From enhanced-CCTV surveillance to bench handles, various tracking and prevention systems are employed in controlling the users of public space. These systems are often neatly designed and seamlessly integrated in the existing architecture, acting in a persuasive way on its users. While preventing unwanted interactions between the authorities and citizens, these systems leave no space for discussion or disobedience

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Microscopic glass flakes, Blood Lab-On-A-Stick, piezoelectric ceramics, Catalytic Clothing (clothes that purify the air around), noise-absorbing ceramic, titanium foam, antimicrobial copper, instantly-hardening fabric, light-reflecting concrete, self-healing concrete, soft magnets, self-cleaning glass, etc. And i had no idea that bullet-proof vests contained ceramic.

There is nothing arid nor soporific about new materials

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The project is miles away from what you’d expect from an architecture work. No model, no plan. In fact, it looks more like an essay made of photos, short videos and texts. Together, they reflect on immoral architecture, unsympathetic machines, reality filtered by technology and more generally, our symbiotic relationship to technology. In fact, Madhav Kidao likens his project to “an exaggerated caricature of our present and near future relationships to technology as is stands.”

300 Years Time Bomb looks at the relationship between time and technology by presenting a long-lasting timed explosive. In the scenario, a time bomb is set to explode in 300 years time. The bomb’s timer displays the years in seconds making us question what meaning such a large number holds and changing our dramatic relationship with countdown timers

This week i’m talking to Thomas Thwaites. During the radio program we’ll talk about that toaster of course but we will also look at some of his other projects. In particular, Unlikely Objects: Products of a Counterfactual History of Science, a work that explore what our scientific knowledge would have been like had the Darwinian revolution never happened

This week, Joseph Popper proposes to send one person on a journey into deep space from where they will never return, Neil Usher designed a robot that finds human faces in the clouds, Shing Tat Chung looked at what would happen if traders and estate agents gave free reign to superstition and Tobias Revell talks about the timeline that charts the history of power up to the early 22nd century and how that 24/7 banking ship fits into the picture

One of the most curious, amusing and thought-provoking projects of the Design Interactions graduation show this year asks questions that range from ‘What is more important in making us who we are: our genes or the experiences we go through in life?’ to ‘Can a mouse be Elvis?’ and ‘Does buying a pre-owned item gives one the legal right to another individual’s genetic data?’

The project is called ‘All That I Am’ and with it, Koby Barhad suggests that we could create an Elvis mouse using a specially-designed set of training cages and 3 online services

For this episode, i went to Battersea to interview the new graduates of RCA’s Design Interactions. In order of appearance: Koby Barhad will talk gene sequencing and Elvis Presley, Rapahel Kim is still working with rotifers but this time he designed a farm for them, Ai Hasegawa talks about the next frontier for Japanese love hotels and Angela Bracco (who is from Design Products) is of course answering my questions about If You Can Smell It It Has Mass

Designer Lisa Ma traveled to a joystick factory located in one of the suburbs of Shenzhen. She spent several weeks with the factory workers, sleeping in dorms, sharing their meals in the canteen, making friends.

Because most of these young factory workers come from a farming background and because joysticks might well become obsolete soon, she proposed to the factory owners that they would allow the joystick makers to work part-time in a nearby farm. She called the experiment ‘Farmification’ – using farming to keep the factory community together when work dwindles

My guest on the show is Dr. Jonah Brucker-Cohen whom i’m sure you all know. Jonah is a researcher, artist, and writer. Apart from his work as an artist, Jonah has been teaching in several universities in New York, lecturing internationally, writing essays for magazines focusing on technology and since he is teaching a course called Designing Critical Networks at Parsons in New york, i thought he’d be the perfect guest for a program which covers issues such as social media, subverting network experience, hacking, and internet censorship. We also took the time to focus on some of his own works, from the now legendary Wifi Liberator to Scrapyard Challenge Jr. 555 Noisemaker Kit and America’s Got No Talent

