Infographic: The half-life of smart phones & apps

An cool infographic by Sarah Wenger 

As the world continues moving into a mobile one, smart phones have become an invaluable part of our lives – an extension of our own being. And because of our newly adopted part of our anatomy, Apps become increasingly more important as they are a more efficient and more precise way of accessing information on our phones. Mobile phone applications may seem like a small part of the changing landscape of the way we receive information, but in actuality, mobile applications may very well be the future. Because of this, many different professions from many different fields of study may want to take note of this. Most obviously, applications are important to software engineers and designers, but applications will also be important to those in marketing and business. Those fields of study should realize the growing market and figure out how to successfully capitalize on the growing trend of accessing information through applications. This infographic will show just how big apps got and how people are starting to use them.

London 2012: is the host city a winner?

London’s spectacular Olympic Opening Ceremony brings back a  long time bone of contention of mine, which is the cost of hosting mega-events – are the benefits to the host city and country all they are cracked up to be by those who want the event i.e. the media and vested interest groups of civil, building contractor and tourist industry lobbies  – here in Cape Town we have the legacy of Soccer World Cup 2010 in both  stadium building cost overuns – up from estimated R3,4 to R4,4 billion and unsustainable operating costs that at present are funded by municipal budgets (‘Surprising’ cost of running Cape Town stadium) “In a briefing to Parliament earlier this year, director of the city’s 2010 operations Lesley De Reuck said the current operational and maintenance costs, including management of the adjacent Green Point Park, were about R46,5-million a year.” These costs are at present not equaled by rentals for events, nor are they likely to be in the near future – this now nearly two years later.

It is extremely difficult to find actual figures as far as tourism and other benefits from the aftermath of the event are concerned – vested interest in the central city continue to maintain benefits were substantial  but for a more balanced, but still pessimistic view  I quote the concluding paragraph from a study by  Justin Sylvester and Daniel Harju  for IDASA “Whats Left after the World Cup”

“Yes, the large expenditure on infrastructure and stadiums significantly boosted the economy and had an impact on job creation, but it was a negligible one. The point is that despite the developmental and pro-poor rhetoric associated with the event, the economic benefits were disproportionately enjoyed by those who have access. The World Cup did not change the face of an economy skewed in favour of the economic and political elite.

While the economic benefits of the World Cup and its distribution are quantifiable, the positive impact on the cohesiveness of South African society is not. It may also be inappropriate to weigh up this feel-good factor and the improved integration across racial and class cleavages against the cost of the World Cup. Placing a cost effective price on such a legacy is inappropriate given the deep divides and strain that exist in South Africa’s social fabric. But while this is surely a welcome legacy, the World Cup illustrated the disconnection between those who govern and those who are governed.

The football World Cup is a monumental logistical challenge that placed enormous levels of pressure on all three tiers of government, as well as on labour and business. That the tournament has been hailed a success speaks to the strong levels of accountability that were demanded from all of these sectors by external actors such as FIFA and the international community. But ordinary South Africans were excluded from much of the economic and infrastructural benefits associated with the tournament. And more importantly, the ordinary public’s inability to influence much of the processes related to the hosting of the tournament betrays the poor levels of accountability and transparency that exist within our democracy. Therein lies a strong lesson for other developing countries who wish to bid to host mega events such as the World Cup”

These findings are mirrored in an interview with Melbourne economist John Madden who comments on studies done for the Sydney 2000 Olympics benefits and costs,  reposted from from smartplanet   by 

Scale model of the new Olympic Park in London.

Sydney 2000 vs. London 2012

‘Madden suggests that London is unlikely to experience an overall economic benefit from the 2012 Games. He points to the London Games having a much higher cost than Sydney. But he does concede that London might fare better than Sydney in providing wider economic benefits that might offset its higher costs. He outlines several reasons for this.

“In Sydney, the construction of purpose-built Games facilities involving expenditure of $1.9 billion (in year 2000 prices) accounted for the bulk of the cost of the Games to economic welfare,” he explains.

