Dying is tough stuff. No question. So it is wonderful to see how facilities are making it easier on the dying and their families to feel comfortable via the design, look, and layout of a space, with everything from the hues on the wall to the view from their window. Amy Marquez shared her observations about her mother’s hospice space a couple of years ago on Offbeat Families (now retired, but visit the sistersites for Pete’s Sake before they meet a similar fate!), and it is a wonderful ode to both her mom and people who cared for her and her family during her last days, but also the importance of creating a great, peaceful, and sometimes playful space.
At first I was impressed with how sensitive and involved the staff was. They made sure she was comfortable, asked us how we were doing and offered to help us if we needed anything. And although my mother had lost the ability to communicate verbally by the third day that she was there, they spoke to her as though she was able to answer and talked her through everything they were doing to assist her.
I spent enough days there to really start looking around. This facility was, at first glance, a very nice, tranquil place that was inviting and welcoming to family and friends of loved ones in residence there. Then I really started looking and I was amazed at the amount of thought that had to go in to building this hospice.
Three art students in Germany have come up with a novel way to beautify ordinarily ugly urban environments. They turned a common electric tower into a makeshift stained glass lighthouse.The change was simple but effective. Ail Hwang, Hae-Ryaan Jeon and Ghung Ki Park, students at Klasse Löbbert in Münster, Germany, filled the gaps in the tower’s struts with panels of colored acrylic plastic, turning it into a dazzlingly colorful structure. It’s not quite as detailed and beautiful as true stained glass, but it is nonetheless a great approach for decorating an otherwise ugly structure. The resulting work is called Leuchtturm, or “lighthouse” in German.
It would also alert birds and other migratory animals that they might not want to hang out there. The only problem I can see with this is if the plastic acted as a prism for the grass and started a fire, but I’m sure there are ways you could engineer around that. Right?
A great article about how building playful spaces leads to more, and better, play.
Can playgrounds make kids smarter? Yes, say the experts, and landscape architects everywhere are responding. Welcome to outdoor play’s new reality.
All work and no play makes jack a dull boy. Granted, Jack does not lack for innovative toys and gadgets. But what Jack really needs is better playgrounds. These days, reality is exchanged for a simulation of reality, and the sandbox is abandoned in pursuit of the virtual. Cognitive scientists, however, are finding that the unstructured activity children engage in at the playground fosters the social and intellectual abilities they need to succeed in life. Monkey bars and swing sets present opportunities to develop new skills, encourage autonomous thinking and promote flexible problem solving – but they also shape the brain. This is good news. With technology taking over so much of our lives, increased pressure on children to compete academically at a much younger age, and helicopter parenting restricting play for fear of potential danger, many experts – such as David Elkind, psychologist and author of The Hurried Child – are drawing attention to the “reinvention of childhood.” It is time we also reinvent the playground.
A Victorian terrace has popped up in east London that lets you swing from its ledges, run up its walls and generally defy gravity. Architecture critic Oliver Wainwright hangs loose at Dalston House, the novelty installation by Argentinian artist Leandro Erlich.
The artist talks about “enjoyable discovery” and playing with spaces that you might not otherwise think of.
I love how it is an interactive piece of art that only exists when people play with it.
Hopefully it gets them in the right mindset and right kind of play (i.e. working rather than "goofing off")
If you’re part of a business that prizes creativity and innovation, inspiring surroundings might not go amiss. Luckily, some companies are moving away from the sterile-looking cubicles, bland layout and generally humdrum designs that can still be seen in many workplaces. The following 15 workspaces take a non-traditional approach to office design, and we love the results, whether they feature orchards or cupcakes. Check out some of these incredible places that people get to work in – although you might get a little green with envy.
With gas prices going through the roof, many people are taking to walking more. But after being car-focused in our navigation for decades, it can be unusual for people to know how to get around by walking and how long it will take them. One student from Raleigh, North Carolina, has an idea:
On a rainy night in January, urban planning student Matt Tomasulo and two fellow schemers positioned 27 signs in three strategic locations across central Raleigh. In bold, authoritative letters, each sign indicates the number of minutes it would take for a pedestrian to reach a particular, popular destination.
And for the directionally challenged, the otherwise spartan signs are equipped with a high-tech surprise. By scanning the signs with a smartphone, pedestrians can receive a specially tailored Google Map that will keep them on the right path.
Tomasulo and his colleagues at City Fabric have dubbed their effort Walk Raleigh, and have submitted the project to the Spontaneous Interventions competition, a contest sponsored by the Institute for Urban Design. In terms of impressing judges, the group is off to a good start: far from being displeased by Tomasulo’s guerrilla antics, the city of Raleigh has expressed interest in permanently incorporating Walk Raleigh’s signs into the city’s landscape.
I’m glad the city of Raleigh is encouraging this, and I hope it catches on in other places. I think it’s great to share our knowledge of neighborhoods with others and let them get to know their cities and environments a little bit better. Plus it’s just fun.
Have you seen similar signs in other cities? Tell me about it in the comments below.
An article from LiveScience talks about recent studies that find kids can get along pretty well with robots as playmates:
As technology continues to improve, human-like robots will likely play an ever-increasing role in our lives: They may become tutors for children, caretakers for the elderly, office receptionists or even housemaids. Children will come of age with these androids, which naturally raises the question: What kind of relationships will kids build with personified robots?
