Archive for December, 2007

Saturday, December 29th, 2007

Wandering around Architecture Island
posted by Eversion Orman on Architecture Island using a blogHUD : [blogHUD permalink]

more space

Friday, December 21st, 2007

I have to admit that I might not have been entirely clear in my previous post about Venn diagrams, rifts and Egon Spengler. Behind all the mucking about with sci-fi analogies, it’s simply an attempt to use a drawing language that makes me think about aspects of projects and problems that may usually be overlooked.

During the last few days I’ve spotted a couple of other examples that might provide similar inspiration. Firstly, DfL’s Green Grid proposals for London examining the green infrastructure between 6 areas of the city; described in Kieran Long’s AJ editorial like this:

You probably will have noticed that the AJ has been tackling urbanism in a serious way in recent weeks … But time and again while researching these features we have come across the same problem – no-one has a drawing that can adequately sum up a strategic approach to a place. For this alone DfL should be congratulated.


source: Architects’ Journal 13.12.07

Secondly, whilst hiding – during a post office party hangover – between the pages of a Calvino book, I found my favourite author citing dialect instead of drawing as a tool for fixing these liminal spaces:

Lexical richness (as well as richness in expressiveness) is (or rather, was) one of the great strengths of dialects. Dialects have the edge on the standard language when they contain words for which the standard language has no equivalent. But this lasts only as long as certain (agricultural, artisan, culinary, domestic) techniques last – techniques whose terminology was created or deposited in the dialect rather than in the standard language, Nowadays, in lexical terms, dialects are like tributary states towards the standard language: all they do is give dialectal endings to words that start off in technical language. And even outside the terminology of trades, the rarer words become obsolete and are lost.

I remember that the old folk of San Remo knew dialects that represented a lexical wealth that was irreplaceable. For instance: chintagna, which means both the empty space that remains behind a house that has been built (as always in Liguria) up against terraced land, and also the empty space between the bed and the wall. I do not think an equivalent word exists in Italian; but nowadays the word does not exist even in dialect; who has heard of it or uses it now? Lexical impoverishment or homogenization is the first sign of a language’s death.

source: Hermit in Paris – Italo Calvino

I found this gang of hellraisers staring back at me from the pages of a book in the dentist’s waiting room this week, looking like they’d just stepped out of some liminal rock ‘N’ roll space. When assembled in this fashion they were fittingly called The N’Betweens.

For extra festive season points, who can tell me the name of the band they would eventually become?

guess the band

Clue: IT’S CHRISTMAS!!!!!!!!

Update: Slade! Although for the life of me I can’t work out which one is Noddy Holder.

up on the roof

Monday, December 17th, 2007

Our man in Australia, Dan Hill from City Of Sound, sends his latest dispatch by video over at InterestingSouth2007, pitching an idea for sustainability points scoring encouraged by neighbourhood social networking competition. Bruce Sterling meets Robert Venturi – toaster spimes shout via roof top neon signs.

Dan Hill lecture

Home owners collate their energy use, export the stats to their neighbourhood’s Facebook group and then float the results out over the street with a hovering, illuminated super-graphic. You can imagine a community where street lights have been replaced with glowing balloons of green pride or red shame.

Dan’s request for input makes me recall the notes I took at last year’s Ecobuild conference:

Enter Carrera and his ‘City Knowledge’ project, which aims to ‘…transform municipalities from hunter-gatherers into farmers…’, farming information about it’s energy uses throughout all it’s processes to build a constantly up to date database. Described in three moves, this takes you from,

plan demanded data,

which is costly to turn into

plan ready information,

when it would have been better to have

plan demanding knowledge.

Because at this point you get the reverse and the knowledge begins to demand a plan, creating new, unforeseen possibilities.

This was part of a presentation by Fabio Carrera about the work he was developing with Adrian Hewitt (of Merton Rule fame), following his PhD exploring the concept of City Knowledge:

City Knowledge leverages the dominant plan-demanded mode of data acquisition to gradually and inexpensively accumulate high-return data and to ensure sustainable, low-cost updates. It produces plan-ready information, by exploiting the self-serving and opportunistic pursuit of instant return-on-investment by frontline offices. Thanks to its emergent qualities, City Knowledge engenders unexpected plan-demanding situations, where the ability to conduct second-order analyses leads to deeper knowledge of our cities.

