Look, ask, try, learn

Our project is related to bioluminescence, algae, and situationism (urban and psychological theory). In my research, I was exploring all three aspects. I was also exploring potential connections of those with city water systems and waste water treatment.

look: what are people doing and saying?

The great source of inspiration for me are TED talks, so I spent some time finding and watching talks related to the topics of research. Some are more, others are less useful.

Energy from floating algae pods by Jonathan Trent

  • Biofuels that compete with fossil fuels
  • Algae grow in containers with waste water
  • Algae produce natural oil inside containers
  • Large area of algae pods
  • Microalgae – very small organisms, many species
  • Off-shore is a design decision
  • Waste water + CO2 + sun = growing algae + oxygen
  • Algae are biodegradable, can’t live in salt water
  • How to make algae happy? What they eat, what kills them?
  • Look at whole ecosystem
  • Circulate algae through plastic tubes; they take CO2 and the oxygen is “filtered”
  • What to do with plastic?

Pollution-free lights, powered by microbes by Sandra Ray

  • Use natural resources to avoid environmental disasters
  • Growing lights with limited resources
  • Some organisms have genes that provide bioluminescence
  • Native Americans were using insects as home lights!
  • Hard to use underwater bacteria
  • Introduce the genes to common bacteria found everywhere
  • Synthetic biology: system lasts longer, can have different colors, can be turned off and on
  • Changing perception of what light is and how we use it

How bacteria “talk” by Bonnie Bassler

  • Bacteria have one piece of DNA
  • Humans have 1o times bacterial cells than human cells
  • Bacteria communicate with light
  • Molecule produce light that turns on light when bacteria agglomerate
  • Squids use bioluminescence to “turn on” light and hide their shadow
  • Collective behavior of making light

The weird, wonderful world of bioluminescence by Edith Widder

  • Bioluminescent plankton: single-cell algae
  • Stir the flask to agitate algae
  • Shrimp, fishes, squids, corals – pretty much everything in the ocean
  • Squid makes up light “torpedos”
  • Brush against coral – it flashes light
  • Squeeze part of the animal – light goes to the ends
  • Optical Lure – 16 LEDs to talk to shrimps!

ask: elicit feedback or participation from someone in regards to your project idea

Unfortunately, I did not have the chance to interview people I wanted about the project. However, I was interested in community building before and interviewed several architects and landscape architects last semester. Below I am including the selected parts of the interviews that give a better overview of the issue that we are trying to solve with the project.

Wendell Burnette about canal system in Phoenix
Professor of Practice at The Design School at ASU (specialty in Architecture).
Founder and principal of Wendell Burnette Architects (architectural practice).

Another natural (and also historical) context of the Valley that may be important for designing a unique park environment is water. Native Americans who inhabited the Valley before the European colonization developed one of the most advanced irrigation systems of the ancient world – the canal system of the river Verde. Prof. Burnette recommended a book by Nabhan G. (2002) “The desert smells like rain” about its history. According to this book and other historical records, lives of native Americans was intertwined with water, its flow,  and natural cycle. The modern canal system that provides water for the Valley is built upon the ancient one. It is also important that Tempe itself was – and still is – an agricultural city. Not so long ago the canals were playing a significant role for the city. Cotton trees were planted alongside its banks and Tempe transit roads followed their courses. However, due to various circumstances, this green corridors system along the canals is no more. Professor Burnette said the city lost its character with it.

(From the interview report submitted on September 15th for DCS 598 class; interviewed on September 14th.)

James Hoffman about loci genius and community
Faculty Associate at The Design School at ASU (specialty in Landscape Architecture).
Founder and principal of Coffman Studio (landscape architectural and planning practice).

Mr. Coffman stated (interview for DSC 598 course, 12 Sept. 2016) that, in his experience, creating the unique personality of a place that relates to its users is one of design challenges that are most important for a successful performance of a space. It creates a huge benefit for people: if they are able to form an emotional connection to place, they start feeling that it is their own and feeling safe in it. It also benefits the city, as when people care about their surroundings, they would avoid damaging it and instead would be more ready to assist in bringing positive changes upon it.

(From the interview report submitted on September 15th for DCS 598 class; interviewed on September 12th.)

Anastasiya Yurkevich about paths and landmarks
Landscape architect at AFA (landscape architectural practice in Moscow, Russia).

Ms. Yurkevich claimed that there are two main factors that influence a design. First is proximity to a city center and other prominent landmarks that attract people and influence transit routes and a contingent of a park user groups. Second is social context and existing relationships of people with a space in focus. 

(From the interview report submitted on September 15th for DCS 598 class; interviewed on September 6th.)

I am now waiting for the interview confirmation from a biologist to explore bioluminescence from the scientific perspective.

try: simulate or participate in an activity yourself

How I drifted the city of Tempe and explored the city as a situationist.

The notion of psychogeography as a tool to describe the city interests me profoundly. Taking inspiration from the pioneers of situationism, I made a short dérive in Tempe late in the evening.

As defined on the web page of situationists movement, dérive (“drifting”) is “a technique of rapid passage through varied ambiances. Dérives involve playful-constructive behavior and awareness of psychogeographical effects, and are thus quite different from the classic notions of journey or stroll.”

Using this technique I explored the affordance of Tempe urban environment for the act of drifting itself and exploration after the sunset. The questions I tried to ask were:

  • What triggered me to make an unexpected turn into an unknown street?
  • What prevented me from doing it?
  • How do other pedestrians behave in streets? Do they stroll aimlessly, for leisure or do they seem to have a destination? Do they stop if something interesting is happening?

I have started my journey from home around 7 p.m. when the sun was setting down. I have decided to go in the direction of the Beach Park first. In the next three hours, I walked to the other side of the Salt river, was scared to death by a weirdo in the street, tried to find a place I remember from awhile and failed, got lost and used a map application to return home. During my drift I realized several things:

  • There are not many pedestrians in the city even on Saturday night.
  • All pedestrians are hanging out in places of attraction: parks, The Mill street, and ASU campus. Outside of these places they were clearly going towards their destinations, maybe homes.
  • There are more cyclists than pedestrians.
  • There are some people jogging on the big streets like University Drive.
  • I got scared by dimly lighted roads and tended to follow the most illuminated paths.
  • Meeting just one person on an empty street made me wary. If I met several people, I felt comfortable.
  • I mainly navigated the city using light and sound. Music and lights attracted me. Cafes that used creative lighting peaked my interests the most.
  • Surprisingly, empty parking lot are lighted at least as well as pedestrian streets.
  • Most of the places in Tempe look very similar to each other.

Unfortunately, my camera is not good with low light 😦

learn: identify ‘thoughtless acts’, patterns, problems, or opportunities.

  • There are possibilities of energy generation and CO2 treatment using algae
  • Phoenix citizens lack awareness about the canal system.
  • Walking in night requires not only navigational lighting but also certain security levels provided by bright lights and presence of other people. All three factors provide the affordance of urban space to explore using unusual paths.
  • Algae can reproduce and thus pollute fresh water reservoirs, have to be really careful.
  • The act of lighting up algae by agitating it could become an act of volunteer placemaking and shaping the city.
  • Algae can show the street activity and pop-up events like picnics or even street sports.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s