Maerker – Fix my -german- street.

Maerker_brandenburg_02Maerker is a web-based application that lets the citizens of Brandenburg report issues with the infrastructure of their municipality. The project is already available for about 60 communities in Brandenburg, including Postdam, the state capital. Recently the project has been also implemented in Berlin, where three out of its twelve boroughs offer Maerker services as well.

It is a simple system that lets the citizens participate actively in the administration of their municipality. Maerker forces the bureaucracy to react in an open way to the request of the citizens. The answers to the issues submitted fosters better coordination between institutions, giving to the actual concerns of the population the highest priority.

There is a wide variety of problems that can be reported. From illegally disposed waste through to road damages or failures in traffic lights. The local administrations provide feedback about the report’s current status. With a traffic-light like system it is possible to identify the current status of an issue. Red means that the issue is pending to be reviewed, yellow shows that the problem has been identified and is in process of being solved. Green represents a problem fixed.

The idea of Maerker comes from fixmystreet, a pioneer in the field. There are however some important differences. While fixmystreet is a private organization that doesn’t have direct influence in the local administration, Maerker is directly connected to the authorities and establishes a clear channel of communication between citizens and the administrative apparatus.

Achieving such a transparent and effective communication channel was by no means easy. The reality of the german administrations is complex and involves a large number of actors that should be coordinated for the system to work. In the perspective of the citizens, damages in the street should be fixed, no matter who is responsible for the issue. However finding who should do the job can be a challenge. For example, a street can be the responsibility of the town hall, the administrative district or the state. Thus, for the implementation of Maerker some cooperation agreements were reached, so that the different entities could coordinate their activities and react in an efficient way.

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Submergence – Immersive LED installation

Submergence installation © SquidsoupSubmergence is an installation by the international art group Squidsoup. It is the result of a year-long exploration that started back in 2008 when they created two LED cubes in collaboration with the ETH-Zurich. Later, they continued their exploration and created an installation larger enough to fill a room but too delicate to let the visitors walk through. With submergence the squidsoup team finally achieved the dream of an immersive light and sound experience.

Submergence is made of nearly 400 LED strings hanged from the ceiling. The whole installation has around 8,000 color lights that can be addressed individually. When the visitors walk through the installation it reacts in different ways. It might follow the movements of the persons, avoid them or eventually it will create a dazzling audio-visual experience.

Submergence installation © Squidsoup
During their year-long exploration of LED spaces the Squidsoup team ironed out the software solution needed to control a volume made of pixels. The technique, called by them “volumetric rendering”, is based in open frameworks, a powerful package for visual artists. However for submergence they still needed to develop an efficient way to track the movements of the visitors.

To achieve the interaction the Squidsoup’s team experimented with different techniques. For example, they tried using infrared and thermal cameras but the LEDs created too much interference. Other ideas included covering the floor with trackpads or installing sensors in the LED strings. However the solution was much easier. A couple of Kinect cameras placed on the floor register the movements of the visitor’s feet.

Submergence installation © SquidsoupSubmergence installation © SquidsoupSubmergence installation © Squidsoup

Submergence Credits

Video: Squidsoup
Pictures: Squidsoup

We are on a boat – Onboard sharing

We are on a boat is a mobile app that lets people who own a boat share it with people who would like to be on board. As simple as that.

Everyday, awesome people willing to share their journey with others can use the app to offer their board. In exchange they can receive rewards, i.e. goods like food, drinks or some contribution to pay for the fuel. Both passengers and captains can suggest some sort of rewards that they would like to give or receive. To get started captains just need to publish some pictures of their sweet boats and wait for the requests to come.

The passengers can make reviews of their experience and rate the captains. The authors encourage the participants to be respectful with each other and keep a nice and constructive environment among the members.

We are on a boat was initially launched in Amsterdam but the authors hope that it will eventually spread to other cities with a large amount of channels.

We are on a boat © littlenicethingsWe are on a boat © littlenicethingsWe are on a boat © littlenicethingsCredits:
Video: We are on a boat / littlenicethings
Pictures: We are on a boat / littlenicethings

MegaFaces – 3D selfies

3D Selfies © Asif Khan MegaFacesMegaFaces is a giant mechanical sculpture that creates 3D representations of faces i.e. 3D selfies. The installation was shown during the Socchi winter games and it was produced by a local mobile company and the london based architect Asif Khan.

The giant screen comprised more than 10,000 actuators that could simulate the shapes of a 3D scanned face. To create the 3D models photo boots were placed in different stores across Russia. Each person was photographed from 5 different angles and then processed to create a 3D model. The computations to generate a 3D-selfie took about one minute.

Up to three faces can be shown at the same time by MegaFaces. The faces displayed changed constantly during the whole day and in the late evening they were also illuminated. The visitors were told at what time should their portrait be displayed. Additionally a web-cam was also set in place so that the visitors could also look at their face online or download a video of their appearance.

