Saturday, 12 December 2009

the poetry of moss

Investigating the potential and benefits of introducing small scale interventions of growth in urban environments has led to expert advice from the living roofs organisation. George Schenk sums up entirely what I have been thinking:
"a world more closely viewed in vignettes of landscape that we discover or plant for ourselves, is a world made more cosy. Mosses up close are large on fellowship. Nothing else of greenery is more companiable at the near edge of our universe."Schenk, G Moss Gardening, p105

Thursday, 10 December 2009

Dont rush

Jacqui Chanarin told me about recent visitors to Japan where they are putting 'don't rush' signs up intended to influence crowd behaviour in commuter zones. The idea being that negotiating crowds could be easier and a less frustrating experience if everyone were more calm and careful. I found this one which apparently means " Don't rush or you will go round in circles"

Wednesday, 9 December 2009


This  DEFRA  noise map shows the main route by road in and out of Brighton to the palace pier. The purple is the most noise 75 + dB(A)  (mainly roads) the green 0.00-54.9 dB (A)  is the least.
 The red patch 65.0-69.9 dB(A) (the steine ) despite being a large stretch of grass is surrounded by roads and on the high range for noise. 

Tuesday, 8 December 2009


I have had some useful advice from Gary Grant Ecology Director at Aecom in response to my query about creating small scale installations to encourage moss in urban environments :
  • "It is feasible but you will need to use north facing surfaces and channel rainwater across the surface
  • In Japan people use ricewater and yoghurt to speed up the process of colonisation
  • and try rough wood, sandblasted or similar, or hessian"
this is a first experiment for a channel that could be integrated into the shop window ledge to introduce a continuous line, an alternative view, leading to larger installations alongside public seating. 

Sunday, 22 November 2009

cognitive benefits of natural environments

Perhaps unsurprisingly, recent research by Kaplan and Berman, psychologists at University of Michigan has found that a short urban walk can cause cognitive deficits compared to a walk in the park because natural settings do not require the same amount of cognitive effort. The concept of ART Attention Restoration Theory, suggests that immersion in nature may have a restorative effect (p21) Could small scale interventions - a glimpse of growth in unexpected places within the urban commercial environment have some of the same effects? Personal experience of comparing london Victoria to a rural walk would definitely support this. 

city sensory input colour

An anlysis of the distribution of colour in the same  200 yards in north street Brighton on monday looks like this : separation from the text, noise and people it looks less demanding ...

city information

A  sample of a record of text from shop fronts and displays of about 200 yds of North street Brighton on Monday looks like this : one aspect of information overload.

city observations

Parin Shahs use of watercolour to document indian urban life offer an other way of seeing what is so familiar we are already filtering it out.

Saturday, 31 October 2009

new york new york

Famous for its dense population I've been told by  recent visitors to Manhattan they are finding ways to introduce the rural into the urban space and provide more social spaces for seating that aren't just more cafes. The highline, regeneration of a disused elevated rail line provides a green space to step up above the residential and commercialised spaces. Herald Square, has introduced green areas for sitting part of liveable streets initiative freedom to sit.


I saw this outside a door in an appartment block in Paris. There is something about the scale, the colours and the story it might tell. Why is it there? Is it really for a very quiet small child...?

Monday, 26 October 2009

pop up

The pop up concept, moveable locations for shops, bars, clubs etc could be used to create zones of non consumption. All these closed down shops could become a visual, aural, physical respite.. Meanwhile Space are working out how to use these places more easily.

Monday, 19 October 2009

felt -

remember felt
  • acoustics
  • wool industry excess - burning fleeces
  • car industry processes
  • potential for hearing booths
  • listening corners
  • gossiping pockets
  • see Gubi chair and info
  • anna kyrro quinn uses felt to create decorative wall panels that have an acoustic dampening effect.

Friday, 16 October 2009

the urban idea of rural

According to Global Colour Research this is the latest colour trend "a play on the rural stereotypes that urban dwellers imagine still exist in the countryside and try to replicate with visits to farmers markets and organic retailers"  

What impact could introducing authentic elements of the rural environment have? A tree stump, a rock,  a sheep, a telescope to a large sky but no wind no rain no fresh air. in Paris supermarkets they have the sound of tweeting birds in the veg section ....could we have breeze doorways? - or is that just air conditioning?

Wednesday, 14 October 2009

literal interpretations

A fairly literal interpretation by Dominic Schwarz, uses the elements that my time out survey brought up.What these pictures don't show is what might be the effect on the user of eye level grass. Could moss be incorporated into seating like this using something like - Senseware demonstrated a Terramac a material that supports flexible planting surfaces for moss? - unfortunately the terramac material was only for the Milan exhibition not currently available commercially.

