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— urbantick


Civic participation and community collaboration isn’t something thats limited to Europe. Calgary has a long history of an engaged public helping shape its environment. Municipal efforts to involve Calgarians can be seen as far back as the 60’s and 70’s with major efforts being tested and contributing to development and transportation plans throughout the 1990’s and 2000’s. Today the city has an engagement department specifically intended to seek citizen involvement with Calgary’s current issues.

Image source: calgary/ourcity

Municipal efforts aren’t the only ones shaping Calgarys future, organizations and individual citizens play an important role in enacting change in our city. In the following we discuss some of the groups that have enacted change in their communities and throughout the city;

Co-Design Group
Image source: Co-Design Group

Founded in 1971 by Architect Stanley King, the co-design process stemmed from an effort to explain development and involve children in the design process.With the support of the Government of Canada, King would continue his research and the Co-Design Society would be founded with the aid of SAIT and the University of Calgary (SAPL (formerly EVDS)). Groups of students came together with “Artists, Architects and Architectural Technologists” to hold workshops and further develop a framework for public participation. The Co-Design process would be utilized for the Calgary Downtown Riverbank Co-Design Workshop Report, a vision for what is now the Eau Claire promenade and Prince’s Island Park up to Center Street Bridge.  In 2006 the Co-Design Group along with Stantec would win a National Honour Award from the Canadian Society of Landscape Architects for their work on Riverside Park (Memorial Drive)

Southwest Communities Transportation Committee

Brought together by the South Calgary Community Association in 1988, The Southwest Communities Transportation Committee (S.C.T.C) was a citizen response from 14 communities to development and transportation planning going on in the area of 50th avenue. This organization which advocated for citizen involvement in planning transportation, lead to the establishment of “The Advisory Committee for Transportation South” by the City of Calgary. The ACTS would be a prototype for future citizen collaboration, staffed by 7 alderman and community representatives.

The S.C.T.C would continue to play a role, representing citizens in the Steering Committee for the GoPlan as well the Calgary Plan.

River Valleys Committee (now Calgary River Valleys)

Formed during the same period as the S.C.T.C and established under the direction of Alderman Al Duerr in 1989 (Mayor of Calgary 1989-2001) the River Valleys Committee (RVC) played a key role in uniting organizations and citizens to address protection of the Bow and Elbow Rivers and the surrounding environment. The Committee would go on to contribute to the GoPlan, Urban Parks Master Plan, and 2009’s Plan It. Formerly under the administration of the Parks Foundation, this relationship ended in 2009 and Calgary River Valleys was registered as a not-for-profit organization.

Bow to Bluff
Image source: bow to bluff

A Citizen initiative bringing together various organizations and the city to transform public space. Both Civic Spaces and the Community Association for Hillhurst-Sunnyside were involved, as well as O2 Planning to facilitate engagement around the Northern LRT corridor. In 2012 the Bow to Bluff Urban Design Framework was adopted by the city along with the B2B Process Guide outlining the citizen engagement process with projects manifested in an updated Hillhurst/Sunnyside Area Redevelopment Plan. These documents were revisited in 2017 in order to prioritize those projects which were still relevant with feedback resulting from that gathering as an updated Public Realm Plan for the space.

City of Calgary

The predecessor to Calgary’s current Calgary Transportation Plan (CTP), the GoPlan (at the time known as the City of Calgary Transportation Review) was the city’s first large scale effort to include citizens in the planning and development process. A public involvement team was appointed along with external consultants and project management all answerable to the steering committee who, reported to city council. The City hosted workshops and developed a public engagement strategy including lesson plans for school social studies and a workbook distributed to the public.


A shared vision of Calgarys future begun in 2005, 18,000 participants contributed to a long range sustainability plan which would contribute to the current MDP and CTP. In partnership with organizations and individual citizens imagineCALGARY created 114 sustainability targets focused around 5 inter-related systems; Built Environment, Economic, Governance, Natural Environment, Social. The imagineCALGARY partnership guided and monitored implementation over the next ten years. The influence of imagineCALGARY can still be seen making an impact on sustainability in the city.

