muse

DEC // Happy Holidays

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Bi-weekly my butt! And just like that it’s the holidays. So here’s a December update – thoughts, things I’ve read, and finally…not a test! But Happy Holidays from CAT! Hopefully a test 008 very soon, over the holidays.

A couple weeks ago, a good friend of mine wrote up an interesting article on the current state of architecture schools. I know…these articles are all over the internet. What Nicolas collects are a great number of thoughts from prominent educators in the leading architecture schools of America. The focus of the article is in the revitalization of the PoMo movement in student work, and the question of whether that’s a bad thing or not. At the end of the day, I am not for or against any style in particular, so my opinion could be rather moot. I did however enjoy this quote by Michael Young –

Young, however, still offered a little opposition: “We have to understand one of our strongest political positions is within aesthetics. It is what we do. We alter the background of what people assume to be the way the world looks.”

I don’t know that I would agree that architects are moving more towards just making ‘images’ now, because I’m strongly of the opinion that useful and beautifully designed built physical space is what brings value to an architect. The ‘image’ that we add on top is icing on top of an already deeply multi-coloured cake.

If it hasn’t been evident already, I am really very keen to get into the whole smart city world of Sidewalk Labs. As an architect, I’m not particularly useful to them just yet, as they already have a lineup of architectural consultants (re. heavy timber design..etc.). But since I am very interested in the idea of a virtual (AR) overlay on a city, I would love to get into the R&D or innovation side of things, to see if my idea could be of any use in a smart city. In any case, this article really pinpoints the fact that technology is a driver for design. Maybe many traditionalists would argue that technology is just a tool, but the reality is that if you don’t use the tools properly and effectively, they will eventually move past you and become the drivers.

“If our built spaces can be designed with an awareness of how to design with technological elements, the relevance of architecture will begin to shift. “

So taking a very different turn, I’ve been reading a lot of ‘how this’, ‘how that’ articles that have to do with living a better life, being more productive, yada yada. There was a phase where I was reading a lot of them to help justify the things I decided to do or accomplish, but I have since gotten over it. I find my time is better placed elsewhere, whether it’s winding down with some doodling, taking a break and actually enjoying some video games, or in other more fruitful readings. In any case, one of the latest articles I came across on medium was this. Persuasion is a very useful skill. Not just to get what you want or purely for your own self-interest, but also to help others figure out what it is that they want and thereby making them better decision makers. This doesn’t come without some underlying tactics to be a more effective negotiator though, and so I think out of many of the writings I’ve read about the topic, this one summarizes the tactics pretty concisely:

To persuade someone, we need to prove we are worth listening to.
Some ways to do this:

Tell stories about yourself.Good stories require empathy, and empathy leads the reader to trust the storyteller (you).

Present your credentials. Show you are qualified, but do not brag.

Show your connections with others.Mention your relations with someone who is trustworthy, and you suddenly appear trustworthy too.

Similar to the previous ‘self-help’ type of reading, I found this short article on how to get things done. The solution is easy – ask how a lazy person would do it. Given that you ask a very smart lazy person, I think this is an excellent idea, and it makes a lot of sense. Don’t get me wrong, I love effort. I tend to evaluate or judge people based on effort. But if they can show they can complete or approach something with the fastest solution possible without sacrificing quality, then I’m all for it.

 

Well that’s it from me. If I don’t see you before, then HAPPY NEW YEAR world!

 

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NOV // Monthly Progress

At the rate I have been reading, learning, sketching and producing, I think it is safe to assume that I have been able to push out a test once a month. It is probably a good benchmark for me as I am. Now this is the point where I realize weekly has become bi-weekly and then bi-weekly has become monthly. And eventually the project fizzles into the dust of an alternate universe. But, I think monthly is actually totally achievable. It gives me time to learn in my job (for the site series tests), read enough interesting buzz to reflect about, sketch my next ideas, and of course, produce a test.

So how goes this monthly? Test 007 came out smoothly and was well received on instagram. Probably the best place to follow for just my test progress, whereas my text updates will happen here on the blog. It will come in two parts, the first will be test sketches as well as interesting articles or ideas that have come up. And the second part will be the actual test. I guess…that means I’m back to bi-weekly. 🙃

Here’s a collection of interesting AR stories I’ve read recently (actual article of course, may not be too recent)

“… but really any time you’re working on new stuff the goal should be for the radical new technology to basically just disappear, to be invisible to the user.”

  • Nike’s new NYC flagship store is fueled by its mobile app
    There were a slew of these articles released the past few months about Nike’s new retail stint. It’s pretty darn cool, I’d definitely be down to check it out. Retail ain’t dying yet, not on Nike’s watch.

