Wednesday, 30 November 2011

Book - Floor Plan Manual Housing


Housing projects are an architects everyday business. Housing is one of the really big architectural challenges as it more than many other tasks directly represents an idea of being and enabling to unfold and arrange. The society and social implication of architecture is the most direct while designing how the individuals life their everyday lives.

Nevertheless, or especially so, housing is heavily influenced by trends and norms. It has been over the last century and continues to be a play ball of the latest fashion. It does however, also reflect as much as any other fashion niche represent retrospectively the believes and values of each area.

For those and many other reasons this is a great topic for a publication. How to organise an house is still the chalenge mainly because it is so deeply embedded in culture and trends. There is never the final solution to be found it always has to be a tailored proposal, in the wider sense.

FPMH02
Image taken from Floor Plan Manual Housing / Page 203, Torre Blancas, Sáenz de Oiza, 1969.

The 2011 Birkhauser Floor Plan Manual Housing is the 4th revised and expanded edition of the publication that has already quite some tradition. The first edition was published back in 1994. For the fourth edition the editor Friederike Schneider is joined by Oliver Heckmann as additional editor.

The publication is organised as an atlas of housing floor plans drawn from a pool of amazing projects. The content is organised in categories roughly describing the type of buildings they serve. THese include Block Edge, Urban Infill, Corner Building, Firewall Building, Solitair, Linear Block / Superblock, Apartment Tower, Terraced Complex, Space-Enclosing Structure, Residential Complex / Housing Estate, Detached House, Duplex, Row House.

Even though I am not suer what exactly a Space-Enclosing Structure is the topics seem to have some practical meaning and can be seen as helpful guiding system.

FPMH03
Image taken from Floor Plan Manual Housing / Page 129, House Kauf, Peter Markli, 1989.

Each example is documented over a spread with a short descriptive text introduced and documented with one or two outside photographs. There is a whole building section, a plan of the situation the building is situated in, a icon serving as an diagram of the plan of a single housing unit and a table summarising the key characteristics such a number of units, area per user, building dimensions and details such a parking solution and so on. The main element of course are the floor plans which are shown as floor plans of the building as well as often in detail per unit.

The editors have put in a lot of effort to accomodate for each example the building specific characteristics. For this each representation is slightly different and the elements might be more prominent or an additional section is presented to clearly communicate how this particular example is organised across different levels.

FPMH01
Image taken from Floor Plan Manual Housing / Book cover.

THe publication is very similar to the Typology+, reviewed HERE on urbanTick, by the same publisher. However the Manual is more the technical publication entirely (beside the bright orange) in black and white focusing on the organisation and the actual floor plan, where Typology+ presents the housing project as a building and in colour. They serve different purposes and therefore can happily, with overlaps, coexist.

The manual is something for everyone. As indicated in the introduction floor plans and housing organisation are more than only an architecture task, this is architecture it self and tell the story of a social context they are built for as well as out of. As such the book can be read in many different way under different viewpoints and lights. In this context the proposed organisation is only one of many possibilities and clearly supports the atlas aspect of the publication, but you might find your own way through the 335 pages strong oversize book and it will definitely give joy on that quest.



Schneider, F. & Heckmann, O., 2011. Floor Plan Manual Housing 4th ed., Basel: Birkhäuser.

Tuesday, 29 November 2011

Printing the City


New manufacturing technologies are tipped to change the world, yet again. Machine based production is since the 18th century a reality and with it has the industrial revolution changed the way products and the making of are consumed.

This has had far reaching impacts way beyond the pure manufacturing process, it did completely change society. All of a sudden thousands pieces of exactly the same making, shape and condition were possible. The product was no longer unique and manufactured by hand, but rolled of the conveyor belt.

Printed building by Enrico Dini
Image taken from printertesting / A large scale 3d printer in tests to print a simple building by Enrico Dini.

Yet again new technologies are set to change again the way products are conceptualised. The process of raw material that is mined, pre worked, turned into parts of the product and finally assembled could potentially be overthrown by the newly developed product printing possibilities.

This new printing process is a technologies that allows 3d objects to be printed from a 3d computer model. At the moment the process is possible only with certain materials: plastics, resins and metals. There is room for development however. Already the technology is accurate to print at a precision of around a tenth of a millimetre.

So far it is being developed and used mainly for models, especially in the design industry from architecture to car and airplane design, but also in the machine industry for parts. The technology has been developed over the past decade and is now moving from being used for prototyping to being used for actual parts. These include medical implants, jewellery, football boots designed for individual feet, lampshades, racing-car parts, solid-state batteries and customised mobile phones. Some are even making mechanical devices.

Peter Schmitt 3D prints fully assembled clock mechanisms
Image taken from Peter Schmitt / Parts of a printed clock developed at MIT.

The big change is really that the work no longer is based on the assembly of parts, but the hope of engeniers and developers is that whole products can be printed in one go. Peter Schmitt at MIT has printed a working grandfather clock in one go. But further more printers are also able to reprint themselves.