Plan It

Building on the work of imagineCALGARY, Plan It Calgary asked the question of how Calgary would sustainably support a population growth of an additional 1.3 million people over the next 60 years. Citizen Engagement was run by the city of Calgary from 2006 to 2009 with 6000 Calgarians giving long term vision for the Municipal Development Plan and Calgary Transportation Plan.


This is just a selection of the amazing collaborations going on in the City of Calgary. As the city begins the process of updating the Municipal Development Plan, what ideas and processes can we draw from in order to ensure citizen input in our future?

A huge thank you is owed to the staff at the City of Calgary Archives without whom I would not have found my “Smoking Gun”. Thank you for your patience and insight. Thank you also to Jesse Salus for your suggestions on chasing down an oblique reference, which led to a wealth of information.


feel free to discuss your favourite Calgary initiatives and organizations in the comments


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Calgary has seen a number of consultation and engagement projects in recent years. One of the largest and ongoing projects is the Calgary Ring Road. Since the 50s this project has seen many phases of negotiations and consultations.

Many large scale planning projects have shaped the city of Calgary since the arrival of CP rail in 1882 We are charting the interaction of a whole range of different actors over the past 60+ years in a comprehensive review of Calgary’s planning history. Here is a first look at the Ring Road project as a piece in that history.

This post provides a generalized overview of the evolution of some of Calgary’s consultation practices around the long term planning of a major infrastructure project, the Southwest Ring Road. A full comprehensive history of the project can be found here. Special thanks to Jesse Salus for providing a major source of information for this post.

Ring roads are a common infrastructure/transport tool in cities around the world. Beijing is one of the few cities to have multiple ring roads, currently counting 8. The largest ring however was built around the city of Huston TX, at least when they last checked back in 2009

image source: ring roads of the world


On October 25th, 2013 an agreement between the Tsuu T’ina Nation and the Government of Alberta was officially reached regarding the land exchange for the construction of an extension of Sarcee trail south to complete a route through the Tsuu T’ina nation that will bypass Calgary. Known to many as the Southwest Ring Road, the process of planning and implementing this project has been underway since the 1950s, and one of the most significant barriers to the project has been related to the lack of transparency and consultation to the residents of the City and Reserve.

Early History

image source: the history of a road

In 1883, 6 years after the signing of Treaty 7 and 1 year prior to the establishment of Calgary, the Tsuu T’ina nation was established. At this time the town limit of Calgary was still a good distance from the reserve. In the early years of the relationship between the City and Reserve a road was built connecting Calgary to Priddis through the nation, later a portion of land on the northeast corner of the Tsuu T’ina was surrendered by the nation to be sold, but was annexed by the military prior to World War I for the construction of a Harvey Barracks, this land transfer contributed to a contentious relationship between City and Nation that would persist throughout the Ring Road planning process

In the 1950s the City of Calgary drafted plans for 3 potential ring roads and released them in the 1952 Road Plan, the innermost road involved an expansion of Memorial drive into a freeway that would allow for more vehicle access to downtown, while the outermost was the original plan for the Southwest Ring Road. The City’s consultation practices at this time excluded some of the most significant stakeholders. In the case of the Memorial Drive expansion, some of the most affected actors, i.e. the residents of adjacent neighbourhoods like Sunnyside/Hillhurst, were not informed that these plans were underway until they were released publicly in the Calgary Transportation Study (C.A.L.T.S.) in 1963, as the City did not consider these neighbourhoods to be within the study area. This created public backlash and led to the formation of citizen groups which had a hand defeating the proposal citing the potential for devastating environment and neighbourhood degradation.

