Small Monumental Buildings . . .

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    • #707769
      garethace
      Participant

      O’ Donnell and Tuomey made one very interesting observation, in their AAI lecture talk about their second ‘Irish Pavilion’. It is true, even though pavilion architecture, and small buildings of many kinds are never seen or experienced by the vast majority of people, they still continue to have a life far beyond their physical reality. Because they become published in journals and are seen in various formats by a very wide audience. I mean, I have never ‘been to’ Scott’s Irish Pavilion in New York, in the shape of a Shamrock, but I am still hearing about it, and seeing it reproduced in histories of Irish Architecture. The argument still even rages amongst architectural experts, as to whether its concept was sucessful or appropriate for a pavilion for Ireland!

      As I was browsing through the shelves of maps in a bookstore yesterday, I saw an Ordinance Survey of Ireland pocket guide map to Galway city, which featured on its cover, a tiny vignette of Eamon O’Doherty’s ‘Sails’ sculpture in Galway’s Eyre Square re-vamp. I had only heard about this piece of sculpture at an open public lecture hosted at Wood Quay DCC headquarters recently, where Gerry Mitchell spoke about his experiences of designing public spaces in Ireland. Already, I feel I have begun to form opinions about it and ‘know it’ without ever being to Galway city! Odd really isn’t it? ๐Ÿ™‚ So why not give a ‘not-so-well-advertised’ piece of architecture, from here in Dublin, a kick start into cyberspace, from Archiseek? Diaspora asked me for photos a while back, of the Smoking Shed in DIT courtyard, sorry for the long delay Diaspora. Click here:

      http://www.cgarchitect.com/vb/showthread.php?p=70214#post70214

      Good luck, Sputnik!
      Brian O’ Hanlon.

    • #752552
      JPD
      Participant

      The attachtments won’t open

    • #752553
      garethace
      Participant

      Yeah, you probably have to be a registered member of CG Architect, to see the images,… Heuston, we have a problem, anyhow, lets try something different.

      Here are the jpegs.

      I am sure, that our Cyber Master, Mr. Paul Clerkin, has got the technology and the ‘know-how’ to also launch a Sputnik into Cyberspace, from the Archiseek launching site.

      Care to give it a go Paul? I don’t know quite how to present photos, so they are visible in a post here, in sequential thumbnails or something… I have organised the photos in a specific order. (a,b,c,d… )

    • #752554
      garethace
      Participant

      Here is the last couple…

      Brian O’ Hanlon.

    • #752555
      JPD
      Participant

      It looks attractive but is it big enough for a College the size of a dit?

    • #752556
      garethace
      Participant

      Congratulations, you have had the first say, in a discussion that will probably last for generations. ๐Ÿ™‚

      Brian O’ Hanlon.

    • #752557
      burge_eye
      Participant

      I think I saw something similar once in an old Tarzan movie

    • #752558
      sw101
      Participant

      that thing is a cheap abomination.

    • #752559
      urbanisto
      Participant

      Funnily B&W has the effect here of making the structure look worse than it actually is.

    • #752560
      sw101
      Participant

      it looks bad in b&w, looks bad in colour, but looks far worse in the flesh. poor effort.

    • #752561
      GrahamH
      Participant

      Which DIT? Kevin St?

    • #752562
      sw101
      Participant

      bolton street. in the courtyard of the extension beside the duckpond. i’m almost tempted to go over and take some colour snaps to prove how bleedin’ ugly it is.

    • #752563
      GrahamH
      Participant

      Bolton St makes sense ๐Ÿ˜ฎ
      Might have a look in too – is it by a student?

    • #752564
      sw101
      Participant

      as far as i can remember it was a student competition. it’s made with the highest quality plywood and untreated timber. if i smoked anymore i’d stand out in the rain in protest.

    • #752565
      fergus
      Participant

      it was the result of a student project run last year and was originaly ment to be a temporay structure. It was built to replace a horrible little structure thrown up by the porters or someone equally immaginitive. the materials were kindly donated by centuary homes and formed part of the brief – i.e. heres the materials you can use design a shelter with them. it has been very sucessfull and nearly everyone seems to like it. Brian Norton the new head of D.I.T. apparently wants simular creations constructed at all the other colleges within the D.I.T.s. I think this kind of student experimentation and competition is only a positive thing and I guess “theres always one!” (begrudger).

    • #752566
      sw101
      Participant

      i don’t see why we should be congratulating DIT for having the supposed generosity for allowing some cheapo, donated wood and glue stuck up in the public areas of the college.

    • #752567
      Anonymous
      Inactive

      at least its something to show that there is an architecture faculty in the college. I think anything that allows students to experiment with built realites can only be a good thing.

    • #752568
      sw101
      Participant

      they also had a student design competition for the front of the AIB branch in the basement. it wouldn’t suggest any architecture was being taught on the premises.

    • #752569
      burge_eye
      Participant

      @sw101 wrote:

      it’s made with untreated timber..

      I hope at least, given its use, that it’s got a Class O finish. I’d like to put a smiley face here but don’t know how (help?)

      SW101 – were you given a bad crit by DIT?? ref smiley face comment above

    • #752570
      fergus
      Participant

      yes its untreated but as I said I think it was only ment to be temporary. I kind of like the idea that it shouldn’t be perminant and coud be a thing where there is a new pavillion compitition every year……..serpintine gallery esque! its quite normal for other schools of architecture to do stuff like that -I saw a nice little pavilllion outside the AA a few years ago (even shabbier construction) .Guess sw101 wouldn’t mind ๐Ÿ˜€

    • #752571
      garethace
      Participant

      Well now, isn’t this cosy?

      BTW, for those of you interested, Sputnik’s translation into English, is something like ‘Travelling Companion of the Earth’. ๐Ÿ™‚

      Hmmm… Deep.

      Anyhow, couple of good genuine comment at CG Architect too.

      http://www.cgarchitect.com/vb/showthread.php?p=70285#post70285

      I believe that future students competitions, all around the world, should lever modern Internet technology – sort of realtime crits via web space etc, etc…. would add an even greater level of interaction and teamworking.

      Just email me, via this address fergus,

      garethace@hotmail.com,

      if you remember that thing some Friday or something, have a skupe. ๐Ÿ™‚

      Brian O’ Hanlon.

    • #752572
      sw101
      Participant

      @burge_eye wrote:

      SW101 – were you given a bad crit by DIT??

      ๐Ÿ˜‰ there ya go.

      it just rankles a bit that this temporary structure will be in situ until it rots. rankles, so it does.

