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Tag "shapingCities"

A heavy book about a heavy topic and in this case size matters. Since the book is a bout size and its content celebrates the vast extend of the land area covered or better involved one might understand the motivation behind the physical extension of this publication. However other factors might also play a part.
We are talking about Asia Beyond Growth – Urbanization in the World’s Fastest-changing Continent by AECOM former EDAW is published by Thames & Hudson.
The book starts with what has been leading the debate about the future of urban design and urban planning for now three years: “Today, for the first time in history, more than half the world’s population lives in cities …” and it adds quite rightly, and this is then also what the books really celebrates on the following 484 pages: “… and most of these cities are in Asia.”
It is sort of a monograph as the books author is AECOM former EDAW, a single planning and design firm. It is, however, not a documentation of their projects only, it is more sort of an extended report of experience and knowledge. It coincidently falls into place with the change of name. The company was formerly known as EDAW (all the projects and most of the experience dates back to the EDAW times) and has recently, late 2009 changed its name to AECOM, a publicly traded company on the New York Stock Exchange (NYSE: ACM). They are proudly presenting themselves on the website as: “Today, listed on the Fortune 500 list as one of America’s largest companies, AECOM has approximately 45,000 employees located in 100 countries.”
The book however is about the companies work in asia an documents the drastic change, the massive amount of work done as well as the vast extend of individual projects. For this the authors make extensive use of photo documentation and graphs. And the publication seems to follows in the footsteps of well known publications that introduced this sort of graphical language, for example S,M,L,XL or Massive Change. This language seems to be at the moment very popular, i.e EndlessCity and I pointed this out recently in connection with the book Comeback Cities – Transformation Strategies for Former Industrial Cities published by NAi Publishers.
In twelv chapters the Authors discuss the challenges of planning in the Asian context and chare their experinces. THe photographs used to illustrate are a really big part of the book and there is also an online blog thatextends this and documents the photographers work for the publication work. You can find it HERE.
The problems faced by planners are very often similar. It is described in many examples through out the book. For example in the case of Shanghai: “These developments are often the scale of new towns, requiring comprehensive planning and amenities, but lacking the cultural or historical background that might lend the place a distinct identity.” Surprisingly still a lot of examples are then developed in reference back to the European city which is in turn stylized as an ideal type. We have all heard these stories of groups of Chinese investigators being sent to Europe to measure and document villages or entire town to replicate them back home in Asia. An we have all hoped this might be a single case or an exemption, but this might be more often the case than hoped. This really fuels the important debate about creation of identity which, to a large extend urban design is about, is an ongoing process. Probably especially in the Asian context, the role of foreign practices, mainly western offices, probably is more important than usually discussed. In fact the discussion about cultural export and ‘international style’ is not extensive enough in most cases. It is primarily about size and money and recently about work and jobs and less about the culture clash, export of values, believes,f culture and knowledge. The burning question here is, how interactive and emancipated this collaboration is. Probably one could argue that it is not the role of the international practice to lead this debate, but it should be left to other to do so. On the other hand who could this be, architectural critics, academic sociologists or even publishers? I believe it has to be part of each and every project and it is to a large extend part of the role and responsibility of the planner to be involved in an ongoing discussion around the impact and extend of the project in progress. And of course all the other disciplines have to be involved too, and in the case here especially when it comes to a publication. The book represents a clear position whether it is explicitly discussed or equally explicitly absent. And for me this is the main week point of this publication. It is a documentation of multiple facets of the Asian growth, a nice picture book, a heavy weight in your bag and definitely a document of its time of a certain subject, but it is lacking this discussion of a wider context for not to ask for an explicit standpoint.
This includes other areas of discussion and is not limited to the debate about westernization of Asia through planning firms. It continues in through the trend topics put forward. What I mean for example is that often topics are presented very shallow and with an sort of innocent view. Take for example the topic ‘It’s all About People’, already the topic is suggestive enough, there is no need for explanations, so the authors decide to illustrate it with photographs and minimal text. This text says:”In Asian cities, it is common for people to use the spaces between the buildings as outdoor living rooms. … In many places, it seems, all pieces of the city are used for and by people.” This is then illustrated for example with a fish market or a street with small mobile fast food stands. Not enough, it leads in directly the topic of the slums. Which is a bit odd in the context of what has been said about the topic: “In many places, it seems, all pieces of the city are used for and by people.” and showing a photograph of lots of these slum hutches crammed into a tiny space between high-rise buildings and streets. Another example is the photograph of the little boy, shown full front, as he urinates onto the street to illustrate that people in Asia do not use the public toilets. This sort of, by the authors, pretended innocence, while showing material left open for interpretation in multiple contexts (one of them might be a wrong one) gives the book a strange taste, which is definitely not intended.
So to conclude, this is a book in a tradition of thick and heavy architecture books (if such a category exists) on a subject that has been dominating urban design practice and planning for the past decade (not clear at this point in time how it continues). It is rich on illustration through photographs, graphs of illustrative and sometimes suggestive character and text essays on certain subjects. It does, however, at times have this character of uncertain shallowness or unidentified innocence that can leave the reader in the dark about the real aim.