The outer ring road plans laid out in C.A.L.T.S. were originally planned to go through the Harvey Barracks site, but were realigned several times throughout the years. The 2 route options being either through the Tsuu T’ina or through the Weaselhead.  Although these 2 option were mostly rural at the time C.A.L.T.S. was released, the southward expansion of the city in the 1970s incentivized the city to begin planning a ring road that could connect new communities to the rest of Calgary, the development of Southwest Calgary also begot the establishment of the Weaselhead as a city park. The potential alignment of a ring road through a beloved natural area prompted the consultants who planned the alignment, Deleuw Cather Consulting Engineers and Planners to suggest the implementation of a full scale public participation strategy. The backlash against the construction of the ring road through the Weaselhead gained enough traction to inspire premier Peter Lougheed to pledge he would do what he could to prevent the construction of the ring road through a park, stating “If there’s to be a ring road, it should be outside the built-up areas of the city.”

The plans for the route through the Weaselhead were put on hold and an alternative route through Tsuu T’ina was discussed in a 1977 Route Location study. This was partly in response to Calgary residents’ rejection of the route through the Weaselhead. Citizen meetings were held with residents of adjacent communities such as Lakeview and Oakridge.

Citizens from Tsuu T’ina were also invited to attend the meetings, but chose not to participate as they feared that participation could be misconstrued as an endorsement of the project. This route study was never adopted by council and was strictly used to inform the writing of future policy, after this study, the ring road was neither studied nor negotiated until the early 1980s

In 1982 the City, under Mayor Ralph Klein reopened negotiation with the leadership of the Tsuu T’ina, and although nothing would actually built for some time, these negotiations created a working relationship between the City and the Reserve that would lay early groundwork for the construction of the ring road.

1990s – Present

image source: the history of a road

In 1994 the City of Calgary undertook its largest public consultation to date in the form of the Calgary GoPlan. The GoPlan consisted of a series of studies and surveys that would assess the needs and values of Calgarians in the preparation of a new Transportation Plan. This process was undertaken mainly due to the public backlash the transportation planning in the past, including backlash related to the ring road. The study points out that traditional forms of engagement in the past cannot be relied on as accurate representations of public opinion, and can result in polarization of opinion, self selection bias, and intimidation of of those with differing opinions. The GoPlan instead used a several methods of consultation including citizen opinion polls, a core value tradeoff study. One of the major questions the study wanted to answer was whether the people were willing to allow the development of the ring road through the Weaselhead. The study determined that citizens of Calgary favoured the construction of the road through the Tsuu T’ina. This study led to the final decision to continue negotiations with the Tsuu T’ina for construction of the Ring Road through the reserve, rather than the Weaselhead natural area.

Although the negotiations over the construction of the ring road were far from over at this point, it is worth noting that final route of the ring road has remained on the Tsuu T’ina lands since the 1994 GoPlan. Despite the continued controversy, the GoPlan was more effective in allowing participation in the planning process than the traditional engagement methods undertaken by the city in the years prior, and paved the way for Calgary to undertake future participatory studies like PlanIt Calgary and ImagineCalgary.


Several other large Calgary projects in the making fit into a similar frame. One can think of the LRT system for example, Calgary’s public transport backbone that was dreamed up shortly after the lovely streetcar system was abolished. Some say because certain bus manufacturers pressured the city into switching from street cars to buses. Or indeed the world famous downtown walkway network, the +15. Much more of a process than a structure. Few things in Calgary embody policy as dramatically as the +15 or controversy for that matter.

Author: Graham Allison

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Detached from the mainland, the island stands out from the sea of water. Slowly rises the sandy beach out of the waves morphing into dunes. Other places show sharp stoney cliffs reaching out of the battering waves holding the dry landmass high above.
Islands show themselves surrounded otherness. They are defined by the separation of two different states of being. Prominently represented as wet and dry in the form of land and water, but it applies to other contexts too that draw a clear outline separating itself from the background. Islands have a distinct form that is defined by a boundary distinguishing inside and outside creating two bodies. Being on either side of this demarcation line is part of its identity as an island. 

