PUBLIC LIFE, A SERVICE

via http://gehlpeople.com

This week at ‘Public X Design’, Shin-pei Tsay, Executive Director of Gehl Institute launched the ‘Public Life Data Protocol’ developed in partnership with the Municipality of Copenhagen, the City of San Francisco, and with support and input from Seattle Department of Transportation. The ‘Public Life Data Protocol’ is an open source data specification that will allow anyone to collect public life data. The Protocol describes a set of metrics that are crucial to the understanding of public life in public space, and will create a common language around this data collection.

Making people visible with public life data

The metrics were first developed by Jan Gehl as a research methodology, and later adapted by the Gehl practice into the Public Space and Public Life (PSPL) survey tool. The Protocol is the fruition of decades of research and application, and the PSPL surveys provide a valuable foundation to all of Gehl’s services and projects in cities and communities globally.

How are people spending time in public spaces, who are they with, what kind of activities do they engage in, and how long do they stay for? The surveys are a collaborative effort enabling people to engage, identify local problems, and begin to zoom into likely solutions. With the launch of the ‘Public Life Data Protocol’, I took the opportunity to sit down with Gehl’s CEO and Founding Partner Helle Søholt to better understand how Gehl has evolved the Public Life Service and the PSPL survey tool.

I found out that Helle has two main hopes with the launch of the Public Life Data Protocol. “My hope is that it will enable more cities to use and apply the data collection methods to their cities, and the second is that cities will begin to make people visible in the planning process.”

“The Public Space and Public Life (PSPL) survey is a way to make people visible and make them heard. We use these methods to inform our advice to clients and the participatory processes that we engage in”, explained Helle.\

Continue reading post by Sophia Schuff

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Voice of Warning…..pictures and drawings of things are not the things they represent .

A common fallacy of the design professions is that the objects we design such as buildings, parks , chairs etc. can be adequately represented by our drawings and computer renderings of these designs and that these will suffice to create the objects themselves by means of the usual contracting mechanisms. Alberto Perez-Gomez calls attention to the origins and problems of this idea in his recent book. In revue of the book in Environmental & Architectural Phenomenology Vol .28 No.1 the following excerpts  from the book review illustrate the authors ” critical  (view) of the two dominant approaches to architectural design today: on one hand, functionalism, including sustainable architecture; on the other hand, a purely aesthetic approach to architecture, including parametric design. He writes that, for the past two centuries, architecture has suffered “from either the banality of functionalism (an architecture that attests to its own process) or from the limitations of potential solipsism and near nonsense, the syndrome of ‘architecture made for archi-tects’.”

The need, Pérez-Gómez concludes, is “for continuing formal exploration in a fluid and changing world” but also returning attention to “the fundamental existential questions to which architecture traditionally answered—the profound necessity for humans to inhabit a resonant world they may call home, even when separated by global technological civ-ilization from an innate sense of place.” The excerpts, below, present two passages from Attunement.

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Alberto Pérez-Gómez, 2016. Attunement: Architectural Meaning after the Crisis of Modern Science. Cambridge, MA: MIT Press. 

“A dangerous misunderstanding”

Since the beginning of the nineteenth century, the assumption has been that architectural space (subsuming all aspects of real place) is easily represented through the geometric systems of descriptive geometry and axonometric projection, which translates seamlessly today into the digital space of the computer screen through standard architectural software. Thus, it seems obvious that architectural meanings would have to be created from scratch, through ingenious formal manipulation of the architect-artist, assumed to be relevant merely through their novel, shocking, or seductive character.

Whenever the physical context is invoked as an argument for design decisions, it is mostly through its visual attributes, imagining the site as a picture or objective site plan that merely provides some formal or functional cues.

This is a dangerous misunderstanding. The deep emotional and narrative aspects that articulate places in a particular natural or cultural milieu are usually marginalized by a desire to produce fashionable innovations. These narrative qualities, however, are crucial considerations as we seek the appropriateness of a given project for its intended purpose in a particular culture: framing a “focalized action” (Heidegger) or event that may bring people together and allow for a sense of orientation and belonging….

We can obviously perceive the qualities of places, particularly when cities have deep histories and their layers are present to our experience. Yet these are still obvious if we compare the “spaces” of newer urban centers, such as Toronto and Sydney (both with similar colonial pasts), which, indeed, ultimately appear as qualitatively different; despite their Anglo-Saxon character, the two cities have a different light and a feel, a different aroma, stemming from such features as the lake or the sea and the “air” of their respective climates.

