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September, 2009 Monthly archive

On the news today is the newly discovered rotating dining room built by the roman ruler Nero about 2000 years ago. He reigned from AD 54 to 68. It seems to be an extraordinary discovery in terms of architecture, as archeologist have not seen pillars of similar size in any other ancient roman structure before. The newly discovered structural pillars are about four meters in diameter, the BBC reports.
The Telegraph has details of the interior, writing “The hall is said to have had a revolving wooden floor which allowed guests to survey a ceiling painted with stars and equipped with panels from which flower petals and perfume would shower onto the tables below. ”
The use of the structure was interpreted with the help of written source describing such a rotating room. The dining area was described by the ancient historian Suetonius in his Lives of the Caesars. He wrote, “The chief banqueting room was circular and revolved perpetually, night and day, in imitation of the motion of the celestial bodies,”

The rotation mechanism is imagined to have been powered by streams of water to archive the continuous movement.
Observing the characteristics and the movement of stars and the moon has a long tradition. A lot of this has influenced human culture from the beginning and the identification with these elements has gone as far the assignment of the zodiac sign to periods of the year. In a lot of cultures the rules, king or Pharaoh are identified as good like and to demonstrate such a relationship this dining room must have impressed the guests. The close relationship of with these influential objects where a source of power, but also firmness and dynamic, a great source to shape the desired identity. In an earlier post on the early Egyptian concept of the rebirth this subject is also explored.
However, as we know from our experience the movement of these bodies is rather slow in comparison to the speed of human activity. Often we have difficulties to actually adapt to such large scale movement as for example the tide. It is too slow to actively recognize and then suddenly is different. As to imitate the movement of stars or to be in sync with the rhythm of day and night the mechanism would need to be rather sophisticated to slow down with the use of gears or similar. I believe it was rather a conceptual imitation and therefore would require the guests to understand the concept.

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Image by minasodaboy on flickr – the panorama on the Schlithorn

Today a number of similar dining rooms exist al over the world mainly in famous locations, such as on top of the mountain – the Schilthorn restaurant Piz Gloria in Switzerland location for the James Bond movie On Her Majesty’s Secret Servicethe Space Needle’s restaurant in Seattle, or the restaurant on the CN Tower in Toronto,
As an element of identity it was and still is a great feature.

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The visualization of the UrbanDiary GPS tracks has bee a big topic earlier this year. So far Google Earth was used as a rendering engine and the animations produced where screen grabs. A rather crude and straight forward way of creating an animation.
However the process seemed to make sense as the G Globe is working well with GPS data.
Now, a new to for visualizing the tracks has been developed here at CASA. Richard Milton has written little script to import GPS tracks directly into 3D Studio Max. It reads of the gpx. file and creates a spline for the path, a marker object and time frames for each point.
There is still some tweaking to be done with the time interpretation, especially regarding multiple tracks, but as a proof of concept it work.
I have only just put out a crappy clip with 10 tracks, but the machine is working on a better version and I will update the post.
In a next step the idea would be to also import the Virtual London model and start visualizing the use of the urban form.

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Image by urbanTick

3dsMaxGPStest from urbanTick on Vimeo.

Music by watermeron on mp3unsigned.com

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When have you gotten lost for the last time? It must have been a while. The art of getting lost has got lost itself nowadays. The sense of not knowing the exact direction to a familiar object, place or location can be very unpleasant. On the other hand it can be very reliving. If you are prepared to accept that you have lost control over the situation or at least the location you might find yourself enjoying it.
The idea of stoling through the city, not directed by a specific destination is a concept introduced by the Situationists. The aimless wandering or derive, as it is called in the Situationist writing, can even be a method to observe the city.
However, people also get lost not on purpose. The marketing campaign of a number of companies make us aware of a lot of possibilities we could get lost and with this fuel a lot of people’s fears of the immediate surrounding. In car navigation has become the number one gadget in car sales, it has overtaken the air condition feature or the CD player.


Image by Fischer Portugal for Honda / promoting Honda’s Compact Navigation System.

People seem to enjoy being talked through the environment, and then it all depends on the voice. I assume gadget developers put a lot of thought into the voices they offer as the direction instructor. Even how it is said must be important. In a recent interview Bob Dylan has announced that he is in talks with GPS manufacturers to lend his voice for a next generation of Gadget. Click here for a sample of his voice. I am still waiting for the vice over that starts shouting at someone who just missed the turn for the fourth time. “You twat, can’t you follow instructions! I said turn LEFT!” The other way round, people shouting at the in-car-navigation-system are probably quite common.
The BBC has recently collected a number of stories of people getting lost with the GPS. Due to a software fault : ) the GPS will not correct your spelling mistakes. And it seems that people quite often misspell their destination. And a little knowledge is still needed to distinguish between Capri and Capri, as a Swedish couple have learned after they arrived in the Industrial Town of Capri instead of the island Capri in Italy. via GPSCity

GPS from DustFilms on Vimeo.

