This post represents a reflection on a recent day-long gathering of luminaries from the worlds of space design, interaction and engineering dedicated to developing the emergent principles of interactive architecture. The work and ideas were all relevant to thinking about what pervasive media might become in an urban environment and how cities could become smart. Good day with some stunning work on show.
My top question from the day was how can a building become interactive when you can’t (really) iterate it? In fact, most of the interaction on show has to do with the integration of software systems ’round the edges’ so to speak of hardware systems. Nevertheless lots of cool stuff to be done there. Questions of the user kept bugging me all day despite the rhetoric I was left feeling that user centred design was hard for architects where client centred statements are more the order of the day. I mean do I really want my building to be doing the same dumb ‘smart’ routines on the 968th time I climb the stairs? (no offence Tarim).
Top picks from the day. The Jason Bruges Studio see especially the really beautiful Mirror Mirror from the V&A 2009 and the new Platform 5 from Sunderland Railway station. Really interesting working method here, collecting data about how people use the platform, video recording regular station users then reducing the video to blocky pixels projected into glass tiles so it looks like your ghostly counterparts are on the other side of the platform inside the glass wall. These loops are then triggered by the train schedules using algorithms that create illusions of generative artworks.
I liked Troika’s V&A signage Palindrome and was intrigued by Eva’s mention of an electro magnetic sensor that I thought Tine Bech should know about. Ditto Folly’s Portable Pixel Playground project which I didn’t know before but which is bang on the money with physical data objects that are playful not on the programme but encountered through the LED cubes that were available to play with. A definite hook up with the Play Research Group and Tine’s work.
Duncan Wilson from Arup Foresight was on the ball, has history with Bill Sharpe’s Appliance Studio & HP and is tasked with keeping this massive practice tuned into a twenty year tech horizon applied futurity. They have work on Smart Cities that I’m keen to lay hands on and also a new ‘Virtual Caretaker’ building management system that I think we should trial in the Studio to help resolve our air con issues.
Stand out though was Scott Burnham’s presentation on his Urban Play project in Amsterdam 2008 which if you don’t know rush to the link. A collection of excellent works based first of all on the image of the desire path in the city (if you want to know where to put a path in the city don’t wait till you see where people make a path then put it in) and on the second principle that the object made by the artists is just v1.0 and we make v2.0 through our play. Very close in spirit to Luke Jerram’s Play Me I’m Yours. Burnham gave me a new idea though, that play involves changing the game state (duh), but also that the game doesn’t return to its orginal state its cumulative, or even destructive. Every play event changes the game itself as we add to it invent it as we go along creating the opportunity for ongoing collective action. Triggered lots of ill informed referencing of Bourriaud hurrah for theory being pillaged by engineers!
My day ended with the amazing Usman Haque How did he get to do all that stuff and still be so young (looking)? Wow. If you don’t know about the work his studio does and you are interested in data, design, interaction and urban life then you have to go there. The work is intelligent and its committed. Two ‘Haques’ for the end of the day. One: complex problems may need systems that we all build as micro modules for their global solutions. Two: its really important that we engage in our own data gathering before we start worrying about visualising it. We need our own data, our own sensors, so we can properly understand its meaning and dynamic range.