  • Opendesk launches augmented-reality shopping for its open-source furniture
    Speaking of AR in retail, here’s another one closer to home (haha…) I Like this idea, and I’ve tried it unsuccessfully with the ikea app earlier this year when I got my (now outdated) ipad. With the new ARKit2 opportunities though, there’s just so much possibility.
  • Think Generative Design Is Overhyped? These Examples Could Change Your Mind
    I’ve linked and mused about a Redshift article before. Here’s another one that caught my eye. There is some controversy regarding generative design to replace space making (and from the designer’s perspective, it could be a scary thought — what use am I now?), but what about if we shifted that perspective to understand generative design as a partner to design? We’re not getting replaced, we’re just getting actively and exponentially assisted in ways we never could have imagined just a few years ago. I remember walking through Autodesk’s new Toronto office, and there was a little display talking about how generative design is helping with boeing aircraft design to not only increase the strength of the shell, but also reduce weight, reduce waste, reduce fuel needed. Just so many things.  That made me incredibly excited.

I’ll finish off with sketches for Test 008. Somehow it looks like I’ve caught up to construction progress. Perhaps the next test will be a break and I will intercede with some recent event tests. Moving on up
sketch 008

 

 

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Hyperreality

I happened on this article and blog a week or two ago and it’s got me pretty excited. First, the name of the site is great — failedarchitecture. Not unlike baseball, architecture’s playing a tough ball game of success vs. failure. We’re talking about stats where edging below 50% is considered phenomenal. More often than not, the chances are pretty low for ringing out truly remarkable and amazing work of architecture. Not that there are not enough successes versus failures out there, but architecture in itself is just such a long long process. But I digress — the baseball season just wrapped up (congrats to the Red Sox!) so that was on my mind.

What’s fascinating about this article? Aside from the excellent examples of explorations in AR, I think the author has really highlighted the increased importance that AR can play in our urban environment.  Hyperreality is a fantastic video, definitely take a look. The overlay of digital information added to an extreme case of gamification and identity crisis really sheds light on a potential future for humanity. Both terrifying and inspiring, to say the least.

“Matsuda’s film ultimately suggests that augmented reality may become so commonplace as to be essential to making sense of one’s world.”

The merging of AR with reality reminds me an old anime from 2007 I watched, called Dennou Coil. That feeling when a majority of life is experienced through a digital overlay, including pets.

dennou

dennou coil screenshot from the internet

I was also excited to read about ‘Urban Tapestries‘, a research project that combined the flexibility of the mobile device and GIS with internet technology to develop a network of shared locations. It reminds me of an early predecessor to the ‘check-in’ app Foursquare or Facebook’s check-in status update. I’m intrigued with this project, particularly because it explores something very similar to what I had in mind. The article puts it best: a “thoughtfully-considered and collectively-generated vision of spatial augmentation through mobile digital technology”.

While the project was completed well over 10 years ago, this level of depth and expanse of a research project is along the trajectory of where I want my project to go. But who knows, things may divert once I actually start developing.

“At turns both wildly hypothetical and eerily prescient, Headmap explores in-depth the implications of “location-aware” augmented reality as a kind of “parasitic architecture” affording ordinary people the chance to annotate and re-interpret their environments.”

So what of my turtle of a project so far? Well test 007, part of my ‘site series’ is underway. By means of a sketch below. I’ll pick up the pace quite soon, just been delayed by my distracted nature of being interested in too many things at the same time.

Following along with the construction of the project I’m working on in my full-time job has been very helpful though, so the goal is to keep up with that in the near future. I’m probably a couple weeks behind relative to what’s actually happening on site, but as I mentioned in the beginning of this post, architecture just takes so so long. So I think I will catch up soon enough. Cheers!

sketch 007

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Site Series // a test 006

a test 006 –
1 UNIT: space under construction
OCCUPANCY: n/a
TYPE(s): architecture, new building
AR/TIFACT(s): 01

As with my last few, developing unit tests based on my
own personal experiences has been the easiest way to learn. It also helps me go from experience
> pen > paper > digital production > blog
a lot more smoothly. Amidst attending
lectures, visiting site tours and hobby doodling, in my day job, I am still a
full-time (almost) architect. What better place to extract from?

The project I have been on for the past two years is finally
under construction, and being both blessed with great leaders and lucky to have
seen all parts of the project so far, I am now able to drop in site to watch
the building physically take shape. And so this next series (an undetermined
amount as of now) will be an exploration of ground-up architecture. This test actually compiles a few phases of the start of
construction. From site preparation and soil analysis to formwork for the
foundations to sheeting foundation walls with the proper water vapour barriers
and insulation. These diagrammatic tests are in no way an accurate
representation of the exact building construction, but they serve as an
illustration for the phases that I get to observe when I go to site.

There are
currently already several technologies utilizing mixed reality to not only aid
the construction process, for example in commissioning or building inspection
that enable users of a hardhat + visor to get a digital augmented visualization
of the innards of the building as it is getting constructed. One such would be
Daqri’s Smart Helmet. Pretty neat. My idea is focused more on a
finished product detail, but that isn’t to say am AR overlay couldn’t be
applied early on during it’s construction.

I’m excited
for this series because I can see a lot of growth out of it, even if all the unit will ever show is the corner of a building. The only sad part is  the CAT won’t always be in the
picture.

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Treading

I have been both busy and tardy about working on my next test as well as keeping up the research. Of course it happens. But I do try to keep up the sketching at the very least, as well as plans for the next tests.

