December 30, 2008

"Paris, the city of light, so open"


Latour's Paris: Invisible City is off the ground, virtual-wise, anyway. On the other hand, I can't get the Flash interface to really work (in Mac or Windows) unless I'm missing something, which is less promising. So this is more of a movie trailer for something I look forward to seeing..


December 06, 2008

Eames Shell Chair Construction Video

Crafting an Eames chair: "Something of How They Get the Way They Are."


December 03, 2008

Star Wars + Everything Else

John Powers' dense, sprawling, provocative star wars: a new heap (or, How I learned to Stop Worrying and Love the Death Star) filters George Lucas' movie through Kubrick, Kandinsky, Diego Rivera, the Pruitt-Igoe low-income housing projects, Thomas More, Frederic Jameson, OMA, Jane Jacobs, Venturi, and more. It's sort of dizzying, in a good way.

Unlike the residential architecture of Robert Venturi, which invokes bygone palaces, Star Wars was not a retreat to the imagery of past. Lucas was not reacting against the dominant program of faux-industrial imagery, which Venturi righteously criticized. Venturi’s passive ambit of comforting the old with a palatial appliqué had nothing to do with the modernist compulsion to make it new. Lucas, like Smithson, Morris, and Jacobs, dug deep into the dominant ethic of rationalizing the inconsistencies and contradictions of modern senescence. Star Wars built on the radicalism and procedural logic of minimalism and made a bold visual assertion, proposing a future “drawn not from how it ought to be, but from how it is.” In defiance of conventional wisdom, Lucas revealed a place that was modern, but not new, a future long occupied, unfinished, worldly. Modernity is the presumption that the natural environment for man has yet to be built. Lucas was the first to imagine that future built environment as already old.


October 17, 2008

London Underground Tube Map Documentary

Smashing Telly located a 25-minute documentary on the London Underground tube map, a design classic. (The map, not the documentary. Although the documentary itself is pretty good.)


October 16, 2008

Dentistry, Part 2

Desiging the Crown

The dentist visit this afternoon was slightly less painful than the last one (at least at this point), or maybe just geekier--my dentist has his own 3D fabrication machine. (Maybe this is common now. The last time I had reconstructive dental work done, I was on my dad's insurance.) He images the tooth, then builds a 3D model of the crown he wants. One of his assistants sets up the fabrication machine with a porcelain slug and sends the model to it; the fab machine uses high-pressure water to carve the crown out of the slug.

I'm not sure this compensates completely for the smell of burning dental enamel and the pain that's just now waking from its novocaine slumber, but the technology was sort of cool. (A couple of additional images are at my Flickr account.)

September 29, 2008

Dr. Strangelove's War Room

A video interview with Ken Adam, the production designer who created the War Room set for Dr. Strangelove.

[via Super Colossal]

September 18, 2008

Evacuated of Meaning

Lebbeus Woods posts DEAD WORDS, a short list of terms that have lost useful meaning for architecture.


In the present time of appropriation in art, as well as the mass-merchandizing of brand name products, including those of famous architects, the idea of originality is not only of minimal interest, but, being a form of the radical [see above], rather dangerous. Of far greater interest is the recycling of ideas, products, and modes. Appropriation acquired legitimacy in the post-Modernism of the 70s and 80s, when the recycling of historical styles—including Modernism—was in vogue. Today, it continues in the guise of architectural populism and social realism, where low art, such as squatter architecture, is elevated to high, and presented as avant-garde.


August 22, 2008

Artist Studio Tours

NPR has a video and slideshow tour of artists' studios and work at the 52 0 Street complex, a renovated warehouse in DC.

[via To the Beat]

July 21, 2008

Water, Wall, and Thick Latex Paint

Water Leak in Wall

My office on campus yesterday.

Update:: Underdog's immediate comment: Barton Fink.

June 24, 2008

Architecture and Moral Order


Name-checking JG Ballard, TC Boyle, Neal Stephenson, Octavia Butler, and Italo Calvino (in only the first four paragraphs), Joanne McNeil discusses some of the world's strangest housing communities. A community of tiny houses in Virginia, a utopian community in India, a decaying pod city (above) in Taipai, and Sao Paulo's Alphaville:

“People at Eden-Olympia have no time for getting drunk together, for infidelities or rows with the girlfriends, no time for adulterous affairs or coveting their neighbor’s wives, no time ever for friends,” Wilder Penrose says in J. G. Ballard’s Super Cannes. The “great defect is that there is no need for personal morality. Thousands of people live and work here without making a single decision about right and wrong. The moral order is engineered into their lives along with the speed limits and the security systems.”

Ballardian (which links to McNeil's post) has some related links and discussion.

[via Ballardian]

June 04, 2008

False Bus Stops for Alzheimer's Patients

According to the Telegraph, the Benrath Senior Centre in Düsseldorf set up a fake bus stop to help keep Alzheimer's patients from wandering too far. According to Franz-Josef Goebel, chair of an association that works with the Centre,

"They know the green and yellow bus sign and remember that waiting there means they will go home."

The result is that errant patients now wait for their trip home at the bus stop, before quickly forgetting why they were there in the first place.

"We will approach them and say that the bus is coming later and invite them in for a coffee," said Richard Neureither, Benrath's director. "Five minutes later they have completely forgotten they wanted to leave."

Brilliant usability strategy, a distant relative to the reminders and other attention-grabbing artifacts most people create around themselves (post-its, notes on the fridge, marginal comments)—Alzheimer's is an extreme case, but not categorically different from more typical, routine memory loss and corresponding need for reminding.

[via The Morning News]

May 11, 2008



Books at Home: A weblog about bookshelves. What's not to like?

(Above is an image from a post on Skoom & Slordig's Extended Kast shelves at Covers.)

[via The Mediaburn Radio Weblog]

May 09, 2008

Tech Corp Workspaces

Vallywag follows up their top 10 workspaces in tech report with 10 worst workplaces. Mostly tongue-in-cheek: much criticism is placed on Facebook's graffiti door-art and Google's gray cubicles (Google also made the top 10 list).

[via Slashdot]

April 28, 2008

Coded Domestic Objects

Martin Dodge and Rob Kitchin's "Software, Objects and Home Space" (a thirty-four page PDF) outlines a taxonomy of "coded domestic objects". A "logject" is basically a domestic object (ranging from mobile phone to a heating/cooling system or a vacuum cleaner) that is

(1) uniquely indexical, (2) has awareness of its environment and is able to respond to changes in that environment that are meaningful within its functional context, (3) traces and tracks its own usage in time and/or space, (4) records that history, (5) can communicate that history across a network for analysis and use by other agents (objects and people), (6) can use the data it produces to undertake what Dodge and Kitchin (2007a) term ‘automated management’ – automated, automatic and autonomous decisions and actions in the world without human oversight and to effect change through the ‘consequences of their assertions’ (Bleecker 2006: 9); and (7) is programmable and thus mutable to some degree (that is, it is possible to adjust settings, update parameters and to download new firmware6). Logjects then enable the kinds of unobtrusive machine-to-machine, machine-to-person and person-to-machine exchanges that are a fundamental trait of pervasive computing and are diverse in their nature. We can identify two main classes of logject: impermeable and permeable.