Image taken from Schalansky, J., 2010. Atlas of remote islands: fifty islands I have not visited and never will. Translated from the German [orig. 2009]. ed. Translated by C. Lo. London: Particular. pp 72-73. / Rapa Iti, Austral Island (French Polynesia)

The Oxford English Dictionary defines island amongst others as: “An elevated piece of land surrounded by water, marsh or ‘intervale’ land; a piece of woodland surrounded by prairie or flat open country; a block of buildings [= Latin insula]; also an individual or a race, detached or standing out by itself; †to stand in island, to be detached or isolated (obsolete).”
There are some combinations thereof, most interestingly the: “island-universe  n.  [apparently translating German Weltinsel (von Humboldt), though the term is attributed to Sir William Herschel] a distinct stellar system, such as that to which the sun belongs, occupying a detached position in space. As used for example in: [1845   tr. A. von Humboldt Κοσμος I. 93   Unter den vielen selbstleuchtenden ihren Ort verändernden Sonnen..welche unsre Weltinsel bilden.] 1867   A. J. Davis Stellar Key to Summer Land vi. 32   The expression ‘Island Universe’ was suggested by the immense distance of the fixed stars from our Sun and Planets; giving the impression that our Solar System occupies an isolated position in the boundless ocean of space.”

This identity created by the boundary internally supports a cohesiveness, a sameness that identifies against the otherness outside. Through its uniformity, the form issues power and asserts control over the territory created. Islands are models of the world [German: Weltmodelle] as the philosopher Peter Sloterdijk writes in Sphären III [Sloterdijk, P., 2004. Sphären 3. Suhrkamp. pp. 311]. Such an observation is based on the fact that islands are singularities that are separated through the framing powers forming the boundary. It is the isolation that makes the island. In the way it is isolated from the surroundings it hosts an experiment of totality becoming a world-model.

By framing the formation of a small world model, we imply an act of creation. Based on the Italian verb “isolare” [isolate] – we can visualise the meaning of making an island in the sense of doing. One would think of the water as the principal none subjective agent to form islands by building up sediments or volcanoes pushing out material creating islands as found objects. But are islands merely the results of mechanical processes? Besides water and other natural forces are there subjects that produce similar results?

Image taken from Wikipedia / Izanagi (right) and Izanami (left) consolidating the earth with the spear Ama-no-Nuboko. Painting by Eitaku Kobayashi (Meiji period)

A story from the Greek Mythologies tells of a great battle between the gods of Olympus and the Titans of Mount Othrys, the old gods. The fight turned into a throwing contest of large rocks. As recounted by Danke Graves: “ Discouraged, the remaining giants fled back to earth, pursued by the Olympians. Athene threw a vast missile at Enceladus, which crushed him flat and became the island of Sicily. And Poseidon brought off part of Cos with his trident and threw it at Polybutes; this became the nearby islet of Nisyros, beneath which he lies buried” [Danke Graves, 1960 (first published 1955). The Greek Myths. Online: http://www.24grammata.com/wp-content/uploads/2011/12/Robert-Graves-The-Greek-Myths-24grammata.com_.pdf].
Japanese mythology has its own story of the creation of Japan with its many islands as told in Kuniumi (literally “birth or formation of the country”). It is the story about the literal “birth” of the Japanese Archipelago through a mating ceremony by the two gods, Izanagi and Izanami.
Islands are a result of practice; they are places of both death at the end and birth as the beginning. The isolation hence is not only brought about by the sea but even more so in the form of life and death. 

Images by DigitalGlobe; via the CSIS Asia Maritime Transparency Initiative; and CNES; via Airbus DS and IHS Jane’s. Fiery Cross Reef. From Reef to Island in Less Than a Year. Published as Watkins, D., 2015. What China Has Been Building in the South China Sea. The New York Times. [online] 31 Jul. Available at: [Accessed 4 Dec. 2018]

Fast forward from the past to our modern time humans have the means and the tools to create islands. The creation of islands is a power play of politics and territorial claims. Such as it is for example currently underway in the South China Sea. See for example Derek Watkins for The New York Times, 2015. What China Has Been Building in the South China Sea.

