Point of View

The METROPOLIS Blog

October 2011

Lab Report - VI

10/27/11

Lab Report - VI

It’s rare for children to be the focus of technology combined with design-driven university research. But many of the projects at Carnegie Mellon University’s CREATE Lab do just that. In addition to focusing on improving digital- and robotic-based curricula and communication in such fields Civil War history and Computer Science, many of them also focus specifically on childhood education and empowerment. The acronym stands for Community Robotics, Education and Technology Empowerment and it does indeed empower young global citizens to communicate globally and to create agency for themselves. The open-source technology makes the program accessible to anyone with a computer (admittedly not a majority of the global population yet) and tailor it to their specific needs. Chains of Cranes...

Posted at 04:50 PM | Permalink | Comments

Lab Report - V

10/25/11

Lab Report - V

It’s been decades since Virtual Reality was first introduced to the public, in dismal films and television shows, so its no wonder that its presence in our imagination has faded. But universities around the U.S. have been developing VR tools for many practical applications. At Brown’s Center for Computation and Visualization (CCV), such projects include space exploration, psychological treatments, and scientific data analysis. Now that NASA’s shuttle missions are officially over, the opportunities for on-the-ground planetary explorations have been severely curtailed. The ADVISER system (Advanced Visualization in Solar System Exploration and Research) developed at Brown provides a tech-generated alternative. This system can incorporate datasets that are tens of terabytes in size...

Posted at 05:32 PM | Permalink | Comments

Places that Work: An Alpine Gem

10/22/11

Places that Work: An Alpine Gem

Prestigious hotels often feature formal common spaces with high ceilings, stylishly uncomfortable furniture, and a stuffy staff. So I was delighted to experience the unexpected recently, when I happened on the library at the Four Seasons in Jackson Hole, Wyoming. This is a place where you feel comfortable sitting with a small group of your friends.  A wall of windows brings the ski slopes inside. The view helps you restock the mental energy you’ve depleted while concentrating on such things as knowledge work. The views and daylight boost your mood and help you acclimate your circadian rhythms after a long flight. Seating areas facilitate socializing. Game tables allow you to make easy eye contact with others–and games are readily available. Fireplaces are everywhere, and the...

Posted at 03:38 PM | Permalink | Comments

A Day at the (Lovell) Beach (House)

10/21/11

A Day at the (Lovell) Beach (House)

Newport Beach, California, Sunday, October 16, 2011--Around 200 Southern Californians enjoyed an extremely rare opportunity today, to enter the avant-garde Rudolf Schindler Lovell Beach House (1926). The MAK Center for Art and Architecture sold $80 and $100 tickets to raise money for its operations--based in Schindler’s own “King’s Road” house in L.A. Some walked past unaware With other things to do. Others had waited many years Just to sneak a view. From the MAK Center: About the Lovell Beach House Dr. Philip Lovell was a naturopath, an anti-drug practitioner who advocated natural methods of healing and preventative care through exercise and a vegetarian diet. Among the methodologies he espoused were massage, heat and water cures, open air sleeping and regular...

Posted at 02:51 PM | Permalink | Comments

#artdesignbrazil Energizes the World

10/20/11

#artdesignbrazil Energizes the World

Warm and exhibition-happy, the Brazilian art and design world is showing the rest of us that the moment is theirs now, a samba way past the Campanas and green and yellow T-shirts at H+M. A steady stream of art and design events plus the country’s booming economy are just two reasons Brazil is hot and visible now. These include the recent BOOMSPDESIGN;  CasaCor (at 25 is the world’s second largest architecture and decoration event, running through October); and the much anticipated 2012 Sao Paulo Art Bienniel, which will have, for the first time, an international curator based in New York City, Luis Perez-Oramas, the Latin American Art Curator at The Metropolitan Museum of Art. All this activity translates to the prominence of Brazilian talent. You can just imagine the multiple...

Posted at 05:19 PM | Permalink | Comments

Steve Jobs' Lasting Lessons

10/19/11

Steve Jobs' Lasting Lessons

Since news came of his death on October 5, much has been said about Steve Jobs’ influence on who we are, what we do, what we do it with and how we do it in the 21st century.  To these many accolades, I would like to add something about what educators can learn from this truly unique man. Steve Jobs taught us that it’s not enough to excel in one area: He knew how to think constructively about hardware and software, beautiful design and great function, the new ways to provide services through Apple’s products --a seamless business model that was the envy of a sleepy corporate world.  It all came together at Apple under Jobs. And that’s his lasting legacy for those of us in higher education, which is mired in a structure that’s no longer working. Why, for instance, do we...

