Thursday, 28 July 2011

MyTime Interview - Kas Oosterhuis on Process, Timelessness and RealTime in Architecture

Architecture theory and practice has changed dramatically with the use of computers. A lot has changed or has been adapted, but for many a radical new orientation lies still ahead. There are some fundamental shifts in the way a process oriented thinking of architecture manages the different steps from analysis to design to construction and beyond. The way it can integrate and mange thousands of parameters using algorithms and using it to dynamically model the progress is challenging a profession still largely clinging on to a modernist objectivity and distance.

Kas Oosterhuis is appointed professor digital design methods at the Delft Technical University and leads Hyperbody, the knowledge center for Nonstandard and Interactive Architecture at the TU Delft. His recent book 'Towards a New Kind of Building is published by NAi Publishers (2011) and was discussed earlier on urbanTick.

With this interview we want to focus on the wider context of a new kind of building and specifically on some of the time constraints in architecture as a whole but towards a new building as such. Time is playing a more prominent role in architecture as as proposed by Kas Oosterhuis, both factual and secondary as an element of the process of designing, building and running projects and buildings.

Digital pavilion - 360 panorama render floor2_perspective1
Image by ONL / Digital Pavilion Seoul by ONL 2007. Design team: Kas Oosterhuis, Ilona Lénárd, Chris Kievid, Christian Friedrich, Marthijn Pool, Gijs Joosen, Dieter Vandoren, assisted by Petr Vokal, Jan Gasparik, Matthijs Frederiks, Tade Godbergsen, Tim McGinley, Wouter Slot. Pavilion for digital media in media complex.


urbanTick: Is it important to be on time?
Kas Oosterhuis: I would rather say that it important to be actual, that is exploring and eventually incorporating actual technologies in the theory and practice of architecture and building

urbanTick: Would you then also say this incorporation results in actual buildings, buildings, beyond the technology, that are on time?
Kas Oosterhuis: Just there, just then, just that, just thus

urbanTick: With the technological focus of the current western society time is often said to run faster than in the past. Does this also apply to architecture?
Kas Oosterhuis: More things happen simultaneously, we are living in a world that fosters multiplicity, we are living inside evolution and we feel it stronger since there are more thing evolving at the same time then ever

Airport of Media - the Launchpad in group mode
Image by ONL / AOM Launchpad by ONL 2011 - Design team: Kas Oosterhuis, Ilona Lénárd, Gijs Joosen, Ilaria Giardiello, Lieneke van Hoek, Miro Strigác. A family entering and navigating the Launchpad sorts out a much bigger effect on the whole installation. The members of the family browse some shared and individual preferences, causing the AOM Launchpad to crystallize into higher definition zones in all directions they are looking to. The family thus creates a semi- enclosed space, open to other visitors navigating the pad. One single AOM Launchpad may host more then one family.

urbanTick: You are often integrating the term ‘Real Time’ in your texts for TaNKoB. How do you interpret the meaning of ‘Real Time’ for your work?
Kas Oosterhuis: Real time is introduced in my work since 1999 since I designed the Trans-Ports project, the pavilion that changes shape and content in real time. Since then we are more and more conscious of the fact architecture, which is the art of building, and building must be considered as processes then unfold in real time, processes that never stop, processes that are executable, processes that run endless chains of cellular automata. We learned from Stephen Wolfram that nature itself must be considered as a computation. We add to that that all man-made components must be seen as nature, and thus as a computation.

urbanTick: Is there such a thing as a timelessness in architecture?
Kas Oosterhuis: No such thing, that is an arrogant invention of modernists as to declare their view the best possible view on architecture.

urbanTick: With the introduction of these dynamics how are you seeing the profession to change, especially the modernist role of overall creator?
Kas Oosterhuis: I am a specialist, I do no since long time not believe in the myth of the "uomo universale", the generic creator that rules his/her puppets on his/her strings. Conversely I work as a specialist in a team with other specialists. The task of the architect of today is to clearly define hi/her role as a specialist.

Cockpit - ProE edges

Cockpit - overview sunset
Image by ONL / Hessing Cockpit by ONL 2005. Car showroom incorporated in an acoustic barrier.

urbanTick: You are introducing a New Kind of Building based on your own work reaching back 20 years. for trends and fashion in architecture what role plays the classification of time?
Kas Oosterhuis: I do not think in terms of trends and fashion, that is all too superficial for me. But I do think in terms like evolution, based on an internal drive to go on and explore possibilities, and evolution naturally is evolving over time.

urbanTick: How much time is needed for a master piece to evolve as an icon of its time, both in terms of process and in terms critical distance?
Kas Oosterhuis: I can only speak for myself, I was already in the national picture right after my studies, then intentionally took a decade of advanced practice of office building, then came out with my own explicit views on intuitive use of the computer, and another 5 years to accomplish price winning projects like Elhorst/vloedbelt and Saltwaterpavilion. Ten to twenty years seems in general needed to come reach the critical level of insight and knowledge that is needed to be able to establish a deep practice of building. I would not use the iconic, that is how others might label it. I prefer the notion of a deep understanding of what one is doing.

Saltwater Pavilion_interior_10
Image by ONL / Saltwater Pavilion by ONL 1997. Design team: Kas Oosterhuis, Menno Rubbens, Ilona Lénárd, Károly Tóth. The water pavilion represents water in all its manifestations. the route through the water pavilion describes a vast loop. It takes the shape of a giant lemniscate, the mathematical symbol for infinity. The lemniscate is visible against the flanks of the body, both on the exterior and on the interior skin. "The Saltwaterpavilion has evolved from the very beginning of the design process as a three-dimensional computer model. We kneaded, stretched, bent, rescaled, morphed, styled and polished. He delineation of the form is laid down in the digital genes of the design that hold the germ of life. The first idea is the genetic starting point for all subsequent steps in the development. We no longer accept the domination of platonic volumes, the simplistic geometry of cube, sphere, cylinder and cone as the basic elements of architecture. That resolution is much too low. Our computers allow us to command millions of coordinates describing far more complex geometries." ONL.

urbanTick: Time specific terms such as long and short, before and after, quick and slow are constantly used in everyday language and varying contexts. What role do they play in the parametric design/architecture discourse?
Kas Oosterhuis: The same, but better described as strong connections or weak connections. Objects subject to a strong connection move fast, the weaker connected components may move very very slow. Programming the connections literally means expanding the bandwidth of the strength of the connections, and thus of the speed of the objects. With programmable objects connected to sensor networks I can make building that do not move at all, that are completely frozen in their static movement. Conversely I can make environments that are alive and kicking, that change hallucinating fast for the human experience.

urbanTick: Is time money?
Kas Oosterhuis: I would argue that all building components in a parametric system are directly connected to a spreadsheet or database with parameters, most likely numbers. The value of money is one of these thousands of parameters, the ticks of time another represent another parameter, so there is a very loose connection, one of millions of connections. Money is parametrically related to time via the dynamic database

