This post records dispatches from February 2016 through July 2016.
February 5, 2016 - "Perfecting Your Body Friday"
This is the first friday dispatch that I'm doing in a slightly more organized way than just through my email. Hopefully this will be a good way for me to continue to stay in touch with everyone. As always, feedback, links, and suggestions are welcome.
With that said, this week we are working on our bodies. Just as you thought you could give up on your new year's resolution because it's not January anymore, you thought wrong. This video a surprisingly short, yet powerful visual story about Martin Kristensen's work towards perfecting his body as a wing which is not exactly the most common way to use your body unless you're a world class skydiver.
February 12, 2016 - "Kaleidoscope Urbanity Friday"
If you didn't know any better (and I didn't), you might think that this photo is the latest in a series of artfully staged shag carpets on top of layers of artisanally molded bread, but it is actually an electron microscope image of a cross section of your retina. Who knew that this mess of layers is how you're able to read these words right now! The photo is the work of Martin Oeggerli, who creates some pretty stunning photographs of the microscopic world.
February 19, 2016 - "Look Out Your Bathroom Window This Friday"
Take a moment to look out your bathroom window today, there might be a fire station out there living its mysterious life. (And if you don't have a window, too bad... or you can take that moment to look at the reflection off of the bathroom tiles, or the chrome faucet.)
February 26, 2016 - "Zero Clarity Friday"
There seems to be perfect clarity on the climate change issue out there, almost as clear as a 'smog red alert' day in Beijing. This is why Bill Gates is committing one or two billion (give or take) dollars towards finding a breakthrough zero-carbon energy solution. You can listen to him explain it in about two-and-a-half minutes, and while the issue itself is one thing, the clarity in the way that he put it as zero is really what caught my attention.
March 4, 2016 - "What Kind of Friday Are You?"
There are two kinds of fridays out there, one that puts a case on its phone, and one that doesn't. I prefer my fridays with a naked phone.
March 11, 2016 - "Anticipating Friday"
you're nervous... you're in anticipation of... your hands start sweating... chill out, you're fine. You're getting an indirect adrenaline rush just through observing an act of anticipation and not because you're actually nervously anticipating something (all from the warm comfort of your office cubicle, or open office row desk). These moments of anticipation are captured in this photo series/essay for Kinfolk magazine.
Something that really gets my hands sweating are things like this NYTimes feature on Alex Honnold rock-climbing in Yosemite without any safety gear. Or staying with the theme, Google created an awesome Street View experience of ascending the Dawn Wall, now you just need some VR goggles.
March 18, 2016 - "Getting Punched in the Face Friday"
That was sort of a clickbaity subject line, I hate those.
But Seth Godin has what I think a really pointed write up about words and ideas in the culture of today.
I'll include his text below in addition to the link above, cheers:
Hot: A theory of propulsion
Words are dead.
To be more clear: Words on a page or on a screen are asleep, inert, doing nothing at all until they interact with you, the reader.
That takes effort.
An audiobook, on the other hand, propels itself. The words are spoken, whether you listen or not, so you better listen.
And a video is just as alive.
The next level up is new. As in news. Or previously unknown. When it's breaking, it propels itself even harder, because we know that we're about to hear something previously unheard.
And beyond that? When humans are involved. Not just news, but news from a friend. News that our peers are about to be talking about. Not just propelled, but amplified by our cohort and our culture.
Social media is built on the idea of propulsion. It's not history, it's now. The smartphone isn't smart, it's merely hot. Pulsing with the next thing.
[I know, you just got a text. Go check it, I'll be here when you get back.]
This, I think, is one of the giant chasms of our new generation, always seen, not often noticed. That we're moving from the considered words of a book or even a Wikipedia article to the urgent, connected ideas that propel themselves.
Words are a noun, attention is a verb.
The motion of an idea actually creates its own physics. Ideas in motion not only touch more people, they have more impact as well.
Slack is engineered for motion, the Kindle is a silent repository you have to press.
The cliche was that the author used to live for the solitary moments of considered thought and solo writing. "Leave me alone and let me write." The publisher paid the bills with the backlist, the old books that sold and sold. Today, without propulsion, most people aren't making the time or the focus to pursue inert wisdom. Without motion, the words get moldy.
Book publishing (and the making of movies, or songs, or articles) has always had an element of promotion associated with it, the act of introducing an idea to someone who needed it. What's shifted is that the promotion has transcended most of the process, because the idea itselfbecomes the promotion.
