Summer Workshop at Confluence

Much has been written on the convent of Sainte Marie de La Tourette (1959, Evreux, France) designed by architect Le Corbusier and his then assistant, mathematician and musician, Iannis Xenakis. It is indeed an architectural masterpiece, fit for its usage. Anyone can, looking at photographs, appreciate the masterful use of light, color and the undulatory façades that bring joy to ascetic living. Yet, one needs to experience what I come to call a *friar’s habit*, a garment barely comfortable, insulating and quiet, adjusted to monastic activities: the study of religious texts and philosophy, the prayers before each meal, and meditation. When the building material and volumes amplify the sound of the worship service, light sublimes it.

It is also space where silence is obliged—any other sound is very much a disturbance as one can hear a whisper or the alarm clock of their next-door neighbor. With the concrete at times so thin and so old that it cracks, without any insulation except maybe for few rooms under the planted roof, the habit (the word translates as ‘clothe’ in French) intimates us to silence and sensory engagement.

It has been a pleasure to experience the building along with summer school students of the Confluence Institute for Innovation and Creative Strategies in Architecture. We felt extremely privileged to be given access to the rooftop and the crypt:

On the rooftop. Photograph: Yara Tayoun

We spent a couple of days producing sensory maps of a section of the building—we chose to map the corridor linking the church to the dining hall. A section of this corridor slopes up when you come out of the church highlighting the fact that we are in a “higher state of mind” as Nathalie observed—physically ascending as we are spiritually elevated!

We were trying to make sense of sensory data collection, meaning and representation:

Students collecting sensory data.

The process of mapping luminance by Nathalie Bellefleur transforming image data into a pattern using Grasshopper.

Map capturing the elements which contribute to rhythm our walk through the walkway, activating our body-memory. Work by Kailin Jones and Yara Tayoun.

Thank you Confluence for the invitation and everyone for the wonderful work!


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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Sustainable Living

Back from (Nearby) Helsinki where I attended the #SPREAD2050 workshop, part of the Sustainable Lifestyles project conducted by Demos, a Finnish think tank. The 2-year project is funded by the European Commission. Wonderful thinkering following a Backcasting method and defining scenarios building on surveys and concepts put forth in previous workshops. Find the #SPREAD2050 Ning url to follow the progress of the project. Looking forward to more of this and results that matter!

Find more pictures on Flickr.

#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