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— urbantick

January 2011 Monthly archive

The forthcoming Prestel publicationTadao Ando 1994-2009‘is looking back on the last 15 years of the architect Tadao Andos work. The publication is put together by Francesco Dal Co, the Casabella editor. He has already edited the last large scale Tadao Ando publication, the in 1998 published ‘Tadao Ando: Complete Works’. In this sense he knows Ando and his work very well.

This is then also the experience the publication translates. Everything here is neatly documented in chronological order. The publication mainly work with photographs and overview drawings. Hoever there are a few detail drawings and every now and then also a sketch or an atmospheric drawing.

Ando today is a star architect. He is one of the very big names among Frank Gehry, Foster and Partner or Nouvel. However his position as a Japanese architect is special. His designs have this very specific style that is unique in a different sense than his western colleagues.

Back in Japan he once was one of a few radical young architects, as he describes it in the essay in the introduction, who wanted to do things differently. And obviously they managed to succeed. His raw usage of concrete was in the 90is a very clear architectural language that was only beginning to develop with other practices.

The very first Ando building I experienced was the conference centre in Weihl, par tof the Vitra Design Museum. It is one of Ando’s very early Western project. And it is special, the grey concrete, the strong lines and the bare knobs of the shuttering as sort of print marks. For an early year architectural student back then a high light.

Maritime Museum
Image taken from the architect-studio blog / Sketch of the Abu Dhabi Maritime Museum.

Much is still the same in his work. The result still has this very specific strength and a very subtile presence. There is a variation of materials, even wooden structures as for examples in his Kashimo-Mura Community Centre. But the strong volumes and cubatures are still dominant a known from his Abu Dhabi Maritime Museum (This is the one with the sailing boat entering underneath, see above).

The favorites however are the very small structures, for housing in mainly very urban settings. This for example the 4 x 4 house in Kobe with the best view onto the Bridge spanning the water arm. Or the Kanamori House in Nihonbashi.

The absolut highlight however is the Penthouse in Manhatten, an unbilt project designed 1996. It sits on the roof of a 1920s Manhattan Tower. The penthouse is a glas box sor to f just dumped on the skyscraper. There is a second glas box piercing the tower about three thirds up at an angle entering one facade and exiting through the corner the other facade.

It is a think monograph with about 568 pages an extensive addendum and introduction essays by Francesco dal Co and Tadao Ando. A book not only for fans, definitely documenting a piece architecture history already.

Image taken from the Esperanzache / Night view from the water of the 4×4 house.

Co, F.D., 2010. Tadao Ando 1994-2009, Prestel.

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Marketing is always at the forefront of technology and rather quick in adapting and employing new tools. So it is not surprising to see the location visualisation tools being taken over by advertisement. Especially Google Products, that offer and actively promote an API are bound to this. Marketing as Marketing one could say.

Besides all this corporate battle and consumerism this development is interesting in an urban and very much spatial sense. A wider audience is engaged in virtual location based activities and starts to create a sort of virtual image of the city, in the sense of Kevin Lynch, based on the view the mainly commercial products offer. In a sense this shapes a paralel understanding of the environment we live in the data providers play more important role in this than probably thought of at first sight.

It would be interesting to see how the growing online representation of the local environment diverts from the mental map of the physical environment. Very soon the two can not be separated any longer.

Image taken from DontGoZombie / giving away free virgin trin tickets to car-driving zombies on Tottenham Court Road. Note the traffic enforcement officer in the zombie crowd – she is not a car driver, is she? Individual zombies will have a special comment to make, so has the traffic warden. Click the image to play.

Anyway Virgin Train has extended their Zombie Campaign to the online world of Google Street View. an invites customers to playfully save the zombies using Vigin Train tickets.

“The streets have been taken over by frustrated car-driving zombies who need to be saved. The streets need you!” The aim of the game is to turn the zombies into train passengers and get to the destination. This as well as the route to get there, depend on the starting point you provide using a post code. In this sense it is a virtually location based first person shooter.

Directions and handling are familiar from the street view use and the zombies are deployed by an orange van crossing the screen a times.

The zombies behave sort of behaving absent, aimlessly wandering, will however, occasionally sight you and try to tun you into a zombie. It is the sort of everyday urban battle scene. Though, your argument is quite convincing since your are giving away seemingly free tickets for Virgin Train journeys with your handheld Ticket machine. These papers unfold a rather transformatory inpact on individual zombies, bringing them back as humans and beaming them presumably onto the next platform at Euston Station where they get shipped north.

Virgin Train Network
Image taken from Virgin Trains / Where the free ticket potentially might take the zombies. So beware at any of these destinations of zombies emerging from the trains. Who knows what happens to the zombies turned train passengers upon emerging from the comfort of a vigin train trip.

