABLE STUDIO SPACE I EVER HAD. IT IS NOW AN AWFUL CLOTHING STORE OFF THE BOARD WALK IN VENICE. NEXT TO THE PADDLE TENNIS COURTS, IF THEY ARE STILL THERE. THE PARTY BRINGING TOGETHER JOANNE MY FIRST WIFE, MILICA MY SECOND, MY LOVING SISTER PHYLLIS AND HUSBAND JIM, MY SISTER SEWING A NEW WILD SHIRT FOR ME, AND ALL MY KIDS CHRISTINE, LUCIA , JULIE AND YASMINA AND A COUPLE OF CRASHERS IN HUGE PACKING BOXES. I GOING TO THE BROADWAY MARKET WITH KIDS, ACROSS FROM THE BRADBERRY BUILDING, AND GETTING EVERYTHING FOR CHEAP, PLUS PURCHASING GALLONS OF WINE FROM LUCKY SUPER MARKET AND CHANGING THE PRICE TAGS TO EXORBITANT AMOUNTS OF MONEY TO CON THE GUESTS INTO THINKING IT WAS EXPENSIVE STUFF. NO COMPLAINTS.

IN 1969 CURTIS ROSITIER, A BLACK ON A MOTOR BIKE, RENTED AN OFFICE FROM ME IN VENICE, TO START A LOCAL NEWSPAPER IN 1970. THE PAPER SUPPORTED PAT RUSSEL WHO WAS RUNNING FOR COUNCILWOMAN IN THE DISTRICT. SHE WAS ELECTED AND ROSITIER WAS MADE HER ASSISTANT. I APPROACHED ROSITIER FOR PAT RUSSEL SUPPORT OF THE GREEN MACHINE. SHE APPROVED OF THE PROJECT AND ASSISTED ALONG WITH THE LA PLANNING DEPARTMENT OF CALVIN HAMILTON IN GETTING A FEDERAL BLOCK GRANT AND A NATIONAL ENDOWMENT OF THE ARTS GRANT. THIS WAS ENOUGH MONEY FOR A SERIOUS FEASIBILITY STUDY.

BEHIND THE SCENE WAS JIMMY CARTER PRESIDENT, A STAUNCH ADVOCATE OF THE GREEN MOVEMENT, WHICH I BENEFITTED FROM, BUT WAS UNAWARE OF UNTIL HE LOST BEING REELECTED.

GLEN

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12 comments

  1. ERIC,

    THANKS FOR THE ASSURANCE THAT THERE WILL BE COMMENTS, BUT BY THE RESULTS OF COMMENTS ON IRVING GILL’S HARATIO WEST COURT APARTMENTS, I AM BEGINNING TO WONDER IF THE READERS WANT TO SHARE THEIR THOUGHTS WITH OTHERS. THE GREEN MACHINE BE WRITTEN IN HOW IT HAPPENED FORM, MAYBE I NEED JUICY GOSSIP OR SOMETHING TO GET COMMENTS? A MYSTERY TO ME.

    GLEN

  2. Great project to see again! Honored to have contributed. Hope you have pix for part 2 of the full scale space frame mock-up we built with Terry, Mic, Greg & Janis.

    BTW, did you mean Jim Huddle the furniture guy? The organic architect Jim Hubble wasn’t into cars or $$………..Keep ‘em comin’ Glen, keep ‘em comin’ ❤

    • ralph,

      thanks for the correction on jim huddle vs jim hubble. a goof on my part.
      yes, i have most of the pictures of the different models.
      thanks tons for your assistance on the project. exciting times. all full of hope and optimism.

      glen

  3. If my memory is good enough there were several knock-offs in concept of the Green Machine concept , including your Tatami Map Hillside project. The hybrid of hi-tech and green, green-tech, I think was unique and inspired a couple student works.

    Greg Davis had a project in Eric Moss’s studio that was looked quite good and I am sure that it injected some of the ideas. Where are the pix?

    Pat Conrad had a floating biosphere island that may of been more influenced by the biosphere but had the green machine tech aspects.

    Any other green-tech projects you remember from Sci-Arc?

    • eric,

      the projects you mentioned were not knock offs. they were other ways of solving the capsule eco concerns that the green machine addressed. but now that you brought up this connection, i am trying to remember if there are any present day projects that use an infrastructure frame and capsule plug on system in an eco manner?

      which is interesting, because there are plenty of travel trailers on the road. being in oregon as of the moment in the middle of summer, they are all over the place.

      the game is different these days. the rigs are costly, gasoline expensive, and the trailer parks charge as much as motel rooms or more. so why even bother? i think it is about having your own environment with you.

      the day of the public parks for camping are over for the poor. now only the upper middle class can afford.

      glen

  4. Yeah knock-off is wrong. But Pat and Greg’s projects I admired because the models just looked so good. I dont remember the details of hoe their infrastructures related except in a general approach to green-tech architecture.

    As to other green-tech approaches only Archigram comes across and not at all interested in the environment. More tech than green. Frei Otto points to many possibilities, the Tropishere one of them. The Metabolists, like Archigram leaned heavily on the tech, more machine than green.

    Your synthesis of the green and technology is somewhat unique. I will try and find some precedents. Anyone?

    eric

    • eric,

      the precedent is in the book architecture without architectects. the natives have been doing it forever.

      look at the tipi, the combination of function and beauty. i just marvel at their approach and product.

      glen

  5. And many others. See biblograry of Paul Oliver SHELTER IN SOCIETY
    The examples address cooling, thermal conservation. site planning… but not as advanced as yours. Simple.

    • orhan,

      i just got through with the green machine 2 feasibility adventure blog. it will be posted within the next few days. it made perfect sense in 1980 and it makes perfect sense in 2013. the costs are different, but the need is the same. looking up the price of used airstream trailers was a shock. they hold their value and are a collectors item to restore. still the best in the industry.

      maybe that is where i will end up living.

      glen

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