Terra-forming and land creation is a big business to exert power and influence.  Islands too are created for cities in Dubai or Amsterdam.
Islands are no longer found objects but made objects of the island building modernist. From finding to making implies that the islands are networked, the isolation is bridged by (inter)action. Morphosis have created the term “Connected Isolation” [Mayne, T., 1993. Morphosis: Connected Isolation. Architectural Monographs (London, England) ; 23. London: Academy Editions. ] to describe their work alluding to their efforts in planning and architecture to bridge the isolation of objects and create links to the surrounding. It is a critique of the modernist practice to isolate living through the division of function. Housing as the absolute isolation, the last island, my house is my castle, is cultivating the feeling and culture of the fencing-in of space.  Morphosis suggests that breaking free of the shackles of modernism means (re)connecting the islands.

Humans with their technology regularly create islands. However, not all human-made islands are the same. Sloterdijk distinguishes between three types of island creation. Firstly this is the detached or absolute island such as a boat, an aeroplane or a space station. This type transitions from water to air to space describing clearly the notion of isolation. The second is the creation of an atmospheric island such as conservatories or greenhouses where a kind of nature island is imitated by technical means to create specific conditions. And thirdly the anthropomorphic island shaped by the being-together of tool-wielding humans. It establishes a cradle like situation, an isolating breeding ground for society very much as a community. While the first type is static in itself, the second one focuses inwards, and the third type is focused outwards.

To sustain the creation of islands, it is embedded in a range of social practices. To maintain the condition or the community creation is ongoing. In the case of the city, this is to say that everything we deal with is ultimately tied to the social and cultural practice that created it and that it is creating in turn.

Image by Wolfram Hoepfner, Ernst Ludwig Schwandner, Institut für Ärchologie, Lehrbereich Klassische Ärchologie – Wickelmann-Institut, Humboldt-Universität zu Berlin. / Insula as found in Piräus with 8 house units. 5th Century BC. Reconstruction drawing.

The urban island that is defined not so much by the division of land and water, but by the segmentation of land through usage, ownership, political designations, function, buildings, atmospheres, infrastructure and so on.
Going back to the definitions in the Oxford English Dictionary, another meaning of island is historically tied to meaning urban block. The Latin form of “insula” was long used by the Romans to describe a block of houses surrounded by streets. It was however invented as a planning instrument much earlier and applied for example by Hippodamus von Milet while planning the city of Piräus. This block, usually eight houses, is surrounded by the flows on the street. It is the static home, versus dynamic traffic or private vs public.
The city is a conglomerate of a vast number of diverging interests and practices. This cacophony of activity keeps the urban fabric in a state of constant change and transformation. Layer upon layer of development forms the evolving identity of place. The city, in turn, is shaped ultimately by the social and cultural practices it enables.
Within the city, some interests often start alining to assert greater power. Such an alignment can be based on interest, function or location. Communities are formed as smaller units within the larger city because their members have overlapping interests. An important factor is of course location or proximity, but it could be economic or social benefits that bind communities together. Translating these communal interests onto the land means creating some kind of boundary, to occupying this territory by creating an urban island. This territory becomes the identity and is the source of power and control. 
The same concept that leads to the creation of territory from each community can be scaled up to the city itself. To control and plan internally the land is broken up into manageable chunks – communities, a perspective that leads to a range of additional questions for planners. What is the nature of the unit we are working with, who is pulling strings, how is power distributed and is everything as it seems?
On the other hand, even within the islands, social practice, everyday activities and physical structures lead to the creation of distinct places, some of which themselves wield enough power to create their own identity and form an island of their own. We want to call them Objects. Such objects mainly come to life through their capacity to map memories and project desires. Larger than life, these are the drivers for the islands created by Situations through practices.
To sum up, the city can be visualised as a set of islands stacked and enclosed on different scales like Russian dolls. Each with its own set of Objects and Situations asserting the power to form a territory. 
The question now is, however, what happens along the boundary lines and in between the islands? Is there such a thing as the in-between and who shapes it and what qualities does this space have? There too must be ways of exchange some form of trade, traffic and overlapping interests across these borders. Just like a living cell structure, there are ways and means to mitigate this hierarchical structure in the no-mans-land between land and water, between same and otherness, between the form and its context.