The worst that can happen to you is that you go zombie and join the ranks of zombie car-drivers. However there is a rescue option by inviting your facebook friends to join the game and rescue you. This is clever marketing playing the drums in multiple orchestras.

Found via Google Geo Developers Blog.

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Some catching up with the Small World series produced by Dolphinners Films. It featured HERE earlier with the first three instalments. You might remember the runners in Race or the cuddling couples in Kiss or MyHometown where the shooting actually begann.

Not quite sure where this is taking us but the shooting continues. Actually it turns into a fully grown bloodbath sort of first person shooter or ‘Moorhun‘ style (play HERE).

The series has in the mean time grown to a total of nine instalments. These being Destiny, Sneakers, Finding List – Shopping Center, Finding List – Seoul Sta. and Fireworks.

The last two are now much more engaging with the audience. In the ‘Where is Wally‘ style the aim is to scan the scene and find the guy first. However the urban scenes and everyday setting of a metropolis proofs rather challenging and it requires a quick an sharp eye to pick one person out of the crowd, time is ticking.

Of course the answer is where it gets a bit messy. So take a deep breath ans check out how many you got right.

For more check out the ‘spot the guy’ at Seoul Station clip. First and second one here The series continues with number 9 ‘Fireworks‘ (make sure you watch this one right to the end, nothing is as it seems!).

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There are new books out on architecture. However this round is on three architecture reading books. Those are not he type of books with a lot of photographs documenting buildings and situations.

Reading architecture is sort of a special area of architecture. In this field architects tend to fall into two groups, the ones that look at books an the ones that read books. There are probably better definitions for such a grouping but this one suits the purpose.

Picture books are quick and easy, it dosen’t take a lot of effort and it is simple to jump in and out. They serve well as inspiration as well as reference.

But lets start this slowly and gentle with a Lars Mueller Publisher publication ‘Patterns and Structure – Selected Writings‘ by Guy Nordenson. You can’t miss it, as soon as you pick it up, even in the paperback version the structure sits on the cover. It has a real good feeling to it. You get to feel the structure not only read about it.

The book presents collected writings by Guy Nordenson, the structural engineer and professor of architecture and engeniering at Princeton University, covering the period 1972 – 2008. Nordenson writes in a very accessible way about the broader field of engineering and architecture and eventually also commenting on exhibitions and the popular debate around planning. This provides a great insight in a span of 35 years of productive work and extends a personal view to an entire discipline.

The content is structured in five categories inspired mainly by engineering topics, Seismic Design, Pattern and Materials and Tall Buildings. However the two chapters, on Design and Collaborations already point to a open discussion where Nordenson engages beyond his own discipline and starts to build up the connections.

Exactly these bridges between disciplines is what we benefit from, now 30 years on. The built environment has become tremendously complex and planning has become interwoven and interrelated to an extend were disciplines are no longer useful as units. In Nordenson’s writings we can also find the built up to this and might be stating to understand were we are at now.

In this sense from ‘Patterns and Structures’ to interdisciplinary planning and building processes over the past 35 years.

Journeys is a new Actar publication by architects for architects on ‘How traveling Fruit, Ideas and buildings Rearrange our Environment‘.

The core topic here is migration, traveling and movement. The different authors explore these topics in different ways and aspects, painting a rich picture with a lot of details and depth.

Even though the context is set rather fictionally and ephemeral the applied methods of documentation and analysation make this publication rather present and real. The documented examples range from knowledge transfer, reconfiguration of communities, and vagabonding seeds to animal species migration.

Pulling a structure across the ice to Conche, Newfoundland
Image taken from CCA / There are new books out on architecture. However this round is on three architecture reading books. Those are not he type of books with a lot of photographs documenting buildings and situations.

Very exemplar is the story the great reconfigurations and movements in Newfoundland around 1965 where communities moved and took their houses with them. Not every body can take their house with them jsut like this, but locally the architecture has adapted to the need to follow fish populations to remote locations in order to keep fishing and has evolved into a rather flexible construction. THis enabled families to pull their house across the ice or even float it across the bay.

Journeys is a riche collection of aspects and stories around movement from leaving to arriving, from take along to leaving behind. The publication accompanies the exhibition with the same name at the Canadian Centre for Architecture (CCA). It is still on, the dates are 20 October 2010 to 13 of March 2011 in case you are in Montreal during this time. Have a look at the preview below.

Now we are all warm and can take on the third and definitely heaviest book of the three readings. Cognitive Architecture is a new 010 Publishers book edited by Deborah Hauptmann and Warren Neidich. It goes with the subtitle ‘From Biopolitics to Noopolitics. Architecture & Mind in the Age of Communication and Information‘. Basically this subtitle means it is critically commenting the current debate in the field.

However the current debate is very complicated and divers since none can agree on some topics and theories, everybody has an individual view. This is probably a result of the communication and information age could be the assumption and in this sense the title says it al.