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Most of us travel daily to work and usually it happens that at the same time thousands of fellow travelers do the same. The phenomenon is called commute and occurs in most places where there are more than two people living. There is concession in the bathroom, in front of the lift at the parking exit, down the road, up the road, on the crossroad, at the zebra crossing, at the building entrance (batch reader not working today?) and of course around the coffee machine.
But it is part of how we have set up our world and it seems to be a successful for businesses.

COMMUTE from Brian Stansfield on Vimeo.

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To day we’ll be mapping Plymouth. Well Plymouth ha been mapped before, but I think it is a great location for this sort of exercise. It has such a complicated history with twists and beds and its identity is still strong. A large part of this identity is directly derived from its residents self image. Plymouth has always been a very strong-minded region and it still is. This has also something cheeky and irrationals, which results in, a weird place with lovely people.
It is the end of the world, though, geographically, also economically and fashionably. I have to stress that this is not only to be understood in a negative sense. There are some very beautiful aspects to it. Take the great 60ies, 70ies, and 80ies buildings. These ugly grey monsters in the identity-lacking city, it makes a great collection. Or take the hopeless reinvention of Plymouth with the Abercrombie Plan, a great piece of late modernist urban planning that was already dated, but has never really arrived at it’s location. Plymouth is still trying to implement it, although by now it has lost its head, its arms, its legs … But most of all you have to be there and feel for your self. The atmosphere is incredible, it is one of the places with the most spatial misunderstandings and the result is literally breath taking.
I am looking forward to the results.

Below the input slides to summarize the topics we will be working on.

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I am invited for a workshop at University of Plymouth, Faculty of Art, School of Architecture. The topic is mapping and the aim is to introduce the students in a one-day workshop to various techniques. We are a team of four guest tutors; the series is organized by Bob Brown, Master of Architecture Program Leader.
My contribution is under the subject of the narrative in the city and entitled the “Mapping the Everyday – The Spatial Extension of Routines“. This workshop provides an opportunity to test the ideas and concepts in the context of the UrbanDiary project. One of the key concepts developed from the UD tracking project is the idea of individual space creation resulting in a continuous, spatial narrative. Through the movement and experience of the body one creates a story, which in turn is creating memory and identity, not on only for the individual, but for the city as a collective.
As an introduction I will be giving a short presentation about the research work I have been doing over the past year.

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With the latest iPhone software update, version 3.1, the long awaited augmented reality applications finally have arrived on the iPhone platform. Already a month back acrossair’s Nearest Tube application was hyped on the net and in the news, but now it rather quietly was introduced. It featured on the blog before here.
It is now available on the itunes app store for £1.19. I wonder how a software price of 1.19 is calculated?
Together with it came a bunch of similar public transport applications for example the London Bus application for £ 0.59 by presslite.
Of course both developers cover a range of cities with their apps, where you have to by the app for each city separately, of course.
Presslite does cover, London, Paris, Berlin, Lyon, Moscow, Washington, Marseille, Tokyo, New York, Chicago, Montreal, Toronto, Madrid, Amsterdam, Beijing and Hong-Kong. Acrossair on the other hand covers New York and London.
I can imagine that it is a battle over this field, as potentially there are a lot of customers. It is for the commuters, but also for tourists and then it is for everyone else who is in the city. I guess that the companies assume that nearly everyone needs their app. I don’t think it is that simple, though. For one, not everyone has the gadget to actually use the software and two; the idea of getting lost in the city is a myth. The believe that everyone in the city needs this sort of navigation aid is based on the idea that no one knows their way round and constantly get lost. Well, in a large city such as London it is impossible to know every corner, but I believe that people know their daily route quite well and are perfectly capable of navigating along familiar trails. Only when it comes to out of routine activities on unfamiliar territory navigation aids are use. For example in most cars here in London you can spot an A-Z on the back seat.
However, back to the functionality of the applications, the Nearest Tube works beautifully, it is as simple as it gets, both, in terms of graphics and functions. You tab the icon it opens and shows as a camera overlay the direction to the tube stations. The only thing you have to confirm is an iPhone operating system specific question, because the program wants to use the location information to locate the position, so the user has initially to confirm that the software is allowed to do so. Other than this there is no button, no developer logo, no info or about, nothing – how nice! You can, however, tab on the displayed tube sign and it will take you to Google Maps and shows the direct route to get there. It is a five star application; it does what it is meant to do and nothing more.
The London Bus on the other hand, does not convince at this stage. It claims to give you bus route information in London, but actually it is limited to central London and to a fraction of the bus lines and only covering major bus stops. Those are basically the tube stations. Although there are a number of bus stops on Tottenham Court Road it directs you either to Tottenham Court Road Station on the South end of the road or to Warren Street Station on the North end of the road. Out side the centre, I tried to use it to get in to work this morning around Tufnell Park; the software would not even register the location and therefore not even give information about distant stations.
It also features Augmented Reality but only as an additional visualisation, where as Nearest Tube only builds on AR. London Bus is map based with the option to use AR and it is not as neat as the acrossair version.
So Nearest Tube is cool, London Bus is not so cool.

