Monday, 31 October 2011

Baltic Way

While researching about boundaries, borders and their existance in visible and invisible forms I remembered one event very much important to my home country Lithuania. In 1989 there was the protest across three Baltic states- people formed live human chain joining hands together across 600 kilometres- representing freedom, independance and tolerance between those countries and breaking all boundaries away. I thought it is beautiful and very emotional example. People until now remember this day will a  sorrow of an awful times and with a great proud of becoming independent soon after.

The Baltic Way or Baltic Chain was a peaceful political demonstration that occurred on August 23, 1989. Approximately two million people joined their hands to form a human chain spanning over 600 kilometres (370 mi) across the three Baltic states – Estonian SSR, Latvian SSR, and Lithuanian SSR, republics of the Soviet Union. It marked the 50th anniversary of the Molotov–Ribbentrop Pact between the Soviet Union and Nazi Germany. The pact and its secret protocols divided Eastern Europe into spheres of influence and led to the occupation of the Baltic states in 1940. The protest was designed to draw global attention by demonstrating a popular desire for independence for each of the entities. It also illustrated solidarity among the three nations. It has been described as an effective publicity campaign, and an emotionally captivating and visually stunning scene. The event presented an opportunity for the Baltic activists to publicise the illegal Soviet occupation and position the question of Baltic independence not as a political matter, but as a moral issue. The Soviet authorities in Moscow responded to the event with intense rhetoric,[2] but failed to take any constructive actions that could bridge the widening gap between the Baltic states and the Soviet Union. Within six months of the protest, Lithuania became the first of the Republics of the Soviet Union to declare independence.

Sunday, 30 October 2011


The moral stance that global justice can be served by a world of open
borders in which individuals are free to move wherever they wish presumes
a world without borders, without states, without repressive regimes,
without vast differences in the health, education and welfare services
offered by governing authorities, and without vast differences in incomes
and employment. In the absence of these conditions the noble vision
becomes a nightmare…
Myron Weiner (1996, p. 177)

A great quote and also very coresponding to critical design- we imagine this idea of splitted cities, boundaries between them being radical and provocative, perhaps very scary. But bigger posibility is, that world is full of invisible, mental boundaries and borders that we pass everyday and it became our routine without realisation. What scares us about this division into separate cities, elements is just physical and tangable disjunction and realisation, change in what we got used to.
It really made me think- really, is imaginary borderless world is less scary than the one with differences that marked its teritory?

Land surveying and geomatics

 The more traditional land surveying strand of geomatics engineering is concerned with the determination
 and recording of boundaries and areas of real property parcels, and the preparation and interpretation of legal land descriptions. The tasks more closely related to civil engineering include the design and layout of public infrastructure and urban subdivisions, and mapping and control surveys for construction projects.
Geomatics engineers utilize a wide range of technologically advanced tools such as digital theodolite/distance meter total stations, Global Positioning System (GPS) equipment, digital aerial imagery (both satellite and air-borne), and computer-based geographic information systems (GIS). These tools enable the geomatics engineer to gather, process, analyze, visualize and manage spatially related information to solve a wide range of technical and societal problems.

As America expanded, Congress enacted the Land Ordinance of 1785, establishing the familiar Midwest pattern of one-mile square sections within thirty six square mile townships. Boundaries were aligned with the cardinal points of the compass. Within the grid, major streets were run along section lines and block lengths were commonly limited to 660 feet, one eighth of a section. The coming of the railroads altered this pattern to some extent, as railroad rights-of-way often ran diagonally across sections. Railroad companies established towns with gridiron streets parallel to these oblique rights-of-way for a few blocks at each side of the railroad station, beyond which the streets were adjusted lo link up with the north-south, east-west overlying grid.

Friday, 28 October 2011

Ideas on social vs. geographical maps/ boundaries between them

Parag Khanna lecture, TED.Many people think the lines on the map no longer matter, but Parag Khanna says they do. Using maps of the past and present, he explains the root causes of border conflicts worldwide and proposes simple yet cunning solutions for each.