There is more to this and the 588 volume focuses on the body-mind-world discussion with respect to the whole range of thinker and theorists that have already set out cornerstones of this debate. This ranges from the Foucauldian discourse of biopolitics and power to the dualism of Cartesian and Spinozan philosophy and from the Deleuze to Debord or Cage.

The essays are group in the topics Plasticity and Potentiality, Epigenic Reconfigurations, Administering Atention, The Noo-Sensorium and Capitalism and the Mutating Intellect.

Putting all these important, but last century philosophers first does however not mean that the discussion here is directed backwards. Rather the important names are a starting point as well as an anchor point for exloring new teritories. As the title outlines Facebook and Twitter play a similarly important role as Neuroscience, Wexler and edible Architecture.

The book origines in a conference helt at the Delft University of Technology in 2008 and presents the current discurse on cognitive architecture in a very specific and scientific context, but is therefore definitely presenting the latest of this current discusion.

And this discussion is definitely very broad as a lot of development and research currently focus on the self and through virtual gadgets on the mind. The mind-body discussion this publications focuses on is something that the whole location information community is about to explore, just that they don’t know yet. The way the physical body experience related to the mental and the presented virtual interaction is definitely theoretically guiding the spatial discussions about the cities we live in the coming years.

To conclude on the rather suggestive introduction the description given does not suite very. THe three books here demonstrate, that text boks serve well as inspiration, especially long term, ready is as much effort as you make it to be and jumping in and out is no problem especially with edited books. So no more excuses get to read more.

Nordenson, G., 2010. Patterns and Structure: Selected Writings 1973-2008: Selected Writings 1972 2008, Lars Muller Publishers.

Borasi, G. ed., 2010. Journeys: How Travelling Fruit, Ideas and Buildings Rearrange Our Environment, Barcelona: Actar.

Hauptmann, D. & Neidich, W., 2010. Cognitive Architecture: From Bio-politics to Noo-politics: architecture & mind in the age of communication & information, Rotterdam: 010 Publishers.

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What could brighten up the daily gray commutes back and forth between nowhere and somewhere? Well I guess a game coud actually, but card games are not a big hit during rush hours and playing on the iphone or DS is about as lonely as it gets. Lets play the system.

Chromorama is a multiplayer platform that does exactly this. It animates your bleak journey as a move in the game. The whole tube network i the borad and any tap in, tap out recorded with the oyster card is a move in the game.

After a test phase last year they launched a public beta version that is now open for signing up. So far the network for players was focused on the tube network. However this has been extended to include the London Bike Scheme. When ever you check in and out your bike this now also counts as game moves.

Screen grab of October player view3
Image taken from chromorama blog / The final view is an overall global view which give the player an overivew of all the team activity. I particularly like this one becuase it has a corporeal quality and the odd look of it. Like blood pumping around the heart of the city. The players powering a metropolis, a beast coming to life, like Frank emerging from the floorboards in “Hellraiser”.

Just recently the whole visual have been reworked and it looks juicy now. ALso the mission and activities the players can participate on have been extended it looks like a lot of fun. There is for example the ‘Ghost Hunter’ mission. Currently set to “Visit Becontree between 11:00 PM and 01:00 AM within 5 days Becontree is rumoured to be haunted by a faceless woman with long blonde hair, spotted on numerous occasions by the staff there. Go there late at night, and hope you don’t see her…”

Screen grab of October player view3
Image by wearemudlark / Screen grab of October player view3.

In a sense the whole of the public transport network could become a playground and each yellow tap in point a gaming button. Commuting is about to become fun and tfl wil now make your day rather than ruin it. With this move to incorporate a fun aspect, the perception of routines is transformed and a different kind of motivation can swing the direction.

This is to some extend the vision of ‘You Are the City’ put into practice. The ‘user’ becomes a ‘player’ in the sense of an actor. This change of role definition probably makes the whole difference. Of course aspects of size and relationship help with this one.

You got the taste? Sign up HERE.

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Some new data has com in from the GPS tracking project in Basel, Switzerland. Earlier a first group was blogged as ‘Urbandiary Comparison Study‘ where we looked at the region and in ‘Stadtraum – UrbanDiary‘ the focus was on the interaction area between participant and the city.

Image by urbantick for urbanDiary / Basel-Stadt view, plotting all participants GPS track locations. Plotted using cartographica using Bing Maps in the background.

With the new data the focus shifts towards the individual movement in the urban area. This is in a next step also the unit that will be comparable to the existing urbanDiary London data sets.

Image by urbantick for urbanDiary / Grossbaselview, plotting a single participant’s locations. Plotted using cartographica using Bing Maps in the background.

