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.