Friday, August 24, 2012

Solar Landscape Plug-ins #1 - Foruba Yelena

A series of mobile landscape devices activate that energy potential of a landscape -
The first, Foruba Yelena, is designed to be made by collective groups and moved to wherever the action is.

 eLand focuses on lighting acitvities rather than spaces with this portable solar lamp, which can be produced locally from soda cans and old bicycle parts (with the exception of the LEDs) - designed to work for co-operative use in Mali.



Monday, July 30, 2012

Wave Garden by Yusuke Obuchi

Installation view of Wave Garden designed by Yusuke Obuchi (Photo from Metropolis Mag  by Anthony Hamboussi)
Plan view of Wave Garden by Yusuke Obuchi
Designed by Obuchi for his thesis project at Princeton University in 2002, Wave Garden is one of the most inspiring infrastructure projects around.
Installation view Of Wave Garden, Yusuke Obuchi
Wave Garden proposes a floating surface of  piezoelectric tile generators (1,734 of these 7.6cm thick tiles, to be precise). The tiles move with the waves, transforming the kinetic energy of the waves into electricity. During the week, this electricity is sent to the homes on the California coastline.
But on the weekend, Wave Garden will function as a public park. The energy generated, instead of being used in the homes, will be used to transform the shape of the Wave Garden. 
Visual and functional feedback is part of the design: if energy is conserved in the homes, then the Garden can use more energy to shapeshift. But if the residents have been profligate in their electricity consumption over the week, Wave Garden will have less energy for the task of transforming itself for public pleasure, in a relationship proportional to the energy use. 
A beautifully expressed integration of the dynamic material and social systems that create energy and consumption.

Tuesday, July 10, 2012

A living supermarket - Park Supermarket

Park Supermarket by van Bergen Kolpa Architecten pulls together the traditional role of the polder in the Dutch landscape - to grow food for the local area - with the ordering by food type of a contemporary supermarket's 'departments'.
Each approximately 1 hectare outdoor  'department' will specialise in growing one category of food. So department would be designed to have the best conditions for that type of foodstuff.  Energy scrimping technologies are used - both old and new. Snaking walls collect heat for fruit growing and insulation is provided by water-sprayed roofs. Shoppers visit these outdoor departments rather than entering the big box of the supermarket.

Monday, June 11, 2012

CO2 Consuming Lights

Shamengo pioneer Pierre Calleja has designed algae lamps that absorb CO2 from the atmosphere during the day then store the photosynthesised energy in a battery. 
The lamps are a tube filled with mixotropic algae and a battery. During the day, the batteries are charged by the photosynthesis process, using both solar power and CO2.They will each absorb 1 ton of CO2 a year.

Friday, May 18, 2012

SHIFT: process

SHIFT: process is calling for submissions from student projects that focus on new ways of thinking about design process. They are asking -
How can we engage the designer, the community, and ecology in the process of design?
If you have some answers to these questions, guidelines for submissions are at
What does this process look like? Where does it happen?
How do these processes improve on current techniques

Wednesday, May 16, 2012

Lack of Sanitation
Created by:
Tony Shin has a cool infographic about the Bill and Melinda Gates foundation Reinventing the Toilet challenge.

Thursday, October 27, 2011

Algae Harvesting from wastewater

Image: Idealog
Image: Aquaflow
Aquaflow harvests algae from wastewater treatment plants and from lakes that have algal blooms and convert the algae to bio-fuel. I especially love the epiphytic Perching Lily Astelia growing on the gantry at the Blenheim waste water plant where the process has been tested.

Wednesday, October 5, 2011

Fantastic podcasts- Earth and Environmnetal systems

I am working my way through Dr Christian Shorey's wonderful series of podcasts Earth and Environmental Systems. The more I listen to them, the more respect I have for the entire series. All the geological systems podcasts are great for landscape architects who need to know how the various hydrological, atmospheric and geological processes work. I am currently enjoying the history of the human species podcasts - these history podcasts connect our lives and the earth systems beautifully, so they are also really relevant for landscape architects (and everyone). Of course, the use of systems thinking to analyse everything makes these a must-listen.