Image taken from webster.it / it shows the initial cover, where it still says edited by EDAW and Denise Scott Brown. I don’t know what happened to this collaboration , since her name does not come up in the publication I have here. Only some of the chapter titles that start with ‘Learning from …’ suggest a connection, but could be a reference.

For an alternative view read Adrian Hornsby’s review of the book.

AECOM, 2010. Asia Beyond Growth: Urbanization in the World’s Fastest-changing Continent, Thames & Hudson.

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I have been talking a lot recently about the creation of space as a synthesis of body and body movement. The idea is directly linked to observations or better visualisation method used for the UrbanDiary data.
The track log is simply points with a lat/long coordinate and a time stamp. However it can be assumes that around this location up to certain distance, depending on physical objects, the environment is experienced. Regarding the sequencing along the clock time information, these experience multiply and over time create a spatial corridor.
Purely by thinking of the body as a physical object moving you can imagine the same creation of ‘space’. This idea heavily draws on the use of memory, of the fading ‘space’ and the imagination of possible ‘spaces’.
To illustrate this idea of choreographed movement here is a series of dance moves that create the space along a clearly defined stepping sequence.
Image taken from chas.utoronto.ca – T’ai-chi footwork

The instruction to Thriller – taken from Nada Mas

For the Thriller instruction here is the original for more facial expression! check it out.

Thriller from Mauro Firmo on Vimeo.

If you have noting to do over the weekend here is the step by step youtube instruction.

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To continue from the post on the origin of architecture, which I have to admit wrote in a haste, there is an interesting talk by Greg Lynn on his project ‘New City’. It continues the debate with a lot of critique on the contemporary state of the city, but especially critique on the way the city is thought of, not only if we take virtual representations as indicators of the general understanding of urban aspects.

Image by imaginary forces – Screenshot taken from NewCity clip – the New City toroids.

Earlier this year Greg Lynn has given a talk that was broadcasted in the Seed Design talks series with the title ‘New City’. He was talking about a recent project he had on exhibition at the MoMa. It was the idea of developing a virtual world from an architectural point of view. His analysis of existing spatial and especially architectural representation in virtual worlds is quit interesting. I do not really have virtual world experience, like Second Life or something, but this is to some extend down to the visual representation. To me the graphics are simply ridiculous, why should I use this to represent my virtual self if I cannot identify myself with it? I can however identify with the graphical language used by Lynn. But then I think, this represents a very specific social grouping thorough factors like, culture, education, background, financial situation, location and so on. Whether you choose one over the other is not an as free decision as we might like to think of it as.
However this might be a side line of the debate, in terms of the evolution it is obvious that Lynn very cleverly positions his work in this context. His introduction makes good use of and plays well with the expectations of the audience. He knows exactly what this social group is looking for.

The most interesting aspect Lynn is talking about in this presentation to me is his critique on the spatial configuration. He says: “The world is not…ah..its not a globe. I mean I do think… I, I, do think Google Earth is fabulous, but the idea that you go on the internet to see what the world looks like and you find this kind of 15th Century globe sitting there, that you spin around on it on an axis, is … is very strange to me. (at 05.50 in the seeds clip”
So what the come up with is a series of rings called toroids, that are interlocked to replace the globe. it is an interesting idea and has a logic to it as he is talking about it. However there is definitely critique in terms of space, distance, separation and so on. However the visualisations are pretty sexy and this is probably what it needs to be.
However what I am really not convinced by is the actual representation of architecture. This has a long way to go. It looks at the moment like space box renderings. They are following a gravity model to structure activities, but the dealing with the actual form of something needs to be developed.
Especially in the context of the concepts of space and time as social conventions. The current model of space and time could be described as being based on the idea of a market place as the definition of a location and a time. However this would also needed to be radically rethought in this proposal, especially as Lynn introduces this new city as “a new sort of encyclopedia”. This would move the framework from the trade focus towards a focus of knowledge and this might generate a space time construction based on the library as the location and the past as the time.
However have a look at the talk it is only 20 something minutes so a good clip for the lunch brake.

