Tuesday, March 27, 2007

Si quiere una casa bonita

We have been quite busy showing Auckland's highlights to Antonio. His conference at the University of Auckland about Luis Barragan was yesterday, and he had a quite full schedule all day. Afterwards we enjoyed a cocktail with good New Zealand wines and then dinner with Peggie Deamer (Head of School) and Ross Jenner (Deputy Head of School) and Julia Gatley (lecturer) at one of our favourite restaurants in Parnell. Of course the talk on the table was about Barragan and Mexican identity, and we had a quite interesting discussion/debate on the importance of the search of identity through design / architecture. I guess it's not a matter of critical regionalism (introspective) anymore, since it's becoming more a search of defining ourselves to the eyes of globalization (exospective). In that sense, Barragan could be a good example of "gazing" into the structures that influenced mexican architecture and "transforming" them into their basic (minimalistic) essence, thus becoming an universal language rather than a local dialect. The keynote of the conference was this quote: "To do architecture like I did, don't do as I did, see what I saw".

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Wednesday, March 21, 2007

Awesome Possum

What I like about student's projects is that because they are not already biased with constraints or too much knowledge, they are capable of thinking "outside the square". Well, not everyone does it, but they are more likely to be capable of. That's why events like Salone Satellite get so much attention, they showcase fresh ideas that old designers sometimes are too square to dare.

I found this article about Ignacio Ruiz Gutierrez, an industrial design student at ITESM campus Guadalajara who developed a chair using dried straws ... which are of course environmentally friendly. It's the same kind of straws that was used to make old brooms... yes! like witches' brooms. Anyway, Ignacio won this year's design week competition with his chair called 'Don Jos', in fact, this is his eight design prize, and he is just in 5th semestrer! At this pace, he'll need a nice trophy holder like Homer's. Congratulations!

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Sunday, March 18, 2007

2 Bad odours design

Is it all about marketing? I don't know... Ergoprojects published an article about User Centered Design with all that blah blah we know, but we often forget: Marketing studies are just that: marketing studies, they have limited use during the design process. We need special studies, observation and tests to get real usability design guidelines. The design team should not be regarded as user(s), because they are already biased with certain knowledge about how the item works, how it should be assembled, and used. We need to survey real "street" users that are unfamiliar with the new product, etc, etc. It all sounds great, but we also see that a good marketing strategy can generate great success. Today's example: Unilever's Axe / Lynx deodorants.

We have to remember that at the time of the launching of the Axe brand, most of the spray can deodorants were gone (because of the Ozone damage) and there was only stick bar deodorants. There was even a Baking soda rock! Anyway, Unilever had little or no competitors, and they launched a very aggressive and insisting campaign using the so called "oddvertising" (more on that later). After some time they called it: "the Lynx effect" and we must admit that at some stage, we all have been brain washed with hours, and hours of their ads on TV, Who doesn't remember the elevator ad?. My question is, if their success was from the fact that they didn't have so much competition, or because they had a good product, or because of the constant oddvertising... or all 3!

Anyway, since a couple of months, they changed or updated some of their cans. They redesigned the spray nozzle to make it look modern or softly stylized. However, it is a bad design from an ergonomics point of view. Why? Well, because you don't hold the can as if you were painting graffiti on a wall, or pepper spraying the eyes of someone else. In fact, the hand holding the can is on a very weird (twisted) position when you spray your armpits or your chest... perhaps the finger cavity on the nozzle should be diagonal, or just flat (as the old design). The new design is not only anatomically (ergonomic) incorrect, it's also hard to operate... I mean, it's harder to get it to work, even with your finger positioned on the button following the shape of the design, you have to press harder. You see, not everything that looks ergonomic because it's rounded and organic, it's actually ergonomic and usable.

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Thursday, March 15, 2007

Está en Chino!

I should stop pretending being a designer and become a Clarivoyant Wise Shaolin Sensei and give advise to bring much needed enlightenment (and some common sense) to urban planners. For many years I've been saying that Auckland needs a Chinatown, or better yet an "AsianTown". Every time we go to the supermarket or stores in New Market, I visualize that zone as a 'pedestrian only' AsianTown. It has already a big Chinese market... that's where we buy fish and Yakult every week. One of the streets is full of asian restaurants and stores... So it's half way there. Another idea is to have a chinese and bollywood only movie theatre... who knows, maybe the so called (watties) Spaghetti Junction could become a 'Chow mein noodles motorway' one day. That would be better than spaghetti pies or spaghetti on toast bread!
No ChinatownThe Long March , Cultural Signals and Gus Fisher Gallery are inviting entries from all interested parties to a competition and public exhibition aimed at imagining a Chinatown built for Auckland on the infamous waterfront site.

