Wednesday, 31 March 2010

SimpleGeo - Spatial Database

A quick visualisation illustrating the location war between foursquare, brightkite, Gowalla, twitter, flickr, blockChalck and Bump. This is a weeks worth of data. Animation is created in The data was intially collected during the South by SouthWest Interactive Festival. The live datastream was available on It is a demonstration using SimpleGEO, the online geo database project.

Tuesday, 30 March 2010

Presentaion Tool as You Dream it

Prezi the tool you have been dreaming of ever since you were forced to use powerpoint for the first time. Finally these dreadful times are over! Prezi is here and it work! There is little to be said just head over to Prezi and start using it. Alternatively you stay here and test it right below with the embedded presentation. Use the arrow to click through, once you feel comfortable you can freely interact and drag the canvas with the mouse or zoom in and out with the moue weel or trackpad gesture. Note, I had problems loading this particular prezi with my chrome browser. I am having an issue with flash, safari and firefox should be safe.

However if you are still here, or you have come back, here is some more information on what it is and what it ca do.
It is a flash based application that will allow you to present content in a non linear way. You re working on a single infinite canvas, on which you can arrange content. Double click anywhere to write text, add images or shapes. It works all intuitively and is graphically stylish from the beginning.
The structuring is archived foremost by panning the canvas and the zooming in or out on content. These simple gestures make for extremely powerful tools and together with the stylish camera animation the result is astonishing.
The zooming is applied already while populating the canvas. By zooming in, performing gestures know from digital map navigation, a certain hierarchy is established. Text size for example will be directly adjusted to the current zoom level. There are virtually no limitations to the zoom level. This in it selve is already an extreme feature that can be used to surprise the audience. Details can be unveiled while the show progresse, elements that were only burred lines will suddenly be the important points. This will definitely engage the audience.
The panning or sequencial camera movement is applied by a separat tool as a path of numbered dots. O course they will be invisible in presentation mode. The panning is not restricted to horizontal and vertical movement, ut can aso be rotations and with a cleaver integration this too will definitely engage.
For me the online version is definitely more interesting. Having a fast internet connection helps. The very first question then is what kind of web content can be integrated. Here the functions are limited, but the most important feature works, videos can be embedded vi youtube. Simple put the link as text on the canvas. The clip will be shown just there, however an internet connection is required.
Presentations can be either put together on line in your web browser or you can download a desktop client. The final product can either be presented online or be downloaded and be shown locally. To present locally you don't need any extra software this will be integrated.
This is a really cool tool, with the downside of the price tag. There is a free version that will have a prezi watermark on it, next up will set you back $60 or then $160 per year. If you have to give a few presentation a year and you want to spice them up while having fun this product is definitely worth it! There is also an academic license available, a great option.
So far I have been using Google docs to do my presentations, mainly because it was a simple solution to have the content I wanted to show online. I have to say, that I actually dont like it, the graphics and the interface are just horrible and the options are very limited, which in it selve is not a bad thing. But if elements can not be arranged or scaled properly, combined with limited font and colour options, it becomes extremely difficult to create a nice sheet. Also the presentation options were constantly limited to the browser window and the biggest thing on the screen was usually the Google logo. Prezi is a lot slicker and offers stile out of the box. The potential of the nonlinear structure and the power of the zoom are a revelation. For me this is definitely one of the softwares of the year! And it comes with a cool Twitter support.

Thanks for the link go to urbagram

Monday, 29 March 2010

Book - Grand Urban Rules

A book with a great question: what do we owe the planning and building rules? An for a change, this is a different approach to try and explain what the urban form, the urban morphology is and where it comes from.
Traditionally, this seemed very easy, being simply the sum of all the individual buildings. becoming more complicated with for examples Kevin Lynch's Image of the city were the idea settled that individuals perceive the city and this in turn influences how we understand and then obviously it became even more complicate with the introduction of the social dimension as a informing parameter of the built form, as for example in 'the Social Logic of Space'.
So it is complicated and the search for the identity of the place is going round and round.
Going back, picking up a very pragmatic element and start rolling up the question from a completely different angle could be a very good idea. This is what I thought when I saw the book.
Grand Urban Rules by Alex Lehnerer and published by 010 Publishers "is a tribute to the city's will to form...") as it says on the book back cover. The concept is then, nevertheless introduced using two aspects. One is to base it on the building rules or regulations exemplary taken from cities of central Europe and the United States with the exception of Vancouver and Hong Kong. The second aspect is then already the social connection with the statement "Setting standards is first and foremost a cultural act." So we are back in the social business, but that is most likely a very good move.

Image taken by urbanTick / Book spread with an overview of urban rules.

