Crisis Fronts is the Degree Project studio and seminar run by Michael Chen and Jason Lee, with Gil Akos and Ronnie Parsons at Pratt Institute’s School of Architecture.
Crisis Fronts is an ongoing inquiry into contemporary global crises that suggest new demands and agendas for architecture, and the potential afforded by parametric and generative digital design tools to engage them.
CRISIS FRONTS :: Cognitive Infrastructures
2008 marks an important milestone as the year when for the first time in history the majority of the world’s population will reside in urban areas. An explosion in urban growth is underway, most notably in the developing world where the urban population is expected to double by 2030.
Cities are already the sites of rapid cultural change and they are the primary economic and cultural engines of societies. An increasingly globalized and urban world is at once inevitable and it is also necessary. This urban world produces its own forms of diversity, innovation, and intelligence, but the unprecedented growth of cities worldwide is not without challenges. The extraordinary scale and speed of urban growth already exceeds the capacity of the systems that would service, support, and manage it. Much of this growth will take place beyond the legal and administrative boundary of the city proper, uninhibited by centralized planning or management, and in absence of an adequate set of municipal infrastructures.
The decentralized growth of the city – that which takes place in patches, on the periphery, self- regulated, and remote from central administrative control – is the site of extraordinary volatility and undergoes a constant process of transformation. Current forms of infrastructure are outdated before they are even completed and remain fixed in the scale and possess neither the speed nor the flexibility and responsiveness that would enable feedback between them and the growth of the city. They are no longer adequate. The failure of infrastructure will be an enormous factor in the increase of worldwide poverty, hunger, disease, overcrowding, and instability. New, more intelligent infrastructures and new understandings and readings of urban infrastructures will have to be invented – ones that have the potential to engage changing forms of organization, operative processes, and generative logics found in the contemporary city.
Of particular relevance are the areas of the city that are the fastest growing, the most contested, the most fragile, and the least served by conventional infrastructures like energy, clean water, and transportation. These are areas that grow following logics of extreme pragmatism and efficiency on a granular level, that are self organizing and self regulating, and that will require new tools and systems of intelligence to comprehend and negotiate. At issue is the development of a fundamentally different view of infrastructure, but also of systems of intelligence, memory and cognition.
Cognition refers not only to the acquisition of information and data, but to its processing, and its culmination in action. Research in the studio will focus on the underlying structure or logic that enables cognition and also on approaches to introduce new forms of cognition into the city.
Cognitive Infrastructures are poly-scalar, working across intensity, quality, and a range of relationships that exist at the scale of architectural components and assemblies at one extreme and urban and infrastructural scales and effects at another. They are dynamic formations of data, material, and services. They include physical formations and also practices that acquire an infrastructural scale. They are organizational and responsive, and must be engaged in continual feedback with their environments.
Work in the studio will concentrate on developing specific rules and models for cognition through computational research in Rhinoscript. Projects in the studio will be conceived of not as envelopes or scaffolds, but as cognitive techno-ecologies: nimble and responsive to their environment, taking advantage of new and future technologies, and employing the feedback between inputs, processing, and action that are the characteristics of all cognitive systems. They seek to identify and actively augment the performance of the opportunistic programs and patterns of use that will emerge around them. These patterns are understood to comprise a complex social feedback system and will afford the opportunity for speculation on new forms of material intelligence, formal innovation, new social practices, institutions, leisure, commerce, and piracy.
Rhino 4.0 with current service releases
Presentation : 20080913_CrisisFrontsWorkshop01_presentation
Code : workshop01_code
Compile your data into an organized Excel spreadsheet.
Describe in plain language the desired objective in parsing through this data. (This is your design intent.)
Write a pseudocode outline that would achieve your objective. (More precision will make coding easier.)
Make an attempt at converting your pseudocode to actual code. (Try to use workshop structures and code as general guidelines.)
Download + Install : Scriptographer
Code : workshop02_code
Output your data into an organized Excel spreadsheet from Rhino.
Continue to diagram your associative logics and output an Illustrator drawing describing these logics/associations.