We can also realize that we think different thoughts in different places, necessarily accompanied and enabled by diverse emotions, albeit usually unintended by the generic architecture of modern development; location affects us deeply, as does more generally the geographical environment (pp. 108-09).

“Architecture as attunement”

Architecture is not what appears in a glossy magazine: buildings rendered as two-dimensional or three-dimensional pictures on the computer screen, or comprehensive sets of precise working drawings.

The most significant architecture is not necessarily photogenic. In fact, often the opposite is true. Its meanings are conveyed through sound and eloquent silence, the tactility and poetic resonance of materials, smell and the sense of humidity, among infinite other factors that appear through the motility of embodied perception and are given across the senses.

Furthermore, because good architecture fundamentally offers a possibility of attunement, atmospheres appropriate to focal actions that allow for dwelling in the world, it is very problematic to reduce its effect (and critical import) to the aesthetic experience of an object, as is often customary. Strictly speaking, architecture first conveys its meanings as a situation or event; it partakes of the ephemeral quality of music for example, as it addresses the living body, and only secondly does it become an object for tourist visits or expert critical judgments (pp. 148-149).

About the Author

Alberto Pérez Gómez directs the History and Theory of Architecture Program at McGill University, where he is Saidye Rosner Bronfman Professor of the History of Architecture. He is the author of Architecture and the Crisis of Modern ScienceBuilt upon Love: Architectural Longing after Ethics and Aesthetics (both published by the MIT Press), and other books.

“A real tour de force, this is the work of an intellectual craftsman in full possession of the materials and tools of his trade: a broad sweep of historical material, from the present day to remote antiquity, and then back again, sized and shaped with the precision instruments of his art: philology, philosophical hermeneutics, and poetic reformulation. The workplace is contemporary culture; his task, nothing less than reshaping the way architecture is understood today. Architecture is shown to endow experience with attunements that are equally material, spatial, and linguistic, apprehended by both the body and the mind, through emotions and ideas, providing us with the kind of architectural atmospheres we would not only love to inhabit but dream of designing. For that last purpose there will be no better guide than this book”
David Leatherbarrow, Professor of Architecture, University of Pennsylvania

GAME/LANDSCAPE

Jason King of Game/Landscape | Landscape Urbanism. has done an in-depth  job of recounting what is available  to landscape architects and urban designers from the creators of computer games and gaming environments. The potential  with these tools and approaches for research, analysis and representation of landscape and the built environment  is much more than the current  static visualisations or even the usual walk/fly-throughs we are now getting. Along with the advances in point cloud modelling, see post Simulating Landscapes with Point Cloud Models, an analysis and visualisation technique that has asleep learning curve and is very resource intensive, game engines could give a faster more emotive way of accessing the landscape and its experiential potential. Like Jason I was hooked on Myst and its sequels, the beautiful graphics , the idea of a game that involved no violence and the experiential base of the game fascinated me and we were addicted to it and all its sequels.

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‘I’ve mentioned a few times on Twitter, I have had an on-going interest in game design as a medium, but also in relation to the potential synergistic overlaps between the technology/techniques with landscape architecture and urbanism practice.  The most obvious connection has to do with visual representation, as the ability to create engaging site and building environments is clearly , but there are some interesting opportunities for educational tools, user experience, ecological and urban modeling, scenario building, and iterative design.”

ORIGINS

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“Growing up with gaming, a trio of interactions early in college defined the concept and hooked me into the potential in an interesting way – even 20+ years ago.  The first was a game my sister and i were obsessed with, Myst.  Building on the word-based computer games from the 80’s like Adventureland and Pirate Adventure, Myst came out in 1991 and provided a graphical environment (that at the time was incredible) along with a mystery and things that needed to be observed and unlocked.”

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We’re Only Beginning to Understand How Our Brains Make Maps

All our instincts as “place” designers are well founded  it seems –  all of the fine details, ambiences and local differences we cherish are really important to how we navigate space and understand where we are and wether it is safe, dangerous or cool to be here – the latest neuroscience, albeit with rats,  is giving us new ammo in a our tangle with both virtual and the banal retail worlds. By Emily Badger at Atlantic Cities

The more scientists learn about how our brains construct cognitive maps of space, the more we may learn about how to design those spaces.

About 40 years ago, researchers first began to suspect that we have neurons in our brains called “place cells.” They’re responsible for helping us (rats and humans alike) find our way in the world, navigating the environment with some internal sense of where we are, how far we’ve come, and how to find our way back home. All of this sounds like the work of maps. But our brains do impressively sophisticated mapping work, too, and in ways we never actively notice.