The book might encounter a difficult problem, a certain resistance from readers to engage, specially from practitioners side. Very often the rules and standards are something that is seen as a negative force engaging in the creative process. This often creates the two sides of the planning an building process. On one hand the authority setting out the rules and on the other hand the planner or architect who has to 'implement' them. It often ends in a battle between the two. To some extend this is ok and part of the ongoing process of finding and defining the position of the current culture, to refer back to the statement on the book back cover. But too often this ends in useless, consuming debates.
Refreshing then here, that this publication manages to completely avoid this topic and present, discuss and 'implement' regulations as a positive part of the planning process. As you start diving in to the publication and flip through the first 51 pages skimming all 115 examples chosen here you kind of forget about the battle and the misery it turns most debates into. Slowly but steadily a feeling creeps in to your mind, that actually this discussion is a lot larger than the battle between the parties of one building and the personal emotions involved and that it could actually be a cultural, society based discussion that authority and planner could lead and develop together.
Having said that, the book is much more fun and not at all as heavy as my thoughts on this topic. It is actually fun and present the ideas and concept with a certain implicit humor that you will have a constant smile on your face as you read along, that it very rear with architecture, planning publications.
It presents the '2h Shadow' used in Zurich, Switzerland "A high-rise may not place a neighboring residential building in shadow for more than two hours per day." and the 'London View Management' "Through the heights of the adjacent buildings, the upper space around the cathedral shall remain unencumbered by visual interference. Tall structures will be permitted to stand in the cathedral's view shadow." or the '5-Story Rule of Paris' "Buildings cannot be taller than the height residents and users are prepared to climb using stairs. For buildings without elevators, this threshold has been reached at a height of five stories." to name a few examples.

Image taken by urbanTick / Book spread discussing the London View Management

Using these 115 examples the book then develops a clearly structured understanding of rules and regulations by comparing situations, implementations and outcome of different locations. For this it uses plenty of illustrative examples and makes beautiful use of illustrations. By the way the book is designed by Joost Grootens, who also did 'the New Dutch Water Defence Line'.
To sum up, this is a brilliant read and a book that could lead a new and much more open debate around the implications and possibilities of identity of the place.

Lehnerer, A., 2008. Grand Urban Rules, Rotterdam: 010 Publishers.

Parkour gone timeLapse

Movement through the city has many different forms and shapes and speeds and purposes and desires and impacts and joys. Parkour is on e of the more specialised forms of moving around and definitely one that has changed the perception of movement in space in recent years.
Not to dwell on its history, a quote from Wikipedia: “It is a non-competitive, physical discipline of French origin in which participants run along a route, attempting to negotiate obstacles in the most efficient way possible, as if moving in an emergency situation.”
To visualise the type of movement here a great timeLapse visual - enjoy.

Found through dpr-barcelona

Friday, 26 March 2010

Book - The Infrastructural City

The city has many different faces and as we all know it cannot be described in one sentence or one equation. It also is not a computer chip, although some recent master plans might have a formal similarity, nor is it a single organism growing for one purpose. It is more of a collective consisting of individuals capable of creating, deciding and moving. It is organized, as one currently would describe it, in networks and some of the elements of the collective are private where as other are public, in the sense of providing service to a larger group of the collective. Within the network these services manifest in infrastructure serving the public. In a number of ways this infrastructure tells a large part of the story about the collective or the city as such. In the sense of 'Show me your infrastructure and I tell you who you are.' the book 'Infrastructural City - Networked Ecologies in Los Angeles' edited by Kazys Varnelis and published by Actar tells the story of an urban area. This specific focus reveilles so much about the society that invented it, it is fascinating and sometimes shocking. From mobile phone tower camouflaged as palm trees to engineered tarmac graffiti everything is revealed and sets the context to the 21st century society.

Image by urbanTick / Book spread.

The analysis comes in three parts, Landscape, Fabric and Objects. The titles do not obvious characterize the content though. I haven't really figured out what the organisation is. This, however doesn't matter because you should read them all, or the reader can jump from one to another and back. It is not a necessarily linear read and this is a relief, because its content is extremely dense.
The detailed descriptions are accomplished with three elements describing the linear city. Lane Barden follows linear infrastructure elements and explores the city. This gives a very specific angle on the subject, but also helps high lighting due to the focus. The lines are documented by a map and sequential photographs as well as a little bit of background text. In a very calm and focused way the city takes shape along these lines. The elements are, the river, the street - Wilshire Boulevard and the trench - freight transport.

Image by urbanTick / Book spread.

In 'Counting (on) Change' Roger Sherman describes and illustrated the pace at which change takes place and how planning and design professionals fall behind the latest trends and are doomed to react rather than help shape the future. He sais: "For architects, the time has come to recognize, finally, that contemporary urbanism is better rethought around conceptions of progress and potential - via design strategies for unfolding the future - rather than by another utopian horizon." In a series of detailed diagrams the negotiations and changes over land and ownership at a number of scales.
The book ends with a report on probably the biggest and most vital piece of infrastructure in the city of Los Angeles. 'The Trench' is the ten miles long transport corridor Bringing the arriving goods from the port out of the city to distribution centres that will feed the rest of North America. The specs are impressive, more than $200 billion in cargo are transported on this route, but it is largely unnoticed as a feature in the city. It used to be a dominating feature due to its rail crossings and activity of the trains, but nowadays all the trains run in a fifty feet wide and thirty-three feet deep cut on a lower city level out of sight. And still it is probably the main artery of the city. Lane Barden sais: "It would be realistic to argue that the trench is central to the everyday efficiency of global capitalism."
In this sense, the city might as well be a machine.

This is a book on urban infrastructure that not only describes the elements, but positions them in a social and cultural city context. The approach is not about isolating elements to simplify it, rather it is about piecing it together to help shape an understanding of the whole. It really is a book about the city, the city of the everyday.

For other reviews see: archidose or we-make-money-not-art.

Varnelis, K., 2009. The Infrastructural City. Networked Ecologies in Los Angeles, Barcelona: Actar.

