Tuesday, December 03. 2013
Via The Mobile City
PBL expert meeting on Smart Cities with Dan Hill
Over the last few years the South Korean New Town of Songdo has emerged as the epitome of the ‘smart city’ of the future – a city that uses software and sensor-driven feedback loops to optimize all kinds of infrastructural city functions. Songdo, planned to be completed by 2015, was heralded as a city with ‘smart DNA’, a showcase of what could be done in urban development if new media technologies were tightly integrated in the urban planning.
However, according to Fabrica CEO Dan Hill something is missing in this picture. In these scenario’s new technologies are used to solve old world problems such as traffic congestion. And while of course it’s nice to have an adequately managed urban infrastrcuture, the real issue is that the world itself is changing, partly due to the uptake of new technologies such as social media. What we really need is a new vision on how our traditional city making institutions themselves should adapt to this newly emerging network society.
At an expert meeting organized by the Dutch Planbureau voor de Leefomgeving (The Netherlands Environmental Assessment Agency), Dan Hill explained that there are several reasons why he thinks the vision of Sondgo will never be a real model for smart city development. Primarily, we cannot trust cities that are exclusively based on algorithms. Would we really want to deliver ourselves to a system of Automatic Urban Processing that resembles the computer systems involved in High Frequency Trading on the stock market? We are all experiencing the lasting effects of the stock market collapse and we definitely don’t want to have that happening to our cities.
Secondly, one cannot install smart technologies in the way you would install plumbing and other building infrastructure. The fundamental difference is that in the case of holistic smart city systems, one company takes control over all the urban processes. To optimize the city’s performance, it is necessary that every urban process feeds information into the others. And that works best if one company can manage the whole system. In the case of Songdo, Cisco would be responsible for the waste collection, the energy production, the water management, the traffic control;. Undoubtedly, no city government wants to put all their eggs in one basket by trusting just a single company with their entire infrastructure.
The third reason why a smart city like Sondgo would not work is because we simply don’t make cities in order to build infrastructure. Buildings and infrastructure are just the enablers for us to come together and exchange, create cultures, communities and conviviality. The things that we actually look for in our cities are often about inefficiency. There is a clear tension between these two poles and we have to decide where we want our cities to be efficient and where not.
Using technology to solve urban problems is not a new idea; in his 1966 book New Movement in Cities, Brian Richards was already imagining contemporary technologies addressing all folds of urban life. Even the conventional infrastructure built in the ‘50s and ‘60s was all about efficiency in urban living and it’s also facing a lot of problems. As Cerdic Price put it in 1960’s «Technology is the answer, but what is the question?» We do currently have all the technologies we need to build a 21rst century resilient city, so why is it impossible to it?
One of the answers lies in the nature of our institutions. Not only they are old, but they are also responsible for creating the problem. This creates a clear tension between society and institutions, which is expressed, for example, in the widespread riots that have become a common condition in many countries in the last few years. In this framework the design challenge is not the one of the technological development but the redefinition of the culture of public decision making. Referring to the recent example of a design academy graduate who developed a 3d printed gun, Dan Hill questioned how institutions expect to regulate gun use with policies when guns will be printed at home? It is simply impossible to address this problem with the same tools we have been doing it so far.
This issue extends into the use of public space, which has been increasingly regulated in the past decades. This created a vicious circle of narrowing down publics that have access to it and the activities that can be performed there which leads to public spaces’ deterrioration which is usually addressed with more policies controling activities and so on. But we need to understand what public space can be, what one can do in public spaces. The reason, according to Hill, that Beppe Grillo’s party Movimento 5 Stelle did so good in the last italian elections was that they completely rejected all institutional media in promoting their program. Instead, they focused on two things: social media and appearances in public spaces. Beppe Grillo, a devoted blogger, has been talking in a different square every night throughout his electoral campaign, bringing back the public space of the city in the heart of politics.
