Tuesday, June 14. 2016
Note: the architecture (of atmospheres) could become atomized into fine particles that aggregate in different manners along time, following different "rules" (these "rules" being the ones to be designed by the architect).
While we digg into sensors than monitor elements of the atmosphere (physical and non physical elements), we're definitely looking for a kind of architecture that would "deal" with these elements/particles and recompose them.
Via Cabinet (Spring 2001)
By David Gissen
In the history of architecture and design there have only been a few "effects"—electric light, forced air—that have had the capacity to cause massive environmental and behavioral shifts. Last year at Barcelona's annual design fair, the Catalonian designer Marti Guixe presented another—breathable food. "Pharma-food, a system of nourishment by breathing," is an appliance that was developed by Guixe to explore the transformation of food into pure information.
Dust Food Muesli. Photos: Inga Knölke.
Pharma-food joins the work of other, primarily European, designers who are exploring alternative regimens for such activities as washing or eating. One of Guixe's Catalonian contemporaries, Ana Mir, is exploring a technology that allows one to wash without water. Like Guixe's approach, this project would allow washing to occur anywhere. In their work, these designers not only free regimens from their fixed location in relation to certain products; they also free these activities from their traditional engagement with the body. Unlike designers such as Philippe Starck or Richard Sapper, who strive to revise traditional technologies, Guixe has discovered that the problem of eating does not involve the design of a new type of stove, sink, or refrigerator—the problem of eating requires finding a new mouth.
Pharma-BAR. Photo: Inga Knölke.
Guixe, who has been studying alternative forms of eating for several years, realized that the breathing of "food" already occurs via the inhalation of dust that hangs in the air at work and at home. Guixe hypothesized that this form of eating, from which one gains a miniscule amount of minerals and vitamins, could be trans-formed into a more potent meal, a "dust-muesli," that would supply a powerful dose of nutrients. The Pharma-Food appliance, which sprays this ærosolized nutrition, connects to a computer and requires Microsoft Excel to enter exact values for such things as riboflavin, vitamin C, and protein. The combination of these nutrients are saved on the computer as documents with names such as "SPAMT," which has the nutrient "language" of tomatoes and bread, and "Costa Brova," a "seafood" dish that is heavy on the iodine and light on carbohydrates. Guixe imagines diners composing these "meals" and sending them as e-mail attachments to other owners of the Pharma-food emitter. "Like MP3," says Guixe.
David Gissen is associate curator for architecture and design at the National Building Museum in Washington, D.C. He is currently developing an exhibition on human conveyance (elevators, escalators and moving sidewalks) and one on flying buildings.
Monday, June 13. 2016
Note: after a few weeks posting about the Universal Income, here comes the "Universal data accumulator for devices, sensors, programs, humans & more" by Wolfram (best known for Wolfram Alpha computational engine and the former Mathematica libraries, on which most of their other services seem to be built).
Funilly, we've picked a very similar name for a very similar data service we've set up for ourselves and our friends last year, during an exhibition at H3K: Datadroppers (!), with a different set of references in our mind (Drop City? --from which we borrowed the colors-- "Turn on, tune in, drop out"?) Even if our service is logically much more grassroots, less developed but therfore quite light to use as well.
We developed this project around data dropping/picking with another architectural project in mind that I'll speak about in the coming days: Public Platform of Future-Past. It was clearly and closely linked.
"Universal" is back in the loop as a keyword therefore... (I would rather adopt a different word for myself and the work we are doing though: "Diversal" --which is a word I'm using for 2 yearnow and naively thought I "invented", but not...)
"The Wolfram Data Drop is an open service that makes it easy to accumulate data of any kind, from anywhere—setting it up for immediate computation, visualization, analysis, querying, or other operations." - which looks more oriented towards data analysis than use in third party designs and projects.
"Datadroppers is a public and open data commune, it is a tool dedicated to data collection and sharing that tries to remain as simple, minimal and easy to use as possible." Direct and light data tool for designers, belonging to designers (fabric | ch) that use it for their own projects...
