Are e-books bad for long-term memory?

Some research to let you rethink – should you throw out all those books that are cluttering up your  post-modern minimalist space yet – your “pad” – once hip before it acquired  an “i-” and “kindle” was something you did to a fire. From Smart Planet by Amy Kraft

As the world becomes more and more digital, Kindles and Nooks are replacing classroom textbooks as learning aids. But new research shows that students should hold onto their hardcovers if they want to remember what they read.

Studies show that people have a harder time remembering facts and recalling the names of characters and details when reading an e-book. Researchers think this has to do with the way we evolved to remember things.

In one study by Kate Garland, a psychology lecturer at the University of Leicester in England, participants got a crash course in economics–a subject nobody understood. Those who were instructed to learn on an e-book required more repetition of the information before they could retain it. Participants learning on a hard book were able to understand the material more fully, meaning they were able to know the material so well that it just came to them.

Researchers think the problem with e-books could have to do with the lack of physical landmarks or associations that a person’s memory can use to help recall information. After all, it is just a blank screen with words that you read down. There is no right or left side of the page and some e-books don’t even have page numbers.

A recent article in Time magazine reports, “This seems irrelevant at first, but spatial context may be particularly important because evolution may have shaped the mind to easily recall location cues so we can find our way around. That’s why great memorizers since antiquity have used a trick called the ‘method of loci’ to associate facts they want to remember with places in spaces they already know, like rooms in their childhood home.”

Other studies by Jakob Nielsen, Web usability consultant and principal of the Nielsen Norman Group, show that smaller screens make reading material less memorable and typing or scrolling back to search for something is more distracting than turning the page. Nielsen told Time magazine: “Human short-term memory is extremely volatile and weak. That’s why there’s a huge benefit from being able to glance [across a page or two] and see [everything] simultaneously.”

Further studies are needed to show the types of learning material best suited for digital books. But it does make me wonder if an e-book called Improve Your Memory actually works

Light Candy – always appealing light is a way to enliven the urban scene and blurs the interface between the built and natural environment adding mystery to boring places and making the everyday exiting as well as safer ti use.

Landscape Optimism: An Interview with Chris Reed

A vocal supporter of Landscape Urbanism outlines his approach, from the Design Observer – an interview  by QUILIAN RIANO

In 2000 landscape architect Chris Reed founded StossLU, or Stoss Landscape Urbanism. Since then the Boston-based office has emerged as one of the leading advocates for enlarging the scope and scale of landscape projects and practices. As Reed wrote in an essay in The Landscape Urbanism Reader, “Contemporary landscape practices are witnessing a revival of sorts, a recovery of the broader social, cultural, and ecological agendas. No longer a product of pure art history and horticulture, landscape is re-engaging issues of site and ecological succession and is playing a part in the formative roles of projects, rather than simply giving form to already defined projects.” [1]
In the past decade Stoss has indeed played a formative role in a range of ambitious projects, both built and proposed. Its growing portfolio encompasses the redevelopment of urban waterfronts, including the Fox Riverfront in Green Bay, Wisconsin and the Lower Don Lands in Toronto; the remediation of contaminated landscapes, including the Silresim Superfund Redevelopment Study, on the site of a former chemical plant in Lowell, Massachusetts; and the design of parks at multiple scales, from the recently completed, quarter-acre Erie Plaza in Milwaukee, to Streamlines, a finalist in the competition to redesign an extensive section of the Mississippi Riverfront in Minneapolis.

Along the way Stoss has racked up numerous awards, including the 2010 Landscape Award from Topos Journal, and been the subject of national and international publications, including a 2007 monograph. The firm has tenaciously articulated and acted upon the ambition not only to engage in but also to lead multidimensional and cross-disciplinary projects that blend landscape, architecture, urbanism, planning, ecology and economics; in this way it has made good on its name: stoss, from the German, means “to kick, as in ‘kick in the pants,’ to initiate, activate.” [2] And Reed and his colleagues have seen the concept of landscape urbanism emerge and grow, from an academic movement in the mid-1990s to an increasingly influential set of ideas to, most recently, the focus of lively debate on the future of urbanism.

Chris Reed’s role as an entrepreneur designer making work in an era of downturn is exemplified in this excerpt 

To give a concrete example: Stoss’ work on the Fox Riverfront in Green Bay has been very entrepreneurial, and it’s developed from both formal and informal associations. It all began years ago when an interested citizen, who teaches planning at the local college, saw an opportunity for a project along the Fox River. He contacted an architecture firm in Milwaukee that in its own work was taking on a development role, and introduced them to city officials. It was at this point that we were invited aboard to think more broadly about a whole series of downtown and riverfront development sites; ultimately we framed a larger proposal about infrastructure systems and landscape and ecological systems that were physically, fiscally and operationally linked to these potential developments, spanning the river at the heart of downtown. We met with Green Bay leaders to discuss possibilities — and we worked with a mayor so clearly interested in economic development as a tool for community building that he spent six hours with us over the course of two days. What a commitment!