Posted at 03:32 PM | Permalink | Comments

Revenge of the Plaza Bonus

10/18/11

Revenge of the Plaza Bonus

Zuccotti Park, before and after Occupy Wall Street, image via Curbed NY If you believe that good and bad intentions eventually circle around to some sort of cosmic resolution—karma, if you will—then the Occupy Wall Street protests in Zuccotti Park are sweet indeed. Why? Zuccotti Park (named for John Zuccotti, former deputy mayor, former planning commissioner, chairman of the real estate behemoth Brookfield Properties, and all around operator—a deep pocketed capitalist, if you will) is one of those strange New York anomalies: privately owned public space. The park, which until the protesters arrived was very much under the radar, is the product of a 1961 zoning ordinance that gave developers (like John Zuccotti) extra height in exchange for the creation of plazas, parks and...

Posted at 03:37 PM | Permalink | Comments

Infrastructure, Interrupted

10/18/11

Infrastructure, Interrupted

In 1859, game hunter, sheep farmer, and horse trainer Thomas Austin released twenty-four wild rabbits on his estate in Western Australia. In ten years, those rabbits had become several million, denuding a landscape that had never before faced the scourge of such determined herbivores. The Royal Commission formed to deal with “The Rabbit Question” came up with a solution called the No.1 Rabbit Proof Fence--2,023 miles of barbed wire right across Australia, sealing off the rabbit-infested western coast, and requiring constant patrolling. Over a century later, seeing a small portion of that fence replicated this month in Lisbon for the exhibition Utilitas Interrupta: An Infrastructural Index of Unfulfilled Ambitions, makes the urgent efforts of an entire continent seem pitifully...

Posted at 10:26 AM | Permalink | Comments

Job Creation

10/17/11

Job Creation

“Frozen Skyline[i]” and “Layoffs Sweep Architecture Profession as Economy Worsens[ii]” were the headlines in 2008. Architects watched projects put on hold, hoping for a more favorable financial climate even as projects in the pipeline dissolved. In 2009, one article listing architecture as the Number One hardest hit profession, described the situation: “it was the worst of times, and it was the worst of times.”[iii] Four years later, while other industries have seen some recovery, architecture and construction continue to languish. The number of employed architects has steadily declined from 2008, currently resting at 70% of the pre-recession peak numbers. This lingering atrophy begs the question: will we ever recover to pre-recession numbers or will the current situation...

Posted at 03:58 PM | Permalink | Comments

Radical Spaces

10/17/11

Radical Spaces

For a month now New York’s Zuccotti Park has been a digitally radiating lamentation of capitalism’s cruelest traits. The Great Recession, the park’s inhabitants say, made it impossible to mask hypercompetitive, socially atomizing forces inherent in the status quo. It’s an odd scene set against the forbidding façade of World Trade Center One, rising comically out of proportion to every unfortunate park, street or building near its base. Somewhere down there the general assemblies of Zuccotti Park scramble for alternatives to the system of irrational speculation that, incidentally, spawned WTC One. What would that system look like? The major critique of Occupy Wall Street is that they haven’t uniformly articulated such a system yet.  But their...

Posted at 02:02 PM | Permalink | Comments

The Living Technology of Christopher Alexander

10/17/11

The Living Technology of Christopher Alexander

Life is a kind of “making” process of unfolding and differentiating production.

Posted at 12:50 PM | Permalink | Comments

Lab Report - IV

10/14/11

Lab Report - IV

Image courtesy Hypercities.com An open source approach is what distinguishes UCLA’s Experiential Technologies Center (ETC) from other media labs, most of which focus on discrete or proprietary products. ETC’s dedication to open source knowledge makes it findings accessible to the general public and scholars. What’s more, many of the projects are collaborations between academics and public organizations. The goal, as the lab states, is to make its research on “a wide range of phenomenological issues, including movement, sequencing, sonification, and visualization” accessible. The projects, they add, address the “broader cultural, social, economic, and political aspects of civilizations – both ancient and contemporary” in disciplines ranging from archaeology and...

Posted at 03:15 PM | Permalink | Comments

LA's Powerful Past

10/14/11

LA's Powerful Past

By co-opting a time zone as its title, the multi-venued, collective event called Pacific Standard Time demonstrates its dynamic breadth and depth. Beginning with the post-war year 1945, it encompasses exhibits that span 35 years to 1980. The shows, exhibits, and events explore not simply art, but politics and social movements as expressed by activists, artists, community leaders, filmmakers, and musicians from different social, economic, and racial groups. The events are sited all over Southern California, from the  Watts Tower Arts Center in Downtown Los Angeles to San Diego’s Museum of Contemporary Art, East to San Gabriel Valley’ Pomona College’s Museum of Art and North to San Fernando Valley’s Cal State Northridge Art Galleries. The venues range from museums, art and film...