They can reproduce and print the parts for another printer. At CASA this project is running as part of the payItForward printing project. One printer is used to print the parts for a next printer and who ever gets this printer is to print the parts for the next one. This is the idea of the RepRap printers. Of course they can then also be used to print all sorts of other stuff.

In the building construction industry printers have been used for a while to print models of project. Frank Gerry Architects are leading here with other design firms such as Coop Himmelb(l)au. Of course here the the aims are as opulent as in the car or airline industry to print a whole building.



There are efforts that can be seen as first steps with machines actually building. At the ETH robots from the manufacturing industry are programmed to lay bricks. It can be seen as a first step in printing. The instructions come directly out of the computer and the robots lay the bricks accordingly.

Gramazio & Kohler
Image taken from Dezen / Gramazio & Kohler from ETH printed a wall for the 2008 Venice Biennale.

This can be extended by using flying robots to build taller structures. With the raise of UAVs and drones, these either remote controlled or even GPS (it probably needs more accuracy) controlled flying robots the assembly of buildings and larger structures can be another option. Terminators are set to build our cities of the future dropping in the pieces or printing them on the go.

Frac Centre Flight Assembled Architecture
Image taken from Frac Centre / A flying robot with its load of a brick, Flight Assembled Architecture.

The architects Gramazio & Kohler are planning a project with flying robots that will assemble a six metre-high tower at the FRAC Centre in Orléans, France, next month using styrofoam bricks.



The revolution as such is underway. It is being publicised here and there, but it takes time and a lot of development. Its not being implemented for tomorrow. At the moment printing is going through a transformation from a geeky lab version to actual production of elements and the next step will be the implementation at a larger scale.

It furthermore should also trigger the discussion around raw materials and the sustainable use thereof. With a number of the technologies the recycling of material becomes a very direct reality with old plastic bottles directly being used as the printing material. The same could become true for metal. Imagine the new building being printed from the recycling of the on site existing structure. With the technology the rebuilding of the city is transformed into a reprinting for itself from itself.

Via BLDGBLOG and via Dezen and via the Economist.

Monday, 28 November 2011

Book - Iceland and Architecture?


Iceland is a remote place, being a small island high up north in the Atlantic Ocean is not exactly a place on the high street. The island however, has very distinct characteristics to share and can surprise with unique features.

In terms of architecture Iceland was largely influenced by its history of overseas connections. People and economic ties brought in material, knowledge, styles and trends creating a sort of potpourri of approaches to building.

Hallgrímur, Reykjavik, Iceland
Image take from runawayjane / Hallgrímur, Reykjavik, Iceland. Front entrance faceade Gudjon Samuelsson 1937-86.

A constant of course is the harsh weather and the environmental conditions. In addition the available building materials shaped the early architecture types, the grass- and turf-covered houses as a result of a lack of wood as building material. These earth houses were optimised in terms of isolation and exposure to weather changes, but required a lot of maintenance and rebuilding. at least every two years the unit basically had to be rebuilt. It was to a large extend a living house as such with its shape and extend in constant change.

One of the first to document the Icelandic architecture tradition was Edwin Sacher, who in 1938 wrote his PhD dissertation on the subject. He also was an imported interest, he was a German architectural scholar who promoted the vernacular icelandic architecture. Since these days a lot happened in the Icelandic architecture scene happend and a new Jovis publication looks at how architecture as a discipline and a practice presents itself today.

Since the turf buildings new technologies with prefabrication and then especially concrete found their way quickly into the building practice in Iceland. Also the introduction of stone as a building material. Modernism found its way onto the island together with a number of architects trained abroad after the Second World War.

One of the fascinating aspects today as Kenneth Frampton remarked in 1987, is not so much what is built, but also what could be built. With this especially the landscape in Iceland is moved to the centre of the discussion as it is, beside the weather, the most dramatic condition. The building in connection with the landscape is then also on of the topics the architecture has to live up to an position itself.

Land of Giants Choi+Shine
Image taken from 3.bp / Project by Jin Choi & Thomas Shine of Choi+Shine for a new type of pylons submitted to a competition organised by Icelandic electrical transmission company Landsnet and the Association of Icelandic Architects. The project was titled Land of Giants. See the winning project, which is actually pretty similar in some points HERE at dezen.

The publication presents a brief recap of the history as wel a selection of recent projects. a third large part are interviews where the context of architecture in iceland is discussed. Well actually they are not really interviews but really conversations. In the context of these conversations the projects are discussed and this makes for a very different presentation of the architecture of a place. Its not your usual architecture guide, nor is it a monograph, nor a simple collection. Its really the quest to find the specifics of architecture for a place that has no international identity in the area of architecture.

The format of presentation makes this an interesting exchange between publication and reader in the sense that one feels involved in the conversation and the feeling of discovery amongst it. It transports as the publication accompanying an exhibition on the subject of architecture in Iceland a sense of excitement. The exhibition unfortunately closed this month at the German Architecture Museum in Frankfurt. See HERE for a preview with sample pages of the publication.


Cachola Schmal, P. ed., 2011. Iceland and Architecture?, Berlin: Jovis Verlag.

