Signs of the future in South American cities

Posted by on December 28th, 2011

Brazil just passed the UK to become the world’s 6th Largest Economy. Keep that in mind as you read this story; Five Years After Banning Outdoor Ads, Brazil’s Largest City Is More Vibrant Than Ever:

Imagine a city of 11 million inhabitants stripped of all its advertising. It’s nearly impossible when the clutter and color of our current urban landscapes seem inextricably entwined with the golden arches of McDonald’s or the deep reds of Coca-Cola.

Yet for the residents of São Paulo, Brazil, this doesn’t require imagination: city dwellers simply have to walk down the street and look around to see a city devoid of advertisements.

Before being enacted, the law triggered grave alarm among city businesses and other economic constituents. Critics worried that the advertising ban would entail a revenue loss of $133 million and a net job loss of 20,000. Fears that the city would look worse without the mask of the media alarmed residents. Despite the concerns, the law passed and the 15,000 billboards cluttering the world’s seventh largest city were taken down.

Five years later, São Paulo continues to exist without advertisements. But instead of causing economic ruin and deteriorating aesthetics, 70 percent of city residents find the ban beneficial, according to a 2011 survey. Unexpectedly, the removal of logos and slogans exposed previously overlooked architecture, revealing a rich urban beauty that had been long hidden.

No longer covered in homogenous and imposing signs, the unique character of São Paulo was able to resurface. Admittedly, not all of the revelations proved beautiful: shantytowns that pepper the city’s streets, once hidden under massive signs, revealed gross inequalities. But bringing the situation to light incited residents to improve conditions and begin discussing solutions. No longer could actual problems be masked by artificial solutions.

This short documentary (via the above article) made in 2007, as the ban was being passed, elaborates on its history and motivation:

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Meanwhile, elsewhere in South America…

For some residents of the Colombian city of Medellin, a trip to the city centre meant a long and dangerous trek through one of the city’s most violent areas.

Ascending 384 metres, a new escalator project has changed that.

Al Jazeera’s Gerald Tan reports.

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No Loitering

Posted by on April 24th, 2011

No Loitering

Via ~EvidencE~’s photostream.

Adam Greenfield’s Cognitive Cities keynote: On Public Objects

Posted by on March 18th, 2011

Here’s Adam Greenfield‘s excellent, thought-provoking keynote at the recent Cognitive Cities conference in Berlin – On Public Objects: Connected Things And Civic Responsibilities In The Networked City


A City (Untitled)

Posted by on March 13th, 2011

Via OM2 Photography’s photostream.

The Invisible Wi-Fi Landscape

Posted by on March 1st, 2011

Immaterials: Light painting WiFi from Timo on Vimeo.

This project explores the invisible terrain of WiFi networks in urban spaces by light painting signal strength in long-exposure photographs.

A four-metre long measuring rod with 80 points of light reveals cross-sections through WiFi networks using a photographic technique called light-painting.


Posted by on February 23rd, 2011

Source: Unknown. Mike Hedge. Click through for higher resolution.

Ateliers Demoor

Posted by on January 31st, 2011

Ateliers Demoor

Via suspiciousminds’ photostream.

China To Create Mega-City With Population of 42 Million

Posted by on January 31st, 2011

City planners in south China have laid out an ambitious plan to merge together the nine cities that lie around the Pearl River Delta. The “Turn The Pearl River Delta Into One” scheme will create a 16,000 sq mile urban area that is 26 times larger geographically than Greater London, or twice the size of Wales.

The new mega-city will cover a large part of China’s manufacturing heartland, stretching from Guangzhou to Shenzhen and including Foshan, Dongguan, Zhongshan, Zhuhai, Jiangmen, Huizhou and Zhaoqing. Together, they account for nearly a tenth of the Chinese economy.

Over the next six years, around 150 major infrastructure projects will mesh the transport, energy, water and telecommunications networks of the nine cities together, at a cost of some 2 trillion yuan (£190 billion). An express rail line will also connect the hub with nearby Hong Kong.