Every time you walk out your front door and past the mailbox, for instance, a neuron in your hippocampus fires as you move through that exact location – next to the mailbox – with a real-world precision down to as little as 30 centimeters. When you come home from work and pass the same spot at night, the neuron fires again, just as it will the next morning. “Each neuron cares for one place,” saysMayank Mehta, a neurophysicist at UCLA. “And it doesn’t care for any other place in the world.”

This is why these neurons are called “place cells.” And, in constantly shuffling patterns, they generate our cognitive maps of the world. Exactly how they do this, though, has remained a bit of an enigma. The latest research from Mehta and his colleagues, published this month in the online edition of the journal Science, provides more clues. It now appears as if all of the sensory cues around us – the smell of a pizzeria, the feel of a sidewalk, the sound of a passing bus – are much more integral to how our brains map our movement through space than scientists previously believed.

And the more scientists learn about how our brains construct cognitive maps of space, the more we may learn about how to design those spaces – streets, neighborhoods, cities – in the first place. Or, rather, we may learn more about the consequences of how we’ve built them so far. How could any urban planner, for starters, not love the idea that “place” is embedded in the brain?

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Q&A: Finn Butler on wayfinding design

Investing in evidence based design is far from common –  retail business’ mantra that “the customer is always right” is not yet firmly entrenched in the design professions way of thinking – yet – but I am sure its coming – here is an interview with a firm that believes firmly in following the evidence to promote ease of way-finding in notoriously difficult to negotiate environments – from smart planet By 

MELBOURNE – At SmartPlanet, we’ve written about wayfinding from all different angles; as environmental graphic design, operating system, cognitive map and even as an iPhone app. But as a professional practice, it’s still relatively unknown and arguably undervalued.

Pioneering wayfinding as a new discipline is Finn Butler, a specialist with over 20 years of international experience in designing for complex built environments.

Since joining the Melbourne design studio Buro North in 2008, Butler has executed strategies for some of Australia’s most public projects including the Royal Children’s Hospital Melbourne, Melbourne Convention Exhibition Centre and Westfield in Sydney.

Butler’s early career focused on transport wayfinding systems for Terminal 5 at Heathrow Airport, Delhi Metro in India, and the U.K.’s major rail stations.

We recently caught up with Finn Butler to discuss wayfinding semantics — what it is, why it’s important and where it’s headed as an industry.

Wayfinding expert Finn Butler

SmartPlanet: Where did the term ‘wayfinding’ come from?

Finn Butler: I think Kevin Lynch first used the phrase wayfinding in his book Image of the City to describe the process of designing and organising space to facilitate navigation, so in its modern sense the term has been around for about 50 years. As a design discipline, wayfinding is still in its infancy and is still evolving.

SP: Is there an agreed definition?

FB: Many practitioners describe wayfinding design in terms of the navigation of physical space with a strong focus on signage. I personally believe that wayfinding design is the design of navigational behaviour and not signage, which often combines the navigation of physical space as well as processes. This requires the consideration of a broad range of measures, including the development of operational processes, environmental changes and staff training as well as information delivery in the form of signage.

This approach differs from a purely graphic or signage response, as it requires an understanding of fields and ideas that usually exist outside the design field, such as semiotics, affordance and syntax modelling.

Quite often the best wayfinding strategists come from operational backgrounds or from the sciences rather than from a design background

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Citizen Science – Enabling Urbanism – Common Science

From Common Science more on moving technology and live sensing into the real world… what if we are able to use our ubiquitous onboard computers to do more than increase the electromagnetic noise – but literally enable our survival in our increasingly hostile an poisoned world  – while a bit old (2008) still a good description of a world still to come –  the future that seed are now – for more up to date info see the website .

In this research we highlight an important new shift in mobile phone usage – from communication tool to “networked mobile personal measurement instrument”. We explore how these new “personal measurement instruments” enable an entirely novel and empowering genre of mobile computing usage called citizen science.  Through the use of sensors paired with personal mobile phones, everyday people are invited to participate in collecting and sharing measurements of their everyday environment that matter to them.

Our research hypothesis is that this new usage model for mobile phones will:

  1. improve the science literacy of everyday citizens through active participation in basic scientific principles
  2. provide professional scientists with access to richer, finer-grain data sets for modeling and analysis
  3. create new experiences and usage models for the mobile phone as a tool for grassroots participation in government and policy making
  4. by choice of sensors and software create a deeper and more informed understanding and concern for our climate and environment – hopefully effecting positive societal change

Mobile phones are rapidly becoming the computer platform of choice in developed and developing nations.  These mobile phones already shape our culture – collapsing space and time by enabling us to reach out to contact others at a distance, to perform just-in-time coordination of events, and to purchase, play, and game “on-the-go”.  While there is a growing research space around sensor based activity inferencing and a wealth of existing location applications in the market, we claim that our mobile phones still fall short in their ability to enable us to measure and understand the real world around us.

