Friday, 30 April 2010

Indiemapper - Mapping to Go

Mapping has become a big thing in our everyday lives. This goes hand in hand with stepped up efforts to collect but also release data. It has become a data war with big web players such as Google, but also traditional produces such as OS or the sensus data.
The bottleneck currently is more the traditional software tools to actually work with the data and produce meaningful output.
So it is great to get news about a new effort to open this up and make it more accessible and intuitive. Here we go INDIEMAPPER!
It is an online flash based mapping tool developed over the past two years by Axis Maps.

Image taken from Indiemapper / A map of Hurricane Gustav showing its path and wind speed, 25 August to 2 September 2008. The reference map data, including bathymetry, is from Natural Earth. The hurricane data is from Geocommons Finder.

It offers all you you can think of: Unlimited online storage, Secure data handling and storage, No software to install, Mac, PC or Linux ,Constant secure backups, Built-in collaboration tools, Premium customer support. A mapping tool to go really, work from were ever you have access, don't worry about the data. All for $30 a month, you can get a 30 day free trial to test it. For academic use there is a reduced pricing.

Indiemapper also integrates with independent cartographic tools on the web like ColorBrewer, TypeBrewer and Natural Earth.

"Indiemapper is a Web-based app that loads geo-data, allows custom control over mapmaking, and exports static maps in vector and raster formats.
We've balanced indiemapper so you have the tools you need to make beautiful thematic maps without overwhelming you with hundreds of obscure GIS functions. Nothing is more than 2 clicks away. This keeps mapmaking simple, fast, and fun." (Indimapper)
Find a detailed introduction on the Cartogrammer Blog or of course infos directly on the Indimapper page, this also features a blog with updates, also see the review on FlowingData.

Black and White Time

I just love the black and white timeLapse stuff. This one is some 'Mixed Bag' with everything from architecture to nature - Yes the cricket is my favourite ,this sequence is very beautiful - with some tilt shift too.
SHot with Nikon D90 I Nikkor 24-85/2.8-4.0 I Nikkor 80-200/2.8 I Tokina 12-24/4.0 by Ben.

Thursday, 29 April 2010

AR in Your Shoe

Walking the city in your shoe is one thing, but walking the internet in your shoe is quite another. So far a few key strokes and mainly the one finger to scroll and click the mouse were the tools you used to navigate the internet. This is so 2000 and has completely changed now. Adidas shows how you can navigate with your sneakers!
They have launched anew edition, the AR GAME PACK SNEAKERS and it is integrated with a new platform Adidas Neighbourhood.
The whole thing is based on AR augmented reality technology and the software will read the tag printed on the tongue of the shoe.

Image taken from Adidas / Print file to manufacture your own tag for a game teaser. Pint and fold to use as a mokup in case you havent bought the shoe yet.

So of you go running trough the Adidas Neighbourhood and chatting up the girls on the street cornet, playing the streets in the hood and hang out with the buddies. Down the steps out the door, the city is all yours!
Dream on and if you like this idea don't read any further. Well, actually it si not quite like this. You wil find yourself squat in ten centimeter of your screen in your half dark empty room trying to line up the tag with the webcam and SHOOT star ship troopers!
Oh my goodness how boring is that. Its just another one person shooter. Instead of the mouse, the joystick you wiggle your shoe - with your hands. I have to confess I never was a big fan of one person shooters. Played them occasionally, but haven't for a long time. And the combination of shooting and sneakers is no really not the first one I construct, but here we are.
So much exiting stuff coud be done, at least some GTA style of interaction?
Never mind, this is great and I love it anyway. Someone will come up with a better scenarion. The combination of commercial goods and virtual content has so much potential for exciting application that this is definitely a great first move. The internet of things comes to your feet. This is definitely what we are going to see a lot in the coming month.
There was already quite a some stuff last year, with BMW's augmented comercial for the new Z4 for example or the Tales of Things project, Lego Digital Box and Adidas.
Both LEGO and Adidas are actually based on the metaio platform: "As a pioneer in the area of augmented reality (AR) technology, metaio develops software products for visual interactive solutions seamlessly combining real and virtual elements. Based on the software platform Unifeye, 3D-animations can be integrated seamlessly into the real-user`s environment." They have also developed the junaio software an AR platform for mobile devices with a developer API, very similar to layar.
So it is a war out there and a lot of companies are battling for a few users in a emerging field. In this sense first person shooter is not so much out of place.

Image taken from hypebeat / the guys out in the hood, this is street life and this wold be what we want to see. The geolocation game Urban Defender in this sense was a lot more inspiring, but the two seem very much related and one almost want to merge them. It just needs a bit more action than just shooting.

Wednesday, 28 April 2010

Tales Of Things - Interview with Ralph Barthel of the Developer Team

Tales of Things, the new service to link digital memories and physical objects has gone online recently. It was covered widely in the media, from the New Scientist, to WIRED and the Guardian, as well as of course on urbanTick HERE and HERE. The internet of things has come to life. It is now in your pocket on your iPhone and ready to interact 24/7. How and why this is happening now with this new project out of the ToTeM labs is the question put at the initiators. In this interview Ralph Barthel, from the developer team behind the service, explains the context and the details of this project.

urbanTick: Tell us something about your background and your role in the project and of course tell us about your most precious tale!

Ralph: My research and work background is in the areas of social computing, design research and new media system development with specific applications for learning and knowledge building. In this first phase of the project I was responsible for the development of the backend web application of the Tales of Things service and some aspects of the Interaction Design. In the next few months I will start to explore additional interactions and novel user interfaces to engage with the Tales of Things service.
My first tale on Tales of Things was about an old audio tape recorder (Grundig TK 23) that my grandfather owned. It was built in 1963 and is extremely heavy by today’s standards. Interacting with this thing brings back joyful memories from my youth.

Grundig TK 23 Advertisement
Image taken from TalesOfTings website / The Grundig TK23 documentation from the 60's. Find out more about the Grandfather tale on TalesOfThings.

urbanTick: Can you describe the development process of this project.

Ralph: In October 2009 Andy Hudson-Smith, the project leader here at CASA, brought Martin De Jode, Benjamin Blundell and me together to work on the TOTeM (Tales of Things and Electronic Memory) project. The TOTeM project is funded through a £1.39 million research grant from the EPSRC to explore social memory in the emerging culture of the Internet of Things. Five universities in the UK (Edinburgh College of Art, University College London, Brunel University, The University of Salford and The University of Dundee) are collaborating in this project. The scope of our initial work up to the launch in April 2010 was very much predetermined and detailed by the TOTeM project plan. Consequently we soon started building and evaluating prototypes of our web application and mobile clients with the aim to refine them through formative evaluation with project partners, advisors and selected user groups. In the next phase of this project the Tales of Things service will enable us and our partner institutions to study the relationship of personal memories and old objects when mediated through tagging technologies.

urbanTick: Technical difficulties and special solutions?