Similarly, there is a widespread rise of active citizens. This new type of «hipster urbanism» as many call it, creates competition for local governments in running cities. In many cases people take care of public green because the municipality cannot afford it any more, so undoubtebly these initiatives are good, even though they are not stricktly legal and are also not really efficient. However, this is also problematic. These processes are not democratic and these citizens can not be held accountable for their actions. In addition to this, they are fundamendaly based on social media, which provide a very individualistic view of the world and promote a «like-minded» mentality, loosing sense of the civic. So self organising systems are quick and direct but they are also temporary and have no real impact on legal structures. Simply stated: pop ups tend to pop down. Crowdfunding, another very popular concept, also doesn’t come without downsides. It only works for people who can pay anyway, making it impossible to be used in cities and to replace the state.
So to get back to the issue of smart cities, Dan Hill concluded that it is impossible to keep up with the speed of social developments, using an infrastructure-lead mindset. But it could make a real difference to address the nature of the institutions, as policy changes can have a bigger impact. Undoubtedly, we need strong institutions, they just need to be redesigned from scratch. So for him the real question is whether institutions can appropriate the dynamics of social media without inheriting their ideology, to become more agile, project based and able to maintain a central role in city management.
Simple information feedback doesn’t change behaviors. Open Data is a starting point but data alone is not enough, it is the people who make the algorithms that have the connection to the public. On the other hand, this connecting position cannot be left to private companies. There lies a potentially new position for governments, according to Hill. Governments should regulate the technologies market and create the interfaces to create coherent platforms bringing together many providers.
Dan Hill, is the CEO of Fabrica, a communications research centre and transdisciplinary studio based in Treviso, Italy, which is part of the Benetton Group. In the past, Hill has been part of Sitra’s (the Finish Innovation Fund) Strategic Design Unit. He was also an Urban Informatics leader for Arup. He is also an Adjunct Professor in the Architecture department at University of Technology in Sydney (UTS) and a member of the Integrated Design Commission Advisory Board in South Australia. In 2012 Hill was a keynote speaker at Social Cities of Tomorrow, a conference organized by The Mobile City with Virtueel Platform and Arcam.
Monday, December 02. 2013
Note: Dubai pre-booted by Mr Wright?
Frank Lloyd Wright, Reveals the Design for his Mile-High Skyscraper, Chicago, Illinois, 1956
Even the image is big!
Saturday, November 23. 2013
fabric | ch, Satellite Daylight, 46°28'N @ Haus für elektronische Künste | #architecture #interaction
For our own documentation, published a year ago in the context of the exhibition Sensing Place at the Haus für elektronische Künste in Basel, the video is a short presentation of Satellite Daylight, 46°28'N.
Thursday, November 07. 2013
By Beatrice Galilee
by Alex Schweder, curated by Beatrice Galilee
Thursday 7th November, 7pm
In 2007, The New York Times published an article entitled ‘For The Brain Remembering Is Like Reli
We know from our daily lives that there is a mental capacity to relive spaces, experiences and conversations without the dissonance of representation. In psychology, psychoanalysis and neurology, the memories of spaces and activities in our past dictate our actions in the present. The field of psychogeography is founded on the spatial effects of places and movements through space and psychoanalysis is based on the premise that the suppression of feelings from the past can emerge unconsciously in the reconstruction of the past, through writing or discussion.
The site of the exhibition, the traditional site of display and representation is the field of operation for artist and architect Alex Schweder. Schweder’s work deals precisely with possibility that spaces are scripted and informed by bodies and occupation. That the boundaries between them are permeable and behavioural patterns can be manipulated with careful intervention.
In this one-off unique work held in the Opus gallery for four days, the artist will be working with the architecture of the space – using the architecture of walls, doors, memories, history and conversation to script the space and through strategic means, transform the reading and semiotics of space for the visitor.
In seven minutes the intention of the artist will become clear.