The concept of the project emphasizes the key role of faces in the communication of emotions. It stresses that even in the digital age, we still try to express our feelings through face-like representations as emoticons, selfies or even 3D selfies.

3D Selfies © Asif Khan MegaFaces3D Selfies © Asif Khan MegaFaces

MegaFaces credits

Architect: Asif Khan
Interactive engineer: iart
Client: MegaFon

MindMixer – Supporting public dialogues

MindMixer is a tool that lets citizens and community planners engage in public dialogues without meeting personally. It was inspired by town-hall-style meetings, where engaged citizens talk to their representatives and expose their views on the decision-making process. Such meetings, however, require the citizens to be at certain place at a certain hour, something that someone with family and work obligations might not be able to achieve. As a result, only a narrow demographic group can attend such meetings regularly and broad sectors of the population can not let their voice be heard.

MindMixer addresses this problem and takes the town-hall discussions online, through a web application that connects local institutions with the citizens. Universities, hospitals, and school districts can open conversations about a certain topic and collect the views of the community members. The system gives the city representatives important information about the decision-making process. For example, they have access in the back-end to demographic data of the people who are posting their views. In one particular case there was strong support for extended library hours, however they found out that most of this support came from the downtown areas. This data can lead, for instance, to extend the opening hours of only those libraries at the downtown.

MindMixer makes easier for governments to involve the citizens in the decision-making processes and take a wider range of opinions into consideration. For the citizens MindMixer offers an uncomplicated way to participate in the public discussion and let their voice be heard.


Video & Screen Shot: MindMixer

Media Architecture Biennale 2014

Media Architecture Biennale PostcardThe Media Architecture Biennale 2014 is drawing near. Architects, designers and artists meet with academia and industry, when the world’s premier media architecture event takes place on 19-22 November in Aarhus, Denmark, with a pre-event in Copenhagen. Across professions and nationalities, participants will create and discuss the media architecture of the future. And they will investigate how media architecture shapes people’s lives in the cities of the world.

The biennale brings together people and organizations that work with media and the built environment: With media facades, with urban screens and with buildings that communicate – be it with colourful LEDs, flashing light bulbs, or with heat-sensitive concrete that ’freezes’ the shadows of passers-by.

Media architecture is an increasingly important digital layer in cities all over the world. It is a part of shopping malls, casinos, digital signs and commercials. And it holds great potential as mouthpiece for public voice and a peephole into the heart of government. The latter is the case when citizen reports and the municipality’s case handling are visualized on Aarhus’ notable city hall tower during the Media Architecture Biennale 2012. It is also the case, when people in the streets of Berlin are invited to show their own animations using 144 lit-up windows in a central high-rise building, which happened in the iconic project Blinkenlights.

No matter if it is in Aarhus, Copenhagen or Berlin – or in São Paulo, Sydney or Beijing – media architecture augments public space and creates new settings for life in the city. These new settings will be the focus of the Media Architecture Biennale 2014.

Bolshoy ice dome

Bolshoy ice domeThe Bolshoy ice dome was one of the 2014 Winter Olympic games’ venues. The dome, which has about 12.000 seats, hosted the indoor winter sports during the 2014 Olympics and will be used as a top sport venue after the games. The dome’s design was done by SIC mostovik, a local architectural company, that used a frozen drop as inspiration for the form. The ellipsoid-design is also compared by some people to a Fabergé egg.

The upper section of the building’s facade is made of white aluminum panels that follow the ellipsoid-design of the dome. Additionally there are 38.000 LED installed across the dome’s surface, which covers an area of 31.745 square meters. While the pitch between LEDs is large, they can still be used to display images, i.e. they work as a media facade.

The lower section of the dome is enclosed in glass. This creates a connection between the exterior and interior areas of the building and allows the visitors to appreciate the surrounding areas from the inside.

Bolshoy ice domeBolshoy ice domeBolshoy Ice DomeBolshoy ice dome

Bolshoy ice dome credits:

Architects: SIC mostovik
project team: alexander knyazev, valia vdovina, oleg tsymbal, natalya temnikova, nikita tsymbal, dmitry akulin, inna sitaeva, andrey zinoviev, natalia egorova, igor kolchanov, ilya dobzhinsky
engineers: andrey ustinov, andrey veter
structural engineers: inforce project
project year: 2009-2012
construction year: 2009-2012
pictures: © ©

Cyclephilly – Citizen generated data

Cyclephilly © cyclephilly.orgCyclephilly is an online map and a mobile application that let the users record their daily routes in the city of Philadelphia. Although it has been around only for a couple of months, it can be already called a success story.

A great thing about Cyclephilly is that it was in part developed by a non-programmer, Corey Acri. He came in contact with Code for America with little coding skills but with a good understanding about the institutions and instruments needed to push a project like this. He and his team colleagues, Lloyd Emelle and Kathrin Killebrew, worked together with the Delaware Valley Regional Planning Commission and Bicycle Coalition of Philadelphia to design the app. Since the launch of Cyclephilly in May it has managed to attract about 150 users, which in turn have recorded more than 5000 trips. The numbers speak by themselves.