Tim Miller has devised 101 ways to use a trailer. Yes, a trailer, that mundane, strictly utilitarian object no one would ever waste a glance on. The designer, however, sees the trailer as a blank canvas that has the potential to become a tool for the realization of collective as well as individual dreams. You can use trailers for anything, you can reinterpret them, you can use them to manipulate the world around you or better said you can ‘pervert’ trailers according to your desires and needs

he book is thus putting the spotlight on ‘Socially and Politically Engaged Design’. Design! With a bit of architecture thrown in. If you’re into activist, socially engaged art, you might find that many of the projects presented in this book are very reasonable and appropriate. They have less bite than the work of, say, Santiago Sierra (more about him tomorrow) but that shouldn’t be held against them. Because these designers are smart. And levelheaded enough to look for practical, witty solutions to very circumscribed issues. There’s no ‘Design will save the world!’ here

Japanese love hotels go out of their way to satisfy the most outlandish fetish: some rooms offer the feeling of being inside a subway carriage, a class room, or a Hello Kitty SM room, others locks you into an alien abduction nightmare (/dream).

Ai Hasegawa, second year student in Design Interactions at the Royal College of Art in London, proposes to close loving couples into an even more extraordinary fantasy.
Her Extreme Environment Love Hotel simulates impossible places to go such as an earth of three hundred million years ago, or the surface of Jupiter by manipulating invisible but ever-present environmental factors, for example atmospheric conditions and gravity

The exhibition at Somerset House shows 28 projects shortlisted for a competition that invited architects, engineers, students and designers to submit proposals that reclaim overlooked spaces across Greater London. Inspired by success stories such as New York’s High Line, the competition aims to demonstrate how alternative way of thinking about urban space can inject new life and energy into some of London’s most neglected corners.

The selected entries range from underground climbing tunnels to Atlantic salmons in the Thames, firepits in Crystal Palace, bee keeping, rooftops of tower blocks turned into social hubs and artist studios nested inside church spires

Creativity is no longer the sole territory of the designer. User-driven design has never been easier for the public to generate and distribute. Users of websites such as Flickr, Threadless, WordPress, YouTube, Etsy, and Lulu approach design with the expectation that they will be able to fill in the content. How will such a fundamental shift toward bottom-up creation affect the design industry?

Earlier this year, Jeremy Hutchison sent emails to manufacturers around the world, asking them to produce a fairly simple and common item. He added a special requirement though: the product had to be imperfect, come with an intentional error. Moreover, the worker was in charge of deciding what error, malfunction or fault he would add to the good. No matter how much i had read and seen about the project, i still wanted to interview the artist

The Toaster Project is Thomas Thwaites’s nine-month-long journey from his local appliance store to remote mines in the UK to his mother’s backyard, where he creates a crude foundry. Along the way, he learns that an ordinary toaster is made up of 404 separate parts, that the best way to smelt metal at home is by using a method found in a fifteenth-century treatise, and that plastic is almost impossible to make from scratch. In the end, Thwaites’s homemade toaster cost 250 times more than the toaster he bought at the store and involved close to two thousand miles of travel to some of Britain’s remotest locations

This morning i left London unimpressed by the Frieze art fair and took the train to Manchester. The lady at the hotel reception manages to wear two sets of fake eyelashes on top of each other, the weather is lovely and i’m following Creative Tourist’s recommendation to embark on a Manchester Weekender, three days of celebration of art, literature, music and performances. First stop, On the March – An exhibition of banners made by Ed Hall

The Urban Immune System Research, one of the 4 Making Future Work commissions, investigates parallel futures in the emergence of the ‘smart-city’. During their research, the Institute has produced a series of speculative prototypes that combine digital technology and biometrics: one of the devices ‘functions as a social sixth sense’, a second one is a backpack mounted with 4 megaphones that shouts out geo-located tweets as you walk around, a third one attempts to make its wearer get a sense of what might it feel like to walk through a ‘data cloud’ or a ‘data meadow’

