for what it’s worth

stories and stimulus from a consumer insight consultant

Cameron Sinclair, Architecture for Humanity – offers real food for thought

I go to loads of events, conferences and talks, and although I always have the best intentions I very rarely get round to writing up my notes for you to enjoy. This time however the talk I went to this evening was so amazing it would be wrong not to share! The event was at the RSA to honour Cameron Sinclair, co-founder of the truly incredible Architecture for Humanity, with the RSA 2009 Bicentenary Medal.

I’ve been a fan of the non-profit design organization for a while now, ever since I learned about their tsunami relief project (thanks to Design Museum’s Designer of the Year competition) and love getting their newsletters and wishing I was clever enough to enter their design competitions, but this was the first time I’ve had the opportunity to see Sinclair in action – and I think I love him!

The video gives you a pretty good overview of the way the organization works, and is definitely worth watching – but it was the content of his talk that was even more powerful. Here are my jumbled notes, I hope they make some sense and give a bit of an insight what was a truly eye-opening and inspirational hour it was, and I highly recommend you watch the video when it’s up on the RSA site (probably in a week or so)

– Architecture for Humanity has helped somewhere between 750,000 and 1 million people so far

– It is a decentralised network of people using their architectural skills to make a difference – 72 local chapters 5383 volunteers – they were surprised to find that the majority are licensed architects (67%) [ie not students], 62% are female, average age is 32 years, 15% are British, and there’s a 50/50 split between those from developed and developing countries

– Aftermath of Katrina was ‘criminal neglect from US government’

– ‘don’t just be the change – be the bank’ – allow people access to funds directly
Lots of the African Americans in New Orleans owned their houses outright (had been passed down through generations) so didn’t have mortgage = didn’t have credit rating, so got nothing to rebuild

– A4H created a library of skills for/ with residents – swapping practical skills – invisible economy coming up to help each other. They found that lots of architects were turning up just to get involved and help rebuild the community

if you don’t build it it doesn’t exist – you can’t just design it you have to build it

– One graphic design student converted 70 pages of government policy into a one page visualisation – this was so powerful for the government A4H managed to force change in policy

– Needed to create homes to be sustainable – to help the families afford the insurance and the energy bills- being sustainable as a way to create equity

– There are 4bn people in emerging middle class – spending money on healthcare, improving homes and education

– In this century we’re going to double the number of structures on this earth – it’s  pretty exciting time to be an architect

– Creative commons architectural ideas – 21000 people involved so far

– A4H ran a competition to design a classroom for the future – connecting with local schools – teachers and students being part of the design team – creating site specific ideas. 1000 teams entered from 65 nations, 250 schools got new designs

– some recent projects: Skatistan, Plastiki, The Homeless World Cup in Brazil

– some brilliant points:

  • It’s better to be the tugboat than the oiltanker – we can move much faster with the ebb and flow
  • It’s better to have 5billion clients than 50
  • Culture is an aspect of sustainability – everything is local – people interpret religion, community in diff ways
  • A strong society creates strong economy
  • There is no such thing as the 3rd world
  • Your client is your design expert
  • Ethics is aesthetics
  • We build communities not destinations
  • Instigate the no asshole policy – don’t work with them, don’t take money from them, don’t hire them
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Filed under: collaborative working, creative ideas, good, Uncategorized, , , , ,

NAKED FUN WITH TOE JAM VIDEO!

This is a brilliant video that’s been doing the rounds for a bit but I kept forgeting to put it up. Thanks to futureshorts for reminding me of one of the funniest music videos i’ve seen in ages – and a great song too! Look out for fatboy slim making a sneaky appearance.

Filed under: creative ideas, entertainment, ,

BAGS NOT BAUBLES

rubbish-pin

These pins are a fantastic visual reminder of your own consumption – making statements out of your daily detritus. And they look pretty good too. From Designboom:

The ‘garbage pin’ by portuguese designer ana cardim turns your daily bits of trash into jewelry.
‘a metallic silver structure that holds a tiny, transparent plastic bag (the garbage bag). this bag, once full, can be removed, closed with a wire and kept as a outcome of the experience. the piece is sold as a kit that includes spare plastic bags and wires.’

ana cardim jewellery

more over at Ana Cardim‘s website:

Garbage Pin is born of a definitely urban concept, the appropriation and reinterpretation of a daily use object: the garbage bin.