Friday, 25 November 2011

A Network of Suggestions


Ever wondered why the suggestions on shopping websites such as amazon or ebay more often than not appeal to you? Most links are targeted and do related to recent activity linking activity and interest together.

Amazon's recommendations for products especially books works as a network of relations and starts to groups together similar interest areas. This is based on cross user activity and behaviour with a learning environment. One purchase leads to another and so on.

Christocper Warnow has looked int o creating a network visualisation for the amazon recommendation service and has written a Processing app making use of the open source Gephi API. The tool can take a web link to a book on amazon and create a network around it for up to 100 recommendations associated with the publication.

The tool can be downloaded HERE for a test. It rus in real time and the process of building the network is unfolding on screen, quite interesting to follow. The tool allows for zooming in/out and hovering for information as well as an pdf export function of the created network visualisation.

111117_linked_de
Image by Christopher Warnow / Recommendation network on amazon.de for Linked

111117_linked_com
Image by Christopher Warnow / Recommendation network on amazon.com for Linked

Interesting are the differences between the amazon online stores. Warnow points out that there are connection recommendation differences between for example the .de and the .com store in some examples: "I wanted to compare the recommendations given by amazon.de and amazon.com. And another surprise waited. The milieus looked different. The Germans are connecting postmodernism with Deleuze, the buyers from amazon.com are thinking more about the French situationist movement. I tested it again with the awesome book Linked by Albert-Laszlo Barabasi. The similarities are the complex theory and network dynamics. But the differences are interesting as well. The English milieus contain politics and collective systems, where as the Germans are more into successful marketing and economics."

Thursday, 24 November 2011

Architecture News on your iPhone - BD app


Mobile devices have become the first stop shop for news and information. It is, as a platform constantly available and always updated in real time taking the promis of any news to the limit, to actually getting the latest news.

There are different approaches to news delivery on the devices. On one hand there are the news readers and the news curators, apps that allow the reader to brows the news from different sources in an general environment, often offering the option to link to many online sources including social media. This type like Flipboard or Flud are very popular and flexible.

BDapp04
Image by Ralph Barthel for urbanTick / Architect's news on the iPhone provided by BD.

The second approach on the other hand is for each news provider to launch their individual corporate news app. It is very dedicated and the provider has a complete controle over the way each information reaches the reader.

This second option is being offered by a lot of newspapers. However, most of them can also be integrated with other readers as they offer general webnews that the curator apps can integrate. One of the key factors of course is not only to let readers read and enjoy, but to also let them share. They want to show of what they are reading in order to stay in the game of social media and feed their Twitter, Facebook and so on accounts.

Architecture news so far have mainly been using their blogs to keep news uptodate and allow readers to integrate a feed with their favourite curator app. Things are changing and Architecture News sites also begin to offer their dedicated mobile app for readers to enjoy the freshest and crispiest news in the filed of architecture and planning.

BDapp01b
Image taken from BD iPhone app / Screenshot of the app news section with sharing options.

Building Design (BD), the British architecture news platform, is the first one here in the UK to offer an app for the iPhone. It was launched only this week and provides complete access from your iPhone to all the content on BD. Of course the main fous is on the latest news in various categories.

The initial view is organised in Top Stories, News, Buildings, Opinions and under More you can find the rest. Well the rest contains Competitions, Events, App Showcase (nothing there yet, but presumably this is for architecture related apps) and Jobs. This is actually quite an interesting selection and for the filed will be essential. This is what makes a good architecture news platform, where you get profession related inside information that are practical. Any other building news you can find on the blog sphere in a range of formats and versions.

BDapp02
Image taken from BD iPhone app / Screenshot of the in app photo viewer. With a single tap on the screen the images can be enjoyed full screen text free (bottom right).

The BD app is neat and plain providing the essential options, such as changing the font size and marking an article as a favourite which can be reinterpreted by the users as an I read it later button. It also provides a neat feature to view the article related photos and illustrations in a separate window. This makes the text simpler to read on the small screen and can make use of the full size of the screen for the photos. Its great to see that BD here still keeps the figure description with the photos so that they don't float uncommented. The second good implementation is the sharing function. Articles can be shared via e-mail, Facebook and Twitter directly, plus the link to the article can be copied and shared otherwise. So there is no excuse not to let your networks now about the discoveries and latest knowledge acquisition, it works great.

It is debatable whether the categories on the start screen are the best choice and it would also be interesting if in article switching would be possible. Currently the app is organised centrally from one screen where the user can generally go in to depth only one step. Other newspaper apps such as the guardian version for the iPad from the Apple Newsstand, the user can flip pages and go through article by article whit out having to go back to the startpage. For illustrations especially plans and drawings it would be nice to be able to zoom in ont he little iPhone screen. In this context of course it would be great to see them articles and the photos on an iPad screen.

What is missing from the app is a search button. There is no way to find something its purely on an I came across it at the top of the list basis, which leaves the reader to be a playball of the refreshing moment. Real time as it turns out has its downside and you can be sure you miss out on a lot of the interesting stuff simply because your a moment to early or too late. Very quickly news are going to be buried under the flood of even latter news and the small iPhone screen is not the place one scrolls for minutes to go through the list of latest news.