-Do we live in a borderless world?
-There is no borders, just connected spaces and unconnected spaces.
-Basic political geography. How do we distribute ourselves around the world?
-1945: there was 100 nations. 1989: +50. Today: 200 countries.
-Geopolitics is a very unsentimental discipline. It's constantly morphing and changing the world, like climate change. And like our relationship with ecosystem we're always searching equillibrium in how we devide ourselves across the planet. Now we fear changes on the maps. We fear civil wars, death tolls, having to learn the names of new countries.

Standards of the place.

The idea of indispensible borders is everywhere.
Borders themselves represent the presence of something physically absent, an essentially mental construct that occurs at the meeting point of differing ideologies.
Mental maps of the territories constructed through habital usage.

How people move and interact in space according to boundaries?
Vertical map view in relation to the physical user circulation.
Internal migration.
Step migration.
High density districts.
London postal district.
Land subdivision.

An amazing website I found: powerty & modern maps in comparison: city borders clashing with social levels of cities?

Defining my objectives

Presenting my ideas for the final project helped me to identify and clarify the subject that interests me. It started with an imaginary line that sets some sort of invisible border deviding the city and creating a new navigational notion. Instead of focusing only on certain area within the city, and restraining myself with already set line, I decided to broaden the surveying a little and get a clear definition of my issue for now. What lines means within the city, within society? Line is a representation, a symbol for restrictions. Lines in graphics sets a border, limits. Lines in notebooks sets liniar restriction of writting. Lines becomes streets- setting boundaries between movement and static. Streets becomes borders between cities, counties. In other words, lines, whatever it would represent, defines rules. It can be social, political, geographical rules. For the first part of my project I'd like to identify geographical and social borders and how they interact with each other. Differing scale rules. What would happen if city would become limited with a new set of borders? Boundaries that would split cities depending on their social level, politics etc?
For the second part I want to introduce the way people start to migrate between cities. There is boundaries, borders for contents, countries. But what happens, when people start to migrate between cities- different social levels starts to juxtapose together? How those city borders influence social context? If taking example of Berlin wall- city would start to split into separate parts, deviding city based on its social level?

Wednesday, 26 October 2011

First. Invisible line splitting cities.

Prime Meridian Laser
I've been inspired by Greenwich Prime Meridian Line. Line represents the Prime Meridian of the World - Longitude 0ยบ.Every place on Earth is measured in terms of its distance east or west from this line. The line itself divides the eastern and western hemispheres of the Earth - just as the Equator divides the northern and southern hemispheres. I underlined word represents- line is imaginary in a sense that it is invisible (apart of laser line indicating it at night) and also, that position of the line was chosen randomly, by agreement of governments, so it would be advantageous for most. It means such an influental line was man-made.
In 1884 the Prime Meridian was defined by the position of the large “Transit Circle” telescope in the Observatory’s Meridian Building.
As the earth’s crust is moving very slightly all the time the exact position of the Prime Meridian is now moving very slightly too, but the original reference for the prime meridian of the world remains the Airy Transit Circle in the Royal Observatory, even if the exact location of the line may move to either side. 

It's a classic photo opportunity: have your photo taken standing on the Prime Meridian Line at Greenwich. Head for The Royal Observatory and in the courtyard is a metal strip where you stand over the line and can be in the the eastern and western hemispheres at the same time.

But what if there was a physical wall dividing earth into two- east and west? Creating two worlds, new cities. What places, buildings line would it cross? How socially it would change city perspective? How physically you would move around the space?

In terms of curiousity, how things that we are aware of  would change if they would exist in reality and would become tangable?
Sense of the world- would perception change if you'd see it in reality?

     Gordon Matta Clark: 1974 Splitting, Exterior (in 6 parts)

James Corner + Alex S. MacLean - Taking Measures Across The American Landscape (1996)
‘As a creative practice, mapping precipitates its most productive effects through a finding that is also a founding; its agency lies in neither reproduction nor imposition but rather in uncovering realities previously unseen or unimagined, even across seemingly exhausted grounds. Thus mapping unfolds potential, it re-makes territory over and over again, each time with new and diverse consequences.’
James Corner - The Agency of Mapping: Speculation, Critique and Invention (1999)

Departure point

Defining new spaces through imagination- what people perceive mentaly and is invisible I'd like to examine physicaly. Would it change the way people understand the space? If physical object would exist, would/how it change society and what issues it would raise?
Even starting with Greenwich meridian line. The meridian line becomes departure point, and perhaps, vanishing point for coordinates geographically, and a focal point for my experiments.
How does space changes over time in relation to meridian line?

