The presence of others who see what we see and hear what we hear assures us of the reality of the world and of ourselves.

Monday, 21 September 2009

Proxemics of Space

In 1957 a doctor named Humphrey Osmond began observing the effects of environmental change on the interactions of patients in a mental hospital in Saskatchewan. From that research he eventually identified two major systems for patterning space. Sociofugal space (gridlike) tends to keep people apart and suppress communication while sociopetal space (radial) does just the opposite. It brings people together and stimulates interaction as routes merge and overlap. Many other researchers followed in Osmond’s footsteps, developing a body of work known as “proxemics” to describe the cultural distinctions between intimate, personal, social and public space. The Hidden Dimension by Edward T. Hall is a classic reference on the spatial aspects of human interaction.

Friday, 18 September 2009

Democratic Design or Design Democracy

Another brand leaflet...Open for comments and discussions...

The Trunk Test for Web Users

People won't use your web site if they can't find their way around it. Whether you call it usability, ease-of-use, or just good design, companies staking their fortunes and their futures on their Web sites are starting to recognize that it's a bottom-line issue. In Don't Make Me Think, usability expert Steve Krug distills his years of experience and observation into clear, practical - and often amusing - common sense advice for the people in the trenches (the designers, programmers, writers, editors, and Webmasters), the people who tell them what to do (project managers, business planners, and marketing people), and even the people who sign the checks.

I find his method "The trunk test" rather useful and entertaining:
step 1 - choose a page anywhere in the site at random, and print it
step 2 - hold it at arm´s length or squint so you can't really study it
step 3 - As quickly as possible try to find: site ID, page name, sections/ subsections, navigation, search...

Although our designed youcanplan site already looked visually clear, it missed another important  web function - call to action and feedback. By making the site ID/ brand stronger, changing the strap line and adding calls to action, I hope visitors find the site more clear and user friendly.

Tuesday, 15 September 2009

Something is missing?

The telephone, television, video, home computers, and so forth have introduced new ways of interacting. Direct meetings in public spaces can now be replaced by indirect telecommunication. Active presence, participation, and experience can now be substituted with passive picture watching, seeing what others have experienced elsewhere. Or is that in the past already?

Abundant possibilities do exist for compensating for what has been lost. The demand for easily accessible social opportunities outside the home is growing, whether it is due to the change in family patterns, decreasing family size or great deal of free time, the spaces that are worth using, are being used. The public spaces are needed, even more now in the world of virtual communication. The city might not be a goal anymore, but a tool that will be formed by its use.

Monday, 14 September 2009

Necessary, Optional and Social?

An ordinary day on an ordinary street. Pedestrians pass on the sidewalks, children play near front doors, people sit on benches and steps, two passersby greet on the sidewalk, groups engage in conversation. This mix of outdoor activities is influenced by a number of conditions. Greatly simplified though, these activities in public spaces can be divided into three categories, each of which places very different demands on physical environment.

Necessary activities include those that are more or less compulsory and in majority can be summed up as those related to walking. These activities are necessary, their incidence is influenced only slightly by the physical framework. These take place throughout the year, under nearly all circumstances.

Optional activities are participated if there is a wish to do so... if time and place make it possible. These take place only when conditions are optimal and place invites them. When outdoors are of high quality, activities take place with approximately the same sequence. However a wide range of optional activities will occur because place and situation invites people to stop, sit, eat, play etc.

Social activities depend on the presence of others in public spaces. The most widespread of social activities is a passive contact - simply seeing and hearing the other people.These activities can also be termed as a result of the above mentioned as they evolve from activities linked to each other. Social activities occur spontaneously as direct consequence of people moving about and being in the same space. The presence of others compromises one of the most important characters of public spaces - the subject of outdoor activities therefore does not begin with a single or limited category of activities - it is finely interwoven pattern.

Saturday, 12 September 2009

The Social Life of Urban Spaces

This witty and original film is about the open spaces of cities and why some of them work for people while others don't. Beginning at New York's Seagram Plaza, one of the most used open areas in the city, the film proceeds to analyze why this space is so popular and how other urban oases, both in New York and elsewhere, measure up. Based on direct observation of what people actually do, the film presents a remarkably engaging and informative tour of the urban landscape and looks at how it can be made more hospitable to those who live in it. The video was adapted from a book with the same name by William H. Whyte.

Friday, 11 September 2009

Meeting Place, Market Place and Connection Space = Public Space?

Looking back into the history of cities, public spaces have traditionally had three important functions in relation to the life of the cities. The public spaces functioned as meeting place, market place and connection /traffic space. People were talking, exchanging merchandise or moving about. All functions were vital, and in traditional cities these three functions occurred side by side in the same spaces in a fine balance. In recent years we have seen how this balance in many cities has been greatly upset by a number of factors especially the expansion of car traffic.