We carry mobile phones with us nearly everywhere we go; yet they sense and tell us little of the world we live in.

 

Look around you right now.

 

How hot is it? Which direction am I facing? Which direction is the wind blowing and how fast? How healthy is the air I’m breathing?  What is the pollen count right now?  How long can I stay outside without getting sunburned? Is the noise level safe here?  Were pesticides used on these fruits? Is this water safe to drink? Are my children’s toys free of lead and other toxins? Is my new indoor carpeting emitting volatile organic compounds (VOCs)? Now look to your phone for answers about the environment around you.  What is it telling you? For all of its computational power and sophistication it provides us with very little insight into the actual conditions of the atmospheres we traverse with it.  In fact the only real-time environmental data it measures onboard and reports to you is a signal to noise value for a narrow slice of the electromagnetic spectrum (i.e. “how many bars do you have?

 

Certainly, one could imagine accessing the web or other online resource from their mobile phone to find an answer to some of these questions.  But much of that online data is calculated and published for general usage, not for you specifically.  For example, the official weather station for a city may report that the temperature is currently 23ºC by taking one measurement at the center of the city or averaging several values from multiple sites across town.  But what if you’re in the shade by the wind swept waterfront where it is actually 17ºC or waiting underground for the subway where it is a muggy 33ºC. The measurement that means the most to you is likely to be the one that captures the actual conditions you are currently experiencing, not citywide averages.

Imagine you are deciding between walking to one of two subway stations and could gather live data from the passengers waiting on the platform at each stop about the temperature and humidity of each station at that very moment?  What if you were one of the 300 million people who suffer from asthma and could breath easily as you navigated your city with real-time pollen counts collected by your fellow citizens?  What if you could not just be told the level of noise pollution in your city but measure and publish your own actual decibel measurements taken in front of your home?  What if you were one of the more than 3 billion people, nearly half the world’s population, that burned solid fuels, including biomass fuels (wood, dung, agricultural residues) and coal, for their energy, heating, and cooking needs indoors and yet had no way to monitor the health effects of the resulting pollutants on yourself and your family even though nearly 2 million people die annually from indoor air pollution?

Mobile phones are allowing us to communicate, buy, sell, connect, and do miraculous things.  However, we claim that this mobile technology, coupled with new sensing and software, can enable us to go beyond finding friends, chatting with colleagues, locating hip bars, and buying music. Our research aims to expand our perceptions of mobile phones as simply a communication tool and to research our envisioned understanding of them as personal measurement instruments capable of sensing our natural environment and empowering collective action through everyday grassroots citizen scienceacross blocks, neighborhoods, cities, and nations.

Our near term goal is to build and study a series of mobile devices outfitted with novel sensors along with an infrastructure that provides public sharing and remixing of these personal sensor measurements by experts and non-experts alike.  The overall long-term goal is to develop new communication paradigms that empower communities to produce credible information that can be understood by non-experts, in order to effect positive societal change.

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Grid Unlocked: How Street Networks Evolve as Cities Grow

A new study purports to be one of the first to look at how urban areas develop over time and how their informal layouts become rationalized into a distinct grid. The study possibly discounts the work of Bill Hillier and Julienne Hanson who have worked for more than 30 years on a systematic study of urban morphology and using graph theory developed Space Syntax as well as the work of MIT’s City Form Research Group, but nevertheless is interesting in its corroboration of many of the ideas and postulates of these systems. maybe its not the system but the process of investigating evidence based or grounded theory? From Scientific American by Sarah Fecht

Before urban planning, street patterns emerged organically. Understanding the fundamental and man-made forces behind the growth of streetscapes could help guide the development of today’s cities.

Evolution of the road network from 1833 to 2007. For each map we show in grey all the nodes and links already existing in the previous snapshot of the network, and in colors the new links added in the time window under consideration. (b) Map showing the location of the Groane area in the metropolitan region of Milan. (c) Time evolution of the total number of nodes N in the network and of the total population in the area (obtained from census data).

The world’s cities are absorbing one millionadditional people every week—and by 2030, they could consume an extra 1.5 million square kilometers of land, or roughly the area of France, Germany and Spain combined. What would be the best ways for those cities to grow? A new study examines how—before urban planners existed—a group of Italian villages evolved into suburbs outside Milan today. Such studies may eventually help planners optimize future developments.

