architecture · design · Uncategorized

The Microbial Home

You’ve seen those glass containers sitting on people’s desks that are supposed to be self-sustaining mini ecosystems. What if you could create one in your own apartment, out of your own apartment?

The Microbial Home Probe project consists of a domestic ecosystem that challenges conventional design solutions to energy, cleaning, food preservation, lighting and human waste.

More at: The Microbial Home: A Philips Design Probe

anthropology · architecture · community · design · environment

Does adding art to slums improve poor’s quality of life?

I saw this article last week on Recycle Art, about a design company in Brazil that does outreach to poor communities by creating more aesthetically pleasing surroundings:

Brazilian design studio Rosenbaum and TV show Caldeirao do Huck help poor families to redecorate their homes and improve their surroundings, in the hope that they feel more comfortable and happier at home.

++ Do the green thing

See more at Plastic bottles garden | Recycle Art

I’m pleasantly surprised by this philosophy. And apparently this idea is starting to pick up steam.  The New York Times just published an article (also below) about a design show being presented at the United Nations right now focusing on design for third-world countries, trying to create effective, efficient, and hopefully beautiful tools, boats, and buildings.

I’m curious, however, if designing a new space or adding beauty to an already existing slum really works. Does having a more beautiful environment make you want to protect it and invest in it? Even the curators of the exhibit in the New York Times article state that building something new and getting people to adopt it are two entirely different challenges.

I know having a greener work space is correlated with better worker productivity, and many communities in the U.S. have installed public gardens or parks with some success regarding improved community involvement and improved outlook of the neighborhood. The groups featured in the exhibit claim successes all over the world. However, somewhat similar experiments have been tried out with movie stars and athletes installing movie theaters or centers in poor neighborhoods with mixed success with mixed results, as I remember.

I would be interested in seeing more studies that looked at parks or even residential gardens and patios correlated with crime rate, income, and so on.

Anecdotally, have you seen or know of anyone who has seen a correlation between greening or beautifying a space and better sociological stats?

anthropology · architecture · brain · disease · environment · psychology

Thinking by Design: Scientific American

Illustration for Design Portal.
What makes some objects more appealing than others? Image via Wikipedia

One of the biggest pieces to having an enriching, relaxing, invigorating, or overall non-stressful space is what you put into it. There has been lots of research into creating better work spaces, medical spaces and homes, but it can be hard to quantify some of this research; after all, it’s hard to quantify “feeling better.” So it’s nice to read about one team in Vienna that is doing just that, by trying to figure out which objects people like more than others:

Each person’s aesthetic taste seems distinct, and yet that perception belies a large body of shared preferences. Our team at the University of Vienna, among others, has sought to unravel the patterns and principles behind people’s emotional reactions to objects. Although trends drive certain design decisions, scientists have identified fundamental properties of the mind that consistently dictate which products people tend to like and dislike. Psychologists are now better equipped than ever to explain how you came to choose your belongings in the first place. They can also begin to decipher why you continue to love certain purchases long after they have lost their initial shine, whereas others land in the trash.

more via Thinking by Design: Scientific American.

According to their work so far, we like big, round things, but also like things to be symmetrical. It’s pretty well established that we like symmetrical faces, so it makes sense that our tastes in other areas would follow. We also like things that are familiar but not exactly the same, old with a kick maybe.

While none of this is ground-breaking insight per say, it confirms what psychologists, architects and designers have known for years but didn’t necessarily have a good scientific reason when asked why.

I’m curious what other insights other groups have found when looking at design and aesthetics form a neurobiological standpoint. Know of any good ones? Post them in the comments below!

community · environment · play

It’s PARK(ing) Day!

Park(ing) Day in Indianapolis
Park(ing) Day in Indianapolis. Image by DanO'Connor via Flickr

Today in Seattle, S.F., and other major cities, activists are taking over one or several parking spaces and turning them into parks!

PARK(ing) Day is an annual, worldwide event that invites city dwellers to transform metered parking spots into parks for the day. PARK(ing) Day in Seattle happens to fall on the first day of the [Seattle Design] Festival.

We’ll be partnering with the Seattle Art Museum (SAM) at their impromptu “park.” Drop by and join us in a Festival photo/design activity open to everyone.

SAM will also be offering an all-ages, hands-on artmaking activity; an artist-designed Cornhole game (bean bag toss); and a noon concert by James Whetzel, classically trained on the sarod and tabla.

More via the Seattle Design Festival, which is going on from the 16th until the 25th!   The festival is also pretty relevant since its goal is to explore our environments, how we use them, and how to make them better.

I was able to go see the Seattle exhibit last year, but unfortunately am parked at work today, so go see it and report back. Last year they had lots of games and give aways, and maps featuring the many parks that are scattered around the Seattle metro area.

community · culture · design · technology

Smashing the Cubicles – Technology Review

Typical rolltop desk
The workplace is changing. Image via Wikipedia

I just wanted to share a nice article from Technology Review discussing some of the different ways that people are adapting the typical work environment. The way we work is changing, so why not the way our workplace looks? I used to work in a cube with poor lighting and no view of the sun, so BOY let me tell you how important a good work environment can be.

The quick expansion of social and mobile technologies is creating a widely distributed workforce. To better suit employees who come into offices more sporadically, some companies and design firms are testing radically new—and more efficient—configurations for physical offices, and betting that improved technology will make the experiment more successful than similar ones in the 1990s.