Here’s a sketch of the alternate wework test (from the interior!)

Because of the busy-ness though, I haven’t had too many experiences to provoke thoughts for the next test. The past week I have been reading about neat AR/VR related articles related to construction.

This one is particularly interesting, posted on Redshift, Autodesks’ technology editorial:

“With the combination of where you are with the visual odometry system and what is around you, you know pretty much everything you need to know about the world,” he says. (link)

Did I just do a quote of a quote? In any case, this kind of technology is definitely the direction I want to go. It makes me a bit nervous that all this research and tech is already in development and supported by massive companies like Autodesk. (I wouldn’t be opposed to trying to get my foot in the door.) While the content of this article focuses specifically on use for in-progress construction, I love the idea of being able to ‘see through walls’.

What I imagine with my project is seeing through walls, but not necessarily of pipes and ducts or beams and columns, but neat architectural details and building assemblies that you can’t fully appreciate or admire from the outside. Another issue I would like to tackle is providing this data as information of value to people not involved in the industry so that it can reach a wider audience.

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wework

I have found that this being an ongoing side project of mine,  the smoothest way for
me to integrate and keep up with it is to draw my tests from real life experiences. Not unlike many of the architecture blogs out there of architects with real full time jobs.

This week, I had a lot of exposure to that global phenomenon that is ’wework’. Participated in a tour of one of Toronto’s first wework offices, listening to a podcast interview with the co-founder (see below), reading many articles about the latest quarterly news on the company…etc.

What does this have to do with my idea? Possibly nothing. But at the same time, thinking more broadly about the project, I want to work on something that can have impact on the multiple streams of architecture, from the urban scale to the interior scale. I have also been quite enamored by ideas of work and office culture – design of the workplace, efficiencies and communities, data driven design – so it has been a fruitful exploration into this so called ‘new’ model of work.

For those of you unfamiliar, WeWork is a co-working startup currently valued at somewhere between $20B and $35B, with almost 400 locations scattered around the world in 69 cities. While WeWork wasn’t the first company to enter the coworking space, they approached it in a very different way, focusing on creating physical environments that connected with workers and business owners, while crafting a culture of super-dedicated members.

interview with Miguel McKelvey, co-founder of wework

I can’t exactly pinpoint how the idea of AR can work congruently with this co-working space model, let alone an office culture setting. The basis of my idea comes from an overlay of information or access to additional information of something in real life. It’s incredibly vague, and the details of that overlay can be anything. So I can’t discount the
connection quite yet. At the same time, the premise of the overlay is to introduce a user base and community interaction, which, as I’ve learned, wework has integrated quite seamlessly into their model.

The best thing to ask then, is how can what I design or helpful to those who choose to use it? And following up, can I move from making it a choice to using it, to encouraging its use regularly in education and knowledge building? In my opinion, it’s not

Test 004 to follow.

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Architecture + Research

The architect and mathematician Christopher Alexander once suggested that architectural design was the obligation to create “an intangible form in an indeterminate context.” This can certainly be true of the serious, ineffable qualities of good design. But in our modern age, the practical context is increasingly determinate, and outcome-based design practice—enabled by new attitudes, business models, and technology—will empower us to deliver the real value of both.” – Phil Bernstein (on Architectural Record, “Why the Field of Architecture Needs a New Business Model”)

I used to really enjoy Phil’s classes at Yale. He’s a downright downer sometimes (I mean this in a very positive way!), but speaks some really real truths about the industry. I took
his ‘Exploring New Value in Design Practice’ elective as well as the required Professional Practice course. What he’s summarized in this article is essentially the vein of thought that prevailed in his lectures and seminars.

It seems a little cynical as a designer and artist to be so in agreement with what he’s saying. To be fair, I still believe the real lovers and talents of their craft will still exist and flourish, because good design will always be appreciated and their value upheld. On the other hand however, I will say that not everyone is that designer. Some of us (myself included) aren’t at that peak, and thus exploring new value in the world of architecture
is almost a must. For me, I’m highly interested in research and development.

I’m inspired by firms like Kieran Timberlake and Foster + Partners, who dedicate entire departments to R & D. Most recently, I’ve discovered Superflux (why haven’t I checked them out before!), a studio in the UK that focuses on accessing possibilities of the future and how to tackle them with present day solutions.

While this project has only surfaced recently, a lot of the ideas and interests have been brewing over many years (as I noted in the Pilot), and the more I read and learn, the more interesting everything just gets. You could almost say it’s getting dangerous how many things I have told myself I’m  “interested” in.

It is very hard, also, to stay motivated on something I’m such a beginner at, when there are multitudes of large corporate companies researching AND producing similar ideas. The neat thing, however, is that I’m so small no one will notice as I build my kingdom.
And that, is what motivates me to keep pursuing.

Research needs to combine actual research including knowledge acquiring along with theorizing and ideas generating with doing and producing. Tests aside, within the next few months I will get my hands on ARKit, and see where I can go with those.

Test 003 progress is being attempted. It’s been busy here.

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