An Evolving Understanding of Urban Ecology

Presentation for the Urban Ecologies Conference in Toronto

Presentation for the Urban Ecologies Conference in Toronto

At the Urban Ecologies conference in Toronto on June 20 – 21, I presented with Bruce Hinds and Ian Clarke on Information and Complexity in Urban Ecology.

Sponsored by Autodesk, our research has focussed on biology and ecology as sources of inspiration for building science. As software becomes increasingly sophisticated in gathering and processing data, there is tension on how this will influence the design and management of buildings. If any information can be collected, what should be collected, and what is the purpose?

In our short review presentation we outlined our own evolution of inspiration and how we see it impacting the built environment.

Learning from specific organisms has been the base line for most of the practices of sustainability and biomimicry.

Learning from specific organisms has been the base line for most of the practices of sustainability and biomimicry.

Organism – Barrel Cactus

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Urban Ecosystem Succession

Urban Ecology Workshop Presentation - Carl Bruce Jamie 2013

Link to the presentation for Urban Ecology Workshop at OCAD University, June 21 2013

For today’s workshop at the Urban Ecologies Conference at OCAD University, we are running a workshop on Ecosystem Succession and Urban Ecology. More information will be coming, but here is the presentation as a resource for the participants of the workshop:

Urban Ecosystem Succession


Urban Ecologies Conference in Toronto

Urban Ecologies 2013
June has totally snuck up on me, so sincere apologies for not sharing this sooner, but there is an excellent Urban Ecologies conference in Toronto this summer at OCAD University from June 20 – 21st.

In the topic of Regenerating Cities, I will be doing a presentation with Bruce Hinds and Ian Clarke, and running a workshop with Bruce Hinds and Jamie Miller. Key topics being explored are homeostasis and resilience as goals for the built environment, with the workshop focusing on the skin of the city. I’ve included the proposals below, and while there may be some changes, especially considering the presentation and workshops are far to brief to cover everything we hoped, I think it gives you a heads up into the research we have been doing.

All research was supported by Autodesk who supported Bruce and I and our students to really experiment with ideas around the built environment. I’ll be sharing more in the future, so stay tuned.

Let me know if you have any questions – hope to see some of you in Toronto – or maybe there are opportunities to play with some of these ideas elsewhere in the world? Let me know!

Workshop Proposal (Accepted):

Skin Deep – Adaptive Capacity, Surfaces and the City

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Who is out there?

who-are-you

Who are you magical people that read my rambling blog? Where do you come from and what leads you here?

I recently passed 100 posts, which feels like a lot, and I wanted to say a huge thanks to everyone who has ever visited. Knowing there is an audience out there for my thoughts is humbling and inspiring. More recently I’ve begun to take my writing a little more seriously and am workshopping a few different ideas. So I’d love to know more about who you are, and begin to understand what is emerging on Bouncing Ideas.

Please comment me below, or if you’d prefer to send a private email: bouncingideascarl[at]gmail.com.

I’m really curious:

  • Where are you in the world?
    • Just last week there was a boost in people from Egypt and Sri Lanka – who are you?
  • What is your background?
    • Design? Biology? Business? Professional Juggler?
  • What are you looking for when you come here?
    • Biomimicry? Design Thinking? Technology? Sustainability?
  • Is there anything missing that you wished I would explore?
    • Even better – is there anything you wish to contribute?

Many, many thanks again!


Abductive Thinking, Sensemaking and the Meaning of Life

Design Synthesis

Abductive thinking and Sensemaking were  terms that I had been struggling with until I stumbled upon Jon Kolko’s writing that has begun to put it all into context. Thanks Jon, my mind is gently being blown. Jon is prolific and appears to be in the process of completing the design trifecta: worked at frog, spoke at TED, and now in the education as as a founder and director of the Austin Center for Design.

In an article written for  Core77 and then published in The Alpine Review – a delightful critical thinking and art mag that I am currently obsessing over – Jon outlines why systems thinking is crucial and how “sensemaking” is a bona fide practice of generating tangible actions out of large and often incongruous observations.

As I begin to explore more of his writing, I am seeing an obsession with “synthesis” as a design activity that needs further unpacking, development and practice with clear purpose. This is so deeply aligned with questions I have been bouncing around that it proves to me that designers are all trapped inside a singular brain space, like some kind of weird black t-shirt, jeans wearing ant colony.

Jon defines “sensemaking” as:

“the ability to synthesize large quantities of often incomplete or conflicting information… connecting discrete insights… depth of thinking, rigor of connections and strategic and creative reasoning.”

More specifically the challenge is bringing clarity to messy investigations that are a natural outcome of any systems research.

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How to Communicate Complexity

Simon Roberts is a researcher at Arup, an engineering group doing amazing research and pioneering work. You may remember a previous post where I shared recent obsessions around systems thinking, and so this continues along the theme of understanding and communicating complex systems.

You might be a little confused why I share this movie for the first, but at about halfway everything goes bonkers, with graphs and arrows and chaos that becomes a huge, wild map of excitement. Most excellently, the logic becomes clear and the big messy visual begins to make some deep sense.

While the topic is out of my league to comment – England’s economy is hardly an area I’ve considered a lot of – the economic driver that Simon recommends for further review is in the area of service innovation which is something I’m reflecting a lot upon recently, and will likely post on soon.

So enjoy this one, and a huge thanks to Simon and Arup for sharing:

4see model and introduction to poster from Simon Roberts on Vimeo.


Design in the Age of Biology

I have been re-reading a superb paper by Hugh Dubberly about the future of design as we (which I mean in the grandest sense) move into an age of biology. Every time I read it through something new sticks out at me. The paper is an excellent review of a whole range of different ideas of change, transition and sometimes tension.

Throughout the paper there are a series of tables summarizing these ideas. This one below is a personal favourite:

Source: Hugh Dubberly -

Source: Hugh Dubberly – Principles of Organization

What stands out to me are the discussions about control, the shifting relationships and the “stopping condition”. Biology suggests a concept of good enough – optimizing over time – which is outside of the scope for human design when the solution being generated is fixed. I’m personally fascinated by what this implies for ideas being more “malleable”, which is easy to understand when it comes to software and coding, but a little more abstract when it comes to tangible design. But what if architecture begins to become organic?

Source: Dezeen - by Gilles Retsin of Softkill Design

Source: Dezeen – by Gilles Retsin of Softkill Design

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