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. http://patterns.ideo.com/issue/not-so-real_estate/ 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!

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