    • #752573
      garethace
      Participant

      I just wish to add a little twist into this discussion here,…. just a query if you will. I am wondering, to what extent does the phenomena described in the following piece,… apply to the Bolton Street DIT smoking shed?

      In 1958, the social scientist Thomas C. Schelling ran an experiment with a group of law students from New Haven, Conneticut. He asked the students to imagine this scenario: You have to meet someone in New York City. You don’t know where you’re supposed to meet, and there’s no way to talk to the other person ahead of time. Where would you go?

      This seems like an impossible question to answer well. New York is a very big city, with lots of places to meet. And yet a majority of the students chose the very same meeting place: the information booth at Grand Central Station. Then Schelling complicated the problem a bit. You know the date you’re supposed to meet the other person, he said. But you don’t know what time you’re supposed to meet. When will you show up at the information booth? Here the results were even more striking. Just about all the students said they would show up at the stroke of noon. In other words, if you dropped two law students at either end of the biggest city in the world and told them to find each other, there was a very good chance that they’d end up having lunch together.

      It has occured to me, from reading frequent fliers, and college newspapers around Trinity College,… there is this expression that keeps on cropping up,…

      “The word on the ramp is,… “

      I can only assume, that is the ramp, outside the Arts Block? Anyhow, this expression, has become synonimous with other familiar expressions, like ‘the word of the grapevine is’,… ‘the word on the block is’,… or ‘the word on the street is’… That is, I assume to be ‘in the know’ of what’s happening in Trinity, you need to visit the ‘Ramp’ periodically. Even though, Trinity is now probably one of the most dispersed, dislocated campuses around… it still sort of ties itself together ‘socially’ with that one simple expression, ‘the word on the ramp is’.

      It is a little intriguing, that the ‘Ramp’ in Trinity college also functions in an equivalent fashion to the smoking shed and surrounding area in Bolton Street. I remember in the old days at DIT Bolton Street, the patio area between the fire escape and the new studios, used to function as the gossip corner, for the Architectural Department. It was very amusing sometimes to observe the clashes of authority between the students wanting to use the roof top to smoke and talk etc, while the staff would try to discourage it.

      I don’t know if there is an equivalent in UCD or other campuses around the country. Any thoughts anyone?

      Brian O’ Hanlon.

      P.S. The above quote is from James Surowiecki’s book – The Wisdom of Crowds.

    • #752574
      ctesiphon
      Participant

      In the mid-1990s in UCD, ‘The Blob’ serves a similar function. It is a small marble sculpture on a plinth, about waist height, located in the Arts Block. ‘The Wall’- an interior wall on the concourse that allowed perching- was another location in the Arts Block, at the Commerce end, at which Commerce students would congregate. There was a definite allegiance among the students for one or the other, but rarely would anyone ‘belong’ to both. (In my time, my friends and I would gather at the 30p coffee machine outside the shop in the library basement- but we were a contrary bunch. ๐Ÿ˜‰ )
      I don’t know if this still holds since Commerce got its own building.
      And I don’t know if there’s an equivalent in Richview (my current home)- maybe the steps of the canteen, or the canteen itself?

      A related point (though it probably doesn’t apply to the NY example) is the role of smoking in this.

      Also, on crowds: have you tried Elias Canetti’s ‘Crowds and Power’? A somewhat different thrust from the Surowiecki book which, if the reviews I’ve read are anything to go by, argues that we should follow the lead of the majority.

      So much for the majority- LONG LIVE THE SMOKERS!!! ๐Ÿ˜€ (“The word on the cancer ward is…”)

    • #752575
      GrahamH
      Participant

      Could you describe the practice of ‘perching’ ctesiphon? ๐Ÿ™‚
      Sounds intriguing…

    • #752576
      ctesiphon
      Participant

      It’s to do with a perch, i.e. where a bird etc. might sit. Usually a slightly elevated and advantageous position, from which to observe. ‘The Wall’, when sat upon, placed the sitter’s head just above those of the general populace (subject to personal height attainment), and as it was at a strategic junction in the building, with views along two corridors and out through the (then) main Commerce entrance, was ideal for the noble profession of people watching. Alas, nobody has the time any more in this fast-paced, need-it-yesterday world of ours…(sob) ๐Ÿ™‚

    • #752577
      GrahamH
      Participant

      ๐Ÿ˜€

      Ah, when I was young now, back in the day…

      Just sounded so funny ‘it allowed for perching’ lol.
      Hate groups like you lot – intimidating everyone going by. Bet you made sheep noises too ๐Ÿ™‚

    • #752578
      ctesiphon
      Participant

      Oh no- The Wall wasn’t my turf at all! I would have felt as intimidated as you.
      But if you got me outside the library shop, well… watch out!!! Baaaaaaa Hickey! Nice shoes, nerd! Where’s your friends, nerd! Did mummy knit your jumper, nerd! Oh look, the nerd has dropped his books… etc. etc. :p

      (I fear we’ve gone off thread a bit- I hope it was entertaining. Lest I be misunderstood, I was categorically not one of those people. Don’t worry Graham, I’d never mock your shoes. ๐Ÿ™‚ )

      So- garethace. I’ve had a thought about Richview. Since the smoking ban, a table with two benches outside the canteen, from which every movement can be monitored across the square and into/out of the buildings, has become a key spot, even for non-smokers. We jokingly refer to it as the village pump- could be a candidate for a ‘ramp’ equivalent?

    • #752579
      GrahamH
      Participant

      ๐Ÿ˜€

      Leave my jumpers alone – pink is the new black I’ll have you know!
      Anyway architecture students aren’t ones to talk – I can just see you now, all lined up in your black polonecks scoffing at the masses belew ๐Ÿ™‚

      Increasingly are buildings going to be designed with smokers in mind, with sheltered areas that are part of the architecture of the building rather that just afterthoughts tacked on?
      It is interesting how people congregate alright – schools and colleges are notorious for it. This is definitely an area that greater thought should be put into, especially considering the throngs of smokers shoved outdoors nowadays.

    • #752580
      sw101
      Participant

      @Graham Hickey wrote:

      ๐Ÿ˜€

      Leave my jumpers alone – pink is the new black I’ll have you know!
      Anyway architecture students aren’t ones to talk – I can just see you now, all lined up in your black polonecks scoffing at the masses belew ๐Ÿ™‚

      Increasingly are buildings going to be designed with smokers in mind, with sheltered areas that are part of the architecture of the building rather that just afterthoughts tacked on?
      It is interesting how people congregate alright – schools and colleges are notorious for it. This is definitely an area that greater thought should be put into, especially considering the throngs of smokers shoved outdoors nowadays.

      i would never give special dispensation for smokers. for one thing, it’s not a habit to be encouraged (smoker, so i’m not on my high horse), and second, i can see smoking being banned outright by 2012, so by the time anything most students design is actually built, it won’t be an issue.