It used to be that nothing was more urgent than getting punched in the face. Instant, immediate, personal. Today, we're getting virtual punches, from every direction, all self-propelled, many of them amplified. The ideas that propel themselves on the tailwinds of culture will dominate, opposed only by the people who care enough to propel ideas that matter instead.
March 25, 2016 - "Abandoned and Unintended Fridays"
Eugene Ashton-Gonzalez has a secret-abandoned-captain's-bridge-control-tower-converted-to-speakeasy overlooking the Bay of San Francisco. Or to be clear it's not his, and it's actually a former signal tower, and he's not supposed to be hauling a piano to it to organize small private concerts, but it's a fascinating example of urban adventure and discovery, of violating lawful boundaries to discover something amazing, forgotten, or unintended. Holy run-on sentence. That last unintended part akin to Geoff Manaugh's upcoming book 'A Burglar's Guide to the City' which is all about using the built environment in unintended ways. There is a kindred spirit between both Eugene's organized excursions and Geoff's ruminations on how to be an architectural burglar.
April 1, 2016 - "Infographic Resume Fridays"
No your resume doesn't need any infographics on it. Infographics are so 2012, or was it 2011... practically ancient history and people just got carried away with them for a while. Just like with Facebook... speaking of the devil, Facebook just recently came out with a study examining the likelihood of professions running in families. It's an interesting study, the graphics are interactive (clumsy if you're on a smartphone), but in reality all of it is a bit difficult to navigate and to understand. This is the trick with big data: effectively communicating all of the bigness and all of the data.
So big data is still going strong. And to help you with sorting through all of it, Microsoft just came out with a nifty interactive data visualization tool called SandDance which lets you interactively sort, select, and visualize data in different ways to hopefully extract new insights. It's nice to see someone working on making tools like this more accessible and to slice and dice all the numbers in a graphically pleasing way.
April 8, 2016 - "Competing Fridays"
Designing and building a building can be fun and grueling. Going after an architecture commission can be fun and grueling. Speculative architecture competitions can be fun and grueling... you get my drift... But why would you pay money for the honor of such suffering? Maybe I should have asked that question before grad school... j/k...
You may have heard of the annual eVolo Skyscraper Competition, which is arguably just a money-making and attention-grabbing scheme for faux-chiteture, but attention it does grab, and your money too if you choose to participate. The design prompts are wide open, the winning entries are most often wild, and this year's winning entry proposes to create inverted skyscrapers (bedrockscrapers) by digging up the entirety of NYC's Central Park. Definitely provocative, and someone at CityLab has some strong feelings about all of these provocations. The first 1/3 of the article is about the unpractical nature of the proposal... yawn... However the last half is about the rise of "meme-tecture", or architecture for the sake of social media consumption and not for the sake of building. It raises interesting questions about the role of drawings and images, which are the media that we architects trade in most often versus the building artifacts themselves. Then there are questions about the value of such speculative work, or even about the value of performing such work for negative money. Lots of questions for you to chew on this friday. Or not.
April 15, 2016 - "Representation Fridays"
Representation in architecture has lately become synonymous with 3d renderings which are getting more and more realistic and pervasive and perhaps a little worn out. So let's see where this trend goes in a few years, but I'd venture a guess that there will be a growing interest in more interpretive/moody/abstract techniques. But don't get me wrong, I love 3d renderings and while we're on this subject, I am a big fan of Factory Fifteen's work. It was started by a small group graduating from Unit 15 at the Bartlett School of Architecture from just a few years ago and they've only gotten better since then, creating some great original work as well as commissioned work.
Two recent pieces (both of which are beautifully conceived and rendered) are La Geria Vineyard - which was a response to a challenge to use Unreal Engine 4 (a 3d game engine which renders things in real-time as you move through a scene) in an architectural context, and ANA - a collaborative take on the singularity, a bit Terminator style.
April 22, 2016 - "Pattern Friday"
The geometric patterns in much of Islamic art are mesmerizing. The underlying geometries are seemingly simple but are pretty sophisticated once you start thinking about the rules by which they were created. They are some of the earliest examples of recursive geometry and it's impressive to me that people were able to create these at multiple scales from books to monumental architecture over a millennium ago... without all the fancy computer scripts to help.
