Thought Category

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 […]

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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 […]

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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 […]

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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 […]

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“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 […]

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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.

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Put the client into the brief

Perhaps the greatest difference between architecture school and design practice is the reality in practice of the client, the client’s other advisors, the opponents to the project, the commentators in the press – in other words the human factor.

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Expect conflict

We are told to avoid conflict. Mostly good advice but conflict is ever near and not always avoidable.

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Architecture: beyond art & science

Is architecture and art or a science? As Bill Hillier has argued, this is the wrong question. In fact it’s a silly question. Architecture is both art and science. He argues that architecture is total art and total science. In fact it’s more, because architecture engages with the everyday and the everyday is social, environmental and […]

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The several pleasures of building a bed

Spending the afternoon building a bed is an opportunity not only for construction but also for reflection. Or even rebuilding a bed – because what was there at the end was mostly already there to begin with. However, as with a recipe, the same ingredients can create a variety of outcomes. Flour, water and a […]

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Divided we stand

The quality of advice provided by planners and architects is as much the product of our education, our professional bodies and our office environments as it is our individual talents. The deep structures of our universities, memberships and working cultures have a profound influence on our personal processes of reasoning and acting. We are what […]

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Frayed at the edge (and at the centre)

At the edges of nearly all the world cities, and often at their centres too, are tracts of unplanned settlements. Labelled as slums, favelas and shanty towns, these are places that have been made largely without the intervention of planning. Their numbers are increasing as the planet moves from the field to the street and […]

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Hedging on the pedestrian

February and March are traditionally the Spring conference season and have taken me this year on speaking engagements from Millbank (with RUDI) to Earls Court (with the Academy of Urbanism), the Royal College of Physicians (with the Architectural Review) and, ultimately, to the giant property toyshop of MIPIM in Cannes (with CABE). In more or […]

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Reflective planning

One of the benefits of an international staff is that the office becomes quieter in the run up to Christmas as people leave for home. Since the New Year is an opportunity to take stock and think ahead, the directors took advantage of the lull. We devoted two days to “reflective planning”, a process of […]

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Diary planning

Three months ago, this column was written in a lazy chair and hot sun. Today it is the slow-running 0754 to Cannon Street. I am at least comforted by the thought that the week will end at the Academy of Urbanism’s annual awards lunch. With that carrot before me I count 23 separate meetings in […]

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