Develop working code for your Cognitive Engine.
Prepare a description of your final desired drawing output.
Originally published in Metropolis as part of the Next Generation competition – two proposals for motion and weight sensitive urban surfaces for play (in the sidewalk) and night jogging (in the shoe). More at Inbatitots.com
Brightwalk BrightWalk trainers let after-dark joggers put their expended energy to good use, lighting the way and alerting cars to their presence. Every time a sole strikes the ground, piezoelectric transducers convert the shock into electricity, which in turn stimulates electroluminescent polymers—low-heat-generating light sources—embedded in the shoe’s toe and heel. With a customizable upper, the sneaker allows sporty nocturnal types to exercise in safety and style. “This shoe introduces the concept of ‘empowered fashion,’” Villarreal says.
PowerLeap Imagine a nightclub where dancers generate the venue’s electricity just from the impact of their steps. With Redmond’s innovative flooring system, this vision of a human-powered energy source may be close to a reality. The floor tiles, cast in durable concrete and recycled glass, are fitted with piezoelectric brass-reinforced ceramic plates covered in nickel electrodes. With the impact of each footstep, a metal pointer inside the tile compresses the ceramic plate, generating an electric impulse. The resulting voltage activates four LED lights, visible through the glass surface, allowing energy-generating participants to see the power of their steps. Envisioned as a flooring system for high-traffic areas such as sidewalks, public-transport platforms, and gymnasiums, PowerLeap proposes to give pedestrians an active role in offsetting their energy consumption. “I am calling on all humans,” Redmond says, “to become responsible and sustainable self-generators for the
Via inhabitat “Charting the future of cell phone technology, Kyocera recently unveiled a kinetic energy-powered phone that is capable of folding up like a wallet. Designed by industrial designer Susan McKinney, the EOS phone consists of a soft, semi-rigid polymer skin surrounding a flexible low-energy OLED display. Shape memory allows the phone’s keys to pop up when in use and blend in with the surface during downtime.”
Very useful flexible display technology for several of the projects
Some interesting mappings online:
Zappos.com, the discount conline shoe retailer runs a real time map showing where their orders are shipping to and what is being shipped. And the International Maritime Bureau has a real time map of incidents of piracy and armed robbery incidents on the high seas around the world.
Informal, crowdsourced, and peer-2-peer surveillance reverses Big Brother is Watching You. Interesting article that points towards the now tenuous balance between the existing power relationship of government and the people in London. Can a centralized government surveillance program with limited and fixed distributed inputs and processings be overcome by the mass distributed, always on the move swarm of individual surveillance? Absolutely, but only within certain contexts.
Interesting article about how the brain negotiates the combination of bottom-up inputs and top-down expectations/predictions. In cases of normal brain function, top-down predictions based on the build up of reinforcing memories exert control when a seeming contradiction exists with the bototom-up inputs, but peoples’ brains who are schizophrenic operate different and the bottom-up inputs assert control.
Definitely watch the video in the article, you won’t believe how despite the fact you know the face is inverted during parts of the rotation, your cognition will force an untrue prediction. I couldnt help but laugh the first few times at how futile it was to try to “see” it properly.
Cognition based on probability and a single parameter to determine the correlationship between variables.
Though this cognition is disastrous for the global market it can be useful for another application.
Interesting commentary from Nicolai Ouroussoff in the Times on the reinvention of American cities and the return of the notion that the development of urban infrastructural projects is paired with thinking about the future of the city.
“The problem in America is not a lack of ideas. It is a tendency to equate any large-scale government construction project, no matter how thoughtful, with the most brutal urban renewal tactics of the 1950s. One result has been that pioneering projects that skillfully blend basic infrastructure with broader urban needs like housing and park space are usually killed in their infancy. Another is that we now have an archaic and grotesquely wasteful federal system in which upkeep for roads, subways, housing, public parkland and our water supply are all handled separately.
