Tuesday, 1 December 2009

Subway Atmosphere

It is argued that crime is the inescapable outcome of disorder. Many people will have, perhaps unknowingly, experienced the “Broken Windows” theory. The “Broken Windows” theory was the discovery of the criminologists James Q. Wilson and George Kelling. It is thought that if a window is broken and not repaired, people passing by will decide that no one cares and that no one is managing the area. Soon, more windows will be broken, and the feeling of chaos and mayhem grows. Especially in a city, comparatively small problems like graffiti or public disorder are the equivalent of broken windows, a temptation to more serious crime. Criminals such as muggers or robbers, whether opportunistic or professional, believe they lower their chances of being caught or identified if they operate on streets where prospective victims are already intimidated by existing surroundings and circumstances. Nowhere have these conditions been in such abundance as a cities underground, metro, or subway. The atmosphere created in such a confined and isolated space dictates a passengers feeling of safety and in turn, their likelihood of being a returning customer. To enable a more in depth look at metro station atmosphere I began by looking at the art and architecture of the most famous metro stations of the world.

The aim of "Metro the story of the underground railway” by David Bennett was to go further than merely regurgitating the story of the metro in the form of a history lesson about the building of tunnels and the early underground railways. Rather, it supplies an insight into underground travel throughout the world, from the early coal-burning locomotives to the electrification of the line, exploring the changing trends in metro station design and the introduction of art and sculpture to make the daily underground journey a little more pleasurable. It also takes an interesting look at poster and graffiti art, the transformation of the subway map, and escalator design.

Bennett declared that metro station design initially revolved around the exterior appearance of the building. In the case of Berlin’s U-Bahn, the designers were unsure whether it was sociabl

y acceptable to build an “underground” railway of which the majority would be visible above ground, at high level. The designers won the nonbelievers over as they realised that these great constructions could have much to offer in terms of artistic merit. A cities metro station became a bit of a status symbol. The Moscow City Council statement declared that, “The construction of the metro inaugurates a new and higher phase of Soviet architecture,...” (p68) The Russians took the design of their metro a little further. They are said to have looked at the metros of New York and London and concluded that they were dirty, run down and dull. The aim of the Russians was to, “make a passenger’s journey on the underground not only as comfortable but also as enjoyable as possible.” (p68) It was decided that all underground structures in Moscow should not remind people of being under ground deprived of daylight. The stations should be light filled, should feel spacious, and should be bright and happy places.

Bennett stated that; learning from the german and russian design movements, London, when building the Piccadily line extension, seemed to be more thoughtful to the needs of it’s passengers and less involved with looking impressive to the rest of the world. Functionalism rejected unnecessary decoration of a building, it was believed that good architecture came entirely from the proportion, scale and arrangement of a building.

Developing his logical “tour-guide” style a little, Bennett moved on to discuss station interiors. Beginning with the London underground he talks in depth about materials such as, architect Charles Holden’s choice of brick for both the interior and exterior of the station as it would project warmth. Large windows were inserted over the entrances to introduce good natural daylight into the building and up-lighters were used to bathe the ceilings and walls in warm light without glare.

Bennett’s love and fascination with anything and everything metro related is clear in this book. It is clear, concise and full of interesting information regarding almost every possible aspect of metro design. It is, however, a little cold and factual. His aim is to be as informative as possible but perhaps his love of all things metro glazes over the fact that many metros are hugely flawed. There is no mention of the crime or congestion experienced on most metros, in fact, a whole section talks of graffiti in only a positive way. Bennett’s passion for metros is infectious and leaves you desperate to travel on all the metros he

mentions, however, would they really be so perfect at 8am on a week day? I am not so sure.

Environmental psychologist, Karen A. Franck and practicing architect (with many years experience in designing houses and maternity health care facilities) R. Bianca Lepori joined together to produce “Architecture from the Inside Out”. The book introduces a new foundation for design, which goes beyond the established ideas of style. The book leans more towards feeling, moving and the experiences drawn from observation. A more sensory approach to architecture design is favoured here. The authors put a feminine slant on architecture design, believing that it should be more alive and take its character from the human body. They feel that rather than being cold, unemotional and without sensibilities, buildings should offer spatial sensations that connect with people.