CapitalCentre - interface with floor shaping parameters
Image by ONL / Al Nasser Group Corporate Headquarters by ONL 2009. Design team Kas Oosterhuis, Ilona Lénárd, Gijs Joosen, Marthijn Pool, Ronald Brandsma, Petr Vokal, Jan Gasparik, Tim McGinley. Although the design constraints were strict ONL has found a strategy which features a combination of an iconic architecture and a functional lay-out. ONL decided to develop a vase shaped tower, narrow at its base, gaining volume in the shaft and tapered towards the top. The vase has been styled by subtly slicing and chamfering the otherwise rectangular floor plan. Relatively modest interventions and parametric modifications of the rectangular basic shape while retaining the structural integrity of the design create the iconic appearance of the Al Nasser Group Headquarters Tower.

urbanTick: In one of the section ‘Versatile Time zones’ in the book TaNKoB you are talking about the resolution of time and propose in a thought experiment a high resolution world time. Rather than then current one hour time steps each place would have its own time based on the location. Would this be the perfect merge of time and space?
Kas Oosterhuis: It basically means not accepting time to be cut in very low-res pieces, and not accepting space to be cut in low-res chunks of matter. Our accepted time zone system is a rude abstraction of time and space, and I have argued that now we have the technology to scale up the resolution and merge time and place as it is, not as an abstraction.

urbanTick: With TaNKoB you are focusing on the programming of the process. What is the sort of time dimension of the architecture your are proposing?
Kas Oosterhuis: Buildings should live much shorter, in able to rethink and evolve technology as embedded in buildings. It would help if we could establish a law that for every new building another one should be taken down or thoroughly updated. Interestingly enough this would be much more sustainable then stretching the life of old, ineffective and often malfunctioning building. IT would give us the clue to improve the overall quality and performance of the built environment.

urbanTick: To what extend does the temporal dimension of architecture play in sync with a wider context, either in the architecture world with trends and interests or in the local cultural scene?
Kas Oosterhuis: Industrial products like clothes, computers, sensors, cars etc have a much shorter life-span, if we would sync with those products buildings would be much more in sync with their time.

urbanTick: You are giving the establishment of the pure digital revolution of building design another 50 years until it is a global standard. Is this a long time or a rather short period?
Kas Oosterhuis: We need sufficient critical mass for evolution to make the jump, like there was critical in the Cambrian period to give rise a vast number of new species, maybe Ray Kurzweil could answer this question based on his theory of the critical point in time [2040] where one single computer has reached the computation power of all human brains together on this earth.

Sculpture city - scale model of building sculpture in exhibition_2
Image by ONL / Sculpture City by ONL 1994. Design team: Kas Oosterhuis, Ilona Lénárd, Menno Rubbens. Can a building be a sculpture? Can a sculpture be a building? Or more precise: can buildings be autonomous sculptures? The functionality of the building is just one out of thousands of parameters effecting the resulting image of the concept. With each step in the series of instructions and acts the functionality of the building is equivalent to other parameters. There is no hierarchy of arguments but their procedure. The electronic skin of Cloud010 is alive. The sculpture buildings of Sculpture City are granting their own functioning. Form allows function in stead of form follows function. Similarly the sculpture buildings are permitting that they are subject to gravity, that they are shaped to a specific form, and that they eventually are materialized.

urbanTick: You are involved in teaching already for many years at different institutions. What role does this play in the emergence of a New Kind of Building, not as the publication but really the type?
Kas Oosterhuis: I have never been surfing fashionable waves that were found and mapped out by others, but rather have spent my time in finding the feet of promising new waves and worked my way up climbing that wave, the top of that wave is not even close but could out of the blue appear without a warning.

urbanTick: How much time do you devote to architecture? Is there time outside architecture?
Kas Oosterhuis: I never feel that I am busy, actually I feel that I have lots of time to relax and think things over, to lecture, to meet people, to write, to do gardening, to travel, to spend holidays in our datsja in Hungary where I am right now.

urbanTick: What is your strongest experience of time?
Kas Oosterhuis: That is when I manage to foresee something unlikely and yet it happens, that feels like changing time.

Oosterhuis, K., 2011. Towards a New Kind of Building: A Designerʼs Guide for Non-standard Architecture, Rotterdam: NAI Publishers.

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

Wednesday, 27 July 2011

Olympics Progress - One year to go

It is now only One Year to Go! for the opening ceremony of the Olympic Summer Games 2012 here in London. The big event is moving closer by the day. Officials are eagerly pointing out that the planning and the preparation work is on schedule, very well in shape, but still has a mountain of work to do.

However, this One Year landmark is a moment for reflection and aso litte celebration. The Twitter hastag will be #1yeartogo The past weekend was filed with Olympic activities. To now celebrate and look forward to the games is definitely a more positive note after recently the ticket sale filled the media. There were a lot of disappointed Olympics fans after the ticket lottery announced the results. In that first phase, 700,000 successful applicants secured 3m tickets. In the second, a further 160,000 or so were accounted for. In total, Locog has shifted 6m tickets in a matter of months, which the chief executive, Paul Deighton, estimates makes it the most popular event of all time. THere seems to be a decent chance for unsuccessful applications of previous rounds to stil get a ticket as the Guardian reports.

Olympic Stadium One Year to go
Image taken from London2012 / A unique aerial image shows the number '1' mown into the grass in the Olympic Stadium, starting the celebrations to mark one year to go until the Games begin.

Looking at the workload ahead, Britain's olympics minister Hugh Robertson says there will be 'difficult moments' in the run up to the games, but that 'we are in a very good place' as he is quoted in the Guardian.

In terms of venues the largest part is taking place i the Lea Valley and a lot of the infrastructure is already in place. Most of the to be built venues are in their final stage or finished. The Olympic Stadium is has the turf laid already with the tracks being worked on at the moment. The Velodrome was one of the first venues to actually being handed over. Construction work started in March 2009 and Olympic cycling champion Sir Chris Hoy was involved in the design consultation.

Olympic Velodrom inside view
Image taken from London2012 / An inside view of the Olympic velodrome as it shall be ready for the London Games 2012.

What the venues are going to be is probably mostly known by now, the very big question is what the legacy of the games will be. THer is a lot of discussion and confusion around the ownership of the Olympic Stadium as well as other venues. Some venues will be demolished, but others such as the Velodrome and the Aquatics centre will be taken over by the respective sport groups.

However there is more to the legacy than only the venues. There will be a massive Lea Valley park that needs maintaining for the public and there is the large transport schema Londoners have been promised. All these things are currently being talked about. The Guardian reports: "There is significant conversion work to be undertaken and the Park is likely to be closed for the best part of a year. But the Olympic Park Legacy Company, mindful of capitalising on the excitement around the Games, has resolved to open it up in sections as quickly as possible and is seeking legacy operators for everything from the vast swimming complex to the Arcelor Mittal tower that towers over the stadium."

The two maskots Wenlock and Mandaville are also very busy touring and promoting the Olympics and the Paralympic. The two characters of the Olympics are currently trying out the different spots disciplines around the UK visiting schools and sports facilities. On their website they introduce themselves: "Hi, I'm Wenlock, the London 2012 Olympic mascot... and I'm Mandeville, the London 2012 Paralympic mascot! We're on a journey around the UK, making friends and finding out all about the Olympic and Paralympic sports. Explore our website to find out more about us and join us on our journey. Come back often - there's always something new. Have fun!"