This project is generously supported by The Graham Foundation
The exhibition will be open Saturdays 9th, 16th and 23rd Nov, 12-5pm
Wednesday, November 06. 2013
The Making of an Avant Garde: The Institute for Architecture and Urban Studies 1967-1984
A documentary written, produced, and directed by Diana Agrest
1.5 AIA and New York State CEUs
This film screening is organized by The Irwin S. Chanin School of Architecture of The Cooper Union and co-sponsored by The Architectural League.
A screening of The Making of an Avant Garde: The Institute for Architecture and Urban Studies 1967-1984.
The Institute for Architecture and Urban Studies, founded in 1967 with close ties to The Museum of Modern Art, made New York the global center for architectural debate and redefined architectural discourse in the United States. A place of immense energy and effervescence, its founders and participants were young and hardly known at the time but would ultimately shape architectural practice and theory for decades. Diana Agrest’s film documents and explores the Institute’s fertile beginnings and enduring significance as a locus for the avant-garde. The film features Mark Wigley, Peter Eisenman, Diana Agrest, Charles Gwathmey, Mario Gandelsonas, Richard Meier, Kenneth Frampton, Barbara Jakobson, Frank Gehry, Anthony Vidler, Deborah Berke, Rem Koolhaas, Stan Allen, Suzanne Stephens, Bernard Tschumi, Joan Ockman, among others.
Time & Place
Wednesday, November 13, 2013
This event is free and open to all. Reservations neither needed nor accepted.
Undoubtedly a documentary I'll look to get a copy!
Tuesday, November 05. 2013
Monday, October 21. 2013
Note: will the communication industry be the one to finally build the Instant City?
A rapidly-deployable airborne communications network could transform communications during disasters, say researchers
Most people will have had the experience of being unable to get a mobile phone signal at a major sporting event, music festival or just in a crowded railway station. The problem becomes even more acute in emergency situations, such as in earthquake disasters zones, where the telecommunications infrastructure has been damaged.
So the ability to set up a new infrastructure quickly and easily is surely of great use.
Today, Alvaro Valcarce at TRiaGnoSys, a mobile communications R&D company in Germany, and a few pals unveil a system that could make this easier. These guys have developed a rapidly deployable wireless network system in the form of airborne base stations carried aloft by kite-shaped balloons called Helikites with a lifting capacity of 10 kg and that can remain airborne at an altitude of up to 4 km for several days, provided the weather conditions allow.
Valcarce and co say the system can be quickly deployed and provides large local mobile phone coverage thanks to a combination of multiple airborne nodes that link in to terrestrial and satellite telecommunications systems.
Their idea is that these systems could be deployed by network companies during temporary events such as the Olympic Games, or by first responders to an emergency event to set up the vital communications infrastructure necessary to coordinate emergency services.
One of the key challenges is to get the new equipment to work seamlessly with existing terrestrial networks. And to that end, Valcarce have been testing their airborne Helikite.
The team has a number of challenges to overcome in its ongoing work. For example the altitude of the Helikite determines its coverage but also influences the network capacity and delays. Evaluating these effects is one part of their future goals.
Having ironed out these kinds of operational problems, such a system will surely be valuable in a wide range of situations where reliable communication is not just a useful bonus but a life-saving necessity.
Ref: arxiv.org/abs/1307.3158 : Airborne Base Stations for Emergency and Temporary Events
Wednesday, October 16. 2013
By Rohan Pearce
arkOS is an open source project designed to let its users take control of their personal data and make running a home server as easy as using a PC
At the start of this year, analyst firm Gartner predicted that over the next four years a total of US$677 billion would be spent on cloud services. The growth of 'things-as-a-service' is upending enterprise IT and creating entirely new, innovative business models. At the same time, social networks such as Facebook and Twitter have built massive user bases, and created databases that are home to enormous amounts of information about account holders.
Collectively, all of this means that people's data, and the services they use with it, are more likely than ever to be found outside of home PCs and other personal devices, housed in servers that they will probably never likely to see let alone touch. But, when everything is delivered as a service, people's control and even ownership of their data gets hazy to say the least.