BD in this respect has limited the list of news items the app displays to about 25 and offer at the bottom of all them two filters. One being UK and the second being International. However, here the website offers a lot more options, including the search function.

The app does not replace the BD website in this sense, it is a sort of news outpost for the platform to keep the users entertained while they have some time to kill. With the More option however, there are some features that can take you further. And of course it is to mention that the app comes add free, the latest architecture news can be enjoyed uninterrupted by tempting offers for building materials or architecture software.

The app comes at an subscription cost of £1.99 for 7 days (1 week) and £2.99 for 30 days (1 month) just like the web service of BD. However currently the app is offered for a 30 day FREE trial so its best you have a look yourself and try take it for a test scroll. The app can be downloaded from the app Store HERE.

BDonlineWeb
Image taken from BD online / Screenshot of the online web site.

Wednesday, 23 November 2011

Book - Great Public Squares


Public spaces are big topic on urban planning. On one hand they are seen as what measures the success of the project and their spacious employments indicates how thoughtful the project is implemented. On the other hand however they are feared for their unpredictability as to how the public like it the cruelty with witch they can tear down a whole project after implementation. With planners and designers public spaces and especially public squares are a sort of love-hate relationship of a special sort.

Still these spaces are what most people talk of beside the famous monuments and icons if they talk about the city and further more those are the spaces people interact with, use and activities take place within. Both locals and tourists sit in the restaurant on the square and drink a coffee, sit on the bench and read the news paper or simply stand over there by the pillar to wait for a date. It's the place to be, the place of orientation and a space to get involved.

Numerous books have been dedicated to this subject and have more or less successful captured and presented the various different aspects of public space. Two of the very famous ones are definitely Camillo Sitte's Der Staetebau nach seinen kuenstlerischen Grundsaetzen (City planning according to artistic principles), 1889 and Alan Jacobs's Great Streets, 1993. There are others like Dr. Vittorio Magnago Lampugnani's Die Stadt im 21. Jahrhundert or from a different perspective CHORA with Raul Bundschoten's Public Spaces.

The key to a good book is the chosen approach, the consistency as well as the plainness of the representation. In order to serve the understanding and the readability everything has to be dedicated supportive in that the read can dive into a place through the book.

A recent Norton publication by Robert F. Gate presents a new try at this noble task of selecting and summarizing a set of public squares from Europe and the Americas. With Great Public Squares: An Architect's Selection the author not only in the title is inspired by a number of the famous books on this subject, it is an other version of a successful receipt.

Place des Cornieres
Image take from monpazier / The public square of Monpazier, the Place des Cornieres, in the book on page 130.

Unfortunately, even though with great intentions, this book can not live up to the expectation its sets by placing itself in the companionship of such great master pieces. From the design to the graphical representation to the selected photographs this publication doesn't quite manage to convince and draw the reader in. Especially the graphics of the plans that document each square are very crude. The representation is more concealing than revealing and gradients in full colours and patterns make very hard to read. The last thing one want ina gapihcal representation of space is to know about the different coloured chares each restaurant has chosen on the Plaza Mayor in Salmanaca.

The patterns are very dominant and the line thickness distracting, in many cases it is impossible to read the difference between open space and indoor space and roofed parts are non distinguishable. The one point that can be discussed is the direction of the sunlight. The author here has chosen to go with the geographers approach to place the sun in the North-East drawing the shadows towards the bottom right. His argument is that it makes buildings "...jump out". While I believe it is very important to show the shadows my opinion would be to show the reality in order to make the representation of space close to what it actually looks like. It is just that the centre of gravity can be shifted by the dominant shadows and if the Piazza San Pietro in Rome all of a sudden shifts to the south rather than what it always does, shifting to the north, it is a very different thing.

There would be other things to discuss like the use of colours and the representation of canopies, furniture and temporal structures, but it wouldn't make things much better. Similar with the choice and layout of the documenting photographs. There are usually too many on e one page and a number of them are unspecific making them hard to place in the overall picture the publication is trying to bring across.

Venice Piazza San Marco
Image take from Archleague / The public square in Venice Piazza San Marco, in the book on page 34.

However the book has its qualities as a first point of reference if looking for public squares. The selection can never be complete, but the examples chosen are definitely a bunch worth looking at. Also the background texts that weave in a bit of history and point out a few specialities as well as references to other squares are indeed very useful. The same is true for the information and details of measurements. Here the shadows are coming in handy again as at the scale of 1:1000 make it possible to actually measure the hight of each element.

Overall a book on a noble subject that fails to live up to expectations, e.g. graphically (it already starts on the cover in the way the banner is placed very unfortunate slightly covering the books subject, the square), but still holds some qualities for the user in specific use cases. Also for other reviews, have a read over at Archidose with more of a focus on the selection of presented examples.

Great Public Squares Book cover
Image taken from Archidose / Book cover.



Gatje, R., 2010. Great Public Squares: An Architect's Selection, New York, N.Y: W. W. Norton & Co.

