Monday, 30 January 2012

Book - Yes is More or the iPad is the Medium


A publication is no longer just a publication. It can be many things and what we see is only the beginning. A book can be a magazine, an ebook a website or a comic. Different medias are being mixed to play with ways of presentation. New technology plays here are good part and enables some very new concepts to be tested.

The eReader platforms and especially the iPad promise new ways of publishing. Only last week Apple has announced, as part of the app ibooks 2, the publication of text books. Here they put the emphasis more than before on the integration of additional media like video for tutorials and explanations, interactive graphics (like the newly released E. O. Wilson's Life on Earth) and of course web links and so on. The animated and augmented book is only catching on a the moment. If you're looking to purchase an iPad try out these Promotional Codes and save some money on this expensive technology!

Yes is more ipad
Image taken from earchitect / Yes is More on the iPad.

The architectural monagraphy is a rather unlikely candidate to put forward such an interactive publication. One would expect it to be a heavy piece with nicely photoshopped images and and a thick cover. This is however a way of presentation for the old garde and if BIG represents the new generation of architects such an interactive option of presentation is the way to go. BIG has always been very much about telling a good story and producing a good show. The show of course is very subjective and this subject is two fold its the facts about the design and Bjarke Ingels the head of the Bjarke Ingels Group (This is what BIG stands for).

Their Yes is More: An archicomic on architectural evolution was originally published back in 2009 by Taschen and as such already wasn't the architectural monograph one might buy if it was Norman Foster or Richard Meier. BIG presented their work in a sort of comic they branded archicomic. It was however mostly well received even though few probably understood what Bjarke actually meant by Yes is more.

The one architectural monography ambitious architecture practices have to top if they really want to set a mark and the book that has dominated the style of architecture book for the last decades is S,M,L,XL by Rem Koolhass's OMA and AMO's Bruce Mau. It was published in 1995 by Monacelli Press.

BIG had a go at this with the comic. It was well received, but not quite enough to land in the hall of fame. It certainly did stir things a little and it fitted well with the self image Bjarke is building around his practice and the delivered projects. The advancing technology however meant new opportunities are opening up. BIG has been working more and more with new media, testing animation, 3d as well as augmented reality.

Now in 2011 the original book has been transformed into an app for the iPad as Yes is more! An Archicomic on Architectural Evolution by BIG. It is published by Taschen again and available on itunes. It is not exactly an ebook since it is as a comic mainly imagery based and now also integrated animations and movies. The comic comes to live with clips that play within the grid of images or in full screen mode. It's clear from the start that this format fits the stile. The publication really thrives with the media in this case.

YesIsMore01
Image taken from the app / Page spread 218-219 in landscape mode and page 219 in portrait mode. Both show at the bottom the navigation bar.

Yes is more! An Archicomic on Architectural Evolution by BIG - TASCHEN GmbH

The app works both in portrait and in landscape mode. With the swipe of a finger one browses through the sequence of images learning about reasons and effects, but also a lot about Bjarke. Where he lives and what the view of his balcony looks like. Details can be zoomed in on, just like you are getting used to on your touch screen. A youtube like triangle symbolises clips and a click opens these additional medias in a small window or plays them at full screen at rather good resolution. Quality is ver good through out even if zoomed in on details.

Navigation is organised in a bar at the bottom that appears with a tab. To choose or jump to a new topic one can either use a slider of miniature pages or a selector roll. Of course individual pages can also be found by page number. However, the layout does not show any page numbers. They have been removed. In this sense the app is not at all a pure digital version of the paper based publication.

The app also offers a search box for key word search or a separate listing of all the clips if only moving images are of interest. The app offers the option to put bookmarks. There is no note option though, something a lot of ebook users probably have come to like from other platforms.

The experience the app offers is very good even though they have chosen not to the mimicked turn the page effect. It runs smooth the displayed material is qualitative very good with nice colours and sharp contours. Its what you get from other ebooks.