Of much interest is of course the temporal structure of the everyday rhythm. The earlier London data was visualised as a graph plotted the number of track points per hour. This represented the amount of activity per each hour in 24 hour day. The resulting graph fitted well with the expected pattern, higlighting the rush hours, the lunch brake as well as elements of weekend activities following a different time structure. Examples HERE and updated HERE.

Image by urbantick for urbanDiary / Distance-Time graph over 24 hours linear single participants. Plotted using DataGraph.

The strategy to visualise the Basel data in a similar graph has been changed a bit in order to create a stronger contextual sense. The Basel graphs are not based on number of track points, but on distance traveled from home. The home location is assumed to be a sort of start and end location in this case.

The graphs therefor trace the ebb and flows of the movement from and to home. On the way different activities paint the patterns and reoccurring activities enforce their pattern.

Image by urbantick for urbanDiary / Distance-Time graph over 24 hours circular single participant. The 24 hours are here visualised around the circle, clockwise, with the distance plotted radial. Plotted using DataGraph and wound in photoshop – cheating I know but I needed a quick fix.

For the working week the distance starts to increase just after seven as participants leave the house to travel to work. Generally the distance then stays more or less the same through out the day, sometimes with a little bit of movement around the lunch time brake. In the evening the distance changes again until it is back to zero as the participants get back home.

However, the evening is compared to the morning a lot less precise. The morning fits across the sample into a timeframe of around one hour. The evenings are more divers and different activities take place opening a timeframe of up to four hours. This will need some more analysis in terms of how this timeframe divides into different activities and how it is structured. Maybe it is dominated by work activities and if there is more work people stay longer or there are groups of after work activities, such as fitness, shopping, socialising, and so on. Together with the interviews and the schedules it should be possible to entangle the structure.

Image by urbantick for urbanDiary / Distance-Time graph over 24 hours circular multiple participants. The 24 hours are here visualised around the circle, clockwise, with the distance plotted radial. Plotted using DataGraph and wound in photoshop – cheating I know but I needed a quick fix.

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This is sort of movie time at urbanTick. Before you press play here, get your popcorn ready and fill your bottle with whatever. The movie you are going to watch is a dramatic 53:57 long, but it is definitely worth it. The most comprehensive documentation at the moment about the visualisation trend we are currently already in the middle of. ‘Journalism in the Age of Data’ is produced by Geoff McGhee: “Journalists are coping with the rising information flood by borrowing data visualization techniques from computer scientists, researchers and artists. Some newsrooms are already beginning to retool their staffs and systems to prepare for a future in which data becomes a medium. But how do we communicate with data, how can traditional narratives be fused with sophisticated, interactive information displays?”

It covers everything, mainly graphics of course, but also technology, narratives, truth, journalism, documentation, colour, interaction and of course data. Data in many forms and shades. This ranging from free data to collected data, data gathering, data collection, data storage, data cleaning, data preparation, data, data, data, data…

Flight paths
Image by Aaron Koblin / Flight paths over the United States. The colours represent the plane model.

It is great how they get the producers of the visualisations to talk about their work, the movement and the critiques. This makes it a rather personal documentation. Of course you also get to see the best visualisations of the past two years. Of course some of them you have seen here on urbanTick before, including for example the ‘Movie Character Interaction Charts‘ by XKCD, or of course the US flight path maps by Aaron Koblin. But now, GO!

And a note here, you can watch a ‘fuller’ version directly at datajournalism.stanford.edu. It is shown together with additional material and comments as a sort of interactive version.

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The rise of network research and visualisation in the past ten years was dramatic. From initial ideas and clunky software programs we now see a number of great open source platforms appearing.

The concept of network visualisation is rather simple, there are two elements, nodes and they have a relationship, called edge. From here both nodes and edges between them are added and complicated systems can be represented in terms of how the identified elements are connected, simple.

Nicholas Christakis talks in his TED talk at the top of his voice about the basics of social networks and outlines the dreams, implicating the power of network.

However this is on the visualisation level, where it looks simple. The real task lies before and after this. How are the nodes and edges actually defined and identified in the run up to the funky visualisation of clusters and groups? This question in both a practical definition sense as well as in a technical sense of how is the input file generated is the real task.

This is to some extend reflected in the file standards of these network visualisation softwares, there aren’t any. The whole area might be to young and the big player is missing, like ESRI in GIS or Autodesk in CAD. This might be part of the explanation, but the other part is that the simplicity of node and edge hasn’t put pressure on the file formats.

Since last year the Gephi platform is setting standards for this group of open source network visualisation softwares. It offers great functions and juicy looking visuals with a easily manageable interface.

Developed by a consortium of universities and research companies, including the University of California San Francisco and the University of Toronto, comes a second very powerfull and flexible network software called Cytoscape. The software is not new as new, development reaches back to 2002 where version v0.8 was released. Currently version 2.8 is available for download and work on version 3.0 in underway although there is no release date as of now.