“The idea is that when the cities are integrated, the residents can travel around freely and use the health care and other facilities in the different areas,” said Ma Xiangming, the chief planner at the Guangdong Rural and Urban Planning Institute and a senior consultant on the project.

Via disinfo.

Policing Genes

Posted by on January 21st, 2011

The honey bee, pollinator and drug insect:

The genetics of the plants in your garden could become a police matter. Pharmaceutical companies are experimenting with genetically engineering plants to produce useful and valuable drugs. However, the techniques employed to insert genes into plants are within reach of the amateur… and the criminal. Policing Genes speculates that, like other technologies, genetic engineering will also find a use outside the law, with innocent-looking garden plants being modified to produce narcotics and unlicensed pharmaceuticals

Via Next Nature.

All That You Left Behind

Posted by on November 25th, 2010

All That You Left Behind

From ~EvidencE~’s photostream.

jomo on the corner

Posted by on November 3rd, 2010

jomo on the corner

A “frame from an upcoming timelapse journey”, from J.Morganized’s photostream.

Geometric Death Frequency-14

Posted by on November 3rd, 2010

Not something you see everyday outside your office window:


MASS MoCA director Joseph Thompson describes the development of Geometric Death Frequency-14: “Pure data and algorithms based on particle physics served as the primary guiding forces behind the sculpture’s shape, texture and size.”

Assembled from 420,000 robotically milled black spheres, Federico Díaz’s sculpture draws inspiration from a digital photograph of the museum’s clock tower entryway. The artist, who lives in the Czech capital Prague, transformed the two-dimensional image into pure data, then used analytical and fluid-dynamic modeling techniques to reshape the building’s contours into wavelike forms.

“Federico is the ultimate shape-shifter, in a way,” said MASS MoCA director Joseph C. Thompson in a statement. “The bricks and mullions and windows of our buildings become files of digital data; the pixels become black spheres meticulously cut, stacked and assembled; the courtyard becomes and contains sculpture. There’s something alchemical or magical about it, and all the while Federico remains behind the curtain, as if to say, ‘Look ma, no hands.’”

Words and picture via

Thomasons – the scars left on buildings by progress

Posted by on October 13th, 2010

Thanks to Bruce Sterling’s twitterfeed we now a have a word for those things we see around us on a daily basis, but couldn’t concisely describe.

Thomasons: Stairs leading to nowhere. Protruding pipes and tubes connecting to nothing. The silhouette of an older building left in the one that consumed it.

It’s how the past haunts the present.

The name is taken from this Flickr pool:

I’m curious. What, if anything, have others previously used to describe this?

Images from London’s Future

Posted by on October 9th, 2010

The London Futures project is a series of postcards from the future, an attempt to visualize the affects of climate change.

The Camel Guards Parade is just one of “14 arresting images..on display at the Museum of London from 1 October 2010 to 6 March 2011″:

Camel Guards Parade - postcard from future London

Traditional rituals have altered beyond recognition, along with the climate. Here, on Horse Guards Parade, horses have been replaced by camels – animals that can withstand the heat of the parade ground. The change was controversial but the London Tourist Board argued strongly in favour. Tourism remains important for London’s economy.

TED Talks: Steven Pinker on the myth of violence

Posted by on July 8th, 2010

Lurker SneakyLil left a link to this in our comments:

I have only read Pinker‘s How The Mind Works, but I believe most of his work to be well worth checking out.

What I would like to pick up and extend on are his comments on how ‘cosmopolitanism’ and Peter Singer‘s ‘expanding circle’ have helped erode our feafulness of the Unknown Other, through reading about and understanding cultures and people we don’t see in the world around us. As my friend David Forbes says, There Is No They.

Our increasing connectedness, and ease of making new connections, is the great benefit of technologies such as Twitter. I daily read the stories of people on every continent on this planet and above it (thanks to tweets coming in from the residents of the ISS).