Stuttgart 24

A timeLapse portrait of the city of Stuttgart in Germany. It is a film by Christoph Kalck & Jascha Vick, with music by Sebastian Bartmann and shows the city of the period of 24 hours. A selection of 20 locations make it a divers portrait ranging from market hall to zoo, to train station and cross road. The feature of the tiny schematic clock in the bottom corner provides a good sense of orientation in temporal terms.
The movie was produced at the Stuttgart Media University ( in the study course Audiovisual Media from October 2009 till January 2010. The material is shot with a Canon EOS-1D Mark II.
Interesting also is the map provided with the locations of the shootings. This can provide some sort of orientation. However, without the aspects of time and sequence there is something missing.

Thursday, 25 March 2010

Book - Urbanisms - a Position

Urbanism is in a crisis in terms of identity of the profession, the work it should do and the work it can do as well as the way it interconnects with other disciplines. Well actually it has never had a position regarding these points. Pressure is rising from all sides, Sustainability approaches are developed here and there, but not within the profession, theoretical concepts as well as technical concepts are also developed elsewhere and even the job is done by other people. What can be done?
What a joy to read a book on urbanism that actually seeks and to some extend manages to to shape a particular position. There are clear references to were this position comes from and what the tools are that are used to work, but it leaves the clear impression that it creates something different.

Image taken from Steven Holl / Spread 12/13, Beijing: The linked Hybrid Located just off the second Ring Road.

In terms of tools, clearly the architectural approach is used. There are plans, there are models, there is usually even a building. Not just a shadow but actually a proposal or even a project that is being built. So what makes this variance then?
The difference really is the scale. Starting on page two with a plan that is actually more of a map covering a large section of Manhattan, page there a map-plan covering the centre of Amsterdam and page four a map-plan showing the lower section of the Saine in Paris. I call it a map-plan because it is a plan of the project location, the site or building is marked in a black and white context in red, but the scale is really more what you would expect of a map. The approach could be accused of simply scaling up the building project to city scale and claiming this to be urbanism. This is probably true, however I believe the result counts. An in this case at least the book and the presented projects here really strongly give a sense or urban character and importance.

Image taken from Steven Holl / Spread 4/5, title page showing the project Ile Seguin in France.

Covering a time span of 43 years, from 1967 with a student project to 2010, Steven Holl covers his position on large scale interventions and overall this detailed collage manages to piece together a position. A position that really lets you believe again that something like urbanism really exists.
The book we are talking about here is 'Urbanisms - Working with Doubt' by Steven Holl, published by Princeton Architectural Press. It is a book, very much in the sense of a book. It has a very traditional feel to it, even though it makes use of the new arrangements, like page numbering or ordering of elements and so on. However layout and font, but also the feel to the cover and the square format render it extremely formal.
38 projects are presented, together with essays and statements by Steven Holl. Together this creates the position. The most important statement, that also has given the book the subtitle it probably 'Working with Doubt', here Steven Holl says: "Today working with doubt is unavoidable; the absolute is suspended by the relative and the interactive. Instead of stable systems we must work with dynamic systems. Instead of simple and clear programs we engage contingent and divers programs. Instead of precision and perfection we work with intermittent, crossbred systems, and combined methods. ... Working with doubt becomes an open position for concentrated intellectual work." (Steven Holl, p13)

Image taken from Steven Holl / The 'Linked Hybrid', my favorite large scale building.

This position is illustrated in the book with the project and it is possible to understand this position, I think this is the real achievement of this book, as an entity it works great.
However, in the sense of the starting question it might provide guidance and thoughts, but no solutions. I am not convinced that this super-sized architectural style has solutions in all situations, especially when it comes to diversity, social, and longer term temporal aspects. What Steven Holl offers are large scale buildings, quite literally (with massive projects in the middle East, particularly China), that have the potential to play a an important role, define spaces and create identity for an area, but they are not the city.
These super-sized site plans on city scale seem to be the new trend at the moment. For example also the new Herzog and De Meuron Book is making use of this tactic to locate the presented projects. Where this will take us we will see.
Nevertheless, this is the most recent comprehensive urban statement you can get your hands on. It will challenge your position.

Holl, S., 2008. Urbanisms: Working with Doubt, New York, N.Y: Princeton Architectural Press.

Twitter on Layar - Now You are on Air

This gang here tracks the tweeters and brings them presents or other surprises. It is not digital or on screen, oh shocking, it’s REAL! When have you last seen real people, real talking, in the real street? Yes these men are real and they drive a real van with a lot of chunk in the back, some old fashioned TV’s, not the LCD flatscreen ones, and they will come after you. You are leaving enough traces, well you are actually publicly broadcasting yourself, so it is easy to find you with an iPhone and layar on it. There you go SURPRISE!

Wednesday, 24 March 2010

Book - A Manifesto for Sustainable Cities

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Augmented (Hyper) Reality - You've Got an Interactive Table?

A rather disturbing clip of a possible near future. Might be unlikely, but talking about it is going on rather for a while now. It has become possible to actually do exactly what is visualised in this imaginary representation. By using available free digital tools such as layar everyone with access to the internet and consumer hardware in the form of a smart phone and a computer could put this together. probably not as visually impressive as Keiichi Matsuda manages in this clip produced for is master of architecture. This is a truly astonishing visual with a lot of love for good graphics and good design. I love it.

