Category: Urban design

Edinburgh during COVID19

I appreciate that our situation is a total privilege:

  • we can work from home and are used to it
  • we are also used to be 24/24 with each other in a small living environment (a car)
  • we have a nice flat
  • we are not getting tired of each other
  • we are lucky enough to be less than a kilometre from most of the touristic and iconic Edinburgh’s spots, making our rare walks precious moment to enjoy the city free of people

1km radius around the flat

500m from the Castle
650m from the Meadows
800m from Princes Street
600m from St Giles’ Cathedral
1.5km from the bottom of Arthur’s Seat

Because there is not much to say about being at home, I have decided to describe our confinement in data:

  • 35 days since we decided to stay home (few days before the beginning of the official confinement in UK)
  • 7 short walks around the neighbourhood
  • 6 yoga sessions with Adrienne
  • 3 local grocery shopping
  • 1 grocery delivery
  • 1 time getting vegetables with the van from a farm
  • 1 bread
  • 4 cakes
  • 3 apple tarts
  • 2 batches of crepes
  • 1 batch of cookies
  • 3 masks used from our China stock
  • 1 mask lost
  • 15 Disney movies
  • 6 new remake Disney movies
  • 5 studio Gibli movies
  • 6 movies on Mubi
  • 3 series
  • 3 books
  • 3 graphic novels
  • 66 work related emails
  • 1 zoom meeting (I am lucky)
  • 3 online lectures
  • 25 facetime /phone calls with family
  • 6 skype / zoom with friends
  • 5 drawings & paintings
  • 2 sewing projects



We tried to avoid going out of the flat for the 2 first weeks, but as some of you know, the amount of natural light inside is limited, so we were getting a bit depressed + we were starting to have back/neck pain from working from the sofa and the lack of ‘exercise’ – so we decided to do short walks once in a while. To immortalise this situation and the beauty of the empty city, I took my camera with me and shoot the (almost) blank streets, parks and squares.


Design Informatics Pavilion Facelift

Pavilion part of the Edinburgh Art Festival and the Fringe with the Future Play Festival.
Freelance for Design Informatics
Edinburgh, Scotland 2017
In 2016, The Design Informatics Pavilion was designed by Biomorphis, an Edinburgh-based architecture practice led by Pierre Forissier. Interested in how digital technology can be efficiently used to design an affordable modular structure, Biomorphis developed an algorithm to test and generate different cellular divisions to form a self supporting lightweight building envelope. For this 2017 edition I have been employed to give it a facelift, inspired by the 70 years anniversary of the Edinburgh Festivals starting from the launch of the first festivals in 1947 to 2017,  by the Design Informatics research topics and data from Edinburgh.

Pictures of the Pavilion by YUXI LIU

The graphs painted on the pavilion give the local context in which the festivals and Design informatics are taking place: the top line graph represents rainfall in Edinburgh in August in 5 year periods between 1947-2017. The bottom of the pavilion represents the elevations of Edinburgh during a walk through the cities most popular venues so starting on George Street and going to the Castle, the Meadows, The pleasance etc.

Then, the idea was to situate the history of the festivals in an international context, represented by technological breakthrough: each panel of the pavilion represents 5 years, creating a time line where icons (vinyls on acrylic) representing carefully chosen innovations, as well as some of Edinburgh festivals. Moreover, it established a link to Design Informatics, where students are trained and researcher worked on developing tomorrow innovations.

The pavilion become a time travel vessel: the outside is displaying the past of innovations, leading to the inside with the exhibition where you can imagine what the future might look like.

To realise this project, I worked in collaboration with Sigrid Schmeisser, to designed the icons. She realised the exhibition graphics, panels and brochure.

Listen to the trees

people listening to tree.psd


One of my ideas was to hack a stethoscope to make it a tool to listen to the nature. I made some research around this topic in a previous post.
What does a tree sound like ? A leaf ? A flower ? By making people listen to nature for real, it could help to encourage to reflect on our relation with the planet. Making remember that it is our host, it makes us be alive and that we have a duty to behave for the good of it and not to destroy it like we do nowadays.


Sound of nature

Artists, scientists and designers collaborate on different projects to explore the sound of nature.

Like a person gasping for air when it’s in short supply, living trees make noises when they are running out of water, and a team of French scientists is a step closer to pinpointing the noises. Lab experiments at Grenoble University in France have isolated ultrasonic pops, which are 100 times faster than what a human can hear, in slivers of dead pine wood bathed in a hydrogel to simulate the conditions of a living tree.

The findings could lead to the design of a handheld device that allows people to diagnose stressed trees using only microphones. Such a device may be particularly important if droughts become more common and more severe, as many global warming models predict they will.

Media artist Bartholomaus Traubeck has figured out a way to create music from a cross section of a tree. He tells host Bruce Gellerman that he plays the tree’s rings like a record’s grooves.

While listening to the headphones hanging from the trees branches you can hear water being pulled up from the roots to the leaves through the xylem tubes.  You will hear a quiet popping sound that is produced by the water passing through the cells of the Xylem tubes and cavitating as it mixes with air on its’ way upwards. A deep rumbling sound that is produced by the tree moving vibrating.
As the leaves lose the water through evaporation the cells below the leaf become drier and they in turn pull water from the next cells below, this carries on down the tree all the way down to the roots. The water molecules cling together and form a water chain from the leaves to the roots under tension-cohesion.
The ‘Tree Listening Project’ aims to provide an experience that links both science and art by engaging the public with what happens inside a tree, and to excite and inspire a keen interest in trees.

It’s long been known that cavitations — air bubbles that block the flow of water throughout the tree — make a sound that can be heard with a microphone. If too many of these cavitations occur, such as we might see in drought conditions, a tree can die.

