Tuesday, October 21, 2008

New tkts

After 9 years, the 1999 competition winner (by Australians John Choi and Tai Ropiha) of the new tkts booth at Time Square was finally open last week.
The 27-step glowing red staircase is absolutely a great contribution to the public spectacles of New York. It easily fits 1,000 people. I can totally see people coming one day in advance to get the perfect seat for the ball drop! As New York Times says, "The best seats on Broadway are now absolutely free."
The glass pieces on the sides are structural, rising neatly above the stairs and becoming guardrails. The fiberglass shell under the stairs houses the office space and 12 windows for ticketing. At first glance, the shell looks a little redundant. But when I saw the mechanical equipments, I found it rather intriguing - usually you'll build a pod to hide the MEP and make the rest usable space, but here, a pod is built to house functional space (which in fact may need a little privacy in a glass structure at Time Sq.) and the guts are exhibited to the public! Yes, it's inside out. What's wrong with that? Strawberries are like that too!

Thursday, October 16, 2008

Structural patterning

Jesse Reiser claimed at his lecture that the exoskeleton of the O-14 Tower in Dubai is partly designed according to forces, which give the facade a pattern of holes in various sizes. I am not sure whether that's exactly how they designed it. But at least it made me think deeper on structural patterning. The pattern here is basically a dia-grid. Different size holes yield different size members. Hmm... seems too trendy and I am tired of it.

He said what they did is the opposite of World Trade Center, of which the pattern is constant but the alloy is changing to accomodate different strength requirements. But to me, O-14 and WTC belong to the same family - changing members in a rigid pattern. Just Reiser chose to express the difference with the various thickness, thus the various holes, as opposed to change the mix of the concrete. It's like the MIT dorm where Holl decided to express the changing steel reinforcements with color coding from the stress diagram.

The real opposite, I think, should be the same members with changing density. This is way more interesting! Use the same thing over and over again, and just put more when it needs to be stronger. I think this is a great idea! Don't really know which building actually does that (please comment if you think of any), but I guess CCTV started doing it. Not quite the same members though...

Saturday, October 11, 2008

On "maybe," or similarly, no answer

Why would people respond to invites with a "maybe"? Or even worse, not responding at all? I think they are trying to escape from certain things...

1. Escape from commitment.
Typical excuse: "I like to be more flexible. There are so many things happening. What if I find out later I can have better plans?"
Most of the invites are just throwing out an idea. Saying "yes" doesn't lead to rigidity. I would rather see a loud "yes" as a sign of passion. If you care about it, you will know it's a must-do, and you will plan other things around it. So I think those who say "maybe" just don't care.

2. Escape from responsibility.
Typical excuse: "I would rather not make promises than breaking them."
True, when you say "yes" to things, you become responsible. But if you have to miss out, an apology with sound reasons will always be accepted. It's just too hard for some people to be responsible and take things seriously.

3. Escape from being judged.
Typical excuse: "Well, it's cool to be mysterious. I don't want to be too predictable."
What's wrong with letting people know you are keen on certain things? A big problem these days is most of the people don't have a clear stance. They don't want to make a decision even on obvious choices. I think that's far from being cool. "I am who I am" sounds way cooler.

OK, MAYBE I am thinking too much... MAYBE, they just simply don't know what they want. I suggest to go the App Store and download "iChoose" for the iPhone. It's free.

Friday, October 10, 2008

Touch screen beauty contest

With Verizon announcing it's Blackberry Storm, all four major candidates are ready. (Photos are more or less in the same scale.)
Apple iPhone / AT&T
Samsung Instinct / Sprint
Blackberry Storm / Verizon
Google Android G1 / T-Mobile

And the winner is... you know what I'll say. Look at the order of the post, although I'll call it a tie for the last two...
(Sorry, this is purely a beauty contest. No talent portion - too much work...)

Sunday, October 5, 2008


Per discussion with Dong and Ish...

Is consistency a good thing or a bad thing? It depends.