Ralph: From a technical point of view the main difficulty in an applied project like TOTeM is to leverage the capabilities of broadly available tagging and ubiquitous computing technologies while making them accessible for a large number of people. In this context it is important to go beyond the step of providing a proof of concept (which is the purpose of many research projects) but to create a sustainable and maintainable technological infrastructure for years to come. Within the constraints of a research project with a small technical core team it can be difficult to balance innovation with providing basic support services. This tension cannot readily be resolved and in the next few months also depending on the uptake of the service we will see how this will develop.

urbanTick: In this sense Tales of Things is not a pure research project. What are the aims and who are you working together for the development and for the application (service)?

Ralph: The core development team does currently all development work and hosting in-house. Our project partners in Salford are exploring the possibilities of commercialisation. We are planning to collaborate with libraries and museums and to be present Tales of Things technologies at events and festivals. TOTeM will for example be in May in Manchester at the Future Evertything Festival.

urbanTick: Describe the basic steps to take part in the tales of things project.

Ralph: To start people can go to and browse around and have a look at some of the tales that have been already added. They can register on the site for a free account and can download the iPhone application that reads Tales of Things QR Codes and enables people to create new tales when they interact with a tagged object. After loging in to our web services people can create a new things. To do this they would typically provide some information about the thing such as description and title and a photo of the object if available. In the process of creating a thing they will also be asked to provide a first tale for the thing they are adding. People can then generate and print the QR Codes of their things and comment on other peoples tales of things. The website provides further map views that display where in the world the tales have been created.

urbanTick: The tale is refering to the memory someone has of a thing. As we all know these memories are variable and can be difficult to pin down. Can you describe the strategy you developed to can ephemeral thoughts, what does a tale consist of?

Ralph: A tale starts with a brief textual description and a title of the tale. References to any addressable media for example from services like YouTube, Flickr, Audioboo can be added to a tale. Currently files from the three mentioned services are displayed in an integrated media player interface. All other URL’s are linked as additional resources. Finally a geolocation can be added to a tale.

Image taken from TalesOfThings / The tale of the Banksy maid in Camden, long gone but still here.

urbanTick: The project has only launched two weeks back on the 17 of April. How was it received and how will you develop the platform in the coming weeks?

Ralph: It was receiving quiet a bit of media coverage for example in the Guardian Technology blog or BBC Radio 4. The media feedback was largely positive. There were also some critical voices that doubt that people will socialize around tagged objects. Obviously this is something that time will tell. The media coverage brought some attention to the project and many people visited the website and several hundred already signed up for user accounts.
At this stage we will closely follow how people engage with the Tales of Things service. At this point we are looking for different uses and the values and meaning that people assign to Tales of Things in several pilot studies with different communities. The results from this piloting stage will inform further development efforts. We also aim to support additional mobile platforms such as Android and to develop an API so that other services can connect to Tales of Things.

urbanTick: There are a number of specific terms frequently used to describe aspects of this project. Some are borrowed, some are newly defined and other are everyday words. Can you explain the "thing", the "tale" and the "tag"?

Ralph: A thing refers to any object (e.g. industrial objects, tools, architecture) people would like to link an individual memory to. A tale is story of a personal memory that someone associates with this thing. A tale is told on the platform using different digital media (text, video, images, audio). Video, Image and Audio media can be taken from the web and users can create textual content through our web service. Consequently people can link any addressable digital media file in the creative storytelling process. The thing and the tale(s) are then linked via the tag. This is a unique identifier in the form of an QR Code. This tag is machine readable and can be attached to the thing. The Tales of Things service generates QR Codes for each thing automatically. We also have the option to use RFID identifiers to mark an object. This emerging technology is known for example from the Oystercards. We are curently developing an Tales of Things RFID reader to further explore the possibilities of this technology. For now any existing RFID tags can be linked to the things in our database.

urbanTick: The project could be classified as being another social networking site. Is it, and if so what is different, or how would you characterize it instead?

Ralph: In the concept of Tales of Things the physical interaction with tagged objects is important. People can only add new tales about things if they physically interact with an object through reading its tag. Certain permissions can only be shared and passed along through the interaction with the object which changes the configuration of the server. While people can view tales of things on our website they can only add new tales when interacting with the tags. Consequently the website, that has elements of social networking sites, is only a part of the entire service experience of Tales of Things. The project aims broader to explore implications of a service space in which enabled through ubiquitous forms of computing physical world and cyberspace are interlinked. The project is interdisciplinary so that the research inquiry includes aspects of Human-Computer Interaction, Art Practise, Anthropology and Commerce.

Image taken from / The World of Things, map on the project site showing the location of the objects and tales. It is also possible to track objects as it loggs each location it was scanned.

urbanTick: Potential of the internet of things?

Ralph: There is a certain anticipation that the Internet of Things will eventually lead to a technical and cultural shift as societies orient towards ubiquitous forms of computing. The development of technology and practises are often co-evolving so that it is important to understand possible implications. Internet Of Things applications can be complex services that evolve in space and time. The experience of using an Internet of Things service spans several user interfaces and the design space encompasses physical artifacts in the real world as well as conceptual artifacts. Personally I am interested in exploring human-computer interaction (HCI) in this design space as it poses specific methodological, ethical and philosophical challenges that need to be addressed when design IoT applications.

urbanTick: The Internet of Things is not new, why do you think it is emerging just now again?

Ralph: The idea of tagging of things and networked objects is by no means new. What has changed in recent years is that enabling technologies such as internet-enabled smartphones have become more affordable, usable and widespread. More and more people carry powerful small computational devices with them. This has led recently to a renaissance of Internet of Things applications used in a non-industrial context which can be witnessed by services like Foursquare or Pachube.

urbanTick: Critical mass for the internet of things to enter as a important player?

Ralph: Internet of Things applications are already important and wide-spread in many industries such a logistics. The TOTeM project is concerned with a different application of the Internet of Things outside industry practise. I can’t say what the critical mass for our project is. The critical mass is not necessarily the most important aspect of the project. It might very well be that the technologies that are developed as part of this project have the potential to add value to the social practises of specific communities. Such findings would be equally important. Tales of Things is after all a research project albeit an applied one.

urbanTick: What is your vision for this project?

Ralph: The partners in TOTeM are from five universities and have different backgrounds and might therefore have different visions. From a research perspective I am mainly interested in studying and exploring the Internet of Things as hybrid interaction design space and how IoT applications can be used for learning and knowledge building in everyday activities. From a long-term perspective it would be great to see a sustained engagement of many people with the Tales of Things service.

