Image: Solar Eclipse, Hyogo, Japan on May 21 2012 by Takeshi Kuboki
On the evening of October 23rd 2018 world-leading University of Cambridge solar physicist Dr. Helen Mason OBE delivered a captivating talk in which she elegantly described past, present, and possible future understanding of the star's physics and the interplay therewith the Solar System and its planetary bodies, including Earth. Part of an ongoing series of public lectures organised by the Science and Technology Facilities Council, Dr. Mason's lecture took audience members on a journey from the birth of the sun some 4,500,000,000 years ago to the theories of Nicolaus Copernicus, Galileo Galilei, Sir Isaac Newton, Albert Einstein, Eugene Parker and more, to recent discoveries that both she and her peers have made having harnessed the potential of NASA's Solar Dynamics Observatory [SDO], NASA and ESA's joint project the Solar and Heliospheric Observatory [SOHO], JAEA's HINODE satellite, the National Science Foundation funded Advanced Technology Solar Telescope [ATST], and the Extreme Ultraviolet Normal Incidence Spectrograph [EUNIS], amongst space and terrestrial hardware. Having scoped out the knowns, including myriad fascinating facts and figures that conveyed the profound influence the Sun has had on life on Earth from the outset of evolution, Dr. Mason went onto discuss the known unknowns being interrogated at the edge of solar research, including how the recently launched Parker Solar Probe may help inform understanding of space weather, and research into the threat solar storms may present to terrestrial and space technologies and other human systems. In closing Dr. Mason discussed her passion for interdisciplinary works that bring together scientists with artists from school age upwards, and why working beyond boundaries is critical to building a better understanding of the world, Solar System, and Universe we live in.
Find upcoming STFC lectures here: https://stfc.ukri.org/news-events-and-publications/stfc.ukri.org/news-events-and-publications/
Image: Leda and The Swan by Neil Spiller
Throughout a career spanning over three decades Neil Spiller has carved out a reputation as one of the foremost original, creative, intuitive, and influential architectural thinkers worldwide. Infused with deep knowledge of fields as diverse as the Classics, cybernetics, synthetic biology, Surrealism, and much, much more, Spiller's written and drawn works transcend the boundaries of space and time in their extensive and ongoing interrogation of architectural and landscape potentialities near and far.
Until recently the Hawksmoor Chair of Architecture and Landscape and Deputy Pro Vice-Chancellor of the University of Greenwich, and formerly Vice-Dean and Graduate Director of Design at The Bartlett School of Architecture, UCL, Spiller is widely a published author who will be known to many through his umpteen contributions to AD, and numerous exhibits at prestigious galleries, and architecture and design institutions the world-over. Spiller is also founding director of AVATAR [Advanced Virtual and Technological Architecture Research group], which internationally recognised for its paradigm shifting contribution to architectural research, experiment, discourse, and teaching has birthed works including James Eagle's RIBA President's Medal-winning thesis, and my own recently submitted PhD thesis.
For his latest architectural trick Spiller has teamed-up with iconic and highly influential graphic designer Vaughan Oliver. They that know not the name will know the work, for Oliver is the designer that created the visual identities for many of the most pioneering and successful bands of the 80s and 90s, including the Cocteau Twins, This Mortal Coil, and Pixies. Bringing together "a plethora of new, unpublished and beautiful drawings in what will be the [collectors take note] only monograph available on his [Spiller's] work", Communicating Vessels "explores the surreal impact of advanced technology on the architecture of the house and garden", and in the process documents one of the most scholarly extensive and creatively experimental research projects of the past few decades. Being launched via a campaign on Kickstarter, as they that know Spiller's work well will know, any as place a pledge to support this project will be not disappointed!