Being one of the most common typologies of urban equipment in the cosmopolitan network, the garbage bag belongs without any doubt to the collective imagery, present in every urbanite life’s day as a reflection of a culture involved with the accelerated and growing consumism, as is ours.

It is a call to reflect on the current social paradigm that confronts notions such as “waste” and “valuable”, both relative and subjective concepts. It is a call as well for the innumerable problems that derive from a society of consumers; those of environmental and ecologic sort that lead us today to a future break with the current ecosystem.

Filed under: creative ideas, products with a purpose, ,

CALL CUTTA IN A BOX

call cuttaIf I was in NYC right now I would be getting myself a ticket to this; an innovative theatre experience described as “an intercontinental phone play” which is showing as part of Under the Radar Festival 2009. The creators, Helgard Haug, Stefan Kaegi, and Daniel Wetzel of Rimini Protokoll, have collaborated with a call-center in Calcutta to produce a unique event, the outcome of which is an exclusive performance for each member of the audience. Sounds amazing.

From Rimini Protokoll’s website:

Imagine you are buying a ticket at the box office for an individual show on a specific day, but are not led to the auditorium of the theatre. Instead, you get the key for a room and a sketch of how to get there. It might be a room in the theatre, an office, or an apartment somewhere close by. You open the door and you find a phone ringing. You pick up the phone and a person with a strange accent strikes up a conversation with you. The person seems to know the room you are sitting in, even though he is about 10.000 km away. The voice belongs to a call centre agent from Calcutta, India. He and his colleagues usually sell credit cards and insurance on the phone to people on the other side of the globe or provide navigational help in cities that they have never been to themselves. But this time you are not supposed to buy anything. By now, you are standing at the window and your transcontinental conversation partner is pointing some curious people in the opposite building out to you. On the notebook desktop in your room images and videos are opening up out of nowhere. A story is about to develop and you realize that the call centre agent and you and your city are the very first protagonists of the plot.

Call Cutta in a Box – on till 18th Jan

Filed under: arts & culture, creative ideas, worth seeing

SQUATTERS IN MAYFAIR CREATE ART INSTALLATION OUT OF THEIR £6M HOME

The guardian reports on a group of squatters who have taken up residence in one of London’s poshest postcodes. The group – an art collective who call themselves Da! moved into the property a month ago and so far have heard nothing from the owners, although that may change after tonight when the group turn the house into an art installation – with mandatory opening party!

Behind the white pillars and imposing wooden door of the grade II-listed residence, the 30-plus rooms are now scattered with sleeping bags, grubby mattresses, rucksacks spilling over with clothes and endless half-finished art installations. While their neighbours’ walls are lined with priceless paintings, No 18 now exhibits a room full of tree branches and another with a pink baby bath above which dangle test tubes filled with capers. Spooky foetuses line one fireplace.

The group are seasoned squatters. Over the past few years, they have enjoyed some impressive central London addresses – including two on Kensington High Street. But their latest home is “by far the most grandiose”, said Stephanie Smith, 21, one of the group, under a chandelier in the downstairs drawing room.

…tonight the squat is hosting a party. From 7pm to 11pm, the Da! gang will be projecting images on to each of the 19 windows at the front of the squat. “It’s going to look like a doll’s house,” said Smith, “and there is going to be a harpist and a cellist and performance artists.”

If you want to get involved, head on down to 18 Upper Grosvenor Street tonight!

£6m house, 30 rooms, one careful anarchist collective: inside Britain’s poshest squat

Filed under: creative ideas, worth seeing, , ,

COMMUNITY REGENERATION THROUGH CREATIVITY

the public


The Public is a new creative centre designed by Alsop architects and due to open this summer – in West Bromwich. Not the first place you would expect to find one of Britain’s largest cultural buildings, the £40 million space encompassing a gallery, theatre, event space and cafe on the outskirts of Birmingham hopes that by becoming a creative landmark it will inspire the local community and encourage social and economic regeneration.