Olympic Mascots
Image taken from London2012 / The mascots fo the London Games 2012 trying out some of the sports to feature at the Olympics.

So what to do for this last year to go. There are many ways to get involved, as a volunteer or as a torch-bearer to carry the Olympic torch on its way across the UK. After the chaos around the traveling torch on its world tour pre Beijing Olympics the committee has scraped the idea of sending it around the world. The torch travels from Peloponnese to Land's End were it arrives on the 18 May 2012 to travel 8000 miles across the UK. Some of the main event sponsors still accept applications if you are interested to run with the torch.

Olympic Park Aerial_110714_120
Image taken from London2012 / An arial view of the site currently (July 2011) for the London Games 2012. The three central elements are the Olympic Stadion, the Aquatic centre and in the middle the View Tower by Anish Kapoor a it is under construction. It is going to be Britain's biggest piece of public art, a 120 metres tall looping tower.

Tuesday, 26 July 2011

Book - Testify! Architecture for Real

Architecture is not only about building a new house. There is a wider context to creating spaces for people. Very often this is overlooked already in the planning and in the process. The social and cultural impact for both neighbours and users as well as the community is often a byproduct the wider public becomes aware if it results in conflicting interests.

To integrate these wider community aspects as part of the planning process, thinking ahead and thinking a projects as part of wider network of activities and places is a challenging and particular way of programming a project that require a multidisciplinary team. Architects, even if they wish they could, can not quite think this far out of the box.

Testify! Exhibition
Image taken from Studio Freireiss / View into the Testify! exhibition. It will be on until the 13 of November 2011 at the NAI in Rotterdam.

The new NAi Publisher book Testify!: The Consequences of Architecture', edited by Lukas Feireiss, presents a selection of 25 projects that all are designed to address this wider context of architecture. The subtitle sort of hint at the after life of a project, but really the projects are aiming to include the consequences from the innitial idea.

As the Gestalten puts it in short: "Testify! The Consequences of Architecture gathers 25 projects from around the globe that have taken the chance to open themselves up to critical self-reflection, submitting to a non-biased evaluation of their work from a lived-in perspective."

Favela Painting Rio
Image taken from Lushlee / Favel Paintingin Rio de Janeiro, Brazil. The project was developed by the Dutch artist duo Haas and Hahn, starting in 2006. As presented in the publication: "In the heart of Rio de Janeiro's favelas, the Dutch artist duo Haas and Hahn fostered pride and created jobs by painting enormous murals on concrete structures and residential facades. Through colour and imagery, the neighbourhoods have been given a fresh face and a point of media contact from wich to present themselves anew.

The publication accompanies an exhibition currently at the NAi in Rotterdam presenting the projects in space, to showcase the NAi's engagement and work. A umber of the projects presented were initiated around an engagement with the NAi worldwide. This is of course a very noble thing to do but is, as the book illustrates, definitely a necessity for many urban locations.

This integrated view of spatial planning and the actual implementation is not new but has not founds its feet in practice. Since the fifties this is part of the theoretical planning discussion and pops up every now and then. It has lead to some participatory planning processes in the west, but not as elaborate and far reaching as this new publication proposes it.

The publication comes in four chapters with an introduction by Ole Bouman. Chapter one is 'Urban Acupuncture: Reprogramming the City', chapter 2 is 'Smooth Operators: Interventions in the Public Realm', chapter 3 'Reach Out: Spaces for Learning and Community' and chapter 4 is 'Exploring Horizons: Pushing the Boundaries of Architecture'.

Image taken from monkeyking on flickr / This photo was taken on August 6, 2010. Documentation of the Cinema Jenin in Jenin, a small city in the West Bank. Here the opening festival of 5-7 August 2010, which included the screening of several films as well as musical performances and other cultural events.

The book has a very designed and styled approach tot he topic. From the words to the images everything is cool and flashy. It brings the content a long way and is definitely helpful for the communication of a good cause. At times it is however almost over enthusiastic about itself, at the brink of invention.

Some of the projects you might have heard of already, but there will be others and complementary ones as well as new aspects of contextual and responsive architecture. Especially overall and in combination across the presented project, the book manages to seed the idea of thinking architecture in a wider context. It might not happen tomorrow, but it will sink in a stick.

Inkwenkwezi School Capetown
Image taken from Architype Source / Inkwenkwezi School Du Noon Township, Capetown, South Africa by Noero Wolff Architects, 2007. As presented in the publication "Through intelligent architecture with the aid of government and international support, a school in a poverty-stricken neighbourhood in Cape Town has become a safe place and a hub for youth from all over the Cape to gain the necessary tools to overcome their difficult situations and escape the traps of poverty through education."

Participating are 2A+P/A, iAN+, ma0, Arup Foresight, at103, atelier d'architecture autogérée, Cinema Jenin, Decolonizing Architecture, dhk architects with towthink architects. Alejandro Echeverri Arquitectos, EcoLogic Studio, KARO* with Architektur+Netzwerk, Haas & Hahn, Li Xiaodong Atelier, Antanas Mockus, NAI Matchmaking, Noero Wolff Architects, Grávalos & Di Monte Architects, Enrique Peñalosa, Project Row Houses, raumlaborberlin, Sambuichi Architects, Senseable City Laboratory, Skateistan, Studio Gang, The Winter School Middle East, TYIN tegnestue, Zecc Architekten.

Testify! will be on display at the NAI until 13 November 2011 after which the exhibition will go on tour.

Testify! Book Cover
Image taken from iitaias / Book cover.

Feireiss, L. ed., 2011. Testify!: the Consequences of Architecture, Rotterdam: NAi Publishers.

Monday, 25 July 2011

Paris Plages - the City Beach

Transformations towards opening the waterside of cities particularly in Europe are taking place for the last fifteen years. Rivers and lake side areas are being discovered as recreation areas of high value. What was formerly waste land or industrial area has very often been brownfield for some time and is redeveloped, very often turning the city functionally inside out, introducing a new front.

Particularly Rivers are passing through central areas where cities can develop a potential for focused activity and attraction. London is developing this topics, but also Rotterdam, Berlin, Basel and so on.

Paris Plages
Image taken from Wikimedia / A view down onto the Paris Plages. With sand the river front road is transformed in to a recreation zone for one month.

Paris has developed a special take on this, with a very much temporary solution. The legacy i sometimes tricky to just change and Paris runs some major road infrastructure along the Seine that they are not willing to reroute. However, temporarily it is during summer transformed into a beachside with sand and palm trees.

It goes with a extensive cultural program, including art fairs and concerts. There are all sorts of activities running like Tai-Chi and reading clubs organised by the library. Of course a game of Boules has to feature too. Actually Pétanque is played at Paris Plages.

Paris Plages
Image taken from parisplages / Plan showing one of the locations just across from the Centre pompidou in central Paris.

The project 'Paris Plages' started in 2002 and has taken place every summer since. The authorities announce "The summer transforms Paris. The cityscape dons greenery and the riverside thoroughfares become car-free resorts. The Paris Plages (Paris Beaches) operation kicks off on or around 20 July and lasts four weeks."