[via Pasta&Vinegar]

April 21, 2008

work/space: kitchens

At Metropolis, four influential chefs talk about the kitchens. Here's Alice Waters:

There was also a restaurant in an old house, called the Gibson House, that I used to love eating at, in Bolinas, California, way back at the end of the sixties. It had patchwork quilts hanging on the walls, a great front porch, and flowers. I had filed that away someplace in my mind, so I could imagine having a restaurant in a house. Then when we had a fire, in the tenth year of the restaurant, that burned down the wall between the kitchen and the dining room, I just said, “We’re not putting it back up again.” I never liked the idea of a restaurant where all the beautiful things are in the dining room, and all of the things you don’t want to see are in the kitchen. If I was going to cook in the kitchen, then I wanted it to be beautiful, and that came with a combination of influences such as hanging copper pots, France, and the Royal Pavilion, in Brighton.

(The other chefs are Grant Achatz, Dan Barber, and Wylie Dufresne.) Chefs are, not surprisingly (at least for good chefs) extremely particular in a thoughtful way about workspace.


April 15, 2008

Le Corbusier's A/V Architecture

Interactive Architecture has a nice report (with links to video including the one above as well as other links) to Le Corbusier's poém électronique, extensively audio-visual-enhanced architectural design for the Philip's Company pavilion at the 1958 World's Fair in Brussels.

The whole project was initiated and directed by Le Corbusier, who also created and/or selected the images for the audiovisual show, with the organized sound composed by Edgar Varèse, and the stunning surfaces of the building designed by Iannis Xenakis. The result was a ground breaking immersive environment, since the space of the Pavilion hosted the audio and the visual materials as integral parts of the architectural design.

[via Interactive Architecture dot Org]

March 07, 2008

City as videogame, city as text

Mirror's Edge, an XBox 360 game in development by DICE, involves a parkour courier named Faith, who is pursued by by agents as she runs the city attempting to deliver a package. As Greg Smith points out at Serial Consign, as with parkour in general, the videogame ends up reading the city as text.

What immediately caught my attention about these preliminary screenshots is manner in which architecture elements are demarcated. As per her training in "the art of displacement" Faith possess an innate ability for reading the geometry of her surroundings and this translates into a playing field where the objects, surfaces and assemblies that comprise the city are colour coded according to accessibility. When considered in this manner, the city becomes a giant text and, fittingly, play revolves around spatial problem solving and wayfinding rather than trigger finger virtuosity. [see my previous post Ways of Seeing Digital Space for more thoughts on provocative representations of space in gaming]

All of which maps to the larger cultural shift towards repurposing: cross-programming in architecture, remixes in music, collage in art, etc. Perhaps more importantly, once we accept that postmodernism (or whatever you want to call it) offers the possibility to read anything as a text (an advertisement, a building, a cultural movement), it's only a short hop to seizing the ability to rewrite those texts.

March 02, 2008

"A seemingly random collection of sounds..."

Finalists for the 1st Ballardian Home Movies contest. You'll have to hit the site for the actual movies (YouTube), but here are some various quotes from judges on the winning entries (which, perhaps not surprisingly, sound exactly like what I might predict reviews of home movies based on JG Ballard would sound like):

A static shot, half composed of white, with red material intruding beneath. A seemingly random collection of sounds from talk radio or television are heard, slowly snatches emerge. Mopeds, a body found on a golf course. Murder on the roads, in the suburbs. “They shouldn’t be here,” claims a politician or letterwriter and as if to answer the listener appears to move away

Machine noise, loud and abrasive. A tool kit, saws, cutting tools. The slow reveal of a pile of Ballard titles leads you to wonder if here JG’s works are being recut, sliced, diced and served again. The Day of Creation is the final title to appear. The maker has taken Ballard and chopped him up.

This film chases its own tail, eventually disappearing into the black hole of inner space. Utterly beguiling.

CCTV-positioned footage of a seemingly empty street lined by lock-ups hiding ephemera, memory junk, yesterday’s crashes. Daylight as harsh as the artificial strip lighting. In a denial of creation we return to the water from which we emerged.

[via notes from somewhere bizzare]

February 29, 2008

web zen: architecture


Web Zen this week covers architecture. Eyesore of the month, pop-up architecture from students at the Shimizu Lab, not fooling anybody ("a chronicle of bad conversions and storefronts past"), more. Above is Massaharu Asano's Ise Shrine from Pop-Up Architecture.

February 18, 2008

Office Spaces

Lifehacker (they of the frequent, "Show us Your Office" competitions") asks readers to tell them what their dream office would look like. Readers' answers range from snarky:

The beach


A six figure paycheck and someone else to do the work

to the imaginative:

What I've always wanted is a wrist-mounted device which projects a holographic 20" screen into the air about three feet ahead of me and a holographic keyboard under my fingertips. Instant office, wherever (though preferably in a tree).

[via Lifehacker]

February 16, 2008

Architecture & Film: Eisenman and Haneke

ICONEYE transcribes a conversation between architect Peter Eisenman and filmmaker Michael Haneke:

Peter I’m interested in space without sound. In other words without meaning, without sound, just pure physical [makes a crunching noise]. Minimal, yeah, but it’s maximal minimal. My wife said that your interest in sound and my interest in space both deny the visual. That’s very good. We are both attempting to deny the visual. Because you’re not a visual person. Your films are filmic, but you don’t see anything happen. You don’t see anybody getting killed!

Michael To avoid the image of course means inciting your fantasy. Stimulating your fantasy.

Peter But you have to react. In an American horror film they go, “Boo!” and you go “Whoa!” But it’s stupid. I don’t think yours is horror, I think it’s terror. I felt terrorised by you. You’re using a visual medium to deny the visual – in an age when image is everything, where the eye is the dominant sense.

Michael It’s a result of the fact that I’m terrorised by the media. In a sort of way, it’s my defence.

[via serial consign - design / research]

January 31, 2008

extend dendritic dynamics

The landscape urbanism bullshit generator constructs semi-random buzz phrases. Obviously satirical, but the output reminds me of Eno and Schmidt's Oblique Strategies for the theory set.


January 02, 2008

J.G. Ballard & Architectures of Control

Thousands of people live and work here without making a single decision about right and wrong. The moral order is engineered into their lives along with the speed limits and the security systems.

- J.G. Ballard, Super-Cannes

Ballardian is carrying a cool article by Dan Lockton on "J.G. Ballard & Architectures of Control.

Ballard in no way tries to imply that the architects and civil engineers who envisaged the Westway, Western Avenue and London’s Motorway Box intended to create or inspire the events of Crash or Concrete Island, but the fact that Maitland (Concrete Island) is, professionally, an architect, is surely significant. Where Ballard does allow us to examine an architect meeting the consequences of his work — Royal in High-Rise — there is an apparent lack of conscious reflection by the architect on the actual architectural effects involved but something of an implication of intent, at least in terms of the whole thing being a perverse experiment on the part of its creator (much like Crawford in Cocaine Nights and Penrose in Super-Cannes, or even Vaughan, the “TV scientist” in Crash).

What's nice about Lockton's analysis is the reminding us how complex the situation of architecture is in contemporary life: There's not necessarily cause and effect or human intent, but a complex, indeterminate system of shifting and competing forces. Culture is "overdetermined," to grab an Althusserian term: You don't change culture (or architecture) by throwing a switch. Culture is woven by an immense number of strands pulling in different directions. Some strands and braids are stronger than others, but it's usually impossible to find a single thread to tug on that will substantially change the whole.