Earlier this year NSA whistle-blower Edward Snowden offered some insight – in revelations that probably surprised few but still outraged many – into the massive level of data collection and analysis carried out by state actors.
arkOS is not a solution to the surveillance state, but it does offer an alternative to those who would rather exercise some measure of control over their data and, at the very least, not lock away their information in online services where its retrieval and use is at the whim of a corporation, not the user.
arkOS is a Linux-based operating system currently in alpha created by Jacob Cook and the CitizenWeb Project. It's designed to run on a Raspberry Pi – a super-low-cost single board computer – and ultimately will let users, even of the non-technical variety, run from within their homes email, social networking, storage and other services that are increasingly getting shunted out into the cloud.
Cook is the founder of the CitizenWeb Project, whose goal is to promote a more decentralised and democratic Internet
"It does this by encouraging developers that work on tools to these ends, offering an 'umbrella' to aid with management and publicity for these projects," Cook says
"Decentralisation rarely gets any attention, even within the tech community, and it was even more obscure before the NSA scandal broke a few months ago," he adds.
The best way to promote decentralisation "is to provide great platforms with great experiences that can compete with those larger providers," Cook says
"This may seem like an impossible task for the open source development community, especially without the head start that the platforms have, but I believe it is entirely doable.
"We produce the best tools in the world – far better than any proprietary solutions can give – but there is a huge gap with these tools that the majority of the population cannot cross.
"When we tell them, 'oh, using this tool is as easy as installing a Python module on your computer,' for us geeks that is incredibly easy, but for most people, you lost them at the word Python and you will never get them back.
"So the momentum toward using centralised platforms will not relent until developers start making tools for a wider audience. Experience and usability is every bit as important as features or functionality."
arkOS is the CitizenWeb Project's first major initiative but more are on the way. "There are quite a few planned that have nothing to do with arkOS," Cook says.
"I've been working on arkOS since about February of this year, which was a few months before the [NSA] revelations," Cook says.
The birth of arkOS
There were two things that spurred work on arkOS
"The first was my decision to set up my own home server to host all of my data a few years ago," Cook explains.
"I had a good deal of experience with Linux and system administration, but it still took a huge amount of time and research to get the services I wanted set up, and secured properly.
"This experience made me realise, if I have background in these things and it takes me so long to do it, it must be impossible for individuals who don't have the expertise and the time that I do to work things out."
The second was the push by corporations "to own every aspect of one's online life."
"Regardless of your personal feelings about Google, Facebook, etc., there have been countless examples of these services closing themselves off from each other, creating those 'walled gardens' that give them supreme control over your data," Cook says.
"This might not bother people, until we find out what we did from Snowden, that this data doesn't always rest with them and that as long as there is a single point of failure, you always have to rely on 'trusting' your provider.
"I don't know about you, but I wouldn't trust a company that is tasked to sell me things to act in my best interest."
"All that being said, the NSA revelations have really provided a great deal of interest to the project. In all of the networks and communities that I have been through since the scandal broke, people are clamouring for an easy way to self-host things at home. It shouldn't have to be rocket science. I hope that arkOS can represent part of the solution for them."
The aim of the project is an easy-to-use server operating system than can let people self-host their own services with the ease that someone might install a regular desktop application
"Hosting one's own websites, email, cloud data, etc. from home can be a very time-consuming and occasionally expensive endeavour," Cook says.
"Not to mention the fact that it takes a good amount of knowledge and practice to do properly and securely. arkOS lets you set up these systems just like you do on your home computer or your smartphone, when you install something from an app store. It 'just works' with minimal configuration.
"There is no good reason why server software shouldn't be able to have the same experience."
Making servers simple
The OS is "all about simplicity" straight out of the box, Cook says.
"For example, on the Raspberry Pi, hosting server software that routinely writes to log files can quickly wear out your SD card. So arkOS caches them in memory to make as few writes as possible, and it does this from its first boot."
The team is building a range of tools that make it easy to manage an arkOS server. These include Beacon, which lets users find other arkOS servers on a local network, and Genesis, a GUI management system for arkOS.