Monday, 21 November 2011

MapAttack and Street Grab


Gaming at large scale is a hot topic with the new technologies available. It makes for a great spatial experience where locations can be rediscovered and reclaimed in a new way with a new purpose. The practice of the production of space is very present with this new breed of games that make uses of location based technology and smart phones as well as social networking platforms. Earlier posts HERE and HERE.

Around Foursquare a few extensions have been developed such as oust.me or MobZombies. There are also games such a shadowCity or situationist operating platform independent but are crowd oriented. All these games turn real world spatial movement recorded by the mobile phones GPS in to virtual achievements and traces that allow for other players to interact with.

MapAttack!
Image taken from mapAttack / An AR view of the game board with the locations as they are captured by the different teams (colour) and the number of points each on contributes.

MapAttack is one of these new breeds of real time, real location, virtual games. It is a game platform that runs on iOS and Android. It was developed from the Geoloqi platform. It is a multiplayer game for 4-12 players in two teams battling for supremacy over a terrain by conquering virtual locations in the real world that will count as points towards the team overall rating. Locations are conquered by being there first which will be registerd by the mobile platform and transmitted to the centralised mapAttack server. In real time all players have an overview of the current stats of the game.

MapAttack gaming session can be hosted anywhere and might come to a city near you. Check out the twitter page for updated on games and locations.
If your interested to use the API to build your own version of the game there is a developers page. The code s open source, including the mobile app.



"MapAttack is a real-time location-based GPS game powered by the @geoloqi platform. Coming to a city near you.
This video shows a visualisation of the territory captured by each team during gameplay.
Why? So you can turn the real world into a game, of course! To get to run around while doing awesome things and have fun! The feeling while playing a real-life game is one of the best things on earth. It’s not common, but it’s becoming an increasingly awesome possibility with mobile technology. We hope millions of these games occur and that we can make more of them possible. We're always inspired by Jane McGonigal and AreaCode and we’d like to increase our ability to bring more people into real-world gaming."



via roomthily via programmableWeb.

Saturday, 19 November 2011

City in Time - SACRPH Conference in Baltimore


The biannual conference of the Society for American City and Regional Planning History (SACRPH) is this year the 14th National Conference on Planning History being held in Baltimore MD.

The Society for American City and Regional Planning History (SACRPH) is an interdisciplinary organisation dedicated to promoting scholarship on the planning of cities and metropolitan regions over time, and to bridging the gap between the scholarly study of cities and the practice of urban planning.

Berlin Badeschiff
Image taken from the Baltimore Architecture Foundation / The Inner Harbor, before Charles Center & Harborplace.

I will be presenting a paper on The City in Time and Space drawing on the research work undertaken with the urbanDiary project using GPS-tracking, interviews and mental maps. The paper is part of the session 49 with the overall title Seeing Time: Urban Paces and Building Cycles it will be chaired by Philip J. Ethington, Professor of History at University of Southern California and the initiator of the HyperCities project.

Other presenters in the session are Sandra Parvu, Ecole Nationale Supérieure d’Architecture de Paris on Time Perceptions in Neighborhoods Undergoing Demolition, Francesca Ammon, Yale University on Progress in Progress: The Representation and Experience of Postwar Building Demolition and Gabrielle Bendiner-Viani, The New School on Seeing the Human City: A Visual and Value-Rich Urbanism.


Thursday, 17 November 2011

Book - Urban Pioneers


Cities are in constant transformation with building stock constantly changing. It is a renewal process from within that is loosely guided by urban planning regulation and sometimes through a masterplan or planning vision. This process is paced at a slow cycle compared to everyday buzz, but can have a rather fast turnaround if one is at a distance.

Reasons are various, but include material lifecycle and shift in activity and economics as well as trends and fashion to some extend. Most likely it is all of this and a couple more all at once. However the transformation is, even though repetitive, not a back to back replacement of physical form and neither is it a like for like exchange.

The dynamics of urban renewal can include long term decay, derelict elements, brown fields, building sites and so on. There can be rather long periods of slow or non development where the area is not actively contributing to the wealth generating, money making economy of the trend areas of the city.

Nevertheless, these areas might have a value and are still space, a scarce resource in the urban context. With this such places can become very valuable places for specific activities and society groups. At low or no cost urban places can be taken over and used for individual ideas a concept very often built on a temporary or opportunity concept of usage.

Berlin Badeschiff
Image taken from null-euro-urbanismus / The project Neuland was initiated by the planning department and focuses on making empty spaces accessible and usable by the local public.

In various cities these mechanisms of transformation have been turned into partly institutionalised processes with officials having recognised the value and power of mainly cultural and social themed temporary uses of vacant urban spaces. A number of cities across Europe and America are picking up on it with Vienna (partly discussed earlier HERE and HERE) and Berlin being pretty pro active.

Jovis Publisher has in 2007 published a summary of projects and discussions around the topic with a focus on Berlin. The publication Urban Pioneers: Berlin Experience with Temporary Urbanism edited by the city of Berlin, the Senatsverwaltng fuer Stadtentwicklung directly has now been reprinted in 2011 and is available again.