Tuesday, March 15. 2016
Note: Sidewalks Labs is a Google spinoff with some new "messianic" ("make the world a better place") views. And soon, for the better and the worst (place), will we all literally inhabit inside Google and push some more data to feed the beast.
The message is somehow simplistic --see below-- considering how complicated and messy a city can be. It's a market driven message of course, but it nonetheless tells the architect community how far their discipline could be further taken out of their hands. It could truly happen if most of them continue to consider that "technical things" are to be left to "technicians"... and don't modify architecture or even the very nature of "space" .
We should probably reconsider here the amazing propositions and theories somebody like Reyner Banham made in books such as The Architecture of the Well tempered Environment back in the 70ies, to see how far we are from what it could be (considering air conditioning techs for exemple).
Via Sidewalks Labs
" Sidewalk Labs is a new type of company that works with cities to build products addressing big urban problems.
To do this, we're building a platform and set of urban applications to accelerate innovation in cities around the world."
Over the past 200 hundred years, there have been three technological revolutions that have defined the modern city. Each has provided huge benefits but also profound social costs. We are now poised for a fourth.
First, the steam revolution gave cities rapid transportation, steamships, and large factories that transformed commerce. But it also gave cities the first industrialized slums and the worst air pollution that mankind had ever known.
Second, the electricity revolution gave us lights, subways and elevators. But electricity also allowed us to block the sunlight, retreat to artificial environments and warehouse people in high-rises.
Third, the automobile allowed the city to expand in every direction, enabling access to more opportunities and weekend retreats. But it also gave us sprawl, traffic jams, smog and nearly killed the central city.
Digital Technology is Ready to Transform Cities
Smartphones already shape how people interact with cities. A new set of digital technologies - ubiquitous connectivity, real-time sensors, precise location services, distributed trust, autonomous systems and digital actuation and fabrication - can collectively transform city life. But towards what end? Will they make the city more responsive, equitable, innovative and human or will they challenge civil liberties and security?
Thursday, January 28. 2016
Note: I'll move this afternoon to Grandhotel Giessbach (sounds like a Wes Anderson movie) to present later tonight the temporary results of the research I'm jointly leading with Nicolas Nova for ECAL & HEAD - Genève, in partnership with EPFL-ECAL Lab & EPFL: Inhabiting and Interfacing the Cloud(s). Looking forward to meet the Swiss design research community (mainly) at the hotel...
Christophe Guignard and myself will have the pleasure to present the temporary results of the design research Inhabiting & Interfacing the Cloud(s) next Thursday (28.01.2016) at the Swiss Design Network conference.
The conference will happen at Grandhotel Giessbach over the lake Brienz, where we'll focus on the research process fully articulated around the practice of design (with the participation of students in the case of I&IC) and the process of project.
This will apparently happen between "dinner" and "bar", as we'll present a "Fireside Talk" at 9pm. Can't wait to do and see that...
The full program and proceedings (pdf) of the conference can be accessed HERE.
As for previous events, we'll try to make a short "follow up" on this documentary blog after the event.
Friday, January 15. 2016
Note: it is not too late to wish everybody a happy '16, so, here I do! ... even so the year started in such a sad way with the disappearance of this shiny artist called David Bowie.
Maybe is it then already the right time to bring back our good old '16 resolutions, so to conjure these bad vibes? For my part, some of them were about reading... like always (or adding books on my already too big pile I can guess) and while I was wandering here and there on the Net late last December, I stumble upon this interesting initiative of curated lists of books related to design and art. Curators of books include readers such as Peter Eisenman, Tonny Dunne, Sou Fujimoto, Massimo Vignelli, John Maeda and many others (177 designers to date, 34 commentators, 73 guests, etc.).
Well... interesting line up I must say! Have a good '16 reading ...
" Designers & Books is an advocate for books as an important source of inspiration for creativity, innovation, and invention. The main way we do this is by publishing lists of books that esteemed members of the international design community identify as important, meaningful, and formative—books that have shaped their values, their worldview, and their ideas about design. This provides the direction for our focus on books about architecture, fashion, graphic design, interactive design, interior design, landscape architecture, product and industrial design, and urban design. "
Wednesday, December 30. 2015
Note: could a perfect ending for this year be this post about (yet another) new exhibition (in Boston)? It is about the fantastic, the radical and the utopian Black Mountain College in North Carolina that became an important school for a large part of the post-war avant-garde in the United States/East coast.