Seedmagazine.com Seed Design Series

Here is an interview with Greg Lynn where he discusses the propsal.

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Architectural anthropology is described as: ‘At the end of the sixties, in the course of the so-called ‘crisis of modern architecture’ a movement of architectural theoreticians greatly stimulated by Amos Rapoport’s ‘Built Form and Culture’ (1969) began to widen their horizon into the ethnology of architecture’ (Egentre, 1990).
In this sense it is the research into the history of architecture. Together with an illustration of five lines of architectural evolution it is presented as a comprehensive body of work into the understanding of how architecture developed into a technological sophisticated science. But essentially it argues that as long as humans (even great apes) had a urge to adjust the environment to suit specific needs.
Interesting to me seems the argument that architecture can be traced back to the nest building of great apes. However this will definitely be challenged with questions around design and the idea of a discipline of architecture as opposed to individual temporal structures. However this is probably an argumentation of modernist understanding of the ‘plan’. Nevertheless I would argue that between temporal structures of ‘night beds’ constructed by apes and a detailed concept of space and time lies a big gap. It might be down to a few million years of evolution, I don’t know.
The argument is logic, however I would remind that a lot of species build nests or construct temporal structures. Even more beyond the nest usually animals have a clear concept of space and the idea of ‘owned space’ in the sense of a territorial behavior. This territory is marked for example by a black bird singing or a cat spraying. In this context the argument might look different.

Image by Nold Egenter – The plate indicates a Macro-Theory of the Evolution of Habitat and Architecture and at the same time the Evolution of Culture

For the argumentation and presentation of architectural project a lot of leaps an crazy combinations are undertaken. And recently nests have seen a rise in popularity, but I have not heard H&dM arguing for their Olympic stadium that the shape is the origin of architecture. However it would fit.

Image taken from creative class – the bird nest at night

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Last weeks the most disturbing science news headline was “How the city hurts your brain” circulating as new research that proves the evil of cities. The original article can be found at the Boston Globe.
It all starts with a very innocent introduction where the author says: “The City has always been an engine of intellectual life, from the 18th-century coffeehouses of London, where citizens gathered to discuss chemistry and radical politics, to the Left Bank bars of modern Paris, where Pablo Picasso held forth on modern art. Without the metropolis, we might not have had the great art of Shakespeare or James Joyce; even Einstein was inspired by commuter trains.” From this point it goes down hill. From spreading cholera to the argument that the before named artists eventually moved out of the city, concluding “ … [the city] it’s also a deeply unnatural and overwhelming place” We’ll that is a statement, DEEPLY UNNATURAL! However, as we try to grasp the extend of the devastating news, the authors are quick with analysis and of course solution. It is all down to the city affecting the brain and a few minutes on the busy street will blow your memory and you start suffering from reduced self control (what does that mean?). Again with a very pointy argument, “that’s why Picasso left Paris”. The excuse comes in the form of the acceptance that “The mind is a limited machine” while still concluding this, the first solution comes in the form of “One of the main forces at work is a stark lack of nature”. I am aware that this is not actually a solution , but rather an other analysis or hypothesis, but in its tone directly implies to be a solution. And it does not stop there it straight goes through the wall with the sledge hammer solving ALL! the problems: “…that hospital patients recover more quickly when they can see trees from their windows, and that women living in public housing are better able to focus when their apartment overlooks a grassy courtyard”.
WOW, now I feel much better and I am convinced we live in a better world.
It however comes to the first element I do actually very much agree with the authors, the fact that this kind of research comes exactly in time with the news (and of course the media coverage and interpretation) that now over 50% of the world’s population live in cities. Unfortunately it dives right back down with a sweet but unrealistic naive worldview of: “For a species that evolved to live in small, primate tribes on the African savannah, such a migration marks a dramatic shift. Instead of inhabiting wide-open spaces, we’re crowded into concrete jungles, surrounded by taxis, traffic, and millions of strangers.”