Tuesday, 23 March 2010

Narrative and Time - MArch Urban Design

I will be at the Bartlett School of Architecture to give a talk on Narrative and Time. It will be for the MArch Urban Design students. I have put together elements of my current research work to explore the aspects of the narrative as a specific aspect of time as well as an tool to visualise time. The idea of the story plays an increasing importance in my work. It came up through the tracking project UrbanDiary and now plays an important role in the latest work on Twitter and the Tweet-O-Meter, where the stories old start the spatial investigation.
With this presentation the focus is on the everyday, the ordinary and how we are involve or selves in daily stories as we navigate the passage of time in space. The second part of the presentation focuses on examples of how a narrative can directly be employed for a project. The simpler the story the better and the more powerful the pictures painted. Examples are Senones, a revitalisation project for a small former industrial ‘city’ in France. Where three character played the lead role to explain and illustrate four future scenarios for the valley. Also the Nearness clip, as an interpretation of the ‘Ein Lauf der Dinge’ by Fischli und Weiss. Or there is also the BluDot chair tracking project, furniture stories in New York.
It has changed quite a bit since there is now more data on for example the twitter project. On the other hand there is for this specific talk also an element introducing some of the tools used to handle the data. This will be a range from Google Maps, My Maps, Google Earth to proper GIS. I am not really a professional on any of them, simply a user. Thanks for input on this part go to Dan over at Volunteered Geographic Information.

Monday, 22 March 2010

Book - Atlas of the new Dutch Water Defence Line - Colour Seduction

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

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

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

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

See also reviews on mammoth and Kosmograd.

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

Friday, 19 March 2010

Tracks Refreshed - Processing

It has taken a while but now the first track records coming out of the UrbanDiary project are ported and can be visualised with processing. This is really an awesome tool to work with, however there is still a lot of hiccups and stuff to learn for me. So with a lot of trial and error I managed to get this one going. It is based on some stuff Steven M. Ottens has put together for his visualisations of GPS tracks HERE.
For this lot of data, it replay the recordings of seven participants of the UrbanDiary project. THese were recorded between April and August 2009. The setting is Greater London and you can most probably start guessing a few location that get highlighted as the drawing progresses. Some of the denser locations are;
However there are still some problems with the time component of the data as well as the transparency.
From a processing point of view it makes use of the tomc GPX library.

Music Ooze by Klez on

Origin of the urbanMachine

Cities are a multidimensional construct of social activities, processes and configurations taking shape or shaping through relations imagined, projected, actual, civic or public (Grosz 1998). Cities are also a place where flows and power networks intensify, on one hand manifest in physical form, but on the other hand through their very nature they dominate the change. The city ticks somehow. This multitude of activities is far beyond a single person’s comprehension, both as an actor as well as receptor. In general perception, the city is about organization (facilities) to enable me to go about my business. I want to have clean water out of the tap at any point in the day, the transport between two destinations to be reliably on time, and the city to deal with my waste. All this is preferably provided in a way I, as the user, do not notice or are confronted with (Borden 2000, p.104). We pretend that the city is a black box to serve our needs whilst trying to create as much distance between us and ’it’ as possible. We are rarely aware that we are actually part of the function of the city, as long as the machine works the way we expect it to. It works and it works along our routines, while it has its own cycles of flow and production. The machine adapts and the city could be described as a machine quite literally in many ways. The metaphor of “it works” or it does not, is strong and widely used. It applies to services, functions or even events.

Image taken from the PatrickGeddesTrust / Inspired by the River Tay in Scotland and later the Ganges in India Geddes studied life from the mountains to the water.

Only in the very late 20th century did new descriptions of the city emerge, linked to organic structures. For example in ‘The City Shaped’ (Kostof 1991, p.43), there is a clear distinction made between unplanned and planned cities. The two terms are also found as ‘unplanned evolution’ and ‘instinctive growth’ (Kostof 1991, p.43). The historian F. Castagnoli is quoted as making the distinction as follows: “The irregular city is the result of development left entirely to individuals who actually live on the land. If a governing body divides the land and disposes of it before it is handed over to the users, a uniformly patterned city will emerge” (as quoted in Kostof 1991, p.43). The planned, designed city versus the grown, spontaneous city, as a categorisation might already be a child of Sullivan’s dogma, which biases the categorisation to start from. However, there is a growing interest in the organic structure of the city. There has been in the past and a well-known urban planner Patrick Geddes actually had a biology background. Nevertheless, even though the spatial separation of function in urban planning is today regarded as problematic in terms of flows, congestion and energy consumption for example, the concept continues to influence planning fundamentally.
To go back to the modernist concept of city planning and the idea of separation of functions, there is an additional aspect to the city machine. Rhythms do result from the interaction between separated functions, but in addition, as introduced earlier, many of the modernist’s concepts were based on machines quite literally. This is articulated by Marschall (2009, p.33)in ‘Cities, Design and Evolution’: “Modernist city planning, then, is the same as classical city planning except for being distinguished by its use of modern technology – railways, motorways, steel and reinforced concrete”. This illustrated to some extent a city that was actually ‘built’ around machines. It does not quite define the role of the city, but we can assume that it was thought to be more than just the wrapping, but an extension of the machine.