It was an "adventure in progressive education" which points again how schools, when they remain "wild" enough, can become important structures to crystalize creative energies and momentum (and that is therefore also logically listed in Beatriz Colomina's research project about historical "Radical Pedagogies" in architecture).
Via MIT Press
"Leap Before You Look: Black Mountain College 1933-1957," an exhibition currently showing at the Institute of Contemporary Art in Boston, focuses on how Black Mountain College (BMC) became a seminal meeting place for many of the artists, musicians, poets, and thinkers who would become the principal practitioners in their fields of the postwar period. "Leap Before You Look," the first exhibition in the US to examine BMC as a hotbed for the American avant garde, opened on October 10, 2015 and will show through January 24, 2016. Senior Production Coordinator Christine Savage recently checked it out and shares the following insights:
The story of Black Mountain College (BMC) serves as an excellent reminder of how brilliant, prolific, and innovative people can be. The school was an idyll, an embodiment of a progressive, collaborative, utopian future. The college was also an absolute anomaly, and serves possibly as an even better reminder of how rarely we come together to achieve such promise.
If only it hadn’t gone broke and closed after only 24 years.
“Leap Before You Look: Black Mountain College 1933-1957” is a remarkable exhibit that does a wonderful job of illustrating BMC’s proud stature among the great artistic moments in the last century. The collection features music and dance performances, as well as over 200 pieces of artwork created at the college. A history of the school and the art created there can be found in the MIT Press book, Black Mountain College: Experiment in Art edited by Vincent Katz, which documents the brief—but influential—existence of the school, and offers a fascinating glimpse of campus life.
BMC was a tiny school with a disproportionate influence on art and culture in the 20th century. (A partial—yet still absurdly impressive—list of artists who taught and studied there includes Willem and Elaine de Kooning, Robert Rauschenberg, Josef and Anni Albers, Jacob Lawrence, Ruth Asawa, Merce Cunningham, John Cage, Cy Twombly, Kenneth Noland, Vera B. Williams, Franz Kline, Buckminster Fuller, Francine du Plessix Gray, Charles Olson, Robert Creeley, Dorothea Rockburne, and Walter Gropius.)
Founded in 1933 at a former summer camp with 22 students in the Blue Ridge Mountains of North Carolina, BMC was an adventure in progressive education. Less an art school than a perpetually broke experimental liberal arts college, the program’s philosophy centered around the belief that artistic experience was instrumental to all aspects of learning and grew students into better—and more curious—democratic citizens. Fortunately for art lovers the world around, BMC’s college life and curriculum revolved around the artistic process at a critical moment when American Progressivism combined with European Modernism.
Photographs at the start of the exhibit show the communal, egalitarian style of living and working at the school. The faculty owned and operated the college, and governed it together with students. In the early 1930s, sweat equity was more useful than tuition—they grew their own food, cooked their own meals, and built their own classrooms.
The founders of BMC kicked off their utopian educational experiment by hiring Bauhaus artists Josef and Anni Albers, who brought with them a healthy dose of enthusiasm for communal idealism and experimentation. These values remain evident in the profoundly interdisciplinary art created at the college during its brief existence, spanning painting, sculpture, ceramics, textiles, poetry, dance, music, and theater.
The exhibit begins with the colorful geometric paintings and prints of Josef, and the striking, modernist weavings and jewelry of Anni. In nearby rooms, photographs and models showing Buckminster Fuller’s experimental architecture—and the oftentimes unsuccessful attempts at constructing it—sit in conversation with the geometric and organic drawings and sculptures of Ruth Asawa, as well as the vibrant, expressionistic paintings of Elaine and Willem de Kooning and Franz Kline.
Later in the exhibit, the artistic creations of Merce Cunningham, John Cage, and Robert Rauschenberg showcase the collaborative, bodily nature of the work at BMC. Displays and performances using their choreography, music, and set decorations—schedules of which are available on the ICA website—allow museum visitors to share in an experience that, well, grew from shared experience.