Monday, 26 April 2010

Lisbon Traffic Visualised

For his Masters Thesis, Pedro Cruz has developed a visualisation of Lisbon traffic. It represents 24 hours in the capital of Portugal.
The data is derived from 1534 vehicles recorded over one month. All the records are then put into a 24 hour stack.
The colours represent the speed of the traffic with green being fast and orange/red being slower. The main roads to bring traffic through the city with a higher speed show up in green where as the local roads beautifully draw the tight network in between.

Image by Pedro Cruz / Vehicule traffic in Lisbon on a Friday, visulisation inspired by Aron Koblins's flight patterns.

The visualisations are built in processing and Cruz experimented with a number of different typs, each emphasising a different aspect. He eventually settled for one that is combining the speed as well as the focus on the main road. I am not sure however what the trailings/diagonals, between points actually mean. Guess it could be were the tracking signal was ost, but that seems a bit too geometrical for this. On the other hand as an area it also doesn't make too much sense. Cruz describes it as a visual thing.
Interestingly the speed on the local roads seems to be fairly constant, were as the speed on the main roads seems to slow down at night. This is surprising, since one would think that during the day there is more traffic and drivers would naturally slow down or even get slowed down by clunked up roads. on the other hand, at night there is more room on these roads and drivers would go faster and race around the city.
However this is great visualisation work. For more such visualisation visit Cruz's blog or his vimeo channel.

Found via .

Friday, 23 April 2010

Book - World of Giving

"Giving is an act that improves the capacity of the other person." we can learn in this recent Lars Mueller Publications with the fitting title 'World of Giving'. The book is by Jeffrey Inaba / C-Lab and Katharine Meagher and a collaboration between Columbia University GSAPP, the New Museum ad Lars Mueller Publishers. So in this sens a complicated construction, but one that could prove very productive and positive.

Image by urbanTick / A spread of the book showing maps and text.

Similar the topic, 'Giving' is not obviously the topic one would expect from such a prominent collaboration, but that probably has more to do with the cliches attributed to the term 'giving'. But as the introduction of the book demonstrated the world of giving, in the sense of the book's title, is extremely divers and opens a different alley to approach widely discussed topics. This mainly because it is such an everyday term and as " is so ubiquitous that it often goes unseen, ... It is even said that it is most virtuos when it goes unnoticed." Further on in the book the focus shifts more towards large scale 'giving' in the work of NGO's, World Bank or 'professional givers' such as nuns (were in 'Givingness is Next to Godliness' the term 'economy of spirituality' is introduced). In a sense this moves away a bit from the everyday sense of the community 'giving' or even the 'giving' between friends, a Birthday present perhaps.
For this, although, the content is researched over three years and a number of global 'giving' networks are highlighted and discussed. The books has come out of an exhibition project by Jeffrey Inaba and C-Lab with the title 'Donor Hall' at the New Museum New York. Yes, the project realised by Sanaa.
The book's style at first remembers me very much of the book 'Massive Change' by Bruce Mau and Jennifer Leonard. Not exactly sure why this is. Maybe because of the direct and a little bit out of the blue introduction part at the beginning of the publication? By the way, would be interesting to look up a few of the people who contributed to the 'Massive Change' to see how it developed in the past six years.
In terms of design the publication is a pure as possible, very simple. The only element are different colours used for, not sure, chapters? The print is not in black, but in colour and this ranging from blue to orange. A very simple tools to structure and intensify the content. However, it's got drawbacks. The colours change often between the chapters because of the production. Each booklet is printed with one colour and the chapters often dont fit the booklets. Nevertheless, I very much like the way colour is utilised here as a real element of the book.

Image by urbanTick / The colour code that runs through the book.

Don't expect too much from the book, it is very much about what the title already sais 'World of Giving". It is about global players and interlinkages of givers and beneficiaries and this very much in a general sense, eg. I give you because I think you are in need.
The book does hint at a debate about these different and possible ways of communication but for my understanding does not go into depth at this point with the examples. On the other hand one can only ask for more because the product has already lit a fire of interest for the topic. And definitely the book's focus on global mechanisms and strategies of giving at large with all sorts of different agendas, backgrounds or goals is revealing.
The books first chapter 'Giving' by Jeffrey Inaba can be read HERE on the C-Lab website. However you won't get the nice differences in colour that there are in the book.

Inaba, J. & Meagher, K., 2010. The World of Giving, Lars Muller Publishers.

Thursday, 22 April 2010

TimeLapse Urban History - the Growth of Charlotte NC

The artist Rob Carter has put together a amazing visualisation of the growth of a urban metropolis. With a number of sheets and cutouts he takes us through the history. This is depicting the growth of Charlotte, North Carolina. He describes the projects on his page as: "Metropolis is a quirky and very abridged narrative history of the city of Charlotte, North Carolina. It uses stop motion video animation to physically manipulate aerial still images of the city (both real and fictional), creating a landscape in constant motion. Starting around 1755 on a Native American trading path, the viewer is presented with the building of the first house in Charlotte. From there we see the town develop through the historic dismissal of the English, to the prosperity made by the discovery of gold and the subsequent roots of the building of the multitude of churches that the city is famous for. Now the landscape turns white with cotton, and the modern city is ‘born’, with a more detailed re-creation of the economic boom and surprising architectural transformation that has occurred in the past 20 years."
And actually it is not only talking about history of course there is a future scenario involved. Something we might wish to some cities, but not to others, references we all have. But if the vulcanos on small Island continue to burb ashes into the sky, especially if Eyjafjallajokull's bigger brother decides it is time, not only the airspace over Europe, but some real cities might be covered in vulcano ashes knee deep. Note sure what the MET predicts regarding this, but they most likely have a model for it. After all they have to keep their £33m supercomputer busy.

Full version can be seen HERE, on the artist's website. Found via brandavenue.

Urban Defender

Leaving the mark in the city is part of the identification process. The memory hels to orientate and shape a personal image of the city. The image is shape through the interaction and influenced by a whole palet of factors. On frequently used routes this memory is refreshed and sharpened where as it can fade in certain locations. The idea to mark a place as mine, yours or theirs can take a number of shape and we are all very familiar with the fences, walls and signs imposing restriction on everyday activities. However usually this becomes more obvious with temporary restrictions or abrupt changes. Groups and institutions can impose restrictions for other, but not only using fences. Gated communities are only one way to mark a wealthy area another solution is for example the house prices or not to provide public transport.
But also on a daily basis marks are left on the way. The graffiti or the tag on the wall, the carved name in the tube seat or the note on the toilet door. We can also leave the digital marks with Brightkite or now with Tales of Things leave a mark with a digital content.