This text appeared in the handout for the DS19w Design Studio Handout for the advanced professional planning studio at University of Calgary, Faculty of Environmental Design in the winter term 2019.

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The busy city is one of them in recent years much overused mental images. It is busy of course and major hubs such as London even more so. The rise of mapping and visualisation since 2005 supplied a wealth of actual images and renderings illustrating the busyness of urban areas in colour and depth, not just in numbers.

Traffic is, of course, one of the foremost topics here perfectly lending itself to the subject. It is a bit of a self-fulfilling prophecy though using the rush hour to illustrate the madness of the daily migration. There you are, look at how busy the busiest airport in the world is.

That is the conundrum much of the recent debate around urban area management is facing. It is revolving around the established assumptions continuously enforcing them unable to break the spell to reach beyond. If we keep looking at the numbers, lines and trailing dots not much is coming from it any longer. Even the excitement is subsiding, and insight is scarce.

Where are the real hocks to wring some insight from the pool of information? Is it visions that are lacking or the absence of a coherent urban concept to frame the question?

Video taken from the Guardian / Layers of London air traffic build up over 24 hours – video animation. “A video animation shows the layers of air traffic associated with each of London’s five major airports over a 24-hour period. Made in July last year the visualisation illustrates the buildup of more than 3,000 flights a day handled by air traffic controllers as well as more passing over the capital”.

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The world around us shapes who we are, what we think and what we like. So not surprisingly it also shapes what we do. In regards to hobbies that is especially true as it often mimics the kinds of aspirations one has. This might be in sport and fitness where our ideals define the regiment we throw ourselves at or in fashion terms, we dress the way we want to be seen. This is especially true also for the kinds of hobbies that imagine a more playful alternative reality in the world of miniature models. Some are connected to history with the vast battlefields some American TV presidents play with – see House of Cards – or the superhero worlds of Warhammer 40’000 or indeed some of the model railway worlds companies such as märklin and other have been producing products for the better part of the last century.

These alternative model worlds are of particular interest in the way they connect to what we would probably call the real world or at least the shared space of the everyday. Two strategies can be identified. Either they mimic and mirror it or they reject and oppose it. In the case of the model railway it is the former and from an architecture or planning perspective its fascinating how the real world examples find their way into this miniature world where everything seems right, but fundamentally everything is wrong, but that is deemed ok.

Image taken from märklinModerne p. 10 / Modernity on “stilts”: the Faller model “Helvetia commercial bock”. In many ways the architecture is just the stage, really important are the references to advertisement as the real source of identity on this piece.

It’s maybe like Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland (1865) and its sequel, Through the Looking-Glass (1871) by Lewis Caroll. It is a temporal escape into a distorted world where everything and nothing makes sense. To archive this the references to real-world experience need to be fitting and responsible for that part is the German company Faller. These are the makers of the well known and loved model sets to complete the landscaping around the railway tracks.

A recent publication märklinModerne portraits a whole series of model sets that were produced over the last century since the foundation of the company back in 1946. Still in business and a market leader the company produces about 1.2 million buildings a year. The publication focuses on how these model sets have portrait the “modern” idea of architecture and the ways and strategies that were developed to achieve this sense of “modern” as it was prevalent after the 1950s throughout the world.

Image taken from märklinModerne p.76 / Villa in Ticino. One of the most popular set overall. It is based on an actual building by Alberto and Aldo Guscetti and the Studio Ticnico. It was build in Ambri, Switzerland and later copied not just for the model set but also as a villa prototype that was build several times in Güterbach, Germany, the hometown of the Faller company by the companies house architect. Below the original in Ambri, Switzerland around 1958. It still exists today.