Friday, 22 July 2011

Barcelona New City Landscape

Barcelona is in terms of twitter activity one of the cities that has a strong central core of high activity. Very similar to for example the London NCL or the Paris NCL maps.
The highest point is just over the Placa de Catalonia with a steep slope down la Rambla to the Roca Columbus. Other places of high activity are around the parliament, here the 'Monte di Parliament Catalonia' and around the Olympic centre on Montjuic.

Barcelona New City Landscape
Image by urbanTick for NCL / Barcelona New City Landscape map generated from location based tweets collected over the period of one week. The area covered is within a 30 km radius of Barcelona.

The Barcelona New City Landscape map has already been published earlier, but it needed an update because of some problems in the processing and labeling. This new version also goes in line with the adjusted layout and design.

Thanks for the help with the map go to Narcis Sastre, who kindly worked it through.

Barcelona New City Landscape

Image by urbanTick using the GMap Image Cutter / Barcelona New City Landscape Use the Google Maps style zoom function in the top right corner to zoom into the map and explore it in detail. Explore areas you know close up and find new locations you have never heard of. Click HERE for a full screen view. The maps were created using our CASA Tweet-O-Meter, in association with DigitalUrban and coded by Steven Gray, this New City Landscape represents location based twitter activity.

Barcelona is very active in the afternoon hours. There is a peak around 15h00, 18h00 and 21h00, after which it quickly drops off. The mornings are very pronounced right after six, however overall far less than the afternoon. Over lunch there is clearly a dip with lesser activity.

Spanish is clearly the dominating language, followed by English. Indonesian, French, Portuguese and Italian are sort of the runner ups. ALso Esperanto is there, this is surprisingly often present in the top ten list and it seems that a lot of people are using it as a statement, since it is not really a spoken language.

Barcelona timeRose
Image by urbanTick for NCL / The rose shows the twitter activity per hour of the day, starting at 00:00 at the top, displayed as local time. Barcelona is a afternoon city with more activity between three and nine than through out the rest of the day. The graphs show the platform of preference used to send the tweet and the language set respectively.

Also, we have the animation ready for the Barcelona data set. This one is put together in collaboration with Anders Johanson. The animation also shows the interaction between the users based on RT and @ tweets with thin yellow lines. This indicates a direction and provides a sense for the distribution of flows.

Thursday, 21 July 2011

Book - Event Cities 4 Concept and Form

Increasingly architecture is produced globally. Large offices are delivering projects for clients more than half way across the world making it a very international profession. It is however mainly a oneway relationship with western practices operating for Middle Eastern or Asian clients. This means that even though there are financial benefits and gains in prestige, there are cultural differences and difficulties.

This applies both to the design process and the design as such in a form sense. Architecture is widely acknowledged as a cultural product and therefore this practice could be seen as a sort of cultural export of both practice and product, resulting in quite some problematic entanglement for architecture practices interested in contextual based design processes.

So far this dilema has had little focus, with large practices actually denying its existence for the past ten years at least. However, things are changing and practices are searching for ways and means to conceptualise this problem in order to develop a response.

Image taken from Event Cities 4 / Book spread 10-11, project sketches.

Bernhard Tschumi puts in his new book, Event-Cities 4: Concept-Form, published by MIT Press in late 2010, such a concept forward and presents how he and his practice has developed a process tool to takle this dilemma.

This latest book in the Event series is focusing on the term pair of Concept-Form. This has developed, as it becomes clear from both the introduction and the examples presented in the body of the book from an increased global practice. It is one response to the task of delivering projects across the world, in changing contexts and without the cultural background. In some sense the terminology is a conceptual construction to deal with the stringent requirements of a global architecture, providing a framework for the project development process.

As Tschumi puts it: "It is a concept that generates form, or a form that generates a concept, in such a way that reinforces the other. The concept may be programmatic, technological, social and so on. But the form must be relatively abstract, since many aspects of the program are indeterminate, ..."

It is not a theory book. It is really a project monograph, showcasing and documenting the work of Bernhard Tschumi Architects over the past eight years, from 2002 to 2010. Highlights include master plans for a pair of media-based work spaces and cultural campuses in Singapore and Abu Dhabi; a major master plan for a financial center with 40,000 projected inhabitants in the Dominican Republic; the innovative Blue Residential Tower in New York City; a group of museums and cultural buildings in France, Abu Dhabi, Dubai, and South Korea; a pedestrian bridge in France; and a "multi-programmatic" furniture piece, the TypoLounger. The book contains more than twenty of the Tschumi firm's recent projects, showcasing the most current and forward-looking designs of one of the world's leading architectural practices.

Footbridge, la Roche-sur-Yon
Image taken from aeccafe / Footbridge across the TGV line in la Roche-sur-Yon, 2007-2009. Bernhard Tschumi and Hugh Dutton.

One of them is for example the La Roche-sur-Yon pedestrian bridge. A collaboration by Bernhard Tschumi and Hugh Dutton. It is a project seeking to merge architecture and structure and as Tschumy explains:"The bridge connects new districts to the historical city with both functional and symbolic links."

Another one is the Elliptic City for the Dominican Republic, an IFCA Master Plan. It is a 30 km2 site at the coast with nothing but one road and a power line. The project is termed Elliptic City and is based on a tabularasa concept, meaning its built with no existing context in othe green landcape. And interestingly there are some landcape features, like a series of caves running along the Western boundary of the site, or a ridge in the North-Eastern corner. And after-all there is an existing population of about 8000 squatters living on site at the sea shore.

Elliptic City
Image taken from skyscrapercity / Elliptic City Masterplan by Bernhard Tschumi, from 2005.

Proposed by Tschumi Architects is a masterplan based on an elliptical form with nine clusters of massive buildings framed by a highway. It is a rather formal approach, perfectly fitting with the concept-form overall concept. However it is proposed as a phased planning over the period of 25 years.

The publication provides a good overview of the projects and has with its massive 600 something pages enough space for an elaborate project presentation. Its great to have some room fo the projects and not having to understand a complex concept on only half a page. The proposed concept is definitely something that should become part of the international discourse on how architecture as a cultural product can be delivered around the world. The dilemma and the difficulties are very visible in the presented range of project in this volume. There is a clear difference between the project the office has delivered in France, Europe or the States and the ones they have proposed everywhere else. However the point of the book as outlined in the introduction by Tschumi is to have a discussion and this is definitely what the book delivers.

Event Cities 4
Image taken from Abitare-Urbanism / Book cover.

Tschumi, B., 2010. Event-Cities 4: Concept-Form, Cambridge, MA: MIT Press.

Wednesday, 20 July 2011

Social Networks - GeoCom 2011

I am at GeoCom 2011 today. It takes place at UCL here in London from today (20 - 22 of July). The conference focuses on geo computation with focus on complexity and modeling. The keynote today was given by Professor Peter Nijkamp from Vrije Universiteit, Netherlands as 'Digital environments and ‘real world’ geographies'. THe detailed program can be found HERE.

I will be presenting a poster on social networks based on Twitter data. The plot is using the data that was collected for the London NCL map during the period of one week. A detailed, interactive version of the graph can be fond as published in an earlier post.