I would also point to people’s further awareness of their place of ‘privilege’ through tagging their tweets #firstworldproblems. I know it can seem a tad trite at times, and it’s often just a way for people to feel better about bitching about their iPods or Macs. But then think back to your classic literature and remember just how insular and self obsessed some of these great works seem now; completely obsessed with Upper Class Problems. Yes, I’m looking at you Jane Austen and Oscar Wilde!

So tweet away and tag them guilt free.. but do try to ever expand your circle, there’s enough inward facing collectives out there today (fuck you Glenn Beck!), let’s shake things up and dare to join hands across timezones and yes, even generational limits (I dare to believe not all Boomers are evil!).

Video: Tokyo/Glow

Posted by on March 1st, 2010

A short little movie showcasing Tokyo, from

tokyoglow-low from Nathan Johnston on Vimeo.

Caution: God Thinks You Are Stupid

Posted by on February 19th, 2010

CAUTION: God Thinks You Are Stupid

(photo credit: Suzannah B. Troy)

Brilliant sign hack up in NYC.  More details from the NYPost:

TrustoCorp, a group of self-proclaimed urban artists, is adorning city poles in trendy neighborhoods like the East Village and Williamsburg with absurdist messages shaped like official street signs.

“Caution. God thinks you are stupid. Notice: Ignoring God is un-American,” warns one metal missive — complete with a hand firing a lightning bolt — attached below a Department of Transportation sign on East 10th Street near First Avenue.

Check out this Flickr pool for many more fine examples of their work.

HP Invents a Central Nervous System for the Earth

Posted by on February 19th, 2010

HP has just unveiled an incredibly ambitious project to create a “Central Nervous System for the Earth” (CeNSE) composed of billions of super sensitive, cheap, and tough sensors. The project involves distributing these sensors throughout the world and using them to gather data that could be used to detect everything from infrastructure collapse to environmental pollutants to climate change and impending earthquakes. From there, the “Internet of Things” and smarter cities are right around the corner.

HP is currently developing its first sensor to be deployed, which is an accelerometer 1,000 times more sensitive than those used in the Wii or the iPhone – it’s capable of detecting motion and vibrations as subtle as a heartbeat. The company also has plans to use nanomaterials to create chemical and biological sensors that are 100 million times more sensitive than current models. Their overall goal is to use advances in sensitivity and nanotech to shrink the size of these devices so that they are small enough to clip onto a mobile telephone.

Once HP has created an array of sensors, the next step is distributing them and making sense of all the data they generate. That’s no easy task, granted that a network of one million sensors running 24 hours a day would create 20 petabytes of data in just six months. HP is taking all that number crunching to task however, and will be harnessing its in-house networking expertise, consulting, and data storage technologies for the project.

Link via

Skyscraper vertical farm planned for China

Posted by on December 2nd, 2009

From Inhabitat comes another dose of future-pr0n, a truly epic vertical farm project:

Urban Forest is a commercial high-rise building that takes the form of an urban mountain with over 70 floors, each one different and unique. Each floor is an abstract curved shape, layered slightly off-center to give the facade an organic look as it rises up into the sky. A central cylindrical core structure supports all the floors and hosts the mechanical systems and elevators.

Each floor is also covered in floor-to-ceiling glass windows, providing expansive views of the city. A walk-around balcony of differing widths hosts the green garden space, as well as pools, trees, and courtyards. Some floors are nothing but open space, while others contain offices or residential space. Each floor is seen as a separate and unique level of the urban forest and is meant to combine both nature and the urban metropolis.

Why do I keep blogging these crazy schemes? Because eventually one of them will succeed and I frankly can’t wait to go check out the one that does in person.

Speaking of ambitions, good news for Masdar City; the Dubai debt crisis shouldn’t affect it.

Complete Hero

Posted by on November 30th, 2009

The Guards Chapel, spiritual home of the Household Division of the British Army, is host to an installation that looks at some of the present-day thoughts on heroes. Complete Hero is a projection-based artwork by Martin Firrell.