Image taken from cytoscape / Visualization of Gene Ontology Term Tree (DAG). More images can be fond in this flickr group

Cytoscape initially was developed for biology and molecular research, has however developed into a multipurpose network visualisation platform. The software is JAVA based and therefore rund across platforms with a lot of plugIns freely available. Basicaly everyone can contribute their own plugIns.

Cytoscape suport variety of standarts, see above, but for quick and dirty the text or table import is extremely useful. If you have a table or CSV with three columns, defining the start node end node and the type of relationship you are good to go. This addresses some of the issues discussed above.

Running the visualisation algorithms can be processing intensive especially once the network goes above 10’000 nodes. Here Cytoscape performs very good also from a interface perspective. The progress is clearly indicated and each process can be stopped at anytime. Usually it is very stable and would not crash on you all of a sudden, even with large network calculations.

The package comes with a lot of preset layout algorithms. These sets hold the definitions of how the graph is going to evolve and the nodes and edges are laid out. The selection ranges from force directed, weighted to circular or grid layouts. Each preset layout can be fully adjusted.

Regarding the visualisations graphically, here Cytoscape is extremely flexible and every single aspect of the graph can be manually set. This is great and makes for a dramatic flexibility, but on the other hand it is painstakingly difficult and time consuming. Especially if working on a dataset early on and results are not yet clear it is not were you put your effort and ugly visuals can be depressing.
Anyway the great examples on the website should be consulted for motivation.

Some of the other great features include Cytoscape works as a Web Service Client, great search functionality for nodes and edges as well as extensive filter functions, useful not only to hide or show, but to highlight. Furthermore it allows for custom node representation. This means Cytoscape can display images and icons individually for each node. Cytoscape also supports networks within networks, quite a tricky thing.

Image by urbanTick / Visualisation of two text snippets as a network.

Two things are crucial now that the data is compiled and graphed, the analysis and the output. In both cases Cytoscape is very powerful. Extensive analysis function very detailed spits out numbers and even puts them on graphs. All these tables and calculations can be exported too to further analysis in external packages. Regarding the output of the graph a palett of formats are offered, covering both image formats as well as graphic formats such a s PDF, EPS and SVG.

If you are into network visualisation and keen on a good alternative to established packeges such a Pajek this might be one for you. More recources on Cytoscape can be found on pubMed or GenomeResearch.

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No project is like the other, even if you run projects around the globe ranging in scale from big to large. Steven Holl currently is one of the very busy architects working on some large scale building projects in different countries from America, France to China.
The work grows and develops dramatically and already since his book Urbanisms was published last year a whole portfolio of projects can be added.

Hamsun Centre by Holl
Image taken from archicentral / Sketch by Steven Holl for the Knut Hamsun Centre in Norway.

This one here however is not one of them, this project is different and it has its own book. It is not about Steven Holl or his architecture. It is about something more, about a very successful synthesis for which architecture only plays a part.

Lars Mueller Publishers have published a new book ‘Hamsun, Holl, Hamarøy ‘on the Hamsun Centre, a museum or a cultural centre for the work of the important Norwegian writer Knut Hamsun, who won the Nobel Price in 1920 for his literature work “for his monumental work, Growth of the Soil“.

Hamsun Centre by Holl
Image taken from bustler / The Knut Hamsun Center, located in Hamarøy, Norway and designed by Steven Holl Architects, opened to the public on August 4, 2009.

The publications brings together the two characters Hamsun, Holl and adds the great landscape of Nordland. It is not a project that is calling for attention and screams, this is a very pure piece of work, very focused and dedicated.

Holl was contacted back in 1994 to consider working on this project and over fourteen years later the building was opened in 2009. It seems like a real ove story, its not the typical job and the publication emphasises this personal aspect to a great extend, witch makes it a great read.

Hamsun’s most famous text ‘Hunger‘ plays a very important role in the building Holl proposed and as Juhani Pallasmaa in the essay puts it: “past the stone foundations of the former vicarage, we suddenly arrive at the tower, which seems to be tossing and turning in search of vertical posture. The upright image of the building with its window -eyes and ochre hair around its top suggested a human figure.”

The landscape as mentioned, plays an important role too and features in each text contribution as either the context, but very often as the introduction, how the building is approaches is very central. Further more the landscape of course plays the dominating role in the sketches and photographs documenting the project. Its a journey, in the many meanings of the word, is the central theme. The fact that the site is above the Arctic Circle makes it just this bit more romantic.

Hamsun Centre by Holl
Image taken from Abitare / THe tower with one of the balconies and some of the context landscape.

The dedication goes through the project into the book. This publication will be your little treasure and you’ll find a special place for it on the shelf.

Langdalen, E.F. et al., 2010. Hamsun, Holl, Hamarøy, Baden: Lars Müller Publishers.