Lockton, btw, runs the weblog Architectures of Control | Design With Intent.

[via Ballardian]

December 31, 2007

The Rhetoric of Casino Architecture

Design for Service points out a page on casino design in this archeological history of slot machines (by William Choi and Antoine Sindhu).

Other features of the casino, including the music, carpeting, and even the air conditioning system, are manipulated to the casino’s advantage. Studies have shown that carpeting is often purposefully jarring to the eyes, which draws customers’ gaze upwards toward the machines on the gambling floor. Music is usually mild and soothing, and plays on a continuous loop rather than individual songs, contributing to a trance-like feeling of warmth and comfort in the gamblers. It has even been reported that casinos have attempted to manipulate the air circulation in order to affect the behavior of gamblers. They may add extra oxygen to the circulation to keep gamblers more alert, or even add pheromones that make people feel more relaxed and at ease.

All of which actually points to how common it is for us to be powerfully articulated by design and architecture. They work best by fooling us.

And work they do, all the time and everywhere: Not just in casinos, but shopping malls, grocery stores, sports stadiums, fast food restaurants, clubs passé and trendy are designed in ways that help us forget our surroundings and participate in ways consistent with the goals of the space. Malls without clocks and exterior lights but with food courts, park benches, and piped-in bird songs, like casinos, attempt to take us out of the world and part of an isolated, fully contained environment. Fast food restaurant seating that's not quite comfortable urges us to eat quickly and leave, freeing up space for the next consumer. Crackdowns on loitering and visibly homeless people before high-profile city events like the Olympics or large conventions prevent visitors from seeing what real city life is like.

Sometimes they're designed that way intentionally—particularly when large markets are involved—but sometimes they just get that way in an evolutionary fashion, as different arrangements are tried out over and over again. Those that work get repeated, refined, and dispersed. That's how culture works.

[via Design for Service]

December 04, 2007

Architectural Tetris

Full story and more video at Gizmodo.

November 07, 2007

Architecture and Ethics: Noblesse Oblige

Lebbeus Woods' weblog has the first post in a series on architecture and ethics. Noblesse Oblige is a short analysis of the Seagram Building and and the construction/maintenance of class difference:

To the average passerby, the building and its siting have the aesthetics of a civic monument, an architecture that goes far beyond advertising its client, and becomes a kind of gift to the city, a form of nobiisse oblige—the obligation the rich and powerful have to the society that made them so—that confirms their superior station. The Seagram Company assumes the aesthetic raiments of government, bestowing on the public space of the street an imposing demonstration of social hierarchy and the ethical relationships of New York’s social classes.


November 02, 2007

Architectural, Criticism, Media, Recursion


Someone (apparently nearly everyone, if Google is to be believed) said that writing about music is like dancing about architecture. Criticism, though, is at its best precisely because it's oddly recursive: about something both figuratively and nearly literally: dancing around the subject as a way to understand the subject, the leaky permeability of its boundaries. Criticism, when it's useful, affects both how we understand something as well as how that "something" is and is done. Writing about music can change how we understand music and, often, how we make music.

Which is a long way [footnote 1] of getting to point at this article in cityofsound about a the August 2007 issue of the Japanese periodical Architecture and Urbanism dealing with Australian architecture. What interested me wasn't so much the topic of Australian architecture (although that was interesting), but cityofsound's critical essay on this particular issue of the AU, which deals simultaneously with the issues contents and the form of the magazine itself (see above).

I snap out of this glorious sun-drenched dream when I recall an old copy of The Architectural Review from 1970 (No. 884 October 1970, picked up for a fiver at Margaret Howell). That issue featured an 'Australian Newsletter' by its legendary editor J.M. Richards (see bottom of article for the full scanned pages). Despite best intentions, the article is suffused with a snobbish demeanor and insularity that would probably have driven any self-respecting Australian architect mad, cultural cringe or not.

And writing about architecture, like architecture itself, is fundamentally about the play of and within symbol systems. And here is where "architecture" splits from "building": what buildings mean to us, as viewers and as inhabitants, grows out of both how we use them and how we think about them. So architectural criticism, like music criticism, like criticism in general, are parts of their objects of critique. There's always recursion and slippage, and that's a good thing. Il n'y a pas de hors-texte.

[footnote 1] Made even longer by the fact that my system crashed in the middle of writing this, and I think I've lost the thread a little here. But I'm posting it anyway so I remember to come back to this later, even if I can't quite figure out what I was going after when I started. Wish you'd read this footnote midstream instead of after you'd slogged your way to the end, don't you? Sorry.

[via things magazine]

October 17, 2007

Education, Culture, Technology

Mike Wesch's group has another interesting video about technology, education, and culture (or maybe about the conflicts among the three terms), A Vision of Students Today. (Among other things, they did the The Machine is Us/ing Us clip last year). Most of this should be common knowledge to teachers but, unfortunately, isn't. (And to some extent, the issues covered in the video are big ones. I taught mass media in a classroom more or less identical to the lecture hall most of Wesch's video was shot in. Interaction in a space like that is like running in mud.)

[via Dan Mandle]

October 13, 2007

Janice Caswell: Memory Landscape


Janice Caswell's work (wall drawings, works on paper) follows people's memories of movement through geographies:

My drawings and installations represent mental maps, an investigation of the mind's peculiar ways of organizing memories. I attempt to trace the edges of recalled experience, plotting the movement of bodies and consciousness through time and space.

[via information aesthetics]

Deconstructivist Architecture (Real and Symbolic)

things magazine, a place I normally crib individual links from, has an interesting (link-filled) post, We Can Never Look at Fractured Facades, on the 1970 Greenwich Village Explosion (a Weatherman bomb factory accident), MoMA's 1988, Daniel Libeskind, and the contradictory symbolism of appreciating/fearing/commemorating deconstructivist architecture.

[via things magazine]

October 08, 2007

And Ballard Reads Gehry

At the Guardian, JG Ballard interprets Frank Gehry's Bilbao Guggenheim:

The one thing that someone visiting the Bilbao Guggenheim can forget about is any thought of actually entering the building. Stay outside it, at a distance of about one hundred yards, and you will absorb all its audacity, magic, good humour and genius. And its infantilising charm. This is Disneyland for the media studies PhD.

[via Ballardian]

October 01, 2007

Isolated Building Studies

David Schalliol's Isolated Building Studies (a Flickr set) documents (you guessed it) isolated buildings in urban Chicago: homes, churches, storefronts in the absence of any surrounding structures.

Initially, viewers may see the buildings in this set as identical, but the novel, consistent context shows these buildings as symbols of communities in flux. Whether a building is a pioneer or a survivor, built by gentrification or decayed by divestment, these buildings and their environs demonstrate how investment cycles affect the visible differences and similarities in our built environment, urban community and community relationships.

September 21, 2007

Wind Farm

wind farm 2

One (of about fifteen) towers at a wind farm near Churubusco, NY.

September 18, 2007


Subtopia (subtitled "A Field Guide to Military Urbanism") posts a lengthy discussion (with pictures) of barricade-as-event at the recent G8 Summit:

So, even though neither you or I were there to stroll around the eerie evacuated streets, past the streamers of lightweight warnings and flexible blockades, or what we might call a temporary new aged market place of geopolitical medievalism, a few of our fellow bloggerades hunkered there down under did a more than brilliant job of covering this Subtopian escapade.