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Image by urbanTick – Nearest Tube information in my bathroom

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A new UCL publication landed on my desk today with a note to thank for my contribution. Although I did not know I am contributing, I was pleased to see the PLY365 track record being published.
I remembered that I have submitted a graphic to the annual UCL Grad SChool image competition last year. I haven’t won anything ack then and now it is published in the new Grad School Handbook 2009/10.

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Image by urbanTIck – the Art of Research page 12/13

At the same time this data set was the first material to be published on this blog back in october 2008. I only had completed the recording in Plymouth and moved to London. The original image can be found here. I continued recording my movement with the GPS device and the latest map, London 365, can be found here.

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One thing leads to another – it could be called a sentence of very old wisdom. But somehow it is also part of our daily experience. A lot of the actions we take will have some form of impact on how we do something afterwards.
As for my day there are some elements that are interlocked. I need the key as I leave the house to lock the door, I can take the tube that would be faster, but on the bus I can read something and it is not as crowded, both ways I need my travel card to get on. The packed lunch depends on the left over of the evening before and the daily hits on the blog depend on what time I upload the new post. Early is good for European readers, whereas later it will be picked up by readers overseas. On the way back the transport issue applies again and if I am late because I wanted to write this additional email, I have to take the tube to get home on time where I will need the key to let myself in.
Our decisions are not only driven by what it is, but by the consequences it might have. I suppose this is called planning.
Still, there are a lot of moments when things are not going according to plan and even this will influence everything there after. Here in Britain, superstition has quite a tradition. Things like not walking under leaders, black cats, numbers and so on are part of people’s decision making process moment by moment.

On an individual daily level it might look as described above. These aspects apply to the whole range of scales too though. On the level of city infrastructure an incident can have the same consequences. An accident on a road in central London will disrupt the commute of thousands of commuters. Greater events, such as 10 cm snow can bring the city to a stand still. However, it somehow works most days and this is all we care for. The city can be imagined as gigantic machinery with hundreds of thousand little elements switches and circuits that work in sync. The most quoted visualization in this context is probably Metropolis, the city machine.

Image film still – Metropolis 1927 by Fritz Lang

What actually happened behind he scene of the real city and how it all works together hardly anyone cares, maybe no one even knows. For a large city it is hard to imagine, that there is one person that REALLY knows why and how everything interlocks. Imagine if this person were superstitious, would the city still work? This would probably turn the whole city into fear over a certain aspect.
This might even be the case with London. Everyone is very excited about 2012 with the Olympics to be held here in London. But on the other hand it does put on a lot of pressure and certainly sparks some fear.

However the aspect of interlocking events have been subject to great works in the world of art. The artists Peter Fischli und David Weiss created the famous movie “Der Lauf der Dinge” (The Way Things Go) in 1987. Similar to a chain reaction a motion is unleashed that travels through a setting, constantly changing its form, shape and character. On youtube the full movie is available in three parts. Surprisingly the movie manages to build up a tension carried by curiosity over the just 30 minutes. As a metaphor for an urban machine it works rather well.

Part 01

Part 02

Part 03

The same topic has been used for a car advert by Honda. It is obviously modeled on the above original. There are even some direct quotes.

A very recent interpretation of the theme was hyped on the internet the last week. This time a fundamental shift has taken place. From the very physical and body / object centered original the latest interpretation has replaced the physical aspect with … technology I suppose. The different elements do not touch to pass the motion on any longer. It is all magic here. Nevertheless it is a great demonstration of RFID technology.

Nearness from timo on Vimeo.
Through metro

Even though some of the fundamental aspects of the original “Der Lauf der Dinge” is missing here does it very much resemble the daily life of interlocked actions. It is not so much the curiosity, but the familiarity that builds up the tension in this new example. It is realized by Nearness, a collaboration of Berg and Timo.

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Image by MArch Urban Design – Invitation Flyer

The Bartlett School of Architecture calls for the MArch Annual Show 2009. The Master of Arts course students present their work at the Wates House, 22 Gordon Street. The bash starts from 17h30 on the ground floor of the Wates House. Work presented will be from both, MArch Architecture students as well as MArch Urban Design students.
The Urban Design students present their work under the title CurioCities. They have been working on the topic of Urban Mutations and produced an impressive wealth of project. As usual each students background played a key role and helped shaping the diversity again archived
in this years fifty something projects. Some project impressions can be found on UD-unit-06.

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Image by Zahra Aziz, urban curiosity and memory

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Image by urbanTick – SpeeD Daria Shipukhina and Stavroula Papafotiou, Adaptive toolkit for urban growth. Tactile urbanism.

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