    • #752581
      ctesiphon
      Participant

      I’ve been a ‘pink’ man since, oooh, 1993? When it was neither profitable nor popular…
      And I’ve never worn black by choice- dress suit only. There’s enough of it in the world already.

      Architect? How dare you!! I’m a PLANNER! No polonecks and intelligent spectacles for me, mate. ‘Tis they who are on the receiving end of my ire, with their notions, and their concepts, and their visions ๐Ÿ˜‰ (Not really, but we must perpetuate the stereotyped dichotomy between the two disciplines.)

      Smoking:
      A classmate of mine is doing a thesis on the urban design implications of the smoking ban- can’t wait to see his results. But yes, I think this will become an increasingly important area. From a planning point of view, outdoor cig bins all carry advertising- should this require planning permission? And canopies/awnings too? And what about the fixing of said cig bins to the walls of protected structures (which many pubs are)- does this compromise their heritage integrity?
      There is evidence too that the lack of an enclosed yard (sorry, ‘beer garden’) with a pub has an effect on the value of the property- reducing it by as much as 20% (according to recent article in I.T. Commercial Property).
      I think this will be a fascinating area to watch in the next while.

    • #752582
      ctesiphon
      Participant

      @sw101 wrote:

      i would never give special dispensation for smokers. for one thing, it’s not a habit to be encouraged (smoker, so i’m not on my high horse), and second, i can see smoking being banned outright by 2012, so by the time anything most students design is actually built, it won’t be an issue.

      Even if smoking is banned outright (highly unlikely, in my view- generates too much revenue. How else will the govt. pay for the servicing of all the one-off houses? ๐Ÿ˜ฎ ), the ban raises the issue of outdoor activity generally. So much guff is written about the ‘public realm’ in architecture, but our climate really isn’t cut out for all this continental-style lounging. Applying the logic of the ban to other activities, it seems there is still a need for well-designed outdoor areas that benefit from shelter from the elements. Ever noticed how the bandstand by the pond in Stephen’s Green attracts the daytime drinking fraternity when it’s raining?

      “…not a habit to be encouraged”? The ban seems to me to be disincentive enough. And I’d argue that there are other habits that we should be discouraging- driving in city centres, building unsustainable one-off houses- that are far more injurious to the wider population than somebody nipping out for a fag.

    • #752583
      garethace
      Participant

      The Architects, and architectural enthuasiasts in the audience are just going to hate this rotten turn the discussion has taken, but heck,… I like computers, I like calculations that involve discovering the behaviour of large numbers of agents, and firmly believe that someday, all of this sort of research is going to amount to something useful to the urbanist/architect. I just couldn’t resist, posting this piece,…

      Yeah, the Suroweicki book is grand,… I must check out that Crowds and Power Book too, after I finish the Wisdom of Crowds,.. I must scribble down all the others like it I have picked up over the last year,… Suroweicki suggests a certain book/study done on New York city pedestrians, called ‘City’, by William H. Whyte. I think the study of pedestrians, an understanding of how traffic engineers always want to design the city, from their perspective,… I think that is all going to be useful in solving problems that Dublin city and other Irish towns and villages, will face in the coming decades. So this whole ‘bottom-up’ idea about organisation is important – whether it be stock markets, ant colonies or pedestrians.

      Trouble is though, most Architects have no clue what a pedestrian is, the notion is not a part of their toolkit,… they tend to stress more, things like ‘drawing’,.. and that kind of design. So it is too easy to ‘blame’ traffic engineers for pushing mechanised movement, when Architects themselves didn’t do any homework about pedestrians either – except this is improving, several architects I have listened to speaking/presenting lately in Ireland, seem to be getting there, painfully perhaps, but at least, getting there. I still think a more determined effort is required from first year in Architectural Schools though. But believe me, I have sat in lectures where a tutor attempted hopelessly to ‘animate’ this kind of subject matter – sometimes, with sucess, sometimes without – but in general the whole undertaking proved to be a terrible load of stodge,… I dunno, perhaps Architects aren’t designed to grasp these sorts of notions, or to present them with any enthuasiasm?

      Any views?

      Am I way off base?

      Brian O’ Hanlon.

      In the early 1990s, the economist Brian Arthur tried to figure out whether there really was a satisfying solution to this problem. He called the problem the ‘El Farol problem’, after a local bar in Santa Fe that sometimes got too crowded on nights when it featured Irish Music. Arthur set up the problem this way: If El Farol is less than 60 percent full on any night, everyone there will have fun. If it’s more than 60 percent full, no one will have fun. Therefore, people will go only if they think the bar will be less than 60 percent full; otherwise, they stay home.

      How does each person decide what to do on any given Friday? Arthur’s suggestion was that since there was no obvious answer, no solution you could deduce mathematically, different people would rely on different strategies. Some would just assume that the same number of people would show up at El Farol this Friday as showed up last Friday. Some would look at how many people showed up the last time they’d actually been in the bar. (Arthur assumed that even if you didn’t go yourself, you could find out how many people had been in the bar.) Some would use an average of the last few weeks. And some would assume that this week’s attendance would be the opposite of last week’s (if it was empty last week, it’ll be full this week).

      What Arthur did next was run a series of computer experiments designed to simulate attendance at El Farol over the period of one hundred weeks. (Essentially, he created a group of computer agents, equipped them with the different strategies, and let them go to work.) Because the agents followed different strategies, Arthur found, the number who ended up at the bar fluctuated sharply from week to week. The fluctuations weren’t regular, but were random, so that there was no obvious pattern. Sometimes the bar was more than 60 percent full three or four weeks in a row, while other times it was less than 60 percent full four out of five weeks. As a result, there was no one strategy that a person could follow and be sure of making the right decision. Instead, strategies worked for a while and then had to be tossed away.

      The fluctuations in attendance meant that on some Friday nights El Farol was too crowded for anyone to have fun, while on other Fridays people stayed home who, had they gone to the bar, would have had a good time. What was remarkable about the experiment, though, was this: during those one hundred weeks, the bar was – on average – exactly 60 percent full, which is precisely what the group as a whole wanted to be. (When the bar is 60 percent full, the maximum number of people possible are having a good time, and no one is having a bad time.) In other words, even in a case where people’s individual strategies depend on each other’s behaviour, the group’s collective judgement can be good.

