Architecture Interaction design Research

Thoughts on Media Architecture Biennale 2012


The past three days I have been fully immersed in encounters with media architecture and discussions with the best thinkers and doers in the field at the Media Architecture Biennale 2012. Personally, I love small but very focused event like this; the established stars of the field mingle with up-and-coming researchers and practitioners, and everybody is driven by a burning passion and curiosity. As one of the organizers of the Biennale, I am indebted to all who helped make it happen and grateful for the diverse insights offered, both during invited talks and academic presentations and in all of the in-between discussions and exchanges that are an equally important part of an event like this. Quite a bit has been written and tweeted about the event in our community over the past couple of days (here are the storyfied versions of day 1, day 2 and day 3), and I won’t try to offer a comprehensive summary of the event. Rather, I’ll offer eight considerations that I take with me from the Biennale as a synthesis of all of this input, and which I hope to delve more into in my future work:

1 – Participation (the theme of this year’s Biennale) is indeed a key issue for media architecture, both with regards to the design process and the use situation, and there are many open oportunities and challenges for us to address.

2 – The task of developing methods and approaches for involving people is difficult in the fields of interaction design and architecture, respectively. When you merge the two, the difficulties are even greater – as a researcher, this is fabulous news!

3 – Media architecture can enable us to both read and write the space, and perhaps even alter the script of a space; a big question is how we can make people aware of these opportunities and support them in meaningful ways.

4 – One of our key objectives as thoughtful researchers and designers of media architecture will be to build and explore meaningful alternatives to full-blown money architecture (e.g. advertisement), among other things by informing and involving citizens, public institutions and civic servants of the places we design in, for and with.

5 – Working on a neighbourhood level (in between personal and urban scale) could be a very fruitful way of moving forward and exploring the intersections between interfaces, spatial surroundings and social sensibilities.

6 – There is a massive potential in exploring different modalities and poetics in media architecture than the visual spectacle, and at the Biennale many of the reseach papers as well as keynote presentations point towards ways of doing so.

7 – The notion of architecture as a composition of shearing layers of change (à la Frank Duffy and Stewart Brand) definitely also applies to media architecture; the components of architecture have different life spans and respond to needs, rhythms and situations that change at different speeds, and we have to consider what this means when we develop media architecture.

8 – The support from the municipality, companies and public institutions, combined with the cross-disciplinary academic resources in the area, suggests that Aarhus can be be a great living lab for interactive urban experiments, a Large Media Architecture Collider, in the years leading up to the next Media Architecture Biennale (2014) and the European Capital of Culture 2017, both set in Aarhus.

Spine, an installation created for the Biennale by Kollision, CAVI, Mads Wahlberg and Henrik Munch

Architecture Event Interaction design Research

Media Architecture Biennale 2012

Media architecture transforms cities, buildings, and people. This week, you can join the world’s top experts in discussing and outlining the media architecture of the future at the Media Architecture Biennale 2012. The biennale takes place on 15-17 November 2012 here in Aarhus, Denmark and brings together architects, academia, and industry from around the globe.

Among the speakers are media artists Ben Rubin, architect and designer Jason Bruges, Bjarke Ingels Group, Gehl Architects, professor of architecture Antonio Saggio, professor of media archaeology Erkki Huhtamo – and many, many more.

The biennale also features an academic conference track (chaired by your’s truly and Ava Fatah from The Bartlett), an exhibition, awards, industry sessions, workshops, an iPad compendium, and a gala dinner.

Follow us on Facebook and Twitter to stay updated with the latest news about the event.

Architecture Design processes Event Learning

Media Architecture Student Competition

As part of the Media Architecture Biennale, we will host a 24 hour student design competition on 1 October 2012 beginning at 20:00 CET (7 pm GMT). The design competition is open to bachelor’s, master’s and PhD students in the fields of interaction design, human-computer interaction, architecture, urban design, etc. from around the world and it will not be necessary to be in Aarhus to participate.

The design challenge will begin on 1st of October when the design brief is made public on the MAB website as well as per email to participants who have signed up. To demonstrate your solution to the design challenge, you are asked to submit a video. This can be either a video prototype or a concept video. Anything from animation through screen capture to acting is valid. Note that this means that you will not have to implement the system. Participants will be required to keep a design blog throughout the 24 hours – this blog should record any major stages for your design. We don’t expect you to share any ideas or results before the end of the 24-hour challenge, but what we want to be able to follow is the methodology you used to come up with your final design.

