On December 14th I had the pleasure of critiquing the first term outputs of the latest Urban Morphogenesis Lab cohort. One of The Bartlett Bpro's MArch Urban Design programmes, the research cluster, which is led by ecoLogicstudio cofounder Prof. Claudia Pasquero, "pursues a non anthropogenic understanding of the urban landscape", its intention that of creating territories "of self-organisation and co-evolution of multiple dynamical systems". A juror since the lab's inaugural year [academic session 2013 - 2014], I've been consistently impressed by the students outputs, and by the course leadership and curation, which has gone from strength to strength to become one of the foremost respected research units in its field.
Building on the lab's past interrogations into the potentialities of working with non-human intelligence, including bacteria, fungi, bioluminescent phytoplankton, algae, and ants, this year's MArch students are exploring the material, engineering, design and computing possibilities of working with slime moulds, silk worms, and arachnids, including tarantulas. Aims and objectives of the experimental works include the identification of new applications for ecological intelligence within architecture, urban design and planning, the scalability thereof, and associated risks and opportunities, including the creation of new design morphologies, methods, approaches, and aesthetics (see slides above and below).
A programme with close links across the biodesign, biotechnology, and biomimetic architectural and urban design community, fellow jurors of the Urban Morphogenesis Lab include Pasquero's ecoLogicstudio cofounder, Marco Poletto; Professor of Experimental Design at University of Newcastle, Rachel Armstrong; author and founder/director of the Emergent Technologies and Design Programme in the Graduate School of the Architectural Association, Michael Weinstock; and Bartlett professors including Mark Smout and Marcus Cruz; amongst others.
Read more about the Urban Morphogenesis Lab and The Bartlett's Bpro programme:
Shared a few thoughts on, amongst other things, how ecological regime shifts will impact upon people and planet in the 22nd Century for Factor magazine's Winter 2017 edition. Exploring myriad aspects of the not so distant future, and free to download on mobile, tablet, and laptop, the edition marks the launch of Factor's new format, which bigger and slicker than before is a joy to behold.
Read Factor's 'Life in the 22nd Century' edition here.
The Geovation Challenge seeks to find and support ideas that benefit human and environmental health and wellbeing. Successful entrants will receive support and opportunities for funding during a programme that launches in London in spring 2018. I've entered an idea titled GEO ECO NET, which highlights the need to increase awareness and understanding of ecological networks within and across cities, focused on the need to help not hinder fauna to traverse the architectures, and more broadly, the environments we create.
If you'd like to support the idea, please give it your vote at:
GEO ECO NET: Ecological and Social Network
"Humans aren’t the only ones that need traverse cities. Both here in the UK, and worldwide, innumerable faunal species need travel about urban environments too. Some species are permanent residents, of which one example is the hedgehog. Whereas others, including a great many bird species, come and go throughout the year, their movements synced with the seasons. Others still, are sporadic, but welcome visitors that tend drop in when weather conditions necessitate, of which waxwings are one.
However, urbanism, and in particular architecture and planning that works against not with the needs of faunal species interferes with these movements, and in the worst instances to the extent of causing injury and mortality. For example, did you know that bird deaths into the hundreds of millions per annum are attributed to the use of non-friendly bird glass in buildings? Or, that many bird species navigate by moonlight or starlight, meaning light pollution at the scale now manifest in many cities sends them off course?
The above are just a few of the ways in which human activities are undermining the integrity of faunal movements at the local, national, and global scale, and to such extent as may endanger some species. But, much is there that we can do to help mitigate the problem.
As with so many other types of challenge, we first need assess what need be done, how and why. The task is far too great for any one individual, any one school, any one city, or any one nation. And, not least, because complex though faunal migratory routes are, at a time of environmental flux, life is evolving in ways both expected and otherwise."
Read more here.
Share the idea on Twitter via #GeoEcoNet
Open access, peer-reviewed, and featuring contributions from leading-edge researchers and practitioners worldwide, the Journal of Biourbanism is the bi-annual online publication of the International Society of Biourbanism. Edited by Dr. Stefano Serafini, and featuring papers from Prof. Rachel Armstrong, and Prof. Sergio Los, and Prof. Besim Hakim, its latest issue, explores the epistemology of design at the interface of architecture, planning, and the environmental and social sciences. A few words on my contribution are below:
Mind the Gap:
A Discussion of Philosophical and Psychological Dichotomies
Abstract: Differences, dualities, and dichotomies play a fundamental role within the psychological and philosophical frameworks through which humans interpret phenomena. Boundaries and binary oppositions abound in our thinking and actions, manifesting metaphysically and physically, internally and externally, and on all conceivable scales. Drawing upon insights from past and contemporary systems thinkers and integrating an assemblage of personal experiences, together with observations, the present work aims to understand how and why our psychological, thereon our philosophical relationship with oppositions frame the collective societal response to rapid change and upheaval, and what role might transdisciplinary thinking have to play in reconciling societal differences.
