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Tag "environment"

NASA satellites are observing the wild fires around the world. From satellite images the occurrence and spreading of bush fires are clearly visible. In a summary of the fires over the last ten years

The visualisations show fire observations made by the MODerate Resolution Imaging Spectroradiometer, or MODIS, instruments onboard NASA’s Terra and Aqua satellites. The data on fires is combined with satellite views of vegetation and snow cover to show how fires relate to seasonal changes. This is really the interesting part. The visualisation beautifully shows the change over a long time period and the movements in the landscape based on the shift, growth and burning of nature. Even though bush fires are devastating disasters the visualisation shows ohw they integrate with the other elements.

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The digital 3rd dimension is a long standing topic in many disciplines and together with augmented reality technologies has had a tremendous boost. Most smart phone platforms these days offer tools and applications to integrate and use AR style packages. However in most cases it is still quite quirky and lagging which probably has got a lot to do with the physics of the device, especially the small screen.

Image by Greg Tran / The transformation of the existing with an overlaid digital vision. The beauty of emptiness and the secret lives of spaces after everybody else has left.

A number of visions have been produced besides the large scale cinema adaptations like ‘Minority Report’, where AR and real time 3d rendering play their magic. Three examples from architecture students were ‘Domestic Robocop‘, ‘Augmented City 3D‘ and ‘ArchiMaton‘.

Another more comprehensive examination of the topic now comes from a Master student Greg Tran at Harvard Graduate School of Design. The clip is basically his Master Thesis and examines as well as at the same time experiments the augmented 3D digital scapes potentially of interest for spatial manipulation and design.

Image by Greg Tran / Partly social networking partly 3D model development, physicality in its digital form.

In the clip Tran presents the current state of the art as well as the main problems with the confusions between 2D, 2,5D and 3D and beyond. He also focuses on the augmented reality aspects as well as materiality. In amazing scenes he shows how the building itself is transformed, extended or disolved.

Further more he also integrates social aspects and the social networking into the possibilities and with this links it back to his current practice as an architecture student. This makes it a very grounded and realistic vision for what a very ‘cool’ and visionary future of architecture could be.

The aspects of design and prettiness of course are a full feature of the technology. AR is not only a new tool with useful capabilities it is also dam well pretty. To some extend this prettiness is currently blurring the view on most applications of AR tom actually make them useful, but with such grounded and pragmatic visions such as Tan offers the field could make a move forward.

Find the full text script of the storyboard on scribd HERE.

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Rising water levels are a real concern for large areas around the world close to he sea. The treads posed by the water are many, with tsunami waves as recently occurred in Japan following the devastating earthquake or simple flooding due to a combination of heavy rain and a storm.

In London this second scenario is a real concern and could potentially effet vast areas along the river Thames. The current water defence infrastructure in place is very soon to be out of date and needs replacement with a refreshed strategy on how to deal with potentially massive water masses moving in. The problem of course sharply rises together with every centimeter of sea level rise.

Image taken from the londonist

Extensive scenarios have been drawn out, both in terms of planning and post apocalyptic visionary.

An interesting visualisation here is using the tube maps as a reference point going back in history and projecting the changes in the nature of the river in to a possible future. The animation both introduces the Thames as a reference point, but at the same time highlights the river as a constant element of negotiation. This taking place both over time in real world with building project and through out usage, but also graphically in terms of its representation as part of the most iconic of maps, the London Tube Map.

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If we start with Petra Kempf’s publication ‘You Are The City‘ we jump straight into the discussion about the personal expression in the urban environment. Clearly this has become dramatically individualised and
and citizens have grown into roles as independent user, aspiring for flexibility and uniqueness.
The technological development in the recent years, month actually, is fuelling these developments. Here individuality turns into solitary and disconnectednes with the latest app telling you whats happening around you. Interaction becoming the biggest thing as long as we don’t need to talk to anyone.

The urban landscape is turning from a servicescape in to a stagescape for individuals to produce themselves as the latest celebrity. Interaction becomes one directional, the famous show off to be looked at, the ultimate aspiration.