A project at the headquarters of Cisco Systems in San Jose, California, for example, overthrows decades-old conventions about office space. Called Connected Workplace, it replaces individual cubicles with open clusters of wheeled desks that belong to groups, not individuals; personal belongings are largely confined to lockers.

There are no PCs at the desks, because the employees who use the space use mobile technologies, including the Cius tablet, which Cisco recently began selling to businesses. Rick Hutley, a Cisco vice president, chooses his desk according to which colleagues are present and what’s on the day’s agenda. Then he docks his Cius to a port on the desk that includes a phone handset. The tablet handles voice and video calls whether it’s docked or mobile, and it can be used to share documents at meetings.

more via Smashing the Cubicles – Technology Review.

architecture · community · creativity · design

6 Awesome Parks Made From Rehabilitated Urban Structures | Inhabitat

It’s starting to be State Fair time around the U.S., so what better time to talk about interesting parks, particularly those made from rehabbed structures?

Over the past few years we’ve seen some very creative minds transform urban ruins into spectacular parks for us to enjoy. If you can brave an abandoned nuclear plant turned into an amusement park, head to Germany – or see how old train tracks can be transformed into beautiful and fun parks in New York City and Lima.

see all of the 6 Awesome Parks Made From Rehabilitated Urban Structures | Inhabitat – Green Design Will Save the World.

community · design · technology

Summary of National Building Museum’s “Intelligent Cities” symposium: Change Observer: Design Observer

Red, yellow and green (unlit) LEDs used in a t...
LED traffic lights in Sweden. Image via Wikipedia

What does it take to make a city “smart”? Not intellectual, but make traffic lights respond to traffic, have buses alert people if they’re running a few minutes behind, and large corporate buildings comfortable for all its occupants. Journalist Phil Patton offers a nice review of the takeaways from National Building Museum‘s “Intelligent Cities” symposium which looked at these questions and more in order to design a better, smarter future city; among the many takeways:

What is critical in making cities “smart” is not just data, it seems, but clear, accessible data that is often used for purposes government may never have dreamed of. Early in the symposium, Judith Rodin, president of the Rockefeller Foundation, said that information to make cities smart was about “making it easier to do the right thing.”

Once-utopian ideas are now feasible, such as notions dreamed up at the MIT Smart Cities program, formerly headed by the late William Mitchell, author of City of Bits. “Smart parking places” that are RF-tagged could cut the energy wasted by circling vehicles. And systems that allow for hailing taxis and jitneys by mobile phone can provide “infill” transportation between private car and mass transit.

At the same time, there is concern about data that can make cities smart: fear of information used to justify policies imposed in a top-down way, and fear of loss of privacy.

more takeaways via Summary of National Building Museum’s “Intelligent Cities” symposium: Change Observer: Design Observer.

I’ve covered smart meters and “smart” monitoring of bridges and in cars before, so I’ve always thought of this kind of municipal monitoring exclusive to roadways or utilities.That last takeaway brought up a tough question for me: What data are you comfortable sharing with a municipality in order get a better experience navigating through and functioning in your community?

architecture · community · design · technology

Prague’s Passive Solar Social Housing Project Makes the Most of Inexpensive Materials | Inhabitat

Just a great reminder that solar power doesn’t have to include high tech!

Prague-based DaM Architects recently completed a tenement housing project in the center of their city that takes advantage of passive solar design, glazing, ventilation and green materials to give it a high degree of energy efficiency. The firm organized the social housing project by stacking a series of brick-shaped apartments modules in a way that maximizes space, light, natural ventilation, and circulation. They also focused on keeping the project’s overall cost down through the use of inexpensive materials, however they still managed to maintain a high level of quality through precise workmanship.

more via Prague’s Passive Solar Social Housing Project Makes the Most of Inexpensive Materials | Inhabitat – Green Design Will Save the World.

behavior · children · creativity · design · play

Bookshelf/Playground combo makes putting your toys away fun


My mom always told me not to climb up my bookshelves when I was a kid; now I wish I was little again and could beg her to get me one of these. This is actually a great tool for learning, because it allows kids to think three dimensionally, in a playful way. Trying to decide which cubbies hold what items, and climbing, sliding, and thinking of an object as two things at once (a bookshelf AND a dinosaur) are great exercises for the brain at any age.

Casaurus, the senior thesis project of student designer Koichiro Hoshino from Tokyo University of the Arts. The designer’s dinosaur-shaped bookshelf includes plenty of space for a bookworm’s library, a tail-like slide for kids to whiz down, shelves made for climbing and small boxes that add length to the dino’s tail. Kids can also find a reading nook underneath the dino’s belly.

more via Koichiro Hoshino’s Casaurus is a Bookshelf and a Playground | Inhabitots.

community · creativity · design · happiness

From: DesignSponge » paul price’s signs of affection

Just in time to get into the Valentine’s Day mood: enriching signs that spread joy and cheer to everyone, not just your favorite sweety!

Colorful “Signs of Affection” from graphic designer Paul Price. Wandering by one of these on a cold afternoon sure would be a cheerful surprise. I’m hoping Paul’s work somehow makes it over to the gray Brooklyn streets in my area, so I can stumble upon “Your Hair Looks Dashing.” That would totally make any bad day feel like it was taking a turn for the better. Click below to check out more of Paul’s work online.



more via DesignSponge » Blog Archive » paul price: signs of affection.