Download the Journal of BioUrbanism Vol. 5 here.
On the evening of October 27th I had the pleasure of chairing a panel discussion, which part of the V&A museum's 'Every Last Drop' edition of its Friday Lates, explored the potentialities of water as artistic medium. Curated by CLOT magazine, our speaker line-up for the evening comprised dutch artist Berndaut Smilde, RCA PhD researcher Wayne Binitie, and Sam Bompas, co-founder of Bompas and Parr.
Smilde, Binitie, and Bompas each delivered 15-minute presentations in which they discussed the role of water in their artistic works. Smilde, who developed and patented a means of creating temporary cloud formations, presented his world-renown Nimbus Series (see slides and video below), and other projects of a similarly ephemeral nature, including Breaking Light, which was created using a prototype prism that allowed him to "break light at a large scale in order to impose a natural appearance onto its surrounding as a temporary hack in the landscape". Binitie presented both audio and visual works, including the outputs of his collaboration with the British Antarctic Survey, which examines the temporal nature of Earth's polar habitats, as well as earlier projects including the One Aldwych Pool Suite. Bompas presented a selection of past works including temporal solid, liquid, and atmospheric water-based structures, thereon, with the aid of an assistant, delivered a live-experiment in the form of the creation of a taste cloud (see slides).
Recurrent themes throughout the panel discussion that followed included the immaterial and transient nature of new and emerging artistic innovations; water-based art as a medium for public engagement in environmental discussions and debates; temporary elemental artistic expressions of the past, present, and possible future; and scalability of water-based solid, liquid and atmospheric visual and audio works and the opportunities and challenges inherent in the process of their creation.
Many thanks to the V&A museum for their flawless hosting the event, and to CLOT magazine for bringing together such a thought-provoking panel.
Save the Date: November 9th 2017 :: Monument Masterclass :: An Evening with 5x15
Atop one of the best vantage points in London, The Monument, historian and author, Dr. Matthew Green and I will be uniting past, present, and future, as we round off the Monument Masterclasses series in an event curated by renowned literary salon, 5x15.
Exploring the theme of the evolving relationship between nature and the built environment, we'll be taking inspiration from "a constantly changing city skyline", which is "still shaped by the lasting impact of the Great Fire of London in 1666".
The Monument was designed by Sir Christopher Wren between 1671-1677 in commemoration of the Great Fire of London. Standing 202ft high and 202ft from where the fire started in Pudding Lane, it is "the tallest isolated stone column in the world and has been open to visitors for over 300 years".
Those hoping to attend need note the event "space is not suitable for anyone who suffers from vertigo, a fear of heights or a fear of confined spaces".
Tickets are limited and available at:
Save the Date :: October 27th 2017 :: V&A Friday Late :: Every Last Drop.
"The original contemporary late night event", the V&A's Friday Late "celebrates all aspects of contemporary visual culture and design in society, bringing audiences face-to-face with leading and emerging artists and designers through live performance, film, installation, debate, DJs and late-night exhibition openings". Exploring the theme of water, the forthcoming Friday Late, Every Last Drop will take participants on a journey that examines the manifold facets of "the most abundant material on Earth". From tracing "the spirituality of the Ganges", to uncovering "the impact of industry on China's drowned landscapes" to asking "if algae can break our addiction to plastic and expose what tap water is really comprised of".
I am delighted to be moderating a roundtable discussion on water as artistic media, which curated by CLOT magazine will feature a line-up comprised visual artist Berndnaut Smilde, artist Wayne Binitie and genre-breaking experience designer Sam Bompass from Bompass and Parr.
Berndnaut Smilde is a dutch artist whose most well-known work is Nimbus series, a project featuring hyper-realistic miniature clouds in unique spaces such as museums, factories, castles and dungeons. Wayne Binitie is an RCA PhD candidate whose research and practice recalibrate the perception of glacial water through audio-visual contemporary art. Sam Bompass is one half of Bompass and Parr, a studio recognised for its otherworldly jelly creations.
Find out more at: https://www.vam.ac.uk/info/friday-late
On the evening of September 20th, Copenhagen-based future-living laboratory Space 10 and London-based talent management agency Propela joined forces to co-host Intelligent Spaces at Protein Studios in Shoreditch. Part of Space 10's week-long Exploring the Spaces of Tomorrow series for the London Design Festival, the event brought together speakers including speculative architect, sci-fi shaper, extreme explorer & technology storyteller Liam Young [Sci-Arc, Unknown Fields Division AA School, and Tomorrow's Thoughts Today], and myself to present provocations that challenge superficial precepts of the spatiotemporal nature of space.