The individualisation obviously is a very big topic in the media and some recent project are quite cleverly employing this trend to the point of questioning its real existence.

For example the current aviva campaign puts the individual in to the centre. On the website http://www.youarethebigpicture.com/ they started a collection of portraits, with the option to draw in your facebook image, as a representation of personal commitment and support. The great thing is the personalised video clip everyone gets as a sort of gift. The uploaded image is embedded in the clip and everyone has the chance to appears big in the city.

In fact aviva actually is running live projections of the submitted images in cities around the world. Some have ended, but on the page you have access to the recorded time lapse.

Another effort is made by the Dentsu London media company. They have recently had some really exciting project utilising the latest technologies with quite visionary content. See for example the iPad illumination clip.

THey were also looking into the personalisation of the city environment and visualised their ideas in two animated clip, sort of augmented visualisations. Their claim goes beyond the content, but this doesn’t matter at the moment I guess.

The basic idea is to utilise and augment existing objects and surfaces with personalised content and information. The desire to keep up to date with the latest social networking news, updates, notifications and tweets. Some of the idea are quite interesting, especially the ones that aim at linking the individual back to the physical context. It is very simple, but for example the Dentsu train ticket idea is a different take on the location awareness trend.

There is a lot of potential in this trend to personalise the everyday environment. There might be individual benefit and surprises to be discovered for everyone. However it might be not as new as it would like to be. But it is certainly a new take on the everyday routines and a chance to embed it with the aspired independence and individuality of our current culture. Definitely the city is the playground.

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A post by Annick Labeca, contributing to the second Ecological Urbanism discussion hosted by Annick Labeca, Taneha Bacchin, DPR-Barcelona and urbanTick.

Image by footprintnetwork.org / United Arab Emirates’ Ecological Footprint and Biocapacity.

Click the image and read this contribution on DPR-Barcelona

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What if the city would be interactive in the sense of the emerging augmented reality technology? Not that the city is not interactive, but if one would be able to controle many aspects of the environment constantly and from every location? Not that we are not in controle of our lives, but just that there is more that we are aware of.
This time its in HD and 3D – put your glases on!


This is a great clip and goes in line with the previous one Keiichi Matsuda produced at the Bartlett School of Architecture for his thesis.
I very much like the sequence with all the adds and stuff crowding the footpath and swirling away like dry leaves. In the intro scene I guess the possibilities are portrait best. One of the protagonists is waking up, starting the day, changing some options and as the camera zooms out we see he is already in this cafe place. Reminds me very much of those zoom/re-zoom books.

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A new GPS drawing project by Jeremy Wood (earlier on uT with the dog drawings and the dragon) has hit the online news. A contextual landscape map drawn by walking the landscape and tracing it with a GPS. Couldn’t be more simple as engadget points out: “walk around in the defined area with a GPS unit and end up with a 1:1 scale map of where he walked.”
The concept is very similar to Open Street Map (OSM). Take a GPS and with the recordings you can trace landscape features, OSM traces the streets and a visualisation of the data collected produces a map.
However Wood’s approach is interesting in so far as that he attempts to already process the landscape features in regards to the output map by using the trace to mimic mapping symbols. This provides an enhanced readability of the outcome.
Did he actually climb over fences and invade peoples gardens to achieve this? The map covers the Campus of the University of Warwick with some 238 miles of path over 17 days. Wood recalls: “Security was called on me twice on separate occasions and I lost count of how many times I happened to trigger an automatic sliding door.” More images on the artists page.

Traverse Me
Image by Jeremy Wood taken from GPSdrawing.com / Traverse Me is a map drawn by walking across campus with a GPS device to invite the viewer to see a different landscape to that which surrounds them. It questions the possibilities of where they are and inspires a personal reading of their movements and explorations of the campus. Commissioned by the Mead Gallery, Warwick Arts Centre.

Tanks for the link to Ralph Barthel, via engadget and infosthetics.