This new publication by Daniel Bartetzko (ed) and Karin Berkemann (ed) is published by Jovis, Berlin. It accompanies an exhibition that was shown earlier this year at the DAM (Deutschen Architekturmuseum) and will still be on show until October 7th at the architekturgalerie am weissenhof in Stuttgart. Furthermore, this project is portrayed by a film by Otto Schweitzer. If your interested to see what Faller are offering in 2018, have a look at their latest catalogue here on issuu. Why the editors have decided to name this publication märklin and not Faller will remain a mystery.

The topic and the content is so retro for sure. This is about enjoying the good old times when modern was a thought after attribute when the vision of the future was bright and open and something to work towards. Working hard was the ideal and structured conformity the norm. In other words, everything was great.

Not so much anymore it’s needless to say. Our attitudes and expectations have changed, the world has changed. Modern has certainly been over past by smart and one is no longer so sure in professional circles about the achievements of that time especially modernism has endured a lot of damning criticism recently. So where do we stand?

Image taken from märklinModerne p. 118 / Nurda Vacation (holiday?) House. It might not be modernist, but certainly “modern” in the sense of this publication. A great example of the go do attitude and believe in technology and progress of the second part of the last century. A lot of us who are old enough have certainly once holidayed in one of those.

Not something the book can answer and unfortunately is lacking notably in the way it is designed or is it? Anyhow this is a discussion starter. Something that embodies all the good of the past in a little cardboard box with plenty of plastic pieces – so get creative. The one thing it can still teach us amongst many others is the original is always physical! If the model is too, even better. Our cultural world is about practice, and making and these geeky model sets are precisely that. So go out and get one of those sets and build your self a modern design icon!

Image taken from Jovis / Book cover.

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The everyday objects that are embedded in our lives so that they are taken for granted are most likely the ones that are quite fitting designs.

While design is everywhere, it has a fundamental impact on our everyday lives and shapes quite literally the day. From the cereal pack in the morning over breakfast to the train ticket to the signage guiding the way or the interface of the mobile device our faces keep being glued to, to the built environment as such of course.

Since the 60s various great icons of design have been created, and a new documentary directed by Greg Durrell, Design Canada examines a number of these icons. It features original creators and contemporaries to tell the story that lead to the design of the Canadian Flag and other icons from that area.

Logos of CN by Allan Fleming, CBC by Burton Kramer and TD by Hans Kleefeld

Interestingly the film was funded on Kickstarter with the slogan: “The first documentary chronicling the history of Canadian graphic design and how it shaped a nation and its people.”

Several icons are being discussed in the film with their creators. For example the Canadian Broadcast Corporation’s logo by Burton Kramer 1975. “It always seemed clear that the real challenge for the designer was to help make our world a better place than it would be without our efforts.” Or the Air Canada and TD logos by Hans Kleefeld, both 1960s. “What makes a great logo is when the combination of colour, texture and form captures the essence of a business.”.

Image taken from Design Canada on Kickstarter / Canada Wordmark designed by Jim Donoahue

Enjoy the preview and see Design Canada for screening details. Further stuff on Canadian Design also to be found for example on the CDR – Canadian Design Resource.

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The term urban is widely considered to be equivalent to busy, bustling or crowded. It is synonymous with active and associated with density, services and manmade physical structures.

The extend of all these aspects however is very much a subjective quality rather than a quantity. In large parts these expectations are conditioned through experience and vary greatly depending on location and context.

If the conditions are disrupted however they generate a moment of surprise. Very much so the video Urban Isolation by Russell Houghten. Where is everybody? The backdrop of massive infrastructure suggests otherwise, but the streets are empty. An earlier post refers to the same topic with work from photographer Matt Logue.

Video taken by Russell Houghten on Vimeo.

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Autonomous home delivery is on the rise. McKinsey predicted in 2016 already that 80% of the good will be delivered by autonomous vehicles. The trend is still towards speedy deliveries such as instant and same day for which consumers are willing to pay significant premiums. Hence this is a big market. Even though currently in London Amazon is in most cases no longer capable of delivering same day or even next day. There seem to be limits to the expandability of deliveries.