Though Sydney’s Olympic Stadium continues to be used, it still struggles to cover the operating costs and recoup the original construction costs. However, Madden speculates that the story might be different for a densely populated city like London.

“There are a number of factors that may cause the London Olympics effect on economic welfare to be considerably less than its accounting costs. These include the London Olympics having a large urban renewal component, and the likelihood that in a city of its size there is a greater chance of facilities and infrastructure built for the Olympics having a profitable post-Olympics use.”

Venues such as London’s new Olympic Stadium will continue to be used after the Games by the burgeoning population, and possibly sold to a local football club as a way to recover operational costs.

A benefit that some commentators contend is a tourism legacy arising from showcasing the host city. According to the IOC and official government figures, tourist visits to city of Sydney were up by 11% in 2000, with an additional 1.1 million people visiting Australia between 2000 and 2004.

However, Madden’s research suggests something entirely different. He finds no evidence for an Olympics-induced tourism legacy for Sydney in the years following 2000. He argues that for cities with a high international profile (such as London), it is unlikely that the Olympics will give a further boost to tourism growth.

A final factor distinguishing the London Games from those of Sydney is the state of the overall economy. When Sydney hosted the Games, it was in a period of essentially high employment. Whereas, the 2012 London Games are occurring during a recessionary period.

“Unlike Sydney, it turns out that a good deal of Olympics expenditure is occurring during a recessionary period. The stimulatory effect of this expenditure may considerably lower the cost of hosting the Games.”

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Olympic Opening Ceremony – Creating the Iconic Map of London 27 July 2012

Explaining  the map seen dimly under the performers on Friday night, Tim Stonor of Space Syntax commented by mail: ”

To explain to those who didn’t see the opening, Danny Boyle constructed an event in which we were taken on an allegorical history of Britain from a green and pleasant land of Bo Peep, Cricket and May Pole dancing, through the industrial revolution to the modern networked age. As Isembard Kingdom Brunel directed the industrial age the green fields were stripped bare to reveal the space syntax map of London – suitably greyscale – to form the floor for all that followed. The massive Olympic rings were forged from iron and hoisted over head, then a series of other great British achievements were portrayed, the NHS, Great Ormond St, CND, Mary Poppins, the Beatles, James Bond and Mr Bean. Even Tim Berners Lee was credited with inventing the Web. All good company for syntax :-

From the official UCL Site

The map – produced by Space Syntax to advise on plans for new streets and public spaces in London – was spotted by the Games’ organisers in a book about the history of mapping in London.

The map is one of many produced by Space Syntax to aid property developers and city authorities plan the biggest urban centres on the planet, including Beijing, Sydney and Athens.

Based on mathematical analysis of street networks developed at UCL’s Bartlett School of Architecture, the map forecasts how people will flow through new developments and how this leads to social and economic benefits such as safer public spaces, more successful shops and higher property values.

Space Syntax, which was founded at UCL in 1989, has used its map to redesign key public spaces in London including Trafalgar Square, the South Bank Centre and the Barbican. The map has underpinned many new developments in the capital, including Broadgate and One New Change in the City of London. Most recently it has been used to test proposals for the regeneration of London’s Elephant & Castle and Earls Court, two of the largest regeneration projects in Europe.

Computer software measures the degree to which each street in the network is likely to be used by people on foot, on bikes and in cars and where people are more or less likely to use parks and public spaces. Each street is assigned a unique mathematical value, which is converted into a unique shade of grey – giving the instantly identifiable map which will have been seen by billions around the globe.

The map was used to develop the masterplan for the Olympic site at Stratford City, where Space Syntax worked to connect the new streets and spaces into the existing communities surrounding the Olympic Park.

Commenting on the use of the map as part of the Olympic Games’ opening ceremony, Tim Stonor, Managing Director of Space Syntax and Visiting Professor at UCL’s Bartlett School of Architecture, said:

“This map captures the essence of London: people moving and interacting in space; sharing stories and ideas; trading, creating and innovating; a social and economic network, played out in streets and public spaces.”

“A city, after all, is a living entity, with life given by the millions of people who both shape and live in it.