[via Super Colossal]

September 11, 2007

Philosophy and Architecture

Ludwig Wittgenstein, having abandoned academia for three years in order to construct a house for his sister Gretl in Vienna, understood the magnitude of this challenge. "You think philosophy is difficult," observed the author of the Tractatus Logico-Philosophicus, "but I tell you, it is nothing compared to the difficulty of being a good architect."

- Alain de Botton, The Architecture of Happiness

August 28, 2007

Endangered Machinery


Endangered Machinery: The Industrial and Industrial Heritage Photography of Haiko Hebig. Very cool. (Above is from his 12.24.06 entry, "Calmness.")

[via Monoscope]

August 14, 2007

Ranting at Buildings

Icon's Fiftieth issue covers the rise and fall (and rise and fall and rise) of the manifesto. Includes 50 manifestos from architects and organizations, including pithy missives by Peter Eisenman, Urban Think Tank, Bruce Mau, Zaha Hadid (who provided a sketch), and (if my math and Icon's claim are correct) 46 more. Here's Greg Lynn's:

Organic design is not just a style. Design, architecture and life will continue to become more and more biological, not merely biomorphic. I look forward to the software that lets us design not just the shape but also the growth and behaviour of animate matter. Designers and architects will continue to proliferate as there is more and more need for design, as we get access to more matter through genetic and biological innovations.

And a part of Peter Eiseman's short Debordian reminder:

Where is architecture’s critical resistance to this process of loss? The crisis of the spectacular demands a call for a new subjectivity, for a subject removed from the passivity induced by the image and engaged by form in close reading.

[via anArchitecture]

August 13, 2007

Leonardo Issue on Locative Media

The latest issue of Leonardo focuses on locative media. Quite a few worthwhile articles, including Leslie Sharp's "Swimming in the Grey Zones: Locating the Other Spaces in Mobile Art." Sharp discusses, among other things, a couple of ghost narratives she's working on:

The 'ghost' is one of those liminal forms that raises questions about embodiment and subjectivity and has a peculiar affinity to being picked up by the machines of technology. In the project for the Cheonggyecheon in Seoul, I am creating four separate narratives using night-vision and other footage shot on location in Seoul. In the narrative, the ghost is dug up by well-intentioned development, stirring up memories of place, colonization, and a Brechtian world of grey markets and grey activity. This ghost also inhabits streams – streams that flow down from the mountains and streams of data, searching for places to rest or to haunt, looking for things to play with and taunt. In particular, this ghost longs to haunt our devices of transmission, to produce in these devices an abject space that is uncomfortably close to our bodies. Ghosts are often mischievous; here the ghost also wants to play with errors of signal inaccuracy produced by satellites (usually compensated for by differential error cancellation in GPS), or to get the user to confuse the GPS to produce moments of dis-location.

The ghost itself is always an abject thing – signifying the cast off and suffering. This abjection can spill into the form or space it inhabits, creating a new monstrous space. I have written elsewhere about data space as a new monstrous [16]; in the case of the ghost, the monstrous is conjured by machines of vision and sound and varies according to the nature or properties of transmission: spirit photographs of the nineteenth century, or early telephones and radio seen as the 'devil’s instruments', recent technologies such as night-vision cameras that detect the undetectable, or technologies of transmission that transfer the formless as data and signals.


July 20, 2007

Interactive Architecture: Performative Ecologies


Ruairi Glynn's Performative Ecologies project involves light, motion, and computation in an environment that watches and responds to motion in the environment. (Several video demonstrations are available at Glynn's site.)

Rather than pre-choreograph the actions of an interactive architecture, Performative Ecologies explores the role of the architect as a designer and builder of frameworks, rather than predefined events, in which responsive adaptive environments are able to not just react, but also propose. Often, through trial and error, these environments can suggest new gestural and spatial interactions and evolve their own expressive qualities while negotiating these actions with human inhabitants and other architectural systems.

Spaces and installations like this suggest what composition—writing—might become in the age of databases. Writers tending more toward design of interaction than creation of static, monolithic objects, creating a space for dynamic movement. We've had, of course, hypertext for several decades, which is a start. Dynamic features like those available in early incarnations such as HyperCard and Storyspace and later things like Flash (or any of the programmable text environments like Tinderbox, Processing, etc.) have been woefully underutilized by most writers. What will it mean when text ceases being simply an external object—at best, a pushbutton gizmo—and becomes distributed within spaces around us, responding to us?

At what point does a text cease to be like a text? When it's interactive? When it's spatial? When it's database-driven or pseudo-random? And why?

[via Interactive Architecture dot Org]

July 15, 2007

Photosynth Demo

Cool TED demo of Microsoft's Photosynth, which analyzes an existing collection of photos of a place, then constructs a navigable 3D space based on the multiple views. The 3D representation can then share information (such as tags) back and forth with the source photos. The image spaces scale very well, allowing users to scale back to view arrangements of thousands of pictures or in to view details of very small portions. MS has a demo version and background info here.

[via Aesthe/tech:tonik]



July 06, 2007

Against Resting in Public Spaces


The anti-sit provides photographic examples of devices used to keep loiterers from sitting on ledges, pipes, and another structures in public spaces.

[via things magazine]

July 04, 2007

Walter Murch on BLDGBLOG

BLDGBLOG publishes an interview with Walter Murch," as well his short essay, Manhattan Symphony (itself followed by a reprint of Michelangelo Antonioni's essay on the same topic).

BLDGBLOG: When you’re actually editing a film, do you ever become aware of this kind of underlying structure, or architecture, amongst the scenes?

Murch: There are little hints of underlying cinematic structures now and then. For instance: to make a convincing action sequence requires, on average, fourteen different camera angles a minute. I don’t mean fourteen cuts – you can have many more than fourteen cuts per minute – but fourteen new views. Let’s say there is a one-minute action scene with thirty cuts, so that the average length of each is two seconds – but, of those thirty cuts, sixteen of them will be repeats of a previous camera angle.

Now what you have to keep in mind is that the perceiving brain reacts differently to completely new visual information than it does to something it has seen before. In the second case, there is already a familiar template into which the information can be placed, so it can be taken in faster and more readily.

So with fourteen “untemplated” angles a minute, a well-shot action sequence will feel thrilling and yet still comprehensible: just on the edge of chaos, which is how action feels if you are in the middle of it. If it’s less than fourteen, the audience will feel like something is lacking, and they’ll disengage; if it’s more than fourteen, so much new information is being thrown at the audience that they’ll also disengage, though for different reasons.

At the other end of the spectrum, dialogue scenes seem to need an average of four new camera angles a minute. Less than that, and the scene will seem flat and perfunctory; more than that, and it will be hard for the audience to concentrate on the performances and the meaning of the dialogue: the visual style will get in the way of the verbal content and the subtleties of the actors’ performances.

June 26, 2007

Mob Rule: Modeling Crowd Behavior in Urban Spaces


Paul Torrens, among other interesting things, builds computer models of crowd behaviors in urban spaces. The images and video are creepy, in a cool way (at least if you're like me, and creepy in a way that you think of as sort of cool; YMMV).

Nowhere is this more relevant than at the micro-scale, on the streets, in and around our downtowns, and among the crowds of people that populate and energize the urban core. A new appreciation of urban geography is gathering steam, an urban geography of the micro-scale, where pedestrians swarm in social and anti-social networks; where innovative Information and Communications Technologies (ICT) are being deployed at street-level, digitally-enabling crowds through networked computing. Embedded in urban infrastructure and in the very products we consume, the same technology allows cities to think about—and process—the people that pulse through them.