I think I stop here, because the article goes on for another four pages, I hope I have missed the point of the article and if some of you read it all through, please let me know what I missed. The ‘leave a comment’ field can be found at the end of the post.

But actually there is another reason to stop at this point, because this one point is very interesting and important. We are living in a mainly urbanised world. Most of us live in urban areas and rising. The UN predicts some 70-80% by 2050. “The United Nation Population Fund, UN agency, says in a new report that humanity will have to undergo a “revolution in thinking” to deal with a doubling of urban populations in Africa and Asia. The UN continues to say that the number of people in African and Asian cities will grow by 1.7 billion by the year 2030. And worldwide, the number of city dwellers will reach five billion or 60 per cent of the world’s population (citymayors)“
‘Revolution in thinking’ is probably a more appropriate suggestion than to point out how bad our (western) cities are. Western city here is important if not to say European, because this is what I believe the above article is referring to. Conditions in other ‘urban’ areas in the world are dramatically different from what westerners call ’a city’. And I mean, to dig out a cholera example is pathetic. According to Wikipedia the first cholera pandemic reached London and Paris in 1832, a second one in 1849, the third Europe skipped, fourth in 1854 and a fifth in 1866 that was locally very much condemned as by then London was just about to finish its new water and sewage system (I guess it is still the same, but that is another topic). However you can see that since 1866 dramatic chances in the urban environment were introduced. I am aware that I also imply a lot here, but to bring it across in a similar style: the city was a much worse place. (We all know that this is a very difficult way to express thought about historical events and while being aware of the implications of the distorted and constructed past as seen from the present,
it might be much more complex, but we’ll keep things simple her for today.) To come back to the new challenge of the dramatic growth in urban population – a doubling of the city population in Asia and Africa – another example might be of interest. Thinking back to the last urban crisis this latest and now upcoming reaction very much reminds me of Haussmann’s renovation of in Paris or Ebenezer Howard with the Garden City.In fact both came after the Cholera pandemics. I am pretty sure, actually I was only waiting for the first such news to appear, that we ill see a lot of reactions to the ‘city problem’ coming down a similar route as the article quoted in the beginning of this post. It is all bad and we have to reinvent to solve it. Urban designer will be very quick to jump to Howard’s idea of the Garden City to have a readymade solution. Someone will dig it out.

Image from Wikipedia – as published in “Garden Cities of tomorrow”, Sonnenschein publishing, 1902

However to make it clear, I am not playing down the urgent and extend of the raising question. In the contrary, it is an urgent matter, especially because the urban planning profession in general and urban design and architecture (I add them here because they all think they can do both anyway) in particular is in an identity crisis with no consistent concepts available at present. The only thing that buzzes around is sustainability, but it’s got no content to it.

In an article on io9 Chanda Phelan presents how apocalyptic stories have changed in the past 200 years. She explains ”It’s not the idea of Ending itself that has faded – that will be around until we are actually mopped off the face of the Earth. It’s the actual moment of disaster, the blood and guts and fire, that has been losing ground in stories of the End. Post-apocalyptic fiction is a 200-year-old trend, and for 170 of those years, the ways writers imagined the end were pretty transparently a reflection of whatever was going on around them – nuclear war, environmental concerns, etc. In the mid-1990s, though, everything just turned into a big muddle. Suddenly, we’d get a post-apocalyptic world whose demise was never explained. It was just a big question mark.“ And she also points out that actually it was never about the end, but the new beginning. However she analyses that in the last 30 years there has been a decreasing interest in the why and how of the end, very often simply assuming that there was an end. Presumable, from my reading of it, the apocalypse was never about, it actually ends, but about narrating a sin or something stylised ‘problematic’ to actually urge people to change something in the present. Implying ”if you don’t behave now, something disastrous might, could possibly, eventually, maybe happen“. And in this sense skipping this part of the apocalypse is indeed a very dramatic change.

Image by Stephanie Fox – How the Apocalypse Will Happen – A Literary Chart

In this sense the attitude to the posed urban growth question would be, let’s skip the growth, the infrastructure demand, logistics, flows, identity, morphology, material, organisation, atmosphere, form, transport, colour, work, resource, governing, social, knowledge, communication, finance, and so on question and just build a New Cities for some 80 million people or maybe better a set of Garden cities, each with some 58’246.1 residents ?