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How can a serious book project be justified by a article in a crappy newspaper? Well, there are many reasons for this and it is not per se a negative thing. It only looks more nobel if the product comes in responds to a well established and respected authority. One of the most obvious reasons is probably the fact that we all started reading these free and cheaply produced, written and distributed papers on the way to work and again on the way back home. Even thought it would be possible to access quality paper online for free around the clock, the free papers still have a largely entertaining character on the commute. Unusual then is to relay on it and reuse it as a foundation for an proper project.
This is a lot of blurb for the introduction paragraph here, but I am really surprised finding the prologue of this publication circling around the news paper 20minuten, a Swiss free street news paper that usually dosen’t hold a tenth of the promised time in the title.
Anyway, the article in the paper was spreading the news that a Swiss city has won first place in one of these literally hundreds of city ranking programs. But ‘How do you rank a city?’ With this first question, the book project started and triggered a series of questions in the bulk load. The book contains fifty topics with some five questions each, makes 250 questions regarding the urban environment. ‘What has been there forever?’ might be one of the time based questions. Another is the ‘How do you recognise the seasons?’ linking in aspects of nature and natural time pattern.
All this is summarised in the recent Lars Muller Publishers publication ‘The World’s Fairest City – Features of Urban Living Quality‘ by Ruedi Baur, Martin Feuz, Carmen Gasser Derungs, Andrea Gmünder, Thomas Hausheer, Martin Jann, Philipp Krass, Margarete von Lupin, Trond Maag, Ursula Tgetgel and Marcel Zwissler.
Some of the questions serve cliches ‘Can everybody get enough?’ and others are suggestive ‘What color is your tap-water?’ or ‘What can you do with the click of the mouse?’. I am calling this suggestive because the photographs used to illustrate the topics obviously are located in the western European context and based in the same cultural context. The existence of other conditions seems to bee a ghost around the corner. ‘How to you survive in a slum?’ ?
But sure enough the same observations started bugging the authors too and Ruedi Bauer reflects on this in his text ‘The Top of the Word’. There is a second part to the book where a number of contributors share their thoughts on the topic in very short snippets of text. Some, like Kurt Aeschbacher a Swiss TV presenter, answer in a few sentences two questions, others talk about their experiences to life in different cities around the world, like Mathis Guller. Overall this section paints an image of different experiences and characters of cities.
The book is complemented by a website, you might have guessed it: http://fairestcityintheworld.org/ where all the questions are accessible and one can register to vote for the personal favourite. Currently Munich is the voters favourite city on this platform.
This project has a counterpart in the form of a card set developed by ARUP and published by Prestel called ‘Drivers of change‘. It also is an extensive collection of questions set in the urban environment and ARUPS take on sustainability.

Image taken from fairestcityintheworld.org / Book cover

Baur, R. et al., 2010. The World’s Fairest City – Yours and Mine: Features of Urban Living and Quality: Features of Urban Living Quality, Lars Muller Publishers.

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A manifesto for sustainable cities is definitely a task with two diverting possible outcomes to it. On one side this is a winner, because everyone is talking sustainability and if you can offer this bound knowledge on the topic you are clearly up to the task. However, there is also the other side, you can only fail with this approach. It has been over used and become a real media word without meaning or program. Furthermore some sort of resignation has settled and a lot of practitioners think it is just too complex to fit in one field of expertise.
This book here with the title: ‘Albert Speer & Partner: A Manifesto for Sustainable Cities, Think Local, Act Global’ by Jeremy Gaines & Stefan Jaeger, published by Prestel in 2009, is probably such a candidate for this kind of black and white judgement. It is either great and you love it, or you will find it terrible and you don’t bother. However, the topic is kind of urgent and it has to be taken seriously globally to tackle the issue and every little helps.
This book is not a little, but 220 pages think and therefore must have something to say?
It is organised in ten chapters each in command style what you have to do and how you have to do it. It looks kind of more like a manual than a manifesto. The content is put together from practice examples drawn from all over the world, both in house Albert Speer & Partner (AS&P) projects and external projects by leading practices.

Image by AS&P, taken from german-architect / Artist impressio nof the proposal for Abuja, Nigeria. Note the six lane boulevard running down the length of the proposed development. This not only creates two parts or reminds us of Haussmanns Paris, but it also is clearly planned for individual traffic – cars – sustainable? More ilustrations can be found HERE.