Carrera and Hewitt have begun to collate environmental data and combine it with GIS mapping. Following Carrera’s ‘middle-out’ model, this emanates from the municipal departments, rather than bottom-up people power or top-down government departments. Described in his 2004 dissertation thus (in a section seductively topped with references to both Lynch and Calvino):

With the advent of the web, a culture of interconnectedness and a certain familiarity with the concept of sharing through a distributed network of independent computers have created the right mindset upon which the City Knowledge concept of “middle-out” can now be grafted. Middle-out entails that each department will first and foremost take care of its needs, so that the primary functions that the department or office performs will be invariably performed with or without the connection to the outside world.

The City Lab department of WPI has been developing this middle out data farming in a number of fields, including the Local On-line Urban Information System (LOUIS).

It seems to me that LOUIS needs help to get out of the lab and into your living room. In Dan’s model, the middle-out municipal department is the aggregation of a community through web 2 social networking. The people become their own Ministry of Environmental Truth, with an attractive AJAX interface, freely accessible API for iPhone toaster control apps and a folksonomic tagging system for all the white goods.

These two approaches should get together for a meetup. Tom Carden should be invited. Carrera seems to have dabbled with web 2 ideas, but the trail disappears after a single blog entry and solitary bookmark – perhaps he’s moved onto web 3.

Final proof that these were two paths destined to cross eventually: Carrera’s City Lab has its own City Sounds project

Elsewhere, Matt Webb – characteristically ahead of the game – announces his sustainability score to the neighbourhood by burning tyres on the roof.

I will survive

Tuesday, December 11th, 2007

Recently received by e-mail, here are some alternative lyrics for use during any karaoke event over the coming festive period:


(to the tune of I Will Survive)

At first I was afraid, I was petrified
thinking I could not design what you had specified
But then I spent too many years redrawing what you just built wrong
and I grew strong
and I learned how to get along
And now you’re back
With more floor space
I just walked in to find you here
with that QS look upon your face
I should have changed that stupid plan
I should have made you pay that fee
If I had known for just one second
you’d be back to bother me
Oh go now go,
delete that door
move the wall around now
you don’t wanna pay for it anymore
Were you the one who tried to break me with your RFIs
you think I’d crumble you think I’d lay down and die?
Oh no not I
I will survive….

crossing streams

Tuesday, December 11th, 2007


Some work on a lecture I recently gave about Secured by Design (more on that coming up) produced a spin-off diagram worth sharing. Unashamedly following the Indexed model (what’s the formal name for this diagram type?), it pitches three elements of urban design (accommodation, people, transport) against each other and marks intersections, inputs and outputs.

What I’m interested in here is the way this type of diagram turns boundaries or edges – lines – into space to inhabit, both intellectually and physically. Territory that is usually microscopically small, like the surface tension between liquid and its container – such as the boundaries that bump into each other between a path alongside a garden, or a pavement alongside a road – is ripped open, forming a space (A, B and C) that must be negotiated and moved through, rather than stepped over.

I like the idea that these rifts, as Jack Harkness might call them, have a temporal viscosity, as Fassin Taak might say, that could range from foggy pea-soup to sticky treacle. I like the fact that the intersections, the crossing of streams, as Egon Spengler might say, rather than “…causing “total protonic reversal”, destroying the gate and removing Gozer…”, denote the rainwater outlets. The gutters. The connection to the wider infrastructure beyond the diagram.

At the end of all this, when I’m cross-hatching the bits in the middle, I’m defining that qualitative quantity ever-present in urban design discussion: density.

Update: Let’s be more explicit with our hyperlinks: the foggy link is an overlap with some recent posts by Adam Greenfield commenting and expanding on the work of Steven Flusty – see this post also: Foggy, further to Flusty’s five.

Also, I realise now that this was merely a continuation of my previous posts, Vacant Space and Theory about practice.

sodium burst

Thursday, December 6th, 2007
sodium burst

peoples millions

Thursday, December 6th, 2007