(sm)art city

After a delay of some time the long awaited, monumental monograph of Cedric Price (1952-2003) was published recently by AA/CCA; 2 volumes in a box document extensively the impressive works and thoughts of one of the most influential British architects whose line of thinking still is more actual then ever. Like the projects of his Dutch contemporary Constant, who worked for almost 20 years on his New Babylon-project, the works of Price – in particular Fun Palace – show another approach towards (re)thinking and designing the built environment. In the words of Guardian-journalist Jeremy Melvin after Price’s death in 2003: “The architecture was indeterminate, flexible and driven by what technology then existed – and some that Price anticipated – for exchanging ideas and goods, and the movement of people from place to place.” Above all, Price offers “a focus to the optimism of the time, when it seemed possible to remake society around the potential for delight and opportunity.” Lees verder

a Smart (?) City History

May 2016, York (UK), an upcoming theatrical performance based on the beautiful short story by E.M.Forster: ‘the Machine Stops’, written in 1909. The main character – Yuno – finally escapes from an underground city in a post-apocalyptic world in which all individuals live in standardised cells while technology facilitates and supplies all they ever need. Connectivity to the natural world is impossible; it is the machine that frames and determines one’s daily life and ultimate destiny. Lees verder

huisjes en consumenten, of dragers en mensen?

Indien men in de woningbouw alleen de menselijke relaties wil herstellen maar niet de technische mogelijkheden van vandaag wil uitbuiten, blijft alleen een weg naar het verleden over, een weg die wij niet kunnen gaan.”

Een citaat uit ‘de dragers en de mensen’ , van Prof.Ir. N.J.Habraken uit 1972, 44 jaar geleden en nog altijd onverminderd actueel. 

Op 22 december j.l. reageerden Gerben van Dijk en Cees-Jan Pen in een kritisch artikel (‘Vastgoedsector heeft gezond verstand nodig’) op recente rapporten van CPB en EIB. Deze – helaas noodzakelijke – kritische reactie valt zeer te prijzen. Ik roep in dit verband het interview van januari 2015 in Bouwformatie van Prof. J. Rotmans in herinnering.[1] Recente ontwikkelingen illustreren dat een substantieel deel van de bouwsector nog altijd hecht aan de bestaande gekende praktijk en de focus legt op proces-innovatie, niet op product-innovatie. Dit impliceert geenszins dat product-innovatie in de woningbouw niet bestaat, wel dat dit vrijwel geen fundamentele consequenties heeft voor het opgeleverde product als geheel. Er wordt nog altijd toegewerkt naar een traditioneel ‘huis’, terwijl we nu als sector bereid moeten zijn ook inhoudelijk anders te denken over hoe ons wonen er in de toekomst uit kan/moet zien; proces en product moeten onderdeel van de discussie zijn. Wij bouwen per slot van rekening niet ter wille van de werkgelegenheid en het bouwen zelf. Lees verder

smart or feel

smart or feel

“There are many realities. There is no single world. There are many worlds, and they all run parallel to one another, worlds and anti-worlds, worlds and shadow-worlds, and each world is dreamed or imagined or written by someone in another world. “
Paul Auster, Man in the Dark

While my first article here originated from several more theoretically oriented issues concerning the iot and the built environment, it should be obvious that theory only will not provide the solutions needed to really achieve understanding, let alone real practical progress. When summarizing the Onlife Initiative discussion in 2013 it was chairman Luciano Floridi who stated that ‘we should write a Manifesto for mum’ ; illustrating that the Manifesto as discussed that day in July needed a transformation that would make it more accessible for the average citizen. The subtitle of the Manifesto – ‘Being Human in a Hyperconnected Era’ – points to the place and role of humans in a framework that increasingly becomes a mix of bits and atoms, of the digital and the analog, of the real and the virtual. Floridi again, later in his recent book: “the infosphere is progressively absorbing any other space”.(Florida, 2014) This, I would add, includes the ontology of the built environment, as discussed in my former article. Lees verder

IoT, built environment and a hyperconnected world

the internet of things connects things to the internet, 

architecture connects people to the environment….

What is it that really frames, determines and influences our built environment? Since centuries we create – out of ‘nothing’ – a (semi-)permanent built structure out of natural and/or artificial materials; in the words of v.d.Laan: “we extract architectonical space as an emptiness out of natural space”.[1] It provides an artificial physical structure in an analogue – originally natural – environment, which – ultimately, when inhabited – facilitates a living space, creating lived space. Architecture thus has fulfilled its role, i.e. the defining and articulation of space, providing a social order, creating a static distinction between public space and private space. Is what we call ‘home’ the only adequate answer to our need for shelter and for our ‘right to be left alone’?

But; ”Architecture’, in the words of Virilio, ‘is more than an array of techniques designed to shelter us from any storm. It is an instrument of measure, a sum total of knowledge that, contending with the natural environment, becomes capable of organizing society’s time and space.” [2]

Lees verder

dreams and science

Dreams or science?