Hans Makart 'The Five Senses' 1879

Chapter 3, ‘Animism of Architecture’ by R. Bianca Lepori, discusses how architecture can be given life and spirit by all the qualities that come into contact with our senses and the human soul: by light and colour, sound and texture, or by the expansion and reduction of space. Lepori asks,

“In designing for the living, why not consider, along with the body that moves, the body that feels, and the body that dreams?” (p75)

Lepori and Franck aim to display how architects can work with clients to uncover both the existing and preferred ways that people inhabit and experience their space. This book gives a glimpse of what the world would be like if women took over more of this responsibility. Rather than thinking of architecture as egotistical, showy and only involving form and facade, Franck and Lepori believe it should be more alive and take its character from the human body, which is a moving, animated structure. When similarly, designed from the inside out, buildings could offer a spatial sensation that could connect with people, such as a certain quality of light or a comforting atmosphere. They celebrate what the design of places and objects often neglects: the needs, activities and emotions of people and the possibility of transforming our ways of living and thinking. With the constant creation of solely profitable products, there now tends to be little care or time for this process. The authors describe a totally alternative approach design. Design is seen not as a project, imposing preconceived ideas upon a situation, but as a process, evolving from the inside out.

The grid systems of most cities and towns have a deadening effect on a person. We are extremely sensitive to the qualities around us, not only visual but of the other senses as well. Radiant heat may be more comforting than forced air heating. The colors used for decorating can have a profound effect on our moods and activities. The quality of light is equally important. Our natural response to a place is very important and is something which can not be forced. Feelings should be stimulated by a place, true architecture should be life-enhancing.

Lepori and Franck’s some-what feminine view point is fascinating and thought provoking. To think that a building can have such an emotional effect on a person seems initially absurd but on closer thought even the effect walking into a cathedral can have on an atheist is striking.

Women tend to be driven by comfort in their surroundings while men tend to be more logical. These two differing views are well demonstrated in these books. Lepori outlines a new way of thinking about interior and architecture design which involves all of the body’s senses, creating stimulating places to spend time. Bennett briefly mentions the beginnings of these ideas being taken seriously in metro design, bringing as much daylight into the space, using warming materials and glare reducing lighting. This makes you wonder what it would be like if the male dominated area of architecture and in this case metro design, got in touch with its feminine side a little more? In order to move forward with this feminist theory I believe the best way to find out what sort of atmosphere people feel most comfortable in is by asking....people! This survey would have to be in conjunction with a particular metro to assure that the need of the station are also met. A metro station, in the end, wants to move people from A to B in the shortest possible time - they don’t want people to enjoy the atmosphere too much.

Reading these books has made me far more aware of my everyday surroundings and how they make me feel - am I comfortable? Do I feel out of place? I am also far more aware of the power interior design can have over sometimes large numbers of people. Something as simple as the colour of a wall can repel a group of people at speed. This, some might say feminine, look at human behaviour becomes a sort of intriguing science which would prove helpful to metro design and the fight against crime and congestion. A criminal is far less likely to feel comfortable going about his business in an environment where commuters are comfortable and at ease in a warm, bright and friendly area. The metro would no-longer be a dark and dingy underground world where criminals could lurk. Also the metro could have more control over the commuters. By guiding commuters through the underground system using varying colours, textures and lights they would have authority over the flow and movement of people. A safer, more effective metro is a more productive metro.

Bennet, D, (2004), Metro the story of the underground railway, London, Octopus Publishing

Gladwell, M, (2000), The Tipping Point, Great Britain, Abacus


Lepori, R, and Franck, K, (2007), Architecture from the Inside Out, Great Britain, Wiley-Academy

Preston, J, (2004), Interior Atmosphere, London, Artmedia Press

Friday, 20 November 2009

A little late but here are a few exceedingly amateur photographs of my final vessel on exhibition. There was a lot of sweet and toil but I think it was worth it. One photo, of an overgrown gutter on the Perth road just outside Duncan of Jordanstone, sparked my entire design for this piece. My "gutter" is hinged at either end, has a slot which holds a sheet of perspex at the front and the "Kerplunk" style brass pins actually work. The majority of the piece is made from silver-plated copper but it has brass highlights. In a few weeks time we are learning how to photograph are work properly so I hope to post some decent shots {without my reflection in them!) then.