After another round of meetings and workshops with city leaders and staff, our firm and the architect-developer presented a full proposal — infrastructure and landscape plans, development programming, urban design parameters, financing mechanisms — to local agencies and eventually the city council. This kind of integrated ecological/cultural/social project — on one side of the river it features an urban boardwalk lined with mixed uses, on the other an eco-forest, new wetlands and stormwater-processing terraces — was an entirely new idea for Green Bay. It was quickly approved as the city’s comprehensive plan for the downtown riverfront — and not because it just featured nice open space, but because it was a multifaceted renewal and redevelopment framework for an important piece of the city.

The project moved ahead as an integrated package and as the result of an entrepreneurial partnership between public, private and not-for-profit entities. Remarkably, in the last few years — during the severe economic downturn — the Mayor and the City of Green Bay have managed to complete two new buildings (low-rise riverfront condominiums and a mid-rise apartment house with ground-floor retail), begin construction on a third (a development that includes the Children’s Museum, restaurants and shops, and office and residential space), and execute about $10 million worth of infrastructural and landscape improvements (reconfigured roads and sidewalks and the first phase of The CityDeck, a riverfront promenade and event space). This is incredibly impressive for a city of 100,000. Yet it was not a project that followed traditional norms in the States: the usual sequence of non-integrated planning studies and responsive proposals confined to predetermined site, programmatic and policy limits. Rather, in dialogue with the city and engaged citizens and organizations on the ground, a team of landscape architects, architects, urban designers, developers, financiers and engineers spawned a renewal process — an extended set of dialogues, really — that is significantly remaking Green Bay, and which continues to unfold as we speak.

The CityDeck, Green Bay, Wisconsin, Stoss Landscape Urbanism

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BIG architects + AECOM: chicago navy pier proposa

Complex techno -ecology and landscape as edutainment , beautiful renderings and diagrams – all we expect from BIG and the megalithic firm AECOM – necessary experiential density fro first world cities or wasteful excess?  from designboom

east end park
chicago navy pier proposal by BIG architects + AECOM

the chicago navy pier competition has narrowed down its selection to five shortlisted proposals which re-envision the design of the pierscape, and its outdoor public spaces, revisiting the legacy of the american mid-west city’s popular destination as its centennial approaches in 2016. one of the five shortlisted projects is by danish firm BIG architects and american company AECOM. considered to be one of the great living legacies of american architect and urban planner daniel burnham’s plan of chicago,
the site’s grand public waterfront location lacks a physical and visual connection back to the city. the team of BIG and AECOM suggest extending the existing pier upwards by elevating public life onto the rooftops of the structures, while restoring uninterrupted views of the windy city’s famous skyline. 
skyline gardens

the ‘skyline gardens’ is an evolving tapestry of the world’s finest roof gardens. arranged in an artful geometric pattern, this green area will provide visitors with a visually rich landscape. the phasing plan, executed in collaboration with the existing flower show, images the roof gardens growing through time to eventually encompass the entire rooftop of the navy pier’s largest building.

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Wang Shu Discusses Urbanization in China

Last year, in a lecture at the Harvard Graduate School of Design (GSD), Wang Shu ofAmateur Architecture Studio confronted the effects of globalization, urbanization and rapid development on cities in China. Can design resolve tensions between global and local cultures? How should architects mediate the pressures of history and innovation? In Wang Shu, we find the value of the Amateur.

In the past twenty five years, [China] did an incredible thing … One country with three to five thousand years of history, with such rich cultural and traditional things … made a big decision to demolish it. Ninety percent, just in the past twenty-five years. They do this and then build some new things; they copy from all over the world … It is the professional urban planner and architect who did this disaster. They do this with the government together. And so I think maybe we need another kind of architect.”

Wang Shu, 2012 Pritzker Prize Laureate, from his lecture on “Geometry and Narrative of Natural Form” at Harvard GSD on November 4, 2011

Ceramic House in Jinhua, China. Source: Lv Hengzhong

Ningbo History Museum in Ningbo, China. Source: Lv Hengzhong
“Amateur Architecture Studio was founded in 1998 by Wang Shu and Lu Wenyu in Hangzhou, China. Their approach is based around a critique of the architectural profession which they view as complicit in the demolition of entire urban areas and the transformation of rural areas through excessive building. The practice first came to wider attention in Europe with their pavilion for the 10th Venice Architecture Biennale in 2006; a comment on the on-going demolitions, their installation ‘Tiled Garden’ was made from 66,000 recycled tiles salvaged from demolition sites.

“Rather than looking towards the West for inspiration, as many of their contemporaries do, the practice’s work is embedded in the history and traditions of Chinese culture. In particular they reference everyday building tactics of ordinary people and the strong vernacular tradition of building in China. The name of their practice signals this commitment to learning from the ‘amateur builder’, focusing on craft skills and applying this to contemporary architecture. Wang Shu spent a number of years working on building sites with traditional craftsmen in order to learn from them. Combining this traditional knowledge with experimental building techniques and intensive research Amateur Architecture Studio respond to the ongoing challenges of the rapidly urbanising context of China. They do so with a site-specific architecture that valorises crafts and skill over professional knowledge and expertise.” This text and more can be found here

We all want to understand the city and many of us yearn for an an ideal utopian city – one that works for all its inhabitants – but I doubt this is what real cities do or have ever done – Utopia is a dream – real cities are always on the brink of catastrophe and yet somehow we survive – that’s what makes cities and life exiting.