      A few years after Arthur first formulated the El Farol problem, engineers Ann M. Bell and William A. Sethares took a different approach to solving it. Arthur had assumed that the would-be bargoers would adopt diverse strategies in trying to anticipate the crowd’s behaviour. Bell and Sethare’s bargoers, though, all followed the same strategy: If their recent experiences at the bar had been good, they went. If their recent experiences had been bad, they didn’t.

      Bell and Sathare’s bargoers were therefore much less sophisticated than Arthur’s. They didn’t worry much about what the other bargoers might be thinking, and they did not know – as nights when they didn’t show up. All they really knew was whether they’d recently enjoyed themselves at El Farol or not. If they’d had a good time, they wanted to go back. If they’d had a bad time, they didn’t. You might say, in fact, that they weren’t worrying about coordinating their behaviour with the other bargoers at all. They were just relying on their feelings about El Farol.

      Unsophisticated or not, this group of bargoers produced a different solution to the problem than Arthur’s bargoers did. After a certain amount of time had passed – giving each bargoer the experience he needed to decide whether to go back to El Farol – the group’s weekly attendance settled in at just below 60 percent of the bar’s capacity, just a little bit worse than that ideal central planner would have done. In looking only to their own experience, and no worrying about what everyone else was going to do, the bargoers came up with a collectively intelligent answer, which suggests that even when it comes to coordination problems, independent thinking may be valuable.

    • #752584
      ctesiphon
      Participant

      The William H. Whyte book is presumably ‘City- Rediscovering the Center’ (Anchor Books, NY ?)- WHW got a National Geographic grant for this research, at the time the first ever NG grant for domestic (i.e. USA) research. If you thought the involvement of NG suggests an anthropological slant to the work, you’d be right. The cornerstone of the study is observation; hours and hours of it. Makes for a fascinating read, with some intuituve results, some counter-intuitive ones. His ‘Social Life of small urban spaces’ is apparently also excellent.

      My own thesis is on ‘Urban design, visual clutter and pedestrian navigability’ or something of that ilk- looking at the proliferation of junk in streets and the consequences of same. Then again, I’m not an architect (architectural historian, and planning student), so maybe your point about architects is valid? I do know that I’ve always had as a pet hate the way most architectural photography disregards the human element of buildings, i.e .treats the buildings as abstract compositions while treating people as intrusions into the purity. Perhaps it’s the same mentality? (A similar point about photos was made in another thread, re deBleacam & Meagher- was it by you, garethace? About how different are the experiences of buildings in print vs. in the flesh? It’s a good one.)

      Re. the pub crowds- are you familiar with the economic concept of ‘The tragedy of the commons’? It states that individuals will exploit a ‘common pool’ resource (in the example given, it’s the grazing of animals on common land) to maximise their own ‘profit’, resulting eventually in damage to the resource, the suffering of the collective and thus of each individual? Think of city traffic, Ireland’s fisheries policy… Has been used as a justification for planning (i.e. govt intervention in the ‘free’ market for the ‘common good’).

      On computers, calculations and behaviour, try Bill Hillier’s ‘Space Syntax’ work (The Social Logic of Space; Space is the Machine), in which formulae based on recorded behaviour are applied to future scenarios for analysis. Used in the redesign of Trafalgar Square. (Tungstentee introduced me to it- want to comment, Tungie? ๐Ÿ™‚ )

      Good luck with it- you’re opening a fascinating can of worms.

    • #752585
      garethace
      Participant

      I do know that I’ve always had as a pet hate the way most architectural photography disregards the human element of buildings, i.e .treats the buildings as abstract compositions while treating people as intrusions into the purity. Perhaps it’s the same mentality? (A similar point about photos was made in another thread, re deBleacam & Meagher- was it by you, garethace?

      This was the De Blacam and Meagher comment here,…

      https://archiseek.com/content/showthread.php?t=3903

      My first AAI lecture experience, was in Autumn 1992 – back then it was just a room full of chairs, and an ordinary projection showing stuff on a wall. At that level, it was perhaps flawless in its execution – but it grew into something else from those humble beginnings, and I am really not sure into what – but I don’t like it all. Worst of all, it has absolutely no feed-back system, whereby views on how things are done, etc, etc,.. are publicised and openly debated. The AAI publications, seem to lack a format, an editor basically, and seem to just lump in everything and anything to make up a publication. The organisation around the Downes Bronze Medal is a really bad mistake in my view, cause most of the time, the exhibition from which they draw the medal winner is inaccessible to the public – last year I went to visit it on a Sunday at Guinness’s and it was locked shut. Indeed the whole AAI concept, seems to be locked shut into some tiny group structure, which is really straining these days to support itself.

      The restriction of presentations to boards etc, is bad – cause the AAI Awards should be less about awards and more about the exhibition part, where you get to see over an extended period, a couple of months perhaps, a decent view of some major projects, with models and the works, in some building that the AAI could be guaranteed – the top floor of the National Gallery of Ireland springs to mind – yeah, something as large as that, that can handle the crowds and be accessible. The idea of people travelling to the exhibition then, rather than the exhibition travelling around the country in the booth of someones car, in the form of flattened A1 boards, for ease of portability etc, etc,… all this should seriously be debated,… if the exhibition was indeed good enough, it would be worth the train ticket to Dublin for a day to visit it in a decent exhibition space.

      Architecture translates very, very poorly into photography – yet so much of the young architectural students experience and definition of Architecture is based on photography these days. Good Architectural photography can tell you a reasonable amount about 50% of what Architecture is, but like some lossly compression digital format, that discards information for smaller file size, so Architectural photography discards an entire dimension of time. You are also right, most good architectural photography discards the people too,… but I am now going to demonstrate an attempt of showing people in the photograph, with my attachments. The whole AAI thing, and the format in which good modern architecture is presented on these multiple flatten A1 boards, which are exhibited in locked spaces, for the mere sake of finding a Bronze medal Award winner each year, this whole format reeks of inefficiency and small-mindedness. And personally as a way of presenting Architecture to the citizens, I need the whole format, needs a good shove in a new direction.

      Re. the pub crowds- are you familiar with the economic concept of ‘The tragedy of the commons’? It states that individuals will exploit a ‘common pool’ resource (in the example given, it’s the grazing of animals on common land) to maximise their own ‘profit’, resulting eventually in damage to the resource, the suffering of the collective and thus of each individual? Think of city traffic, Ireland’s fisheries policy… Has been used as a justification for planning (i.e. govt intervention in the ‘free’ market for the ‘common good’).