Image taken from Wikimedia / Linear City by Arturo Soria y Mata

Arturo Soria y Mata proposed a linear city in 1892, It could be the first modernist city plan. The project - Ciudad Lineal – is a project based on a train line, resulting in a linear city, a city that potentially could be extended into the country side or across continents (Marshall 2009, p.34). A city machine was thus born and this illustrates beautifully the way the city was thought of. Still today the pulse of the transport network plays a big role in the constitution of the city’s pulse. The urban machine generates a certain rhythm. The pace of the departure of the public transport, the frequency of the stops, but also the location of stations spatially drives this rhythm. Any live tracking transport site gives a good idea of the pulse of the transport network. As a result of this functional separation, travel became the driving activity of the city dynamic, while this beat kept the frozen functional parts of the separated city alive.

In his book ‘Good City Form’ Lynch speaks of a slightly different “City as a Machine model” (1984). First he describes the machine “A Machine also has parts, but those parts move and move each other. “ He goes on with “The whole grows by addition. It has no wider meaning; it is simply the sum of its parts” (Lynch 1984, p.81). However he then continues to put some distance between his machine city model and the general perception of machines powered by electricity or steam and made of shining metal. He wants to use his model in the context of a ‘functional’ city for :”…where ever settlements were temporary, or had to be built in haste, or were being built for clear, limited, practical aims, as we see in so many colonial foundations” (Lynch 1984, p.82). In this sense he places this model in exactly the position of the modernist idea of the functional city. Interestingly however, it seems that he stresses aspects of time in the terms ‘temporal’, ‘hast’ and so on. This highlights the importance of time even in the machine model. Lynch puts examples of the colonisation of America forward to illustrate the machine model. Here, the aspect of form and structure becomes a relevant topic. As seen before, the aspect of power or ‘truth’ is again central to the approach. In the ‘Laws of the Indies’ of 1573, the Spanish emperor gave clear instructions on how the new cities in conquered land had to be built. It was all based on a grid system with clearly defined locations for the important buildings for a ‘functional’ city. Again this aspect of implementing the structure is put forward, but also the simplicity to expand the structure is stressed. The implementation of power and hierarchy is not mentioned by Lynch. The functioning of the structure is the primary concern and this is thought to be achieved through simplification and purity of form. From this setting, it is not far to the rectangular grid cities resulting from land allocation and land speculation in modern America. Lynch goes on through the history of urban design and names the Radiant City by Le Corbusier, Soria y Mata’s linear utopia, but he also identifies the machine in Peter Cook’s Archigram projects, in the work of Soleri or Friedman. He concludes “In less sweeping terms, the machine model lies at the root of most of our current ways of dealing with cities…” (Lynch 1984, p.86).

During the machine period the human body was subject to the mechanical imagination. It is the time where sport and sport competition became important and the training of the human, mostly male body, in analogy to the machine was convenient. See earlier post on bodyMachines HERE and HERE.


Borden, I., 2000. Hoardings. In City A-Z. London: Routledge.

Grosz, E., 1998. Bodies-Cities. In H. J. Nast, ed. Places Through the Body. London: Routledge.

Kostof, S., 1991. The City Shaped: Urban Patterns and Meanings Through History, London: Thames and Hudson.

Lynch, K., 1984. Good City Form, Cambridge, Mass: MIT Press.

Marshall, S., 2009. Cities, Design & Evolution, Abingdon: Routledge.

Thursday, 18 March 2010

The Identity of the Place

The new Monu Magazine comes with a beautiful quote describing the characteristics of the city as a particular locally sourced parameter that lives and breathes with the citizens.
"Most of our cities are shaped by a particular set of values that does not necessarily lead to high quality urban spaces, but instead to scary, ethically unacceptable and distorted forms." (MONU issue #12, )
This is something we all experience on a daily basis and therefore are very familiar with. However it doesn't stop there. We also contribute to our surrounding, we are part of it. At least since 'The Social Logic of Space' by Hillier and Hanson we also have an attempt to describe and characterize this phenomenon. It it is not the only attempt, but one that claims to be fundamental and 'scientific' i.e. mathematical. But still, it is based on the static concept of the space as a given entity. This doesn't fit together with Open Source, Free Content or User Participation. To some extend with the emerging filed of spatial dynamics research based on the new location awareness technologies is to look into this very same field. Since it focuses on the activity of the citizens directly they finally play the important role in the description of the urban environment. It really comes back to 'You are the City'.

You can brows the magazine on YouTube, for convenience I have simply embedded the clip below, so go a head a flip through the pages.

Tuesday, 16 March 2010

DIY Google Street Car

Now that the whole of the UK is is covered by Google Street View, will the Google car disappear as a species from the streets? Many don't believe it would and this not only because Google might want to update the views. Maybe just because it has become impossible to stop the drivers. See the hilarious clip on digitalUrban. However some people have grown so fond, or indeed started hating Google so much they might start their own project either way. You can now build your own Google Street View car. You have to start from scratch, though, but most likely you already own most of the ingredients needed.