Some firms have the "consistency" through all their projects. Every project is the same: same way of thinking, same type of form... How lame is that!? But sadly, there are still people who believe in this type of "consistency." They call it "identity," or, more recently, "brand."
Other firms believe in variety - every project is unique. But within each project they are consistent from the central concept to it manifestation - form follows idea. This is interesting, but perhaps confusing at the end... Looking at the big picture and comparing the projects, people may ask: What are you thinking? Why are you jumping around? Do you really know what you wanna do?
Hmm... seems some sort of threat through the projects is important... I think the best consistency is to have a clear trajectory of thinking. You have a certain range of interests, but at the same time you honor the diversity of approaches, trying to explore different possibilities of manifestation. As a result, you will have a systematic variety of projects under certain theme(s). And btw, being consistent in this case doesn't mean the ideas are not evolving.
This last one, perhaps should not be called "consistency." Good that it has different ways of thinking, but the end form is always the same. People who are doing this may have a critical and analytical eye, but they only know one way to express themselves. I'll call that a limitation of imagination.

Ig Nobel Prizes 2008

The 2008 Ig Nobel Prizes (by Improbable Reserch Magazine) were awarded on Oct 2 at Harvard University's Sanders Theatre. Here is a list of the winners:
Massimiliano Zampini of University of Trento, Italy and Charles Spence of Oxford University, UK
For electronically modifying the sound of a potato chip to make the person chewing the chip believe it to be crisper and fresher than it really is.
The Swiss Federal Ethics Committee on Non-Human Biotechnology (ECNH) and the citizens of Switzerland
For adopting the legal principle that plants have dignity. 
Astolfo G. Mello Araujo and José Carlos Marcelino of Universidade de São Paulo, Brazil
For measuring how the course of history, or at least the contents of an archaeological dig site, can be scrambled by the actions of a live armadillo.
Marie-Christine Cadiergues, Christel Joubert, and  Michel Franc of Ecole Nationale Veterinaire de Toulouse, France
For discovering that the fleas that live on a dog can jump higher than the fleas that live on a cat.
Dan Ariely of Duke University, USA
For demonstrating that high-priced fake medicine is more effective than low-priced fake medicine.
Toshiyuki Nakagaki of Hokkaido University, Japan, Hiroyasu Yamada of Nagoya, Japan, Ryo Kobayashi of Hiroshima University, Atsushi Tero of Presto JST, Akio Ishiguro of Tohoku University, and Ágotá Tóth of the University of Szeged, Hungary
For discovering that slime molds can solve puzzles.
Geoffrey Miller, Joshua Tybur and Brent Jordan of the University of New Mexico, USA
For discovering that a professional lap dancer's ovulatory cycle affects her tip earnings.
Dorian Raymer of the Ocean Observatories Initiative at Scripps Institution of Oceanography, USA, and Douglas Smith of the University of California, San Diego, USA
For proving mathematically that heaps of string or hair or almost anything else will inevitably tangle themselves up in knots.
Sharee A. Umpierre of the University of Puerto Rico, Joseph A. Hill of The Fertility Centers of New England, USA, Deborah J. Anderson of Boston University School of Medicine and Harvard Medical School, USA
For discovering that Coca-Cola is an effective spermicide
And, Chuang-Ye Hong of Taipei Medical University, Taiwan, C.C. Shieh, P. Wu, and B.N. Chiang (all of Taiwan)
For discovering that it is not.
David Sims of Cass Business School. London, UK
For the lovingly written study "You Bastard: A Narrative Exploration of the Experience of Indignation within Organizations."

Nobel Laureate William Lipscomb (left) and Benoit Mandelbrot, the inventor of the mathematical concept of fractals, drink Coke to toast the winners of the Ig Nobel Chemistry Prize.

Friday, October 3, 2008

Weight / Weightlessness

Went to Steven Holl's lecture at Columbia last night. He talked about weight and weightlessness.

Weight Weightlessness
Certainty              Doubt
Solidity Mystery
Substance Essence
Mass      Value
Material     Idea
Actuality Implication
Denotation        Connotation
Be Suggest

He said he's been in search of the second category in his entire career.

Here are some interesting facts he mentioned to prove the importance of the weightlessness:
- In the helium atom, for example, almost all the weight (the nucleus) concentrates in 1/100,000 of the volume. So when it comes to matters, even solid is made of emptiness.
- Meaning is invisible.
- When one dies, he weighs the same. That means soul and knowledge and spirit etc are actually weightless.