THe feel of the app has very little to do with a book any longer. The turn the page effect is missing, which to be fair, is a stupid thing, an purely visual imitation, but it comes the closest to turning a page and with it imitating the book. Then also the page numbers are missing, a very distinct design element of a paper based publication. This is not so much about the actual number but about orientation and progress. How far have I read and how many pages ago did the lead character last smile? Here we have no page numbers unless we choose to look at it in the bottom bar by tapping to activate it every time. There is however, a tiny bar appearing with each swipe of the page at the bottom indicating the position in the book, assuming the whole length of the screen is the entire book. This is very neat and practical. It would be nice if this little feature could also be draged and enable a sort of quick flip.

Currently there is no way to quickly flip through the book. the swipe response is quite slow and three quick swipes result in only one page shift. Similar the page numbers don't move you through the pages that quickly. If now this little bar could do such a thing, maybe even in combination with the thumbnail page preview it would make for a great navigation.

The sequence of pages are presented in linear fashion. There are for example no links within the book. The last chapter BIG City provides an overview of the BIG project grouping similar projects together to city districts. It would be nice if clickable and acting as hyperlinks to jump to the details. Or maybe select one of the groups and look at all these projects together. It being programmed as an independent app such options would be possible enabling more browser like handling with back and forth or even history options, where the linearity of the paper based publication would be unlocked. With out this and it feels a bit like a slide presentation and in terms of the linearity would represent a power point against a prezi.

Yes is more ipad
Image taken from klatmagazine / Yes is More on the iPad.

To sum it up, navigation and experience are working fine. Every function you would need is there. Its just that most things have the feel of a computer based click with your mouse here sort of solution. At the same time the app designer have not really let go of the book and present it in a purely linear fashion. It remins a hybrid, and is as sort of ebook with its own app not quite defining a new category of interactive, reader driven, content platforms.

As it being an independent app there are is the downside that it does not link up with other publications. The thing about ebooks is that they still, at least in the term, link up and the same software is playing for all of them. Notes are taken across books, so are markings. This publication is a standalone thing and plays at most with the collection of apps, but not necessarily the books or ebooks in this case. This is more from a collectors perspective a point, but then if you are into architecture you want a whole bunch of similar publications to cover your entire field of interest. One single item doesn't really satisfy this and remains the odd one out. Bjarke doesn't mind to be the odd one out as long as he's being talked about.

Nevertheless its an interesting publication and an impressive one. Its not just a few swipes long, something you have swiped through in under five minutes. This is your proper comic you can read on the tube and the bus for an entire week of commuting. It comes along happily on you iPad and pops upen where you left it. It is currently priced at £6.99 which is nearly the price of the actual print, on amazon for £11.66 (on the Taschen website it is priced at £ 17.99, here the app a bit less than half). You can buy the app from HERE on itunes and the book from Taschen or amazon.

YesIsMore02
Image taken from the Yes is More app / Spread showing the project with the very poignant title Swept under the carpet. It is not a particularly famous BIG project, but it is one that summarises a lot about the approach. (click image to read the details) The introduction of the publication shows Bjarke with his feet on the table proclaiming his architecture paradigme is to say YES to everything. He claims that architecture can incorporate everything and still be progressive. In this very particular project, Swept under the carpet, he literally sweeps the pollution, this very project is built on a piece of land with polluted soil and the competition asked for solutions to deal with this fact, under the carpet with the argument: "Instead of cleaning up the mess we just cover it. We can spend the money required for cleaning the soil on my project and cover up." He in fact says NO, in this case to the environment and a longterm solution. Much rather, he lets the polluted soil continue to contamine the water around the community and sailing centre and lets the kids swim in the dirty waters, but everything is nicely covered up. Even though BIG claims for their working attitude to be about process the reflection stage is missing in their project. No critical questions are asked, there is often little attitude or actual opinion on things. Even though BIG is subjectivated and purely focused on the person of Bjarke Ingels it is a brand and not a person.