      Yeah, I have come to many of those same conclusions, with the approach to traffic in Dublin’s city centre in particular,… where the pedestrian aught to be considered at least 50% of the equation, with cars,… as opposed to only about 5% important, as it was always perceived in the past. Here again, a lot of social programming went on,… and it is only now, we are all beginning to realise, how deeply engrained our views of cars and cities actually were.

      https://archiseek.com/content/showthread.php?t=3903

      Normally the Architect doesn’t get too bothered about solving a particular problem, or even contemplating a problem, unless they are given a site, a brief and a client. Then and only then, do things begin to start moving. It has occured to me, that lately, a little known part of the community – a pedestrian – has become a client, a site and a brief for Architects to work on – in other words pedestrians have for the first time ever, become a problem, to be solved. While it isn’t quite like a person who wants to build an extension and arrives in person to the Architect’s office, asking for the design service, the Architect is nonetheless finding a way to relate to the pedestrian more these days, and help them out.

      The thing is, pedestrians don’t define conditions, the pedestrians themselves, their whole state is defined by the conditions. You will probably not come across too many ‘pedestrians’ out there to talk to, to interview, to discuss progress on the project with – like say a house extension/modification brief. Indeed the Architects have been finding out, that certain pedestrians have a tendency to sue more than the house building type. But one thing is clear, attitudes have changed, and it is no longer good enough to provide pedestrians with the conditions more or less outlined, in the JPEG image I have attached below.

      Brian O’ Hanlon.

    • #752586
      garethace
      Participant

      If you are indeed doing a thesis on pedestrians etc, etc, you might want to look at the following, and how the lack of provision on Grafton Street, for street traders, or low priced retail space, for traders, has indeed worked very negatively against a couple of prime retail properties, directly on, or just off Grafton Street no less! If I happened to own, any of these properties, I would be complaining about it – I may even be forward thinking enough to strike some kind of deal with the street traders, to offer them a portion of space in my ground floor retail property space, just to tidy up the mess, that now exists outside my doorstep, and is stopping me from doing any kind of business, or attracting good rental clients.

      I mean, in the Photos I am about to show, you can see a Bank, which a completely blank facade, a corner retail location, which should be a prime location, with ‘50%’ discont signs all over it, a Post Office down just from that corner, which has been disused for months and months, two very distinct considerable patches of urban paving space, just off of the busiest pedestrian thoroughfare in Ireland, which are absolute devoid of life, shuned my all pedestrians, all because of the imposition of four ‘street’ traders, on the way pedestrian traffic is allowed to flow. Notice, how one space, has become occupied solely with inanimate objects, like public phones which are never used these days, a cash machine, and a parking space for a scootter! Why? Because you have to practically ‘fight’ with the traders to get through towards McDaid, or Dawson Street direction, off of the Grafton Street axis. It would indeed be worth any forward enough thinking, property developer’s money, to offer those street traders some space, just to remove them from blocking the flow.

      I mean, you don’t even have to think in terms of cars, to see dead space created, or nasty unused space created,… the street traders seem to manage more or less the same effect. What is sadest of all, if you look at the Church in the background, you begin to get just some idea, how that space is meant to work, with the cleaning up of that vista, the Church on Dawson Street visible in the background, and a perpendicular route to Grafton Street, which presents all kinds of opportunites, for retail, service industry etc, etc,… which currently just aren’t being seen by anyone.

      Brian O’ Hanlon.

    • #752587
      GrahamH
      Participant

      Great pictures there – College Green being particularly pertinent.

      Walking around so much of Dublin city centre 2-4 times a day, I experience so much of what you speak Brian, i.e the priority of traffic over pedestrians.
      And I don’t mean that in the usual ‘why aren’t the traffic lights programmed in favour of us’ strain of thought (although it plays an important role), but rather in the way we have all grown up in a culture where car is best.

      It is perfectly summed up in something I experience virtually every day. Take the example of being in a car and being stranded in a yellow box on the road, blocking a whole stream of traffic and everyone starts honking etc. The fear of God is put into most motorists – gasp shock horror I’m holding up ten cars behind me etc. Likewise if a pedestrian, or group of pedestrians hold up traffic, the unthinkable is happening – you’re holding up ‘The Traffic’. Angry fists appear out of windows, expletives often shouted etc.

      Now consider the reverse senario which one sees every single hour of every single day in Dublin (and around the country) of a monster truck straddled across a pedestrian crossing, notably at the likes of O’Connell Bridge, Westmoreland, Pearse St etc, where anywhere of up to 80-100 people at the junction can be blocked from crossing, or at best be inconvenienced – and often put in danger by having to walk between vast vechicles.
      Our reaction to the situation is completely different, the pedestrian might grumble in their head but that’s about it!

      We’ve been brought up in a car culture, a culture where on no accounts do you block The Traffic – not people but ‘Traffic’ – an alien force not to be reckoned with – despite the fact that in most urban environments pedestrians hold the clout numerically. How is it that if traffic is held up, war breaks out, yet if many more people who just happen not to be in cars, on the pavements are held up nobody cares?!!

      Some dedicated pedestrians do take it into their own hands – I occasionally give dirty looks but that’s about it – others shout, clap their hands at the driver’s handiwork etc. On one occasion on St. Stephen’s Green I saw a man with an umbrella give a taxi driver’s bonnet an almighty whack, much to the pleasure of everyone else ๐Ÿ™‚

      I think this practice sums up our attitudes towards pedestrians not only in road and street based locations, but on a much broader level: in how we design our buildings’ outdoor spaces and environments to cater for the pedestrian, or indeed the person.

    • #752588
      garethace
      Participant

      There are more to come tomorrow if I get around to it, I need to add two more to the College Green post,… that is, if the flower traders don’t ‘knock me off’ in the meantime. Basically, I was interested in presenting two views of Architectural Photography here,… that of the smoking shed in Bolton Street, with its ‘Zen-Like’ purity – basically, the kind of view of Architecture pretty much deeply embedded into the public now, because of publications like the AAI Awards catalogues.

      And another kind of Architectural Photography, that maybe looks at the dynamics of pedestrian navigation – and the sometimes very odd situations it seems to throw up, when you look at the conditions that people exist, or ‘try’ to exist within,… That is the real trick with the pedestrian though – don’t look at the pedestrian per se, but rather look at the conditions they are forced to live under. A pedestrian is largely defined by its environment, be it cars, street trading or whatever. Mr. Meagher spoke of this too in his lecture of Trinity college, how the entrances in the eating hall, was no longer through the front door. The book ‘The Wisdom of Crowds’, does go into a description of why people behave the way they do, in a que situation, as regards to seats on subways, as regards to supermarket checkouts, and how something like a que, is in fact, a labour-saving devise, so that everyone gets served, with the minimum of effort and maximum of return.