The link above also has downloadable video of time-based simulations, PDFs of his research publications on the topic, and diagrams (showing things like chokepoints and jam formation). Torrens' main site lists other projects in modeling and analysis, including work on residential relocation, urban sprawl, and more.

[via Pruned]

June 05, 2007

Participatory Design and Inmates

Community Arts Network has an article on artist Peggy Diggs' participatory design projects with prisoners. The projects range from anti-violence t-shirt designs that benefit children's charities to furniture designed to accommodate the particular needs of people in prison cells. Here's a brief description of a project she worked on with women convicted of murdering abusive husbands:

One of her best-known works originated in interviews with women in prison who had been convicted of murdering their abusing husbands. One of the women she interviewed said her activities were so limited that the only public place she was allowed to go was the grocery store. Diggs saw a need to connect with women unable to reach out for help. The result was the "Domestic Violence Milk Carton Project," in which a graphic message was printed on the sides of 1.5 million milk cartons and distributed across New York and New Jersey. The image was the silhouette of a hand superimposed with these words:

WHEN YOU ARGUE AT HOME DOES IT ALWAYS GET OUT OF HAND? If you or someone you know is a victim of domestic violence, call: 1-800-333-SAFE.

[via Art Threat]

May 27, 2007

Richard Serra, Space, and Writing


Studio 360 ran a brief segment on Richard Serra's retrospective at the Museum of Modern Art [mp3] [slideshow]. I didn't come to Serra's work until about ten years ago, when I saw a PBS biography. Since then, I've thought his outside, architecturally influenced sculpture—works that users move around and within rather than simply view—of an approach that composition and communication might benefit from, particularly as texts become more spatial.

Spatiality in composition is emerge in at least two ways: users of virtual text, in at least some cases, experience texts as spaces that they move within rather than artifacts they view from the outside. Early hypertext forefronted this spatial sense, but it's become common for most people to think of the Web as a space they navigate. (This sense is accelerated in the age of large visual displays.) In addition, physically distributed dataspaces—things like (most recently) Adam Greenfield's concept of "everyware," in which sensing and data devices are distributed throughout a user's physical space—challenge ideas about what constitutes a "text," making the distinction between "text" and "space" meaningless.

Richard Serra's work challenges us to rethink our relations to physical spaces in complex ways: inside/outside, seeing/touching/moving, movement/stasis, etc.

The NYT has a nice piece about the installation procedures for Serra's retrospective at MoMa, a huge task given the size and weight of the pieces, some individual components of which weight 30 tons.

Photo above by Colin PDX at Flickr, CC attribution, non-commercial licensed.

May 03, 2007

Thoughtcrime: The Other Shoe Drops

A Houston-area student at Clements High School was arrested and later banned from attending graduation after creating a map for a videogame (apparently a "level" for a game like Quake, which is basically just a 3D architectural view of a building) based on his high school's layout:

The map the boy designed mimicked Clements High School. And, sources said, it was uploaded either to the boy’s home computer or to a computer server where he and his friends could access and play on it. Two parents apparently learned from their children about the existence of the game, and complained to FBISD administrators, who investigated.

“They arrested him,” Chen said of FBISD police, “and also went to the house to search.” The Lin family consented to the search, and a hammer was found in the boy’s room, which he used to fix his bed, because it wasn’t in good shape, Chen said. He indicated police seized the hammer as a potential weapon.


Speakers at the FBISD Board’s April 23 meeting alluded to the Clements senior’s punishment, and drew a connection to the April 16 shootings at Virginia Polytechnic Institute, in which a Korean student shot and killed 32 people.

[via Slashdot]

May 01, 2007

The Index Card Internet


The Proceedings of the Athanasius Kircher Society (possibly the best name for a weblog, ever) has a history and images of Mundaneum, the Index Card Internet

(All of which seems quaint, but calls into question exactly how much of the world's knowledge is actually currently available to us now, on the web. There's the sense that if something doesn't have a URL, it's not real. If pressed, most people would admit that's not true, but people around me operate as if it's true in most cases. But check this Internet World Stats page (a marketing research site, but roughly similar to other sites I looked at). Penetration of the Internet by percentage is, well, non-ubiquitous. Around 70% in North America, 50% for Australia and associated countries, a little under 40% in Europe, and it drops after that (only 3.6% in Africa).)

[things magazine]

April 30, 2007

Will Self: One Writer's Room


Phil Grey documents novelist Will Self's writing room in 71 photographs. Self's space is extremely densely packed with information (there must be thousands of Post-Its on the walls) and surprisingly, extraordinarily organized.


April 22, 2007

Playground Design

Metafilter has a great, short post of links to material on playground design. Here's a clip from a linked Metropolis article by Linda Baker:

Creative-playground designers, many of whom prefer to carefully edit their use of equipment for psychological and aesthetic reasons, cite another benefit of the practice: reduced costs. “When money is tight, it makes sense to take advantage of existing features—natural rain and water courses, hills, views good and bad, adjacent land uses and neighbors—and turn them into play and learning opportunities,” says Ron King, a New Hampshire–based landscape architect and certified playground-safety inspector who is introducing Danish-style plans to American schools and child-care centers. A signature effort, completed last summer at Bedford Memorial Elementary School, includes a ten-foot “mountain” fronted by a boulder climbing wall, a stream (or “leaping chasm”), and winding paths with fairy-tale-like arbors. “The play is not prescribed, so the kids have more opportunities to problem solve and use their imaginations,” says Leslie Fredette, a second-grade teacher. The project has also transformed the school playground into a space for the whole community to gather and exercise. “It’s really gratifying to see all the people here on the weekend,” she says.


April 20, 2007

Lifehacker's Coolest Workspace Contest

Lifehacker is running their annual Coolest Workspace contest.

It's that time of year again: Lifehacker's 2nd annual Coolest Workspace Contest opens its doors for submissions starting today! We want you to snap a few pictures of your favorite workspace - your home office, desk, studio, etc. - and send them into Lifehacker HQ. Over the next several weeks, we'll feature our favorites every Thursday on Lifehacker. Once that portion comes to a close, the Lifehacker readers will vote for the workspace they deem to be the Coolest, and the winner gets a $500 gift certificate to Amazon!

I'm not going to enter my own workspace, since I think towering stacks of paper and books and graffiti-adorned walls probably are in a different level of aesthetic. (My office basically looks like the aftermath of Orcs raging through a small library and amateur musician's studio.) Check the link above for an image from last year's winner.

April 07, 2007

Museum of Plagiarism


Treehugger copies this image of Plagiarius, a museum of plagiarism. Treehugger says,

We so want to copy this wonderful idea: A museum in a converted railway building, devoted to plagiarism and knockoffs, that opened on April 1. (We first thought it an elaborate hoax) Since 1977 the Plagiarius gnome has been awarded the best plagiarized object of the year; this year to a coffee jug produced in Germany by Alfi and knocked off by a Guangzhou China company with a leaky jug named Albi. Second prize was a German knockoff of an Italian Moleskine notebook. We don't know who gets the gnome, the plagiarizer or plagiarizee.

From what I can glean from the Plagiarius award page, the award is meant as a bad thing, but I think it's pretty neat.