Monday, September 26, 2011

Designing With Diagrams

For someone designing storm water to minimize contaminants, the most important thing to track in your diagram is the level of contaminants. Above is a simple, bounded diagram of storm water with contaminants coming in.
One possible start to designing a new system is to look at the 'clouds' outside your usual design of the infrastructure. In the wider world, how and why are things coming in to your system? Can you manipulate them somehow before they become inputs?
You might be able to think of a way of doing that...
You might be able to design a physical intervention that prevents the contaminants coming in from source or you might be able to legislate or educate for behaviour change.
Or we can work at removing the contaminants once they are in the system.
The reed beds here can be diagrammed in a lot more detail. What parts of the system could you make even more visible?
On the other hand, if you are designing the storm water for flood control, you need to track volume in your diagramming:
The first step is to extend your thinking by looking into the clouds at either end of the system. We start with in - where is the water coming from? That is the subject of the second diagram below.

We know reasonably well what we can do about reducing the volume of water coming in to the infrastructure system; build permeable paving, use green roofs or collect roof water for use inside the building. Using the technique of connecting the loops, we connect outputs to places where they are more useful - within the buildings and to the groundwater.
As an example of bio-mimicry in design, lets look at a garden with plants. If we track what happens to water going through a planted garden, this is something like what happens:
It does not take too much thought to spatialize this diagram of a garden and turn it into a Landscape device, a rain garden.

Remember the groundwater reservoir can become 'full' - the level of the water table gets so high that it is higher than the ground level - a flood. The diagram of what is happening now looks like this:

When the groundwater & river are full, they can no longer accept water from the permeable surfaces or the network of pipes. So all the water that would have gone into the river or groundwater lies on the surface - a flood.
Because all these overflows act like multiple reinforcing loops, this means once the system has reached its limits, failure is compounded exponentially. This type of failure is called a 'catastrophic' failure of a system (even if the event is not catastrophic in a social sense).

To summarise the steps to take in re-designing your system:

1) Track the element that you most want to manage in your stock flow diagram

2) Research the cloud - the external system that feeds that element in to your system

3) Can you modify that element somewhere in the cycle before it enters the system?

4) Look at the outputs - can you connect them up to something useful rather than dumping them? Can they be useful inputs in to another system? Or can your own system use them somehow? Think of the methane that used to escape in to the atmosphere now being used to power the landfill

5) Can you introduce a balancing (or reinforcing if appropriate) loop into the system? These might be making a harmful activity more difficult, more expensive or more visible somehow.

6) Bio-mimicry: Draw a diagram of how this process is handled in nature. Replicate this process in your design

Tuesday, August 30, 2011

Solar Enclosure for Water Reuse (SEWR)

LinkImage via: ArchitectMagazine

I love these
facade units - they take greywater produced in the house and once it is filtered, the water moves through these glass units. During this process, the water is heated to destroy pathogens. This heat from the water is captured and used in either the hot water cylinder or through a heat exchange system, and the cleaned water used again.
Imagine houses that are real machines for living; totally integrated into the landscape, rather than the parasitic entities they are now.
This is from clever people at CASE - Center for Architecture, Science and Ecology.

Sunday, August 7, 2011

Update of Auckland's Transportation Visualisation

Chris McDowell has updated my favourite infrastructure visualisation. Anyone who doesnt think a city should be manged as a living system just needs to watch this.

An animated map of Auckland's public transport network from Chris McDowall on Vimeo.

Wednesday, July 27, 2011

Toilet Talk

The Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation has put out this video - a pretty successful way of talking about the stuff we don't like to talk about.
Not having good ways to talk about sewerage encourages compartmentalising and then excluding thinking about sewerage. It is an easy step from excluding thinking about sewerage to excluding the material itself from good re-use.