Posted at 10:49 AM | Permalink | Comments

Lab Report - III

10/12/11

Lab Report - III

Because we’re just beginning to learn how we might live in sustainable cities, current research on the topic is bout to provide useful data to policy makers, design and planning professionals, as well as ordinary citizens. So we want to call your attention to the work now being done at our most progressive universities: The Urban Design Lab combines the creative innovation of Columbia’s Graduate School of Architecture, Planning, and Preservation with the research-based rigor of the university’s Earth Institute to investigate and shape the future of sustainable urbanism through integrating statistical data with graphic modeling. Because of its location, the Lab uses New York City and its environs as its “core model”. But its ultimate goal is to provide possible solutions for...

Posted at 12:41 PM | Permalink | Comments

Lab Report - II

10/10/11

Lab Report - II

All too often, in our tech-savvy world our lives are made more complex, not easier as we’ve been lead to believe, by the plethora of software on our computers, tablets, handheld devices, devices in our cars, among other things we cannot seem to live without. The MIT Media Lab is determined to help. They want to improve our lives—with technology. The Information Ecology research group’s goal is to discover “ways to connect our physical environments with information resources. Through the use of low-cost, ubiquitous technologies [italics mine] such as sensors and consumer electronics, we are creating seamless and pervasive ways to interact with our information—and with each other.” What’s more, the Information Ecology research group’s projects will not require extensive...

Posted at 02:00 PM | Permalink | Comments

A Personal Vision

10/10/11

A Personal Vision

The stunning Apple store on New York's Fifth Avenue--the 28th most photographed built landmark in the world--designed by Bohlin Cywinski Jackson. We met Steve Jobs at NeXT and in 2000 we shaped Pixar’s home. Steve said he selected our firm [Bohlin Cywinski Jackson] because of our “great houses,” and we have been involved at Apple since the beginning of its retail spaces.  We got to know him as someone with a clear, personal, and powerful vision, intellectually rigorous and highly intuitive. He had great focus at all scales and saw himself at the intersection of science and art. Everything he touched was a reflection of these attributes. The Apple store at the Carrousel du Louvre, Paris, with an entrance in perfect alignment with the iconic pyramid. With this in mind, we...

Posted at 11:36 AM | Permalink | Comments

Lab Report

10/08/11

Lab Report

Among the many challenges for architects today has to do with technology: How do you apply new technology that can improve the quality of life cost-effectively, socially-conscientiously, without hogging resources (i.e. it is sustainable). The Changing Places research group at MIT Media Lab is working on the problem, developing several projects to address these issues. Their goal, as they state, is to “understand and respond to human activity, environmental conditions, and market dynamics.” Design solutions as set of inter-changeable components The Home Genome: Mass-Personalized Housing project exemplifies all these goals. Here researchers begin with the premise that the home is now a center of everything from “preventative health care, energy production, distributed work, and new...

Posted at 01:31 PM | Permalink | Comments

The Pattern Technology of Christopher Alexander

10/07/11

The Pattern Technology of Christopher Alexander

Patterns exist within and influence many aspects of design and technology.

Posted at 01:15 PM | Permalink | Comments

World's Greatest Art Director

10/06/11

World's Greatest Art Director

Steve Jobs (1955-2011) It is no exaggeration to say that Steven Jobs may have been the most important person in the history of design, but of course he was not a designer. I’ve come to think of him, instead, as the world’s greatest art director, the ultimate end user, a one-man focus group for cool. His famously secretive design department (quick, name another Apple designer besides Jonathan Ive? You can’t), was dedicated in large part to one exceedingly challenging task: pleasing Steve. He dreamed, they executed, he critiqued, in an endless, iterative loop that never really ended. (iPhone 5 anyone?) What was no secret to the world was that everything he touched, from products, to movies, to ad campaigns, took on a sophistication, beauty, and smartness that went beyond...

Posted at 03:26 PM | Permalink | Comments

Build It Right, and They Will Come

10/03/11

Build It Right, and They Will Come

If you want something well done, do it yourself, so the saying goes. That is exactly what Etel Carmona ended up doing some three decades ago when she started designing furniture pieces and couldn't find anyone to make them the way she envisioned them. She earned a reputation for sophisticated craftmanship as accolades piled up about her elegant, modern designs where nothing is superfluous and all parts contribute to the whole. Soon other designers were coming to her and asking for assitance on getting their projects built, making her company the place of choice for Brazil's top ranking furniture designers including Claudia Moreira Salles and Isay Weinfield. In addition to new designers, those who were already known for their classic modern works sought her out to bring back...

Posted at 06:41 PM | Permalink | Comments

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Examining contemporary life through design, architecture, interior design, product design, graphic design, crafts, planning, and preservation.