As one might expect from the school’s summer camp beginnings, it was a perfect storm of intense closeness, idealism, freedom, and collaboration. Throughout the ICA’s galleries, the works of art from BMC seem to speak to each other, and to be in their presence is to get a glimpse of how their creators exemplified the school’s motto of “learning through doing.”
It’s an education in the importance of experimentation and exposure to difference, and a chance for (oft-maligned) utopian idealism—however short-lived—to get a little vindication.
Monday, December 21. 2015
Note: for all friends, artists and architects that will still be around in Lausanne next Tuesday (22.12), let's all meet at Circuit gallery for Philippe Rahm's talk about his first novel published last Spring, Météorologie des sentiments. The book is a pilgrimage through many past memories, in a non linear way and under the combined angles of feelings and meteorology (as the title of the book states it...)
The novel is indeed closely related to Philippe's practice and teaching as an architect, with which we share many interests!
Météorologie des sentiments
Gramazio Kohler celebrates 10 years of research in digital fabrication at ETHZ in a video | #digitalfabrication #researchbydesign
Monday, November 23. 2015
Note: this article was published a while ago and was rebloged here and there already. I kept it in my pile of "interesting articles to read later when I'll have time" for a long time as well therefore. But it make sense to post it in conjunction with the previous one about Norman Foster and by extension with the otehr one concerning the Chicago Biennial.
It is also sometimes interesting to read posts with delay, when the hype and buzzwords are gone. Written in the aftermath of the Tesla annoncement about its home battery (Powerwall), the article was all about energy revolution. But since then, what? We're definitely looking forward...
Nobody wants to say it outright, but the Apple Watch sucks. So do most smartwatches. Every time I use my beautiful Moto 360, its lack of functionality makes me despair. But the problem isn’t our gadgets. It’s that the future of consumer tech isn’t going to come from information devices. It’s going to come from infrastructure.
That’s why Elon Musk’s announcements of the new Tesla battery line last night were more revolutionary than Apple Watch and more exciting than Microsoft’s admittedly nifty HoloLens. Information tech isn’t dead — it has just matured to the point where all we’ll get are better iterations of the same thing. Better cameras and apps for our phones. VR that actually works. But these are not revolutionary gadgets. They are just realizations of dreams that began in the 1980s, when the information revolution transformed the consumer electronics market.
But now we’re entering the age of infrastructure gadgets. Thanks to devices like Tesla’s household battery, Powerwall, electrical grid technology that was once hidden behind massive barbed wire fences, owned by municipalities and counties, is now seeping slowly into our homes. And this isn’t just about alternative energy like solar. It’s about how we conceive of what technology is. It’s about what kinds of gadgets we’ll be buying for ourselves in 20 years.
It’s about how the kids of tomorrow won’t freak out over terabytes of storage. They’ll freak out over kilowatt-hours.
Beyond transforming our relationship to energy, though, the infrastructure age is about where we expect computers to live. The so-called internet of things is a big part of this. Our computers aren’t living in isolated boxes on our desktops, and they aren’t going to be inside our phones either. The apps in your phone won’t always suck you into virtual worlds, where you can escape to build treehouses and tunnels in Minecraft. Instead, they will control your home, your transit, and even your body.
Once you accept that the thing our ancestors called the information superhighway will actually be controlling cars on real-life highways, you start to appreciate the sea change we’re witnessing. The internet isn’t that thing in there, inside your little glowing box. It’s in your washing machine, kitchen appliances, pet feeder, your internal organs, your car, your streets, the very walls of your house. You use your wearable to interface with the world out there.
It makes perfect sense to me that a company like Tesla could be at the heart of the new infrastructure age. Musk’s focus has always been relentlessly about remolding the physical world, changing the way we power our transit — and, with SpaceX, where future generations might live beyond Earth. The opposite of cyberspace is, well, physical space. And that’s where Tesla is taking us.
