Category Archives: X = systems convergence

Headlines from a Travel Newswire

The latest headlines from Travel Impact Newswire which tries to provide “unmatched, thought-provoking coverage of big-picture issues and trends that impact global travel and tourism”:










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Survival 2050

The Science Museum in London currently has on display The Science of Survival . The exhibition provides visitors with a glimpse of the world in 2050 and “explores how we will all survive on a changing planet. “ Four characters from the future – Buz, Eco, Tek and Dug guide participants through the interactive exhibition and give advice on how to tackle the challenges of 2050. The exhibition is divided into five sections: Eating, Drinking, Moving, Enjoying and Building, which take a look at what we need to do to survive climate change and resource shortages. All of the decisions visitors make along the journey are included at the end in the Future City so that people can see how their priorities and choices have a major impact on our world of tomorrow.

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Three Things in 2007

Three things (surely there are others) that are currently on the backburner of my mind as we start 2007. One, is the admission of Romania and Bulgaria into the EU. The easterners are finally being accepted into the EU fold. This is considered the most historical moment for these countries since the end of communism in 1989. Time will tell how they will enter into the crowded political landscape.

Number 2: Social media and how it continues to grow or rather morph. One social site has just been completed, as the next one is about to launch. Note the shift from Friendster to Flickr to Facebook to digg… and now wallop? Organic takes a look at the evolution of social media in its latest newsletter. Personally, I am fascinated by the myriad of ways that social media platforms can be interpreted and adjusted. But as one former US president once said, if it ain’t broken, don’t fix it, and how many tweaks until we, or adolescents and twenty-somethings, get bored and decide to stick to one?

And last but not least, the third is inspired by reading Worldchanging’s “What Next” for 2007. A range of worldchanging contributors/writers were asked to deliver their own thoughts on what will come. or what to expect of the world and of ourselves in 2007. It is hard not to notice that sustainability has become quite mainstream, especially once Vanity Fair, Newsweek and Hollywood have all had a say in the matter and have become involved in the race to save our world. Amen.

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Holy Sushi Rolls of Change

Jennifer Greitschus from the FII group, and Tristan Simmonds from Arup London’s Advanced Geometry Unit, are in Japan for the launch of the Drivers of Change cards installation Envois at the Tokyo Design Week. Jennifer just emailed us some very fantastic shots of the container and of some Japanese visiting the installation. Notice the seriousness of the expression on their faces, as they lean in to write an urgent message of change, or urgent message of love? You decide…

**Images to come**

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Arup selected by Icon Magazine to exhibit at Tokyo Designers Week

Arup has been selected by Icon Magazine and the Design Association, Tokyo, to exhibit at the international Container Exhibition of this year’s Tokyo Designer’s Week. Arup designers, Tristan Simmonds and Jennifer Greitschus have transformed a shipping container into a sushi bar with a twist – a postcard bar. Their design, entitled ‘Envois’, presents food for thought from Arup’s ‘Drivers of Change 2006’ publication.

Drivers of Change is an initiative of Arup’s Foresight and Innovation team, a group tasked with exploring emerging trends and how they impact upon the business of Arup and its clients. Earlier in the year Arup published a set of 50 cards which identify leading factors that will affect our future – ageing population, energy use, outsourcing, to name but a few – factors which are known as ‘drivers of change’.

The concept for Envois was developed in response to this year’s exhibition theme of love. ‘Envois’, which loosely translates as ‘message’, is taken from the title of a work by the French philosopher, Jacques Derrida, which includes a series of postcards Derrida wrote to an unnamed lover.

With digitally controlled lighting, designed by Arup’s Francesco Anselmo, the container is transformed into a seductive space bathed in red and pink. Postcards bearing messages in English and Japanese rotate around the bar. Visitors will be able to take a seat on one of the specially designed heart-shaped stools and pick a postcard that appeals to them. They will also have the opportunity to write their own postcard – perhaps a letter to the world, a letter to a lover or maybe a note to the handsome stranger on the opposite side of the bar. Students from Nihon University will act as bar staff, changing and restocking the postcards as necessary.

Jennifer Greitschus says: ”We liked the idea of exploring human communication and jumbling contexts: the global and the personal, high-tech and low-tech, East and West. There is something interesting about putting powerful messages in an intimate setting. The Drivers of Change cards may trigger conversation – who knows where that may lead.”

Tokyo Designer’s Week: 100% Design Tokyo is a unique celebration of the power of good design. Designers, corporations, schools, embassies and the media gather together for six days of exhibitions, talks, installations and parties. Arup’s ENVOIS container is one of five winning containers designs to feature as part of ICON Magazine’s celebration at Designer’s Week.

Supported by: Alex Engineering Co Ltd, Design Association NPO, Japan

Sponsoring manufacturers: Xela Corporation Ltd (conveyor), Targetti (lighting), Tony Corporation (fabric), Takiron Co Ltd (polycarbonate)

The Drivers of Change 2006 cards can be purchased via the Drivers of Change website. Price: £19.95 Published by Editorial Gustavo Gili.