Tuesday, 13 October 2009


There must be a way to use rfid technology to provide alternative views, messages, virtual reminders of elsewhere, directions to respite?

Tuesday, 6 October 2009

Anechoic chambers

Acoustic anechoic chambers are used to minimise reflected sound - sometimes used for sound recording - could the principle be used on a smaller scale to create quiet places or talking booths? One of these chambers has been rated the quietest place on earth.
Jacob Kirkegaard is an artist who works with resonance, sound and hearing.

Monday, 5 October 2009

an empty cinema

Went to see a one off showing of Fish Tank at the local Odeon. Such an alternative film that they didn't bother to put any adverts on before the film. I was the only one in there. Beautiful

ambient light

Reduce energy. Create incentives for turning lights off.
Ambient light in urban living creates fantastic shadows

listening devices

  • Do we need a way to hear each other in crowded places
  • Do we need listening devices?
  • Reinvented ear trumpets?
  • Whispering tubes?

places of non consumption

What places might be considered to be zones of non consumption?
  • credit crunched closed down shops
  • places of worship
  • libraries
  • park benches any public seating
  • parks
What characteristics to they have?
  • empty, quiet, still, light, not crowded?
  • for reflection, contemplation, peace and quiet?

Sunday, 4 October 2009

negotiating crowds

Sometimes making your way through crowds of people can be hugely frustrating. Envisage yourself floating above the crowd. Perhaps a step to let you perch on a shelf overlooking the street would be a moment for time out before you lower yourself in to the current again.

Thursday, 1 October 2009

negotiating urban space

Time lapse films of certain urban spaces. Data from a snap shot survey of types of people: Man, woman, child etc, and whether or not they were carrying anything: bag, rucksack etc, would imply that men are less encumbered, more relaxed?
Churchill Square : 
Saturday 12th September 9.45-10.15
Woman with bag: 94
Woman with child/ren :29
woman with nothing:6
Man with child/ren:17
Man with rucksack: 22
Man with bag: 15
Man with nothing: 73

the colour of midsummer

Nearly everyone who responded to my Do you need time out? survey has a preference for a rural or natural environment and outdoors rather than indoors. Perhaps this is predictable . Perhaps there is some kind of collective subconsciousness that responds positively to growth? This is midsummer on the england scottish border : as much green as I have seen in the past year, without a building in sight.

Wednesday, 30 September 2009

eye movements

My survey 'Do you need timeout' has also generated ideas from areas such as the treatment of post traumatic stress, where unanticipated triggers can provoke spontaneous memories that cause panic attacks. EMDR Eye Movement Desensitisation and Reprocessing is a technique where the patient is encouraged to use bilateral eye movements (e.g left-right-left) when recalling traumatic and distressing events. This technique has been found to reduce the intensity of the  memory. I am wondering whether there might be a connection between this and the sensation you get on a speeding train? I often find my thought processes run smoother when I am in motion - watching the world go by?

Monday, 28 September 2009

hiding places

Getting peoples preferences on their version of a space for time out has generated some good nuggets of ingredients to chew on so far:
  • ' a haven of the unexpected' that is 'deliciously enclosed' 
  • ' a womb like flotation tank'
  • ' pre-menstrual huts complete with stacks of plates for smashing'
  • ' padded cells'
  • 'natural colours and patches of intense pigment'
  •  wind and breezes quite popular

Monday, 14 September 2009

Bin Bowl Water

If sunlight, a bowl of water and a waste paper bin can make this there is potential for magical shelters...

Sunday, 13 September 2009

tidy sleeping

Is it the density of the population and the limited space that makes some people in India so organised and tidy? A place for everything and everything in its place, including yourself. Work done, time for a break. This was in a Bangalore market in April

Saturday, 12 September 2009

the colour of churchill square

Having done a combination of mapping with google maps and pacing the streets, I made a colour sampler to demonstrate the (visual) experience from photographs that I took in churchill square using the eyedropper in photoshop. This is a colour palette of the environment, not the people.

Friday, 11 September 2009

unregulated spaces

Sennet keeps returning to the need for ambiguity in urban environments . He seems to be responding to the over design of certain modern buildings and streets that do not allow for an evolution or interaction developed over time with use, that do not accomodate adaptations. But also that we  need more, not less, challenging spaces. Guy De Bord coined the phrase psychogeography in a response to the perception that everyday life is controlled and manipulated by over regulation. Are there examples of actual places and spaces that respond to these ideas?

le mur vegetal

It turns out that the growing wall concept was invented by Patric Blanc, who is giving a talk at 100 percent . That one I saw in Paris is probably one of his and he did the one for the Ministre de Culture (architect Jean Nouvel). oddly reminiscent of my brother's overgrown garden that recently had to be scoured because the ivy was eating into next door..

small growths

Hafsteinn Juliuson has produced this range of jewellry he calls grings 

Thursday, 10 September 2009


Environments that use directional light, creating spotlight places like by Anthony Mcall at the Serpentine. The interesting thing about this was the way that walking into the shafts of light changed the shape of the light beams. 

reflected light

This one of my favourite bits of reflected light, probably the colour combination.