Image taken from Urban Defender page / An earlier prototype and it's content.

A game developed at the Zürcher Hochschule der Künste id picking up on this idea of marking the territory and let you play the city very much in the sense of social gangs. Urban Defender is a location aware ball game that lets you virtually mark urban elements by trowing the ball on the wall. The players get an audio and visual feedback from the ball on who 'owns' the feature and it can then be taken over.
"The ball itself is a prototype combination of an Arduino, Accelerometer, vibration motor, LEDs, XBee, batteries, and wire all packed inside of an industrial rubber gym ball." (hack a day) The idea is that via the GPS the bal is aware of its location and processes the data accordingly.
A detailed documentation of the construction and programming process can be found on the Urban Defender page.
However much you know would liket to go out and play, it is still a prototype. A few problems the developer team still has to solve. One is definitely the GPS. Having worked with the technology a bit, one would need an extremely good receiver to geta clear signal, for not talking about on witch side of the road you are throwing the bal at the wall. The urban environment is tricky for the GPS and reflections on tal facades can easily give you a wrong position.
Nevertheless, this is a gaming concept that captures the imagination and I would ove to see it developed further. Game On!

Found via Pop up City.

Wednesday, 21 April 2010

Space Time an Overview of Repetition

I will be giving a talk today at the London Metropolitan University at the MA Cities, Design and Urban Cultures lead by Ines Weizmann.
The topic is Time Space focusing on how the space is influenced by the cultural convention over time. If we define time as a cultural convention, in the sense of Thrift, I will ask the question of what the meaning of space can be. My Hypothesis for this talk is that both are constructed through the elements of time and place, in the sense of Tuan. An important role also plays the visualisation of the problem and I will use the well know examples by Hagerstrand and Debord to illustrate the problems surrounding the politics of temporal patterns. We will look at aspects of repetition and cycles regarding the question of contraints in the sense of Hagerstrand. His Time-Space Aquarium has widely been critisised for a number of points, and his definition of the contrains is one of them. In terms of politics of the temporal pattern I guess this aspect is crucia. Hagerstrand defines three types of constraint. Capability constraints refer to the limitations on human movement due to physical or biological factors. Thus, for example, a person cannot be in two places at one time. A person also cannot travel instantaneously from one location to another.
Coupling addresses the fact that in certain situations individuals are connected to one another, as for example in the morning rush hour.
Authority is a ‘domain’ or area that is controlled by a group or institution restricting access for other individuals or groups as in a hospital, a military base or a private club.
In an overall sense the concept of constraints refers to the possibility of an unconstrained existence. This view is fundamental to the urbanMachine, the setting were we are all users of the city as a service provided.
Aspects of creation and capacity to shape the immediate surrounding could become important in a new way to look at urban planning. In the context of current technologies and emerging applications, where temporal information, services and participation play a dominant role, I believe it would be important to rethink these static concepts.

Tuesday, 20 April 2010

Ashes, Roses and the Routine we Take for Granted

It is difficult to get fresh, organic, Kenyan roses these days in London. Beside the roses a number of other goods are getting rare or have already vanished from the shelfs in UK and other north European shops. It is not that customers would buy more of those goods, but it is impossible to import due to the closure of air traffic in large parts of Europe due to the vulcano Eyjafjallajokull spitting a massive cloud of ashes into the sky. Air traffic closure in northern Europe is now in its fifth day and symptoms are spreading beyond the airline industry. Affecting everyday life situation are most likely to be observed on the shelves of your supermarket. Special goods, such as freshly cut flowers as well as fruit and vegetable are among the first products to go missing, eg sell out. The UK currently imports about 40% of their goods. The bulk arrives by boat, but specific ones are brought in by air fright. Today across the EU official are positive to be able to terminate the complete air lockdown in the early morning. However latest headlines on the BBC (21:26 GMT, Monday, 19 April 2010 22:26 UK) quote the MET to observe new clouds drifting from Island towards the UK and mainland Europe.

Ash Cloud Animation for the UK Met Office:

This shows the ash dispersion up to 20,000 feet across Europe from the Volcanic Ash Advisory Centre.  Advisories are issued every 6 hours.

Andy Hooper, a geologist who did his postdoctoral research at the University of Iceland’s Institute of Earth Sciences, pointed out in a blog post for Reuters on Monday that “it remains a very real possibility that the volcano will continue to erupt on-and-off for months to come, as occurred during the last eruptive period” at Eyjafjallajokull in 1821-23. Mr. Hooper added, “Like 1821-1823, this current eruption is likely to remain small in terms of volume, but in an age of mass aviation, a relatively small amount of erupted ash is having huge consequences.”
This event with complete flight ban compares only to the post 9/11 events and is now said to have cost the airline industry already more in terms of losses. The news report a £130 million loss per day for the industry.
I guess very few people have actually thought that something like this would ever happen. It caught everyone by surprise and in time for the UK school term start, after the Easter Brake, a number of teachers and pupils will be missing from the classroom. One million Britons are said to be abroad by Sunday 18 April. The latest development and the some history in maps back to the 21 of March can be found HERE. Latest news on real time flights and open or closed airports can be found on FlightRadar24.

An animation from the Norwegian Meteorological Institute, showing the projected dispersion of volcanic ash from the eruption in Iceland. Blogger Jonathan Crowe explains that the ash cloud is represented by areas colored black; areas colored yellow show where ash has fallen to earth by itself; areas colored red show where ash has fallen as a result of precipitation. The color scheme may owe something to that of Norway’s most famous volcano-inspired painting, “The Scream.”

The optimisation in food delivery and storage in the concepts of large retailers now leaves them with difficulties to fill the shelves. It is not a massive cries for that people had to go panic raid the stores, but it is visible on a shopping trip to your local store. The Guardian writes "The UK imports about 90% of its fruit and 60% of its vegetables. While the vast majority come by sea – Fair Trade bananas from the West Indies, for instance, are regularly delivered to Southampton and Portsmouth – some of the more exotic inhabitants of the UK's shops come by air."
The Telegraph reports "The ban on air freight has meant that fruits such as figs, papaya and coconuts, fresh flowers and pharmaceutical products – all of which are delivered by air – are not reaching their destinations in the UK. Air freight accounts for 25pc of the UK's international goods movements by value." and that was on day two of the events.
The tight interlink between city activities and the provision of food tell its own urban tale. Not that we are relying on Kenyan roses, but even essential goods have to be delivered into the urban areas from storage or directly from its production place. This logistical puzzle is increasingly optimised and trimmed to run on a short term basis. No longer the supermarkets sit on hugh stock pies. Space for storage is a expensive and they all want to be flexible and not sit on unwanted products. The result is an increasingly real-time provision of goods. This is is obviously no difference to the consumers if everything goes according to plan. However in extraordinary circumstances this can rather quickly leave large urban areas without the essentials. Now it is the fact ta airplanes can't fly earlier last year officials feared that the pig flue could leave the delivery chains understaffed and also leave supermarket shelves empty.

