Generative Mapping Workshop, Kyoto Seika University, Japan

Got selected to conduct, as visiting professor, an architecture workshop at Kyoto Seika University in Japan. Thank you to Prof. Takayuki Suzuki and the entire team at Kyoto Seika University for the warm welcoming.

The workshop aimed at exploring the architectural process by investigating generating and parameterizing ambiances through mapping mobile and sensory data. An ambiance results from the physical features, sensory data (humidity, smell, etc.) and the movement of people within (with different backgrounds and moods) space.

On a sunny day of early October, students conducted their observations in the Kyoto Station designed by famous architect Hiroshi Hara (1997).

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Teams observed for example that people waiting for others chose particular spots in the station, against a wall, nearby a column, protected from the wind as shown on the map below, which reveals the architecture without showing it (Map recorded by Maho Okada, Libai, Daiki Yanagihara and ESA exchange student Juliette Champêtre).

Map Maho Okada - Libai - Daiki Yanajihara - Juliette Champetre

Others recorded movement in space and the “ballet” of people going around obstacles and created an animation – maps are dynamic! On the bottom right of the picture below, what looks like a wool ball represents the space taken by an individual waiting for someone.

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These observations led to ambiance-based architectural parameters (“architectural attractors” for example) that students could use to generate/parameterize new ambiances expressed through study models.

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MAP – Motorizing Architectural Processes

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Close-up of the Adherence map by Michel Jaquet + Hania Chirazi. MAP seminar SPRING 2013

Teaching again the MAP seminar at l’ESA this semester. Last year the students did a great job of exploring the five senses. Following a discussion with Dk Osseo-Asare from Low Design Office this summer, I am rethinking the acronym, changing it to Motorizing Architecture Processes instead of Motorizing Architecture Paradigms. The “wordsmithing” is necessary as I decided to focus on mapping the invisible, exploring the agency of maps and the parallel between the processes of mapping and designing.

While projection systems and technologies ­have increased their accuracy (we think of today’s Geographic Information Systems (GIS), open digital mapping platforms such as “open street map”, and locative media), maps have gained agencies, which challenged their “veracity”. Maps, like the census and the museum, can enable the construction of national identity (O’Gorman Anderson, 1991). Maps include and exclude, prompting author Philippe Vasset to explore the unrepresented spaces of maps, these left blank (Vasset, 2007). (Dis)information visualization, which is what maps essentially do, is about editing information (collecting and choosing), organizing (in a collection) and coding it. Now, maps are also dynamic, “perpetually updated objects” to the point that we “inhabit both the city and its representation” (Desbois, 2011). Maps thus precede territories (Baudrillard, 1983); they exist before that territories materialize. The codes embedded within become the parameters of an imagined or could be space.

Design innovation star

Unveiling the innovation star that Dk Osseo-Asare from LowDo and I developed to describe the process we take when conducting urban strategic design projects. If you’ve been wondering… the animated GIF file is indeed on its way ;-)

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Sentient Cartography – A Method for Research by Design – Part I

[ DRAFT ] [ FIRST PART ]

This essay follows a series of events that has taken place in an effort to investigate sentient cartography – we use the broad sense of the term cartography, which is the practice of compiling data and visualizing it in some legible form. A contribution by Élise Olmédo to Visions Cartographiques, a blog of the monthly magazine Le Monde Diplomatique, entitled “Cartographie sensible: émotions et imaginaire” (Olmédo, 2011) inspired further reflection on mapping insightfully the intangible and the subjective. It prompted a design workshop organized for the LIFT12 conference held in Geneva, Switzerland, which led to an interview for Les temps modernes, a RTS, the Radio Télévision Suisse, radio program. Later again, second year students at l’ESA, the École Spéciale d’Architecture, explored sensitively the city of Paris in order to understand the impact of digital technologies on architecture and urbanism. This essay is an attempt at understanding what is sentient cartography and what is the aim of it.

The French word “Sensible” is rich with meanings. It is said of instruments that can “measure, record or capture minute phenomena”. The word also designates what can be “perceived by the senses”. A living organism that is “sensible” can “feel, perceive impressions”. Translating the word “sensible” into English was not an easy task, as it could be used, (1), to describe a tool for sensing emotions, (2), to identify a perceivable space or element – a world, an object that is “sensible”, or (3), signal the character of a living organism – that of being able to respond to stimuli. If cartography provides some individuals with the power to represent their world as they envision it, why would we need an adjective to highlight its subjectivity? And which should we consider anyway – emotional, sensory or sentient?

Emotional cartography, as explored by artist, designer and educator Christian Nold, relates to the act of mapping people’s feelings and perceptions “to explore the political, social and cultural implications of visualizing intimate biometric data and emotional experiences using technology” (Nold, 2009). Another project of his, The Sensory Deprivation Map, explores the sensory world of the blindfolded and the deafened. That map was realized by augmenting geo-localized positions with individual observations. In linking motion to emotion, Giuliana Bruno, the film and architecture theorist, gives another take on emotional cartography. Although always a representation, emotional cartography is linked to a process, a displacement, mental and physical, a bodily and imaginary experience. Hence she finds the Carte du Tendre to closely relate to the psychogeographic maps of the Situationists (Bruno, 2002) (Sadler, 1999). Emotional cartography enables us to mentally travel from minute and intimate phenomena to other minute and intimate phenomena.