Wednesday, 9 September 2009

grown homes

One way to maximise resources and provide shelter, these ones are in iceland, where cosy is essential.

rodchenko workers club 1925

Libraries are another location of non consumption. Quiet but social. Rodchenko's 1925 design for a Workers Club, a restroom for Workers,reconstructed at the Tate exhibition this year. 

Monday, 7 September 2009

mixed use streets

The recent conversion of New Road introduces the concept of mixed used streets to Brighton: cars, bikes and people are equally free to roam and it seems to work. A hundred yard bench provides opportunity to share a seat whilst at the same time maintaining personal space. A snap shot survey reveals that pedestrians and cyclists take over:
New Road 7/9/09 08:50 -09:50
cyclists: 55
cars: 7
trucks: 2
vans: 6
woman with bag:96
woman with rucksack:9
woman with nothing:4
man with bag:21
man with rucksack:22
man with nothing :43
pushchairs: 11
rollerblades : 1
man with one item( enveolope, light bulb, guitar, paper, folder, can): 6
woman with stick:1
man with stick:1
wheelchair user: 1

Sunday, 6 September 2009


this project by Luis Carjaval and Annie Davy  about victorian snugs is a reminder of a great idea that could be revived. Time out from the crowds, where you can make conversation. Apparently it had other uses..

a hole in the ground

When we were in Andra Pradesh in April we visited a home where a woman was grinding chilli like this: a hollow in a  slab of stone in the ground: looks like hard work. But interesting that you can make shapes in the fabric of the building for functional purposes

Thursday, 3 September 2009

growing wall

found another one in kingston and discovered the name of the man: jean nouvel who did the one in paris at the cartier foundation 

feet and ground

Trainers are probably the most ubiquitous form of footwear. developed for sports, worn by anyone  comfort and convenience and pounding the pavements. They work - consequently multiple designs accomodate taste and fashion. 4 wheel drive versions of footwear. Could difficult terrain be reintroduced into urban environments: rocks, moorland, to make more challenging experiences? You can get portable climbing walls now. 

wind rain sun

Preoccupation with weather in britain is inevitable - what to wear to avoid being soaked, cold, burnt? Can these elements be used to create engaging and environments and functional objects in the urban environment? things that interact with weather things that make you wish it would rain?

Sunday, 30 August 2009

sonic marshmallows

Troika created this installation at Wat Tyler country park in Basildon Essex based on sound mirrors like the ones at Dungeness used as early warning systems during the war - if you stand by one and whisper you can hear by standing at the other one 60 metres away,

Saturday, 29 August 2009

in between spaces

I like the idea of this pod by Mariko Moro - a floating day bed pod for time out

in between spaces

Earlier this summer I worked on the installation of the Elephant Bed at Fabrica, a large scale site specific piece by the Canadian artist John Grade, made from soluble biodegradable paper. The shapes are based on microscopic structures of Coccolithophores that ultimately form the chalk sea beds. They create an intriguing space in which to retreat: warm and light, muffling external sound.

Must be entirely synchronicity that Olivia Decaris MA student in Design Products at the RCA has created something almost identical for a similar purpose. 

dysfunctional outfits

Maybe the continuing popularity of the high heels and the low slung jeans, that make it impossible to walk, is due to a need for inconvenience? Perhaps life has become too bland,predictable, and comfortable and we need some kind of physical challenge to make life more interesting?


note:  explore the potential for perforations to make deliberate patterns or messages out of shadows - this is the shadow of a device to make ready made instant kolams using flour - probably tin 

seeing in the dark

We eventually managed to get up to the Chattri on the Downs to see the Anish Kapoor installation Curve during the Brighton festival, a little late in the day. By the time we got there it was dark. Taking photographs with a flash created unexpected results: they had put one of those orange plastic netting fences that construction workers arrange around holes in the road to deter the sheep from licking the mirror..

there is life and then there are shoes

Function: something to protect our feet from the ground. Protection from the elements, wet cold, dirt. To prevent cuts and grazes, to keep feet clean.To make it easier to walk?

How fantastic is it that the fashion for higher and higher and higher heels has endured? These astounding elegant sculptural prostheses that slow you down, make you strut, and are all about glamour, sex, and objectification of legs?  Its such a blatant defiance of feminist arguments about hobbling women: sculptural Barbie-fication of girls..difficult not to be impressed.

It occured to me that perhaps the girls in high heels needed the occasional perch. I have named my first prototype: Slip on