Cyclephilly ©
The team designed Cyclephilly to be user-friendly. The users just need to press “Start” at the beginning of their trip and “Finish” at the end. After this they can indicate the purpose of their trip. The path of their ride is then recorded and uploaded to the online map. The app also lets the users take pictures of problematic points and make suggestions for improvements.

The data delivered by the app will be used by the Delaware Valley Regional Planning Commission to further develop the bicycle paths of Philadelphia, based on the actual needs and use patterns of the cyclists. The database of Cyclephilly represents a great improvement over the traditional census data or the traffic counters commonly used to plan new bicycle paths. The unique possibility of seeing the actual route used by the people and its purpose, is an incredibly useful tool for planners. It lets them identify, for example, zones where the demand for bicycle paths has not been satisfied.

Yet another great thing about Cyclephilly is that it is an open source project. Any bicycle association in any city can start a similar project at a very low-cost. The code for the Iphone and Android apps as well as that of the Online map is available at Github. Which would be the next city to start improving the bicycle paths using real world user generated data?

Colpatria tower – A media facade in the Andes

Colpatria tower. &Copy; Steven King, Philipps proyectos ColombiaWith 49 floors and a total height of 196 meters the Colpatria tower is the highest building of Colombia. It is in Bogotá, the capital city, and since its completion in 1979 it has always played a predominant role in the city’s landscape. The viewpoint at the top of the tower lets appreciate the extension of the city in all four directions.

The tower was first illuminated in 1998 with color lights. This system only allowed to change the colors of the tower and create some basic compositions. However, in 2013 the tower became a new LED system that allows the display of pictures and videos. The resulting media facade is 120 meters high and covers the area between the 12th and the 46th floors.

Colpatria tower. &Copy; Steven King, Philipps proyectos ColombiaThe LED lights are mounted in a custom-made metal profiles that is fixed with pressure nails to the facade of the building. To protect the electrical installation, the metal profiles are waterproof. The new system can be controlled in different ways. For example it can be used together with DMX technologies or it can be also be controlled and monitored through a web-based interface.

As the Colpatria tower has a key role in the city’s landscape, the media facade can be seen from very long distances. For example it can be appreciated from Moserrate or Guadalupe, two of the Andean mountains at the east of Bogotá. It can be also be seen from many other places in the city, as Bogotá is build upon a large plateau. This gives this tower an enormous potential for cultural producers and urban media activists. This potential, however, is still pending to be explored.

You can watch a promotional video here.

Colpatria tower. &Copy; Steven King, Philipps proyectos Colombia

Colpatria tower credits

Pictures © Steven King, Philipps proyectos Colombia
Design: LiAS Colombia Diana López y Andrés Sanchez
Project manager: Maurico Villegas
Lighting project: Heinz Rossoff
Installation: Nicolás González

3D Print canal house

3D Print Canal House &Copy; DUS architects - 3dprintcanalhouse.comThe 3D Print Canal House is a unique research project that combines history and future: a canal house is 3D-printed in full size with a large yet transportable 3D printer called KamerMaker (Room maker). The printer, developed specially for this project, is inspired by the ultimaker, a “small-scale” open source 3D printer. In fact, KamerMaker works in a similar way: a 3D model is loaded and sliced in layers that are created one by one by the printer. By overlapping multiple layers it is possible to create 3D forms -and a house.

The building project aims to show that digital production techniques can offer flexible and affordable housing solutions for different situations around the world. For example, the needs of people living in slums or in disaster areas might be also fulfilled such a technique. However, an estimate of the production costs can be only be given once the 3D printed canal house is completed.

KammerMaker &Copy; DUS architects - The project is also exploring how digital designs can be shared and modified via the internet and new online networks. Conventional “small-scale” 3d printing has already created 3d formats and tools that make possible to share models with the community of makers. The same methods can be used to share housing solutions that still can be adopted to the particular needs of the users.

The 3D Print Canal House is made with newly developed materials derived from bio-based raw materials. Up to 80% of the granulate fed into the KammerMaker is made of vegetable oil. Technically it is possible to create 3D models with any material that melts at a suitable temperature and solidifies again, for example it would be also possible to print using recycled plastics.

The 3D Print Canal House is an initiative of DUS architects together with Heijmans, Henkel, Amsterdam Municipality, Doen Foundation, Amsterdam Fund for the Arts and many partners.

A 3D printed part of the house 3D Print Canal House &Copy; DUS architects - Models of the house’s parts 3D Print Canal House &Copy; DUS architects - Axonometric view of the house 3D Print Canal House &Copy; DUS architects -

3D Print Canal House Credits:

Images: DUS architects