But in the infrastructure age, physical space has been irrevocably transformed by cyberspace. Now we use computers to experience the world in ways we never could before computer networks and data analysis, using distributed sensor devices over fault lines to give people early warnings about earthquakes that are rippling beneath the ground — and using satellites like NASA’s SMAP to predict droughts years before they happen.
Of course, there are the inevitable dangers that come with infusing physical space with all the vulnerabilities of cyberspace. People will hack your house; they’ll inject malicious code into delivery drones; stealing your phone might become the same thing as stealing your car. We’ll still be mining unsustainably to support our glorious batteries and photovoltaics and smart dance clubs.
But we will also benefit enormously from personalizing the energy grid, creating a battery-powered hearth for every home. Plus the infrastructure age leads directly into outer space, to tackle big problems of human survival, and diverts our impoverished attention spans from gazing neurotically at the social scene unfolding in tiny glowing rectangles on our wrists.
The information age brought us together, for better or worse. It allowed us to understand our environment and our bodies in ways we never could before. But the infrastructure age is what will prevent us from killing ourselves as we grow up into a truly global civilization. That is far more important, and exciting, than any gold watch could ever be.
Note: Meanwhile, on the "big architects" end of the spectrum... Where I enjoyed to read the sentence " Foster is delighted that Britain now has an infrastructure commission, chaired by Andrew Adonis, which he says gives the opportunity to plan in 30-year cycles and remove the politics from infrastructure."
Via The Guardian
By Rowan Moore
Norman Foster’s Millau viaduct in France, which has ‘cut out five-hour traffic jams’. Photograph: Michael Reinhard/Corbis
“Do you believe in infrastructure?” asks Norman Foster, with challenge in his voice. He does. Infrastructure, he says, is about “investing not to solve the problems of today but to anticipate the issues of future generations”. He cites his hero, Joseph Bazalgette, who, in solving Victorian London’s sewage problems, “thought holistically to integrate drains with below-ground public transportation and above-ground civic virtue”.
Foster is delighted that Britain now has an infrastructure commission, chaired by Andrew Adonis, which he says gives the opportunity to plan in 30-year cycles and remove the politics from infrastructure. He will expound these views this week at the Urban Age 10th anniversary Global Debates, Urban Age being the LSE’s Deutsche Bank-sponsored series of conferences in which high-powered and highly powerful people travel the world exchanging views on city building.
Statistics spin out of him about sustainability. “If you take the carbon footprint of London, that’s one seventh of that of Atlanta, so there’s a relationship between density and emissions. The whole climate change issue, which many would argue is about the survival of the species, comes down to urbanism.
Foster’s proposed design for the Thames Hub airport. Photograph: dbox/Foster & Partners
“When I was in Harvard recently, I said that each of us in this room, the energy that we consume in one year would equal the energy consumed by two Japanese, 13 Chinese, 31 Indians and 370 Ethiopians. So you start to take the relationship between energy consumed by a society and infant mortality, life expectancy, sexual freedom, academic freedom, freedom from violence. So those societies that consume more energy have more of those desirable qualities, so all those issues are inseparable from the nature of the infrastructure.” The connections between these points are not always clear, but the argument seems to be that better use of energy through better infrastructure will enable more people to live better.
Of his own work, Foster says that many of the most important projects are not what are normally considered buildings, but things such as the Millennium Bridge, the pedestrianisation of Trafalgar Square in London, the Millau viaduct in southern France and the remaking of the Marseille waterfront. More statistics: “Millau cut out five-hour traffic jams, which meant that the saving in CO2 from the 10% of traffic that is heavy good vehicles had an effect equivalent to a forest of 40,000 trees.”
He has campaigned vigorously for the Thames Hub, a new airport in the Thames estuary with an associated network of huge ambition: an orbital railway around London, a flood barrier, tidal energy generation. He is profoundly disappointed that his plan is likely to be rejected in favour of an expanded Heathrow: “The reality of a hub airport is that you can never ever do that at Heathrow. If you do that at Heathrow now you can absolutely guarantee that we will still be pedalling furiously to stand still. You can never accommodate long-term needs there.”