                     The Meridian line Akashi Ferry Terminal in Japan

         Superstudio:  The Continuous Monument, 1969                  



Departure point?

Second. Timeline through cities

Derived from the first idea of Earth split in sections, meridian lines etc., I thought of timeline of the Earth. We have prime meridian line that indicates split line between east and west as well as indicates time, starting from 0, the further you go, the bigger time difference will be (+1; +2 hours etc.). I started thinking about it, and although it is not physically visible, in my understanding means, that the further you go, the futher in the time you go. Of course, in paradox the further you go, the more into the future you go, at the same time, time passes while you go so probably it is about the same time. But think of the time difference between London and New York- coming from America you lose one day- you do step in the future, or vice versa- you go back into the same day you have already experienced.
But it made me think- what if space we live in was devided into time lines where really- people would be living yesterday and tommorow. What if timeline and time difference in it was so close to each other that your house was in present and your neighbour was living tommorow? How would that change the understanding of time, time within the environment and how would you call past, present and future when you have everything at once? Would movement would indicate it? Just like movie timeline- you go forward- you go into the things that WILL happen, you go back- you go what's already experienced?
Perhaps, this is what we already have without knowing- every second of the our lives makes our future- our past.
What influence time has on us at all?

Primary being a little test for continious prime meridian line across the Greenwich Park, it gave me an idea of a timeline too- each picture is an element of the sequence- one before becomes past, and the one forward becomes a future. How to indicate time?

Third. Walking through cities

 After discussions in tutorial, it tweaked me an idea of people and their relationship to technologies- how mentaly controlled we are by it, and although it can be practical, sometimes it feels that we loose basic values of everyday routines. Considering this idea, I thought of google maps. To narrow it down, google street maps. Only couple of years ago, it was new to have maps online, GPS directing you while driving etc. Quickly after that, google streets came out. Brand new, very exciting and really handy feature in google maps, with couple of complaints going along with that about personal privacy issues. Now thinking years ago, map users had compass, if they were really lost, self knowledge to direct themselves to find the street they wanted to find etc. These days, before going anywhere, you can check where it is, what good recommendations is for food in that particular place and so. You can check the streets and how the sea side looks just sitting by the screen! Over all, you don't need to travel anymore- you can see the whole wide world on the screen! What you don't get- is the atmosphere, ambience of the place, adventures, people.
Inspired by Riki Mereki work MOVE:

I thought it would be great to create something along that lines- fun, exciting, with essence why it is different exploring city in real.
An image with the same centured person in everyshot- walking along the same line in different locations- backdrop changing accordingly.

Starting with a something simple.
Playfulness of the existing and a glimpse into surreal. Context via motion, journey.
A scripted sequence.
Starting with a line, which direct the journey. What do I get/see along it?

Films to watch:
Finisterre, Kelly, P. and Evans, K. (Vital)
London, [DVD] 1994, Keiler, P. England (BFI)
Robinson in Space, [DVD] 1997, Keiler, P. England (BFI)

Tuesday, 18 October 2011

Same focal point vs. Movement

How in relation to social and/or cultural context image/view/panorama would change?

Moritz Oberholzer

Monday, 17 October 2011

Haruki Murakami

Haruki Murakami is Japanese writer and is considered to be an important figure in post-modern literature. His vintage classic books deals with surrealism, allienation, dreams, society and perhaps, loneliness within it. His main influences is based on spiritual emptiness of his generation, powerty in material world and forgetfulness of human values within society and yourself. Last year I had a chance to read one of his books- Hard-Boiled Wonderland and the End of the World. Which, I think, is a perfect example for Critical design. Main plot was about the main character living two parralel lives- material, broken society driven and opposite one- dream, surreal life. It starts with two completely different images of the worlds and moving closer and closer to the end worlds start to merge with each other becoming one whole. It is a good example of our society- where lifes is very much money driven, technologies taking over the humans, perhaps, one day will come, where we- humans with emotions, perceptions, senses will become fixed and merged with techologies? Or in other hand, we are the ones already like it?