London NCL Social Network

Graph by urbanTick using the GMap Image Cutter / London NCL Socia Network - Use the Google Maps style zoom function in the top left corner to zoom into the map and explore it in detail. Click HERE for a full screen view.

The network is based on activity on the Twitter platform. The graph shows connections based on @ tweets and RT tweets. The actual followers or friends are not taken into account. The activity is what can be read from the tweet content. So far we have not been looking into the tweet content beyond this networking information, but it could be an upcoming step.

Interesting is to see how information is passed on from users in RT's. It will be possible to analyse the spreading of information spatially and how this travels the urban area as for example London in this case.

GeoCom2011 Poster
Image by urbanTick / GeoCom 2011 post 'Location Based Social Network from Twitter'. for a large version see pdf HERE.

Monday, 18 July 2011

Book - Clip Stamp Fold - Architecture Publishing

Renewing architectural traditions is hard business. You could try to change the practice, but this would be a singular act. If you publish about it using the media a wider audience is reached and the effort is more effective.

'Clip, Stamp, Fold: The Radical Architecture of Little Magazines, 196x -197x' redraws the history of some of the many radical architecture magazines at the mid last century that had this one idea, to change the world of architecture by writing about it. The Actar publication is is edited by Beatrice Colomina and Craig Buckley and brings together e a large body of research on the massive body of material.

There was a great urge to overthrow established architectural structures and break out of the as tight perceived ideologies of modernism. "[T]he FORMALITY of architecture and its teaching has to explode." as Archigram put it in one of their last issues NO.9.

Clip, Stamp, Fold
Image taken from electric type/ A section of the magazine timeline as presented on the Clip, Stamp, Fold online page.

The Small Talks section brings a transcript of talks between a selection of members of the movement that took place as apart of the exhibition Clip, Stamp, Fold in 2007 in New York. In different combinations the origines and motivations as well as the individual context of the activity and the magazine are discussed with an audience.

Stocktaking is a timeline bringing together a section of publication, ranging from 1962 to 1979. Each issue with a paragraph summarizing its content and context. This is a great resource and a very interesting read, since it provides an overview and the changes over the whole period can be directly followed.

The Facsimile and the Interview part are interwoven with the interviews printed experimentally onto 'inbook-magazines' surrounded by reprinted example pages taken from some of the magazines. It properly feels like poking around in an archive looking into different drawers with these great treasures popping out, explaining themselves.

Clip, Stamp, Fold
Image taken from architizer online / View into the exhibition space in Vancouver. The exhibition traveled the world after it was showing in New York.

Amongst the people interviewed are Peter Cook, Peter Eisenman, Kenneth Frampton, Hans Hollein, Rafael Moneo, Graham Shane, Philip Steadman, Bernhard Tschumi or Tom Wooley, to name a few. In total there are a staggering 47 interviews.

The publication manages to be different things at the same time. It is a documentation of the activities and the context of this magazine period, but it is also a book preserving the motivations and stories behind the individual magazines. Furthermore it is also a summary of the achievements and an position statement thirty years later.

As such this can be read as a vision and a starting point for visions to come. The publication has an extensive website.

Clip, Stamp, Fold
Image taken from Peter Lang / Book cover, back and front.

Colomina, B. & Buckley, C. eds., 2010. Clip, Stamp, Fold: The Radical Architecture of Little Magazines, 196x -197x, Barcelona: Actar.

Thursday, 14 July 2011

New City Landscape - Calgary

Calgary was established in 1875 as Fort Brisebois by the North-West Mounted Police, located at the confluence of the Bow and Elbow rivers in what is now Calgary, Alberta. Today Calgary is the largest city in Alberta and directs an oil and gas empire, making a rather good situated urban centre.

The city is located similar to Denver at the transition zone between the prairie in the East and the Rocky Mountains in the West. This dominates the views and the impression of the place. However, unlike in Denver the tall mountains are further in the distance. The rockies in Alberta fade out in to the flat land with smaller hills.

Calgary New City Landscape
Image by urbanTick for NCL / Calgary New City Landscape map generated from location based tweets collected over the period of one week. The area covered is within a 30 km radius of Calgary.

The urban area is quite active on Twitter and the NCL map draws out the city features nicely. The main features are the airport, the downtown, the absent Nose Hill Park. Also the the main movement corridor the famous Calgary Y shape shows up on the map as a North West to South Centre connection with a North East connection via the airport.

Calgary New City Landscape

Image by urbanTick using the GMap Image Cutter / Calgary New City Landscape Use the Google Maps style zoom function in the top right corner to zoom into the map and explore it in detail. Explore areas you know close up and find new locations you have never heard of. Click HERE for a full screen view. The maps were created using our CASA Tweet-O-Meter, in association with DigitalUrban and coded by Steven Gray, this New City Landscape represents location based twitter activity.

The main peak is over the downtown area as expected. The summit is right above the Scotia Centre building. This central mountain extends to the South West towards the Access Cliff and to the North East to the Highland Park Cliff.

Some of the missing areas are the Nose Hill Park which appears completely empty on the Twitter map with basically no activity. Also around the CPR the tweet desert spreads far, all the way down to the Bennett Forest.

Calgary ca 1885
Image taken from Wikimedia / Calgary as it appeared circa 1885.

The Y shaped sequence of hills connecting the downtown area to the outskirts follows the main transport arteries of Calgary, the C-Train.
This transport system is the core of public transport in Calgary and free in the Downtown area but extends beyond. It is accomplished by a bus network.

The City of Calgary is very much a morning city with quite a bit more tweets sent in the morning hours between eight and twelve. The afternoon is slow and the nights early, with the characteristic night dip starting before three and ending soon after four.

The dominating language is clearly English with other languages used on Twitter in this area being very low. For the platforms used the four dominating ones are Twitter for iPhone, Ueber Social, Twitter for Black Berry and the web.

CalgaryNCL timeRose
Image by urbanTick for NCL / The rose shows the twitter activity per hour of the day, starting at 00:00 at the top, displayed as local time. Calgary is a morning city with more activity between eight and twelve than through out the afternoon and evening. The graphs show the platform of preference used to send the tweet and the language set respectively.

Wednesday, 13 July 2011

Book - Animate Form - Topology, Time, and Parameters

The famous book 'Animate Form' on digital architecture by Greg Lynn is out as a reprint. Its twelve years and a lot of development, both technically as part of the software, application, platform and architecture has happende since.

The publication was originally published in 1999 as one of the very first comprehensive books on digital architecture and has no been reprinted as a 2011 version by Princeton Architectural Press, the original publisher. The new print has no changes and runs as the same book.

Etienne Jules Morey Motion Capture
Image taken from facstaff / Motion Studies produced by Etienne Jules Marey (late 1800s).

Interesting enough, even though it is twelve years old the content of the book is still relevant, hence the republication. A lot has changed on the technical side with software, but the heart of the publication which is on the nature of digital architecture is very relevant today. The fundamentals Lynn points out in his text 'Animate Form' still has not sunken in with everyday practice today. As he writes: "There are three fundamental properties of organization in a computer that are very different from the characteristics of inert mediums such as paper and pencil: topology, time, and parameters."