Place a pledge here: https://www.kickstarter.com/projects/862442095/communicating-vessels-neil-spiller?ref=profile_backedwww.kickstarter.com/projects/862442095/communicating-vessels-neil-spiller?ref=profile_backed
A On Friday 19th October the University of Oxford's Museum of Natural History held its inaugural Lates night, which titled 'Uncultured' celebrated the opening of its Bacterial World exhibition. Situated in the heart of the city, the museum was abuzz with microbial-themed activities of myriad kind, including a 92ft long E.coli installation and glassworks by Luke Jerram; geological fossils evidencing how bacteria oxygenated Earth 2.4 billion years ago and further exhibits on loan from the Wellcome Collection, Yale Peabody Museum of Natural History, the Pitt Rivers Museum, and the Natural History Museum, London; Jazz pianist Martin Pickett, who musically interpreted films of bacterial growth, reproduction, and swimming; various visual arts workshops exploring techniques and technologies to print/draw/model your own bacteria; a bacterial bistro where participants learnt how bacteria are used in food production, preservation, and flavouring; and several talks and discussions, of which the highlight was 'Wonders of the Microbial World', a lecture by Harvard University's Scott Chimileski and Roberto Kolter. Taking the audience on a tour of their various in natura and in vitro interrogations of bacterial life forms and their history, geography, architecture, and more, Chimileski and Kolter shared a sumptuous selection of imagery, much of it from their new book, 'Life at the Edge of Sight: A Photographic Exploration of the Microbial World'.
Running until May 28th 2019, Bacterial World is supported by an ongoing series of talks, workshops tours, and other events, which explore subjects as diverse as the origin of life on Earth, symbiosis between bacteria, plants and animals, microbial impact both good and bad on humans past, present, and possible future, and even a 'Party in a Petri' dish where the museum halls will be decked with microbial themed carols, quizzes, games, talks and more. Although, by comparison to the Natural History Museum, London, the museum is small, it's permanent collection is small, but perfectly formed. Items of particular note include its fossil record, which elegantly documents the evolution of life, and its gemstone and mineral collections. A visit comes highly recommended!
Find out more at: https://oumnh.ox.ac.uk/
On September 19th 2018 I had the pleasure of joining peers from fields as diverse as climatology, meteorology, archeology, planning, policy making, and more at Understanding Risk Balkans Conference in Belgrade. Hosted by the government of Serbia in collaboration with the European Commission, The World Bank and its Global Facility for Disaster Reduction and Recovery, and 5x15, the 3-day conference comprised an agenda covering several of the foremost critical concerns for the built environments of the present and near and medium-term future including mapping and analysis of hydrological, geological, and meteorological threats including floods, seismic activity, and wildfires; crowdsourcing, citizen science, open data, and crowd-mapping; catastrophe insurance, financing disaster resilience, and recovery from asset to city scale within both the private and civic sector; community resilience and social protection systems including early warning advisory systems; and science and urban development policy.
Though focused on urban risks within the Balkans region, the conference drew on international case studies, insights and expertise from speakers including Lucka Kajfex Bogataj, Head of the Centre for Agrometeorology and Professor of Climatology at the University of Ljubljana; Panos Giannopoulos, meteorologist at the Hellenic National Meteorological Service; Marko Blagojevic, Director of the Serbian Government's Public Investment Management Office; Sameh Wahba, Global Director for Urban and Territorial Development, Disaster Risk Management and Resilience at the World Bank Group's Social, Rural, Urban and Resilience Global Practice; IHE Delft Institute urban water systems, risk assessment, climate change adaptation, and hydroinformatics expert Prof. Zoran Vojinovic; Janusz Zaleski, Professor at Poland's Institute of Meteorology and Water Management; Lejla Hadzic, Executive Director of Cultural Heritage Without Borders; Olivia Vereha, Cofounder/CTO of Code for Romania; Reinhard Perfler, Vice-Head, Institute for Sanitary Engineering and Water Pollution Control, University of Natural Resources and Life Sciences, Vienna; Roberto Sanchez Avalos, Director of the Data Science Lab, General Directorate of Geostatistics and Beneficiary Registries, Mexican Ministry of Social Development; Michael Staudinger, Director, Austrian Central Institute of Meteorology and Geodynamics; Miljana Radiojevic, lecturer in archaeomaterials, UCL; Radu Vacareanu, Professor of Structural Reliability and Risk Analysis, Technical University of Civil Engineering, Bucharest; Biljana Abolmasov, Professor, Faculty of Geology and Mining, University of Belgrade; and Savina Carluccio, Project Lead on the Resilience Shift, Arup, amongst others.
