AMP – Agbogbloshie Makerspace Platform


Dk Osseo-Asare, Principal at LOW Design Office, and myself are launching the pilot project of the Agbogbloshie Makerspace Platform (AMP), thanks to Rockefeller Centennial Innovation Challenge Award funding. We are now looking for talented designers with experience in architecture, electronics and environmental systems. Find more about the project on QAMP, the blog associated to the endeavor. In support of the initiative and to open opportunities to students to get involved and learn more about the informal sector, e-waste, the maker movement and development, I am also conducting a semester-long seminar/workshop at l’Ecole Spéciale d’Architecture this Fall.

New Babylon – “un camp de nomades à l’échelle planétaire”

Les Gitans qui s’arrêtaient pour quelque temps dans la petite ville piémontaise d’Alba avaient pris, depuis de longues années, l’habitude de dresser leur campement sous la toiture qui abrite une fois par semaine, le samedi, le marché à bestiaux. Ils y allumaient leurs feux, ils y accrochaient leurs tentes aux pilliers pour se protéger ou s’isoler, ils y improvisaient des abris à l’aide de caisses et de planches abandonnées par les commerçants. La nécessité de nettoyer la place du marché après chaque passage des Zingari avait conduit la Municipalité à leur en interdire l’accès. Ils se virent assigner, en compensation, un bout de terrain herbeux situé sur une des rives du Tamaro, petite rivière qui traverse la ville : un lopin des plus misérables ! C’est là que je suis allé les voir, en décembre 1956, en companie du peintre Pinot Gallizio, propriétaire de ce terrain raboteux, bourbeux, désolé, qu’il leur avait cédé. De l’espace entre les quelques roulottes, qu’ils avaient fermé par des planches et des bidons d’essence, ils avaient fait un enclos, une “ville de Gitans”.
Ce jour là, je conçus le plan d’un campement permanent pour les Gitans d’Alba et ce projet est à l’origine de la série de maquettes de New Babylon. D’une New Babylon où l’on construit sous une toiture, à l’aide d’éléments mobiles, une demeure commune; une habitation temporaire, constamment remodelée; un camp de nomades à l’échelle planétaire.

– Constant Nieuwenhyus dit Constant (1920-2000), New Babylon (texte à partir de 1960) in Libero Andreotti, Le grand jeu à venir, textes Situationnistes sur la ville (Editions de la Villette, 2007): pp. 223-227; p. 223

La construction variable résulte de l’assemblage d’éléments mobiles (parois, sols, escaliers, gaines, ponts, etc.) faciles à transporter, parce que légers, et qu’on peut tout aussi facilement monter et démonter, donc réutiliser. Tout projet d’assemblage exige la normalisation du module et la standardisation de la production. les dimensions de la macrostructure sont déterminées par le module des éléments standard. Mais il ne s’agit pas, bien entendu, de limiter les combinaisons possibles, ni de simplifier les formes, car on arrive à combiner de multiples façons un grand nombre de types standard et de systèmes d’assemblage.

– Idem p. 227

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 ;-)


Kevin Lynch’s method #imageability

An old post that I am unearthing – I should say unclouding – as it is quite relevant to the course I am teaching at l’ESA this semester. Here below is a summary of the method lynch undertook to analyze the imageability of Boston, Jersey City and L.A.!

Lynch developed his system of rules for analyzing cities by looking at three urban case studies, Boston, Jersey City and Los Angeles. He interviewed for about an hour and a half a sample of citizens and observing their habitat. The goal was to test his concept of “Imageability” – of which he distinguishes five elements: paths, edges, districts, nodes and landmarks.


Researchers interviewed 30 people in Boston, about 15 in Jersey City and Los Angeles. Lynch thought of this sample to be “inordinately small.” He writes that “clearly, a retest with a larger sample is needed, and this requires more rapid and precise methods.” (p. 152) Respondents were primarily from a middle class background (hence omitting some areas of the city), which might have skewed the results.

During a first interview, respondents were asked to sketch a map of their city, describe in detail some of their city travels (for example the trip they normally take from home to work and inversely), and tell what their strongest connection to the urban environment was.

The interview was recorded on tape, and then transcribed (carefully recording pauses and inflections). Some of the respondents were willing to be interviewed a second time.

During the second interview, researchers showed respondents photographs of their cities and of other cities (the photographs of the respondent’s cities covered “the entire district in a systematic way, but given to the subject in random order.”). Respondents – the “subjects” – had to identify and classify the pictures: “The photographs recognized were then reassembled, and the subject was asked to lay them out on a large table as if they were placing them in their proper position on a large map of the city.” (p. 142)

Researchers went with some of these respondents to the field and enacted the city travel they described during the earlier interview. This was also tape-recorded. “The subject was asked to lead the way, to discuss why a particular route was chosen, to point out what he saw along the way, and to indicate where he felt confident or lost.” (p. 142)

Researchers organized the data collected. They checked it by running informal interviews (asking directions) of four to five passersby in each of the chosen places in the city – 7 destinations and 5 origin points.

The sketch map had a strong correlation with the “verbal interviews” yet bore differences when it came to connection and organization.


The researchers who covered the field survey were conditioned, taught the concept of “imageability” before hand, prepared accordingly a map of the area to study. They hence came back with a structured set of information. During the field analysis (three to four working days), researchers tested the concept, assessed what were really landmarks and what were not for example.

The field analysis corroborated with the interviews conducted for the cities of Boston and Los Angeles, less so with the city of New Jersey.

“The field analysis done on foot developed two faults: a tendency to neglect minor elements important for automobile circulation, and a tendency to pass over certain minor features of districts that are especially important to subjects because of the social status they reflect. Our field method therefore, if supplemented by automobile surveys seems to be a technique that can predict the probable composite image with some success, allowing for the “invisible” effects of social prestige, and for the more random fixing of attention in a visually undifferentiated environment.” (p. 144)

The method described was meant to develop urban design directions. Lynch thought on complementing the study of the five single elements of “imageability” with an understanding of “element interrelations, patterns, sequences and whole”. (p. 155) Lynch even suggested using the method for city areas of different scales: buildings, landscapes, and transportation systems etc. According to Lynch, the study could also be used to understand how strangers or children build their personal image of a city, so to anticipate urban city design. He also writes that “as our habitat becomes ever more fluid and shifting, it becomes critical to know how to maintain image continuity through these upheavals [external changes].” (p. 158)

Kevin Lynch, The Image of the City (Cambridge, MA: MIT Press, 1960)

PIGS in 3D

PIGS stands for People, Information, Goods and Spaces… Preparing two lectures (it’s all in the book! Read it :-) that will happen at the Ecole Spéciale d’Architecture (ESA) in Paris, France – Architecture des milieux post-master (end of January) and Tokyo Denki University, Japan (mid February). The image above is an avant-goût. More details will come. Come say hello!

Image 1 _ Etienne-Jules Maray, Saut de l’homme en blanc, Chronophotographie sur plaque fixe, vers 1887 © Couval/musée Marey-Beaune

Image 2 _ May 1941. “ Dymaxion house, metal, adapted corn bin, built by Butler Brothers, Kansas City. Designed and promoted by R. Buckminster Fuller.” Medium format negative by Marion Post Wolcott.

Image 3 _ A random avatar picked for its visual quality.

Image 4 _ The Hug Shirt by Cute Circuit.

Image 5 _ Cécile de Cassagnac, Chose à l’anneau, 2009, aquarelle et encre sur papier 76 x 58 cm

Image 6 _ Cedric Price, Generator, 1976