Children will view humanoid robots as intelligent social and moral beings, allowing them to develop substantial and meaningful relationships with the machines, new research suggests.
Researchers analyzed the interactions between nearly 100 children and Robovie, a 3-foot-tall (0.9 meters) robot developed by the Advanced Telecommunications Research Institute in Japan. In the study, two technicians controlled Robovie remotely from another room, leading the children to believe that the robot was autonomous. The researchers imparted humanlike behavior to the robot, such as having Robovie claim unfair treatment when he was told to go into the closet at the end of the interaction sessions.
After reading the LiveScience question is, is this a good idea? I know positive results have been found for kids with Autism, who are able to transfer skills practiced with robots on to other humans, but for healthy kids is this really as beneficial? The scientists don’t seem too concerned:
…the researchers think that the results have important implications for the design of future robots. If engineers design robots to simply obey orders, the master-servant relationship that children experience may trickle into their interactions with other humans. Is it then better to design robots with the ability to “push back” as Robovie did when he was instructed to go into the closet?
Shen said there is no easy answer to which design scheme is better.
“I don’t think children will treat robots as nonsocial beings, they will treat them as social actors and interact with them in social ways,” she said. “But we need more data and evidence to see how adults, as well as children, will develop relationships with these robots.”
What do you think? Is this a good idea? The elderly in Japan do seem to benefit from having robot pets. Could the same be true for kids?
From the blog How Do you Landscape; a group from the UK has created an app that can be used to measure our happiness based on our surroundings, and using maps to look at the data:
“People feel better outside than inside”. “People feel better in the park/woods/nature than in the city”. These are some of the conclusions from a project with the telling title ‘Mappiness’ Good news for landscape and Landscape Architecture on first sight. But are these only one-liners or firmly based scientific statements? Well, that depends on the quality of the empirical evidence of course. Most experience sample methods (ESM) have a hard time getting a representative group (in the end almost only colleagues) that has to struggle trough tedious interview forms (“it will take only twenty minutes”) to step-by-step end up with modest results. How about a sample group of 47.331 people (and growing by the day) who willingly support their data three times a day to the researchers that by now collected over three million forms in a few months? I stumbled upon these remarkable Experience research feats in a TedxBrighton 2011. In this “Twenty minutes lecture” George MacKerron explains why and how he and Susana Mourato (both from the Department of Geography & Environment at the London School of Economics and Political Science) created ‘mappiness’. They want to better understand how people’s feelings are affected by features of their current environment. Things like air pollution, noise, and green spaces influence your well being is their hypothesis.
This is how it works. They developed an app that can be downloaded for free. It must be one of the most irritating apps around on the web because it rings you (with your approval, you can influence the settings) three times a day to ask you three simple questions.
When put through a big regression model they can gauge the happiness as the function of habitat type, activity, companionship, weather conditions (there is of course a link between meteorological data and the GPS data), daylight conditions, location type (in, out, home, work, etc), ambient noise level, time of the day, response speed, and individual ‘fixed-effects’ (that come out of your personal Mappiness-history). Factors can be plotted out against each other.
How awesome is that? What a neat piece of technology to measure our surroundings and how they influence us!
Very cool video from B-Reel, Scandinavian furniture brand Varier and Oslo agency DIST Creative, on a project that involved creating fabric designs based on brain waves, specifically the brain waves of children playing and exploring:
Using some of the findings from its Mind Scalextricsexperiment, B-Reel used a headset to measure the brain waves of three children using Varier’s Balans chair. (The chair is designed to promote circulation and extended activity, which is claimed to leadi to better concentration and overall well-being).
It then used a custom built data visualization engine to turn the recordings into a pattern that could be printed as upholstery for the chair. As well as creating image patterns to reflect the changes in the children’s brain activities, the engine engine also used graphic presets corresponding to the children’s personal interests and took inspiration from patterns ranging from classic tapestries to pop-art and contemporary design.
Varier Furniture is featuring the project on its website as well as at international Furniture and Design Fairs.
Great blog post from The Patron Saint of Architecture about what it means for her to be an architect and build and design things for people’s overall health and wellness:
As architects, we seek to inspire those who move through the environments we create. It’s also our job to understand how the space will be used and create elements that support that use. The last leg of the stool, a part we often overlook, is the need to make buildings that support wellness. Even architects who design healthcare buildings often forget about this one as they work to meet many other challenges related to budget, program, operational and code requirements. Maybe it’s because wellness is such a slippery term. Much like the term “green,” “wellness” is often bandied about, a buzzword that makes some aspect of a product, design or organization sound like it’s good for us. So how do we know if it really is- much less translate that into design elements? I have been thinking about this issue for a while and even found an interesting website devoted to defining wellness complete with helpful questionnaires.
I’ve come to the conclusion that true wellness is multidimensional and positively impacts our physical, mental and social state of being. With that in mind, I have also observed that, as a profession, we kind of, sort of, dip our toe in the waters of designing for wellness. We embrace sustainable building standards, evidence-based design, lean design, even socially conscious strategies. However, these are just quantifiers. Building blocks of the wellness leg of the architecture stool, but not enough as stand-alones. True architecture of wellness must incorporate all of these measures, but spring from a much deeper intent.