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Working remotely from a desk is nowadays very common and hardly anyone is thinking too much about it. However interestingly the differences between workplace and work create a sort of warp hole that needs to be managed in order to handle the strains put on both parties.

Nicholas Poltorak is managing the BP Liquefied Natural Gas (LNG) tanker fleet around the world, normally from the headquarter in London. We are not discussing politics or environment here, but time. we are interested in the differences and the common constraints.
Events can change rather quickly and with it the destination of each of the tanker. Decisions have to be taken quickly and is there a “POR’, a point of no return in the daily practice of LNG shipping management? And on the other hand how is it all connected to the live on board and hectic there?


urbanTick: Is it important to be on time?
Nicholas Poltorak: Yes depending on what type of time you mean, physical time, in a particular time zone, contractual time, world time, decision time.

urbanTick: Picking up on your distinction of different times, in a sense you could add on more here – real time?
Nicholas Poltorak: Before answering whether it is important to be on time, it is important therefore to specify what type of time category is most relevant or important in any one moment.
Decision time: I consider this to be almost out of time as a decision made can have impacts that splinter and hit different time zones and areas at different moments.
World time: In my opinion this notion is that there is a sense of multi faceted, multi dimensional element of world experience. It is impossible to be on time in the global sense. It is perhaps the importance of your action or decision (see above) or the impact of actions and decisions that will determine that all conventional rules of time zone etiquette are broken and a global event affects everybody simultaneously. I could think of the release of Nelson Mandela in South Africa as being such a moment, or the assassination of John F Kennedy would be another example. Global conferences might also fit into this type of concept of time.
Contractual time: Contracts are written or agreed upon verbally by millions of people every day. It could be an arrangement to buy a house, or a newspaper, or a cup of coffee. It can also relate to a series of contractual requirements (such as in my previous role) to nominate, confirm and deliver cargoes of LNG around the world. In some cases it is not commercially advantageous to meet these contractual obligations to the letter and be “on time” it is rather worth to stretch all the flexibility and delay fulfilling certain contractual requirements till as late as possible. In a sense by delaying you are creating a new time framework within particular contracts. You are creating a new time construct for the contract.
Time zone: Working with colleagues in different time zones will determine your behaviour and will affect whether you carry out certain activities earlier or later. In some cases you will adjust your schedule to be able to talk to a colleague, at other times you will delay work as you are aware there is no-one available in that time zone to respond to you “today”.
Again it is not a case of being “on time” but adjusting your actions in your time zone to be most efficient and effective when taking into account other time zones.
Calendar time: How time is split up into seconds, hours, days and months has a big impact on how we all perceive time and how we act within it. This time structure as with the others above is very culturally defined. The use of alarm clocks to break up our night time sleeping has a big impact on our lives and some might say is actually adapting our “body clocks” to the requirements of working life.
Natural time: The ebb and flow of the seasons, of light to darkness and back to light again.
These are experiences that
Physical or real time: I would define this as being the personal time zone of each individual.
Each individual will have time for decisions, be aware of global events that are happening in the global “now” if they are important. Individuals may also be aware of how to structure time to fit their own commercial or personal interests relating to contracts, relations with different parts of the world. They make their own compromises with the culturally defined days and weeks. There is nevertheless a very personal time zone in which we breathe, meditate, cry, laugh and create meaning for our lives. You are “on time” in this time category if you are listening to it and not being distracted by the other interpersonal time constraints around you.

urbanTick: You are working for one of the biggest supplier of gas and oil globally, can you describe your current workplace?
Nicholas Poltorak: I work in a global team from Canary Wharf. I sit in an open plan office surrounded by computer screens windows, sport and news bulletins as well as ship movement maps, gas pipeline flow numbers and lots of people. I work in a global team in my office: I work with people based here who come from Japan, United States, Trinidad and Tobago, Switzerland, Northern Ireland, France. In addition I work on the phone with members of the team based in Singapore, S Korea, Taiwan, Japan, the United States and Egypt. My role is to co-ordinate the supply of Natural Gas for BP on 7 ships and ensure that this activity is done safely and efficiently while providing the trading team with as much time and flexibility to change destinations of cargoes.