The temporal aspect is the one that still is underused and only peripheral implemented. The main focus is still on the end product but not on the process. However as for example Kas Oosterhuis also points out in his recent book 'Towards a New Kind of Building' the process is beginning to play a more important role.

To understand Lynn's work however this temporal aspect is essential. Somehow it could be put as the source as the biomorphic character of most of the shapes. As Lynn points out in the text, one of the original insirations and references is the work by Étienne-Jules Marey in the late 1800s. Marey was interested in motion photography just like Eadweard Muybridge, however Marey used tags to direct the focus of the image as well as trigger the camera. The tags, usually attached to the joints of the subject, paint the motion line, by Marey termed 'phase portraits'.

Lynn is also focusing on this aspect with his work implementing a range of states for each design element.

Etienne Jules Morey Pigeon Harness
Image taken from University of Houston / Etienne-Jules Marey used pneumatic triggers, attached to the joints of animals, to trigger camera exposures in rhythmic sequences. In this way, the rhythm of photographic instances were sequenced to the movements of the animal. "Device for harnessing the pigeon to the revolving frame," from Marey, "Le Vol des oiseaux," as appears in Frangois Dagognet, Etienne Jules Morey: A Passion for the Trace (New York: Zone Books, I 992), 85

The second part of the book is dedicated to seven Form projects playing with the digitalisation of architecture from design, development to fabrication. One of the projects is for example Lynn's contribution to the competition for the Cardiff Opera House, which was won by Zaha Hadid but was never built.

Cardiff Opera House Greg Lynn Form
Image taken from basilik / Redering of the proposed Cardiff Opera House by Greg Lynn Form.

Another project is a Greg Lynn Form contribution to the Yokohama Terminal competition, eventually won and built by FOA. The two projects FOA and Greg Lynn Form have formal similarities probably because there are similarities in the process structure. The main ide is a merge of function and dynamic programming of usage.

The book is definitely laying out the fundamental of digital architecture and has set the standard pretty high. In the mean time a number of publications have followed from professionals across disciplines and interests, extending and confirming what Greg Lynn has proposed in the 1999 original publication.

Animate Form
Image taken from fapyd / Book cover.

Lynn, G., 2011. Animate Form, New York, N.Y: Princeton Architectural Press.

Monday, 11 July 2011

Plant Grow TimeLapse - Asparagus

Temporal dimensions are only visible as fractions and over a very small scale. There are very clear limitations to the recognition of temporal changes to the human senses. This ranges from about 18 frames per second to the movement of a snail. Everything that is faster or slower is only to be registereed in comparison to a reference point.

Like the slow movement of the tide with ebb and flow it is one of the natural rhythms beyond the direct human perception. It can be registered for example by reference points such a the sand castel that is washed away by the water or the appearance of rocks and sand banks.

With the help of timeLapse photography phenomenon at the slow range of the spectrum beyond the capacity of the human eye can be visualised. This is for example the growth of plants and the changes in plant size and orientation.

This is generally not only down to the capacity of registration, technically, by the eye, but also to the very different speed of the human character. The capacity can reach out to aspects such as for example patience or concentration. At slow motion distraction are pretty influential and make the registration pretty hard.

Adam Gregory show in his clip 'Asparagus' exactly this sort of movement as the growth of asparagus in the field. It shows an amazing change and movement speed up and easier to recognise. It unveils a a process normally not accessible by the naked eye.

Friday, 8 July 2011

Dimensions Physical - Space Mission

For today NASA has scheduled the final mission of the Space Shuttle launching the last flight into space of the now 30 year old shuttle program. The mission STS-135, will be a a 12-day mission to the International Space Station. It will use the Atlantis space shuttle and carry a crew of four and the Raffaello multipurpose logistics module containing supplies and spare parts for the space station. The STS-135 astronauts are: Commander Chris Ferguson, Pilot Doug Hurley, and Mission Specialists Sandy Magnus and Rex Walheim.

Space Shuttle on launch pad
Image taken from cnet / The space shuttle on the launch pad, being prepared for the mission.

Atlantis is scheduled to take off at 11:26 a.m. ET today, weather permitting, on NASA's final shuttle mission after three decades and more than 130 flights, with a landing at the Kennedy Space Center set for July 20. If Atlantis misses its launch window on Friday, there are additional opportunities to launch on Saturday and Sunday mornings, when the chances for favourable weather increase to around 40% and 60% respectively. If the delay continues after that, the next window for launch is likely to be Saturday 16 July.

The space shuttle mission started back in 1972 and opened an aera with the launch of the Columbia in 1981. The program was troubled by its cost, a reckoned $198.6 billion. With a total of 134 mission, This is about $1.4 billion per flight.

THe retirement of the shuttle came as a result of political vision and games with former President Bush announcing changes in the NASA targets aiming to launch a new program to send astronauts back to the moon. The retirement of the shuttle was part of the plan to free up cash within the NASA for these visions. The program was however by President Obama scraped as it was already running out of hand in terms of cost and timing. Currently there seems to be not really a plan for what comes next. The current political climate could maybe even feature a privat provider of space explorations being involved. A number of commercial space missions are in planning, with the Vigin Galactic being only one of them.

Space Shuttle on launch pad
Image taken from dailygalaxy / Hubble looking at distant nebula.

The dimensions of the whole Space Shuttle program were massive. Not only in terms of cost but also in terms of staff and vision. The conquest of space is a old dream fueled by global rivalry and politics since the early fifties of the last century. The Space Shuttle program was a bold statement taking the mission on a next level by basing it on reusable technology as opposed to the one way missions launched earlier.

As the Guardian n puts it: "The failures of the shuttle could easily eclipse the programme's achievements. But aficionados point to a long list of triumphs. The shuttle hauled three of Nasa's four "great observatories" into orbit – the Hubble Space Telescope, the Compton Gamma Ray Observatory and the Chandra X-ray Observatory."

Above all the shuttle enabled the building of the International Space Station. A massive structure for longer space mission and extensive experiments. A controversial project, it has a decade to prove its worth as an orbiting science lab. With a price tag of $100bn, that is a tall order, but if nothing else, the station taught astronauts how to build complex structures in space. This might be something to prove of value in the future depending on the projects for future missions.

Certainly the Space Shuttle has contributed a lot to the identification of millions with space missions and is a beloved symbole for technology and achievement. It establishes a connection beyond earth, projecting into space. Thus opening the lid on a experiment in to dimensions far reaching firmly putting human kind into relations.

Looking back at Charles and Ray Eames famous power of ten movie from 1977, it becomes clear what the sort of dimension are the Space Shuttle program has unleashed. The dimensions of the actual flight might not be very special, but the outreach of the programs and missions launched from the shuttle are. LIke the Hubble telescope and several spacecraft hitched a ride into orbit on the shuttle before embarking on their onward journeys. The Galileo probe went to Jupiter, Magellan mapped Venus and the European Space Agency's Ulysses spacecraft conducted the first survey of the sun's environment.

