Week 7: You are invited to the Urban Interface Safari: Cologne – Sunday 11 March 2012

Today our cities are full of cameras, monitors, sensors, antennae, wifi networks, cables, signals and displays. Devices and interfaces collecting, displaying and acting on information.

As citizens we often don’t notice these devices in our streets and neighbourhoods. We rarely think about what information is being collected or how that information is being used. Let’s take a closer look at our city and examine how technology responds to and influences our experiences.

You’re invited to participate in the first Urban Interface Safari on Sunday 11 March 2012 in central Cologne. You will join a group to take a free unusual walking tour of your city, meet interesting new people and contribute to building a collection of photos of urban interfaces throughout the world. The event is a collaboration with Bottled City – a community focussed organisation who seek to involve people to actively participate in the cities they live in.

A walking tour

Urban Interface Safari is an unusual guided walking tour of your city to find interesting examples of how technology and information are integrated into our cities. The tour takes 90 minutes at a leisurely pace around a central part of the city exploring an area of about one or two square kilometres. The important thing is to observe – its not a race!  Free maps of the city ‘grid’ we will walk will be available with a checklist of things to look out for.

Participants are asked to pay particular attention to:

- Places where information is being collected by the network.
- Places where networked information is being displayed.
- Places where networked information is being acted upon, either by people directly, or by physical systems that affect the choices people have available to them.

The walking tour is based on the guidelines for a ‘walkshop’ pioneered by Adam Greenfield and Nurri Kim of Do Projects. You can download a pdf or read it online here.

Meet new people

Photo by Do Projects : Creative Commons Attribution-Noncommercial-Sharealike

The Urban Safari connects you with interesting new people in your city. The group will be  about 8-15 people. The tour is aimed at citizens, technologists, urbanists, architects, developers, designers, dancers or anyone with an interest in this topic! After the tour we will regroup in a friendly local cafe and discuss what we observed, share photos and review our maps. Hopefully we can make some friends too!

Build a collection of photographs

The Urban Safari involves you in building a collection of photographs of urban interfaces throughout world cities, getting a credit for your input and adding to our understanding of the networked city experience.

To get a better understanding of the hidden role of technology in your city register for the Urban Interface Safari today!

Sign up

Sign up via the Facebook event page


Total time: 3 hours

Date: Sunday 11 March 2012

Meeting point. Outside “Zeitcafe” , Köln Hbf 

Meeting time: 14:00

Tour: 14:00 -15:30

Cafe discussion (location TBA but probably quite designery/hipsterish) : 15:30 – 17:00


Equipment you will need

Shoes you can walk comfortably in.
A digital camera or camera phone (optional)
A pen.


Tour and discussion in English.


Free!  (You will need some cash to pay for your own coffee and cake though)



About the organisers

Neil Clavin Studio

Neil Clavin studio is a practice for the strategic design of networked places, things and experiences. The studio wants to involve the public to collect, discuss and document examples of ‘urban interfaces’ in the city. The goal is to raise awareness of the networked city, connect with like-minded people and collectively build a collection of ‘urban interfaces’ throughout the world.

Bottled City

Bottled City is a collective of makers, growers and changers who notice that it’s easier to consume a city than to be part of it.

Opportunities to buy things are everywhere. And you don’t need to know anyone, speak a local language or try very hard to find them. But opportunities to take part in a local initiative or learn something from a local expert can be hard to tap into.

So we’re bottling them. We create experiences that make it easy to be part of the city. Join us.

Week 5: On the delicate nature of beginnings

The purpose of this studio is to work on projects which genuinely interest me in new areas. Areas which I find more fertile and fun than some of those which are so heavily mediated at the moment like mobile phones, social media, interactive TV. The studio’s focus is broadly on networked places and things.

Of course there is a need to make the studio sustainable. This will be done by a mixture of consultancy, contract work and creation of small products which explore an area or represent a proof of concept. It is intended these products will also have some commercial value.

This week has mainly been devoted to hacking out a proof of concept for a project which has been on the ‘someday maybe’ list for quite some time. Like any idea at an early stage it is very delicate. I prefer to build on the idea with actions rather than talking about it at this stage. Suffice to say its something to do with feedback loops and its currently under the working title of ‘Atmosphäre’.


Week 3: Invisible cities

In the  city the net effect of our actions can be difficult to perceive. As conscientious citizens we strive to be positive, to regulate our power consumption and choose low emission transport for ourselves and the public good. How do we know if our efforts are making a difference at all? Can others be encouraged?

According to Dr Agneta Fischer, who specialises in ‘emotional contagion’, positive collective activity encourages others to move towards that behaviour also. By visualising the invisible activity of the city, its mood, its power consumption its emissions as public landmarks we can create positive feedback loops to improve our quality of life.

Current happiness based on random public captures and facial recognition software. (Public Face I)

Current energy consumption based on output of power plant. (Nuage Vert)

Current pollution level based on environmental sensors. (Eco Halo)

Week 2: Emotional topography

In the quest to make our cities more efficient, functional and sustainable there is a danger that the softer emotional aspects which can make cities so compelling become overlooked.

In the same way that mobile devices can measure our speed and efficiency, mobile devices can also measure our emotional responses to places  (Emotizer / Mappiness).

Once we can map the emotional topography of our cities what do we do with this information? How do we cultivate desirable areas? How do we convert unpleasant areas?

Week 1: Parametric architecture and participatory urbanism

A highlight of this week’s Passagen design festival in Cologne was a lecture by Patrik Schumacher of Zaha Hadid architects on Parametric Architecture. Patrik argues that Parametric architecture is the ‘great new style after modernism’ – a fireworks display of splines, nurbs and subdivs leading to organic soft forms composed of variegated elements in a cohesive whole. While I love the forms and dynamic of the architecture the  idea of a superficial style makes me uncomfortable. The adoption of the ‘style of modernism’ led to countless inappropriate buildings which looked modern but failed the functional and societal needs of their occupants.

On closer examination there is evidence that Parametric architecure uses environmental stimuli to shape buildings -  sun paths, wind tunnel simulation and crowd modelling datasets can shape buildings’ forms to maximise natural light, control microclimates and improve circulation.   Parametric architecture becomes an organic construct shaped by a few DNA-like context specific variables.

What if the datasets generated from users could also be incorporated into the design of buildings and our urban environment as bottom-up open source urbanism? The paths created by desire-lines, the emotional cityness experienced by citizens, the fast changing needs of the populace? What forms would be created – buildings or less visible systems of experience?

Already I can see how these questions relate to the work of the studio in projects like Vector and Dollar. I suspect this mode of enquiry will continue to be a theme for the start of 2012.