And now there is finally someone making a game for this - Engare - by Mahdi Bahrami. It's not finished yet, so unfortunately you can't waste your friday on it yet claiming that you're "exploring design options". This is all actually really cool because all of these patterns are based on math and rules (that I don't understand but it's going to be in a game so I don't have to crack open a textbook. This is the future of school y'all! Games all around for all your screens... I digress, but surely a juicy topic for another time.) But what I think is almost cooler is that he is planning to release some tools that can be used to generate some of the geometries and patterns that he has created as a byproduct of developing the game. Fun fun!
April 29, 2016 - "Past Future Dreams of Modernity Friday"
Souvenir d’un futur (Memory of a Future), a photo series by Laurent Kronental is a melancholy story of a modern dream. These images are looking back at what was once a futuristic dream, then reality, and now a memory.
There is a next generation of futuristic dreams on the rise from the likes of Masdar City in the UAE, Songdo City in S.Korea, both of which have gotten their start within the last 10-20 years and are still ongoing experiments. Next, is a big media splash from none other than the big G (oogle).. or I mean the big A (lphabet)... or actually, more specifically Sidewalk Labs (S and L?), which falls under the Alphabet umbrella. Sidewalk Labs is hoping to develop a cutting edge high-tech district (or city). I love the ambitions, and they've allegedly assembled a great team (can I play?) and let's hope that they are indeed keeping perspective as they appear to be. At least according to Dan Doctoroff who's leading the group it appears that they are:
"In part, it's been hard to deliver on, because there really is a gulf between the technologists on the one hand, and let's call them the urbanists on the other," he said. "Where the urbanists and the planners don't really understand technology, the technologists don't really understand cities."
Wear, rinse and repeat.
May 6, 2016 - "Flat Friday"
The world is flat.
I've seen that film before. Or have I?
"The sky is flat" series is my favorite.
May 13, 2016 - "Predicting All About Fridays"
Complex Adaptive Systems of Systems! Bless you! That name sounds complex. To help imagine what it means is like imagining what would happen in detail to a large urban region if it was hit by a powerful hurricane. It's a daunting task once you realize that you have to take into account everything from power outages, to blocked roads, to food and fuel supply, effectiveness of emergency response, the public's response, and a myriad of other factors. This is actually a government agency's task, aka some people's job description.
One of the things this reminds me of is another mind-boggling challenge (and this one happens to be one of my favorite 99% Invisible episodes) (also happens to be a government initiative) of designing a means of communicating with ourselves 10,000 years from now. Definitely a more abstract scenario and one that's arguably of a different nature, but still one that asks very wide reaching questions.
Finally, I'm also reminded of (this time not a government agency, but Tom Cruise) the premise of Minority Report, which was to predict and prevent crimes before they happen. We're not doing that much yet, but through the use of data and increasingly smarter software we are slowly and steadily moving towards a more ubiquitous and visible prediction industry.
May 20, 2016 - "Cultural Friday"
I like art. Do you like art? Do you like to see your art so close that you can almost lick it? Are you disappointed that real museums don't actually let you lick the art? Well then the Google Cultural Institute (and with a fancy accent) is just for you!
Google is out to catalogue artworks much like with their Google Books project. This time they built an automated camera that incorporates some cool tech to bring you gigapixel sized images of artworks around which you can zoom around at inch level details (a.k.a. close enough you can almost lick it). If you're interested in reading a little bit more about it, they have a brief blog post on it, otherwise just jump to the first link here and try it out.
Now on a geeky note... since their camera already incorporates sonar and laser, wouldn't it be sweet if these images offered haptic (touch) feedback? This way you could actually touch the brush strokes.
May 27, 2016 - "Invisible to the Eye Fridays"
The Little Prince is one of my favorite books/stories. It's all about imagination and the importance of the intangible. There is apparently an animated film coming out later this year whose plot loosely orbits this story, but within the film are a series of stop-motion sequences that re-tell the actual story of The Little Prince and they look stunning.
June 3, 2016 - "Relearn Fridays"
Could you unlearn how to ride a bicycle only to relearn to do it differently? Easy? Or maybe not so easy. This is a pretty crazy video, that to me, demonstrates how our minds and bodies rely on so much autopilot and habits and how difficult (but still possible!) it can be to unlearn something.
June 10, 2016 - "What's on the Menu on Fridays"
You can choose from over 17,000 menus if you wish. Multiply that by some number of dishes per menu and you have a lot of choices. These 17,000 menus are a fraction of New York Public Library's physical collection of menus, which number around 45,000. Maybe they can start a daily special so we don't have to choose from so many options.