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Expo Ageing – October 9

I spoke with Jane Barratt from the International Federation on Ageing office in Canada. We are trying to determine how to frame the Scientific Program for an Expo Ageing event set to take place in Montreal in 2008. Jane is a sharp Australian who has somehow managed to end up in my much loved, but very cold-winter-home of Montreal. She kidded yesterday that when she felt a little overwhelmed her colleague Gary says, “Don’t worry, the snow season is coming soon”. Ah, I love an Aussie who can appreciate the value of snow.

We are sorting out how we want to set the scene for the context of the Expo, and Jane has been won over by the Drivers of Change model. I now need to develop a set of cards which would specifically address ageing. Maybe it is time to visit my grandmother in South America. High time. Jane’s energy is infectious, and working with her is a delight. I am still finding working with people around the world somewhat of a freak of nature. I guess this is what happens when you go from working in a smaller agency to working in major office in London. At some points this summer when I was still working remotely from Montreal, we would coordinate phone calls with Geneva (World Health Oranization), London – Arup and Montreal. Last week we were coordinating London, Seattle and Montreal. I expect the tail to get longer and wrap itself around even more global destinations.

If all goes as planned we will have embarked on being part of building the very first international event and expo on ageing. Very exciting.

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A Degree of Assimilation

I visited Juan’s Global Culture blog. A blog I like to visit for current opinions on the state of world culture and in some ways the tension between the globalization of culture, and the staunch need of the individual to retain cultural uniqueness. Juan was born and raised for the most part in Mexico, but moved to Toronto Canada as a professional, and he now looks at the immigrant experience for clues on how we are dealing as a society with cultural change and adaptation.

One of his latest entries:

In our western societies people from all over the world can live with certain degree of respect for each other. The minority groups are accepted or at least tolerated. The same liberty is sometimes missed in our countries of origin. In the Muslim, Latin American and other regions, tolerance to other cultures is less lenient. Being non-Muslim in Middle East is very uncomfortable at best. In Montreal, Radio Maghreb à Montréal (CPAM Radio Union 1610 AM) conducted a poll asking if Algeria should pursue a policy of accepting people from different religion than theirs. The results were that the majority of the callers declared that Algeria should remain a pure Muslim country, denying to the prospect immigrant to Algeria the same liberty that they enjoy in Canada. This may be a red alert that cultural assimilation is not taking place. Reaction against our chosen home culture is what may produce these western-born terrorist.

For me this raises the question of intent. When we move to a new country, why are we really leaving our old home, and why are we claiming a new one? I think for some immigrants the move is political. They leave their homes fleeing persecution. For others it is economic. They anticipate jobs and a better environment to raise their offspring. And for others, it is pure cosmopolitan curiosity. It is the thrill of the new. It is the chance to absorb and live within a different culture. But perhaps we have not completely been honest with ourselves if we think that when an immigrant moves to a new country, it is with the expectation that they will fully embrace their new home’s culture.

The reasons listed above for moving to a new country are varied and mixed. And not one of the reasons listed suggests that the immigrant experience expects to completely dissolve their former connections to their homeland. Why is it that we are surprised then to observe immigrants walking amongst us still dressed in their cultural “uniforms”? At the same time I cannot get away from the apparent discrepancy that a newcomer could see the openess of a country like Canada and celebrate its freedoms, but then turn around and expect a rigid adaptation to one system of thoughts and beliefs in their old culture. It seems a conflicted response. But perhaps that is part of the immigrant experience.

You are always split between your old and your new world. You never feel like you quite belong in one place. And the natural place to turn to for cues is not one political or standardized body but a collective community with different voices and opinions. Not something I usually identify with a government agency, so I am left to wonder whether the government is the best place to house integration into a new country? And what is the difference between tolerance and acceptance? Juan raises this early on in the paragraph above. As a multicultural society can we live with one, or the other? Or do we need both to truly function as an extended multicultural community? Are we in fact kidding ourselves if we just tolerate each other? Tolerance seems to imply a base acceptance. Tolerance represents a degree of acceptance as opposed to full-out rejection. Acceptance, however, suggests an understanding of the cultural cross-currents and an acceptance that while they are not our own view of the world, they are an alternate and plausible view.

It would be an interesting exercise for countries to evaluate their own integration mechanisms and policies around immigration. Are the underlying pillars structured on tolerance…or acceptance. Two very different outlooks on immigration.

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Maverick Thinkers

I met with Matt, a friend and engineer, over a breakfast of fruit and coffee and runny eggs. He has moved back to Ottawa but was in Montreal for the weekend and wanted to pass on his worn copy of Jane Jacobs “The Death and Life of Great American Cities”. Like a dog I sat on my hind legs giddy to receive the offering. Jane Jacobs has become a beacon to me amidst all of the disastrous decisions and actions that seem to get played out in cities.

