Monthly Archives: May 2009

Demolition is no option!

I attended yesterday the lecture from architect Anke van Hal,”Demolition is no option!”.  The title attracted my attention as I also believe that demolition is by nature an unsustainable action, requiring much more resources, and should be the last resort when no other alternatives are viable.  Anke van Hal proposed two ways for the transformation of buildings; “Stripping” and “Pimping”.

The first is a laborious and costly process, requiring people to move out of their homes for as long as the transformation lasts. Examples of “Stripping” are: Complex50 in Amsterdam, Sleephellingstraat and Wallisblok in Rotterdam. The last one sounded as a very nice story, of how a “rotten tooth” became the pride of a forgotten neighborhood.

Pimping, on the other hand, lasts only a few days thus people can get vouchers to stay in a hotel for a few days without having to move out. Examples of “Pimping” are: flatfuture by 2012 Architecten, the building of Genzyme in Cambridge inspired by the building of Alterra in Wageningen, the Tour Bois le pretre, and the Rugzakbadkamer. The Rugzakbadkamer, which means Bathroom in a backpack, is a real pimping solution as it is a prefabricated piece that can be added on an exhisting housing. This kind of solutions sound as attractive alternatives for building constructors, as they cost a little (after developed, and mass produced), as well as for people who don’t have to move out.

Let’s hope that more and more altervatives will be developed, making demolition an obsolete, non-viable solution in the future…

Boys like toys

One group of my participants is consisted mainly from women. When I presented my project and the small experiment “Act Re.Act!” to them, they were very enthusiastic with the booklets , but not so much with the energy meter. Last Monday I presented the project to two other participants, thit time men. They were interested in the project, but when I installed the energy meter for them, then was the happiest moment for them! Switching on/off appliances, checking the energy meter, making jokes to each other about the energy they consume, competing and above all having fun!Obviously, boys like toys (and girls like people?!)

Act Re.Act!


Finally “Act Re.Act!” started! A few words about my experiment… I give an energy-meter (the Wattcher) and a workbook to the participants (see post: design probes), and for 3 weeks they document their experience. The participants come from two different neighborhoods, as I am interested in how neighbors can learn from each other. The themes I’m exploring are: awareness, adoption and social learning. How people learn and get aware about the energy they consume? How do people welcome an intervention like an energy meter? How does social learning work? After the 3 weeks, we will have a workshop all together, discuss about the experience, the frustrations, the rewards etc. and in the end conceptualize about solutions.

Of course, 3 weeks is not enough time to get “valid”, “scientific” measurements and results. However, it’s more than enough to get insights on the users’ lives, and a lot of inspiration for ideation. I can’t wait for the results 🙂

Sigh collector

The sigh collector is a  smart art project, by Michael Kontopoulos, who turns the intangible, invisible sighs of our daily stressed life into  physical. I must say that it’s a little bit depressing to see your sighs, and your worries of the day piling up and confronting you…However great execution!

if you want to make your own sigh collector, click here 😉

Design Probes

As a lot of friends have asked me about the probes I designed for my project, so I thought it would be a good idea to upload them. It’s only to give you an impression, and ispire you, but please don’t copy them as it’s a skill that I’m still mastering…Hence, I have still a lot to learn from my mistakes.What I find hard when I design the probes is to draw a line between information and inspiration. If you want information you have to interfere and ask questions to get the right answers, but if you want inspiration you have to let the user tell his/her story and express him/herself…Anyhow, I’ll learn 😉

Bringing the everyday life of people into design

On Tuesday I attended the PhD defense thesis of  Froukje Sleeswijk Visser on “Bringing the everyday life of people into design”. I succeed to follow the presentation with my poor dutch, and I really enjoyed the defense (this in english 😉 ).

Froukje’s thesis was the first phd on contextmapping , a very popular method in my school (credits to Froukje) for conducting contextual research and empathize with the user when you design a product/service. Contextmapping is a participatory technique that involves the stakeholders and the users during design and communicates the rich knowledge gained to the design team. However this communication is not just a signal from A->B…it involves a lot of noises, trivial things that users do daily, and that are passed on to the design team for inspiration and creativity.

Designers (and not only) like to hear stories, empathize with the people and then design for/with them…I apply this techique for my thesis as well, and I can say that it really works as you get to know the people and shape stories in your head. It’s a very nice technique, however you have to master it and aknowledge also the time it consumes for conducting it, for the bits of information/inspiration you get. Hence, I would definetely recommend it to get rich information, but maybe not for your graduation project if you haven’t mastered it 😛

p.s you can download or order a hard copy of  Froukje’s thesis at her website

Transition Town, Rotterdam

I’m planning to attend tonight the first meet-up of the transtition-town group in Rotterdam. The concept of transition-towns is attributed to Rob Hopkins, who wrote the Transition Towns Handboook. The transition-town groups share one concern: how can our community respond to the challenges, and opportunities of peak oil and climate change? In other words, how can we make our cities more resilient to oil? What are the actions we have to take?

The reason I am joining this group is to see how this social learning happens. How people share ideas, get aware of the problems and look for solutions…Are these groups  sustainable themselves to hope that things can change from the bottom up?

I am quite curious…My idealistic side believes in communities of practice and social learning, but on the other hand my pragmatic side has seen poor examples (e.g ecoteams) that are only for the very pro-environmentalists and don’t leave any space for the “common” people.

We’ll see…Let’s hope!

p.s here are the dutch transition-towns