What better way to explore the urban streets around you than in a pimped car in Street View style? The detailed instructions can be found HERE. And this really means detailed instruction. Yu will learn that this project need (x2) wooden board 40 x 23 x 1 cm (center box) and (x1) 50 meter roll of white duct tape for example. For full details refer to
The prototype was developed by F.A.T. for a workshop in Berlin last year. They are very much anti Google and make the most of taking the piss out of the big brand, and marketing wise this is definitely a strategy for an art project. Here is the documentation clip posted on vimeo (includes some background and detail) by F.A.T. Some scenes are stunts, where other are real, never mind.

via urbanophil

Friday, 12 March 2010

Might Light Show You the Way

This week a new guidance system for the 'Quartier des Spectacle' in Montreal was officially unveiled. It is a light projection based signal system to help visitors find their way through the cultural district. As part of its Lighting Plan, the Quartier des spectacles is exploring the possibilities of light for creating signage and expressing identity. A recent pilot project experiments with projecting light onto the pavement to mark the urban landscape. This intervention, realized as part of the Montreal All-Nighter, reinforces the brand image of the cultural heart of the metropolis by bringing together light and graphic design.

Image taken from Quartie des Spectacles on flickr

The basic idea really to guide pedestrians and after having seen the ultimate promotion clip on the culture district's website one knows why pedestrian guidance might be needed, this is a busy place. There are a lot of events and activity generally happening simultaneously and a efficient and in this case fun tool to support orientation is definitely a great way to go about it.
It very much reminds me of the street gaming project last year that was organised in three competing cities in the UK. Coverage HERE. They also used light projections to guide the players. In addition the game also responded and recorded the players performance, guess the interactivity for the Montreal project could be extended beyond the synchronization with the traffic lights. But still a very interesting project that surprises. The project was realized in collaboration with the City of Montreal, particularly the Bureau des festivals et des événements, the Service de police (SPVM) and the City’s traffic experts, Artistic Directors: Ruedi Baur + Jean Beaudoin, Intégral.

Thursday, 11 March 2010

Local Tweets Between the Buildings of Central London

The Twitter data is still top of the list and we are experimenting currently with different models in Google Earth.
Here we have a version using the 3D London Model developed here at CASA.
In the flight through you can now see where the tweets actually were sent and in what context. It covers currently central London using approximately 10,000 tweets only, because we are experiencing performance problems. We are working on it and hopefully will have a solution shortly.

Book - Temporal Urban Preview 2nd

The publication has been reworked and we can now feature an updated version of the preview. See previous version HERE. We also offer a few more pages for you to read. Not much sorry. Each chapter is lead in by an essay, each written by an academic or professional with a specific interest and expertise in the particular topic. It will set the scene to the topic and beyond.
The book is illustrated with 400 tiny graphics in black and white. The content is full indexed to find tags easily. References and links in the text are fully ported and are directly accessible through the blog, so no tedious typing here.

Contributors: Sandra Abegglen, Matthew Dance, Jeff Ho, Ana Rebelo, Luis Suarez, Zahra Azizi

The preview below is really only a preview. Intro and outro are more or less complete, each chapter is only present with the first page of each section. But it should give you an idea of what the book will be like.
Anyway, also the cover now goes bold very much in the sense of the recent trend of pimped publication. You can see this as an homage to all these books that appear big and bold, but actually have some really ephemeral content. Feedback welcome! If you would like to have a look at the full publication drop me a line and I can give you access.

Tuesday, 9 March 2010

Space Flight and Clouds of Tweets

The recent Twitter data for one London Weekend has been re-rendered as a clip by DigitalUrban. Earlier version can be found HERE.
It is the same data with 60,000 geo referenced Tweets in London over a weekend from Friday evening to Monday morning. This visual is now also using the new navigation tool, the 3D Connextion 'Space Navigator', a pretty awesome tool for navigation in Google Earth for example.

CLip by DigitalUrban and Music - 'Social Awkwardness' by Xanthe over on unsigned bands.

Monday, 8 March 2010

1,000,000 Scenes

A timeLapse of time lapses you could call this one. I think it simply makes of a great collection of different little scenes that were recycled in this collage. It is beautiful and the short scenes, showing only a glimpse of what might has happened or might happen still, is more of a collection of extended photographs where the shutter wouldn't close and like with a phone conversation as one party doesn't hang up the phone properly and the other can hear the following conversation, this strip of scenes take us through the variety of landscapes and cities, stages and skies on a trip to catch glimpses of time and space.

Friday, 5 March 2010

Book - Unbuilt Masterworks - What we Could Live in

Since designing is a process there are many different outcomes, twists and bends, interruptions or even terminations that can occur or most likely will happen at some point. This is definitely the interesting part of the work. Especially if it combines with routine and a stock of knowledge and memory that one can put into a new process. Taken this approach to the extreme would mean that there isn't really a beginning or an end, or there isn't a solution or a product, but probably a milestone or just a change in program. This is probably what the author, Will Jones, of the book 'Unbuilt Masterworks of the 21st Century' thought when he decided to put all the binned proposals into a publication, so that they live on. Other might argue that this is the final death of a project, but this is another discussion. However, 'Unbuilt Masterworks' is a fairly new, late 2009, Thames & Hudson publication, summarizing some of the great projects that never got translated into physical form beyond scaled down model version. If you start thinking about it, there must be hundreds and thousands of them. Even though the general architectural or planning practice is a commercial enterprise and economy oriented not at all the work they do brings up a building. So there must be a vast pool of examples from the species of the 'paper project' to choose from for such a project. This is reflected to some extend in the physical dimensions and the weight of the publication, It goes into the category of the coffee table books where one has to start worrying about the coffee table. But really it promises to be more than that, it could be a library of thoughts on how to deal with specific aspects and circumstances. And there is and already have been quite big changes in architecture since the beginning of this century, in terms of locations, technologies, construction methods, problem awareness, as well as theoretical discussions and interdisciplinary collaborations that start to transform approaches.