      Here is a quote from the Art of War, 5th Century BC, which is something that maybe planners could bear in mind this time, rather than proclaiming, victory against the car, in a loud, brashy way… I think a lot of the fight against the car to date, has been calm enough,… a lot of areas of the city have been sucessfully reclaimed for the pedestrian, and there is loads of work still be be done – hopefully I can look forward to some nice stuff coming from the Architects/Planners.

      Brian O’ Hanlon.

      What the ancients called a clever fighter is one who not only wins, but excels in winning with ease. Hence his victories bring him neither reputation for wisdom nor credit for courage. He wins his battles by making no mistakes. Making no mistakes is what establishes the certainty of victory, for it means conquering an enemy that is already defeated. Hence the skillful fighter puts himself into a position which makes defeat impossible, and does not miss the moment for defeating the enemy. Thus it is that in war the victorious strategist only seeks battle after the victory has been won, whereas he who is destined to defeat first fights and afterwards looks for victory.

    • #752589
      ctesiphon
      Participant

      Aah if it isn’t my old friend Sun Tzu- calling him into the service of planning and architecture sure makes a change from his hijacking by management consultants the world over.
      I did consider, very briefly, doing a thesis on ‘Planning and Go’, Go being that most ancient board game of strategy- makes chess look like tiddlywinks. The Art of War has been applied to Go for as long as the two have been in existence.
      I just couldn’t find an angle on the subject- maybe I’ll save it for my PhD? ๐Ÿ˜ฎ

      Thanks for the leads on the pedestrian stuff too- much info to be incorporated. No doubt I’ll be back to you with more thought-provoking questions soon. ๐Ÿ™‚

    • #752590
      garethace
      Participant

      I just attached a couple more, taken from the same point of view at College Green – really, that tiny space, between the traffic going in either directions, reminds me of the space where minnows in a rushing stream hide behind rocks and obstructions for their own safety. I should have inserted a bubble over the ‘little lady in the red coat’ above,… saying, ‘Do I really need this S*@^!’

      On the Grafton Street point, I think some reflection is required. Did you ever hear of that expression in the movies, where the CIA and the FBI argue over jurisdiction? As in, the famous phrase, ‘Domestic is our back yard!’ You really need a strong American twang to pull that off properly,… but in case I sound like I am drifting off point here, lets start at the beginning.

      Imagine that crossing of two streets in Grafton Street was in fact, the central mall crossing in any suburban shopping centre, the point at where all the ice-cream cones and trinkets are sold, Sony always seem to have a kiosk in this area these days, to sell flat panel TVs and digital cameras. Anyhow lets, just say for arguments sake, that along one day came these Street Traders selling flowers, and decided all of a sudden, to just block off two spoke malls from the central shopping centre area – what do you think would happen? Would all the business owners, on the spoke malls, that are effectively blocked off, and desolate,… suddenly ask for a reduced rent, or even a refund perhaps,… you bet they would, and start looking for better premises too.

      Unless, unless that is, you are a pub that needs a beer garden, to allow people to smoke in the street,… see further down for more details. Anyhow,…

      This is my point, while the Dublin City Council speak in public talks about all that ‘more’ they can offer, that Blanchardstown or Dundrum Shopping Centres could never offer – you also have to look at what Dundrum and Blanchardstown can offer, which Grafton Street obviously cannot. I mean, you don’t see scooters parked at the central atrium space in a suburban Shopping Centre, you don’t see massive ruggedised steel enclosed Telecom switchboxes either. Public phones are discreetly tucked away someplace, off the main drag, where the baby changing and toilets are. And you certainly do not having Street Traders blocking up pedestrian traffic from two directions from the central atrium.

      Why? Becaues ‘Domestic is my back yard’,… you see in a shopping centre, beneath that covered roof element, which will probably pay itself off within a year’s good trading/rental,… the Law as regarding use of the street totally changes, from relying on the Garda to keep the streets tidy – to where you have guys walking around in security uniforms with walkie-talkies, moving on the loiterers and so forth. You don’t have to write ‘a fine letter’ to Dublin City Council, to discuss matters – you tell your security firm to sort it out, or they are fired.

      I am amazed that some representative from Dublin City Council, says they can offer something ‘way more’ than Shopping Centre environments, and keep a straight face,… when the evidence that I can see obviously points to the contrary. That is probably why the city centre is losing so many clients, and failing to attract hip new ones. Guys, Property Owners in Grafton Street, get a grip, group together and do something about your ‘front yards’,… I know it sounds like too much work, but at the end of the day, a proper framework plan for those side streets from Grafton Street would reflect handsomely on everyones bottom line, and might open up some exciting new opportunities you hadn’t thought of,… If I was a trader there, I would not want to tie myself down with the lethargy of a slow-moving Central City Planning Council. No way!

      Greed is often thought of as a negative quality – but it can be a positive motivator too sometimes. I will leave this discussion now to Grafton Street area business traders to think about. BTW, as just a corollary to my point on the Street Traders – one has to remember the smoking ban is in place nowadays too – and pubs without some kind of ‘smoking lounge’ are finding it difficult going. Well, the two pubs directly behind the barricade of flowers on Grafton Street, both benefit most handsomely from that said ‘flower pot barricade’.

      Indeed, both of those pubs, seem to see it fit, to use a public street now, almost as a beer garden, and with the advent of mass hystery over Saturday Live Matches in pubs, you can see how this develops on a busy shopping Saturdays. The nicest part, is because of the public street thing – it isn’t the pub’s responsibility to keep patrons on the premises – it is the Gardai’s.

      Would somebody in Dublin City Council mind telling me, was it the intention of Grafton Street and areas ‘pedestrian-isation’ to include whole streets as parts of licensed premises? I.e. To allow them to use the street as a beer garden, and devise neat means to do so, using Street Traders, as a kind of outer perimeter to this same beer garden? Then to expect, Garda patrol to walk around and make sure that everyone is inside the designated drink/smoking area,… seems like passing the buck to me,.. to a patrol force, which is already busy enough doing important work, without keeping drunk people ‘on the pub premises’ too.

      Get Smart Grafton Street and get your team thinking hats on, or be prepared to go the same way as the Dinosaurs.

      Respectfully,
      Brian O’ Hanlon.