This evening I watched 'Landward' on BBC2 at 7pm (just incase you want to watch it, I really enjoy it!). The main presenter, Dougie Vipond, visited the Dutch village of Drachten which has no road signs and asked whether Scotland should take a similar approach. The Dutch transport planner, Monderman's idea was simple: if you treat people like idiots, they'll behave like them. So instead of signing everything in the environment, he thinks we should force people to work it out for themselves. No signs, no speed limits, but instead full mixed road use for pedestrians, cyclists and drivers. In Drachten, Monderman has designed a junction without road markings, traffic lights or signs, which he says makes the road more dangerous in order to make them safer. There are no pavements and children's play areas are part of the road, forcing people to take their time and far more care.
Watching the footage of the idilic Drachten, with children playing in the streets and cyclists gliding by I found myself thinking what a great idea it was and how wonderful it would be if it really did happen in Scotland. Thinking of Scotland, however, it struck me: What's the biggest problem on our roads which does't seem to feature on the quaint roads of Drachten? NEDS and boy racers! Can you imagine the chaos which would ensue?!
This led me to think about the debate over alcohol age limits. Various countries on the continent have lower age limits than Britain and don't have the problems which we have. Surely making something forbidden is just making it more attractive and a bit of a challenge to a curious youngster? Many foreign countries have a totally different attitude to alcohol and I believe it's deeply set into their culture. Countries such as France, enjoy alcohol together as families and communities making it a normal part of life. There's no mystery or fascination, they're introduced to it at an early age and in a safe environment.
Could Britain really adapt it's culture?

Monday, 9 November 2009

The Great Subway Obsession

Following our previous Design Studies task, for which I researched (and became obsessed with) subways, we were asked to compile a bibliography of books and journals from which we could draw further information on our chosen subjects. I have to admit, this task didn't fill me with excitement but it did bring me and an amazing book together. "Metro, the story of the underground railway" is fabulous. I would say go and have a look at in the library but I'm pretty sure I'll be monopolising the only copy! Here are the rest of the books and journals I've found and, of course, a bit more about "Metro":

Bennet, D, (2004), Metro the story of the underground railway, London, Octopus Publishing

Explores the architecture of the most dramatic and inspiring stations ever built. Innovations that have made it safer and more pleasant. Looks into subway culture, including popular art, tickets, graffiti art, decorated trains, escalators and maps.

Bennet, D, (2004), The architecture of the jubilee line extension, London, Thomas Telford Publishing

This book talks about the architects that have redefined the use of underground space. The way they have produced stations that respond to passenger movement, that meet long-term spatial planning needs and are a visual delight. This book explores these points to give a fuller understanding of each station's design and what makes for good architecture in civil engineering.

Hackelsberger, C, (1997), Subway Architecture in Munich, New York, Prestel

The changing architectural style of the Munich subway system is carefully documented in this book and is supported by numerous photographs. These developments range from the functional design, to the modern and innovative architecture of the present.

Heller, V, (2004), The City beneath us: building the New York subways, New York, W,N Norton

Describes in wonderful photographs, from the New York Transit Museum, the incredible construction techniques and details involved in creating the underground transport system we know of today. These photos are accompanied by a history of the subway system.

Lepori, R, and Franck, K, (2007), Architecture from the Inside Out, Great Britain, Wiley-Academy

This book emphasises feeling, moving and the experimental. Encourage the pursuit of design as a process evolving from the inside - from movement, sensation, surroundings and a dialogue between architect and client.

Preston, J, (2004), Interior Atmosphere, London, Artmedia Press

Combines contemporary projects and interviews alongside analytical essays. Explores the distinctions between visible and invisible realms within architectural design. The boundaries of design, art and architecture are discussed in order to gain a fuller understanding of atmosphere.

Top 5 websites for my discipline:


Top 5 websites of wider interests:


Tuesday, 27 October 2009

The Tipping Point................AGAIN!