Image taken from alphagalileo / Sanaa, Learning Centre, Ecole Polytechnique Federale de Lausanne' in Switzerland.

A big question mark has to be put to the selection process. In the introduction it is pointed out that a range of sizes and shapes are selected for both projects and offices. However, flipping through the pages you will quickly realize that there are mainly well known architects, and of them a very special group represented. The introduction starts with a paragraph on Zaha, this sets out the standard. Projects, according to the index, tend to be located in the UK or the US (14 each), similar the offices.
There is no description about the selection process, however competitions are named as a good source in the introduction.
But then still, which entries from the particular competition are chosen? For example take the competition for the 'Learning Centre, Ecole Polytechnique Federale de Lausanne' in Switzerland. The project is represented with a proposal by Mecanoo from the Netherlands. You either love or hate their work, but for this particular competition there were some much better entries, for example Herzog and de Meuron or xxxxxx. Similar with the Gazprom Headquarters in Russia. A competition held between Herzog & De Meuron, RMJM, Rem Koolhaas's Office for Metropolitan Architecture, Jean Nouvel and Fuksas Associates. Only Studio Daniel Libeskind features in the publication.
Furthermore, the winners of the competition in Lausanne were SANAA with an absolute beautiful project, see the film HERE, that has now been built. Opening was only last month. In the light of such a dominating winner and a result that can not leave any designers dreams unrealized, the question creeps up what kind of master work can any of the loser projects be? In other words, following the rules of the competition, there is only one winner, it becomes obsolete to source masterpieces from this design machine.
Nice that the publication offers an index to locate keywords. It is built up of architect office, architect names, name of proposal, city and country, this really helps with navigating if you are like myself, a reader who does not start from the front and ends at the back. Also, the author offers a short introduction to each chapter, trying to provide a sense of content.
There are some elements and question that pop up while going through the book that would definitely need to be put up for discussion. Those have to do with design, organisation and selection. In the following some examples to illustrate these points.
The Battersea Powerstation comes up twice with a proposal by Arup (Advanced Geometry Unit) in the section Masterplans and once in the section Housing with a part of this masterplan, this time designed by ARUP Associates.
The other multipel featured project location is the site of the former World Trade Center in Manhatten, New York. Three projects feature, FOA, Foster and Partners and Rafael Vinola Architects with Frederic Schwarz, Shigeru Ban and Ken Smith.
Jean Nouvell has some really nice projects in this book. i.e Guggenheim Museum in Mexico, W Hotel in United Arabique Emirates and the Performing Arts Centre in South Korea.
There are some questions about the structure and design of the publication. Three chapters seem to cover similar topics. Chapter one 'Arts and Entertainment', 'Museums' and 'Culture and Education'. You end up with the 'National Portrait Gallery' in chapter one, 'Arts and Entertainment', but all the other museums are in chapter four 'Museums'. Similar the visitor centre projects for Stonehenge and Sherwood Forest, could be in the 'Culture and Education' chapter instead of 'Arts and Entertainment'. Similarly chapter five is 'Bridges and Towers' as if these two types have anything in common other than the s in the end of the word, similar 'Work and Travel' which fetures a Music Centre that could be in chapter one. The only chapter that is clear with its title is chapter three 'Mater Plans'. However, I guess simply the classification is not clear and this is confusing. Categories are always the toughest part of any organization and this was part of the critique in a number of previous reviews.
Besides the structure there are also some glitches with the graphic design of the publication. The organization of the individual pages are not always clear. Sometimes you have text above the project title and sometimes there is background shading across an illustration.

Image taken from / An outside view, looking towards the building / Mammoth.

Since these are unbuilt works, it all comes down to the visuals. This is enforced, because the text in this publication is unfortunately not representative which helps to turn this 'library' into a picture book.
The top five chosen by urbanTick are: Jean Nouvel with 'Guggenheim Museum' in Mexico, as well as the 'Performing Arts Centre' in South Korea. UN studio with 'Ciuda del Motor' in Spain, OMA with something that could already be a classic and probably is something of a dinosaur in here. It actually dates from 1996 and why it made it into a 21st century book, I don't know. Anyway, the 'Hyperbuilding' and also Antoine Predock with the 'World Mammoth and Permafrost Museum' in Russia (this would most likely be number one). There are also some really bad examples in terms of visuals, but we won't talk about those. Much more exciting are the classics. Can you believe, projects likely not even ten years old and unbuilt, but classics? We'll actually yes, they are and you definitely know them. If not you have to buy the book and find out about them. To name a few: Dillier and Scofidio with the 'Eyebeam Museum of Art and Technology', OMA as before, Foreign Office Architects with the Ground Zero proposal 'World Trade Center Tower 1', or Daniel Liebeskind's V&A Extension.
However, in the end there will always be questions asked about something labled a 'library'. In general the author does a good job and it is an interesting collection of visualisations that are clearly part of the visual image of architecture of the 21st Century. If you are interested in typologies, materials or concepts this is not the place to find answers, but a starting point.

Some further reading on the topic might well be of interest. Once you start on this topic of the thought about, but unrealised there is a whole cave to discover. Some starting points might be 'Unbuilt New York', a last year strated thing that includes an iPhone app, might convince you, or an article on BLDGBLOG on 'Unbuilt Australia'.

