November 11, 2010 by Colin
Lately, I’ve been digging through books, articles and podcasts that examine the places, patterns and pulse of the neighbourhood, measuring the impact of architecture, street design, geography and the history of urban development upon social and economic behaviour.
It’s this dabbling that led me to open a speech last week with a discussion of the Cassini II expedition to map the interior of pre-revolutionary France. In short, one of Cassini’s team disappeared after working his way into the heart of the Massif Central, a previously isolated and relatively unknown area of France.* I cast this incident as an example of how technological innovation can slam head on to social norms and steadfast traditions – notions of privacy included.
Turning back the clock back two or three hundred years, we begin to recognize that our traditional values, habits and practices were formed as a reaction to contemporary geographic, political and technological pressures.
Even the simplest and most common of urban features — the cemetery — is sited because of economic and physical constraints:
” … In glacial country, all you have to do is look for cemeteries if you want to find the moraine, Anita [Harris] said. “A moraine is poor farmland — steep and hummocky, with erratics and boulders. Yet it’s easy ground to dig in, and well drained. An outwash plain is boggy. There’s a cemetery over near Utica Avenue that’s in the outwash. Most people prefer moraine. I would say it’s kind of distasteful to put your mother down into a swamp …”(“In Suspect Terrain“, John McPhee)
At work, I find myself considering this handful of factors everyday, as we are buffetted by technological change and attempt to take measure of how society is reacting.
* as described in Graham Robb’s “The Discovery of France.”
November 8, 2010 by Colin
What if pervasive media was used to amuse and intrigue you, rather than single you out as a unknowing target of advertising and persuasive messaging?
“… In contrast to a Minority Report future of aggressive messages competing for a conspicuously finite attention, these sketches show a landscape of ignorable surfaces capitalising on their context, timing and your history to quietly play and present in the corners of our lives …” Media Surfaces: Incidental Media via Dentsu London and Berg.
November 7, 2010 by Colin
Design is becoming the differentiator in the highly competitive hotel market. That and giant fat-assed breakfast buffets. Really. I have never seen so many different ways of presenting carbohydrates in one place at one time. Make your own waffles. Morning Glory muffins. Chocolate chip bagels. Oatmeal cookies. Rolled Oats. Fruit Loops knock-off cereal.
Oh, and free wifi.
Even on approach, hotels signal their competitive positioning. Family-oriented, business practical, aspirational alternative, or ostentatiously ambitious. The most noticeable are the alternative brands. Modernist building design. Minimalist landscaping. Sans serif font on the signage and letterhead. Sectional furniture in the lobby. Men’s style magazines on the coffee table. A business centre with a Mac.
If you’re at all uncertain, just check the name etched in the glass over the polished aluminum handles. More often than not, it’s a short given name, or a vague scientific allusion. ARc. Oxygen. Alt. George. Helix.
Despite all this effort, there is one common element fouling each and every lobby: the clunky brass luggage cart. No matter the target market, no matter the guest demo, a four post brass luggage cart can be found lurking around the corner, swivelling wheels never at the ready, dirty rubber bumpers marking every corner.
Really? In a world where Knoll, Herman Miller, Eames and Saarinen can each make a half decent office chair, why are we stuck with the same uninspired luggage cart?
Given a moment of introspection and another of inspiration, what could a hotel baggage cart offer?
- graphic map of the facility to help with navigation
- a handy place to put my room key/card while fumbling with the cart
- a design agile enough to get through the door of the room
- footprint versatile enough to accomodate big family suitcases as well as carry-ons
- something that can get past a laundry cart in the hallway
Oh, and maybe a design aesthetic consistent with every other overly thought out element in the building?
I really wish people would just stop ordering right from the industrial supply catalogue.