Putting the dimension in place is one way of starting to get to grips with the scale. Some interactive versions extend on the Power of 10 idea making it possible to link in by allowing interaction and jumping between the scales and references. Nikon has in 2005 put together a really nice online version of such an interactive scale comparison called Universcale.

Nikon Univescale
Image taken from brainpicking / Screen shot of the Nikon Univescale web app. Click to have a play.

UPDATE 2011-07-08

The Atlantis has successfully left earth and is on its mission, expected to dock at the International Space Station on Sunday. It will be a 12 day mission.

Nikon Univescale
Image taken from NASA / The space shuttle Atlantis leaving the launch pad at NASA's Kennedy Space Center in Florida at 11:29 a.m. EDT.

Thursday, 7 July 2011

CUPUM Notes First Day

It was a fairly busy day, the first of a three day conference in Lake Louise, Canada. The weather was brilliant, the views amazing and the tables had table cloth on. Already the opening has been visited in good numbers and so did the sessions.

The first keynote by Ken Lindmark focused on a local project, a elaborate model for the city of Calgary forecasting scenarios for a 60 year period. A number of the local people were involved with this project. The setting for the model was very large and looking far outside the city boundaries in order to create a fairly accurate picture of the traffic and commute volumes.

As things go and different interests colide, the actual report coming out of the study was reduced to the city boundaries dramatically limiting the models capacity. But still the city of Calgary now has a decent plan for the future for its mobility. For details see plan|it|Calgary.

RealTime Rome
Image taken form Sensable City lab / RealTime Rome project visualising sensor data.

Kristian Kloeckl from the MIT Sensable City lab presented the work he had done with his colleagues on the Live Singapore project. A very ambitious data visualisation project covering the whole country state in real time. They are extending on previous projects such as RealTime Rome and WikiCity Rome.

For the Singapore version the team is aiming to develop a very flexible platform capable of handling many hundreds of independent data sources at a speeds of up to 300 updates per second. The concept is to only provide the platform, but not to host the data. This simplifies the ownership and responsibility requirements as well as the infrastructure load. Its really the engine and not a data repository.

This allows for a lot of flexibility and the team to focus on questions beyond the data management. For example the interesting bit is not the data but how the different data streams are combined and how the services are used. The project will log these details and there is a lot of capacity to learn from the usage details where real value can be generated.

Currently the test model is running with real time mobile hone data, real time Taxi GPS data (from 16'000 taxis), real time shipment data, real time airport traffic data as well as real time electricity consumption for industry and business. This is possible through partnerships with a range of high profile companies based in Singapore.

Erik Kjems presented the project of a 3D Model used as a User-Interface for energy system modeling. There was some interesting approaches to visualise scenarios based around the options of future energy solutions for the city of Copenhagen. The cit was rebuilt in 3D were each module was capable of processing information and transform according to the scenario settings. User were able to put power plants an windfarms and watch their city transform.

Peter Zeile and Antonio Nelson da Silva discussed their collaboration for a Smart Sensoring prototype supporting barrier free planning. The sensing is measuring individual stress levels via skin conductance, also known as galvanic skin response (GSR). The concept is very similar to some of Christina Nolde's Bio Mapping and Emotional Cartography projects.

RealTime Rome
Image taken form CPE TU Kaiserslautern / COncept sketches and prototype of the Smart Sensor and GPS.

The group at University of Kaiserslautern has developed a wristband that monitors and records the stress levels and is in sync with a GPS. The project focus is on detection of excluding barriers in urban contexts for a variety of disabilities. The current wrist band prototype is still quite expensive at about €1000, but could be optimised for the use in a scaled up study. Also they are currently working on a mobile phone connected version of the tool. It will be Android based and transmit the GSR levels to a central data strage.

Simona Sofronie from PHL University College in Hassel, Belgium discussing the project 'An Ubiquitous Urban Game' she is developing for her PhD. The project is based around GPS tracking of individuals adding a group task feature to foster experimenting with spatial navigation and questioning of established routines. See her presentation below.

It was a great day with a lot to talk about later on during dinner. Looking forward to two other days of great inspirational talks.

Wednesday, 6 July 2011

New City Landscape - Mapping Urban Twitter Usage

I am at CUPUM presenting a paper on the ongoing New City Landscape location based Twitter message mapping project. The paper gives an overview of a whole range of aspects this project is working with. Rangin from data collection, ethical discussion of 'tweets as public data', mapping the virtual landscapes, to temporal aspects.

Lake Louise Postcard
Image taken form Attic Postcards / Vintage postcard, dating 'White Border' 1915 - 1930, showing the Chateau Lake Louise on the shores of Lake Louise in Alberta, Canada.

The presentation also gives a brief outlook of what the upcoming directions for the project could be. Earlier there were a number of these directions presented on urbanTick. This ranges from crowd sourcing to the tracking of public events or disaster as well as networking, connecting social and spatial aspects.

Some of these are currently being details and for other development of methods is under way. Recently the networking aspects were in the focus. There were network maps based on the London data, but also the Munich data and the San Francisco data. Most recently there were some visuals looking at intercity relationships using a data set that contains tweets for Switzerland were the alps as physical barriers showed up clearly in the network.

The presentation can be found below or on

Cartographica - GIS for the Mac Platform - 01

Traditionally Geographic Information System (GIS) have been exclusively run on the Windows platform. Only very few applications run on either cross platform or exclusively on the Mac.

The idea behind a GIS is the linking of spatial content with table data. This ins beside the geographic and geometric information an object can have any additional information associated. For example a data set contains points for all the locations of School buildings in London. Get the data from the Guardian Data Blog for a real go at it with your GIS of choice. This is a list of Latitude longitude coordinates. Every such row can now feature additional information such as the name of the school, the number of pupils and whether it is a nursery, primary, secondary school or a university. The GIS allows to distinguish between these separate entities of information and perform tasks using this additional information.

John Snow 1855 cholera outbreak
Image taken from Wikimedia / The ultimate application of GIS in practice. E. W. Gilbert's version (1958) of John Snow's 1855 map of the Soho cholera outbreak showing the clusters of cholera cases in the London epidemic of 1854.

For example it is possible to query the table and only display the primary schools. With a further query the primary schools can be coloured in bands of pupil numbers, and so on. GIS is very flexible in the way it can hand this sort of data and most of the systems are modular where different modules can be added and upgraded. There is usually also the option to extend on the functionality by writing individual add-ons to perform very specific tasks.

The ultimate practical application for GIS is the discovery of the cholera source in London by John Snow in 1855. THe story goes that he was able to identify one single water pump as the source of the cholera outbreak because he mapped it out spatially and realised there was a cluster around one pump that must be causing the illness.

The dominating system is the ESRI platform offering the most complete set of tools and services ranging from mapping to mobile applications. The ESRI system however is so big and versatile, that it has grown a massive beast of an application capable of doing everything at the cost of manageability and simplicity. Handling and usability is very clunky and feels very much 1995. It is just about like Microsoft Word with terrible icon bars and millions of functions, you'll spend more time reading the helpful for individual tools than actually applying tools and functions.

Screenshot Cartographica GIS
Image taken from Cnet / Screenshot showing some of the Cartographica GIS windows.