Norman Foster: ‘The whole climate change issue comes down to urbanism.’ Photograph: Manolo Yllera
But given what he just said about sustainability, should we be expanding airports at all? “Do you eat meat?” he asks scathingly. “You’re probably going to have your hamburger in spite of the fact that you’re going to make a much greater impact than any travel.” Air travel, he says, “compares well statistically with the amount of methane produced by cows and the amount of energy and water needed to produce a hamburger”.
“The reality is that all society is embedded in mobility. You’re going to take that flight. You’d be better to take the flight out of an airport that is driven by tidal power and which uses natural light, and which anticipates the day when air travel will be more sustainable.” He talks of solar-powered flight and planes made of lightweight composite materials.
It could also be asked what is the role of the architect in what is generally the province of engineers, planners and politicians. Around us is evidence of his practice’s apparent potency – towers in China and India, a model of the giant circle, one mile in circumference, which will be Apple’s new headquarters, images of a concept for habitats on Mars – but Foster says: “I have no power as an architect, none whatsoever. I can’t even go on to a building site and tell people what to do.” Advocacy, he says, is the only power an architect ever has.
To write about Foster presents a particular challenge to an architecture critic. The scale of his achievement is immense and he has created many outstanding buildings. A wise man recently pointed out that if Foster had only built his 20 or 30 best works, critical admiration would be virtually unqualified. It is largely because his practice has designed many more projects than this that he sometimes gets a bad press. But would it really have been better if he had confined himself to a boutique practice in order to preserve his architectural purity?
It can seem peevish and petty to question his work, but it is not beyond criticism. In particular, it can become weaker the more it makes contact with realities outside itself. If you look upwards in the Great Court he designed in the British Museum, you will see an impressive structure of steel and glass, but at your own level it becomes bland and sometimes clumsy. The Gherkin is a memorable presence on the London skyline, but awkward at pavement level. The Millennium Bridge, even with the modifications necessary to stop it wobbling, is confident and elegant except at its landing, where the overhang of its cantilever creates spaces that are plain nasty.
In the context of infrastructure, the question is also whether it adapts to the political, social and physical conditions that surround it. In answer to Foster’s question, yes, I do believe in infrastructure. Or, rather, I’d compare it to water: essential to existence, life-enhancing and sometimes beautiful, but with the power to damage and destroy if misused.
Design for the proposed drone-port project in Rwanda. Photograph: Foster & Partners
All this makes a new drone-port project in Rwanda one of Foster and Partners’ most intriguing. Conceived with Jonathan Ledgard, the director of Afrotech, who describes himself as a thinker on the future of Africa, it is a plan to create a network of cargo drones that can bring medical supplies and blood, plus spare parts, electronics and e-commerce, to hard-to-access parts of Africa. The drones have ports – shelters where they can safely land and unload, but which also serve as “a health clinic, a digital fabrication shop, a post and courier room, and an e-commerce trading hub, allowing it to become part of local community life”. Because of their inaccessible locations, they have to be built using materials close to hand, so techniques have been developed for efficiently making local earth into bricks and stones into foundations.
It is impossible at this point and at this distance to know if the drone-port project will achieve what it hopes, but its ambition to adapt to local conditions seems absolutely to the point. The interesting question is then how to bring the same thinking to infrastructure in a developed country, such as Britain. What is the right infrastructure for the society and culture of this country, at this point? Has it changed since Foster’s Victorian heroes, such as Bazalgette, did their work? Can we import the large-scale thinking of modern China and, if so, with what modification? These are good questions for an architect to address.
Urban Age Global Debates run until 3 December; lsecities.net/ua
fabric | rblg
This blog is the survey website of fabric | ch - studio for architecture, interaction and research.
We curate and reblog articles, researches, writings, exhibitions and projects that we notice and find interesting during our everyday practice and readings.
Most articles concern the intertwined fields of architecture, territory, art, interaction design, thinking and science. From time to time, we also publish documentation about our own work and research, immersed among these related resources and inspirations.
This website is used by fabric | ch as archive, references and resources. It is shared with all those interested in the same topics as we are, in the hope that they will also find valuable references and content in it.
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