So what to do?

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I recently put up a blog post about CirtySensing and ever since the topic is following me around town. Not only because of all the potential sensors I m carrying around with me, but probably also because I am more aware of the topic. I think the topic in general is closely related to the perception of space and in this sense to the mental map we all construct of the space we navigate. Our body senses are usually on high alert while walking down the road and the environment is constantly assessed. From the uneven pavement we adjust our balance, with our ears we can hear the squirrel in the tree above us, we can smell the oil and dust from the building site on the road, we see the red van on the crossroad ahead. To only list the senses that are “official” senses. Probably there is also a sense of some more embodied information such as mussels providing a sense of force and speed, the breath and the heart beat as an indicator of effort or the information about balance and body parts orientation. In short there is a lot of information.
For now I guess the technical sensing is probably simpler to describe, as the processing of the data into information is done by a chip and we can tell the chip what the output should be so it looks like a more straight forward exercise. The economist has put together an extensive list of sensing projects and its potential.
Never the less there are some really exciting technical CitySensing projects out there. For example a cooperation of five Universities (Imperial College, Cambridge, Leeds, Newcastle and Southampton) on the MESAGE project has investigated the use of mobile sensors in urban environments and a variety of applications. A short clip shows a visualization of the collected data. In an interview for “The naked Scientist” on BBC the researchers explain about the potential of the project and pod cast transcript can be found here.

Images from CamMobSens – Pollution monitored by pedestrians and cyclists with mobile devices sent directly to a website.

In Berlin, Germany scientist are testing a network of sensors that are installed in buses. A BBC documentation can be found here. The sensors cover the usual air and road temperature as well as humidity, pollution indicators, some cameras and of course GPS. So traffic information can be calculated. The data is wirelessly transmitted to a processing centre. A project website can be found here.
As a more everyday gadget based project the pathintelligence project is quite interesting. It is developed to locate the users of mobile phones and aimed at retail and shopping centers. The system is detecting the unique signal of each phone and can locate it with about 1-2m accuracy. The shoppers are tracked with a number of static sensors and the data is then used to derive information about flows and preferences of visitors. A demo can be seen here. For shopping centers there is a lot of pressure and competition so they are probably very willing customers for this kind of information. It is partly about offering a better service, but also about internal competition between the brands. For example the tenancy mix but also the optimization of rental costs are listed as benefits. Surprisingly this is only discussed in research circles and shoppers are largely unaware of the monitoring process. The Times had an article on the topic, which was then picked up by the spy blog.

Image by pathintelligence – screenshot of the data viualisation software

A pretty amazing CitySensing project is the sensity work by Stanza. The artist himself describes the project as “An artwork and visualization using data from around the environment. A wireless sensor network show emergent space as social sculpture”. The sensors used can monitor temperature, sounds, noise, light, vibration, humidity, and have a built in GPS unit.
These dynamic visualization scapes have been on show around the world and usually a show leads to another record, as the artist never travels without his equipment. So from London over Copenhagen to Paris and Texas to San Paulo the cities are sensed by stanza.

Image by stanza – sensing Copenhagen KLICK ON IMAGE FOR VISUALIZATION

Image by stanza – This mote is a MTS420 CC from Xbo without the GPS attached.and running in low power mode.

A more of a web 2.0 project relying on crowd sourcing is the lhrNOISEmap project by Ian Tout. He is currently finishing his masters in Geographical Information Science (GISc) at Birkbeck College. He is mapping the aircraft noise produced by an airplane approaching or leaving London Heathrow Airport. For this he has built an online map based on Open Street Map and uses the web platform AudioBoo and their free iPhone application to record airplane noise in London. The short clips can then be mapped, as they are automatically geo referenced. In a second step the data will be aggregated and the noise levels should appear on the map as a layer.
So if you have an iPhone and are somewhere under the flight path of London Heathrow give it a try and participate in this mapping project. A simple step-by-step guide can be found here. You can also follow the project on twitter.