The comic style fits well with the experiment of a ebook hybrid. There isn't much to loose by putting it in an rather experimental form and it thrives on it. However the comic style dose not add anything to the content. It is however playful option to publish a book base don figure notes. Yes is More is a graphic novel taking the communication of architecture in visual terms to the extreme by not even attempting to talk about architecture in text form. The comic here is interpreted as annotated pictures and this fits perfectly with the way BIG explain projects, in simple steps explaining what is happening as if it were a DiY manual.

For BIG it's all about the presentation. They way the projects are presented makes the projects directly ind simply accessible, see video below. The media used are engaging, playful and fitting. The explanations are very simple making every move easily understandable even for a layperson. Interesting however is more how arguments are made and here BIG's background shines through. Everything is very much the famous and with this publication very much targeted form follows function. Following this paradigma the entire project is presented, throwing in here and there a few clever references and options, but essentially argumentation is very much founded on functionality.



Yes is more! An Archicomic on Architectural Evolution by BIG - TASCHEN GmbH

Ingels, B., 2010. Yes is More: An Archicomic on Architectural Evolution, iPad App., Cologne: Taschen GmbH.

Thursday, 26 January 2012

Temporal Aspects of the City


I am giving a presentation to the MRes course at CASA, UCL today. There are two part to this lecture. The first part is covering the PhD research with a focus on the city and an overview of the methods of investigation that have been used. It is organised along the main topics of Time, Space, Morphology and Networks, but also covers Ethics and Mental Maps or Identity as aspects.



The second part really is a tutorial explaining the production of the New City Landscape maps. It covers pretty much all the steps from the preparation of the raw CSV file to the export of the map from Illustrator. A large aspect is the data handling in ArcGIS and how to perform the analysis as well as the exporting and inter compatibility with other software. Arc just doesn't produce any pretty results so it is essential to extend the workflow to other software packages. Softwares used: TextEdit, ArcGIS, Illustrator, Google Earth, Cartographica.



Andy Hudson-Smith over at DigitalUrban will pick up with a third part and a second part to this tutorial talking through how he developed a 3D model of the landscape map and visualised it in Lumion. The result of this workflow is embedded below.

Monday, 23 January 2012

Cruise Liners and the Sinking of a Dream


The dramatic events involving a sinking cruise ship in the Mediterranean Sea has all of a sudden brought the topic of large cruise ships back to the front pages of News Channels from around the world. Recently only the size could possibly get the ships into the news, but a disaster is always a good selling point.

The story that unfolded over the past days however, is more than only a sunken ship, but a real crazy entangling of very unfortunate events and, as it currently seems, poor judgement of the captain. The ship passed the coast of Giglio way too close and was not at all even meant to be there, but manually steered into the disaster.

It seems almost unbelievable that a nearly 300 meter luxury cruise liner can sink just like that. Even more so as it effectively happens only 100 meter from shore. On any News coverage, alway there is the save land not just on the horizon, but right next to the ship. It is only a 100 meter or so to shore. Even so the tragic events have claimed several lives with about 19 people still being missing at the time of writing.

Costa Concordia, cruise ship disaster off the coast of Giglio, Italy
Image taken from DigitalGlobe-Imagery / Aerial view of the Costa Concordia sunken of the coast of Giglio. The wreck has been mapped on OSM.

Large cruise ships don't just sink they go down with a dramatic story and this is another one of these events that bring about the mistic and special atmosphere surrounding the large passenger ships sailing the seas of the world. There are numerous stories and practices entangled in this picture of such large vessels, including the glamour and wealth on board all the way to the understood but not written down practice of 'women and children first' and the captain leaving the shop last. Examined in detail by the BBC.

Definitely the most famous Ocean Liner disaster is the Titanic disaster where the branded as unsinkable ship sinks after a collision with an iceberg in the North Atlantic Ocean during its maiden travel from England to America in 1912. Between then and now there are a few accidents recorded involving large cruise ships, but the industry was able to build up a very clean and save image for travels on large ocean liners.