June 17, 2016 - "Time Lapse Fridays"
I don't know about you, but when I look at something, I don't stand there and stare at it for 24 hours to see what happens. That's what time lapse photography is for, and boy has it proliferated over the last several years. Even your mom can do it now with an app on her smartphone. It's a form of photography that beautifully captures changes through time and it is exactly this nature of standing in one spot for 24 hours staring at something (or in this case, staring at your camera stare at something) that used to keep time lapse from becoming very popular. Until now, when processing software, cheaper and easier to use camera hardware and accessories have made it much easier to watch your camera do its thing (and maybe sip on a bottle of bourbon while you're waiting).
But it is still exactly this extended time commitment that makes this particular time-lapse film by photographer Keith Loutit so cool to me. The project required him to return to various, precise spots in Singapore over different periods of time ranging from weeks to years. It also helps that there is a sweet soundtrack and the artistic concept give the film a bit of narrative and all the light trails of cars make me think of Drive.
June 24, 2016 - "More Pattern Fridays"
Terrapattern is an interesting visual search engine that looks for patterns in satellite imagery based on a given image sample. It could be a pretty useful tool for anyone who works across large city-scale projects. It's based on machine-learning, a pretty hot topic right now. At the moment, you can only use Terrapattern only in a handful of cities, I'm guessing they have to go through a certain amount of subdividing and image analysis of each region before making it available for search. The project is in its early stages but still a cool tool.
July 1, 2016 - "Kaleidoscope Urbanity Friday"
July 8, 2016 - "Sketch from Memory Friday"
Hi all! It's finally hot here in New York. This week we're all going to sketch an object purely from memory, your favorite mug. There's a certain amount of joy that emerges from the details that you will remember or disbelief from the details that you don't. It's a fun exercise that Gianluca Gimini turned into a project titled Velocipedia. He asked people to sketch him a bicycle from memory and then took those sketches and turned them into photorealistic images. Fun and wacky bikes emerged!
July 15, 2016 - "Personal Data Friday"
This is a beautiful reflection between two women (and voluntary, and totally analog) on getting to know someone through visualizations of personal data. Not only does this data have character, but it makes explicit the notion that what matters in the end is what you make of it not what it is. Happy friday y'all.
July 22, 2016 - "One Year Friday"
One year of images of our planet from the permanently sunlit direction. These are beautiful.
A fascinating nerdy aside is that these images were taken from a satellite positioned at a point in space called LaGrange-1, which is a place where the gravitational pull of the Earth is in equilibrium to that of the Sun making it possible to place something like a satellite there and have it "stay still" relative to these two bodies. There are a number of these LaGrange points, and 99% Invisible recently aired an episode about LaGrange-5.
July 29, 2016 - "Immaterials Friday"
Every once in a while we catch ourselves watching the tiny little reception bars on our phones, possibly looking like idiots, holding our phones in different positions trying to magically catch an additional bar of reception. The signal we're trying to catch is invisible, but what if you wanted to see it? Well, someone made an app for it of course. It's called White Spots, with the idea being that on when in the app, the map feature shows the "out-of-signal" areas in white space. The subtext here is that these spots are becoming increasingly hard to find, especially in the developed parts of the world.
I've come across a few other projects tackling this notion of "Hertzian Space", or space that is better defined by and occupied by the devices surrounding us which are operating at frequencies invisible to any of our five senses. These past attempts all try visualizing this other space, in a way an attempt at augmenting our perception (except for the fourth one) in order to peer into an invisible world. These all date back to around 2008-2011, with the exception of the fourth one, which dates back all the way to 1980.
Immaterials - a project visualizing the strength of wifi signals with a movable LED light bar and long-exposure photography. I like the snow tracks tracking the trackers.
Touch - a project by the London group, Berg, that deals with the super close range devices like NFC and RFID chips. Cute.
Immaterials - are you seeing a naming pattern emerge yet? Visually, this is my favorite project out of the bunch. Cyber bubbles.
Hole in Space - this was an unannounced 3-night installation of a giant public video chat between NYC and LA. While we all barely think twice about facetiming/skyping/whatever someone, this was done in 1980! That's 36 years ago, and most people have never experienced such a connection, which was was quite aptly named as a hole in space.