Understanding Social Science

Read the definitions of some key terms: metabolism, urban metabolism, capitalism.


But further research is needed!



To really understand the role of the state in environmental injustice political economic studies of state restructuring and neo-liberalisation are needed.

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The disappearing virtual library

How do we want ourselves to be seen in the future – will we be judged for our greed or our intelligence by our children’s children?

The shutdown of is creating a virtual showdown between would-be learners and the publishing industry. From ALJAZEERA by Christopher Kelly

Los Angeles, CA – Last week a website called “” disappeared. A coalition of international scholarly publishers accused the site of piracy and convinced a judge in Munich to shut it down. (formerly Gigapedia) had offered, if the reports are to be believed, between 400,000 and a million digital books for free.

And not just any books – not romance novels or the latest best-sellers – but scholarly books: textbooks, secondary treatises, obscure monographs, biographical analyses, technical manuals, collections of cutting-edge research in engineering, mathematics, biology, social science and humanities.

The texts ranged from so-called “orphan works” (out-of-print, but still copyrighted) to recent issues; from poorly scanned to expertly ripped; from English to German to French to Spanish to Russian, with the occasional Japanese or Chinese text. It was a remarkable effort of collective connoisseurship. Even the pornography was scholarly: guidebooks and scholarly books about the pornography industry. For a criminal underground site to be mercifully free of pornography must alone count as a triumph of civilisation.

To the publishing industry, this event was a victory in the campaign to bring the unruly internet under some much-needed discipline. To many other people – namely the users of the site – it was met with anger, sadness and fatalism. But who were these sad criminals, these barbarians at the gates ready to bring our information economy to its knees?

They are students and scholars, from every corner of the planet.

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Starbucks ‘The Bank’ Concept Store in Amsterdam

Can local be blended with a global brand- glocal? Starbucks are trying and without having been there it looks good for us caffeine heads…pity about the real local entrepreneurs  – overtones of the battle between Cosatu and Wallmart in South Africa, local vs global ? From Contemporist

Starbucks Coffee have recently been opening special concept stores in various cities around the world. This week, their latest concept store known as “The Bank” will open in Amsterdam.

Starbucks’s New Coffee Experience ‘Laboratory’ in Amsterdam

In a few days, (March 8), Starbucks will open a new concept store in Amsterdam. With its ‘Slow’ Coffee Theatre, hyper-local design, floating community gathering spaces and  on-site bakery, Starbucks ‘The Bank’ is a glimpse into Starbuck’s vision of the future.

While over the last few years Starbucks has gone to great lengths to reinforce the superlative quality of its coffee and products, under the radar they’ve been re-defining the atmosphere in which we drink it. In Seattle, New York, London, Paris and now Amsterdam, Starbucks has been stealthily unveiling unique, highly individualized and local concept stores across America.

or on Protein alternate views


“City 2.0″ Wins TED Prize

Photo by Benson Kua.

For the very first time, TED, the nonprofit organization devoted to “Ideas Worth Spreading,” awarded its TED Prize not to an individual but to an idea. The winner was “City 2.0,” an idea dedicated to creating the city of the future in which more than ten billion people will live happily, healthfully and sustainably.

This week, the official “wish” of the City 2.0 idea was unveiled as a short film, displaying the key phrases that build the foundation of this concept, like, “I want to be inclusive, innovative, healthy, soulful, thriving.”

The City 2.0 stands for a new platform that excites, connects, and empowers individuals and communities around the world to create an ever-expanding network of citizen-led experiments in their own cities. The City 2.0 wish is an effort to inspire and guide professionals, governments and citizens to join efforts in making choices around transportation, energy, public space, housing and law.

To give voice and put the choices in the hands of everyone, City 2.0 is also launching, and online platform where citizens can participate in the creation of their own future city. Through this site, citizens are encouraged to tackle and prioritize the issues they find crucial to their city’s success. The site will also invite mayors, architects, engineers, urban planners, non-profits, multinational companies, and others to freely share ideas, tools, and resources.

“Our best cities reflect our best selves, and when done right they are the heart of culture, innovation, and entrepreneurship,” said TED Prize Director Amy Novogratz. “We have thrown the weight of the annual TED Prize behind the City 2.0., because we see opportunity in inspiring everyone to re-imagine how we work, learn, and live. Like our cities, the TED Prize is based on radical collaboration, and for the billions of us living in – and moving to – cities, this is a wish for all of us to take on.”

TED also announced ten grants of $10,000 that will be awarded to local projects.

What would be the first issue you tackle in your city?