Thursday, July 21, 2011

mushroom death suit

Image: Jae Rhim Lee, Mushroom Death Suit

Image: Jae Rim Lee, Decompiculture Kit

Image: Jae Rhim Lee, Mushroom Death Suit
Artist Jae Rhim Lee is cultivating a strain of fungus she is calling Infinity Mushroom. Lee is feeding strains of fungus her own body tissues and excretions. The plan is too create this Mushroom Death Suit which is infused with spores from the fungus. The spores will be activated by an Alternative Embalming Fluid (a slurry of spores). Any toxins from the decomposing body will be remediated by the fungus.
The project is not just about the physical process, but the mental processes as well. Lee belives the cultivation process will "promotes acceptance of and a personal engagement with death and decomposition."

Monday, June 27, 2011

The Foresight Engine for Christchurch

After the long series of destructive earthquakes in Christchurch (to see how destructive, this great visualisation lets you pan across your computer screen - and as you pan, the image changes from before the earthquakes to after) searching for the best way to re-build.
Consultation is always a loaded idea - with whom does one consult? For how long? And differences of opinion are inevitable - how does one move forward when consultation has brought differences to the fore?
From the many discussions I have heard, it seems clear the Christchurch people are scared an impasse could arise and the destroyed inner city is immobilised in a consultation deadlock. At the same time, of course, people are certain they do not want to feel unheard or uninvoled in the decision making.
The solution is in social media and gaming. Many of the organizational delays in the consultation process melt away in the instantaneous, high speed and responsive platforms. There is also a transparency that is not built in to the more old-school consultation platforms. Of course, those who are not-so-digital are excluded from this process, but arguably those whose lives are fluid and mobile were somewhat excluded from the traditional civic body consultation process, too.
Share an Idea is a tweet inspired forum - submit a 140 character idea on what you want in Christchurch and the most frequently tweeted ideas rise to the top of the new council plan. The ideas could be submitted via email or on post-it notes as well, to include non-twitterers.
Gamification, using Jane McGonigal's Foresight Engine, (together with Magnetic South) has just been used to sort ideas. The best ideas get 'played' more frequently, rising to the top of the scoreboard. The advantage of this approach over Share an Idea is that unusual, creative plans can rise to the top even if they are so innovative that they would have been a numerically small contirbution to Share an Idea. Following this radio interview with Roger Dennis, unfortunately interest was so great the server in Silicon Valley that was hosting this crashed, so as I post this there is not much to see!
But the future of consultation is here, and it is good to see the positive ideas at Share an Idea.

Sunday, June 12, 2011

Beautiful Infrastructure Photography II: Andrew Brooks

Photography by Andrew Brooks

Andrew Brooks has produced a series of completely beautiful photographs of Manhester's infrastructure, called Hidden Citites. These photos are composed of many, many sepreate exposures which he carefully stitches together to make incredibly high resolution composites. He doesnt use any auto-stitching techniques, as wants to craft the spatial qulaities of each image so that he can communicate the feeling of each particular site he is in.
There is a wealth of exquisite imagery on his website - go and have a look!

Friday, May 27, 2011

The Peepoo

Image from

You have to love the name and the positioning of the Peepoo, a single use bag that sanitizes poo so that it can be used immediately as fertiliser. From the Peepoo people (called the peepoople) we hear the Peepoo is "... personal, as in personal computer; it is mobile, as in mobile phone; and micro, as in Microsoft. User-friendly and advanced, yet simple and cheap, the Peepoo offers a high degree of contemporary status."

This little device is an example of atomized infrastructure - infrastructure that is not part of a network, infrastructure that is not managed by a relatively anonymous, monopolized conglomerate.
These little atomized items are valuable when:
  1. governments cannot afford classical infrastructure- on an atomized path, people can have the health and economic benefits of infrastructure even when the governing bodies cannot manage the large capital investments
  2. individuals want to distance themselves from the constructs created by infrastructure for political, environmental or lifestyle reasons
  3. a resilient system is desired - being non-networked means individual infrastructure 'points' (rather than the traditional 'nodes') will continue to function even when connections have been destroyed by some disastrous event
But these infrastructure points change the economic environment. Instead of vast capital requirements, there is now a need for continual consumption of a product. How many of these would you need to purchase for even a month's use? What happens when branding becomes part of infrastructure? But I guess most telephone users know about the arcane pricing structures and aggressive marketing when that happens.