A new exhibition celebrates the role of making in our lives by presenting an eclectic selection of over 100 exquisitely crafted objects, ranging from a life-size crochet bear to a ceramic eye patch, a fine metal flute to dry stone walling. Power of Making is a cabinet of curiosities showing works by both amateurs and leading makers from around the world to present a snapshot of making in our time

“Our ability to generate information now far exceeds our capacity to understand it. Finding patterns and making meaningful connections inside complex data networks has emerged as one of the biggest challenges of the twenty-first century. In recent years, designers, researchers, and scientists have begun employing an innovative mix of colors, symbols, graphics, algorithms, and interactivity to clarify, and often beautify, the clutter.” And look! Even Jeremy Deller’s been invited to the party

TIAM is a proposal for a computer program which generates fairy-tale plots. Based on the work of Vladimir Propp, who reduced the structure of Russian folk-tales to 31 basic functions, TIAM aims to question the limitations and implications of attempts at programming language and narrative.

Because the program is unable to deliver a finished story, rather only a crude synopsis and illustrations, users have to improvise, filling the gaps with their imagination and making up for the technology’s shortcomings

Le Cadavre Exquis, a digital re-interpretation of the surrealist game Exquisite Corpse and the parlour game Consequences. In the interactive installation designed by Brendan Oliver and Brendan Randall, members of the public are invited to record a short stop-frame animation as a response piece to a previously recorded submission. The texual narrative is then created by online participants

Good Wives and Warriors is the creative partnership of Becky Bolton and Louise Chappell, who met while studying at the Glasgow School of Art. Right now the creative duo is based in London but the young ladies have traveled the word to paint mandalas, collaborate with design companies, create ads, think about the cosmos, cover walls with paintings or simply exhibit their illustrations

A few weeks ago, i was in The Netherlands to see the result of the first competition. You might remember that i had interviewed the 3 winning artists/designers just as they were about to start developing their projects (The Miscroscopic Opera, 2.6g 329m/s, aka the ‘bulletproof skin’ and System Synthetics) so i was curious to see whether the final pieces lived up to their (and my!) expectations

n design(ing) there is a revolution ongoing that is triggered by an emerging networked community that is sharing digital information about physical products and the ubiquitous availability of production tools and facilities. It transforms design into an open discipline, in which designs are shared and innovation of a large diversity of products is a collaborative and world spanning process

This week, i’m having a chat with Lieven Standaert, the designer behind Aeromodeller2, a project which explores the possibility to build a 90-meter, zero-emission, airship that will never need to land to get its fuel, creating hydrogen from the elements it encounters and anchoring when it needs to replenish its energy in a renewable way. Aeromodeller2 might not be the most efficient nor the fastest airship but it leaves more space to imagination, dream and aspiration than anything Boeing can come up with

Designers Emily Hayes and Karen Mabon were fascinated by the work of neuropsychologist Chris Moulin who has recreated the sensation of Déjà Vu in a laboratory. One of his female patients suffers from chronic déjà vu. Moulin identified that the only method that enabled the patient to avoid the distressing illusion of familiarity was the paradox of repeating the same day and experiences over and over again. The designers have constructed a set for this chronic deja vu sufferer, complete with marks on the floors, visual instructions and specially-designed objects

A couple of years ago, Nils Völker built a robot out of Lego parts that replicates the way we look. The resulting large scale images demonstrate how differently the same objects have been perceived. The robot was the one work that attracted me to Nils Völker’s portfolio but it’s his creative path that started with communication design and moved to the use of physical computing in contexts as different as advertising and art exhibitions that kept my attention

The project is based on two opposing inspirations; research trips to learn about intentional communities like the Amish, who carefully select technologies for their community, and an extrapolation of current scientific research which embraces technological alteration of nature. The outcome of the project is a fantastical caravan, a nomadic module of illusionary freedom, which explores our belief in technological progress