Image taken from marketwire.com/ Sempra LNG’s new Cameron LNG liquefied natural gas (LNG) receipt terminal near Lake Charles receives first cargo on June 21 aboard BP’s British Diamond, an LNG carrier bringing supplies from Trinidad.

urbanTick: Looking back, how have you come to this position and what is your background?
Nicholas Poltorak: I have come to this position after working in logistics and operations roles for the past 10 years. I started working for BP in 2001 and started in the company by applying for a role in the BP Chemicals European Customer Service Centre. Since 2001 I have carried out various logistics and operational roles arranging the transport of goods by truck, rail tank car, rail wagon, pipelines, ships, barges.
The Job title Operations means executing contracts physically. A trader agrees to buy or sell product and then relies on the operational staff to ensure that the purchase or sales contracts is physically implemented with regard to physical delivery, quality checking, invoicing and finally payment. A job in operations involves putting the written word in contracts into the 3 dimensional world and meeting the challenges that world throws up in the face of the varying contracts. Often production plants do not produce as much product as planned, ships are delayed, demand varies on a daily basis. Operations staff therefore have to deal with managing risk, change and uncertainty as well as being ready to solve problems and deal with unplanned incidents.

urbanTick: Your role involves a lot of management and organisation does that contain a sort of future time?
Nicholas Poltorak: That is a good point. In fact scheduling is dealing with future time. In a certain sense although the future must be planned for and taken into account in all operational work, there is a sense that we wish to cheat the future into revealing its secrets. What I mean by this is that in practical terms you know that a particular ship will need a certain number of days in the future before it can arrive at any one destination. You also know that you have certain commitments in the future: dates for cargoes to arrive and deliver.
However, while you have these fixed/flexible future commitments clearly in mind you wish you make the decision about how to deliver those commitments at a point as close to the date as possible.
In general terms however, I am doing a job which is very much concentrated on the future.

urbanTick: What are the differences between personal and work related time aspects?
Nicholas Poltorak: My work keeps me occupied and busy from 8.00am to 18.00pm everyday. I am very task focussed at work. In other words certain activities have to be completed each day. In addition deadlines emerge throughout the day as new trading opportunities emerge and new physical schedule scenarios need to be analysed. In work I wish to complete as much as I can in every hour of work. When I am spending time at home on a personal level I would like to maximise the amount of time I have free to think, relax, read, talk with friends and sleep without a task focussed approach.

Image taken from bp.com / Click image for current location of the vessel.
Type: Liquefied Natural Gas (LNG) tanker | Hull: Double hull | Crew: Typically totals about 28 officers and ratings | Class: BP Trader class | Length: 278.8 metres | Beam: 42.6 metres | Draft: 11.35 metres | Deadweight: 75,059 tonnes | Propulsion: One steam turbine/single propeller | Top speed: 20.1 knots | Cargo type: Liquefied Natural Gas | Who: | Operator: BP Shipping Limited | Classification society: Lloyds Register | Where: | Flag: British | Port of registry: Douglas, Isle of Man | Operates: Worldwide | History: | Builder: Samsung Heavy Industries Company Limited (Korea) | Delivered: 01 July 2003.

urbanTick: You are describing two distinct environments in terms of activity and focus. How would you describe the temporal (time) differences? The amount of time or the passage of time.
Nicholas Poltorak: Time at work feels constrained and passes quickly. A lot of time disappears during the day with distractions, interruptions and breaks in activity. The amount of time seems to be governed by the clock: being “on time” to meetings, by the frustration of delays
The time at home is short and seems to be dedicated to more natural rhythms: cleaning the house, preparing food, eating, drinking, washing and sleeping rather than the clock in any real sense.
Time sleeping seems at times very short at times long depending on levels of tiredness and levels of wakefulness.
Time spent at home even if spent cleaning and washing and doing basic rudimentary household chores often feels more fulfilling than time spent a work.
The trick to be contented is perhaps to treat work and home life as being part of one living time continuum and to treat all parts of the day in the same way (?)

urbanTick: In a rather global sense, how would you define time?
Nicholas Poltorak: Time for me is a framework within which things must and do happen.

urbanTick: The framework you mention presumably spans across tremendously different scales of time duration, from a life time to the blink of an eye. Can you think of or have you ever come across limitations of possible time experience?
Nicholas Poltorak: I am not sure I understand this one.
Do you mean that some experiences cannot be experienced within this time framework or that time cannot explain or define some experiences? Ie experiences of life, birth death?
See my answers below.

urbanTick: Are you using a specific definition of time for your work?
Nicholas Poltorak: Time in operations is very important in the sense that we are bound to it in delivering certain cargoes on time. On the other hand if we can delay decision making that has immense value. It allows the trading team to have more time to consider how the market is moving and reacting and the ability to make a better decision based on more known and certain information.

urbanTick: Are you referring to clock time in the sense of the tick of a second or is it a time unit based on related decisions? eg market, events, cost?
Nicholas Poltorak: It is not clock time as you say it is more market time, contract time, cost time.
Often decisions and activities may stretch over weeks, months and may perhaps only occupy small sections of individual working days. Therefore to categorise this time as being by the clock is not the best definition.

urbanTick: What exactly does timing mean for your job?
Nicholas Poltorak: Timing means performing tasks when they need to be performed to ensure safe and efficient delivery of natural gas but doing them late enough to allow traders and ship crew to have as much information available when the final decision is made.
Your work is focused on this event of the final decision, could this be described as the point where time stops?
The final decision means time can no longer amend that decision and therefore yes, time as a space where decisions can change and be made is dead for that particular activity set or decision.

urbanTick: What are the different methods you are using to work with time?
Nicholas Poltorak: I work in 3 main time zones and therefore organise my day according to when different offices are open in Asia, the US and Europe.
I also organise my day in terms of contractual deadlines, and concentrate on the following 90 days of the shipping schedule. I leave aside time in the afternoon to look at more structural issues or longer term issues or reviewing past activities.

urbanTick: What does it mean to work with time, can you describe the context and
support systems required?