The guys at Albert Speer & Partner really seem to know what they are talking about and they know it so well that they have to tell everyone else that they know it. So what you get with the book, is a set of ten rules, and I have to stress the importance of these rules, on how to do it. I have to repeat it again, this book tells you how to do it and of course also tells you how not to do it. It comes as a surprise to actually find such an old school approach to the complex topic of sustainable urban design especially because planners and designer only begin to grasp the extent of the topic and the required complexity of processes needed to address some of the issues at hand. But with this publication in hand you are saved and with you the planet, if this is not sarcastic enough.
There seems to be a never ending list of complex interwoven topics that render this book impossible to acknowledge as serious beyond a marketing publication. The text starts right away in the introduction with a sharp critique on the Fosters and Partner project ‘Masdar’, the zero carbon city outside Abu Dhabi. I agree with the critique in some points, but why would you choose to open a book with such a statement? Is there such a need to establish this distance between oneself and the others, dealing with the same problems? Similar, at a later point, there is talking about the new Alianz Arena in Munich, a new Football Arena built for the World Cup in Germany 2006. AS&P somehow had a part in this project, but the actual architect is not once mentioned in the paragraph. And who do you guess the architect was? A famous architect of course and not Foster and Partner. Yes, it was Herzog and de Meuron. This strategy of not mentioning seems to go through the book and frequently not the whole context is revealed. Other examples can be found again in the introduction where the talk is of another mysterious zero carbon city, this time in the United Arab Emirates called Ras al-Khaimah, who do you guess is the project author for this one – O(h)M(y)A(?). The name of the architect must have gone lost somewhere on the way. Also in the paragraph ‘Icons and Idiosynchrasies’ where only specifically selected icons are presented, such as the Guggenheim in Bilbao, but with great care not mentioning the architect. More is in ‘Current Mobility Fosters Immobility’ with the example of the Curitiba Bus System but no reference to where it came from and who invented it.
Either it is a decision to keep the descriptions extremely simple and this information is considered as clutter or it is strategical non-placement of references that would distract from the glory of AP&P.

Image by AS&P / perspective view of the master plan for Changchun JingYue, Ecological City in China. Extreme axial organisation again, as in the previous example, while creating a lot of physical boundaries in addition with transport and water features. Surprising her is the lack of clarity regarding the definition of space or voids. The parcels seem to be developed under aspects of value and dimension along a grid of roads. The buildings are then detached isolated placed floating around inside the plot. It is only a diagram yes, but one that clearly states the road in with it the individual car traffic as its dominant factor,

The glory really doesn’t end here. You have probably by now understood that the book must be in ten chapters – reference, what comes in ten chapters down from the hill, somewhere in the desert? AS&P must also have picked it up somewhere in the desert as they … sorry this is going to far, but yes The Ten Commandments are, according to Wikipedia: “a list of religious and moral imperatives”. As if this is not good enough, there is an eleventh chapter, the conclusion. This is the book killer, it is entitled: ‘Applying The Ten Commandments: Cairo’ ??? Is this some sort of 21st Century Christianization? (I am aware that the Ten Commandments do also play a role in Islam, but the context and the way ideologies are thought directly by the head teacher is truly astonishing.)
A note on the style of the text, it is surprising at times and lets one wonder who actually is telling the story here. From the first impression you would expect that this is some kind of a knowledge output by an architectural practice, they talk about what they learned and experienced. But then after a few lines you come across the first third person reference and then follows the first quote of someone, apparently a board member of AS&P. After a few times this lets you wonder who is writing here. Do architects also have ghost writers?

Overall there is very little good to say about the style of the book. However, it has to be said that it covers different aspects of sustainability, illustrates them and through this can offer a perspective on the topic. It is just that one has to like the style to like the book, I guess. This is a half hearted recommendation, but have a look at the book and see what you think of it.

Gaines, J. & Jager, S., 2009. Albert Speer & Partners: a Manifesto for Sustainable Cities: Think Local, Act Global, Prestel.