“We know few things about how cities grow naturally,” says Emanuele Strano, a doctoral candidate studying urban geography at Switzerland’s École Polytechnique Fédérale de Lausanne who authored the study. “Urban planners believe that with regulations we can control the growth of cities. The question is, how can we control a thing if we don’t really know how it behaves?”

The new study takes a step toward that essential understanding. Strano and his colleagues—a group of computer scientists, mathematicians, physicists and urban scholars—teamed up to provide the first quantitative analysis of how unplanned street networks evolve over time. Their results were published March 1 in Nature‘s “Scientific Reports.” (Scientific American is part of Nature Publishing Group.)

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Landscape Forensics Lab

A suggestion that Landscape Architects might move towards a revision of their disciplinne by  extending their survey and mapping techniques with new digital and other technology tools to become  forensic designers  .. from faslansyc This idea of surveying and mapping hidden clues both of temporal events and current trends  through traces left in the ground or by making visible digital movement traces and paterns of evidence, might become an  the anthropology of the landscape…

 
[a forensic mapping of the Exolgan logistics depot along the Riachuelo Canal in Buenos Aires, Argentina; the image is a composite of google aerial photos over 10 years- areas that are blurry have been subject to more structural movement; areas in blue are 2001 structures- including roads and sand piles; yellow are 2005 structures; red are 2010 structures; it becomes clear that a new path has developed crossing the highway in the top right corner, likely due to the new housing by the highway; the central area has largely fallen in to disuse, with the blue/yellow building to the right being deconstructed and the boat loading ramp falling in to disuse; this means that the luffing cranes are now standing idle, with informal paths now crossing to the newly paved tow path road]
Recently we were driving through Indiana in our Volvo station wagon munching on some granola and listening to NPR when we heard a short bit about one of our favorite subjects- landscape archeology.  The piece highlighted the work of Harvard urban archeologist Jason Ur and the work he is doing pairing high resolution declassified spy satellite photos with powerful image recognition software to identify sites where soil has been disturbed according to patterns consistent with sites of human occupation.  He then uses a powerful computer algorithm that is able to pinpoint the locations of likely sites of ancient inhabitation for a given photographed landscape through extremely close pattern analysis.  The computer algorithm is that are more accurate by an order of magnitude than the traditional method of gridding off a plot and traipsing through the field.
And that gets us thinking.  A landscape architect should open up shop as a landscape forensics lab.  Forensics in this case wouldn’t be limited solely to the realm of legal arguments- although that is being done in fascinating ways- but rather would be the methods and techniques used to reconstruct highly specific evidence for argumentation reinforcing some position.  Built on the landscape architectural tradition of close and detailed site readings, and relying heavily on the excellent Archeology of Garden and Field, this lab would also incorporate radical new methods:  balloon aerial mappings allowing for specific high resolution aerial maps of contested terrains in change, D.I.R.T. Studio’s deductive mappings of generalized industrial processes onto historical Sanborn maps, F.A.D.’s 1-to-1 scale mappings with genetically engineered seeds designed to sprout purple in the presence of chromium, or composite photographs showing the accretion and removal of structures, machines, and landforms.

Eye-tracking devices will read your thoughts

Continuing the theme of ubiquitous surveillance an dour complicity in allowing this invasion through our addiction to the use of the technology we expose ourselves to marketers relentless pursuit,  from smartplanet by Amy Kraft see also Facial Monitoring: The all-telling eye

The way you read things offers a lot of information about who you are. Blinking, the dilation of pupils, settling on a word for a fraction of a second longer–it all means something. And to marketers who are trying to understand what consumers want, eye-tracking devices might be key.

A few companies are developing applications to attach eye-tracking devices to computers and smartphones to bring this technology into the mainstream market.

Apple has already filed a patent for a 3-D eye-tracking user interface for use in iPhones and iPads. And the European company Senseyeplans on installing eye-tracking software in smartphones next year.

Slate reports:

“This information will be collected, analyzed and resold to hundreds of companies–advertisers, data analytics providers, and others–across the digital ecosystem in what the industry calls the ‘mobile marketing value chain.’ In theory, they will be anonymous, ‘nonpersonal’ data. But, in practice, the anonymity will be easy to penetrate.”

Of course, there are privacy concerns. By now, we’re all too familiar with companies collecting data without our consent. Facebook, Google and Twitter have all done it. But there never seemed to be any dire repercussions for those transgressions.

Slate’s John Villasenor says: “Today, when we read something online, our thoughts are still our own. We should enjoy it while it lasts.”

Photo via flickr/Mikleman

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