Invited to deliver the Closing Keynote, I discussed how recent and emerging developments in satellite and terrestrial technologies, and their interface, is enabling increasingly sophisticated real and near-to-real time data aggregation, processing, and analysis, which in turn is facilitating more accurate, efficient, and expedient means of protecting citizenry and essential urban systems and services. Having highlighted the Balkans role in building the foundations of western, and in turn world culture, including its historic role in the development of codification and communication of societal and environmental information, beliefs, and values, I posited its potential to play a critical role in building global resilience to the most pressing meteorological and geological issues of our time. In closing I discussed aspects of my research into the potentialities for evolving greater resilience to wildfires and affiliated hazards through the development of a new architectural and urban paradigm modelled on the biochemistries and behaviours of floral and faunal species indigenous to fire-prone habitats, together with some of the philosophical, psychological, and practical questions the paradigm presents.
A flawlessly produced, vibrant, inspiring, and generative event, Understanding Risk Balkans Conference facilitated timely, dynamic, and critical conversations and collaborations between individual participants, organisations, and in turn country regions, both in-person, and online. The launch-pad for the World Bank's inaugural livestream, I joined volcanologist Alanna Simpson, one of the World Bank's Senior Disaster Risk Management Specialist in a head-to-head conversation in which we expanded upon issues central to GFDRR, the World Bank, and both the Balkans' and upcoming Understanding Risk conferences around the world. A provider of umpteen tools for they working in urban risk mitigation, planning, and policy, you can find our more GFDRR and the World Bank at the links below:
World Bank - https://www.worldbank.org/
Understanding Risk - https://understandrisk.org
GFDRR - https://www.gfdrr.org/
Image: Chris Schnepf, University of Idaho under CC BY 3.0 licence.
For they that had not the pleasure of joining 5x15 at Wilderness Festival, sharing the podcast of my talk, ‘Wildfire in the Wilderness: fire, ecology, and us’, in which I share a few thoughts on fire ecology past, present, and possible future...
One of the most exciting events of the summer season, Wilderness Festival is a celebration of nature and the wild, which takes the nature reserve it calls home, at Cornbury Park, Oxfordshire, as it’s “drawing board”. Designed to “inspire, challenge, and enrich” the lives of they participating, its programme is as vast as it is unique. The event, which spans Thursday August 2nd to Sunday August 5th 2018, encompasses music, theatre, cabaret, comedy, variety, talks, debates, workshops, cocktail bars, banquets, retreats, spas, sport, and much more.
Curated by some several leading arts institutions, including the Royal Academy of the Arts, V&A, The British Film Institute, London Review of Books; The RSA; The Idler Academy, amongst others, and partnered by icons of the literary world including Verso, Faber & Faber, Unbound, Picador, Little Brown Books, Pan Macmillan, Harper Collins, and Bloomsbury Sigma, its speakers line-up is comprised some of the most compelling thinkers on the circuit, including Murray Lachlan Young, Shappi Khorsandi, and Carole Cadwalladr.
Having participated as a speaker and workshop host in Wilderness Festival’s inaugural year, 2012, I’m delighted to be back, this time joining the ever-thought provoking 5x15 for their session in The Forum on Sunday 5th. Joining a line-up comprised Emily Penn, Caspar Henderson, Alex Beard, and Jamie Bartlett, I’ll be discussing ‘Wildfire in the Wilderness: fire, ecology, and us’, sharing insights from fire ecology past, present, and possible future.
Read more and buy tickets here: https://www.wildernessfestival.com
Supported by some of the foremost influential creative leaders and organisations in design visualisation, The Rookies is the world's leading international annual competition for young, up and coming student and graduate designers, creators, innovators and artists. A juror since 2016, I was delighted that the 2018 edition attracted an exceptionally high standard of entries from art, design, architecture, and film schools spanning several continents.
However, numerous though the outstanding entries were, one entry stood out above all others, for its author, Joshua Puppe, an architecture student from Nebraska-Lincoln, U.S., exhibited extra-ordinary imagination, relevance, and production skill across illustration, film-making, model making, and overall concept development. Puppe’s entry, The Authors [images above], comprised beautifully considered, composed, and cinematic imagery as evidences he has an exceptionally exciting career ahead of him.