Saturday, 15 October 2011

Discoveries of critical design/ Architecture of the imaginary in a range of disciplines

It was harder than I thought to encapsulate an ideas of what is critical design/architecture of the imaginary for me. I started thinking of places, images, that was built or created as a final result of the surveying, representation of motion and users' existance in the place. This guided me to another question- if I am researching critical design examples,  of the ones where survey developed into a materialised object, does those cases shaped the way people lived and used the space after object became materialised? Did it changed people's perception of the place?

Concluding my findings, I came up with 2 ideas of critical design- 1 as understanding city, its forms as a materialised outcome of events, movement, sequence taking place. 2nd- perceiving space emotionaly, perhaps through sensory experience and generating ideas of design based on those perceptions. As those mappings is based on personal emotions rather than facts, it can become dream like and sureal.
Can critical design be those two ideas juxtaposing with one another?

Critical/architecture of the imaginary:
In literature:
Italo Calvino: Invisible Cities

Marco Polo describes to Kulblai Khan cities he visited on expedition. What he saw becomes cities of his perception, cities of his imagination. In this chapter he beautifuly describes Zaira, city of high bastions. Each of his stories holds a strong statements about cities, the way they were built and the way we perceive them. Here he sentimentally explains that none of the cities is without history, stories behind it. There is people in the same relation to the buildings as the buildings themselves. People enrich, develop city and is important in the city as much as structures and object existance itself.

In film:
Godfrey Reggio - Koyaanisqatsi [trailer] (1982)

In film, I imagine critical design is taking consideration of the issue, taking a strong statement, that film could represent in a set of sequences with a glimpse of the future, with something that would make you think "what if?" or, perhaps, instead of making you think, would express these questions through media. Here film encapsulates concept of human relationship with city, nature, technology. Although there is no dialog, it powerfully express how closely we are controlled by all of those matters and little by little we become slaves of materialised world.

Superstudio: Continuous Monument (1969)

Superstudio, collages of imaginary city, taking existing elements and juxtaposing them with imaginary, structures that would change and completely deconstruct the world we live in. This idea came from concept of globalisation. 

Katherine Harmon: You Are Here: Personal Geographies and Other Maps of the Imagination
Work by Nina Katchadourian, 1997

Here artist takes a concept of Austria's nickname as "the heart of Europe". She shapes it into actual heart, transfers the road map into 3D object, where it becomes imaginary city of roads. This is the way I imagine the architecture of the imaginary too, where departure point becomes an element from the city and it explodes into surreal imagination of how it could be.

Siobhan Davies Studios London

Building became an outcome of surveying people's movement in dance. Inspiration of body movement in space became a starting point to begin radical changes on the existing old building. It is a great idea rather than demolishing the existing, to keep old and alter according the survey of movement. This way building holds its history, its past and becomes inconstant- perhaps, just like a movement- changing over time.

Broadgate Circle, London

 Accidently discovered this place and thought it is fascinating and does feel fantasy like. Thought it might suit an idea of critical design- buildings surrounding the space for events to happen, space for programme to happen becomes culmination point of the estate.

Greenwich Observatory, London

Throughout the process of thinking about what locations would be suitable towards the architecture of the imaginary, I became very inspired by remembering a great place- Greenwich observatory. It already holds the fact- there is meridian line going through the city, streets, fields deviding earth to East and West. That's where it always feels very mysthical- although we don't feel it, does it affect us? It is a geographical fact, but does it influence us? What if world would be devided physically into new continents according to meridian line?


 Strong and powerful fashion film taking fashion into a new level. Clothes becomes unseparatable part of human body, material becomes connected to the motion, whole act becomes art of transition. It carries you to world of imagined as well as as a subject it broadens up and defines fashion in new terms.

Friday, 14 October 2011

Dunne and Raby Texts: Finding critical design definitions.

