Category Archives: Thought

Technology by necessity

Notes for today’s talk at the NLA’s conference on “How do we build a smarter London

The London context:

- more people (growing population)
– more data (sensors everywhere)
– more sophisticated computing.

Strategic problem: how to handle it all.

Space Syntax’s experience: address the problem via “the questions of reality”.

The commercial application of Space Syntax research was catalysed by approaches from London residents in the early/mid 1980s eg Limehouse Basin, South Bank, King’s Cross: citizens groups opposing property developments they saw as being alien to London life. Today we work for those developers as well as community groups. Developers have learned to “get it”.

Data and computing create an art of the possible (sometimes the seemingly impossible too eg the wonderful Pigeon Sim). Pass the art of the possible through the filter of reality/market demand. Then it’s possible to make sense of it all – to know what to do.

The questions asked by our clients are the necessary filter.

Then evolve the technology according to new and difficult questions.

This is what we had to do to understand Trafalgar Square – we’d never studied such a complex open space before.

Technology by necessity.

MSc Advanced Architectural Studies – graduate employability

A talk given at the 40th Anniversary celebrations of the MSc in Advanced Architectural Studies – the “space syntax” MSc at University College London, 3rd September 2013.

Good evening, everyone.

Let me begin by paying tribute to the genius of Bill Hillier and Julienne Hanson. Not only for pioneering a theory – the theory – of architecture, but also for finding a way to teach it that has had such an effect on us all.

I’ve been asked to speak this evening about the issue of employability: does taking the MSc in Advanced Architectural Studies either enhance or inhibit the job propsects of its graduates?

Here’s what I want to say:

First, I’d like to review the perceived problem of Space Syntax – why it’s sometimes viewed with skepticism and how that impacts at interview; second, the nonsense of this criticism: why do I even need to be up here to defend the course; third, the “Hang on, maybe there’s an element of truth here” moment; and finally a belief that we can’t rest on our laurels. Continue reading MSc Advanced Architectural Studies – graduate employability

AoU Landscape Urbanism notes & questions

These notes accompany a PowerPoint presentation Fragmented urbanism: the rise of Landscape Urbanism & the threat it poses to the continuously connected city

TS intro
This is a crucial moment for urbanism. In the UK, The Portas Review, highlighting the UK’s threatened high streets. Around the world, cities are growing faster than ever. But cities – as we knew them – are under threat.

First, from the car. Car-dependent urbanism is the principal form of urbanism on the planet. our cities have become so fragmented by road systems in the last century that it is now almost impossible not to be far dependent – not without a major demolition and reconnection programme.

Second, from designers, accepting of the car and intellectualising around this complicity.

The aim of this talk
I have been forming my own views about Landscape Urbanism and am looking to raise a discussion within the Academy of Urbanism and beyond. Do people agree with me? If so, how do we respond? If not, why not?

Summary of the Landscape Urbanism aesthetic
Parcels of grey wrapped by ribbons of green

Landscape Urbanism as anti-ecological
“If you have a culture that is fundamentally automobile-based, then an urban model that is anti-automobile is counterintuitive at best. There’s a strange precept these days that asserts that people will abandon their cars if we simply build cities that don’t accommodate them”.
Charles Waldheim

Notes
Island bio-geography.

Scale – JW.

Water.

Interim uses eg temporary food production. How can this be coded?

Layouts need to be walkable and workable.

Working with the grain of nature.

GRABS – green and blue spaces.

“It was good to find out about a new academic threat to good sense, and I very much agree with your doubts about the universal value of green space.

London Riots discussion at #lonconf

Darah Singh
Groups of rioters:
1. Motivators – of rioting
2. Aggressors – towards police
3. Late night shoppers

Simeon
Riots gave people unusual opportunities for power and control. Abnormal empowerment.

David Lammy MP
The risks of social & economic liberalism. Hyper individualism. The selfishness of greed. Poverty, choice, ethics, morality & vulnerability.

A policy idea for London
TS: reconnect London at its grass routes by focusing on disconnected housing estates – spatial exclusion. Work with local communities to educate those who have been given authority to direct their influence towards the right places. Not only the high streets but the catchments of the high streets: the housing estates.

“If we can get to flexible wood, I am totally going to cut my own leg off.”

Ashley Vance’s article in last week’s New York Times paints an enticing picture of a future in which 3d printing can conjure objects before us at the press of a button. A 3d Hewlett Packard in every home will spray up a new pair of Nike shoes in a few seconds. Science nonsense? Some might think so:

“Everyone thought I was a lunatic when we started,” says one entrepreneur.

That was then. Today, commercial 3d business is growing at a pace. Continue reading “If we can get to flexible wood, I am totally going to cut my own leg off.”

Where are we going? Not a new question

Tomorrow’s Loeb Fellowship presentation will begin with this painting by Paul Gauguin: “Where do we come from? What are we? Where are we going?” painted on Tahiti in 1897.

The title provides a helpful triplet to structure a fundamental career review, which is essentially what tomorrow’s presentation is about. Continue reading Where are we going? Not a new question