​Image by UrbanTIck – screenshot lhrNOISEmap project

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Together with the GPS tracking technology also a whole bunch of other sensors are now available in rather small format, cheep prize and can easily be combined. So sensing the environment in a small scale is becoming possible, even popular.
A number of projects are under way. Here I put together some example.
This sort of information is especially interesting to learn more about microclimates. The knowledge regarding fine scale environmental information in cities is relatively low. With the now widely available technology it becomes possible to sense and record the environment as a pedestrian, or a cyclist. This in turn could collect the data to generate a better picture of microclimates.
Mobile phones as electronic devices that a large number of people are carrying around daily could become potentially sensors and record and transmit environmental related information in a large scale.
Research that develops prototypes for this kind of data collection is undertaken at Carnegie Mellon’s Human-Computer Interaction Institute by Eric Paulos. “How would it change your ideas about moving around in the world, if you could suddenly sense things you couldn’t see?” he asks. As a respond to this work some Phone manufacturer have already expressed interest, as he reports in the seed magazine.

Probably a good element for DIY made sensors is the Ardurino open source platform, software and hardware. “Arduino is an open-source electronics prototyping platform based on flexible, easy-to-use hardware and software. It’s intended for artists, designers, hobbyists, and anyone interested in creating interactive objects or environments.” (From Ardurino.cc)

An environmental sensing project runs in Paris. It is called “la montre verte” and is so far about a “green watch“. It grew out of the idea to mobilize the 1000 fixed environmental sensors around Paris and generate more accurate real time data. So far 30 prototypes of the green watch have been produced and are tested at the moment in Paris.
The team has produced some beautiful visualization from the collected data. It is built on a Google Map with a detailed interactive interface to select and replay the collected data.

Image from la montre verte

CamMobSens (Cambridge Mobile Urban Sensing) also works on a sensing project similar to the Paris project. So far they have collected data around Cambridge.

Image from CamMobSense

A short clip of the data can be seen here, a paper has been published on the project.

Nokia is very active and always experimenting with new technologies. Of course they are also developing something related to the topic of extended environmental sensors. They have a dedicated project webpage on http://www.nokia.com/corporate-responsibility/environment. And of course there are also products, not yet ready. It is on the nokia page described as: ”The concept consists of two parts – a wearable sensor unit which can sense and analyze your environment, health, and local weather conditions, and a dedicated mobile phone. The sensor unit will be worn on a wrist or neck strap made from solar cells that provide power to the sensors. NFC (near field communication) technology will relay information by touch from the sensors to the phone or to or to other devices that support NFC technology.“ Nokia’s eco sensor concept:

Image from nokia

Integrating environmental live data into further digital development on the computer, on this are the people from pachub working. They have developed a plug in for Sketch up to use live sensore information to feed into the SketchUp platform. Information on it i on their blog.

Pachube2SketchUp: plug in realtime sensor & environment data from Pachube on Vimeo.

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For now I am looking over to biology to find out about how this filed is approaching the topic of cycles and rhythms.
Your garden tells you the time, if you look closely. First observations on biological clock in plants where made in the 4th century B.C. by Androsthenes of Thasos. He participated in the expeditions by Alexander the Great in Asia. He described the daily movement of the tamarind tree (Tamarindus indica). Its leaves move up during the day and down during the night. A similar movement can be observed in the common bean plant. (Refinetti, R., 2006. Circadian Physiology 2nd ed., Boca Raton: Taylor & Francis.)
In 1745 Carl Linnaeus, a Swedish biologist described in his Philosophia Botanica (1751) that different flower species open their flowers at different times of the day. He distinguished between three groups of flowers:

Meteorici – flowers, which change their opening and closing times according to the weather conditions.
Tropici – flowers, which change their times for opening and closing according to the length of the day.
Aequinoctales – flowers, which have fixed times for opening and closing. (Note that these are unaffected by the weather conditions.)

Only Aequinoctales are suitable for use in a flower clock. (After BBC h2g2)