Image taken from frozenJuice

Monday, 19 April 2010

Romeo and Juliet on Twitter - Everyday Narrative

Twitter is all around and now it has center stage at the theater. Two weeks ago a play has launched on twitter, a sort of digital age Romeo and Juliet. It is a Royal Shakespeare Company RSC production in colaboration with Mudlark. Over five weeks five characters tweet their role through thir twitter account. You can follow and read as the event unfold on the urbanTick list.
Even though the action happens on twitter, involving the audience, there are some backup pages to tell the more contextual bit of the story. An important part is the blog at kleptojago, here the invisible Jago talks on his blog abou the events referring to the tweets of the protagonists. This is a very helpful element since the tweets are very spars.

Image taken from urbanTick/RomJul / The Romeo and Juliet play on twitter.

This is, for a number of points an interesting experiment, exploring the narrative capacity of the media probably being the most important one. Twitter is a social networking platform, based on short messages published in sequence. This provides a perfect platform for narratives. All you need are characters and a message. Well actually narratives can be a bit more complicated than that, but since most people have heard of Romeo and Juliet before an overal framework is given.
If you want Romeo and Juliet scenes are happing everyday al over the word on this platform and this new production being just one of them. You could create your own play by choosing a couple of your friends put them in a list and read as the action unfolds. And if using mobile gadgets to tweet from you even get a real location with it. A play in your town.
Surprisingly the RSC production is not using the location features. This would have been quite nice to have it unfolding in a real context. I suppose the producers were worried this would limit the range. For now it is a worldwide play with every reader imagining the events in her or his neighborhood. In this sense it is more sort of reading a book in real time.
Never before a production has followed you on the daily comute, directly come to your workplace, or entertained you as you wait for your date. The narrative gets completely entangled with your personal story and this is the truly exciting bit.
Full context on SuchTweetSurrow and read reviews on ThisIsLondon or the Guardian.

Thursday, 15 April 2010

The Internet of Things - Tags and Memory - Tales of Things

Linking thoughts, visions and memory to real object has so far been surprisingly difficult and complicated. Only when you start thinking about recording a message related to an object and making it available in relation, you realize how impossible this currently is. A number of projects are under way storing and making memories accessible such as the BBC Memoryshare. But it is not related to actual objects or locations.
Well actually not any longer this changes and the web of things becomes reality. Online projects are under development. Here at CASA we have just launched today a project specifically focused on the relationship on the object and the related memory: Tales of Things.
This project comes out of the Totem Labs funded by the Digital Economy and is developed in a collaboration between Brunel University, Edinburgh College of Art, University College London, University of Dundee, University of Salford. CASA is involved in the development of the technical elements of this project.
Tales of Things allows you to link any object with the internet as a place to store memory and thoughts. This link is established via an unique tag, a 2D barcode. This tag is machine readable and specific software can read it via built in cam or web cam and direct you to the linked content. The link can be any content from info and text to multimedia files.
This could become very interesting for trading, e.g. ebay and libraries or museums. The underlying concept is not new and visionairs have fantasised about it for long, but only now the technology and the practice is available to make it happen.
It is one of these ideas that could potentially change the way we interact and process data and information, in a very practical sense brings the virtual and the real world closer together.

Image taken from / Project logo.

It is currently a bit hard to get at these tags, I mean to find taged objects, until a number of stuff has been taged. So unless you start making your own, HERE, you can only follow other's tales.
It is simple to create your own. Take an picture of the Thing, upload it, give it a name and keywords so that others can find it. You can then write a blurb about your memory or paste the URL of anything from a video clip to a normal website to link it. So your all set! If someone scans the code, automatically the provided information and links will be shown. Your visions and thoughts or memories will be accessible to others.

The most important bit really is the iPhone app! It is available in the app store, in time for the launch, that was lucky guys!

The project has been presented at the CASA conference by Andy from DigitalUrban, it has a twitter account as well as a blog and first reviews and comments were published by the NewScientist, Wired and the Guardian.

So how does it work? Here is a first example, I created a note for one of my everyday objects and linked it to a clip on youtube. Get the iPhone app, scan the barcode and see where it takes you!


My Way - Abstract Maps

We can usually have it our way, especially using the digital media. There are so many ways and so many options we'll find something suitable for you. If not try Google or Spezify. Anyway in terms of mapping there is little choice. You can go for OSM, Google Maps, or StreetMap. How we find our way is extensively dominated by these services. In the streets of London people very often stand around at crossroads with an A4 printout of an internet map page to find their way. In everyday situations the classic map producers such as OS have little meaning. This ultimately is true too for the graphics used by these mapping services. These graphics take a dominating role and influence the way we navigate. This is one of the reasons I mainly use the satellite view, but stil this is a very specific representation. However as for example demonstrated by xxxx in his clip these map representations have become everyday objects we are very familiar with and more importantly we trust. Since we relay on it to navigate, we start to believe in it as a true representation of reality and therefor very deeply start to identify with the product.
Compared to proper maps eg. Kummerly und Frei, Schweizer Landestopographie or OS Master Maps, digital maps like Google Maps are extremely simple and cheep. And still or because of this they become so familiar so quickly.
Artists have quickly realised that this is a great opportunity to reflect on the way we are manipulated by a few providers of navigation graphics. One of them is Christoph Niemann and his Abstract City project is really a joy! Dive in and have it Your Way!

Images taken from byChristoph Niemann / Three individual maps from the Abstract City project

Wednesday, 14 April 2010

Logo City

The city built from logos by the french artist collaborative H5. The short with the title “Logorama” is entirely put together using familiar brand logos to represen the different elements of the city and you have the pringels man dring a truck past or the familiar Malibu Palms along the road or the windows live butterflies whizzing by.

Found vie urbanophil
17min version to be seen at

CASA Conference - Advances in Spatial Analysis and E-Social Science

A writeup (not mashup) or write along of the one day CASA conference at UCL - Advances in Spatial Analysis and E-Social Science. Comes in three sessions with presentations on current CASA research work and a punchline panel session at the very end.