The big driver behind deliveries is of course e-commerce. Bloomberg reports and predicts that the market will reshape by 2040. Online shopping, household goods, cloth and groceries are big business. However, both cloth and groceries are unlikely to be autonomous deliveries for people want the crates to be brought up to the doorstep and get an instant refund on unwanted items. But all else is content for to be delivered autonomously.

Animation taken from Meg Kelly/NPR / Starship’s autonomous delivery box under way in the urban context.

starship robot

Tests are underway in various locations in the US and also in the UK and elsewhere. Southwark, a south London council is running a pilot scheme with Starship Technologies to deliver locally with the fleet of Starship’s own autonomous six-wheel vehicles.

Image taken from Piaggio Fast Forward press kit / Gina is shown following a person in an urban context.

These Self-Driving Delivery Robots are also being manufactured and tested by other companies, such as Marble, Nuro and , competing on this “last mile” of the delivery. Gregg Lynn design worked for Piaggio Fast Forward to develop Gina as their answer to granular mobility. The space between the customer and the warehouse. Interestingly those two locations are pretty much the only physically relevant locations within all of this. The rest of the everyday activities are increasingly becoming ubiquitous in the sense that they are transferable and pop-up doings. Things like food, work, exercise, play are being app managed with user accounts working across device and location. For goods delivery, however, location still matters and start-ups are competing for this slot. The term “last-mile” is quite fitting.

Driverless machines taking over the urban spaces and increasingly starting to shape the urban space is to be expected. Physically there will be the introduction of lanes for autonomous delivery vehicles, sort of bus line style or special parking regulations for drop off of and pick up. Of much more interest is the mental and experiential makeup of urban space in the wake of robot-delivery. The bodySpace of the urban fabric of older days. Is the world shrinking or expanding is there going to be more or less space between the warehouse and the customer?

Image taken from archiobjects / View of the High Rise City Project, L. Hilberseimer, 1924

It might bring us closer to the post city landscape where time and location no longer define the urban context but free up the space between entities. Thus creating a cross between Ludwig Hilberseimer’s High Rise City (1924) and Decentralized City (1944)? With the driving forces missing behind the urban concept new forms of spatial configurations and spatial order will become necessary and desirable. Will we be able to escape the modernist city through ultra mechanisation?

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The landscape is many things and indeed a big topic in architecture and art at the moment. Far from the sustainable and eco discussion, landscape has become a more approachable term taking over from a very technical system sort of term. It essentially means the same – things working in interconnected ways – and are not entirely to be framed in one single way.

From early Dutch landscape painters quite literally bring the view of the surrounding nature into the house it has evolved to a very intellectual construction of everything that surrounds us. Artists ha a hand in the terms development from the beginning and still do chiefly influence the direction its interpretation develops.

Image taken from Zimoun / 435 prepared dc-motors, 2030 cardboard boxes 35x35x35cm. Zimoun 2017. Installation view: Godsbanen, Aarhus, Denmark. Curated by Marie Koldkjær Højlund and Morten Riis.

Landscape is however not less technical than its predecessorial term and in the work of the Swiss artist Zimoun this is fascinatingly illustrated and heightened. I stumbled on this via inverses. The mesmerising work develops a multitude of landscapes from object to technology, flows and not least sound.

Video by Zimoun / 127 prepared dc-motors, sticks 30cm, 2015

Video by Zimoun / 240 prepared dc-motors, cardboard boxes 60x20x20cm, 2015

The installation was part of the exhibition What Lies Beneath Installation view: Borusan Contemporary Istanbul Exhibition: “What Lies Beneath”, September 5, 2015 – February 21, 2016, Curator: Christiane Paul. The exhibition «What lies beneath» strives to capture one of the current conditions of our culture: an atmosphere of increasing alienation and decaying trust resulting from factors that often lie beneath the surface of the visible. The show comprises four room-size installations — by Krzysztof Wodiczko, Michal Rovner, and Zimoun — that create a contemplative space for reflecting on cultural and social conditions and visceral forces that may not be easily perceivable and create feelings of uncertainty.

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