Research Lab on Urban Landscapes and Architecture

Documentary Film making as collaboration and experimentation. The Highrise.

Watch the trailer for this new collaborative documentary film program from the NFB. Then check out  Toronto is one of the ten cities in the world where this film will be made.  The exciting thing about this project is that, unlike most other documentaries, Highrise isn’t about anything in particular.  Rather the stories emerge as the project evolves, depending on the participants.  And the end result need not necessarily be a film either, or even documentary in nature.  Kat Cizek’s previous projects that resulted from her residency at St. Michael’s hospital have spun off websites, videos, facilitated dialogue between pregnant homeless teens and their nurses etc etc.

If you have a story to tell about life in a highrise, or a project to explore our increasingly vertical urban life, then check it out.



Filed under: Discussion, Events, , , , , , ,

Once in a lifetime webcast on water protection – broadcast from space Friday, October 9 @8pm EDT

More Details at

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Filed under: Events

Forever or a Day

When we build, let us think that we build forever.
Let it not be for present delight nor for present use alone.
Let it be such work as our descendants will thank us for;
and let us think, as we lay stone on stone,
that a time is to come when those stones will be held
sacred because our hands have touched them,
and that men will say, as they look upon
the labor and wrought substance of them,
“See! This our father did for us.”

—John Ruskin

Many people have movingly spoken about the importance of making things that we treasure, that last, that we would be proud to pass on.  I tend to agree with all of them, except that, as a product designer, I can’t ignore all the things that don’t need to, or shouldn’t last forever.  Our lives are filled with detritus, because we don’t have good ways of getting rid of things:  plastic bags, Bic pens, razors, bottle caps, mice, keyboards, light bulbs, toys,  are all things that are very awkward to dispose of.  What we should concentrate on, in addition to making things last(again), is to make things really disposable, with full cognizance of the implications.  Pepsi lowered the water table in India when it started shipping syrup instead of the retail product.  On paper, a lighter package using less water seems like a smart solution.  The full ramifications don’t reveal themselves until later.  The bottling of beer in North America affects the volume of water in the Great Lakes.  Similarly, products you can dispose of in your back garden could also represent a dramatic movement of nutrient/mass around the world.  I don’t have an answer, but my feeling is that a real recycling system (and that requires materials that can really be recycled), coupled with a focus on local materials, would be a start.

Filed under: Discussion, , , ,

Design with Intent – A blog on design that influences behaviour

From the layout of shopping malls to digital rights management, our everyday lives are full of examples of products, systems and environments which have been designed to shape, guide or control – influence – our behaviour, using a wide range of techniques: technological, physical or psychological.

Intended commercial benefit is a major reason behind this; intended social benefit can be too (though it’s often fraught with politics). Sometimes the behaviour-shaping is helpful to the user; sometimes it’s serving someone else against the user’s best interests. Sometimes it’s trying to get the user to do something; sometimes it’s trying to stop the user doing something.

The common factor to all of this is intent on the part of the designer/engineer/planner or his or her corporate/political masters. This is Design with Intent: strategic design that’s intended to influence or result in certain user behaviour.

These presentations I gave at Persuasive 2008, Persuasive 2009, and Skillswap Brighton give a quick run-through of the background to the Design with Intent concept and how it’s developed, with examples from different fields, as do these papers.

Filed under: Discussion


May 2018
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