Wednesday, April 27, 2011

fog harvesting

Fog Tower - Designed by Fernández and Susana Ortega
image via eVolvo

In the mornings I walk past lamposts dripping with dew that has condensed overnight and wonder if I lived somewhere drier than Wellington if it would be worth catching that water.
It turns out it is worth it in some places.
The Ortegas designed this for the eVolvo skyscraper competition to collect the Camanchaca, a type of dense cloud that flows on the coast of Chile. The fog is caught in the fine plastic mesh skin of the tower to spiral down the helix and into collecting tanks.

Sunday, April 24, 2011

soil lamp

image: Marieke Steps

Marieke Steps designed this little LED lamp powered by mud, which is enclosed in copper and zinc cells.

Sunday, April 10, 2011

Painting Invisible Infrastructures

‘Immaterials: light painting WiFi’ by Timo Arnall, Jørn Knutsen and Einar Sneve Martinussen.

Long exposures capture the strength of WiFi networks, making this invisible infrastructure visible.

Sunday, April 3, 2011

Iceberg Architecture:Blue Crystal

Images: Sven Sauer -see the Blue Crystal page

What a seductive project - an iceberg set in Dubai harbor like a diamond, carved into a swimming pool!
I am not sure if it is the general zeitgeist or my own responses that have changed, but post GFC this seems like a decadence from another era.
What do you think?

Saturday, March 19, 2011

Beautiful Photographs by Christian Stoll

Images: Christian Stoll

Beautiful, beautiful photographs of infrastructure by Christian Stoll

I would like to mention that a new school of Landscape Architecture is being launched in San Francisco at the Academy of Art University. It sounds like the school will be a setting to allow a lot of creative opportunities for students.

Friday, February 25, 2011

Post Quake Infrastructure in Christchurch

Image: Greg O'Bierne -

Christchurch (in New Zealand) infrastructure was instantaneoulsy reconfigured last week when a terrible earthquake struck the city.The stretching of place enabled by all the networks of road, phone and internet were nearly completely broken. Cell phone coverage was intermittent as many transmission towers were damaged. A strange hybrid communication network was in place: people immediately adjacent to you in space were now your closest connections, where they would have been strangers pre-earthquake. At the same time, those very distant who could be texted or tweeted were close. It was the relationships with those that were more than several blocks away and without cell phones (often people one would communicate several times in a day - family and friends) that people were cut off from. Neighbourhood bonds are now stronger everywhere, but so are virtual bonds. People added their names to a twitter thread 'safe@christchurch' and updated their status on facebook. One Japanese student trapped in a collapsed building texted his family in Japan, who then told New Zealand search & rescue teams where to find him in the rubble. Armies of student volunteers are being organised with incredibly sophisticated online systems - these systems are truly impressive.

People who happened to have artesian wells on their suburban properties are giving out free water. These sites with wells are the new 'town centres', replacing the shops and civic buildings that are crushed or closed, with no supplies.
People who have supplies of food or clothes drop these off at the houses with wells, turning them onto distribution sites. People talk to each other and make friends while they stand in line for the water. The most basic of infrastructures, together with the most sophisticated are reconfiguring the damaged city.

Monday, February 21, 2011

The Sahara Forest Project

'Hedges' of the Sahara Forest Project, showing greenhouses, re-vegetation and solar collector
Image source: Sahara Forest Project

The Sahara Forest Project has fantastic ambitions- to create a beneficial, isolated subsystem of the landscape systems we all depend on, with inputs and outputs carefully controlled and with the subsystems carefully integrated with each other.
The inputs will be:
Sunlight - Mirrors concentrate a solar beam for an energy plant.
Carbon Dioxide- The plants in the greenhouses consume CO2
Nutrients- for plant growth
Salt Water- piped in from the sea (using solar power for the energy to do this). The salt water will be desalinised, again using solar energy. This fresh water will become both an output and an intermediate product, used in the following ways:
To cool the greenhouses- salt water run over pads covering the greenhouses will cool the glasshouses as the water evaporates in the heat.
For plant growth- to water plants in greenhouses
Humid air- (from cooling the greenhouses) will escape to humidify the surrounding air, helping with re vegetation.
Plants- will be output both as food and bio-diesel.
Finally salt and the other minerals from the seawater will become outputs to be used.