“The legacy of the Games will be felt long after the fireworks are over and the medals won – it will be the way in which the Olympic Park is used, and becomes part of the fabric of the East End. Space Syntax has played its part in making that happen.”

Dr Steven Schooling, who is a Director of UCL Business PLC and Space Syntax Ltd commented that “the interactions between Space Syntax Ltd and the Bartlett School of Architecture continue to set a benchmark for successful knowledge exchange between academia and industry, with both parties gaining significant benefits from a partnership which has fostered linkages in areas ranging from consultancy through to software development.

The use within the Opening Ceremony for the 2012 London Olympic Games of a Space Syntax map of London’s street network, provides an excellent illustration of how mathematical analysis of street networks developed at UCL’s Bartlett School of Architecture have been translated by Space Syntax Ltd into tools and solutions which are having a substantive impact on urban planning in the UK and overseas”.

About Space Syntax
Space Syntax’s mission is to enhance the social, economic and environmental performance of buildings and urban places by developing and applying a science-based, human-focused approach to their planning, design and operation. We exist to provide leadership and cumulative tested knowledge to support the development, dissemination and application of this approach.


The Olympics and the urban DNA of London

Is or isn’t the London olympics good for the city? It may be OK according to Deyan Sudjic  the director of the Design Museum in London from domus

Despite the city’s apparent aversion to making grand plans and big gestures, London as a whole has been strengthened in its claims to be Europe’s only real world city. It’s not the Olympics that have done that; it’s the British capital’s 2000 years of urban DNA.

There is an argument that only cities that feel insecure about themselves feel the need to mortgage themselves to the hilt in order to win the privilege of supplying a fleet of at least 500 air-conditioned limousines for the tax-exempt members of what is described without irony as the Olympic family to enjoy driving on dedicated Olympics-only lanes from which even ambulances will be excluded.

London does not, even after last year’s uncomfortable brush with arson and rioting, feel insecure about itself. Prices for houses over 5 million pounds grew another 0,7 per cent in the month of May. All the Greeks who can may already have bought their houses, but there is a growing queue of Italian, Spanish and French money looking for a safe haven in London property.

The more superficially sophisticated the world appears to become, the more its public rituals signal that its underlying preoccupations remain as intoxicatedly atavistic as they have ever been. The Olympic Games, the Grand Prix circuit and the Expo movement are all events that come cocooned with the appearance of a glossy sense of modernity. All are apparently very different from each other, but actually they have converged into a single phenomenon. For all the alibis of urban renewal, their real significance is closer to the motivations of the Easter Island head builders, or the ritual festivals of the Mayans. The calculations of everyday reality do not apply. These events are to be understood as reflecting national prestige or cohesion, or else the rampant pursuit of sheer spectacle for the sake of spectacle. They are celebrations of power and wealth, and distractions from the bleaker aspects of daily life.

When Londoners first heard that their city had been selected for the 2012 Games, one common response was disappointment; if only Paris had won the right to stage the Games. Another was to say that if we must stage them, then lets go back to the austere virtues of 1948, the last time London hosted the Olympics. In those days there was no Olympic Village, and athletes were accommodated in tents, youth hostels and B&Bs. There were no corporate sponsors, and no specially built stadia. The old Wembley football pitch served perfectly well. It’s been seven years since the IOC decision, and while Londoners are bracing themselves for six weeks of disruption that promises to bring gridlock to the city’s traffic, as well as 30-minute delays simply to gain access to Underground stations, the city by and large has become reconciled to the idea of the Olympics.

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Experiencing the city with ones body – what we all do – a history of it in academia

Readings of the City

This book is an accessible introduction to the subject of psychogeography, which put simply, is a mix of the two disciplines of geography and psychology. Instead of looking at the physical environment in an empirical, cartographic sense, psychogeography attempts to understand space through the more subjective manner in which affects the individual.