Session One

Online exploration of cultural regions, migration and ethnicity using the geography of personal names 
by Paul Longley & Pablo Mateos
Paul Longley is talking about the Surname-Profiler at The first slide is showing a very early map outlining the origin of welsh names in 1881 and the change through to 1998. He then goes on to the profiler websites where they attempt to map the world surnames with origin and location. This database contains some 8 million surnames. Using some screenshots, Longley talks through the options and features of the page. The projects potential really is the visualisation of the spatial dimension of names currently but also over time. However this is not well demonstrated here. The project h sparked of a number of detailed related investigations, for example research into realties between surnames and genetics at the University of Oxford or the definition of regions based on Surnames in James Cheshire's PhD here at UCL Geography.
Pablo Mateos takes over to demonstrate some applications for this work. The first bit is looking at neighbourhoods, with an example of Kreuzberg in Berlin. Observations based on door bell signs, People tend to cluster by building. Similar ethnic groups seem to prefer to vie close. Over al Mateos' idea is to create a surname based ethnicity classification. This is the basic idea of For the clustering the group has also started to use network clustering algorithms producing some intriguing graphs.
Applications for this are in public health, cancer research, political party representation and residential segregation.
In Germany and the UK they are working on projects to analyse the residential segregation. The main problem they are facing is the lack of public available ethnicity data across Europe.

Spatial Interaction Models for Higher Education by 
Alex Singleton & Ollie O’Brien
They are working on partial interaction models and it seems they are summarising a lot of the ongoing work at CASA and related researchers. Mainly the focus is on commuting and how citizens get to a destination, might this be work or shopping. The project in a second stage is focusing on education and the impact of the move from schools to university. For this they are using a partially constraint model because there are more pupils than places at university. One of the motivation is the question of how the geodemographics affect the pattern of university choice. Regarding the data they are using the NPD national pupils data base for schools and the HESA individual students records for universities. Because of the large number of individual indicators and factors, they have simplified the the source aggregating some factors. For example they ignore school types or assume that pupils go to school within the ova authority they live in or make the universities a one subject destination. This is really a dramatic simplification of the problem, for me Some additional factors would have made the model more exciting. What does it represent if there is no longer a reason to choose a specific university, based on subject, quality or financial possibilities. The initial goal to research the impact of the geodemographic background of the pupil on the choice of university moves further away.
The model is written in Java. The presented results of the model compared to the actual data are surprisingly similar, well actually there are no differences to be made out from the back of the ranks.
I am guessing that we are dealing here with a lot of social factors, such as demographics background, financier circumstances, knowledge and performance levels that are not taken into account. The fact that some students simply go to the university they are offered a place is here not represented and will increasingly not be if there will be a stronger focus on cost diastase relationships taken from the Wilson entropy models.

The Dynamics of Skyscrapers Scaling, Allometry, and Sustainability by 
Michael Batty
The main focus of the talk will be on the distribution of skyscrapers in the city. Batty describes that the distribution will not at al be normal, since it is based on growth and competition. The data is based on the Emporis database on high building.
Interestingly Batty points out that the development of skyscrapers in size is somehow interlocked without economical cycles.
A first finding he points out is that fact that the floor highest in Paris are only 3.25 meters compared to Dubai with a floor hight of 4.32 meters. This is really a dramatic difference which I can not believe to be true. Skyscrapers are purely based on engineering and financing parameters and a difference of one meter, especially over the 160 floors of the tallest building, are a trey dramatic difference.
Batty points out that there are some basic differences between the distribution of skyscrapers compared to cities. Tall buildings mainly become more, they get not destroyed often, and they do not grow as such.
One of the major problems Batty is dealing with here is the fact that the Zip law really is only looking at the top end of the graph. This was because the calculation was without computers much too tedious to go much beyond the top 200. Looking at 200000 examples show a different graph, where the tail dramatically drops off.
The interesting part of the talk really is the bit about the rank clocks where Batty visualises the change in size over time.

Image taken from digitalurban / Rank Clocks

Development of an urban growth model using high-resolution historical data by 
Kiril Stanilov
Stanilov is looking at growth data of a section of western London he had digitised in painful detail from historic maps. He introduces the topic with a note on the increasing detail research in other fields of science but not in urban modelling. It is still largely based on the Triers concentric model of the city.
The data collection is abased on OS historical maps since 1875 with equip intervals of 20 years, resulting in seven time layers. From the maps Stanilov interpreted also the land use type.
From the growth he identifies three types, nuclei, scattering and infill to characterise the different stages of growth. In detailed patterns he points out that there must be a relationship between infrastructure and new development. He demonstrated this with maps and graphs highlighting roads and rail way stations. However the question of the actual relationship between the two elements are not specifically investigated. The question of what ceps first, the road or the development, the rail way station of the housing area remains in the air.
The model, as demonstrated, is extremely close to the reality. With each increment in time the model follows the actual patterns even though the growth was only constraint by the overall amount of land use to grow over each time unit. Stanilov points out what hasn't changed is that relationship between land use and accessibility.
One of the difficult elements of this model really is that the historic data shows a period of filling land as the city grew outwards. The current conditions are completely different, since the city now is existing. Dealing with existing urban fabric is definitely different.

Session Two

The research frontier in urban modelling: the agenda and the challenges by Alan Wilson
He is demonstrating retail model for London and how the interaction with the software is structures.
He then makes a comparison between the existing conditions in the city to the cities DNA. This is a very tricky jump in thinning I am not quite able to follow. Wilson the goes on to refer to classical scenario elements such s the possibility corridor.
He the develops the DNA idea into the 'genetic medicine' indicating an universal cure for any retail related decline. To follow this thought you not only have to accept the universal concept of genetic cures, the concept of the DNA needs to be adapted. The existing condition is a state and not a basic unit containing the information on how the individual units are structured and built. However Wilson goes on to show two further studies, one is a detailed retail predicting model again for South Yorkshire and a transport model for the Western part of the United States centred around Chicago, focusing on the development of the railway lines between 1760 to 1860

On-line Spatio-Temporal Analysis of Network Data and Road Developments by Tao Cheng
The starting point is the observation that todays cities are increasingly congested and the demanded mobility explodes. The detail case study is the Greater London area also in light of the 2012 olympics.
The major of London has reduced the congestion charge zone, this project is employed to develop methods to reduce congestion despite the smaller charging zone. The approach chosen is a network modelling route with the obvious challenges of data management. The amount of data rise to 20 GB monthly. The main point of the methodology it the possibility to integrate space and time. For the analysis Cheng is using time-space aquariums to visualise the amount of traffic over time on specific roads.