    • #752591
      garethace
      Participant

      Couple of very useful images, relevant perhaps to our discussion.

      Brian O’ Hanlon.

      P.S.

      Just link this here too…

      Dunno, if you read my post here fellows, I tried to say something about the new strong relationship happening between urbanity, pedestrians and the service industry.

      https://archiseek.com/content/showthread.php?t=3818

    • #752592
      sw101
      Participant

      @garethace wrote:

      Couple of very useful images, relevant perhaps to our discussion.

      Brian O’ Hanlon.

      great shots. where are they from?

    • #752593
      garethace
      Participant

      delete……..

    • #752594
      garethace
      Participant

      http://www.cutaactu.ca/main.asp

      The original PDF is 1.37MB, and is just too large to upload here,… this is what it said on the PDF.

      Note:This paper is based on a special research report of the same name,
      published in 2003 by the Canadian Urban Transit Association, the Federation
      of Canadian Municipalities and Moving the Economy.To purchase a copy of
      the full report, please visit http://www.cutaactu.ca or call (416) 365-9800 x113.

      If you did around the website, or send ’em a mail, they will probably sell you a PDF of the full thing.

      A while ago, I found a lot of great Socio-Economic Papers published here:
      http://www.cmhc.ca/en/index.cfm
      The Canadians seem really serious about their environment, me thinks, which is good.
      Even this city of Ottawa site, is really well organised and zippy fast, well laid out, clear me thinks, dunno…

      http://city.ottawa.on.ca/index_en.html

      I have attached two images from of the CMHC socio economic papers.
      The amazing thing about the ‘evolutionary adoption to the car’ image shown below, is when you actually think about 1900, 1950s, 1960s, 1970s, 1980s design of street patterns here in Dublin, this is exactly what has happened… I mean the really early ‘Corporation Estates’ were all fragmented parallel stuff, a development, on the older grid iron – and by the 1980s we are building stuff, which lacks all form completely – in places like Raheen in Limerick, which initially had some fragmented parallel stuff – now it is all lollipops on a stick.

      Brian O’ Hanlon.

    • #752595
      garethace
      Participant

      This is from the Economist Myron Scholes,… interesting observation.

      In general, he said, new technologies are “often adopted before all the infrastructure” necessary for them to work at their best is ready. “If there is a value to a new technology it will survive.” As an analogy, he told of his recent trip to China’s Yangtze River region where people in relatively large numbers have just learned to drive automobiles. “They drive everywhere and stop in the middle of the fast lane if the rice falls off,” he said. That accounts for many more accidents than in Beijing, where people have learned to drive cars on crowded streets.

      Isn’t it strange though, how something like the City seems to operate with a kind of ‘higher intelligence’ adapting its very form in evolutionary response, to fit snuggly around that new technology of the automobile?

      As demonstrated by the two ‘Pattern’ JPEGs above.

      Brian O’ Hanlon.

    • #752596
      burge_eye
      Participant

      @garethace wrote:

      The thing is, pedestrians don’t define conditions, the pedestrians themselves, their whole state is defined by the conditions. You will probably not come across too many ‘pedestrians’ out there to talk to, to interview, to discuss progress on the project with – like say a house extension/modification brief. Indeed the Architects have been finding out, that certain pedestrians have a tendency to sue more than the house building type. But one thing is clear, attitudes have changed, and it is no longer good enough to provide pedestrians with the conditions more or less outlined, in the JPEG image I have attached below.

      Brian O’ Hanlon.

      Nice photo. But what’s the point exactly. It’s a photo of someone too lazy to walk to a pedestrian crossing (where the photo’s taken from) so they’d rather dice with death instead. You could pedestrianise the whole of Dublin and what would it acheive exactly? We still all have to get to work. Even if you ban the monster trucks and the everyday car, buses and taxis still need to run and I don’t remember either stopping at amber lights too often. People are inherently lazy, bore easily. The street traders never stopped me going down any of those roads – I was only too glad to get out of the general melee. Once you realise there’s nothing down there, however, you’re reluctant to return. You just think “I’ll somehow make it to Nassau Street then get the feck out of here”. You won’t draw people away from a pedestrian axis with a series of dead ends

      You’re proposing a kind of mass anarchy. Traffic and people exist at the moment in a kind of stasis. there’s a mutual disrepect. For every truck or bus that parks on a pedestrian crossing, there’s an old lady stepping out 30 seconds after the amber man has come on. We tolerate these things and, for doing so, we’re given the odd reward. A nice road for the motorist, a Stephen’s green or a Merrion Square, or a Liffey walk for the pedestrian. We’re given the flip-side too, with the ever increasing tolls and the stephens green drunks.

      I think we romanticise about the great walking cities of the worls. Paris, Barcelona, Brussels, Lisbon,all have fabulous public places where people hang out and cock a snook at the car. you tend to forget, however, the sheer terror you’ve been through to reach them. Dublin has polite traffic by comparison. But without the weather…

      Florence is one city that has made a success of it – if you disregard the lunacy of trying to cross from the Ufizzi to the Pontevachio. Dublin may have the chance one day to emulate the italians. We’ve got the arrogance, just not the style.

    • #752597
      garethace
      Participant

      Nice photo. But what’s the point exactly.

      Yeah, I seriously like to show off and pretend I am some kind of artist with deeper insight than normal human beings, from time to times. Apologises.

      ๐Ÿ™‚

      Some good points there indeed, and there are many flip-side arguments, and opposing views, to my general train of thought,… I am busy myself currently working with that train of thought, because my own train of thought would have been rather similar to your own, for most of my own life. It was only very recently, it was brought to my attention, other ways of looking at it, than what I had taken as conventional ‘common sense’ way to view things.

      So, to put it one way, the jury is still out,… but I will continue to explore, this new train of thought of mine anyhow, to see where exactly it ends up.

      We’re given the flip-side too, with the ever increasing tolls and the stephens green drunks.

      I can tell you what though. If any of those drunks had been in selling, they would have been good.

      I followed a drunk, who got thrown out of the Centra beside Judge Roy Beans on Nassau St., he put money into the cup of the homeless guy just outside that Centra, then went around the corner to Dawson Street where he pestered the people waiting for a No. 10 bus, I think. Anyhow, went up Dawson Street, hassled a couple of suits ‘on a night out’. Then got over to the Duke or someplace, and hassled the people drinking outside, then finally I left him and went home, as he was just getting started on some young lady standing outside smoking, at Eddy Irvine’s pub, the one called ‘Cocoon’.