Genesis is the "most important part" of the OS, Cook says. "It's the tool that does all the heavy lifting for you – installing new apps and software with one click, automatically configuring security settings, giving wizards for navigating through lengthy setup [processes].
"The goal with Genesis is to allow you to do anything you want with your server in an easy and straightforward way, without even having to think about touching the command line. It runs locally on the arkOS server, accessible through the browser of your home computer."
There are more tools for arkOS on the way, Cook says.
"Any one of these tools can be made to work with other distros; the key is that they are available in the default working environment with no additional setup or bother on the user's part."
At the moment the system is still very much in alpha. "It is minimally stable and still getting most of its major features piled in," Cook says. Despite it being early days the reception so far has been "very positive".
"It's been downloaded several hundred times, ostensibly by intrepid people willing to try out the framework and see if they can produce bugs," he says.
At the moment, Cook is leading the arkOS project and also doing the bulk of the development work on Genesis.
"Aside from myself, there are other individuals who contribute features when they are able, like working on Deluge or putting together plugins to use with Genesis," he says.
He is interested in finding more people to help out with the components of arkOS, particularly with Python and Golang experience, which are being used extensively. He's also interested in sysadmins or Linux veterans to help manage repositories, with an to expanding the operating system to other architectures.
"Web design is also a big one, both for the Genesis front-end as well as our Web properties and outreach efforts. Even non-tech people can lend a hand with outreach, community support and the like. No offer of help will be refused so people can be in touch confidently," he adds.
Looking beyond alpha
arkOS is under active development but the OS is still at a "very experimental" stage. Most of Cook's time is spent working on frameworks for Genesis, with a goal of completing its major frameworks by the end of this year and releasing a beta of arkOS.
A major sub-project the team working on is called Deluge: A dynamic DNS service and port proxy for users who don't have access to their own domain name or static IPs.
"This would make putting your services online truly simple and hassle-free," Cook says.
"I am working on the security framework right now, allowing users to easily segment their services based on the zone that they should be available to. For example, you can set your ownCloud site that you run with arkOS to only be available on your home network, while your Jeykll blog should be available to everyone.
"Then comes the certificates system, easily making SSL certs available to your different applications."
"Beyond that, most of what I will be working on is plugins that do certain things. Email is a really big thing, something that nearly everyone who asks about arkOS is interested in self-hosting. With the NSA revelations it isn't hard to see why."
Other features to be included in arkOS include XMPP chat server hosting, Radicale (calendar/contacts hosting), automatic backups, internationalisation, Tor integration, "and much, much more."
Contact Rohan Pearce at rohan_pearce at idg.com.au or follow him on Twitter: @rohan_p
Friday, October 11. 2013
By Eric Baldwin
“The modern architect is designing for the deaf.” Canadian composer R. Murray Schafer makes a valid point.  The topic of sound is practically non-existent in modern architectural discourse. Why? We, as architects, think in terms of form and space; we balance scientific understanding and artistic vision. The problem is, we have a tendency to give ample thought to objects rather than processes and systems. Essentially, our field is ocular-centric by nature. So how do we start to “see” sound? And more importantly, how do we use it to promote health, safety and well-being?
So why does designing for our ears matter? Well, even if you happen to find yourself in an anechoic chamber right now, you’re still surrounded by sound. In 1910, a medical doctor by the name of Robert Koch, considered to be the founder of modern bacteriology, stated that: “One day people will have to fight noise just as relentlessly as they fight cholera and plague.”  His prediction came true: studies have shown that sound has a direct impact on our educational system, healthcare, and productivity in the workplace. As Julian Treasure states in his enlightening TED talk, “sound affects us physiologically, psychologically, cognitively, and behaviorally, all at the time.” For this reason, sound must be a consideration in the way we design; it is a constant that can dramatically improve or ruin our quality of life.