The publication features projects around temporary usage of vacant sites, portraits concepts of space occupation and the reclaim of urban territory lost to barriers, hoardings and borded up windows. The origin of these spaces in the publication is described as mainly down to changes in the economy, with older industries disappearing, the developing of new production and logistics systems including technology and supply. Also demographic change is discussed in the publication as a factor.

The projects presented range from gardening, often guerilla gardening to golf and alternative housing projects in trailers and tents. There are also skaterparks, openair theaters bars and accessible green spaces as well as cultural venues, local centres and educational institutions that found a home in reclaimed properties.

One of the very first and very public projects was the Badeschiff (Bathing Ship) in 2005. It is a wooden platform leading to a floating pool in the river Spree. It has become very popular with locals as well as tourists and is a model that is in use in various other cities too. A few sample pages are available form HERE.

Berlin Badeschiff
Image taken from slowtravelberlin.com / The Berlin Bathing Ship in the Spree in summer. In winter the bath is covered with a tent structure and turned into a sauna and relax world.

The publication details these projects in depth with not only a mere description but a presentation and discussion of the technical aspects, such as development timeframe, initiative, the role of the local authority, ownership, the legal framework and financing models. There is for each project as a description of the main hurdles and conflicting interest. With this the publication manages to lift the discussion form the mere wow a cool, trendy project to a proper discussion of urban space usage, urban redevelopment as well as local initiatives and bottom up planning and discurse. As such it can be a handbook for both planners and initiatives lead by local groups or even individuals.

For once urban spaces are not just to be used, but to be shaped, programmed and activated by the public that is you.

urbanPioneers cover.indd
Image taken from Jovis / Book cover

Senatsverwaltung fuer Stadtentwicklung ed., 2007. Urban Pioneers: Berlin Experience with Temporary Urbanism. Bilingual, reprint 2011, Berlin: Jovis.

Tuesday, 15 November 2011

Skyview TimeLapse


Its the biggest thin of all and this view serves for a few decades already as the icon of sustainability. With the beauty it transpires and the calmness it entails, the view from the outer space onto our planet earth provide a sense of belonging.

This timeLapse sequences was put together by Michael König out of photographs taken by Ron Garan and the crew of expedition 28 & 29 onboard the International Space Station from August to October, 2011.

The frames were shot at average altitudes of around 350 km on a special built ISO HD Camera developed by NHK Japan. There is little to now image or colour correction applied. The colour play out very intensively and do the magic with the green fringes of the light within the atmosphere.

On to of the blue marbel picture this clip provides a good sense of movement and rotation. Even if most of the sequences are short and the motion is rather speedy, whilst capturing the shape of the sphere the rotation is very present. It transcendes a sort of known icon into a motion of discovery.

All of a sudden the primary school geography teachers demonstration of the globe rotation producing day and night make sense, as the land masses, the continents including the clouds and storms with heavy flashes twirl across the screen. Its a real world version of Google Earth. Actually the world might not be flat after all, or is it?

Music: Jan Jelinek | Do Dekor, faitiche back2001 w+p by Jan Jelinek, published by Betke Edition.
A description of location can be found HERE at the bottom of the article. A lot of interesting locations can be spotted, the Mediterranean, the Middle East, Egypt, Austalia and so on. Have a go at guessing.

Monday, 14 November 2011

Thinking Vienna - Successful Legacy Marketing


In recent years Vienna has topped the rankings as most liveable city in consecutive years. Often enough it is Zuerich in Switzerland and Vienna as the two cities fighting over the first two places. Vienna however has recently overtaken Zuerich and has been, at least in the renown Mercer raking Quality of living ranking, on place number one for two years in a row.

Vienna is lovely, sorted and clean at least somewhere between the first Bezirk and the 19th. The sprawling suburbisation in the ranges of the green fringes around the city is a different topic.

Only just recently the historic centre of the city, the first Bezirk has been given World Heritage status appraising the quality of the ensemble and freezing it for the foreseeable future as such. It's not that there are no interventions, 70s or 80s monstrosities, commercialised shop fronts or material insensivities. Overall however, the management of history, legacy and identity has been rather successful. This for example includes the very first and fiercely and controversially discussed Coop Himmelb(l)au rooftop project number one at Falkestrasse 6, just accross from the MAK.

Coop Himmelb(l)au Falkestrasse 6 Rooftop
Image by Geral Zugmann, taken from q2xro / Coop Himmelb(l)au Falkestrasse 6 Rooftop project located in Vienna's first district, now selected as a world heritage site.

Vienna is successfully managing its building stock also beyond the historic centre. From the Ring, the former city wall area, to the Guertel, the former secondary wall, and beyond into the Vorstaedte Vienna has kept a rather xxxx einheitlich xxx building stock of Gruenderzeit buildings. On the city side of the Guertel one finds the upper class houses and on the outside the lower class buildings back then called the Zinshaeuser, meaning interest building, since it was built in the dramatic growth period of the industrialization during the 19th century. During this region Vienna grew from audit 1m to 2m with most of the population living in these Zinshaeuser suffering terrible standards, including the renting of beds, by the landlord twice or even three fold for shift workers.