[via treehugger]

April 04, 2007

House Attack


Too cool. An art installation by Erwin Wurm at MUMOK in Vienna. More at anArchitecture.

The idea for „House Attack“emerged while planning the MUMOK retrospective. „House Attack“ is a single-family house that crashes into the roof of the museum, a house like one that might be built at Blaue Laguene (Blue Lagoon), a prefab housing development in southern Vienna. A symbol for conservative, small-minded longings, the single-family house collides into the museum as an temple to the muses, and the museum itself now also becomes part of the sculpture. „House Attack“confuses our perception of art and everyday reality and in its striking appearance and humorous, dramatic staging of the banal is a perfect example of current developments in the artist's work.

[via anArchitecture]

March 31, 2007

Local Initiatives Support Corporation

The Local Initiatives Support Corporation website provides resources (articles, pointers, news items, etc.) for community projects such as architectural and urban planning, education, policy making, and more. The site also includes links to many regional/city LISCs.

[via underdog]

March 27, 2007

Learning Interaction Design from Las Vegas

Dan Saffer has PDF, transcriptions, and a nice review from The Guardian of his SXSW talk, "Learning Interaction Design From Las Vegas". Name-checking substantially (and obviously, as you might guess from the title) Venturi, Scott Brown, and Izenour's majorly influential architectural manifesto [amazon link], Saffer mediates the perceived chaos of interfaces such as World of Warcraft and other crowded interface designs. Cool.

As Experts with Ideals, who pay lip service to the social sciences, they build for the Man rather than for the people—this means, to suit themselves, that is to suit their own particular upper-middle class values, which they assign to everyone.

We need more examples of things like this in interface and interaction design, which still tend towards the "form follows function"/"genius tells you how to live" version of architecture. Those earlier models are useful, in the same way that, say, knowing "appropriate" color combinations are useful. But there's much to be learned from late-modernist and postmodernist theories of architecture; Saffer is dragging us, kicking and screaming, into the future that's already here, already successful and working, in places like eBay and MySpace, and FaceBook, places that Vegas leaped into a couple of decades ago.

(Robert Venturi and Denise Scott Brown revisit their work recently in this TENbyTen interview. Design Observer has another retrospective review.)

One Last Skyscraper


Underdog and I, being the backcountry hicks we are (there are, as far as I can recall, no buildings of more than four stories within 100 miles of us in the realms of way upstate New York), spent a lot of time in Manhattan last week staring up at the skyscrapers, daring the hipsters to make fun of us. We were, apparently, flying under hipster radar, because we only really connected with the street people (which is a good thing, in my opinion).

This building, I think, is the Sheraton, where I actually stayed in my first baffled trip to NYC about twenty years ago, wearing a canvas hunting jacket (complete with swathes of aged, wine-colored rabbit's blood coating the inside game pockets), desperately interviewing for jobs at MLA. None of that faux LL Bean fake hunting apparel for me. I think I remembered to take off the coat and tuck it discreetly behind me during the actual interviews, but I may be wrong, given how many campus visits those interviews garnered me.

March 24, 2007



(The view outside of our window. Somewhat industrial, but I liked the tonality and composition.)

The other good image I got was from the third-floor balcony in MoMA:

MoMA Gallery

(Click either of the images to go to the Flickr pages, where you can access more-detailed versions from the "All Sizes" tabs.)

March 20, 2007



Here are the slides and notes to my CCCC talk. They're rough, and I'll probably heavily modify them on the train to NYC and then again in the hotel room. But it's a start... [.pdf (9 MB).]

March 08, 2007

Open Architecture Network


Architecture for Humanity has launched the beta version of the Open Architecture Network, a Creative Commons-licensed, collaborative, open website for architects, designers, engineers, builders, community agencies, teachers, etc.

Pictured above is a one image from plans for the Desporte Residence, a model home in Biloxi designed by CP+D Workshop that meets FEMA and accessibility standards for post-Katrina rebuilding.

Gehry on the Abu Dhabi Guggenhiem

At the Register, Frank Gehry discusses aging, the start of the new Abu Dhabi Guggenheim, and architectural criticism:

I've just turned 78, but I hope I'm not stuck in a groove like some old long-playing record. One of your British journalists thinks so; he described my recent buildings as "crude curlicues". If you know who he is, get him to try on some concrete overshoes for size. I'll send them over . . .

[via things magazine]

February 21, 2007

Going Big: Multi-Story Laser Graffiti


Graffiti Research Labs comes up with a guerrilla method for for using lasers to draw enormous (temporary) tags on tall buildings.

[via Gizmodo]

February 08, 2007

Virtual Architecture

The ARCH is a weblog that covers virtual architecture (Second Life, The Sims, etc.). Looks interesting.

[via things magazine]



Typorganism lets you upload a 50x60 pixel image and converts it to ASCII art. Much easier than the last time I did one of these, which was in 1985 and involved six hours of coding print commands in Pascal.

[via Be A Design Group]

February 05, 2007

Open Source Architecture

Architecture for Humanity (an organization I actually donate money to) introduces a wiki for Open Source Architecture.

The Open Architecture Network is a collaborative database which Architecture for Humanity hopes will make it easy for architects, designers and engineers from around the world to freely share their work, evaluate and modify existing solutions, and collaborate around new approaches. Think of it as the Wikipedia of humanitarian design, the first big step towards open source design.

With a coalition of sponsors and partners, including Sun, Architecture for Humanity built and is starting to test a system designed to be not just a repository of good ideas, but a tool for collaboration and research. Users will be able, Cameron says, to search existing ideas based on a number of criteria (such as, say, "housing, affordable, tropical, community-designed, passive solar, bamboo materials) and the ratings of other users.

This is no elitist playground, either. "We're not defining an architect as someone who's been through 7 years of education," Cameron says. "If this thing isn't useful to informal community designers living in favelas, it'll fail. We aim to prove that you don't need $15,000 worth of CAD programs to come up with design solutions. You can participate with a napkin sketch, a borrowed scanner and a public Internet connection." (However, it should be noted that the site will be available initially only in English, which will further limit its utility to barefoot architects.)

[via Boing Boing]

February 04, 2007

Spatial Stories


Gothamberg Apartment Stories is structured hypertextually and architecturally, in something like an organized tag cloud.

Everyone who has lived in an apartment has a story to tell. Gothamberg is a place to read, interact and exchange stories of lives in apartment buildings. Together, these tales of sounds and smells, lobbies and bathrooms, laundry room gossip and unexpected favors form a single collective building, Gothamberg. Their experiences form the elliptical threads of inhabitation, a mnemonic quality expressing something of the shared nature of dwelling.

[via information aesthetics]

Interface Space


Interface Space discusses various interface elements translated into physical space. Includes Hans Gremmen and Monique Gofer's "Empty Trashcan" (shown above), neon-lit scrollbars, and more.

[via Design Observer/a>]

February 03, 2007

Road Case

Road Case

February 02, 2007

Database Cinema


Lev Manovich's new project, the DVD Soft Cinema: Navigating the Database, sounds promising. Manovich teams with new media artist Andreas Kratky and several key new media folk:

What kind of cinema is appropriate for the age of Google and blogging? Automatic surveillance and self-guided missiles? Consumer profiling and CNN? To investigate answers to this question Lev Manovich - one of today’s most influential thinkers in the fields of media arts and digital culture – has paired with award-winning new media artist and designer Andreas Kratky to create the Soft Cinema project. They have also invited contributions from leaders in other cultural fields: DJ Spooky, Scanner, George Lewis and Jóhann Jóhannsson (music), servo and Andreas Angelidakis (architecture), Schoenerwissen/Office for Computational Design (data visualization), and Ross Cooper Studios (media design).

