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robertogreco : adaptivereuse   7

Learning From Legos - NYTimes.com
"WHEN I was a boy, my father, an architect, attempted a no-toy policy, with the significant exception that he’d buy my brother and me almost anything — any birthday, holiday or restless rainy Saturday — as long as it was Lego.

And so, if I needed a gun, I made it with Legos. The same with a walkie-talkie. And a lie detector. And all the life-size artifacts — let’s face it, mostly weapons — that were then my heart’s desire. Plus every scale-model spaceship, supertruck, planetary fortress, recombinant Tyrannosaurus and transforming robot.

These days Lego — with its namesake movie’s opening weekend box office of $69 million, and with global sales revenue tripling, recession-proof, between 2007 and 2012 — appears to be something more than just a Danish construction toy based on snap-together plastic bricks. Some of the film’s success comes from the charm of its intrepid construction worker hero and goth-ninja heroine, both remarkably expressive despite the limitations of Lego figurines’ cylindrical heads and hands.

But the film’s celebration of adaptive improvisation and spontaneous mythmaking also resonates deeply with our current moment of so-called maker culture. Thanks to new rapid-prototyping technologies like computer numerical control milling and 3-D printing, we’ve seen a convergence between hacker and hipster, between high-tech coding and the low-tech artisanal craft behind everything from Etsy to Burning Man.

Whether it’s Google’s first server rack having been made of Lego-like bricks (pragmatically cheap, heat-resistant and reconfigurable) at Stanford in 1996, or the programmable Lego bricks developed at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology’s Architecture Machine Group (later the Media Lab where, no coincidence, my father worked), Lego is literally built into the computational and architectural history of maker culture.

And it is, in a special way, an architectural history. “A small interior world of color and form now came within grasp of small fingers,” wrote Frank Lloyd Wright about his 9-year-old self in a 1943 autobiographical sketch. “These ‘Gifts’ came into the gray house” and “made something live here.” These were the famous Froebel Blocks, educational wooden building blocks in systematic shapes and sizes developed in the 1840s by Friedrich Froebel, the inventor of kindergarten.

“The smooth shapely maple blocks with which to build, the sense of which never afterward leaves the fingers; so form became feeling. These primary forms were the secret of all effects,” Wright recalled, “which were ever got into the architecture of the world.” Wright’s son John would complete the circle, inventing in 1916 the construction toy that came to be known as Lincoln Logs.

Architectural historians have sought origins for Wright’s innovative organic architecture — his long horizontals and pinwheel plans — in the geometries of his toys, even reconstructing his early house designs using the Froebel Blocks themselves.

I suspect that the connection isn’t that literal. But it is certainly primal, and visceral, to do with the idea of making and unmaking, and the complex relationships of parts to wholes, and brokenness to wholeness.

Once, detouring through a parking-lot flea market, I stumbled across some Froebel Blocks from Wright’s era, stacked as tightly and delicately as the dovetail joints of their original wooden box. Froebel Blocks are collectible antiques, but these were flea-market finds and not auctioneers’ goods because they had been methodically defaced by years of scribbled arabesques in Magic Marker, in a child’s hand.

I discovered that these lines traveled continuously from block to block, and that by carefully aligning the distinctly colored arcs and loops of the markings, I could reconstruct all the arrangements into which the blocks had been built — those magic marks the inadvertent blueprints for a forgotten memory palace.

I remember the fugue of that reconstruction, low on the ground below a flea market table. I remember the astonishing intimacy of visiting a stranger’s childhood, and how that intimacy somehow caused me to delay actually buying this treasure. I circled the flea market, and returned to find it gone.

Maker culture, like Lego, is about loss. All building-block toys are about appearance and disappearance, demolition and reconstruction. Maker culture, for all its love of stuff, is similarly a culture of resourcefulness in an era of economic scarcity: relentless in its iterative prototyping, its radically adaptive reuse of ready-made objects, its tendency to unmake one thing to make another — all in a new ecology of economy.

When my brother and I wanted a new toy, we cannibalized whatever we’d made before, which had been made of all the things we’d ever made before that. So of all those years of guns and starships, I have only that Wrightian feeling for form in the fingertips — and the sound, somewhere between rustling and clinking, of a thousand plastic pieces tumbling from an overturned bucket into a disorderly pile, rippling away from a seeking hand.

I remember the last thing I ever made of Lego, far later into adolescence than I should admit. It was a robot that, thanks to double-jointed hinges, could continually reconfigure itself without being disassembled. And in this sense it was anti-Lego, capable of being remade without being unmade. I knew that it was the most I could ever do in the medium, and the end of an era. It drifted back into that bucket.