Coverley’s prose and structure  is clear; the book is chronologically laid out. The main medium through which the ‘discipline’ is expressed is through through literary works. Starting with the earliest examples Coverley discusses 17th & 18th century interpretations of London through Defoe, Blake and de Quincy and argues these figures paved the way for the critical ‘urban wondered’ which later, through Walter Benjman developed into the flâneur. The chapter in the Situationist International is a particularly useful in providing an overview, but read as a whole the SI can be seen in a broad, historical context. Coverley demonstrates…

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Ateleir Dreisietel’s makes water work in sustainable and beautiful landscape architecture for people in public space


Singapore is heavily dependent on Malaysia for its water supply but is now creating new sustainable parks designed to reduce its reliance, said Herbert Dreiseitl, International ASLA, Atelier Dreiseitl, at the Greater & Greener: Reimagining Parks for 21st Century Cities, a conference in New York City. As an example, his amazing new 62-acre Bishan-Ang Mo Kio Park recreates nature, transforming a 2.7-kilometer concrete-channel lined river into a 3-kilometer natural meandering system. At the same time, the new system slows down and stores some of the rainfall that hits the city-state. The park is a model for how cities can transform outmoded, broken systems into natural systems.

Singapore has to import so much water because all its hard surfaces funnel water straight into the ocean. In the tropical heat, much is also lost to evaporation. “They can’t keep their water they have.” To address these problems, the city-state has created a new strategic…

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Cathryn Gusavson will be one of the speakers at IFLA 2012 Congress in Cape Town in September

laud8 -landscape architecture+urban design

The North End Parks, covering 122,053 ft² area, is designed by Gustafson Guthrie Nichol.

Built on three acres of new land on the I-93 “Big Dig” tunnel roof, The North End Parks is at the prime entry to downtown Boston’s densest neighborhood.

The design responds to community desire for a welcoming, urban meeting place that contrasts with expansive paving of nearby City Hall Plaza by offering a more intimate, textured space.

The Parks are designed as a system of varied spaces that serve the finely-scaled residential neighborhood, while forming together as one, a unified threshold piece at a grander civic scale.

In the “Home Crossing” design, a series of zones are crossed as one moves from City (Government Center) to Home (North End).

At the entry to Home, a “front porch” and pergola are provided as a spatial extension of the lively streets and sidewalk activities within the neighborhood.


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From a series on re-evaluating the role of architecture in society  – an in-depth discussion of how Integral Theory might help position the design disciplines in a more sustainable framework – well worth reading Peter Buchanan’s essays on AR,

In the third installment of the AR’s campaign, Peter Buchanan introduces Integral theory, which establishes a new framework for the design of 21st-century buildings and cities

The first two essays in this series merely set the scene, making the case for, rather than initiating The Big Rethink: Towards a Complete Architecture. This now begins in earnest. The second essay discussed some ways in which modernism, including modern architecture, is endemically unsustainable, and some of the most potent forces bringing epochal change. It listed particularly those that might bring enticing benefits as opposed to those, in the first essay, that threaten to bring calamities. It concluded by speculating that several epochs, coexisting simultaneously over different time spans, are now ending, so highlighting just how pivotal are our times.

Here we concentrate on understanding the modern era, its origins some four to five centuries ago, and why it is now waning; the implications of that alone are vast enough. We also look at the transitions from pre-modern to modern and then to postmodern and what they meant for architecture. From these foundations we can start considering the architecture of the future, that of the epoch succeeding the transitional phase of current postmodernism − what, in the table closing last month’s essay, Charlene Spretnak calls Deconstructionist Postmodernism as opposed to the Ecological Postmodernism of the emergent era.

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Investing in the Ground: Reflections on Scarcity, Remediation and Obdurate Form

This “groundwork” takes place within and on the ‘landscape” hence landscape, ground and field have a critical part to play in urbanism and architecture – hence the view of Stan Allen and others from Landscape Architecture and Landscape Urbanism etc. that it is the primary plane of any urban intervention and consideration of any part that takes place on it must consider its impact and contribution to the whole – but I believe not without considering its impact on the people who are there and who will inhabit it – which is usually scarcely considered any of these disciplines.