After lots of testing, apparently already finding funds (from the King of Jordan and Norwegian environmental funds) , Sahara Forest greenhouses will form long hedges running through the desert. The plan is that these hedges will start to affect the micro-climate in their lee, increasing the creation of clouds and dew fall, to benefit bands of orchards planted alongside the greenhouses, along with tougher drought resistant plants banded further out. It is not hard to envisage this (eventually) creating a virtuous local climate cycle with ever more dew and cloud cover, a neat reversal of the desertification process.
Many of the projects I have looked at have never gone ahead because the political process was impossible (I think an indication that these heroic projects are too frequently designed without thinking about the cultural/social systems that these landscapes hope to integrate with). As I write this, political change in the Middle East may be even now altering the situation for the Sahara Forest Project.*
A good interview with Bill Watts, an engineer working on the project is here.
* I have absolutely no reason to suggest there is any problem with this project, rather I am only making a comment on the general flux in the region overall

Sunday, February 20, 2011

Digital Infrastructure: Philip Belesky (part II)

Illustration: Philip Belesky
More from Philip's design for a server farm integrated with the landscape plan at Wellington's CentrePort. Check out Eye of the Fish, a blog commenting on Wellington's urban design that Philip started up.

Saturday, February 19, 2011

Digital Infrastructure by Philip Belesky (part 1)

Images: Philip Belesky

Philip created this plan for server farm integrated with a food producing glasshouse for a proposed development at the Wellington CentrePort site. Excess heat from server farms can be a real problem for global warming; the power consumption from their air-conditioning can be fierce. Proposals for dealing with this excess heat include shifting the 'live' farms around the globe as it turns, so that serving always happens where the planet is naturally coolest.
Philip was always an interesting student. He usually flipped out really intelligent work quickly. I always wanted to see what he could produce if he wasn't multi-tasking so much (see his web design portfolio)- I suspect it could be really fabulous.
I wanted to post this earlier, but I have struggled with the embedded images in the file I have. The layout still is not great, I am afraid.

Friday, January 21, 2011

An Animated Map of Auckland's Public Transport Network was created by Chris McDowall. You can see more of his work at his blog Seeing Data. The deeply loveable aspect of this visualization is the spermatozoa-like rendering of the buses, trains and ferries - an organic aspect of the machinic.

An animated map of Auckland's public transport network from Chris McDowall on Vimeo.

Tuesday, January 11, 2011

Carolyn Steel on Food and the Shape of Cities

Carolyn Steel is an architect who looks t food networks. She argues that our current food networks alienate us from food and cause us to devalue it. I have found that my current mission of trying to grow as much of my own food on my not-large suburban garden has profoundly changed my relationship to food. I was inspired by economy and pleasure to grow vegetables but I found I valued and respected every morsel of food in a way I had never done before.

Friday, October 22, 2010

Tim Flannery on 'Here on Earth: an Argument for Hope'

Listen to a great interview with Tim Flannery about his new book Here on Earth: An Argument For Hope. He talks about climate change, complexity and processes (traced through Darwin, Dawkins, Lovelock & Wallace).
A quote from the interview:
"...we think of ourselves as objects or things but we are really processes. When we die, the processes stop. The object, the body is the same from one second before death and one second after, but the processes have stopped....we are fragments of the earth's crust animated by processes"

Monday, October 4, 2010

Making Water Bottle Use Visible

MSLK's Watershed Project installed on Governor's Island
(image from NoD)

This installation represents one SECOND'S worth of water consumption from plastic bottles in the US!