With money now available to invest again in such basic needs, I’d like to look at four cities representing a range of urban challenges and some of the plans available to address them. Though none of the plans are ideal as they stand today (and some of them represent only the germ of an idea), evaluated and addressed together as part of a coordinated effort, they could begin to form a blueprint for making our cities more efficient, sustainable and livable”
With case studies on New Orleans, Los Angeles, The Bronx, and Buffalo
Cognitive pattern recognition, falling into 8 typologies, as the basis for all types of humor regardless of space, time, or culture…so says Alastair Clarke.
Very interesting article regarding the evolution and adaptation of the brain as opposed to the state of computers.
“One cubic centimeter of human brain tissue, which would fill a thimble, contains 50 million neurons; several hundred miles of axons, the wires over which neurons send signals; and close to a trillion (that’s a million million) synapses, the connections between neurons.”
The Times reports from Gonaives, Haiti where decay and neglect mean that flooding control systems do more hard than good, creating mud holes, drowning hazards, structural failure, and other dangers. Talk about unintended consequences.
This robot was developed by the University of Essex, we can predict how it can transform and be use to monitor and patrol marine borders. I can think of many other uses for this fish but i prefer protecting the environment. video
Via coolhunting: A small component that once added to the frame of a bike, deposits a small amount of color chalk on the rear wheel, resulting in a visualized or mapping-oriented chalk trace on the roadway surface. Mapping, wayfinding, and reminder to motorists and pedestrians about the presence of bikes all in one.
Developed by Brooklyn-based Studio Gelardi
check out the waffle bike as an example of mobile urban devices that interface with citizens – although this is not necessarily civic by nature, it is a pretty sweet interface device.
*note teh specificity
We’ve all seen some pretty interesting visualizations of air flight data, but this is the first Ive seen using the google maps UI and with the ability to scale in and out. Its seems a rather obvious outcome, since the existing urban situation of the US directly causes the pattern of flights, but there is still some interesting things to extract.
The specificity of research, the depth of analysis, and the prescient forecasting in this article is phenomenal. It focuses on the economic landscape’s relation to the urban organization and infrastructure of America over the past century to today and what can be expected in the future. Spatial fixes is another interesting idea brought up in the last half.
The Times reports on efforts to develop computation models with sufficient complexity to track trends and patterns in genetic codes. Scientists are developing strategies to map the entire genome of plants for instance – updated and fully comprehensive maps of Darwin’s Tree of Life. The problem?
“There’s just one problem. “We have no way to visualize such a tree at the moment,” he said. If they tried, they would end up with a blurry, inscrutable thicket. “It would be ironic,” Dr. Sanderson said. “We’d be saying, ‘We’ve built it, but we can’t show it to you.’ ”
Enter computer scientists and visualization experts working to bring these trees up to date and to correlate them to the enormous data sets generated by genetic research. ““Just like Google Earth changed the way people look at geography, a sophisticated tree of life browser could really change the way we look at the life around us,” said Mark W. Westneat, the director of the Biodiversity Synthesis Center at the Field Museum in Chicago.”
“The 4th Radiator festival and symposium, “Exploits in the Wireless City”, aims to instigate discussion and debate based on the understanding that the development of digital networks are transforming our notion of (public and private) space.”
“radiator going underground”
A very interesting overview of an international public policy-computation initiative on crisis mapping, specifically as it related to mapping conflict and other fast-moving emerging crisis conditions through mobile platforms, google earth, etc from Patrick Meier. The post outlines an interface and technology wish list that speaks to the conditions required for this kind of mapping to take off as well as a set of scenarios that talk about the movement of maps from representational tools to social dynamic tools to communication tools. Worth a look, especially for those groups working on crises that are more fast-moving.
Using off the shelf parts (LED, wires, etc) and some custom software, a UCLA team has rigged up a cellphone to detect various diseases in blood samples. This approach can theoretically be applied to any cellphone and therefore be part of an urban scale information infrastructure. Even better, its highly portable, local and autonomous, easily accessible, and low maintenance. As our research has shown, cellphones are nearly ubiquitous in Mumbai slums, with almost every family having at least one, and the off-the-shelf parts are easily acquired through both the slum markets and the informal network of goods exchange. There is great potential in this technology for integration with our thesis.