Image from Wikipedia – book cover “Systema Naturae” by Caroli Linnaei, 1760

The floral clock would be starting from 3 am with the Goatsbeard, followed by a Dwarf Morning Glory at 5 am to a Scarlet Pimpernel at around 9 am to a Day lily at 8 pm you can get flowers to open around the clock. For a full list have a look at Linneaus’ Flower Clock or on Wikipedia. The bees and many other insects must be well aware of such patterns. This might even translate into a busy working schedule inside the beehive as certain dependencies arise. Bees seem to have a clever “dance” to inform other about sources and maybe the time is an important aspect related to this communication? Anyway what I have not found so far, is a clever interpretation of why flowers only open at certain times, but maybe the insects are otherwise just too busy?
Also Michael Jackson had a floral clock on his Neverland Ranch. Although it was not a real floral clock in the sense of a biological clock, it rather is a mechanical clock decorated with flowers.
Maybe in flowers and plants you would have guessed that they respond to the rhythm of the sun, as they directly depend on it for energy and growth. Most of us would also have heard about the flowers that follow the path of the sun, such as the sunflowers, so not much of a surprise. But if looking at mammals, including humans it might come of more of a surprise that similar patterns can be studied.
The key word here is circadian clock. A definition from medterms.com “Circadian: Refers to events occurring within a 24-hour period, in the span of a full (24-hour) day, as in a circadian rhythm. Circadian rhythmicity is a fundamental property possessed by all organisms. These rhythms are driven by an internal time-keeping system: a clock. Changes in the external environment, particularly in the light-dark cycle, entrain this biologic clock. Under constant environmental conditions devoid of time cues, rhythms driven by the clock show a period near, but usually not exactly equal to, 24 hours.” The word “circadian” is a 20th-century invention. It was coined by Franz Halberger in 1959 from the Latin “circa” (around) + “diem” (a day). Halberger was the founder of modern chronobiology and the chronobiology centre and a scientist at University of Minnesota.

Image by Franz Halberger – book cover “Introduction to Chronobiology” by Franz Halberger,1994

The circadian rhythm was in the eighties mainly studies in relation with sleep and sleep disorder. Scientist were looking at how new born babies need time to grow into the grown up cycle of sleeping at night and being awake during the day, or why teens stay up late and have difficulties getting up in the morning and why elderly people often wake up when it is still pitch black outside but can’t go back to sleep. Extended research, including experiments with people spending weeks in the dark, has shown that the daylight plays a big part in normal sleep pattern. The human body seems to be capable to sync with the light-dark rhythm of the planet. Responsible for keeping track of the time is the suprachiasmatic nuclei (SCN), a bundle of nerves located in the brain’s hypothalamus (see Kim Kiser Minn Med, Nov 2005). This region does not tell the time, it simply keeps track of it. The clock is not centralized but distributed and inherent in all cells, but is regulated to stay in sync. Steven Strogatz describes in his book Sync three different levels of sync related to the human body. The first is on the level of cells that are mutually synchronized. The next level it is the organs that stay in sync. This does not mean that they are all active at the same time, but they each keep their allocated rhythm whit in the system. As the third level Strogatz describes the synchronization between the bodies and the environment around us. On this third level he does no go into detail what this might be and how this might manifest. But logically it must have real life consequences in social space but also physical space.
A gene for the biological clock in a mouse was identified and cloned in 1997, the first such gene to be identified at the molecular level in a mammal.
New research on the circadian clock’s role in the organism suggests that the process controls almost all behaviors and physiology. In a surprising revelation, a new study suggests that the function of ALL genes in mammals is based on circadian rhythms. Up to now scientists believed that about 10 percent only are influenced by the body clock. The importance of the daily rhythm is only now uncovered.
Scientists believe that the main sync to orchestrate the vast number of independent elements that follow this rhythm is the daylight cycle. A number of studies have shown that if not exposed to the cycle of day and night, e.g. stay in the dark for a longer period of time, the sync slowly drifts off. It will automatically reestablish itself once back to exposure. (See article at the dailygalaxy)
New research has now also tried to explain the differences in life span in connection to the circadian rhythm. NYU dental professor Dr. Timothy Bromage was doing research on the growth of tooth enamel when he discovered these cycles of tooth and bone growth. The rhythm seems to vary from organism to organism and seems to have a direct impact on life span. For example, rats have a one-day interval, chimpanzees six, and humans eight. During the 37th Annual Meeting of the American Association for Dental Research, Bromage said, “The same biological rhythm that controls incremental tooth and bone growth also affects bone and body size and many metabolic processes, including heart and respiration rates. In fact, the rhythm affects an organism’s overall pace of life, and its life span. So, a rat that grows teeth and bone in one-eighth the time of a human also lives faster and dies younger.” (See article at Physorg)
A very interesting field I tapped in here and this short introduction is certainly not covering all the crucial points of circadian rhythms in biology. There is a lot more to discover especially in relation to the third level of sync as described above, where it is about the sync between bodies and the immediate or wider environment. This exactly where my UrbanDiary research should plug in. In this context I see the GPS traces, together with the mental perception of the rhythms and the geographical/physical surrounding.

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