As mentioned in the earlier post on Vienna, the cities population declined dramatically after the Second World War with the introduction of the Iron Curtain and Vienna in the following being disconnected from its Eastern backcountry. Interesting enough however, the city kept growing, still turing the surrounding grassland into built areas.

Over about 50 years Vienna developed a very sophisticated housing practice. Social housing is a established practice since the establishment of the Red Vienna. Housing is with the massive building stock within the city however, always also a topic of revitalisation and inner city change. Experts from the city today call it Slow Urban Revitalisation. This is however cheekily positively describing a lack of pressure and investment.

Vienna does not have, as other cities do a dramatic pressure on its building stock. Because they kept building, even if slowed down, as well as maintaining the Gruenderzeit buildings, the city is very well stocked. Slow in this case is a luxury of course offering great opportunities. There is more time for quality, more time for adaptability and more time for growth within each project.

Urban spaces don't like to be rushed in to places. the context needs to adapt and grow alongside. In Vienna this practice was sort of accidentally developed and put in to practice, simply because the conditions were pushing it this way. Nevertheless the planners and the responsible people in the Gebietsbetreuung make the most of it and there are a number of very successful projects that could be realised at inner city locations.

Vienna Urban-Loritz Square by Silja Tillner
Image taken from Wikimeda / Vienna Urban-Loritz Square. Roof developed by architect Silja Tillner as part of the redesign of the square in connection with the Guertel Revitalisation.

One such project is the Guertel Revitalisation mainly lead and developed by the architect Silja Tillner. The project managed to revitalise the 30 km Westguertel along the Stadtbahn (Vienna Metropolitan Railway) designed and relised by Otto Wagner.

Interesting around the management of the building stock and the quality of urbanity developed under the new redevelopment schemas, is the discussion around density. As the Zinshaeuser earlier were really developed as cheep housing options for the owners to make money they provided only minimal standards and were rented out on a room basis. To optimize rents rooms often housed up to ten individuals. This meant real packed living under these circumstances.

However today, these densities have dramatically dropped and even though the built mass, the building stock is still the same the sort of people density must have dropped dramatically. Especially if the population reduction is taken into account as well as the continuous building practice on the outskirts. The image of the city that forms is a sophisticated spreading process. Vienna must have changed from a high-density, highly packed urban moloch into a lovely living standard league topping city.

At what cost? Non there seems, if talking to officials. Everybody seems pleased and very busy with he Slow Urban Revitalization . Everything is happening so slowly that there is little sense of the overall picture. While Vienna is continuously eating and in post-post-modernism digesting the surrounding countryside, the inner city slow changing practice is not adding quality to the urban spaces beyond rising the living standards inside the Gruenderzeit buildings. Its merely a shift from a one room apartment occupied by 10 tenants plus kids, to a very chic Altbau Wohnung (old building flat), a two or maybe three bed apartment for a single household or a couple maybe.

Whilst the urban constellation still looks the same, the city has changed. It has changed dramatically and is slipping through he fingers of the planners. It can not be captured by density factors in numbers, the new identity and the new buzz is generated by individuals and people density. Physically Vienna is built but inside this structure the body of the city has changed, it has been starved and is now with returning wealth thinning out.


The movie shows the building site around the artificially created lake for the new Aspern Lake City development on the outskirts of Vienna. It is located on a former airfield and underdevelopment for mainly housing usage. Masterplan available HERE.

Whilst the Gruenderzeit buildings seems to hold typologically very good qualities with its very basic and simple structure appear adaptable. This thinning process might lead to the crushing of the cities body if these heavy structures are underused and too scarcely populated. The city could it itself slowly from the inside. In addition of course there is a parallel discussion focusing on the outskirts and the continuos growing process at the fringes. With Vienna's forecasted population growth towards t the 2m mark again, the discussion around sustainable growth, density and planning are essential and at the moment appear to bother the politicians and planners in this slow developing city not enough.

Tuesday, 8 November 2011

Vienna - Resilience and Taxi Tracks


Vienna the city at the Donau is rediscovering itself. After decades directly at the iron curtan the city has begun to reestablish and revitalise its former vital connections deep into Eastern Europe.

Between 1945 and the end of the Cold War in 1989 Vienna was effectively cut of its pulsing backcountry in the East. It was the Capital at the Eastern border of Europe surviving on one way connections shrinking from a population of over 2 million in 1910 to about 1.5 million in the 80s and 90s. It has grown since again together with this slow recovery to about 1.7 million.

I am currently in Vienna with a group of Students discovering the city and the intertwined urbanisation and planning processes, with a special focus on the Guertel in Vienna. This incredible resilience, to use an at the moment definitely overused word, of the urban structure to survive and at the same time develop quality during such a long time span of usage and input starvation is incredibly fascinating. It can be a great example of how durable and versatile urban morphology can be, actually has to be and visualises at exempla the meaning of cross generation investment on the level of society.

However it is also clear that this is not achieved only through the form or morphology good architecture or any other single discipline, but is a success proving the resilience of the city as a whole.

