Future Fiction – Challenging Permanence

Click above to see the full blog post by Stuart Candy.

Click above to see the full blog post by Stuart Candy.

Stuart Candy is the “Sceptical Futuryst”, which is a superb resource of content, opinions, case studies and process. I’ve just begun to go through the site in detail as Stuart is soon to be in Toronto at OCAD University, which is really great news. Below is a great example of futures thinking and design fiction presenting concepts to encourage dialogue away from accepted “norms”.

It’s not only that permanence need not be assumed, but impermanence can actually be embraced.

The above quote is from Stuart explaining the core thesis that the team of collaborators to used to imagine a future capital city of Australia that moves around the country, engaging different communities and encouraging ecological stimulus that can diffuse through the region.

NOTE: Am struggling to embed the document – click here to read.

Decentralized and Distributed

In biomimicry, “decentralized and distributed” is a principle that plays out in many ways. Most recently I was in discussions around materials development that spoke of active feedback/response that would allow function to be integrated physically. Previous to the natural model the thinking had focused on centralized digital sensor to process to action models which were too complex.

The model above of distributed politics, raises a number of amazing discussions. In Toronto there are huge tensions currently over the mayor, with a strong divide between downtown and outer suburb residents. Many debates have re-arisen over the success or failure of the most recent amalgamation that was meant to transform Toronto into a united and efficient single community. Perhaps literal physical flexibility would break down some of these walls?

In America there are huge issues of right and left, but also tensions between the north and south. Could physical transition and engagement encourage interactions that break down these divides? What if Washington was capable of moving every 4 years?

Great case study of design futures / fiction – and an intriguing connection to biomimicry. Very intriguing discussion to add to the Urban Ecology explorations.

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Tom Wiscombe – Integrated Futures of the Built Environment

Above is an excellent lecture, but prepare some pop-corn, it is a long one…

It is incredibly inspiring, and intimidating when you come across someone who is exploring similar train of thought you may have been dabbling in for years. Inspiring as you get validation and stimulation from their work, and intimidating when they are executing it at a quantity and quality of output that is staggering. Tom Wiscombe, who I am embarrassed to have only recently discovered is exactly one of those amazing applied thinkers.

I also need to admit I have not spent nearly enough time processing all of the content, so apologies in advance if the following is a little fragmented – there are a lot of rabbit holes to explore.

Deconstructing the Built Environment

Image source Tom Wiscombe: The Radiant Hydronic House integrates internal thermal flow within the structure.

In class we deconstruct design territories into broad concepts in order to approach them through a variety of lenses.  As discussed previously, we challenge the concept of a wall by questioning it as a membrane or a shell, using language to unlock low-associative thoughts. Tom Wiscombe, it turns out has been doing this to great depth with some excellent insights into deconstructing labels in order to disrupt preconceived concepts. I hope you enjoy the quote below as much as I did when I first read it:

“It’s time to replace outmoded terms like “building services” and “mechanical systems“ once and for all… The notion of the “mechanical” brings us back to the industrial paradigm, rooted in a pre‐networked world. And lighting design has become little more than a fixture‐shopping experience. For now, maybe we can refer to these marginalized techno‐systems in a more refreshing way as airflow, fluid flow, and glow.”

Tom Wiscombe, Extreme Integration, Published in AD: Exuberance (ed. by Marjan Coletti), March, 2010

Airflow, fluid flow and glow, are just the tip of the technological, structural and formal concepts that Tom is extracting in order to functionally integrate technological mash-ups.

Let me share a couple of his projects that give context to what might be sounding a bit abstract right now:

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Utopia Sunday – The Need for Dreaming

Image from Work AC: Tokyo Bay Utopia

I have had a PDF open on my computer for the last three weeks that I have wanted to post about but couldn’t quite work out why. I think I worked it out… but I’m not sure yet. The PDF, available here, is from an amazing project cataloguing architectural utopias. The full book looks gorgeous and has an excellent format for communicating everything from the core data to the grand vision. It really is a bit of a treat.

Why aren’t there more utopias in other design disciplines?

So the thing that has been bugging me is a slight jealousy that Architecture and Urban Planning seems to have all the fun playing with utopias. Industrial Design doesn’t really explore this. I’ve written previously about Design Fiction, and thoroughly enjoy the insightful work that comes out of the Philips Design Probes, but these projects fall into some other category than utopias. Perhaps Ross Lovegrove falls into this category sometimes? But I feel that even projects like Yves Behar’s hackable car are too pragmatic and realizable to be truly utopian.

So… this is a short post, more like a call for input, for any ideas out there for utopian projects beyond the built environment… they could be materials, products, systems and more…


Design Fiction: Imagining Futures

Frank Lloyd Wright's plan for Ellis Island, envisioned in a comic book, absolutely superb. Copyright 2005 - The New York Times.

It’s a Bird! It’s a Plane! It’s Architecture!

I stumbled upon this fantastic article in the New York Times from all the way back in 2005. It covers a comic book: “The Manhattan Guardian” in which prolific author Grant Morrison weaves together the fantasy and reality of New York into a new DC comic city, “Cinderella City”.

Much of the Cinderella City looks like the New York of today: grimy subway stations, soaring buildings, busy street scenes. But Grant Morrison, … also laced it with architectural marvels that were proposed but never actually constructed.

I love the story of Grant Morrison reading through architectural literature hunting for the grandest examples of unrealized visions for New York. Included is a hotel Antonio Gaudi designed in 1903, along with the mega complex Ellis Island Key, a domed superstructure dreamt up by Frank Lloyd Wright before he passed away.

Comic books are amazing for their ability to explore alternate realities. While most of those realities are populated with incredible physical specimens with dubious fashion sense, the deep principle is the exploration of worlds where anything is possible. It’s a landscape that can be addictive.

Mr. Morrison, who lives in Glasgow, said by embellishing on the existing New York he was tapping into his favorite comic book power: the ability to create alternative realities. “Things as they are have never really been enough for me,” he said.

Design Fiction – a world to explore

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