A familiar and historically rich example of cultural displacement and reassertion, Chinatown is seen here as a metaphorical site to explore general notions of performed and constructed identity as well as a specific cultural example with localised resonance in Auckland’s own recent history of Asian immigration. No Chinatown will revolve around the premise of Auckland considering a relationship to Chinatown.
  • Should we have a Chinatown?
  • Do we in fact already have many Chinatowns?
  • What constitutes a Chinatown or any cultural identification with place?
No Chinatown will raise these questions and the space for any number of simultaneous answers, at times lamenting a lack, proposing an action, at others giving voice to confusion or resisting an over-determination. While proposed designs for sites other than the waterfront will be welcomed, we suggested this site to open up dialogue in relation to reclaimed land and recent issues such as the foreshore debate, the coastal real estate boom, and of course the use of civic space in relation to our own national identity, so hotly debated with the proposed Rugby World Cup stadium.
You can download the brief and information/application pack at Cultural Signals or get a "takeaway" form at the Gallery and build your own model/entry with the materials provided on site. It's free to participate.

Jaa ne
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Tuesday, March 13, 2007

Gazing and Transforming

Dr. Antonio Garza, Director of the Architecture Department at ITESM Campus Monterrey, will give a public lecture on the Spanish heritage in the architecture of Luis Barragan, at the University of Auckland on Monday 26 March at 6:00pm at the Conference Centre, Building 423, Design Theatre. When I was in Monterrey, Antonio was head of school, and he was very much involved with the project "10 casas, 10 familias" and as academic member of the Luis Barragan chair, where Sandra was also working. We are looking forward for his visit to New Zealand and of course his conference.

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Sunday, March 11, 2007

Not Quite Perfect

We just found out that Dzeni, one of Sandra's friends from the Israeli dance group, is also a "blogger". Her blog is quite interesting despite being (called) not quite perfect. She is a very good fractals artist, and she posts 2 or 3 fractal images per week. You can also order to have them printed on postcards, posters, calendars or t-shirts at her cafepress shop.

There are some interesting links to fractals software and image galleries. I must admit that it made me think about making some fractals again. I started many years ago with fractint , but then I stopped making fractals since I switched to mac, because the fractals freeware was very limited back then... my only problem would be to find the time to do them! And... well, I was not very good at it anyway.

I also found this extraordinary posts... She documented the process of a caterpillar into chrysalis, and then from cocoon to a Monarch Butterfly. Aren't these pictures amazing? Congratulations Dzeni!

You can also read about Dzeni's Theory, which could be considered the reason why things can go wrong according to Murphy.

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Saturday, March 10, 2007

Roadshow Bob

Last week was the expo roadshow Show Your Ability 2007. The trade show travels during 2 weeks to different cities in NZ, but we only exposed here in Auckland, or better said in Waitakere. We had our stand between the largest company and segway, so it was a good spot. It also was a good opportunity to introduce ourselves to the local market, most of our visitors were curious because we were the "newbies" on the show. Here also some pictures.

I was worried about the car, I had to pick up the displays, and then drive all the way to Waitakere with all the stuff, on a rush hour congested motorway... Here's the story:

3 weeks ago, I took the car to the factory-dealer workshop, because it was overheating. It was also making a rattling noise so I told them to look after that too. They told me that it was the water pump making that noise (800NZD to repair) and the radiator leaking (900NZD + to replace). I asked about the leak, and they told me that they couldn't show me where it was, first they had just silly excuses and then they said it was too small to see. So I told them to replace only the water pump. But they had to get the pump from Australia. I took them more than a week to get it, which is terrible considering that they could get it the next day via courier. But that's not all... after they got the pump, they put me on a waiting list to have that done until yet another week.

After they replaced the water pump... the car was still overheating! But I discovered that until the weekend so there was nothing I could do until next monday. So, I brought the car once again to the workshop, and told them to check and replace the thermostat, because the fan was not working and it was overheating specially on city traffic. They argued that it was the radiator, but I told them that it makes no sense when the radiator is completely full! So, they changed one thermostat (not the one that I had in mind) ... and of course it was still overheating and the fan not working. So, I decided to look by myself... I opened the bonnet, checked everything... and there it was: just a burned fuse! Which by the way, only costs 80 cents or so... and It should be the first thing to check when something electrical is not working. Even SAAB recommends on their service bulletin 03/92-0191 entitled High Temperature Gauge Readings to check the fans relay!

Like I've been saying: if this world depended on mechanics and technicians to work, we would be doomed! (or broke: paying for unnecessary repairs... or repairs to repair what the mechanics messed with). I guess that is a challenge for designers: how to make things "repairmen free".

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Wednesday, March 07, 2007

2 quickies with Scarlett Johansson

Here's the first quickie, by Nicco di Mattia :

... and this is what happens when you try to do a quickie like that, after a few drinks:

It would have been nice to have a time-lapse movie of Vermeer's Girl with a pearl earring... that would put an end to the discussions / enigma of his use of camera obscura and who is the girl.

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