24 hours of taxi movement in Vienna
Image taken from Sense of Pattern / One day of taxi movement in the Vienna region. The active spotin the bottom South-East corner is the airport.

Interesting insight in this respect of course provide the visualisation of flows and movement. How is the morphology, the urban structure being navigated, used and interpreted for everyday busynesses? How easy is it for the wider public to access and interact with the city? Those are indicators showing the direct interadaptebility and everyday flexibility of the city in exchange with the citizens.

Taxi data has allowed to visualise these commuting movement pattern to be visualised on the scale of the city, providing a glimps of the hustle and bustle of Vienna over 24 hours. The project Sense of Pattern is continously developed by Mahir M. Yavuz, initially at the Austrian Institute of Technology and is rendered and visualised using processing and some python. The dat was provided by AIT.

4 commuters in Vienna
Image taken from Sense of Pattern / Four different types of commuters out of the data heap. This data was collected over the period of five weeks focusing on just four individuals.

In a series of approaches Yavuz works different aspects in to the focus of the visualisation. This being the sheer volume and the busyness in one, but being the typology and the character of a few in others. This is not providing a final picture but it is painting the characteristics while managing to play the scales and dimensions freely.

Friday, 4 November 2011

Rendevous - History of the Universe


The Murf by the band Rendevous is the electronic soundtrack to the universe. Not on its own but together with the stunning illustration by Scott Benson. Together it makes a music video of the very inspiring sort.

It is inspiring technically and of course visually. Still, even though there is a whole story told in the animation the sound is not pushed in to the background, the two elements perfectly join up to one great piece of entertainment.



The Randevous album can be bought on iTunes HERE. They also feature the music video there and some additional stuff.

Thursday, 3 November 2011

Population Growth - a Problem of Scales


Population Growth - a Problem of Scales

The end of October has according to the UN office for statistics officially marked the population growth reached 7billion. This is seven billion individuals living on planet earth, an astonishing number. On October 31st the 7th billion child was born.

Astonishing it is in regards to the unprecedented growth during only the past 200 years. Back in 1927 the world population was recorded as only 2 billion and in 1804 it was just 1 billion. 

UN 2004 projections
Image taken from Wikipedia / World population from 1800 to 2100, based on UN 2004 projections and US Census Bureau historical estimates.

The number however, is only calculated, an estimate at best. The UN statistics office specifies the error margin at 1%. Translated to the time window the 7th billion individual will be born, this margin is 12 month. This is six month before or after the end of October.

This margin might be quite good in relation to the 200,000 years modern humans already inhabit planet earth. Even across the past 100 years, since the beginning of the dramatic population growth, this might seem like a acceptable margin. 

To make the story easier accessible to the general public the UN chooses to award the title of the 7th billion inhabitant to an individual, personalising the message. This has been the practice for the past 3 instances where the population crossed the billion mark. 

The UN officially choose a baby girl named Danica Camacho born in the Philippines as the 7 billionth inhabitant. Previous title holders are 12-year-old Adnan Nevic of Bosnia Herzogovina born in 1999 and Matej Gaspar from Croatia, who was number five billion, born in 1987. It is to a large extend of course a political decision. To give the title to a child born in the region of the former Yugoslavia torn apart by war the years before is a clear signal of hope and welcome.

UN 2004 projections
Image by Elvis Barukcic/AFP taken form the Guardian / Adnan Nevic in Visoko.

On this personal level the decision of course touches a very different scale. For the individual the error margin of 12 month makes a dramatic difference. A year holds so much for a pre born and newborn. Also for the rest of us, actually 6'999'9999 live can change in this time drama dramatically. This makes it difficult to relate to the error time frame. 

The understanding for global management of challenges has increased dramatically over the past decade. From a very local management a sense of global awareness has entered the current debate. As an example, last weeks multi billion financial support deal reached between the members of the European Union to help other members has been supported by countries from around the world, including China. 

This globalisation has developed very early related to economical activities, but has with the more recent sustainability discussion, the image from the moon and Buckminster Fuller, developed into a new paradigm for evaluation and decision making. Complexity has risen sharply of course and it has of been fuelled by the development and application of relevant technology.



This tie between global and local has especially for the cities become an essential aspect of management. The growth of urban population has since 2007  overtaken the countryside. In this sense the population growth is specifically relevant for the management, building and thinking of cities. 

The discrepancy between the scales from global to local more and more are become an lock in problem. The relevance  and presence of mobility between the scales is essential for the dynamic development of cities and the wider the gap the more difficult it becomes for elements to link in on any of the scales.

After all scales are an theoretical classification to grasp the complexity of cities. Many of the elements however, represent relevance on a number of different levels acting as links and at the same time can be a source of contradiction. 

Just as the individual child represents a successful new start for a family or a community even, it is stylised as an icon of the world population representing all and everyone. Where the individual destiny and everyday struggle stand against the permanence and duration of the race as such the scales are not relevant any longer. And this might be after all, a model for  dynamic conceptualisation of a scale independent description of presence also in the context of cities.