A quarter-century later I saw the same bucket opened and overturned by a young nephew. And there, like a time traveler, was this same robot. Mostly just its legs, standing Ozymandias-like in a pile of bricks. I reached for it, but not faster than my nephew, who, recognizing an accretion of especially useful pieces, instantly dissolved it with his hands. One of Wright’s secrets of all effects must be this: Because nothing comes from nothing, and nothing goes entirely out of the world, you have to take things apart if you seek to put everything together."
2014  thomsdemonchaux  making  makerculture  resourcefulness  lego  invention  franklloydwright  froebelblocks  froebeltoys  building  construction  unmaking  dissolution  prototyping  adaptivereuse  reuse  scarcity  materials  toys  play  appearance  disappearance  reconstruction  ecology 
march 2014 by robertogreco
Abandoned Walmart Transformed Into A Functioning Library - PSFK
Meyer, Scherer & Rockcastle’s design of the McAllen Pubilc Library in Texas is a case study of creative reuse.
2012  texas  mcakken  design  adaptivereuse  walmart  library  libraries  architecture 
july 2012 by robertogreco
TEDxLondon - Dougald Hine - YouTube
"Dougald is a writer, speaker and creator of organisations, projects and events. His work is driven by a desire to understand how we change things, and how things change, with or without us. This has taken him cross country through a range of fields, from social theory to the tech industry, literary criticism, the future of institutions and the skills of improvisation. He seeks to make connections between people, between ideas and between worlds. His projects include the web startup School of Everything, the urban innovation agency Space Makers, and most recently The University Project, which is seeking new ways to fulfil the promise of higher education."
teaching  autodidacts  self-directedlearning  purpose  highereducation  highered  networkedlearning  socialnetworks  socialnetworking  sharing  lcproject  adaptivereuse  spacemakers  commoditization  schoolofeverything  learning  deschooling  unschooling  2011  via:steelemaley  universities  colleges  education  theuniversityproject  dougaldhine 
january 2012 by robertogreco
dConstruct2011 videos: The Transformers, Kars Alfrink
"In this talk, Kars Alfrink – founder and principal designer at applied pervasive games studio Hubbub – explores ways we might use games to alleviate some of the problems wilful social self-seperation can lead to. Kars looks at how people sometimes deliberately choose to live apart, even though they share the same living spaces. He discusses the ways new digital tools and the overlapping media landscape have made society more volatile. But rather than to call for a decrease in their use, Kars argues we need more, but different uses of these new tools. More playful uses."

[See also: http://2011.dconstruct.org/conference/kars-alfrink AND http://speakerdeck.com/u/dconstruct/p/the-transformers-by-kars-alfrink ]

"Kars looks at how game culture and play shape the urban fabric, how we might design systems that improve people’s capacity to do so, and how you yourself, through play, can transform the city you call home."
monocultures  rulespace  self-governance  gamification  filterbubble  scale  tinkering  urbanism  urban  simulationfever  animalcrossing  simulation  ludology  proceduralrhetoric  ianbogost  resilience  societalresilience  division  belonging  rioting  looting  socialconventions  situationist  playfulness  rules  civildisobedience  separation  socialseparation  nationality  fiction  dconstruct2011  dconstruct  identity  cities  chinamieville  design  space  place  play  gaming  games  volatility  hubbub  howbuildingslearn  adaptability  adaptivereuse  architecture  transformation  gentrification  society  2011  riots  janejacobs  karsalfrink  simulations 
december 2011 by robertogreco
adaptive path » blog » Brandon Schauer » use of concept: the best proof of concept
"If you’re trying to get a better experience out in the world, the best proof of your ideas is probably just doing it. It can take months & years to plan, spec & align organizational bureaucracies around a strange new idea. But making your idea concrete enough to be used by real people can remove obstacles, win hearts & create real traction. The San Francisco city government is like other governments, not particularly known for its speed & nimbleness. But recently they’ve discovered the power of calling projects “pilots” to eschew the normal policies and procedures in favor of quickly learning if an idea is in fact a good one. ... #To get permission, call it a “reversible pilot”. Worst case = learn a lot & you’ll know the idea...isn’t worth pursuing. Best case = hot new experience on your hands. #Clarify what you want to learn. It’ll help you focus on what to pilot & for how long. #Control costs, not details... [no] need [for] perfect implementation. # Plan the next step."
design  urbanism  sanfrancisco  prototyping  skunkworks  reversiblepilots  urbanrenewal  adaptivepath  adaptivereuse  grassroots  tcsnmy  innovation  community  change  business  bureaucracy  architecture  concepts  ideas  via:blackbeltjones 
july 2009 by robertogreco
Neo-nomad.net » transvaal: sleeping in residue
"Hotel Transvaal uses the surplus of empty spaces in the neighborhood. In houses soon to be demolished, not yet sold newly built on derelict land and in unused spaces that have been refurnished by merchants from the neighborhood and artists into 1 to 5 star hotel rooms. The supply of rooms is very diverse in terms of furniture, luxury and price, so that anyyone, businessmen, students, tourists, residents and other guests can rent a place. When homes are sold or the torn down the hotel rooms move on."
design  surplus  reuse  hotels  housing  homes  recycling  temporary  adaptivereuse  adaptive 
june 2009 by robertogreco
Consumed - Repurpose-Driven Life - NYTimes.com
"A recent book, “Retrofitting Suburbia,” by Ellen Dunham-Jones and June Williamson, notes that in 1986, the United States had about 15 square feet of retail space per person in shopping centers. That was already a world-leading figure, but by 2003 it had increased by a third, to 20 square feet. The next countries on the list are Canada (13 square feet per person) and Australia (6.5 square feet); the highest figure in Europe is in Sweden, with 3 square feet per person. “Retrofitting Suburbia,” as its title suggests, is concerned with projects that address problems stemming from “leapfrog”-style development — the constant expansion of new housing, and new stores, farther away from city centers. As Dunham-Jones, an associate professor of architecture at Georgia Tech, told me when we spoke recently, one of those problems is that we’ve gotten “overretailed.”"
adaptivereuse  reuse  architecture  retail  space  change  crisis  adaptive  suburbia  malls  us  suburbs  books  via:adamgreenfield 
june 2009 by robertogreco

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