For many people a new year tends to set off with dreams, expectations and good intentions. Just before the turn of the year, on Dec. 14th.2013, the Dutch writer/columnist Bas Heijne read his so called ‘Huizinga’-lecture; a yearly presented text based on the works of the Dutch historian Johan Huizinga who lived from 1872 till 1945. The title of his fine and thoughtful lecture was “the Enchantment of the World” and is – so far, alas – only available in Dutch. (http://uitgeverijprometheus.nl/index.php?option=com_pac&view=boek_detail&isbn=9789044626377) Lees verder

a sense of awareness

a sense of awareness.

If the wind starts to blow, swarms of leaves turn out to be subtle bioengineered robots that harness that very wind to propel themselves into an emergent shelter that surrounds you”.

Jaron Lanier, ‘Who owns the Future’. (2013, p.9)

The recent announcement of a 2014 IoT-conference states that “the Internet of Things (IoT) has been considered an innovative and imminent information infrastructure enabling to ubiquitously network various machines, physical devices, and objects, denoted as things, for environment sensing, information sharing and collaboration in intelligent and autonomous manner.” (italics MP)

Our homes are, next to the place to which we keep returning, also the environment where we are surrounded by memories of – past – experiences, dreams and images. Many of these are closely related to objects: many of us occupy houses that have a history of sometimes ages. These houses have witnessed generations of inhabitants, each of which has left their personal signs, marks and traces. Since decades our housing is simply ‘functioning’ , meaning that it does not ‘communicate’; a house remains a passive structure which was not ‘responsive’, let alone communicative. Lees verder

Technology and/or senses?

Technology and/or senses?.

My first two blogs may have created the impression that I am something of a Luddite , i.e. someone who has an overall negative attitude towards technology in general. So, before proceeding, let me be clear on this: I am not. What I do think is that technology primarily should have a serving role which we can manage and control; where this concerns architecture this raises the question whether our speed and ways of implementing innovative technologies does keep up with our ability to relate these developments to our senses. After all, as humans living in a hybrid world we perceive – and act – to a large extend as individual beings who are also in part depending on innovative technologies. Architecture and man ‘depend’ on each other; we experience space – and therefore architecture – by moving through it and technology becomes an increasingly important part of that space. In his book architect Kas Oosterhuis states: “we must see all objects, including the ‘I’ and individual building components, as actors, as active players in parametric world”. (Oosterhuis, Towards a New Kind of Building, p.24) (http://www.naipublishers.nl/architecture/towards_new_building_e.html) Lees verder

Should a home be smart?

Should a home be smart?

An issue that keeps coming back when the development and implementation of IoT is discussed is that of the ‘Smart Home’; recently accompanied by a – sometimes semantic – discussion about the difference between a smart home and an intelligent home. Since this is, next to food for thought, also something of a contradiction I will contemplate on this a little further. One of my favourite poetic lines is one written in 1944 by the French surrealistic poet Paul Eluard: “When the peaks of our sky come together, my house will have a roof”. This, to me, reflects the ontology of our home: our current house has an address, our home can be abstract, maybe even somewhere else. It is our way of building houses that creates the dichotomy of public and private space: we build a house and – intend to – create a home there, without realising ourselves why and how we ‘dwell’ where we do.

In my opinion home, as an intimate space, basically has little to do with technology; home is about other values – see e.g. Gaston Bachelard’s ‘Poetics of Space’ – which does not imply that technology cannot play a role of enhancing values. But as long as we consider ‘technology’ in our homes as something alien, we inhabit an artificial, build environment in which technology is not considered – let alone experienced – an integrated part.

The term ‘home automation’ is again something of a contradiction; what is there in our home that we cannot do ourselves and would wish to be automated? To which question is home-automation an answer? We consider the fact that we can turn a switch and have a light not as something primarily technological; the moment however that we – in the Netherlands anyway – discuss e.g. smart metering we dismiss a pragmatic ‘technology’ as intrusive, as an attack on our privacy where a proper insight in our use of electricity might be appropriate . We tend to reject because we feel that our sense of privacy is threatened.

Our home can be considered a basic human value; we need – besides shelter – some kind of intimate space as a point of departure for entering public space. In a ‘private’ space we experience freedom which to me implies that we should have control over that space, i.e. over its design, shape, appearance and use. The current paradox is the fact that, as said above, home basically has little to do with technology while on the other hand technology plays an increasingly significant role in designing, realising and maintaining our homes. Now that technologies increasingly permeate this environment we should no longer talk of ‘home automation’ since this implies that we dismiss our control. In a more complex world – in which the IoT plays an increasingly significant role – we need to acknowledge that technology can have an increasingly important role there which does not come to an end when a building is ‘finished’. We need to regain control over environment, building and object which become/are entangled; our environment as a whole will/has become an interface. We move from function to meaning, beyond comfort only. In the words of Pallasmaa: “Architecture is the art of reconciliation between ourselves and the world, and this mediation takes place through the senses”. (Pallasmaa, the Eyes of the Skin, 2005, p.72) Providing objects – things – with an ‘identity’ and adding them to our hybrid environment/intimate space should add to experience; again, not comfort only. Therefore: should a home be smart? Most of all it should resemble our sense of being a part of our world and lived space, be it in the intimate or public.

this article was published on Sept. 30th.2013 on IoT-World