SOFT CINEMA: Navigating the Database is the Soft Cinema project’s first DVD published and distributed by The MIT Press (2005). Although the three films presented on the DVD reference the familiar genres of cinema, the process by which they were created and the resulting aesthetics fully belong to the software age. They demonstrate the possibilities of soft(ware) cinema - a 'cinema' in which human subjectivity and the variable choices made by custom software combine to create films that can run infinitely without ever exactly repeating the same image sequences, screen layouts and narratives.

'Mission to Earth' is a science fiction allegory of the immigrant experience. It adopts the variable choices and multi-frame layout of the Soft Cinema system to represent ‘variable identity’. 'Absences' is a lyrical black and white narrative that relies on algorithms normally deployed in military and civilian surveillance applications to determine the editing of video and audio. 'Texas' is a ‘database narrative’, which assembles its visuals, sounds, narratives, and even the identities of its characters from multiple databases.

The DVD was designed and programmed so that there is no single version of any of the films. All the elements – including screen layout, the visuals and their combination, the music, the narrative, and the length – are subject to change every time the film is viewed.

[via Bruce Sterling]


January 26, 2007

Architecture in QuickTime VR

Columbia University's Real?Virtual has an impressive set of QuickTime VR architectural shots and interactive plan views from various historical/cultral works, including a first-century Roman ampitheater in Sicily, Le Corbusier's Church of Notre Dame du Haut, Frank Lloyd Wright's Fallingwater, and the Shehzade Mosque in Istanbul. Site navigation is a little wonky, but worth exploring.

[via things magazine]

January 23, 2007

Urbanity, Virtuality, Architecture

Pop-Up City at studioPoPcorn riffs on the connections between virtual and urban living in a series of short meditations on multimediality, virtuality, connectivity, and more.


Being in the city means having a continuous interaction with our environment. Interactivity has become our very essence. New York rap star Fat Joe has been wrong all the time when he said we should all ‘lean back’. Now, we lean forward – over our keyboards, cellphones and game-consoles – embracing technology in a post-paranoic state of mind. No mobile phone: no business. No laptop: no friends. We have to look for points where closed structures are combined with each other. The urban appears in nodes where systems move into one and other; a void in which closed structures open up. Always related to a three-dimensional space, interactivity marks the very access point of urbanity. It is an entrance to different spatial settings, spheres or virtual neighbourhoods. Urbanism now means interactive systems are mutually influencing each other. It shows how they are detaching themselves from their physical context to start to function independently. Therefore interactivity should be approached in relation to a social context. In that way, architecture will be a connection that allows us to move from one closed off environment to the other. Refraining some and allowing other people access to a certain point will become the most important function of architecture in this version of the future.

[via things magazine]

January 19, 2007

Architecture & Criticism

Johnathan Glancey has an interesting meditation on the symbiotic connection between architects and critics at Guardian UK. He makes some points (as you might expect) that are relevant to any complex design work—software, products, cooking—that people actually use:

[A]rchitecture is a process. The critic is a part of that process, too, and always has been. Even if negative, criticism plays its part in the course of architectural thinking. There are critics who love to be an intimate part of the architectural process and who might well be good friends with the architectural profession. Equally, there are those who are largely detached from everyday professional concerns, yet who make architects, and those who experience their buildings, think in ways outside their own approaches and prejudices.

[via things magazine]

January 18, 2007

Tokyo HDR Shot


I've had to extremely downsample this to make it fit (in terms of both size and compression), but you should check out this HDR (High Dynamic Range) cityscape of Tokyo in the largest size your monitor will allow. It's the closest thing to a Bladerunner shot I've seen in a long time.

HDR shots involve taking multiple shots of a scene, stepping up and down the exposure by several notches for each shot, then combining them all to give a wider range of exposures in a single shot. You can see more examples of the technique at the Flickr HDR Pool.

[via Gizmodo]

January 15, 2007

Workspaces for Gamers

Kotaku posts images from the game rooms of five hardcore players. Sort of frightening in its range of obsessiveness (some due to the meticulous arrangement of monitors and high-end seating, others due to the anit-meticulous arrangement of empty Coke bottles and food containers). "Game" is probably an inappropriate term here; "lifestyle" would be more accurate.

[via Kotaku]

Second Life Architecture


Archinet is running a long article (with extensive supplementary links) that discusses architecture in Second Life, including the overwhelming predominance over very conservative architecture in SL. What happens when you give people tools that will let them building wildly experimental spaces? Most of them seem to build versions of upscale homes they see in the media. (Not that this is a surprising or even evil trend—it's just sort of odd.) Here's a short snip from the section of the article based on an in-world interview with architect Tor Lindstrand, founder of LOL Architects ("the world's largest virtual architecture firm"):

I think that we live in a world where the production of desire has been completely overtaken by market economy, and this is manifested so much in Second Life. I guess it shows that the major influence in thinking about architecture today is more through other media than through architecture itself. Rather than spatial experiences, it is much more about images, television, movies, games. I'm interested in how the image of architecture is so dominant in platforms like Second Life and how this relates to how the image is becoming more and more dominant in contemporary architecture, how we consume architecture as much through Hollywood, expensive coffee table books and tourist information as we do through spatial experiences.


January 12, 2007

Airports, Architecture, and Subjects


Air travel used to be about the future, a heterotopia apart from the everyday, the space in which one magically moved outside space. See, for example, Alastair Gordon's wonderful history, Naked Airport:

It was my cousin's last day in America--August 26, 1964--and he wanted to see the World's Fair before flying back to London. My father drove us in his Buick to Flushing Meadow. The sky over Long Island was tempered blue and streaked with contrails. We bought tickets for General Motor's Futurama exhibit and rode around a miniature landscape that showed what life would be like in the future. My cousin and I were disappointed. There was something hoaky about the whole fair and the so-called future seemed frankly shabby.

After the fair, we drove south a few miles on the Van Wyck Expressway and reached the periphery of Idelwild, which is what my father still called the airport, although it had been renamed John F. Kennedy International the year before. We glided along freshly paved overpasses and beneath the signs bearing candy-colored numbers. The terminals were strung out like pavilions around the looping roadway and it felt as if we were back at the fair. There was the flashy stained glass entry to American Airlines, the flying saucer roof of Pan Am, and the endless glass facade of the arrivals building. Then we parked in front of the TWA terminal and walked inside.

I had seen photographs of the bird-like structure, but none had done it justice. The interior was a continuously flowing surface of cast concrete. There were no sharp corners, no right angles, no dull flat ceilings. The building was topsy-turvy--in some places the walls swooped down to become floor, while other parts curved above our heads like ocean waves about to break yet were somehow frozen in place. Between the vaults were gaping ellipses of glass through which you might see a tailfin or a passing cloud. I was only twelve and knew nothing about architecture, but the pavilions at the Worlds Fair seemed stodgy in comparison. This wasn't pretending to be the future; this was the future. Those were real Boeing 707's sitting on the tarmac.