-Concept of the future- designer plays significant role in discovering. They cannot do this alone- that's why fields of ethics, philosophy, political science, life sciences and biology is required.
-Space that reflects the complex, troubled people and their environment.
-Stretching to the new limits to understand the space and its environment.
-Design for debate.
-Reflection on values, morals, habits in the space.
-Criticising the way we are, the way we react, the way we live.
-Not only map the social behaviour, but also react to it by imagining journey beyond boundaries, the imaginary future.
-How objects enter people's lives after objects comes into being.
-Producing objects that will raise new questions through experience.
-Provocative architecture.
-Questions must be asked about what we actually need, about the way poetic moments can be intertwined with the everyday and not separated from it.
-Critical design purpose is not to present the dreams of industry, attract new business.Its purpose to stimulate disscusion and debate amongst designers, industry and the public about the aesthetic quality of our electronically mediated existance.
-We don’t view the object as a transmitter of meaning to be decoded by a viewer, but as a prompt, a thing to be engaged with. We think about the experience of physically encountering the work: its size, scale, materiality, degrees of perfection, mass, relationship to the body, etc., and how these might make a person feel and what associations they might trigger.
-Things have to be not-quite-right; this awkwardness is a way into the object, an invitation to explain why it is the way it is, why it’s not quite right.
-The idea of thought experiments—imaginative exercises that help us understand something, expose assumptions, and challenge us to think differently about what is possible.
-Fully engaged projects socially, politically, culturally, and technologically. They are deeply human, challenging, meaningful and reflective. They are issue-based rather than purely formalistic. And they offer a refreshing alternative to narrow corporate visions of the role technology could play in our lives.
-Each project is a testament to the impossibility of the possible. They offer up richer experiences and embody values far broader than those available in existing mass-market products.
-Impossibility of the possible because of the state society need to face; of difficult content that challenges the status quo.
-Critical Design uses speculative design proposals to challenge narrow assumptions, preconceptions and givens about the role products play in everyday life. It is more of an attitude than anything else, a position rather than a method. There are many people doing this who have never heard of the term critical design and who have their own way of describing what they do. Naming it Critical Design is simply a useful way of making this activity more visible and subject to discussion and debate. Its opposite is affirmative design: design that reinforces the status quo.
Cautionary Tales
Conceptual Design
Contestable Futures
Design Fictions
Interrogative Design
Radical Design
Social Fiction
Speculative Design

-It's not just about asking questions. It's main purpose is to make us think. But also to raise awareness, expose assumptions, provoke action, spark debate, and even entertain in an intellectual sort of way, like literature or film.
-Addressing new or neglected psychological needs is definitely one way forward. Gadgets already do this and that's why they are so amusing and interesting. A look through any gadget catalogue paints a fascinating portrait of modern life and what it means to be human today. All our fears, anxieties and obsessions are manifest in wonderfully strange products. Now if only they were beautifully designed!
-Difference between fictional functions and functional fictions.
-Design that asks carefully crafted questions and makes us think, is just as important as design that solves problems or finds answers.
-Ideas that count. And of course the stories the objects prompt in peoples' imaginations.
-I think a more useful idea than democratic design is the 'citizen designer', a designer who acts on behalf of society rather than clients and institutions.
-Test of the future.
-It is definitely not art. It might borrow heavily from art in terms of methods and approaches but that's it. We expect art to be shocking and extreme. Critical Design needs to be closer to the everyday, that's where its power to disturb comes from. Too weird and it will be dismissed as art, too normal and it will be effortlessly assimilated.
-We can use design to inspire, raise awareness, stimulate discussion, provoke debate, and even start rumours, all of which eventually might lead to change, and most importantly of all, result in technological futures that reflect the complex, troubled people we are, rather than the easily satisfied consumers and users we are supposed to be.
-Using design as a medium for facilitating discussion between the public and the experts is closely related to the use of scenarios in future forecasting, an approach formalised by Royal Dutch/Shell during the 1970s. But there are a number of differences. Firstly, future scenarios are usually aimed at decision makers in large corporations or governments rather than citizens, consumers or the public. Secondly, they take the form of written documents. In design driven scenarios the results take the form of hypothetical but possible products and services. If traditional scenarios are like screen plays then design scenarios are like props for non existent films.
-Design that asks carefully crafted questions and makes us think, is just as important as design that solves problems or finds answers.


I do feel biotechnology and so are not the things I'm very much fascinated about, but on the good side, it broadens up horizons of the concept, context understanding and a new possibilities. Personally for me the most exciting thing about critical design is perhaps playfulness in relation to awareness. Understanding the case study, the space and playing with it, imagining a new concepts that would change the space, experimenting with it. Perhaps looking at the space you never looked this way before.

Landscape Patterns

                                    Demo of 3 minute film.