It is funny that when someone comes along and tries to speak the truth, we all seem so shocked. We are struck by the luminosity of their words and by their strength of conviction when in fact at the end of the day, they are simply bent on relaying life as they know it. Jane Jacobs was one of those rare people driven to speak the truth, and for that I will always admire her.

People who speak the truth don’t always get support for their observations of life, which are sometimes interpreted as attacks. Then again the introduction of her book begins with:

“This book is an attack on current city planning and rebuilding. It is also, and mostly, an attempt to introduce new principles of city planning and rebuilding, different and even opposite from those now taught in everything from schools of architecture and planning to the Sunday supplements and women’s magazines (!). My attack is not based on quibbles about rebuilding methods or hairsplitting about fashions in design. It is an attack, rather, on the principles and aims that have shaped modern, orthodox city planning and rebuilding”.

There is no doubt Miss Jacobs meant business when she wrote those words. She did not mince them though she certainly must have made mince-meat of some of the planners she came across when she found they did not sufficiently think through their principles prior to planning. A maverick in her opinions I wish we had more thinkers like Jane Jacobs and Marshall McLuhan to guide us through the dark.

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Urban Spaces: Temporary, Ageless and Ageing

These two books caught my eye. One is on the creation and adoption of temporary urban spaces, and the other is the first book of design focusing on ageing populations entitled Inclusive Urban Design. Temporary Urban Spaces draws on extensive examples from the US and Europe to explore the emergence of ehpemeral spaces instead of long-term urban planning. An editorial excerpt goes on to say that “The focus is no longer on the master plan, the strategy, and the making of long-term arrangements. Instead, the ephemeral, trial and error, and the unplanned are gaining legitimacy. ” Interesting indeed. While the nomadic approach to urban planning seems unlikely to gain permanent legitimacy, it is good to see that it is theoretically being discussed and that there are case studies. Inclusive Urban Spaces addresses the design needs of the elderly but specifically in the outdoor environment. Yet again the design community displaying that they have always been engaged in solving social questions and dilemmas.

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Urban Sustainability: People & Environment

Sustainable development is the code word for the most important social debate of our time. Is our model of development undoing our very existence or, for that matter, the maintenance of our planetary ecosystem? Under which conditions are economic growth, our consumptive patterns, and our ways of living reproducible over time without damaging the conditions of their reproduction? Is generational solidarity – that is, forwarding a livable planet to the grandchildren of our grandchildren – an achievable goal in the current context of social organization?

This fundamental debate is increasingly urban. For all the talk about the natural environment, it is the living conditions in cities (in fact, in large metropolitan regions) that determine the future of our livelihood. It is in large cities where we generate most of the CO2 emissions that attack the ozone layer. It is our urban model of consumption and transportation that constitutes the main cause of the process of global warming and can irreversibly damage the conditions of livelihood.

The housing crisis, the collapse of transportation, the deterioration of public hygiene, and the contamination of air and water represent the dark side of the urbanization process.

In other words: in the midst of a most extraordinary technological revolution, we are experiencing the largest wave or urbanization in history, often in appalling conditions and, generally speaking, with a high cost in terms of the quality of life, both socially and environmentally.

However, these are structural trends, not historical fatality. What happens in history and in society ultimately depends on human agency…The future of our world will not ultimately depend on technological innovation or on the global economy. It will be the outcome of what we – the people – the urban people – do about it, through our projects and through our conflicts. The missing link between environmental sustainability and social organization, in theory as in practice, is the relationship of urban communities to their environment.”

Livable Cities?

“Livable Cities?” as the question mark implies takes a deeper look into whether our current way of occupying the planet and in particular our cities is sustainable. The word “livable” is an interesting choice because it connects the social aspect to the environment, and it is a relationship that has grown increasingly alienated and distanced, perhaps in some part due to increasing urbanization trends which has resulted in the territorial sprawl of urban life onto formerly green spaces. Livable is itself a somewhat ambiguous term and open to interpretation and misinterpretation.

The authors of Livable Cities? argue for a definition of livability that takes into account and must in fact exercise a balance between society (the people) and environment. We are interdependent, and if anything we are more co-dependent on the environment than it is on us. “The coin of livability has two faces. Livelihood is one of them. Ecological sustainability is the other”. Citizens should not be forced to choose between green space and breathable air or wages. To be livable a city must put both sides of the “coin” together in a way that provides livelihoods for people and preserves the quality of our environment.

What seems clear today more than ever, and is brought back into the light by books like Livable Cities? and the Al Gore film “An Inconvenient Truth”, is that sustainability and livability are intertwined. Citizens cannot afford to imagine themselves living in an urban reality divorced from the hinterland. Urban life has become an expense that the environment cannot afford to carry in its present state and certainly not with the anticipated growth and urbanization of the developing world. We as social agents must become increasingly aware and participate in the creation of sustainable, livable cities. It is no longer just up to the government or turning the finger on the private sector. What becomes evident in Livable Cities? and An Inconvenient Truth is that all three sectors (private/public/civic) have an important role to play in building the framework for a sustainable world.

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