Thursday, August 26, 2010

Augmented Cities

Another phenomenal video vision from Bartlett grad Keiichi Matsuda:

The video's impressive production value paints an exciting future wear we "re-evaluate the city as an immersive human-computer interface" and a frightening portrait of "a world where media is indistinguishable from 'reality'."

I have always been an enthusiast for an ever approaching future of pervasive computing. But the question for me is when do we start to see diminishing returns from this immersion?
I already find myself with a compounded struggle with my predisposition for ADD thanks to my smartphone email. I'm constantly checking it.

For an especially poignant commentary on the issue, check out Inventing Interactive's post and his previous post about the added stress and challenges with focusing which our connected, multitasking lives can bring. After reading both of them, I've decided to set my phone to push email only a few times per day.

I can't wait to be offline for a week at Burning Man.

link via: Bldg Blog and Inventing Interactive

Table On Cables

I love this suspended table! A perfect solution for flexibility in an urban home. My fellow Burning Man campmate, Jean-Francois Gauthier built it in his dining room and used it in all its glory when he hosted us for our final meeting before the big event. It's an elegant and easy to use solution to the need for three different modes in an urban home: standard seated dining (with none of those pesky legs to get in the way!), japanese (low-to-the-floor) dining, and completely out of the way (on the ceiling). Jean-Francois hoisted the table complete with all of our potluck crockery with just a few cranks of a winch mounted on the wall nearby. And voila! The seating area for our Burning Man meeting doubled in size to allow some 30+ people to gather round.

Friday, August 20, 2010

A Framework for Parasites

I love these images of Tadashi Kawamata's Pompidou Hut's from
Photos by Chris Wassmann.

These opportunistic little wooden sculptures are stunning in juxtaposition to the high tech framework of the Centre Pompidou as they suspend precariously from its external frame.

I could imagine a an entire city block with a vertical scaffold, something like a Centre Pompidou sans museum, that allows parasitic units to coagulate around and within it. Units of all shapes and sizes could be added, taken away, relocated, expanded, and contracted based on their own agency. New relationships would form and the infrastructure would be come a thriving single organism composed a many smaller living entities. An urban coral reef. A vertical favela.

Wednesday, August 18, 2010

Levi's Workshop

The other night we took over the Levi's Workshop on Valencia St. in the Mission District of SF.

It's a stunningly simple example of integrating an ad campaign into a community in a meaningful way by giving visitors an opportunity to participate and celebrating local craftspeople (including Dave Eggers and Alice Waters).

Temporarily Taking over a building that has been empty for years (since it was the original location of The Slanted Door), Levi's has made a national ad campaign take on the flavor of a local Mission outfit by doing what feels like a relatively light touch to an old commercial space. As much as I love the look and feel of letterpress products, I can't believe it was a company that makes jeans who introduced me to the experience.

There is very little merchandising in the space. And the limited addition denim apron I purchased allows me to select a local arts charity to donate the proceeds, (Southern Exposure). And what at first may be a series of props as would be the case in most retail merchandising, are in fact the real deal, and guests are invited to try out there own silk screening, and test drive a behemoth Vandercook proof press, platen press, color copier, or digital workstation.

The staff genuinely seem to care about the craft and are in love with the store's concept. Some are even heading to New York to work at the photo studio workshop opening there after this one closes. The workshop suits the Levi's Work campaign very well and feels remarkably genuine.

This makes me wonder, what if there was a resource like this all of the time that was accessible to the everyone as a community resource. Rather than public space being primarily focused on the notion of the space, the real estate, as the primary shared resource, perhaps tools for each discipline could be located in underutilized commercial space, driving neighborhood economies and building a culture of exchange as people come together around common values that need common tools.

Go visit at 580 Valencia St. before it disappears at the end of August.

Tuesday, August 17, 2010

An Introduction...

Something big is happening. And there is small, but powerful evidence of it emerging in cities around the world. We are in the midst of a transformation that will rival the Industrial Revolution in the way it will redefine the the cities we live in and the economies that drive them. Inspired by online behaviors, a revived culture of sharing and participation, and a new economy that emphasizes the individual, we are reinventing public and semi-public spaces in our urban landscape and circumventing many of the constraints that make change a slow process in the urban environment.

This blog is dedicated to the pursuit of evidence, built and speculative, where I have come across examples of people redefining space to adapt to changing demands and the participation of the people who inhabit them.

I recently published an article on IDEO's Patterns website. It is a concise description of this transformation of the urban environment along with several examples, from new pop-up retail concepts to underground restaurants.

Since then I find myself constantly coming up against these behaviors in the urban context, in my design practice, and in the practice of many others.

Thanks to a lot of helpful advice and editing from my colleagues at IDEO, I managed to get a sprawling treatise into a pithy 2 paragraphs, so in introducing this blog, I'll share them with you again.

"We’ve grown accustomed to the Internet as a platform built around behaviors of rapid adaptability and user responsiveness. Within this paradigm, businesses and individuals take action and capture large audiences at a pace that might have seemed impossible ten years ago. Now there is an increasing desire to enable that same flexibility and speed of responsiveness in the physical public space of our cities.

However, unlike the online world, there are rigid constraints in urban real estate with limitations from property laws, city ordinances, and the length of time, effort, and capital it takes to rent, purchase, or modify property. Despite this, many companies and individual initiatives are recognizing that the way to capture an audience “in real life” is to create constantly evolving and participatory spaces that do not yield to the limitations of the traditional built environment."

These phenomena, by their nature, are fuzzy. My hope is that this blog will evolve as our understanding of these new behaviors and experiences grows. It will always be nebulous and shifting, but that's what makes it so exciting!