Titanic
Image taken from Maritimequest / The famous Titanic.

Size matters, especially in this business. Steadily the companies are building larger units, with Oasis of the Seas currently being e largest ship being in operation. It offers space for 6296 passengers and 2165 crew. Under construction are at the moment Project Sunshine 1 and 2 expected to have a total capacity of 5700. It is size and luxury in the form of entertainment and facilities offered as selling points to attract the passengers.

Modern liners offer a lot more than only the swimming pool and the tennis court. There are water slides, wave board pools, ice rinks, rock climbing, basketball court and so on. Guest can browse through boutiques and shops, visit several restaurants and bars, entertainments show or casinos and cinemas. There is around the clock entertainment from yoga classes to guided running sessions and wine tasting on offer. Plus of course the captains dinner is still the climax of every cruise.

Cruise liner are in heir nature self contained and built to carry all necessary support systems beside the entertainment facilities. In fact these large ocean liners are more like small cities in themselves capable of catering for as many as 8000 people over periods of more than a week, with many systems being able to run for at lest a week without calling at a port.

Titanic
Image taken from khulsey / A line drawing using Illustrator for the ships documentation.

The key difference between the types of ships is between cruise ships an ocean liners. As the name indicates the two categories serve very different purpose. The liner is built for a linear connection ferrying passengers between ports traditionally between the old and new world from Plymouth to New York. Cruisers on the other hand traditionally have circular routs manly for pleasure travels returning to the port of departure. There are also technical differences setting the two categories apart. Liners are built for rougher seas running deeper making smaller ports inaccessible. Cruisers are built with more passenger space, focused entertainment and specially designed for higher numbers of outside cabines and fewer inside cabins.

By now however, the only dedicated ocean liner really is the prestigious Queen Marry 2. Since 2010 is she the last remaining ocean liner representative running between Southamton and New York. However even QM2 is equipped with specialised entertainment, and runs on cruise tours every now and then.

Titanic
Image taken from iglucruise / The Queen Mary 2 upon leavning New York.

Cruise liners carry a special aura with them and were especially popular in the first half of the 20 century with especially the modernist movement. Famously the architect Le Corbusier stylised the ocean liner to become the ultimate triumph of technology and symbolised the ideal city as a self contained organism. Especially in his book 'Toward an Architecture' (). It's also the aspect of mobility / traveling that implies the freedom connected to the cruise tours. An perception of independence and sovereignty is what attracted and still continues to do so.

There are a number of famous floating city project dreamed of by architects since the modernist movement. The Triton City by Buckminster Fuller or the freedomship project. But of course cruise ships have also entered the virtual world and SS Galaxy is one of the really bog projects in Second Live with a handfull of people full-time playing the crew on a virtual deck.c

Titanic
Image by Wayne Mazzotta taken from maritimematters / Red Dashboard: ’59 Cadillac and SS Conte Grande.

Technology is still today a major aspect of cruise line travels from the ship design, the build, the infrastructure and the built in technology. Machines are very powerful but at the same time capable of very fine manoeuvring amid, buy the size of the latest ships dwarf ports. Navigation is built on the latest technology covered by several backup and parallel systems. Even though the atmosphere is relaxed and definitely majestic, the equipment is built on very high safety standards, covering a whole range of applications and devices. The bridge of a cruise liner is a high technology command centre covering the complexity of the entire ship.

Besides all these aspects however, the spirit of innovation and conquering of nature using technological power has faded. For cruise ships are marketed not any longer to experience the power and genius of man, but to celebrate one self. Where in the days of the ocean liner passengers would be amazed by the sheer idea of traveling on such a ship across the Atlantic, admiring its power, today guests are demanding services and entertainment. The challenges for the ship and the crew is no longer the sea, but the parties on board, it's a matter of keeping alive a sensation.Unfortunately the tragical Accident involving the Costa Concordia and claiming several lives is most likely owed to such a

Titanic
Image by Uaohk taken from maritimematters GNU Free Documentation License / The Costa Concordia as it lays on one side. COSTA CONCORDIA wreck off Isola del Giglio.

