- I found a newspaper cutting I meant to write about ages ago. Across the road from me they were building an unusual looking block of flats. This turns out to be London's greenest block of flats - the award winning BowZED. The solar panels, tiny wind turbine, and ship funnels that look like roman centurion helmets on the roof are the most obvious green design features (not sure what gren function the funnels do though), but it was also built using re-used steel girders.
- This article (which you can't read as the Canadian Globe and Mail don't let you read archived articles for free) was posted to me by my Auntie Eirlys, who does that sort of thing from time to time. It's about an Architect called Cameron Sinclair, who set up an organisation called architecture for humanity, which assists in the creation of sustainable homes in developing countries and disaster areas, partly through the new concept of open source architectural plans. He studied architecture in London (grew up in Peckham), but part of the reason for going off on the philanthropic tangent was due to his fellow students annoyingly trying to emulate Fran Ghery and Zaha Hadid... as if that was all architecture was about. He won the TED prize in 2006, and you can watch his prize winning talk here.
Which brings me nicely - unexpectedly smoothly really - on to TED.
TED stands for Technology, Entertainment, Design. Once a year they bring together leading thinkers in many fields in order to try and cross-pollenate ideas across disciplines. I've been subscribing to their feed for a few months now (they put up videos of 10-20 minute lectures (stored up for years, though most of the ideas are remarkably fresh) at a rate of about 2 or 3 per week).
The reason I'm writing about them now is because in the past couple of weeks there's a vague, perhaps unintentional thread of being aware of the possibilities of architecture in cities.
Here is a favourite - a whimsical sketched journey through Rome:
Another related to the architectural possibilities theme are sustainable cities (a bit dull, to be honest).
Here are my other favourites:
- Michael Pollan: The omnivore's next dilemma - An awe-inspiring meditative, philosophical examination of Darwinism, humanity's place in the world and - an unlikely conclusion - sustainable farming.
- David Gallo: Underwater astonishments - The best octopus camouflage you will ever see. Possibly also the only octopus camouflage you will ever see.
- Ron Eglash: African fractals, in buildings and braids - What the title says.
- Dan Dennett: Can we know our own minds? - I've read a lot of his books, but never imagined he looked like Father Christmas! A very entertaining talk on self-knowledge and consciousness, with the best magician/neuroscientist analogy you will ever hear.
- Vilayanur Ramachandran: A journey to the center of your mind - very similar to Daniel Dennett's (covering, as it does, the brain's ability to fool the body) and almost as good.
- Larry Lessig: How creativity is being strangled by the law - An eloquent argument for changing copyright laws, which currently make most people who use the internet (minor) criminal.
- Yossi Vardi: Help fight local warming - funny short talk about decreasing male fertility due to overzealous use of laptops.
And finally, last week I read an obituary for Hans Monderman, who believes exposing drivers, cyclists and pedestrians to slightly more danger forces them to be more aware of what's around them, and they collectively will cause less road accidents. And his ideas worked! He removes road signs and crashes decrease in frequency
I know this is a lot to take in, but every link in this post is well worth following. ANd you might also feel the vague, but just tangible, theme running through them.