The winning team will receive a travel scholarship for attending the Media Architecture Biennale 2012 in Aarhus to the amount of 1,000 EUR as they will be invited to present their conceptual work at the biennale. The top three entries will be awarded certificates of recognition.

Architecture Design processes Event Interaction design Research Visualisation

Call for Papers: Media Architecture Biennale 2012

Building on the successful event in Vienna 2010, Media Architecture Biennale 2012 brings together artists, practitioners and researchers from academia and industry in the ongoing exploration of the meeting between architecture and digital media. The 2012 Biennale comprises an academic conference track, exhibitions, and industry sessions, as well as a full day of workshops. Our vision is to provide an excellent forum for debate and knowledge exchange; to offer a unique opportunity that brings together the best minds and organizations; and to highlight state-of-the-art and experimental research in media architecture.

The design of media architecture invites encounters between people, the built environment, and digital media. It opens up rich opportunities for new forms of participation through dialogue and engagement. As an emerging field, diverse perspectives are coming together in media architecture, and the challenges are as abundant as the opportunities. At the conference, we explore “participation” as a core value of media architecture. In this context, participation may occur in the initial design stages of media architecture, e.g. as different practitioners, stakeholders and potential audiences take part in shaping future media architecture; it may occur when media architecture is realized and people experience and interact with it, e.g. when public spaces and urban environments and the practices they shape are influenced by elements of media architecture; it may also occur as new platforms give rise to new opportunities for shaping systems and surroundings.

We consider media architecture as an inclusive term that encompasses encounters and intersections between digital technologies and our physical surroundings. In this respect, we invite papers that present and discuss novel contributions to media architecture both on a practical and theoretical level and that further our understanding of the field through case studies, design approaches, and best practices. We expect contributions to critically explore a wide range of topics including, but not limited to:
– Case Studies of Specific Projects
– Future Trends and Prototypes
– Media Facades and Urban Displays
– Interaction Techniques and Interfaces
– Social and Cultural Aspects of Media Architecture
– Historical Perspectives on the Intersection between Media and the Built Environment
– Design Processes and Methods
– Participatory City Planning and Developing Urban Media Environments
– Participatory Architecture
– Spatial Locative Media
– Development and Design of Content for Specific Contexts

Read more about submission details, important dates etc. in the full call for papers (PDF). There’s more info to be found on the Biennale’s official home on the web, on Twitter (#mab2012) and on Facebook.

Architecture Visualisation

Patterned by Nature

A meditative peace to usher in the weekend:

The Patterned by Nature installation at the Nature Research Center at the North Carolina Museum of Natural Sciences, designed by Plebian Design, Hypersonic Design & Engineering, and Sosolimited.

Architecture Event Interaction design Research

Media Architecture Biennale 2012 in Aarhus

Great news: In November, my colleagues and I will host the Media Architecture Biennale 2012 in Aarhus. The Biennale brings together artists, academia and industry in the exploration of the meeting between architecture and digital media. The design of media architecture invites, shapes and creates encounters between people and the built environment, and digital media open up rich opportunities for dialog and engaging experiences.

As an emerging field, many perspectives are still coming together, and the challenges are as abundant as the opportunities. Public space and urban environments are increasingly shaped by elements of media architecture.

The vision of the Media Architecture Biennale is to provide an excellent forum for awareness, discussion and solutions; to bring together the best minds and organizations; and to present to the each other and the world the state-of-the-art of media architecture.

This year, we will extend the existing format with an academic conference track, new exhibition, awards and industry sessions, as well as a full day of workshops. We have a great crew organizing the Biennale; I’ll be heading the academic track as program chair alongside Ava Fatah from The Bartlett and we’re really excited about shaping this part of the Biennale. There’s more info to be found on the Biennale’s official home on the web, on Twitter (#mab2012) and on Facebook.

Hope to see you there!

Architecture Interaction design Publications

Understanding Engaging Interactions in Public Spaces

These days I’m visiting the Fundação Calouste Gulbenkian in Lisbon for the Interact conference. In addition to listening to interesting talks, partaking in discussions about designing for the city and the intersections of participatory design and critical design, and of course enjoying the local cuisine, I’m here to give a talk based on the paper Understanding the Dynamics of Engaging Interactions in Public Spaces, co-authored with Christian Dindler and Kim Halskov. You can download a preliminary version of the paper [.pdf] and/or enjoy the slides below.