According to the architects:

The Public represents a radical gesture for community architecture, born from the conviction that architecture can be a catalyst for regeneration and renewal.

The scheme uses an ‘H’ frame which supports both roof and curtain wall, which is clad in black and pink sinusoidal steel. ‘Jelly Bean’ windows punctuate this wall, with pink glazing, and cluster around a ‘mother Jelly Bean’ window which marks and lights the main entrance. A pink glass skirt surrounds the box at ground level drawing the public into and through the space, reclaiming the ground plane.

Beyond the skirt two large zinc-clad sculptural elements, the ‘Rock’ and the ‘Sock’ and a third cushioned element, create an extraordinary spatial and visual experience. Linked by a snaking ramp and topped by a series of hung Lily Pads, the interior, whilst meeting the functional requirements of the building, enlivens the visitor experience with dramatic and exceptional interventions. These elements variously contain event spaces, workshop space, services, toilets and a gallery for local exhibitors.

The Public represents both a starting point and an opportunity for the people of West Bromwich, reinforcing the towns eroded sense of identity.

th public-alsop

Public Gallery

Filed under: arts & culture, creative ideas,

PACEMAKER DJ SYSTEM: ON AND OFFLINE MUSIC SHARING

pacemaker

Tonium, makers of the as yet to be released Pacemaker portable DJ MP3 player, have just unveiled their new online community DJ mix portal along with a free Mac/PC music editor.

The new site allows anyone to create DJ mixes of their own music collection using the Pacemaker music editor software, and then upload the mix to the Pacemaker online community, where the mix can be streamed by anyone. If the Legal section of the Pacemaker Web site is any indication, Tonium have taken great pains in making sure the music sharing service is airtight. Along with agreements Tonium has struck with international music publishing houses, the Pacemaker music editor has some built-in safety measures that prevent users from using too many tracks by any single artist. Mixes also require a minimum amount of songs before they can be uploaded.

At first glance, the free DJ music editor offered by Pacemaker is a pretty fun application on its own. Tacks can be dragged into an editing pane and then manipulated with DJ effects such as filters, delays, crossfades, and backspins. The Pacemaker audio editor supports MP3 (16Kbps to 320Kbps), AAC (8Kbps to 256Kbps), MP3 VBR, FLAC, WAV, and Ogg-Vorbis, and can calculate the song’s beats per minute automatically, to make beat-matching less of a guessing game.

“Pacemaker.net is a meeting place, a hotspot, a centrifuge and melting pot for music inspiration. By sharing our music taste with each other, we hope to bring us all closer to the music we love and closer to the music we don’t yet know we can’t live without. Let’s hear it, let’s mix!”

Once the Pacemaker hardware is released later this month, it’ll be exciting to see how the hardware, software, and Web site all integrate.

Pacemaker

Filed under: creative ideas, , ,

HERZOG & DE MEURON’S NEWEST ARCHITECTURAL CREATION UNVEILED

caixaforum

Madrid has unveiled it’s latest addition to the global arts scene in the form of the CaixaForum, a Herzog & de Meuron designed contemporary art museum housed in a converted 1899 power station. Costing $94m the museum was funded by the Caixa Foundation, the philanthropic arm of the Spanish bank Caixa d’Estalvis, and one of its main functions will be to show selections from the Foundation’s own impressive collection of more than 700 works of art. The Art Newspaper reports on the impressive architecture:

The building—one of the city’s few remaining examples of historically significant industrial architecture—was acquired by the foundation in 2001. The 19th-century brick walls have been retained, but raised on piers so that visitors can walk underneath the building. There are two underground floors, while a two-floor attic storey of rusted iron surmounts the original building.

“The fact that its heavy mass is detached from the ground in apparent defiance of the laws of gravity is not a magic thing, given the possibilities of 21st-century technology,” says architect Jacques Herzog, “but a need to explore the limits of freedom. The CaixaForum has been conceived as an urban magnet, attracting not only art-lovers but all the people of Madrid and those from outside the city. We wanted to surprise. A building must be like a new outfit of clothes for the city—always a bit sexy.”

As striking as the architectural conversion is the 460 sq. m, 24-metre high vertical garden that takes up one wall of the square in front of the building. Comprising 15,000 plants of 250 different species, it has being designed by botanist Patrick Blanc.