Jones, W., 2009. Unbuilt Masterworks of the 21st Century: Inspirational Architecture for the Digital Age, Thames & Hudson.

Thursday, 4 March 2010

Digital Footprints - Bartlett AAC

I will be giving a talk today showing investigations on a city level using digital footprint data. I was invited to talk at the MSc for Adaptive Architecture and Computation at the Bartlett School of Architecture. 'Digital Footprints / Tracing Bodies Through Narratives of the Everyday' will be looking at temporal aspects of citizens trails, data collection and visualisation.
New material processed from our Twitter project will feature as an example.
The talk will focus on digital aspects of the data, but still I would like to draw the connections to the physical aspects, as well as very importantly to the people themselves.
After the talk the students will be presenting some of the work they are developing at the moment and have a discussion.

Imge by UrbanTick / Story board One.

Wednesday, 3 March 2010

Book - Cities of Change

A truly nice book worth having. Well, yes I know it is odd to start the review with the conclusion, but there is not much more needed to be said. A Birkhauser publication usually would not let you down and this one is no exception. But however, a good publication also needs some good substance to it and only if the two meet up it will be a truly nice book. Probably the only thing irritating is the preface, which you'd better skip because this puts you definitely in the wrong mind set.
'Cities of Change Addis Ababa - Transformation Strategies for Urban Territories in the 21st Century' by Marc Angelil and Dirk Hebel is, as mentioned above by Birkhauser. The book reports on the progress of an ongoing research at the ETH under Professor Marc Angelil (His practice is AGPS). The work published here is the result of three years of student work dating from the years 2006/07, 2007/08 and 2008/09. The introduction summarizes: "The research investigates the performance of cities in view of resource fluxes - the interplay and transformation of stocks and flows of recourses according to changing parameters in time." The reoccurring 'awareness' here really is "...that the only constant is change, ..."

Image by urbanTick / Cities of Change Addis Ababa book cover.

Since this is research conducted in the learning environment with students it has adopted a rather strict and structured approach. This makes perfect sense, in the light of changing groups of students over the duration of the investigation, but especially to allow for a structured leaning environment, while still keeping an open mind for the research. This is a very challenging setup, but I believe this publication demonstrates that any academic research short comings are definitely made up by the quality of the students learning output. It is to some extend a catalogue of student work produced, but the integration as research work is so clever that you wont necessarily notice.
The investigation is structured in two trajectories: "The first ... follows the principle of conducting in-depht academic work in specific fields of inquiry, highlighting particular themes and integrating input from supporting disciplines. THe second trajectory, on questions of urban design, situates the work in the context of design research studio, a workshop setting in which concepts are tested through specific design propositions, aiming for the synthesis of findings from an array of fields." Clearly the publication explores the intersection of the two trajectories. This is organised in seven topics called the 'flux model'. These areas of change are: Stocks and flow of 'people', 'space', 'material', 'capital', 'information' and 'energy'. Each chapter is introduced with a theoretical text, outlining and extending on the explanations given in the introduction part. Mixed with the design projects each chapter also contains theoretical, subject or contextual text pieces.
The surprising element here probably is that the publication does not close with a summary or conclusion. But probably this has to be looked for in the introduction, like in this review, the important things can be said up front without sliming away any of the interest for the further content.
To open the debate here, one of the points I believe to be important to discuss is the structure chosen for such a research project. As outlined before, the context of design studio work clearly has its requirements, but for a truly 'in flux' practice the static outline of the seven chapters can probably not sustain itself over a longer period, since "...that the only constant is change, ..."

Image taken from Google Maps / Addis Ababa aerial view of the city centre.

Angelil, M.M. & Hebel, D., 2009. Cities of Change: Addis Ababa: Transformation Strategies for Urban Territories in the 21st Century, Birkhauser Verlag AG.

Tuesday, 2 March 2010

London Twitter Cloud

Together with the tweet-O-meter project run at CASA as part of the NeISS research project we have collected location tagged tweets around London (M25). As described in an earlier post on this HERE, the idea is to capture the urban narrative. The current data covers a whole weekend from Friday evening to Monday morning and the set holds some 380'000 individual tweets. However this brakes down to 60'000 truly geo referenced tweets, by 5'500 individual users. The thing is, that these are only the mobile tweets and they are captured only if the locations sharing is activated in the twitter profile. Still this makes an average of 10.6 tweets per mobile user over the weekend. Overall we have 39'222 individual users witch makes some 9.7 tweets. So the mobile users seem to message slightly more, but not significantly as one could maybe expect.
In terms of density per location as one could expect the focus is in the centre. There are local hotspots as the weekend progresses, such as Kings Cross and Old Street. But then there seems to be a accumulation of density along the transport lines into and out of the centre.
To visualise the temporality of the data tweets are in the below clip output as a message cloud rising and hovering above London. It is a simple time-space aquarium were the time is plotted as the hight information. The later in the weekend the tweet is sent the higher above the city it floats. As the density develops the low times can be clearly spotted, when it thins out the lines and London sleeps. The animation is rendered in Google Earth, with the KML file brought in through a VB script from Excel. Once set up this is quite a flexible combination. However, the KML file can get quite big, since there is a lot of information contained with all the messages.

Monday, 1 March 2010

Book - Asia Beyond Growth

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 / 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.