Packed to the rafters, the hugely popular event provided the platform for the delivering of the third incarnation of my presentation "Biome Shock! Anthropogenic meets Ecological Intelligence", which first delivered at BioSalon III in autumn 2016 explores the psychological and philosophical dimensions of humanity's relationships with our surroundings, and the possible implications thereof to design, architecture, and urban research and practice now and in the future. In a style reminiscent of Orson Welles' narration of Alvin Toffler's Future Shock, Liam Young presented his extra-ordinary audio-visual expedition Hello City (see slides), which takes the audience on a planetary journey into possible near-futures.
Young and I pulled no punches in our provocations, which delved the possible depths of environmental and social destruction and disenfranchisement as could become manifest in consequence of anthropogenic actions of the past and present. Thankfully, Space 10 had laid on a complimentary bar such that any as needed it could find comfort in a stiff drink! Dinner came in the form of tasty micro-greens grown on-site in a pop-up hydroponic lab, which were topped by an algae-based dressing, also grown and made in situ (see below).
Thank you to the inspirational teams at Space 10 and Propela, and to peers including Liam Young for making Intelligent Spaces one of the stand-out events of 2017!
Artists in residence at the Department of Genetics, University of Leicester, McFarland & Singer, are hosting a collaborative arts project titled "My DNA". Scientists and artists are invited to submit an exhibit in a petri dish, to be representative of an aspect of their research, practice, or approach. Join me in contributing your scientific or creative DNA.
My DNA contributions form part of the forthcoming exhibition 'Process: Visualising DNA Research', which will go on show at the Charles Wilson Building at University of Leicester between November 10th - December 21st 2017, and at 44AD Artspace in Bath between January 22nd - February 2018 (see below).
Pictured above: my submission, titled 'DNAbstract' [canvas, crystallised salt: medium saliva + powered metallic], which is representative of the intersection of the abiotic, biotic, and anthropogenic. See a selection of My DNA contributions below (image: McFarland & Singer).
Submission deadline: 30th September 2017.
Delighted to be joining peers to present at Propela + Space10's contribution to London Design Festival, which titled Intelligent Spaces is taking place at Protein Studios in Shoreditch on the evening of September 20th 2017. Co-curated by IKEA's research laboratory, Space10 [Copenhagen], and leading-edge agency for creatives crafting the future, Propela [London], Intelligent Spaces is part of a week-long series of events under the theme of Exploring the Spaces of Tomorrow.
Intelligent Spaces speakers: Liam Young: speculative architect, sci-fi shaper, extreme explorer & technology storyteller; Kaave Pour + Bas Van De Poel: Space10's Creative Director + Head of Playful Research; Maarten Nefkens: Strategy Director at Amsterdam-based creative agency Dawn; & myself.
I'll be presenting Biome Shock! Anthropogenic meets Ecological Intelligence, which asks "what is intelligence? How do define what is, and is not ‘smart’, and why does that matter to designers?". Liam Young will present “an audio-visual expedition to a city found somewhere between the present and the predicted, the real and the imagined, stitched together from fragments of real landscapes and designed urban fictions”.
Collaborators in the week-long event include: WikiHouse Foundation, Central Saint Martins' spatial practices and architecture students, Brooklyn design studio Anton & Irene, pop-up location curators Appear Here, futures research studio Franklin Till, which curates and edits biannual magazine Viewpoint, and materials research studio Ma-tt-er, which, in residence, is producing an exhibition, workshop and a talks programme envisioning future spaces as multi-sensory.
Exploring the Space of Tomorrow:
Tuesday 19 September: Shared Spaces: CSM + Anton & Irene + SPACE10
Wednesday 20 September: Intelligent Spaces: Propela + SPACE10
Thursday 21 September: Portable Spaces: WikiHouse + SPACE10
Friday 22 September: Temporary Spaces: Appear Here + SPACE10
Saturday 23 September: Material Spaces: Ma-tt-er + SPACE10
Reserve a place at: https://space10.io/program/intelligent-spaces-propela-plus-space10
Related events: The Future Of_ event series, which is curated and produced by Propela, and takes place in the space during the day. Learn more about the program at futureof.co.
Melissa Sterry, design scientist, systems theorist, futurologist, cross disciplinary designer developing Bionic City®, and PhD Researcher.
Asking the question "how would nature design a city" since 2010.
© Melissa Sterry 2017 All Rights Reserved