See Puppe’s entry at: https://t.co/jWQxviAZOg
Read more about The Rookies at: http://www.therookies.co/
The weekend of July 6th - 8th sees the launch of Timber Festival, which a joint venture between the National Forest Company and Wild Rumpus will explore "the transformative impact of forests on people and places with artists, musicians, scientists, and thinkers". Set in the National Forest, which planted over 25 years ago spans the counties of Derbyshire, Leicestershire, and Staffordshire, the event will encourage festival-goers to "re-imagine our relationship with our environment", while enjoying an "arboreal wonderland".
Aboard the inaugural speaker line-up, I’ll be exploring humanity’s relationship with wildfire at the interface of forests and cities past, present, and future. Having delivered a précis of my research of this past several years, together with a short provocation, I'll invite they present to join me in debate and discussion around this, quite literally, hot topic! Part of the Charcoal Sessions, where writers, artists, academics, politicians, and scientists, together with they working in woodlands will come together around a fire at dusk, atop the National Forest's historical coal pits, and below the forest canopy, I'll be sharing insights from wildfire’s deep past by means of illuminating its integral role in Earth and human systems.
Although the festival's installations, performances, and activities are too numerous to list, highlights include:
*The greenfield festival premiere of Luke Jerram's Museum of the Moon [pictured above] - an extraordinary 7m Moon sculpture featuring detailed NASA imagery of the lunar surface and sound by BAFTA and Ivor Novello award-winning composer Dan Jones.
*Bespoke Timber Festival installation, The Fire-Garden, which produced by leading artists, sculptors, designers, and technicians pa-Boom, will turn the foremost ephemeral element into an arts medium.
*Award-winning immersive virtual reality experience In the Eyes of the Animal by Marshmallow Laser Feast, which will enable participants to 'be an animal in the forest through the eyes of four woodland species'.
*A listening walk with composer and sound-artist Jason Singh, exploring voice and technology to mimic nature and birdsong, while gathering sounds to create instruments from plants, plant data, and other living and non-living elements of the forest.
Read more at: http://timberfestival.org.uk/
On a mission "to serve society by making science open, inclusive, and accessible", 500 Women Scientists aims to become the foremost organisation for the transformation of leadership, diversity, and public engagement in science. So far, over 19,000 female scientists worldwide have stepped forward to participate, many of whom are now registered on its global data base of scientific expertise spanning all science genres.
Lend your support and find out more at:
On December 14th I had the pleasure of critiquing the first term outputs of the latest Urban Morphogenesis Lab cohort. One of The Bartlett Bpro's MArch Urban Design programmes, the research cluster, which is led by ecoLogicstudio cofounder Prof. Claudia Pasquero, "pursues a non anthropogenic understanding of the urban landscape", its intention that of creating territories "of self-organisation and co-evolution of multiple dynamical systems". A juror since the lab's inaugural year [academic session 2013 - 2014], I've been consistently impressed by the students outputs, and by the course leadership and curation, which has gone from strength to strength to become one of the foremost respected research units in its field.
Building on the lab's past interrogations into the potentialities of working with non-human intelligence, including bacteria, fungi, bioluminescent phytoplankton, algae, and ants, this year's MArch students are exploring the material, engineering, design and computing possibilities of working with slime moulds, silk worms, and arachnids, including tarantulas. Aims and objectives of the experimental works include the identification of new applications for ecological intelligence within architecture, urban design and planning, the scalability thereof, and associated risks and opportunities, including the creation of new design morphologies, methods, approaches, and aesthetics (see slides above and below).
A programme with close links across the biodesign, biotechnology, and biomimetic architectural and urban design community, fellow jurors of the Urban Morphogenesis Lab include Pasquero's ecoLogicstudio cofounder, Marco Poletto; Professor of Experimental Design at University of Newcastle, Rachel Armstrong; author and founder/director of the Emergent Technologies and Design Programme in the Graduate School of the Architectural Association, Michael Weinstock; and Bartlett professors including Mark Smout and Marcus Cruz; amongst others.
Read more about the Urban Morphogenesis Lab and The Bartlett's Bpro programme:
Melissa Sterry, design scientist, systems theorist, futurologist, founder Bionic City®.
Asking the question "how would nature design a city" since 2010.
© Melissa Sterry 2019 All Rights Reserved