I've experienced a fair number of subways/undergrounds/metros in my time, from the grim and grimy New York Subway to the elegant and sophisticated Paris Metro. Although the London Underground may seem very different to the Clockwork Orange, they share an abundance
of similarities. All subways suffer from congestion and travellers often feel frustrated and disoriented. I started by looking at how these problems could be tackled. For this I looked to the subway masters - The Japanese! The Tokyo subway is the cleanest, safest and best organised of all. To start with, Tokyo's subway stations are well designed by reputed architects through design competitions. Nobody likes to spend their time waiting and having to stand in a smelly narrow box with tons of advertising posters on grimy tiled walls. Most subway systems tend to be filthy and rather dull aesthetically. But there are cities that explicitly foster arts and good architecture in subways. Works of art or sophisticated architecture can be delightful, inspiring and thought-provoking for daily commuters as well as an attraction for visitors. Distinctive colour schemes and works of art help passengers for orientation. Furthermore, there is evidence that vandalism diminishes in appealing stations because works of art and good designs are widely respected. The organic station designs, of Tokyo, are well cared for and seem to be loved by the entire community. Subways need not be boring or dreary. Many operators of subways want to attract more passengers with good station design. This often means extra effort and higher costs for the subway operators but it seems to pay off when a subway is more than just a means of transport but something the residents can be proud of, however, subways are currently designed to keep people moving, to get their money and get them on their way. I wonder if subways should be transformed from somewhere you pass through as fast as possible, to somewhere people want to spend time. In the 1970s planners proposed directly tying the Union Square Station in New York to a department store, blurring the distinction between a space of transit and the surrounding city.

Subways could be a public space, a meeting place where people could eat, drink and socialise. The exquisite Moscow Metro (dubbed the people's palaces) took a bold step in this direction by hosting the first underground mobile arts exhibition. Thirty-five watercolours were chosen by Russian Museum experts for this unique Metro train-turned-picture gallery. The metro train had to be adapted to accommodate the picture frames. The trains are set up like moving museums with paintings on the walls of the cars
instead of windows so that everyday people can experience art on their journey home. I thought that this could be adapted to jewellery or any other art form.

I believe that everyone enjoys music in some from. Bringing organised music to subways could make them more welcoming and cause people to take time out to stop and listen. In New York most musicians are licensed to play underground through a program known as Music Under New York, which started in 1985 and is sponsored by the Metropolitan Transportation Authority. Every spring, 60 to 75 acts, chosen from about 200 audition tapes, try out before a panel of judges Grand Central Terminal; about two dozen of them are selected. The result is that more than 100 individuals and ensembles give 150 free performances every week at one of 25 belowground locations.

The people of Toronto took this even further by organising a 'Subway Dance Party' (I think this was befor the TMobile adverts) bringing people together to socialise. This led me to think of how people tend to avoid eye contact in the confined space of a subway train. A cities subway has the most fascinating mix of people from different cultures passing through it but we never find this out as we deliberately avoid contact. Why not designate one car as a 'Social Car' to get people talking? And perhaps a 'Quite Car' for journeys home from work after those particularly stressful day!

Sunday, 25 October 2009

The Tipping Point Continued

A collection of us jewellers took some time out from the sweat and toil of the workshop to have a quick brainstorm on 'The Power of Context'. We focused on crime and ran with it! Gladwell found that one reason crime declined in New York was that officials put into practice the much-debated 'broken-windows theory', which argued that if subways were cleaned of graffiti and windows were repaired, people would begin to obey the law. Various points associated with crime arose from our session such as alarms, CCTV, graffiti and atmosphere. An array of interesting ideas resulted from our session, from 'Wall in a Can' (a way of "removing" graffiti) to inventive personal alarms.
I was most interested in how graffiti and an areas atmosphere can have an effect on crime. I created a quick mind-map to help me think about how crime and atmosphere might be linked.

In 'The Tipping Point' there is an interesting story about the New York subway and how graffiti had effected this transport system. This reminded me of a video clip a friend showed me a few weeks ago of the Tokyo subway and it's unbelievable way of dealing with their large number of commuters. I went on to look into this subway system, its flaws and how it is being improved.