      I reckon I see this kind of thing all of the time, and it is sad to be reminded, in a time of such multi-cultural diversity in Dublin’s city centre, that Paddy Irish man can always be relied upon, to be the smelly bum wandering around streets harassing people. But it is true, unfortunately and I do feel ashamed. Something must have been deeply wrong in this country, before we got anywhere economically, in the big wide world. Just like the ‘street bums in the city centre’ problem, this is why I am suspicious of how we have dealt with traffic in the city, or town down through the years too – I don’t know if we ever seriously addressed the concept – probably not. You see?

      Thankyou again for taking the time, to make your reply.

      Brian O’ Hanlon.

    • #752598
      Anonymous
      Participant

      BTW is the Bolton St smokers hut a permanent fixture or will be the subject of an annual competition?

    • #752599
      garethace
      Participant

      Have not got a clue, sorry.

      Brian O’ Hanlon.

    • #752600
      garethace
      Participant

      Anyone care to try this in College Green some afternoon?

      With that, Monderman tucks his hands behind his back and begins to walk into the square – backward – straight into traffic, without being able to see oncoming vehicles. A stream of motorists, bicyclists, and pedestrians ease around him, instinctively yielding to a man with the courage of his convictions.

      Article:
      http://www.wired.com/wired/archive/12.12/traffic.html

      Some theory behind Monderman:

      http://www.transformscotland.org.uk/conferences/homezones2004/HansMonderman.htm

      There is, something very messy happening around the top of Grafton Street and St. Stephen’s Green currently. Any ideas or observations anyone?

      But lets be honest here guys, I am mostly repeating myself again and again and again, here at Archiseek, just seeing the exact same type of pattern or problem repeated all over the urban sphere. The more you look, the more of it you are seeing, and it points to a vacuum that seems to exist in both the planning and architectural disipline traditions of this country,… an no-man’s land area, where neither disipline appears to meet the other. Which as a consequence, has been mostly filled by lots and lots of cars, and lots of guys in dark navy uniforms trying to keep a lid on it all. It is just costing everyone more money each and every year that passes, and making life just awful in general.

      Brian O’ Hanlon.

      Other related threads:

      Herman Hertzberger Lecture:

      https://archiseek.com/content/showthread.php?t=3933

      Capel Street Bridge:

      https://archiseek.com/content/showthread.php?t=4084

      Parnell Street Area:

      https://archiseek.com/content/showthread.php?t=2541

      Shopping Centre + Car and Pedestrian Indoor Condition:

      https://archiseek.com/content/showthread.php?t=3703

    • #752601
      GrahamH
      Participant

      Very interesting article – though one would presume that much of it is based on local culture changing, whereas in a city with such a constant flow of people new to the system, it might prove somewhat more difficult.

      I often watch with interest what is probably the biggest traffic junction in the North East outside Carroll’s in Dundalk when the vast array of traffic signals there break down, or are turned off. It is surprising just how well the huge quantities of traffic move through the junction, provided the massive trucks coming from the M1 slow down. It shows that with a bit of consideration for other users, we can get by in even the most extreme circumstances, even if just about in this case!

      But certainly in urban centres with a strong pedestrian culture, such a system may well work well.
      Never fails to astonish me when in a car in Dublin or elsewhere how your attitude to pedestrians completely changes, even if you walk the same route and same junctions every day for years and fully understand the pedestrian’s perspective on the route you’re going in the car – when you get in that vehicle things change instantly – it’s incredible.
      Saying that, if you are exposed to pedestrian culture, you’re definitely more in tune to what’s going on around you and are considerate of other’s needs.

      It’s a culture we need to build on in this country, but we’re going in the opposite direction and are going to continue to for as long as the love affair with the car continues.

    • #752602
      garethace
      Participant

      I notice there are several small roundabouts in areas around Killiney area, which get quite busy serving a lot of residential areas, and small local retail centres etc, and this kind of ‘eye-contact’ approach, to the use of the intersection, by pedestrians, vehicles and bicycles does work. There isn’t a huge amount of signs and stuff out there,… more by accident I would say, rather than by design. You will notice too how much safer it feels too, than if you had the usual paraphenalia, the sets of lights, the steel poles that make noises for you to cross, and little men that ‘light up’ and tell you when to cross,.. all of that usual bag of tricks that engineers bring with them. In certain areas, one should just dispense with the signage and make the people themselves more responsible.

      Even in really chaotic junctions, which are in existence at the moment in Dublin city, around shopping centres and stuff, I think the only way, is to make people responsible. At the present, cars often just drive through, when the green man lights up, and just people walk across when the cars have the right-of-way. In order to successfully design a junction, you would have to get rid of a lot of roadside parking of vehicles. That is, to improve view lines of the motor drivers and pedestrians alike. As regards to small people crossing the road and so forth. It would take a lot of effort and committment, on behalf of everyone in the immediate area to get it right. But I should imagine, with the right resolve and people behind the project, you could get places.

      For definite, that whole approach of allowing the traffic engineer and the city council to tell everyone what to do – was really doomed from the beginning.

      Brian O’ Hanlon.

    • #752603
      garethace
      Participant

      Another quick quote from Neil Gershenfeld, that I like to interpret in the context of design of spatial environments.

      Brian O’ Hanlon.

      I vividly recall a particular trip from my childhood because it was when I invented the laptop computer. I had seen early teletype terminals; on this trip I accidently opened a book and turned on its side and realised that there was room on the lower page for a small typewriter keyboard, and on the upper page for a small display screen. I didn’t have a clue how to make such a thing, or what I would do with it, but I knew that I had to have one. I had earlier invented a new technique for untying shoes, by pulling on the ends of the laces; I was puzzled and suspicious when my parents claimed prior knowledge of my idea. It would take me many more years to discover that Alan Kay had anticipated my design for the laptop and at that time was really inventing the portable personal computer at Xerox’s Palo Alto Research Centre.

      Despite the current practice of putting the best laptops in the hands of business executives rather than children, my early desire to use a laptop is much closer to Alan’s reasons for creating one. Alan’s project was indirectly inspired by the work of the Swiss psychologist, Jean Piaget, who from the 1920s onward spent years and years studying children. He came to the conclusion that what adults see as undirected play is actually a very structured activity. Children work in a very real sense as little scientists, continually positing and testing theories for how the world works. Through their endless interactive experiments with the things around them, they learn how the physical world works, and then how the world of ideas works. The crucial implication of Piaget’s insight is that learning cannot be restricted to classroom hours, and cannot be encoded in lesson plans; it is a process that is enabled by children’s interaction with their environment.

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