Twitter Tags and Real-Time Visualisation of Complex Geographic Data with MapTube by Richard Milton
Introducing the tweet-o-meter developed as a part of the genesis project by Steven Gray. Milton shows the mapped location tweets in London that we produced in a collaboration with digitalurban, urbanTick and Steven Gray. The video plays nice, but the sound is not suitable for a presentation. It is impossible to hear the explanations. Anyway, for details head over to urbanTick/twitter and watch the full series of posts on the topic.
Milton then moves on to show the development around the UK snow map developed by Steven Gray using the # tag as a collecting parameter. People were tagging their snow related tweets with a #uksnow code followed by the postcode and the amount of snow fall between one and ten. Miltons aim here is to compare the crowd sourced snow weather data with the accurate Met Office weather data. The conclusion on this experiment is not quite clear, but partly it is that the amount of snow indicated by the crowd is not reliable and can not be used as a scientific data set.
The third and final work Milton demonstrates is the new version of mapTube, now with the integrated ability to directly import CSV files from a web source. Also since there now are some 800 or 900 maps on the mapTube service it is in need of a organisation method to find the maps desired.
The last bit, since there is one more, are the mod maps developed at CASA for the BBC. The one pressuring point on this visualisation and mapping technique really are the temporal aspects of the data, especially since today Milton was talking about Twitter, GPS and mobile device generated data. This might be a future step for the mapTube development.

Session Three

Tales of Things and electronic Memory – Creating and Mapping The Geography of Everything by Andrew Hudson-Smith

Image taken from / Project logo.

For the final bit of the day the long awaited and pretty much kept secret project presented by Andy Hudson-Smith finaly comes to the stage, 'the World of Things' - "What if we knew the geographical location of everything?', 'What if everything in the world was tagged?', 'What if everything could tweet?'
All this is part of the TOTeM project that came out of a Sandpit pitch as a collaboration between the Brunel University, Edinburgh College of Art, University College London, University of Dundee, University of Salford. A more than a million pund project concerned with the internet of things. The project is built around the idea of linking multimedia data to real object via a machine readable tag in the form of a QR code. The vision is that personal memories in tis way can be linked to physical object and narratives can be passed on together with the object.
Hudson-Smith demonstrates the different aspects of the website and how to tag object via QR Code or RFID tag, using a self-made RFID to Bluetooth reader.

He then also introduces a few possible partners, the British Library London Olympics 2012 with whom a collaboration on tagging and linking could be beneficial. For the Future Art Festival they are working with artists and an Oxfam shop for a week tagging and recording for all the incoming and outgoing object.
Anyway we'll probably hear a lot more about this project in the coming days and weeks. There was an article on the New Scientist's front page on Tuesday 2010-04-13 and the website will launch on Friday 2010-04-16.

Panel Discussion with Mike Goodchild, Keith Clarke, David Maguire and Carl Steinitz
The last bit of the conference is a panel discussion on the aspects of GIS.
Carl Steinitz gives a short introduction. He gently hits out to the earlier shown projects, from railroad modelling to mapping existing large scale data sets. It is quite clear from the beginning that he aims at a very different kind of scientific research. He points out the importance of scale and context of the research. It matters what the question is and it matters what the
He then again hits out on the work produced at CASA, saying there if far too much visualisation produced without understanding the meaning or the message. He makes it very clear that the output often is crap and can not communicate its content. He criticises everything from music, to colour codes.
The approach he presents is a division of different elements that can be combined at will to get different outputs. Maybe the world has moved on since the elements were freely dividable and analysed separately. But the main point he is making here, is that not one single model can explain everything, but different models can explain different aspects. He makes an important separation between design decisions and growth structures and calls his approach geoDesign.
The other members of the panel react and respond to his critical position with different versions. Some clearly agree, others point out that there is something to this new approach of crowed sourcing and data collection outside the established reliable official bodies.
This session was clearly the best bit of the conference, naming and pointing out the 'hot' points, beside the usual talking and presenting. In this sense it was a good round of and shake up of this one day conference.

Other comments and reviews can be found on twitter using the #casa tag or on knowwhere.

Tuesday, 13 April 2010

Book - The World's Fairest City - Question Time

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

Image taken from / Book cover

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

Massive's City

A city vision born from darkness with references to a long line of classics, from Metropolis to Blade Runner. Massive Attack have pushed the boundaries in a number of areas and have always tried to reach beyond simply making music. This would usually also include political and social topics. We all very well remember their impressive live performances.
This new clip is a impressive flight-through a city, frozen in the moment of battle and disaster. It is a curious moment, developing along the camera path, despite being a framed moment in time. Director Eduard Salier is well known for his music videos and the long list of bands he worked with includes beside Massive Attack, Orishas and Air, or comercials for Nike or O2.
The city created also has references to Guernica, the famous Picasso Painting, depicting the Spanish Civil War. In this light I believe there is less litteral meaning to the animal featured in the clip and more a hint at the current war on urban streets in general. The urban battlefield is probably part of the Massiv Attack story since the beginning.

Image taken from massiveattackarea by Eduard Salier / Storie board for the video clip to Splitting the Atom by Massive Attack

Read the interview with the director Eduardo Salier at Pitchfork.

Monday, 12 April 2010

Backwards Through the City

TimeLapse has a big fan base and even though it is an experimental media is has a wide acceptance and audience. This combination is powerful for music videos and of course it is used frequently. The french production company HK Corps has realised a brilliant clip for the Parisians' song 'Time for Nothing More'. It is a 'backwards through the city' journey with some really nice extra timeLapse features. Enjoy.

The Simpsons Have a GPS

This is something one could predict from the start. They hade to bring this joke into the Simpsons TV series and now they have, or better had, a GPS navigation system for their car. And yes driving the kids to school is quit difficult and definitely requires a friendly assistant's voice to guide one through the horrible traffic on the streets of Springfield. I particularly like the line "decrease elevation ten feet, then turn left!" Funny enough the GPS is capable of switching between imperial and metric system on the fly, not bad!

Found via MapRoom, GPStracklog, waze at gawker.

And by the way, TomTom offers a Homer Simpson voice over for your own inCar navigation system. Just make sure you don't get distracted by it and swirl off across a building site. Also don't forget to bring the calculator for the conversion on the fly.
Visit, the voice skin is available to download now for £7.95 or 9.95 euros. A snipet can be heard here:

Friday, 9 April 2010

Book - The Map as Art

Maps had a definite revival in the last five years. Since the introduction of Google Maps in 2005 there is a steep rise in the use of digital maps. With it maps and more specifically location started entering the list of the top ten worries, at least of citizens. Today most services besides facebook and definitely every newly introduced online service will offer a map somewhere and most likely have a GeoDatabase somewhere.
Location and spatial awareness has probably not had such a buzz since Galilee proofed that the earth is actually round.
As discussed in earlier post on mapping, maps are very much an intellectual abstract simplification used to graphically visualise spatial relationships. The important point is the claim for objectivity through the use of reference points.
With the general rise of maps it is not surprising that it spills over and infects other areas.
The visual arts, however have been using mapping for a long time. But recently in the mist of the trend described above this art practice has obviously had more attention.
This is documented in the Princeton Architectural Press publication 'The Map as Art, Contemporary Artists Explore Cartography' by Katharine Harmon. Harmon is an expert in the filed of maps. She was also the author of 'You Are Here'.
However, in this publication she focuses solely on examples of contemporary art pieces making use or referencing a map or mapping.