“The garden is a dialogue with the Botanical Garden on the street and adjacent to the Prado,” says Herzog. “We love to make new things, to experiment with materials and create a very unusual encounter between the rough and the natural, the smooth and the artificial, to incorporate nature so there can be the smell of a garden where you would not expect it.”

The Art Newspaper: Madrid gets a new contemporary art museum- complete with vertical garden of 15,000 plants

Filed under: arts & culture, creative ideas,

LITERARY LOVE CELEBRATED AT THE LONDON WORD FESTIVAL

londonwordfestivalLaunched last night, the inaugural London Word Festival offers three weeks of evenings celebrating poetry, prose, music and comedy, with events devoted to lectures that are sung, the best in hip-hop poetry, “univocalism” (the art of writing poetry using only one vowel), comedian story-telling, and poetry and jazz mash-ups. With the recent success of spoken word events such as Book Slam, Fitzrovia Radio Hour and the B Club, Londoners are clearly enjoying a resurgence of live literary events- helped along by the addition of a healthy dose of alcohol. As testament to this, the 15 events during the festival are spread over eight East End clubs, bars and trendy venues including traditional Victorian music hall Hoxton Hall, über-trendy Bethnal Green Working Men’s Club, and celeb hang-out the George Tavern.

According to the Times:

‘The venues suit the material. You won’t find superannuated politicians or puffed-up chefs here. Instead the festival celebrates “Generation Txt”: the twentysomething poets, novelists and playwrights who draw as much inspiration from the gritty realities and illicit joys of the modern city as Wordsworth did from daffodils or Herman Melville from whales. In one typical gathering, for instance, the 22-year-old Richard Milward will be reading from Apples, his brilliantly gross transposition of the Adam-and-Eve story to a Middlesbrough housing estate; while the young American author Joshua Ferris offers an extract from his savage satire of office life in Chicago, Then We Came to the End.

Two things appeal. The first is that this is a festival bold enough to place writers on the same bill as comedians, rappers and jazzers, and confident enough to expect those writers to be just as entertaining. And the second is that the very existence of a lit-fest run by and for people under 35 refutes the notion that the well-crafted written word is dead, or at least withering into terminal paralysis in a world dominated by blaring images and thudding rock beats.

What’s clear is that both fiction and poetry are undergoing a renaissance among the young. But it’s a renaissance rooted in clubs and the internet, rather than in staid publishing conglomerates. That’s great.’

London Word Festival

Filed under: arts & culture, creative ideas, worth seeing,

SWITCHED ON LONDON

switchedonlondonSwitched On London is a lighting festival in the capital that aims to highlight the importance of sustainable lighting design in the night-time urban environment. For the second year running, a number of sites will be lit from February 7th – 14th in an energy efficient way to show the power of light in the city. 15 locations including the Tower of London, Southwark cathedral, Tower Bridge, London Bridge and the Design Museum are being illuminated from 6pm till midnight with stimulating energy-efficient installations created by the joint forces of leading lighting designers and manufacturers. The event will be audited for its energy consumption and its overall environmental impact whilst at the same time highlighting the gross wastage in unnecessary lighting of office space at night.

The festival has widespread support from the architectural lighting industry as well as some of the city’s key institutions including the Mayor of London, City of London council, Southwark council, Visit London, New London Architecture, The Pool of London and the Arts Council.

According to Paul James, editor of architectural lighting magazine mondo*arc and director of the festival:

Although we understand that energy use is a ‘burning issue’, we need light to live and as our lifestyles evolve, the benefits of good urban lighting are undeniable. The perception is that architectural lighting leads to wasted energy and light pollution. However, the majority of the lighting industry continually strives to tackle the issue of energy. From luminaire design that avoids light pollution to the promotion of lower energy and more efficient sources, the lighting industry is well educated in recycling, waste issues and the misuse of our natural resources. Our hope is that Switched On London will have value beyond simple decoration. It is an opportunity to use light to educate the public and newspaper journalists alike. It is essential to illuminate better, not less.

Switched On London

download a guide of locations here

Filed under: creative ideas, evironmental insights, stuff on the streets

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