Taking a closer look at present day life in public spaces it becomes evident that most of the activities seen today have an optional character. In the old days ―as seen in the medieval times or in less developed economies― most people on the streets and squares are present because they are forced to use these spaces. They hardly have any choice. In the present day situation nearly all the activities seen in public spaces are free-of-choice activities.When people use the cities today it is not because they have to, but because they like to. The public spaces can offer something attractive and meaningful to the citizens ―if not they would not come.

“The Reconquered City” refers to cities, which during the past 3-4 decades have striven to achieve a better balance between traffic, market and meeting place issues. (Examples: Barcelona, Strasbourg, Lyon, Freiburg and Copenhagen in Europe, and from other continents cities such as Portland [USA], Curitiba [Brazil] & Melbourne). In many of these cities can be found an impressive increase in the volumes of people activities in the improved public spaces.

source: Jan Gehl on "Winning back the Public Spaces" in Conference lectured at the symposium “(In)visible Cities. Spaces of Hope, Spaces of Citizenship”, Centre of Contemporary Culture of Barcelona, 25-27 July 2003)

Thursday, 10 September 2009

Public Space - too abstract label?

After some musings it has become clear to me that I am arguing about the use of "public space" as a word. Everything that is not private we label as public. In reality the space inbetween the buildings - the so called public space - is a mixture of interwoven socio-spatial processes in everyday use. Not only do I find the term "public space" too abstract, I also disagree with its ideology. In most cases the public space doesn´t belong to public and its use is regulated by higher authorities. So instead of calling it simply "public" we could define new words, segregate functions and meanings of these spaces. I have so far come up with 3 concepts - public space, open space and social space... If you have better words or examples in mind, or you agree/ disagree with me, post your opinion in the comments!

Sunday, 6 September 2009

Space & Place - Action & Movement

I came across a concise and well-written book by Tim Creswell - Place: A Short Introduction - a text that introduces the fundamental concept of place, marrying everyday uses of the term with the complex theoretical debates. It traces the development of the concept of place from 1950s through its subsequent appropriation by cultural geography and the linking of the place to politics. Below I listed out some of the key thoughts that could become useful for developing my own perceptions of space and its use. If you know any inspirational sources, list them in the comment box!

* Tuan defines space as an open arena of action and movement while place is about stopping and resting and becoming involved. He argues that through human perception and experience we get to know the world through places. The term 'topophilia' was developed to refer to the 'affective bond between people and places' (Tuan in Topophilia, 1974).

* "To live is to live locally, and know is the first of all to know the place one is in" (Casey, 1996). 

* To say a place is socially constructed is to say that it is not natural and given that human forces made a place then human forces can equally importantly undo it. To say something is socially constructed is to say that it is within human power to change it - to change meaning and materiality (Creswell on Harvey).

* Thirdspace is lived space and it interrupts a distinction between perceived places and spatial practices. Thirdspace is practised and lived rather than simply being material (conceived) or mental (perceived).  In these terms places are never established but produced and producing. (Soja, 1999)

* "To be inside a place is to belong to it and identify with it, and the more profoundly inside you are the stronger is the identity of the place" (Relph on placelessness - where someone goes is less important than the act and style of going...) 

Wednesday, 2 September 2009

Amusing Ways of Design

Mariscal's first presentation, in a new format that mixes diverse audiovisual technologies, relating to his work, to creativity, to design and even all about him and where he is heading. In a free, graphic, amusing way, he expresses himself in this atypical way which includes humour, colour, music and his scenic self-confidence, his own special way of understanding the world and design.

Tuesday, 1 September 2009

Define, Create & Communicate

Slider Studio´s previous fledgling site was developed in-house using Flash and ActionScript 2 about three years ago. It included a content management system, an interactive project filter and a little slider navigation feature to reinforce the brand. We have FINALLY retired this site, having outgrown its functionality and brand message. And have accordingly launched a new web 2.0 website with blog, RSS feeds, with clearer brand message.

I am currently working in SliderWeb that offers a wide variety of web development services to organisations across the creative industries and built environment. Our team specialises in defining, creating and communicating clear, compelling brand and marketing messages across interactive media. We work with our clients in the way that best meets their objectives within budget and timeframe, drawing upon fresh perspectives and hands-on practical experience.

Looking forward to your opinion:

Temporarily Public?

In the beginning of this summer the Manifesto Club tested the limits of public space in London. They carried out few experiments with deckchairs and picnic basket in Trafalgar Square, Paternoster Square and "Scoop". More than once they were asked to leave as ... it´s health and safety... Park is just around the corner... GLA (Greater London Authority) owns this area or 50 CCTV cameras covering this area. Click to see the original post...

Just a short month later Trafalgar square has been turned into a 2000sqm green area where you can: "...Laze the days away this summer, take a seat on a specially designed deckchair and enjoy a special set of Magic Performances..." Trafalgar Square hosts 100 deckchairs - free to use from 10am-8pm.