Architecture Interaction design

Urbanflow: A coherent scenario for urban screens

As ever more displays find their way into urban spaces, it becomes clear that there ought to be better ways of putting urban displays to use than just replicating content and interaction forms from past interfaces. These displays – which go under headings such as urban screens, media façades, media architecture, etc. – can be said to form a new medium, and as such they prompt interaction designers, content providers, and even decision makers to reconsider their practices and preconceptions.

In addition to exploring how individual digital displays function in the city, one of the major challenges is to consider how such displays can be part of a larger assembly of interweaving technologies. A few weeks ago, Nordkapp and Urbanscale presented Urbanflow, a so-called operating system for cities. In brief, Urbanflow envisions how interconnected urban displays may be put to use so that they may be more meaningful and valuable to inhabitants and visitors. The core functions of the system are journey planning and wayfinding, service discovery, ambient data, and citizen feedback.

Urbanscale has an extensive post outlining the underlying principles of the scenario, which to me stands as the most coherent vision of situated urban displays so far. For the past four years, we have been carrying out a number of experiments in the same vein in the Center for Digital Urban Living, e.g. Climate on the Wall, in which we explored public discussions in public spaces, Aarhus by Light, in which we explored the transformation of social behaviour in a transitional space, and the Danish Pavilion at Expo 2010 in Shanghai, which explored the entire façade as display. However, these installations can all be seen as stand-alone experiments to the extent that they are installations with individual modes of interaction drawing on more or less prefixed content.

Looking at Urbanflow, I am particularly fascinated with how the scenario considers a) how displays may actually be useful and meaningful in their context (which is sadly not always the case with urban displays), and b) how the displays are integrated into the larger ecology of digital technologies and services in the city. In my experiences this integration is probably also the most complex challenge to address in practice. It remains to be seen if and how the vision can be realized, but the conceptual groundwork is certainly there.

Architecture Interaction design Visualisation

Emerging trends in information visualization

This morning I held a presentation about information visualization at the Headstart social media community. The slides of the presentation are embedded above and present an overview of current trends in information visualization. In particular, I focus on how information visualization expands beyond personal devices and displays (e.g. phones and laptops) into objects, rooms, architecture and public spaces.

Starting out from traditional screen-based visualizations such as, Gareth Lloyd’s A history of the world in 100 seconds, and Jonathan Harris and Sep Kamvar’s brilliant we feel fine, i move on to discuss how visualizations are increasingly distributed into physical spaces, e.g. the Maeve installation for the Venice Biennale, into objects, e.g. the Ambient Orb, onto objects, e.g. the Mejlby Stone, and finally integrated into or projected onto architecture, such as the Danish Pavilion for the 2010 Expo in Shanghai and the participative Climate Wall installation.

The talk was recorded and you can view it below. Be warned, although the slides are in English, the talk is in Danish.


Teaching urban design

From Urban Omnibus comes this interview with Victoria Marshall, assistant professor at Parsons New School for Design, on the topic of urban design. The interview caught my eye because it focuses on an ecological approach that emphasizes “’how to see the city as a designer’ rather than, say, how to design the city or its spaces”. Of particular interest to me as an interaction design researcher is the fact that several of the classes are based on hacking experiments, e.g. when students are prompted to create satellite balloons that can monitor the city. If you feel like exploring through doing, the kind people of Grassroots Mapping have put out a guide for mapping with balloons.

Here are a couple of snippets from the interview to whet your appetite:

“I think of urban design in terms of comfort with multi-scalar thinking, the ability to link the big and the small, from large landscapes to small urban interventions. I’ve done a lot of research with ecologists, working a lot to translate ecology theory into urban theory: how do we read cities as ecosystems?”

“There’s also a class called “Sensing,” in which students build sensors, collect environmental data, do mapping and create their own aerial photography using balloons. They launch their own satellites and collect infrared data.”

The launch of our research center, Digital Urban Living, three years ago seems to have coincided with an explosive interest in urban informatics and the changing experiences and practices of and in the city brought about by digital technologies. Since I’ve brought many topics from this research into my teaching, it’s good to get some insights into how colleagues around the world go about teaching their students the proper skills to address the changing urban landscape in the face of emerging technologies.