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A book you don’t want to give out of your hands for its beautiful cartography and graphic design overall. Well it goes in the tradition of Atlases designed by Jost Grootens. He has only recently received the Rotterdam Design Prize for the set of atlases he designed for 010 Publishers so far. Those are the Groten KAN Atlas, the Metropolitan World Atlas, the Limes Atlas and the Vinex Atlas.
The now published ‘Atlas of the New Dutch Water Defence Line‘ edited by Rita Brons and Bernhard Colenbrander, designed by Studio Joost Grootens and published by 010 Publishers adds an other chapter to this ‘series’. It continues with the power full use of colour that already the ‘Metropolitan World Atlas‘ made so attractive, but this new publication makes a lot better use of the overall appearance. It is a real gem.
In the first place it is the cartography you will be looking at, but beside this the book actually has a true subject. And this is simply as the title says the Dutch Water Defence Line. Actually this is about defense in a proper military sense, and not as you might have guessed while already seduced by the pretty colours about water defense. Since it is set in the Netherlands it could have been about water drainage and pumping systems to fight the storm flooding of vital agricultural land, but its not. It is about a specific element of Dutch history, built between 1815 and 1885 as a “technically accurate territorial military system” (Johan van der Zwart abd Clemens Steenbergen in Atlas of the New Dutch Water Defence Line, p.28)
In a nutshell the military conceptis to defend the territory by simply flooding a stretch of land and in this way make it impossible for any land based mode of transport to traverse. It sounds very effect full and simple, but is actually a rather complicated piece of infrastructure and engineering. A detailed system of canals and basins are laid out in such a way as to create, by opening strategically positioned flood gates, a man made flood zone.
The whole system is based on the element the Netherlands has enough anyway and since water has its very own rules the given parameters are tight. Not only from the water element but also in terms of the landscape. In this sense, the here documented military defense structure is in a very strong way trying to make the most of a successful management of possibilities over constraints. This results ins a strongly context based solution, that is unique to this exact location and circumstances and paints a beautiful portrait of the character of an entire region.

Image taken from 010 Publishers / Showing a spread of the publication.

As hinted in the introduction, the graphics, cartography and design overall are brilliant. Especially the colour schema used for the maps is intriguing. In terms of the graphic design even this book is not protected from mistakes and problems. Everyone who is working with maps and plans knows these painful moments when you have a strong concept and clear structure and then for some elements it just doesn’t work out. A name is too long to fit in the desired space in the key, in one summary map suddenly two colours representing important information cancel each other out or the approach chosen for one element does not fit for another or in other scales. It is sort of a tradeoff and ad-hoc adjustment job one has to do, restricting damage while hoping the final product may remain close to the desired result. This sounds all very pain full, I know, and it actually is. However, this process can be used to continue developing the strategy and representation and ideally will raise the quality of the end product over the initially thought out concept. Still some minor problems will always be there and the quality of the end product is probably more about these are managed and integrated than how good the anyway functioning elements are developed. I believe this publication managed this process extremely well and the final product is great.
For me the main issue with the graphic elements in this publication is the representation of the forts. This being the central element of focus it plays many roles and obviously a single representation can’t be able to play all of them equally well. The colouring of the water protecting the forts as well as the pink used for the fill are not always consistent with the overall context of the maps.
The maps actually come with quite extensive background information in the form of essays and I think it is worth pointing this out because of the almost over powering presence of the cartography. I kind of owe it to this review that I have actually read and tried to understand the background, because otherwise I am pretty sure I would have been (still am) simply seduced by the pretty pictures and had satisfied put the publication to the top of my pile of inspirations. But going beyond the graphics starts opening up a perspective on a cultural territorial identity of a region that is even more inspiring and actually informative.
In this sense there is a hidden treasure in this book, but one needs to battle the dragon of seduction first, a fight I am bound to loose, at times. This one is definitely worth the effort already for the beauty of an bright orange or pink.
A book, or even a series, that has definitely already set a standard and will let loose a trend.

Image taken from Kosmograd / Showing a spread of the publication.

See also reviews on mammoth and Kosmograd.

Brons, R. & Colenbrander, B. eds., 2009. New Dutch Water Defence Line, 010 Publishers.

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