Image taken from by Simon Elvins / SILENT LONDON - Blind embossed etching - 735x500mm - Edition of 10

Such a collection of art works could very easily just become another catalogue of contemporary art. Very surprising to me, it doesn't! This probably has to do with a few things, one could be the timelines of the topics (I am very much in love with maps), another the quality of the works chosen or a third the combination of objectivity (geography) and subjectivity (art). Probably it is a combination of the three.
There are plenty of beautiful examples of art maps. Some familiar examples, for example Christian Nold's Emotion Map on page 143. The book structures the maps into the chapters: Conflict and Sorrow; Global Reckoning; Animal, Vegetable and Mineral; Personal Terrain; You are Here, Somewhere; Inner Visions; Dimension/Deletion.

Image by urbanTick / page showing the 'Santa Monica art Tool' by Carl Cheng

For a more technical grouping of the works it could be said that there are maps in the following categories: 'using maps as material' - for example Sally Darlinson or Joao Machado with 'Swimming'; a second category might be 'evoked maps' - with works by Corriette Schoenaets or David Maisel (who is working a lot with photography) and a third category would be 'altering maps' for example in the work of Brigitte Williams or Luisa Bufardeci.
This is just to name a few examples and of course how ever you try to organise this wealth of works it never can live up to all of the examples. Best thing to do brows the book every now and then and you wil find a new surprise or map fit.

Harmon, K., 2009. The Map as Art: Contemporary Artists Explore Cartography, New York, N.Y: Princeton Architectural Press.

Thursday, 8 April 2010

NY Invasion - Pixels Everywhere

Once more a pixel invasion on New York. Of course with the usual familiar faces but there is more. Like a virus the little cubes spread out and in the end it is balls to cubes.
"New York invasion by 8-bits creatures! PIXELS is Patrick Jean' latest short film, shot on location in New York."
Written, directed by : Patrick Jean, Director of Photograhy : Matias Boucard
See a full version at oneMoreProduction.

Stadtigel - City Spheres

Cities are growing and more and more percent of the world population are living in urban areas. This is a fairly well known and often quoted line. However how this might come to look like we don't know yet. Will we be living in a massive city island surrounded by desert, jungle, mountain or water? Or might it be a continuos city spanning the whole planet, very much in the sense of the Small World timeLapse produced last year in London?
In the laboratories of the ETH in Zurich, Kaiersrot manufactured a arge cale model of such a small world city using digital manufacturing techniques. The 'design' of the spere is generated by an algorithm and then manufactured from cardboard in a PappPlot tehcnique, were sustainable card board is cut and glued together by a machine, layer by layer.
The product is described as "It is a city on a sphere, but not necessarily a global city, maybe a city globe: endless – or better – beginningless. There is neither periphery nor center. The city’s openness is simultaneously based on its seclusion. Once within one can never leave again. The city has a specific form; its physical presence is obvious. Nevertheless, the city can never be experienced in its totality." And yes it becomes difficult to map the sphere on a flat piece of paper. This is interesting regarding urban planning. Not only a spherical city can not be mapped entirely correct on a flat paper, but it serves very well as a obvious example of the complications of perspective and reality.
It was shown at the International Architecture Biennale Rotterdam 'Open City: Designing Coexistence' last year, with Kees Christiaanse from KCAP as the curator.

Wednesday, 7 April 2010

Book - Raumplan Versus Plan Libre

The concepts of two giants of modern architecture in comparison will nail you to the chair for a while, this is a thriller. 'Raumplan Versus Plan Libre' edited by Max Risselada and published by 010 Publishers is a comprehensive and in depth comparison between the concepts of space of Adolf Loos and Le Corbusier. While Loos is almost some twenty years older than Le Corbusier both architects work was influential for the modernist movement and still is today.
The publication originates in 1987 as a catalogue to accomplish an exhibition with the same title. The exhibition was initiated to celebrate the 100th anniversary of Le Corbusier. Since then more than 20 years have passed and things have changed. Particularly new research on the work, scholarly contribution and context of the individual characters has shed some new light on the subject of this publication. This is the reason for this republication, now as a standalone book. There are also some changes to the content with new essays.

Image by 010 Publishers / Spread of the publication showing part of the chronology.

The publication is structured in three parts. The first being five essays by scholars about the two main characters and their work respectively. The second part is called typology and is documenting a series of buildings with photographs, plans, texts and axonometry. The third part then is made of four essays, two each by Adolf Loos and Le Corbusier.
The first part has an adjacent chronology which briefly summarizes the work and puts them in relation to one another as well as in a wider context. I think it is a good idea to start reading the book with this section. Even before reading the introduction, because this perfectly summarizes the content covered while portraying the two protagonists as well as at the same time setting the context. Second it is probably a good idea to read into the essays by Loos and Le Corbusier in section three, definitely if you are not familiar with their writing. Because, this is what this book is al about, the different positions. Without having an idea of what and especially how, the two characters formulate their perspective and credo it is difficult to understand the differences.
This is not to say the explanations and texts added to the publication about the work by external people are of lesser quality. Moreover, they are very good, but make more sense equipped with the tone of the original work discussed. The section in between, the typology section, really is something to jump into at any time. It is very much a catalogue and can be used to look up details discussed in the other sections. There is usually a short introduction text, plans and sections and images. Often those are complemented by an axonometry or sketches.

Image by 010 Publishers / Spread of the publication showing examples of the colour usage by Adolf Loos.

I very much like this section, it invites for discovery tours browsing the buildings and directly comparing the different solutions chosen by each architect. The confusing element is the mix of graphical methods to represet the different pieces of information. Some of the pans are reproduced from the original drawing. Maybe it would have been nice to have a consistent representation method, thus reproducing the diagrams. For me the chosen approach adds to a feeling of slightly old and dust covered information. Some freshness could have breathed more live into the comparison. To some extend the section on the use of colour is more vital in this respect.
Overall, it is only a shame, that the publication still has the appearance of an exhibition catalogue. Compared to so many of the other 010 publications this one really doesn't have the design or feel to it. If you are unsure whether this is a 010 publication stare for five minutes at the past-down endsheet and you will now and have a yellow glare on everything for the rest of the day, subtle marketing.
This is a great book to enter and listen into a debate between two of the greatest architect of the last century.

Risselada, M. ed., 2008. Raumplan Versus Plan Libre, Rotterdam: 010 Publishers.