The air was charged with anticipation. Pilots stepped through pools of milky light. Beautiful stewardesses trailed behind them wearing trim red outfits and perfectly straight stockings seams. The ambient lighting; the flirtatious smiles, the lipstick red carpet and uniforms; the cushioned benches and steel railings curving around the mezzanine--all conspired to work on the senses. Even the clock that hung from the ceiling had a sensually globular shape. We sat in an oversized conversation pit, beneath a panoramic screen of glass, and watched the service vehicles scoot between the planes. "This is unbelievably cool," said my cousin in a hushed, almost reverential tone.

Now we're just so many cattle that may or may not carry some sort of contamination.


Matt Blaze's Exhaustive Search weblog has a brief piece about the intrusiveness and awkwardness of airport security and architecture—and a link to the TSA Airport Security Guidelines [333-page PDF].

3. Sterile Area
At an airport with a security program under 49 CFR 1542, the "sterile" area of the terminal typically refers to the area between the security screening checkpoint and the loading bridge and/or hold room door. The sterile area is controlled by inspecting persons and property in accordance with the TSA-approved airport security program (ASP). The primary objective of a sterile area is to provide a passenger bolding and containment area....

A Boing-Boing post on Blaze and the TSA guidelines also links to Patrick Smith's Ask The Pilot article in Salon on the same topic, a piece that's funny and depressing at the same time:

Item 4 must be placed in separate tray, alone. Item 5 goes in a round plastic dish, also by itself. Items 1, 2 and 3 are piled together in a third tray. But not so fast, as a guard warns me not bury my shoes beneath the other items. He recommends I place them separately on the belt, or in yet another tray. So there I am, one person, with four separate trays of belongings. And after those belongings are X-rayed, it's time to:

1) Put my coat back on
2) Put my shoes back on
3) Repack the computer
4) Repack the approved, 1-quart-size zip-lock bag
5) Strap on my backpack

All of this with no chair or table, elbow to elbow with a dozen other people all doing the same thing. I'm trying to grab my stuff as more and more bins come clattering down the rollers. I can't find my shoes, and I have no idea where my passport is.

[via Boing Boing]

January 09, 2007

Anarchy, Control, and Collaboration

The weblog Architectures of Control discusses several approaches to automotive traffic management, including "shared spaces" approaches being adopted by some European communities that do away with signage. Surprisingly (especially if you're used to being explicitly told what to do by stop signs and direction arrows as you drive), removing traffic signs makes drivers act more, rather than less, responsibly.

One of the simplest consequences of the shared space situations I’ve come across (whether deliberately planned implementations such as at Seven Dials, shown above, or just narrow old streets or village layouts where traffic and pedestrians have always mixed) is that drivers and pedestrians, and drivers and other drivers start to make eye contact with each other to determine who should have priority, or to determine each other’s intentions. Eye contact leads to empathy; empathy leads to respect for other types of road users; respect leads to better understanding of the situation and better handling of similar situations in future. Shared space forces all of us (pedestrians, cyclists and drivers) to try to understand what’s going on from others’ points of view. We learn to grok the situation. And that can’t be bad.

This strategy has interesting implications for other social situations. Would this work in, for example, checkout lines in grocery stores? It's not uncommon to see someone with a cartload of groceries let the person behind them with a loaf of bread go first. But it's also not uncommon to see someone with twenty items get in the ten items or less line. And when I'm deciding whether or not to let the person behind me with way fewer items go ahead of me, I also ask myself why they're not in the correect line—the express lane. Would removing the explicit signs generate more empathy? Or more stupidity?

Results, I'm guessing, would fluctuate a lot. I've taught classes where the students responded to open structures very well, and I've taught classes where another group of students balked at assuming any responsibility for their own learning. And I'll be damned if I can easily predict which way it's going to go for a particular class.

To give your sheep or cow a large spacious meadow is a way to control him.

— Suzuki, Zen Mind, Beginner's Mind

[via Architectures of Control]

January 07, 2007

Futurescapes of Work

Anab Jain interviewed people in the various "show us your workspace" groups on Flickr, then created composite fictional characters, jobs, and spaces in the world of 2012.

Alice now often visits one of the coldzones in Little Brinkland to work and meet people. Coldzones are physical, transient spaces where the digitally exhausted Brinklanders can go offline, and stay away from surveillance and constant tracking.

A short video and interview are available at onoffice.

[via anne]

January 05, 2007

Boston at Night


Shot from the balcony of a Boston hotel in November. Actually looks better at medium sizes, because the autofocus on the Canon tracked on the buildings in the midground, rather than on the signs in the focal point. But I liked the colors in the shot.

January 01, 2007

JG Ballard: Rattling People's Cages

I think I missed this in the several-month hiatus between the Datacloud weblog and Workspace, but the always-interesting Ballardian scored an excellent interview with J.G. Ballard: "Rattling People's Cages. Here's a clip:

[Interviewer] According to Collins, ‘Ballardian’ is defined as ‘resembling or suggestive of the conditions described in JG Ballard’s novels & stories, esp. dystopian modernity’. But surely your writing is far too playful to be branded dystopian. I find your characters and situations affirming, for all the darkness they willingly surround themselves with.

[Ballard] I’m glad you said that. I think my work is superficially dystopian, in some respects, but I’m trying to, as you say, affirm a more positive worldview. I lived through more than two-thirds of the last century, which was one of the grimmest epochs in human history — a time of unparalleled human violence and cruelty. Most my writing was about the 20th century, and anyone writing about the 20th century writes in a dystopian mode without making any effort at all — it just comes with the box of paintbrushes.

You know, to be a human being is quite a role to play. Each of us wakes up in the morning and we inhabit a very dangerous creature capable of brilliance in many ways, but capable also of huge self-destructive episodes. And we live with this dangerous creature every minute we’re awake. Something like The Atrocity Exhibition sums up my fiction: the attempt by a rather wounded character — in this case, a psychiatrist having a nervous breakdown; there are similar figures throughout the rest of my fiction — to make something positive out of the chaos that surrounds him, to create some sort of positive mythology that can sustain one’s confidence in the world. Even something like Kingdom Come is affirmative, where I show a clear and present danger being dealt with, and one of the key figures responsible realising the error of his ways. So in that respect, I agree with you completely: my fiction is affirmative.

[via Ballardian]

December 27, 2006

What eCommerce Really Looks Like

The Web seems, to most of us, like a substance-less space, bits rather than bricks. But in large part, when you come down to it, it's bricks (and books and CDs and PlayStations) landing with a substantial thud on the bottom line.

Here's an Amazon UK facility during the Christmas rush.


[via Gizmodo]

December 22, 2006

Malone School for the Deaf

Malone School for the Deaf 3

Like a lot of people, I'm fascinated by abandoned buildings. Yesterday I took my dad up to look at the (long-since closed) Malone School for the Deaf. There are seven or eight large buildings, tucked away in a relatively residential section of town, on a large hill, between a school bus garage and a shiny, glass-covered new high school. It's creepy, in that abandoned sort of way: boarded up, washed out, and slowly decaying. (Here's a link to the full Flickr set.)

According to one report, after WWII (several decades after the School for the Deaf was closed), Clarkson University students were shipped up to this location, 40 miles from the main campus, to complete their first two years of their education.

Following World War II, Clarkson admitted hundreds of returning veterans to its student ranks - so many, in fact, that they had to rent space in the New York State School for the Deaf in Malone, NY. For the next five years, Clarkson underclassmen spent their first two years studying in Malone before moving to the Potsdam campus for the remainder of their education.