Meanwhile, the topic of Public Interest Design has gained significant momentum in the past couple years. The keynote speaker at the national AIA convention this year was none other than Cameron Sinclair, the vanguard of service-minded architecture. Teams like MASS Design Group and Sam Mockbee’s Rural Studio have gained international recognition. But taking a glimpse at their magnificent work, one is often left to wonder, did they consider sound? Can sound become a major aspect of Public Interest Design?
Looking at the photo above taken in the Butaro Hospital designed by MASS Design Group, you can easily notice the “big ass fans,” as co-founder Michael Murphy calls them. A major success in the project is the consideration of ventilation, which helps to mitigate transmission of airborne diseases. It is an idea that directly saves lives. But what do those fans sound like? Does the vaulted ceiling increase or decrease the intelligibility of speech? And in turn, do these combined effects decrease hospital personnel accuracy and patient recovery rates? With noise levels in hospitals having doubled in the last 40 years, these are the questions that are becoming more and more relevant – although too frequently left unasked . Perhaps we are afraid of the answers.
So where do we begin? How can we “see” sound? Louis Roberts, an architect out of California, noted that one way he thinks about a design element like light is by asking “how will natural light pull someone through space?”  What we can begin to do is inquire about the nature of sound, and how it can “pull us” through space, as Roberts said. What would happen if we imagine sound as a continual mass, if we as architects design according to the patterns by which sound travels around and through space.
For example, the University of Virginia’s Sound Lounge uses an aural understanding to create “pockets” of conversation and increased intelligibility within a larger space. These same ideas can be adapted to a larger scale, within the context of a city, to tackle the problem of urban noise. Expanding further, LMN Architects are using parametric modeling and digital fabrication in their School of Music project to create an integrated acoustic system where lighting, speakers, and sprinklers are all part of a single ceiling surface. We can imagine facades, streetscapes, and interior spaces in the same manner.
In essence, these are general, minor steps, but it is time for architects to take those first steps and begin to truly listen. Let us design schools where children can better hear their teachers, hospitals where patients can fall sound asleep, and offices where workers can hear themselves think. But first of all, let’s ask ourselves the vital questions of “sound” design, and begin by truly listening to the answers.
 Robinson, Sarah. Nesting: Body, Dwelling, Mind. Richmond, CA: William Stout, 2011. Print.
 Kleilein, Doris. Tuned City: Zwischen Klang- Und Raumspekulation = Between Sound and Space Speculation. Idstein: Kook, 2008. Print.
 Work Group 44. Rep. no. 512. ANSI, 21 May 2009
 Roberts, Louis O.Man between Earth and Sky: A Symbolic Awareness of Architecture through a Process of Creativity. Carmel, CA: Octavio Pub., 2009. Print.
Making Space Resonate: Incorporating Sound Into Public-Interest Design originally appeared on ArchDaily, the most visited architecture website on 13 Sep 2013.
I agree with the observation by E. Baldwin, when speaking about architecture, that "Essentially, our field is ocular-centric by nature" (or by design habits?) and therefore architecture is often oriented toward this primary, strong sense. So as most of our designed (visual) environments. Unfortunately I would add.
Tuesday, October 08. 2013
Architecture researchers in Edinburgh have completed a breakthrough study on brain activity recorded in situ by using mobile electroencephalography (EEG) technology, which records live neural impressions of subjects moving through a city. Excitingly, this technology could help us define how different urban environments affect us, a discovery that could have provocative implications for architecture. Read the full story on Salon. Also, check out this article from Fast Company about how a similar mobile technology could show us the effects of urban design – not on our brains, but on our bodies.
One day after the official start of the Blue Brain Project, --one of the biggest joint effort at this day to map and understand the brain-- just a few miles away from our office, there will be undoubtedly an incredible research future in the more than likely meeting of architecture, environment design and neurosciences...
fabric | rblg
fabric | rblg is the survey website of fabric | ch -- studio for architecture, interaction and research. We curate and re-blog articles, researches, exhibitions and projects that we notice during our everyday practice.