Beyond representation however, the materiality of the maps can itself trigger various senses, and by that yield to some other understanding or experience of the data explored. A paper map can be held in hands, folded, unfolded, touched, caressed, etc. Historically, embossing contours and Braille text onto the material of a map is a mean by which few of us can read – and imagine – a space. Designers have later experimented with the tangible quality of maps in creating edible or haptic maps, mapping audible landscapes that one can replay or representing smells that one can experience. There are plenty of examples: The artist Kate McLean who created Sensory Maps produced tactile maps of Edinburgh rendering the particularities of a variety of spaces in the city: “Neighborhoods [she writes] have distinct identities, boundaries, often built at different times, for different city expansion projects they have their own textures and ‘feel’”. Élise Olmédo, the author of the article mentioned at the beginning of this essay, used colored pieces of fabric and threads to convey the social and spatial relationship she wanted to highlight. While sound could be incorporated to maps as a means to read them more effectively (Krygier, 1994), it is undeniable that the sense of hearing is also necessary for recalling and locating spaces. This is also the case with the sense of smell. Yet it is probably the most difficult one to represent tangibly. In mapping smells of New York City, illustrator Jason Logan captured familiar odors – especially well known to whom practices the city. One can revisit the scents only virtually, without soliciting olfactory organs. Other designers have gone farther. In an article for The Atlantic, Nicola Twilley, author of the blog Edible Geographies, describes how to make a scratch-and-sniff map – “Scratch ‘N Sniff™ [being] the trade name for a special kind of perfume or scent saturated printing in which the scent is enclosed in minute capsules, which can be broken open by friction.” In an interview conducted by Twilley, urban designer Victoria Henshaw tells us about “the idea of a smellmark [that] obviously comes from the idea of a landmark, and the idea that a distinctive, recurring or constant smell can act as a geographic reference point.” So hearing, touch, smell and taste are just about all the other senses that are missing in the imeageability of a city (Lynch, 1960). Effective sensory maps have qualities that further enhance the total perception of a space. While sensory maps have tangible qualities that digital maps may not have, they nonetheless rely on users’ interactions to activate their narratives. Yet emotional and sensory cartography only render urban experiences. In which way can cartography, in return, influence our experience of the city and the way we shape it?

De la géographie…

– Mais vous êtes géographe ?
– C’est exact, dit le géographe, mais je ne suis pas explorateur. Je manque absolument d’explorateurs. Ce n’est pas le géographe qui va faire le compte des villes, des fleuves, des montagnes, des mers, des océans et des déserts. Le géographe est trop important pour flâner. Il ne quitte pas son bureau. Mais il y reçoit les explorateurs. Il les interroge, et il prend en note leurs souvenirs. Et si les souvenirs de l’un d’eux lui paraissent intéressants, le géographe fait faire une enquête sur la moralité de l’explorateur. […] Donc, quand la moralité de l’explorateur paraît bonne, on fait une enquête sur sa découverte.
– On va voir ?
– Non. C’est trop compliqué. Mais on exige de l’explorateur qu’il fournisse des preuves. S’il s’agit par exemple d’une grosse montagne, on exige qu’il en rapporte de grosses pierres.

Antoine de Saint-Exupéry, Le petit prince (1946) : pp. 58 – 59

#memfeed – Augmented Reality workshop – #Lift11

Augmented Reality renders visible the invisible, feeds our memory with information that can be re-enacted on demand. AR, we may argue, is meant to inject some cosmic to “junkspaces”. #memfeed is the hash tag for ‘memory feed’, what could become a research topic for future collaboration. How would you feed memory and why would you want to? The workshop was set so to discuss the use and usages of Augmented Reality technologies. AR… So what? As Hans de Zwart mentioned as we started the discussion, “with our GSP enabled phone and google map, our reality is already augmented.”

The workshop gathered participants from diverse backgrounds and with various interests in Augmented Reality from communication, social sciences, technology and business. Jie-Eun Hwang, presented the research she currently conducts at the University of Seoul: based on the (physical) mapping of the location of popular movie scenes shot in the Buckchon neighborhood, the design and technology lab is investigating how to use AR to transform this analog mapping into a mapping experience. As the geographer Henri Desbois said in Place De La Toile (1): « Les cartes sont des objets en perpétuelle évolution et en perpétuelle actualisation », and que « l’espace cartographique est devenu une partie intégrante de la ville » et qu’aujourd’hui on « habite à la fois la ville et sa représentation » → “Maps are perpetually updated objects” and that “the space of the map has become an integral part of the city”, that “today we inhabit the city and its representation”. The test service is successful in Seoul because there is already a strong interest in movies and pop culture. Does this mean that successful applications are these which augment a reality that exists?

“Social memories on the spot” ← We asked what was AR. From the brainstorming session we concluded that AR enables to “filter” the environment one roams in, it “reveals” the invisible while “blurs” (or inflate the space of) the boundary between fiction and reality. But it needs to have an “application” and enable linkages (between people, people and buildings, etc.).

So far so good. What could we do with it? We have asked participant to think about scenarios of usage other than applications for tourists and we spoke about AR usage in emergency situations – and hope for the service to still work, to measure the mood of a neighborhood and promote wellbeing, and for DIY or DIWO (Do It With Others) reparations.

There are many ideas that could be developed; yet the needs, access and practicality would determine the usage of these AR platforms. Thus AR questions our engagement to things at a time when everything, from relation to peers to connection to spaces seems very fluid!


(1) Henri Desbois, Internet et géographie : les imaginaires de la ville, intervention dans Place de La Toile, émission du 13 Mars 2011