  • Finally, it is symphony of sounds from the Washington Park Arboretum called ‘Music of Trees’ – streams gurgling, flies dancing on a microphone, squirrels rustling through the underbrush – has been transformed. by the composer Abby Aresty. The music is part natural, part imagined.

 Aresty writes, “When I began working on this site I was excited to explore sounds of new life around this gigantic fallen limb . . . On a few occasions I brought a homemade contact microphone to this site. (Like its name suggests, it picks up sounds by touch rather than through the air.) Though I was outwitted by many an ant – they refused to climb over it – the flies loved it. When they landed on the small disk I was able to capture the normally inaudible rhythmic patterns the flies create as they dance about.”


Another photo series. Laurent Dequick’s pictures are for me a good  representation of todays city. They are not static, alike their inhabitants. Foster reflection on the way we live nowadays. Is it time to slow down ?

He leads a thinking on the contemporary city and the proliferation of modern urban space. Through his series “Vibrations”, the artist is trying to disclose accurately the impression of frenzy that results from population density and urban activity. Text from Fubiz

Mapping practice

Interesting work by Plan B. It is a very good reference in relation to my own work with MyMap. In a way I am also making a drawing of my life by revealing the map, but instead of having only lines on the white canvas, I am revealing where the user have actually been, making it more like a painting.

“I record everywhere I go (outside) with a GPS. I have been doing this since April 2003. My intention is to develop a sense for the drawing I am making across the surface of the earth with my body every time I move. There are technical reasons for why this is not easy in a building but everywhere I go that is in clear view of the sky, I turn my GPS on and begin recording my location. The initial impulse behind wanting to know what the drawing of my life would look like started when I contemplated leaving London where I was born and grew up and started spending more time in Berlin after 2001. At first I mourned the thought of all that knowledge of how to navigate around London plus all the stories and events that inform how I ‘read’ London being rendered useless in the new city. On further contemplation I realised that Berlin was offering me an option London now denies me – I could chart myself learning about a new city in a way I can’t with London – I could watch myself ‘joining the city up’.” by plan b


My Map app

I created a new app called Mymap,  working on the concept to expend our territories and encourage to reflect on all the place we will have to discover in our life, as well as the one we will never see.

De Certeau argues that the act of walking selects and fragments the space traversed; it skips over links and whole parts that is omits. Moreover it can “be traced on city maps in such a way as to transcribe their paths and their trajectories. But these thick or thin curves only refer, like words, to the absence of what has passed by. A spacial order organises an ensemble of possibilities and interdictions, then the walker actualises some of these possibilities. In that way, he makes them exists as well as emerge.” [3]. It is what the app is doing: revealing the choices taken, the places visited or the path used, while the rest is hidden behind a white layer.

This is the mockup of my idea.

In my head it was quite a simple idea (coming from a person who don’t have any experience in coding yet) but in application it has been quite difficult and several iteration of the app had been necessary.

First I thought it would have been possible to make a reverse heat map: instead of having colours appearing on a layer on top of the map, it would make transparent the white layer. In practice what was possible is to draw a white layer on google maps by giving the points clockwise then removing polygons from this layer by giving the point anticlockwise. It created a lot of different issues: closing the route every time we created a new point: drawing the territory and not the route; superposed polygons resulting on re-masking the map…


The solution came up with the discovery of hulljs. Using a complex algorithm, it draws around the GPS points the route.

The app uses phone gap, a free and open source framework that allows you to create mobile apps using standardized web APIs for web platforms as well as mobile app with the same code. The language is Java Script. To store the routs (even is it not possible yet with the current version) HTML5 Local Storage will be use. Google maps API, Cordova plugin geolocation and the GPS of the phone are used as well.

I am already thinking about a future version of the app. I would like to make the map appearing in different shade of colours: for example the area you use all the time (’your territory’: going to work and back home for example) would be tinted in red, whereas the one you visited only once would be blue. it would allow a better understanding of the territory.

For complementary informations about the app (interface, calculus of the opacity), or more references have a look to the slides of my presentation and my research.

100 tonnes of ice

Artist Olafur Eliasson and geologist Minik Rosing have made a visually striking contribution to the climate debate with ‘ice watch’ copenhagen city hall square


Olafur and Rosing are placing a monumental, 100 tonnes of inland ice collected from a fjord outside nuuk, greenland onto the danish city streets. the twelve large blocks of ice are to be displayed in the formation of a clock, serving as a physical wake-up call that temperatures are rising, the ice is melting and sea levels continue to rise. the project has been conceived to mark the publication of, and to draw attention to, the fifth assessment report of the UN intergovernmental panel on climate change (IPCC), which contains assessments of knowledge about climate change and its consequences. 

‘today we have access to reliable data that shed light on what will happen and what can be done. let’s appreciate this unique opportunity – we, the world, must and can act now.’ eliasson and rosing say ‘let’s transform climate knowledge into climate action.’

‘as an artist, I am interested in how we give knowledge a body. what does a thought feel like, and how can felt knowledge encourage action? ice watch makes the climate challenges we are facing tangible. I hope that people will touch the inland ice on city hall square and be touched by it. perception and physical experience are cornerstones in art, and they may also function as tools for creating social change. we are all part of the ‘global we’; we must all work together to ensure a stable climate for future generations.’ — olafur eliasson

‘ice is a wonderful, peculiar substance. just as the progress of our civilizations has been tied to the coming and going of the ice ages, so, too, are our future destiny and the destiny of ice tied together. through our actions we are now close to terminating the period of stable climate that served as the condition for civilizations to arise and flourish. science and technology have made it possible for us to destabilise earth’s climate, but now that we understand the mechanisms behind these changes, we have the power to prevent them from growing.’ — minik rosing

From designboom