Saturday, 17 October 2009

Monifieth Beach

A few weeks ago I was scouring Broughty Ferry beach (a favourite past-time of mine) when I distracted by an unusual sight in the distance. An investigation was required! Following the skies (and occasionally looking at the road) I found myself on Monifieth beach. On a particularly windy day take yourself down to Monifieth beach to experience the kite surfing phenomenon. These crazy people reach ridiculous heights - it's mesmerising! I took loads of photos (couldn't help myself!) here's a taster.

Monday, 12 October 2009

Hair by Stewart Comrie

This is an amazing short film by a friend of mine.
Stewart Comrie BA Hons visual communication at Gray's School of Art written directed and produced by Stewart Comrie www.stewartcomrie.com

Tuesday, 6 October 2009

Vessel Update

My vessel design is almost finalised. Basically it's a super sleek, portable version of that wonderful children's game Kerplunk! My designs sprouted from one photo in particular - of a gutter sprouting grass (not an obvious beauty). I've taken the basic shape of a gutter but I plan to hinge each end so that my marble substitutes (whatever they may be) can go in one end and out the other. The front of my gutter is to be perspex so that the insides are visible. I'm struggling a little at the moment trying to solve the problem of how to fit the perspex but I'm sure I'll work something out eventually.

The Tipping Point - Malcolm Gladwell

I'm not a fan of mind-maps and after completing this project I'm even more certain that mind-maps do not work for me. I think I have my own form of mind-map but it looks nothing like this!
The book, however, was interesting. I thoroughly enjoyed the first couple of chapters but struggled with the rest of it as it was incredibly repetitive. A lot of the points that were made, I felt, were quite obvious but until you thought about things the way that Malcolm Gladwell did you didn't realise you knew them. His casual manner made the book easy to read but the repetition was just too much for me. I was horrified by the last Case Study about suicides in Micronesia and the similar problems with teenage smoking in the west. It made me really angry to think that something as pathetic as peer pressure could be so horrifically influential on so many lives.

Thursday, 1 October 2009

My vessel is slowly beginning to take shape. Having spent a good couple of days wandering the streets with my trusty camera I've got tonnes of source material. I've become fascinated with how plants can 'take over' buildings. I have various photos of creeping ivy, trees growing out of roofs and grass growing in gutters. I like the idea of something organic growing, emerging or escaping from something architectural. It's a start anyway.

Sunday, 27 September 2009

It was suggested that us design students give Radio 4 a listen so I gave it a shot and now I think I'm hooked. Yesterday I caught a little bit a programme that was discussing swearing.
Is swearing right or wrong? Is swearing over used? Is swearing just used by people with a low vocabulary? I found their guest language expert (can't remember his exact title or name) very refreshing as he wasn't just anti-swearing as many people seem to be, he argued that swear-words do have their place. I have felt that way for some time and believe that, when used correctly, swear-words can be incredibly expressive. In recent years, however, swearing has been so over-used that the words have lost their impact. The discussion then moved on to the type of words that are used. In the past they tended to be to do with religion/blasphemy whereas now they tend to be to do with body parts, racism or homophobic. This suggests that even years ago swear-words must have been over-used otherwise relatively inoffensive words such as 'bloody' would still be as shocking as they were then. I feel that as long as these words are used properly and carefully then surely it's better that people express their anger verbally rather than physically.
This really got me thinking and I'll be listening to Radio 4 regularly now.

Wednesday, 23 September 2009

I'm a Jewellery and Metalwork student at Duncan of Jordanstone College of Art and Design in Dundee, and my first project this year is to design and make a vessel or group of vessels in metal.

First of all we had to consider what a vessel actually is. My initial thought was of a hollow shape which could hold something within it, such as a bowl. I then began to think of ships or objects designed to float on water. Blood vessels and vessels to do with anatomy then sprang to mind, suggesting tubes and channels. Lastly and slightly more obscurely the idea of a person being a vessel was raised.
- Lots to consider!

To gain some inspiration I have researched contemporary silversmiths that I find particularly interesting. A silversmith named Michael Rowe has caught my attention. His work is very architectural and precise. I love how his boxes play tricks on your eyes and his bowls have sharp angles.