1954 Robots Are Here

Yesterday I have invited Anne Chaise to present her work on Technologies And The Future As Represented By The Feminine Press From 1945 to 1968 during the Technologies, Architecture, urbanism course that I teach at l’ESA. Not only Anne is a pearl, but she is also a mine of information and the awesome librarian in chief at school.

Anne had gone through 1200 ELLE and 196 Marie-Claire back issues to find out that in these times, the magazine, which was already a strong medium of advertizing, had the goal of transforming the mentalities, to reconcile people with progress and science (invented/used during war time), eyes focused on the USA where technologies of the temporary, prefabrication, and standardization was being developed. I spoke already about how Buckminster Fuller envisaged post-war housing, free from infrastructure so people could pack and leave easily in case of war. That was the mindset.

ELLE and Marie-Claire had for mission to educate the good “manager” of the house (the word share the same root with the word “ménagère” in french) – the woman who had to be “clean, economical, efficient, ingenious, managing her own budget,” etc. Anne found that 31% of the magazine related to home improvement, the Salon Des Arts Ménagers, individual housing, préfabrication, mobility and flexibility (even featuring the work of Buckminster Fuller!). ELLE was participating (they had a stand) to the Salon Des Arts Ménagers as the magazine was at that time selling prefabricated houses designed by then young (and promising) architects such as Ionel Schein and Claude Parent. ELLE was also touring France with a mobile home to sell this new way of living.

In the ELLE issue 435 of 1954, the magazine shows a table summarizing how “authors of science-fiction, philosophers, scientists, visionaries or even imaginative individuals announce with a charming precision” the “everyday life of tomorrow’s man”. What was thought to arrive in 2500 has almost all already happened:

4-1954 ELLE 435 p.24-25_smallScreen shot 2013-04-20 at 9.50.01 AM

Here below are a couple of picture of Anne Chaise showing her preparation work with the time line in relation to the articles of interest she found:



Via a close friend passing by NYC on March 6, 2013. This is how he calls these closets with a bed (and weird art work) in it. The microtel only takes online reservations.

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 ;-)



TEACHING / LEARNING ECOLOGIES: Spaces and Politics of Education

DEADLINE for (abstract + short bibliography + short biography) = September 20, 2012
Publisher: Cambridge Scholars Publishing – Post-­intercultural Communication and Education series.

Fred Dervin, University of Helsinki, Finland, multicultural education
Yasmine Abbas, Research Associate ENSA Paris-­La-­Villette, GERPHAU LAVUE 7218; Research Associate University of Geneva, Institute of Environmental Sciences – Globalization, Urban Planning, Governance

It is the intention of this volume to tell a narrative about what makes successful learning/teaching ecologies and thus education effectiveness. In the contexts of compulsory education, higher education, further education and lifelong learning, the design of spaces and the built environment matter as much as the politics of education. As such spaces and buildings do have social, political and educational functions, which cannot be ignored: they are never impartial. With the increase in online education, learning ecology becomes even more complex. What key aspects should actors involved in education (not) take into account?


Links of interest:
The best school in the world (Finland)
The whole city as a classroom (Japan)
Mobile school (Africa)
The open classroom (UK)

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


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?

Tableau des grandes évolutions technologiques

Excerpt from Pierre Lévy, L’intelligence collective : Pour une anthropologie du cyberespace (La Découverte, 1997): p. 64:

Bouger, ce n’est plus se déplacer d’un point à l’autre de la surface terrestre, mais traverser des univers de problèmes, des mondes vécus, des paysages de sens.

– p. 10

I am discovering. J’adore !