Nicholas Poltorak: I have a scheduling tool which looks at shipping rotations and scenarios but it is not time sensitive. Therefore it has to be updated on a weekly basis to reflect what can be daily changes. I deal with time also on a daily basis by the fact that the global schedule has to be updated on a daily sometimes hourly basis to reflect latest views of ship positions and next loads and discharges.

urbanTick: Does time change the way you do your job, e.g occurring events?
Nicholas Poltorak: Events in time do affect the type of work I do and how intensely I have to work.

urbanTick: Is there a backup system if the timing fails?
Nicholas Poltorak: I would have to manually log the position of ships and use my knowledge of shipping distances and times to plot out future schedules.

Image taken from bp.com / Click the image for current location of the vessel.
Type: Liquefied Natural Gas (LNG) tanker | Hull: Double hull | Crew: Typically totals about 28 officers and ratings | Class: BP Trader class | Length: 278.8 metres | Beam: 42.6 metres | Draft: 11.35 metres | Deadweight: 75,074 tonnes | Propulsion: Single steam turbine/single propeller | Top speed: 20.1 knots | Cargo type: Liquefied Natural Gas | Who: | Operator: BP Shipping Limited | Classification society: Lloyds Register | Where: | Flag: British | Port of registry: Douglas, Isle of Man | Operates: Worldwide | History: | Builder: Samsung Heavy Industries Company Limited (Korea) | Delivered: 13 November 2002.

urbanTick: You are working across different time zones on different continents. Does a global time exist?
Nicholas Poltorak: Yes it is a time when things happen and have impacts on the world. For example if a volcano explodes in Iceland this has an affect on air traffic in a certain area and moment in time.
This is a local event and local time bound event. Global time comes into play in a more subtle way. The impact of the Icelandic volcano also has repercussions all over the world to varying degrees and at different moments. Nevertheless it had a global impact and this event is therefore set within a global time frame.
It is a time not based on a particular time zone but on the impacts and echoes of events around the world. These echoes are as real as the louder sounds made by the event in a more local context. Global time for me is a cacophony of louder or softer voices passing through space which can be heard globally in every moment.

urbanTick: Do you think different times exists, take place or could be constructed?
Nicholas Poltorak: I think that we can and perhaps should consider different constructs of time. What time does and does not do. Time can be a passive or an active agent.

urbanTick: Referring back to the framework of time have there been events in your life that have changed or influenced your time construct?
Nicholas Poltorak: The experience of Thomas’ birth has taught me to value the moment in time as well as time passing. I can see Thomas grow and learn each day and also understand that my own life involves constant growth and learning. I come to value the free time I have with Thomas greatly because it allows me to deepen my relationship with him and at the same time participate in and witness the miracle of a growing human being at such an early stage.
In a rather more sad case, the death of my father has taught me that you cannot hold onto time that has passed and that memories are such fragile containers of past experience.
It saddens me to know that a man’s existence is often summarised in a few short stories or moments of their long and interesting life story. Emotions are perhaps what link us to people rather than time and it is perhaps that emotion of love, attachment or closeness that unites us all outside of time. In other words, I love my father now as much as I did when he was alive and the passing does not diminish or reduce that love or attachment nor does it necessarily deepen it as I have no new experiences with him to deepen my understanding of him.
In summary the elemental experiences of life, love, loss are perhaps those which are less time bound that any others and perhaps the most important emotions. The ones that define us as human beings.

urbanTick: What are the differences in time for you and the crew of the ship?
Nicholas Poltorak: Time for me is bound by a regular daily routine centred on BST or GMT. For the ships they work to ship time and slowly adjust their clocks as they pass different time zones.
The crews also work on certain tasks throughout the day and night and have to work constantly during loading and discharge operations.
In a certain sense office bound staff level of work is different as we have a constant working day with weekend and holidays
For the crew they work full time every day at sea for 6 months and then have 6 months off.


In an interview series urbanTick is looking closely at meaning and implications of time in everyday life situations. In the form of dialogs different aspects are explored, with the idea to highlight characteristics. The main interest is circling around the construction and implementation of different concepts of time between independent but related areas of activity, such as leisure and work, private and public, reality and virtual. This interview series will not be continuous, but more adhoc, so you might want to use the interview tag to catch up with the rest.

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