Critical Grounds

My essay ‘Investing in the Ground: Reflections on Scarcity, Remediation and Obdurate Form’ published in  Architectural Design, ‘Scarcity’, edited by Jon Goodbun. Extract below.

“In design practice, it is the ground, and its articulation, from which form is derived. The ground becomes, as Castro and Ramirez refer to it, a ‘design tool’. Many of the sites with which AALU and Groundlab have been engaged, for example, particularly those in China, suffer from scarcities of land fit for farming, or even inhabitation, due to soil pollution and degradation that require processes such as excavation, cutting, filling and capping in order to facilitate their remediation.  More than a problem-solving exercise, however, this type of ‘groundwork’ also provides an opportunity to generate artificial topographies with the formal capacity to structure relations between environmental, social, cultural and economic factors on a given site. The remediation of scarcity is grasped as an opportunity…

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Making Sense of Our Non-Linear World:The Challenge: Be Realistic, Imagine The Impossible

How we can deal with complexity a book review from URBAN TIMES

What Do These Have In Common?

car company built around a global community as an organisation, enabled by combining flex manufacturing techniques, open source platforms, open legal frameworks and social communication technologies premised upon cooperation, fuelled by the desire to be a great company and green; that can build cars 5 times faster at 100 times less the capital costs.

A crisis management platform and organisation born out of the Kenyan post-election crisis of 2008 that can record critical information of events unfolding on the ground via a blend of location-based data, eyewitness accounts and mobile telephony, from often hard to reach places which visualises those unfolding events so that others can act and direct action at internet speeds. And now utilised for free in many parts of the world. Or, the largest organic diary farm in Britain, that has evolved a methodology that allows it to remain autonomous, profitable and sustainable in a market that is acutely volatile, because large-scale agricultural farming is mostly run on an oil-based economy, plus diary farmers are at the calculating mercy of the marketing needs and whimsies of large chain supermarkets.

A New Social / Organisational / Economic Model

Be realistic, imagine the impossible 

They are collectively representative of a new reality of living, working and organising. These organisations or companies have quested to find a means to serve humanity better, to search for meaning in the work that they and others do, and offer up new viable alternatives for the ways that, in the past, these things were done. They seek an outcome that is more distributive of wealth, ideas and resources. In fact, one might argue an outcome that is more humane and community centric. Rather than premised upon the extraction of wealth, and resources, whether they be physical, mineral or otherwise, these very different initiatives represent both moral courage and a collective purpose, if you will. And why is that important? Because it does not matter if you are an employer, a worker, VC fund, an NGO, an organisation, a local council or a government, you will miss out on the energies and capabilities of your people who will increasingly seek those new realities to discover a better way of living, working and being, when better and viable alternatives are on offer. And the fact is we now have the possibility to truly transform our world, to be more lightweight, sustainable and humane, through the tools, capabilities, language and processes at our fingertips. As Tony Judt argued:

‘Why do we experience such difficulty even imaging a different sort of society? Why is it beyond us to conceive a different set of arrangements to our common advantage?’ [Tony Judt, Ill Fares the Land, Allen Lane, 2010.]

Image by Alan Moore


The Cultural Challenge


The biggest challenge we face is cultural. How we contextualise (make sense of) the world around us determines how we engage and what action we take. Those actions then determine the outcomes we must live with and this requires a change from our industrial mindset and behaviour to one that is more cognisant of what is now seen as a non-linear world. This is where I want to return to the idea that what we face is a design problem, where answers exist not at an unattainable theoretical level but on the floors of our factories, in the streets of our towns and cities, the classes of our schools, the waiting rooms of our hospitals. These answers will manifest themselves as true acts of creation, originating new ways of getting stuff done, informed by the decisions we collectively take. So in re-designing the world, we need human creativity in the sense of the capacity to ‘make’, we need visionary leadership in the sense of making a difference. And we seek the craftsman’s critical eye, steady hand and creative mind. It is this process of seeing – realising new pathways to success, by bringing two ‘unlikes’ (new information, tools, processes etc.) together in close adjacency – that we create, and make new things. Then we can meaningfully apply that capability.

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