With the location focuses move towards more spatial data and geographication of just about everything, GIS has risen to be one of the crucial applications, employed widely across disciplines and trades.
Especially recently there has been a push towards flexible GIS platforms, platform independent as well as web based. A number of these smaller applications have now grown up too and are capable of an impressive range of functions and getting very useful for spatial analysis of a good range of problems.

Cartographica is such platform and it is built exclusively for the Mac. It is one of the most up-to-date GIS's for this platform. It was first released back in 2008 and has seen since some updates running the current version 1.2.2. The market is very competitive, but Cartographica has secured itself a niche with the platform tie.

The functionality is covering a very good range for basic spatial analysis and functions ranging from simple displaying of geographical data including a range of projection transformation to performing of basic analysis such as density or querying to the export of data in a range of formats from shape files (ESRI file standard) to web based and KML, but also graphic formats such as jpg and Illustrator.

This is polished by a intuitive handling of the software as well as extensive data manipulation, including creation of data features. There is also a range of add on features such a the option to display geographical context or background information such as Bing aerial imagery or Open Street Map.

Screenshot Cartographica GISCartographica on iPadCartographica on iPad
Image taken from Cartographica / They are offering also a brand new mobile app, running on iPhone and iPad.

This is about enough said about the functionality. If you need to have a look at a data set spatially this is what you want. Importing a table in a few clicks, project it correctly, pull in some context maps. Find the characteristics, adjust the graphics and export it as in a comprehensive way to share and communicate.

This is exactly what Cartographica does. And this is what a lot of us currently need. A comprehensive, but user friendly tool that does exactly what it says with no magic, but a lot of confidence. Of course there is a lot more to it and in two upcoming post the features and the handling is looked at in more detail. Look out for the posts on 'Import and Handling' and 'Styling and Export'.

Screenshot Cartographica GIS
Image taken from kelsocartography / Screenshot showing some of the Cartographica GIS windows.

The software is available form the web store at a price of $495 and as an academic student license for only $99 for one year. This is tremendously good offer, especially if compared to some of the other packages prices.

Monday, 4 July 2011

Architecture - two London Summer Events

Is this time of year again, summer shows are on and London has a great tradition for architecture summer shows. Two events that are a highlight every year are the UCL Bartlett School of Architecture Summer Show and the Serpentine Gallery Summer Pavilion.

Images by the Bartlett on Flickr / Megalomania by Jonathan Gales.

Both have opened this weekend. The Bartlett Summer Show will be on for the next week and the Serpentine Pavilion will be on until October. Both are a must see and definitely worth a visit. It does not require you to spend three full hours for each event, however you could. This is the interesting thing, both events/locations are very flexible, it might be even worth going twice.

The Bartlett Summer Show is the end of the academic year show of the entire Bartlett School of Architecture units. Its is already for years every year at the Slade School of Art in the main UCL court at the north end. THere is a lot of space but if the Bartlett takes over its jame packed and models drawings and makings fill floor and walls up to the ceiling, visitors can be happy if they find a little walkway in between al the material produced. And this is even only a selection of students projects on show here.

Images by the Bartlett on Flickr / Some of the Bartlett Summer Show highlights.

The show is organised by unit with each unit having done their own architectural projects, research and development you can expect a highly divers range of projects and visualisations. THere is stil however an sort of overall style or aura to each Bartlett project.

The Serpentine Summer Pavilion on the other hand is a single object. The Serpentine Gallery invites an architect (not sure how they define this) every year to build a pavilion structure for the duration of the summer just outside the Gallery in Hyde Park. The idea is to bring visionary architects from all over the world to England who have not built anything in the UK before. The project started in 2000 with a contribution by Zaha Hadid and has since collected an impressive list of names including Neymeier, Koolhas, Gherry, Elliasson and so on.

Serpentine Pavilion by Zumtor - model
Images by habitables / The pavilion model as a preview for 2010.

This years pavilion is created by the Swiss architect Peter Zumtor. The Prizker Prize Winner 2009 is respected for his quiete but very strong style. His dedicated use of material has become a trademark. He is not new to the idea of building a pavilion. In 2000 he built the Swiss Pavilion for the World Expo in Hannover, a wood pile branded 'Klang Koerper' (Sound Box). Other acclaimed projects include the thermal bath in Vals, Switzerland, Kunsthaus Bregenz, Germany or the KOLUMBA Art museum of the Archdiocese of Cologne. See this article on Dezeen for an overview.

Serpentine Pavilion by Zumtor - model
Images by Phaidon / The pavilion with the secret garden as it looks in real in 2011.

This years Summer Pavilion is a secret garden, a black box with a very quiet and enclosed garden. Protected and well looked after it reassembles a medieval
The specially created garden by the influential Dutch designer Piet Oudolf.

As the Serpentine describes the projects:"The concept for this year’s Pavilion is the hortus conclusus, a contemplative room, a garden within a garden. One enters the building from the lawn and begins the transition into the central garden, a place abstracted from the world of noise and traffic and the smells of London – an interior space within which to sit, to walk, to observe the flowers. With this Pavilion, as with previous structures such as the famous Thermal Baths at Vals, Switzerland, or the Bruder Klaus Chapel in Mechernich, Germany, Zumthor has emphasised the sensory and spiritual aspects of the architectural experience, from the precise yet simple composition and ‘presence’ of the materials, to the handling of scale and the effect of light."

The black box has a special materiality to it. It is essentially a plywood box treated with a cotton fabric and painted. This creates a sort of warm and calm atmosphere. A lot of the noise is being swallowed by this surface. It does completely transform the wood properties and as a look it has more of a concrete quality to it. However, in use (while running or stamping or touching there is of course no stone or concrete quality to it. Also in terms of temperature there is no stone quality is is warm an lacks the summer cooling quality of stone or concreet.

Nevertheless, the focus was ont eh quietness, formality and temporality of the pavilion. Regarding those aspects the material is used in a surprising and beneficial quality. It is an experiment, but it works as an image.

As a place it works well and is definitely a departure form previous catering and fun centered pavilions. Some of the visitors then complained about not having a cafeteria integrated with the structure, but only a coffee van outside the main Gallery. On the other hand the quiet and strong atmosphere is very present once one has reached the inside. with the garden and the open roof. The impact and quality of it is probably best assessed by children, of whom some can be observed to quietly stand or sit, some even lay down on the benches, relaxing and diving into the quietness and strength of the formal architecture. Zumtor has the capability to create architecture at such a level of strength.


The Bartlett Summer Show is the annual celebration of student work at the Bartlett School of Architecture, UCL. Over 450 students show innovative drawings, models, devices, texts, animations and installations. Saturday 2nd July, 10.00 - 20.30, Sunday 3rd July, 10.00 - 17.30, Monday 4th July, 10.00 - 17.30, Tuesday 5th July, 10.00 - 17:30, Wednesday 6th July, 10.00 - 17.30, Thursday 7th July, 10.00 - 20.30, Friday 8th July, 10.00 - 20.30, Saturday 9th July, 10.00 - 17.00 (show closes). Ticket Information: Exhibition open to the public.

Serpentine Gallery Pavilion 2011, Designed by Peter Zumthor, 1 July – 16 October 2011.