The floating city has become an fantasy entertainment park and is no longer pushing the boundaries of innovation nor is it representing progress. It has become the opposite and pretty surely the modernists would no longer see the floating amusement parks with "balcony-laden floating condominiums", as they are described in a Wikipedia article as a representation of their fascination.

Monday, 16 January 2012

Moody Snow Timelapse


A few days in the Swiss Alps around Saas Fee and on is completely drawn into a world of rough mountains and beautiful snow scenes. Its this time of the year again, its freezing cold and condensation collects at the windows through the night. Your breath is visible as you step outside, the air is thin and views are clear. Winter is finally here.

Video by Patryk Kizny showing amazing views of boiling clouds from the highest mountain peaks, landscapes of the glacier of SaasFee and other locations develop into much more abstract audio-visual form along with the weather changes. The film is also a tribute to free of light pollution places featuring fantastic views of the MilkyWay.

The short timelapse film “Altissimo” has been shot entirely in motion-controlled timelapse technique. The team shot over 45 000 single frames (over 700 GB of RAW data) using a few cameras in various locations of Switzerland during a one-week stay in Switzerland in May, 20111.

Thursday, 5 January 2012

Book - Four to Start into the New Year


From sustainability to the new beauty in the following four books are put forward to start into 2012. The topics all address some of the concerns raised about cities in the past year or so and all contribute to the current discussion around changes in social and spatial organisation at large. With globalisation and technology social structures are changing requiring urban environments to be adapted. This will not happen tomorrow, nor is it a case of restarting in building it new from scratch. The only option is to keep transforming and by testing and engaging with the presented new thoughts and aspects we might take a step into this direction.


Not all cities are mega cities. In fact most of the cities are small to mid sized. According to the work Mike Batty had done together with Martin Austwick and Oliver O'Brian on Rank Clocks plotting city sizes in the US, only about 10% of the cities are mega or large. The rest of the cities are under 1 million in population size.

In terms of sustainability potential these large numbers of smaller cities could actually play a major role and this is what Catherine Tumber put forward in her publication Small, Gritty, and Green: The Promise of America’s Smaller Industrial Cities in a Low-Carbon World published by MIT Press.

There are so many problems the smaller cities face. From long terms decline due to the faltering of industries, massive transport infrastructures slicing them into non workable urban islands and social struggles related to working poor and general poverty reminiscent of postcolonial squalor. The biggest struggle however is the fact that they are excluded from the general debate of urban planning and theoretical thinking. They all practice urban planning and development, but with only little recognition and background.

Tumber argues that due to the smaller sized, shorter distances and proximity to farmland and recreation these smaller cities have a lot of potential to implement sustainable concepts and start integrating those in everyday urban practice. Tumber especially points to renewable energies, such a wind, food production and local agriculture as well as manufacturing skills. Its all about producing and consuming locally.

These ideas are not new and sort of resonate with early garden cities ideas, especially in the praise of size and population density. This is not at all a negative association, but more a practical application. Since here it is not about setting up a new place to live, which can in itself not be sustainable, but about reprogramming an existing one sustainability is given an additional dimension.

Small, Gritty, and Green Book cover
Image taken from archpaper / Small, Gritty, and Green, book cover, part.


Does a city posses its very own spirit and identity? Daniel A. Bell and Avner de-Shalit argue in their new book The Spirit of Cities: Why the Identity of a City Matters in a Global Age published by Princeton University Press that actually they do. The authors draw on the ancient Greek concept of city spirit and argue for the rediscovery of the local urban spirits around the world especially in connection to todays globalisation.

Earlier publications have picked up on this topic and characterised cities in such a manner as to work out distinct identities. Saskia Sassen in Cities in a World Economy and more recently Martina Löw in Soziologie der Städte
(sociology of cities). THe concept of the citiy spirit is, as Löw points out, closely entangled with the city marketing that has been very popular in the past fifteen years as a tool to distinguish, present and attract.

Bell and de-Shalit look specifically at nine modern cities: Jerusalem (religion), Montreal (language), Singapore (nation building), Hong Kong (materialism), Beijing (political power), Oxford (learning), Berlin (tolerance and intolerance), Paris (romance) and New York (ambition). Of course soe of them sound like external concepts. Especially Paris and the age old topic of romance, hey but never mind it shapes the place in a certain way and this identity hold the potential to develop something specific and relevant.

Each city is portrait in a lot of detail making good use of story telling as well as combining theoretical aspects with practical experience. A good read for travellers of thought.

The Spirit of Cities Book cover
Image taken from the Atlantic / The Spirit of Cities, book cover.


"We have to find our way back to beauty!" Lars Spuybroek argues in his new book The Sympathy of Things: Ruskin and the Ecology of Design, published by V2_publishing, for a revised approach to design culture moving away from the technological practice of modernism towards a more romantic notion of art in the sense that beauty always combines variations, imperfection and fragility. Spuybroek bases his arguments on John Ruskin's aesthetics. Overall the book is a project to wrest these topics out of the Victorian era into the present. This is achieved by combining the five central themes of Ruskin: the Gothic and work, ornament and matter, sympathy and abstraction, the picturesque and time and ecology and design in combination with more recent thoughts on aesthetics by philosophers such as William James and Bruno Latour.

It becomes a projection of a world of feeling and beauty in such a way as it completely does a way with the fundamentalism and absolutism of modernist conception of design.

The Sympathy of Things Book cover
Image taken from il giornale dell architettura / The Sympathy of Things, book cover.


Graphical representation of information are in every case an abstract representation. Often to represent a point of view or a standpoint is required and depending on this the representation is biased. In Picturing the Uncertain World: How to Understand, Communicate, and Control Uncertainty through Graphical Display published by Princeton University Press, Howard Wainer is looking at the phenomenon of information display of statistical data and the possible complications.

The book is less about graphics than numbers, although graphics do play an important role. Similar to Dona M. Wong's Guide to Information Graphics and also like Tufte's Books The Visual Display of Information and Envisioning Information the correct representation is at the heart of the text. However, Wainer focuses more on the conditions and the explanations than the design.

Wainer is a longtime expert in statistical graphics who works as a research scientist for the National Board of Medical Examiners and as an adjunct professor of statistics at the Wharton School of the University of Pennsylvania.

The examples are discussed in detail in order to really get the reader to understand the points Wainer is to make. This has the advantage that for a number of the examples the reader also comes to finally understand the actual meaning of the graph probably well known to him. The book draws from a great range of examples including Charls Joseph Minard's plot of Napoleons Russian Campaign, Florence Nightingale's Diagram of Mortality and William Playfair's Wheat Prices graph to name a few.

The book is written in a very accessble language and takes time to explain the details as well as linking it with current facts and events that enlighten the presented problem further. Definitely a great read for data enthusiasts.

Picturing the Uncertain World Book cover
Image taken from Borders / Picturing the Uncertain World, book cover.


Wainer, H., 2009. Picturing the Uncertain World: How to Understand, Communicate, and Control Uncertainty through Graphical Display, Princeton, N.J.: Princeton University Press.

Bell, D.A. & de-Shalit, A., 2011. The Spirit of Cities: Why the Identity of a City Matters in a Global Age, Princeton, N.J.: Princeton University Press.

Spuybroek, L., 2011. The Sympathy of Things: Ruskin and the Ecology of Design, Rotterdam: V2_Publishing.

Tumber, C., 2011. Small, Gritty, and Green: The Promise of America’s Smaller Industrial Cities in a Low-Carbon World, Boston, MA: MIT Press.