On April 29th BBC Radio 4 launched 5-part radio series "The Five Faces of Leonardo", which produced by revered producer Sara Parker, explores Leonardo da Vinci's scientific, engineering, and wider STEM endeavours. In the first episode, Leonardo's Heart, surgeon Francis Wells exams Leonardo's anatomical drawings and discusses his research methods and discoveries, and why and how they remain relevant today. In the second episode, Leonardo's City, I take listeners on a journey through Milan past and present, and in the process share thoughts on Leonardo's contribution to city planning, construction, and the wider built environment. In the third, forth and fifth episodes, historian David Willey looks at Leonardo's military innovations, roboticist Mark Rosheim discusses Leonardo's automations, and artist Ralph Steadman shares his passion for Leonardo's flying machines.
Works that peers and I discuss during 'Leonardo's City' include the Codex Trivulzianus, Codex Atlanticus, and The Last Supper, amongst others. Our research travels having taken us to Castello Sforzesco, including Salle della Asse; Museo Nazionale della Scienza e della Tecnologia Leonardo da Vinci, Biblioteca Ambrosiana; Santa Maria Delle Grazie; the Leonardo 3 exhibition; the locks of Naviglio Grande; and Leonardo's vineyard, and more, I extend my heartfelt thanks to all as gave of their time, expertise, and inspiration to the production team and I.
2019 marking the 500th year since Leonardo's passing, all the above cited exhibitions and venues, together with umpteen others across Italy, France, UK and beyond are celebrating his many and varied contributions to society. Many, such as Leonardo 3, draw on state-of-the-art scientific enquiry, and shed new, and at times unexpected light onto the man and his works. Must-sees include Leonardo's frescos in the Salle Delle Asse at Castello Sforzesco, which in restoration will, for the first time, be accessible to the general public from May, and the Biblioteca Ambrosiana's series of exhibitions exploring various aspects of the Codex Atlanticus. Search #Leonardo500 to find out more.
Listen to 'Leonardo's City' here and see a few photographs from our da Vinci travels below.
Exploring scientifically-plausible futures from the year 2079 onwards, The Future in Flash™ is an experiment in flash fiction in word and image. Unfolding as an ongoing series of inter-related climate fictions released through social and other media including film, animation, and audio, its works, the first of which, '7pm GMT, March 23rd 2079', is now live, will view world-changing events through myriad cultural, political, social, geographical, and ecological lenses.
Find out more at: futureinflash.com
Follow at: Instagram #FutureInFlash
Images: 7pm GMT, March 23rd 2079, authored by Melissa Sterry and illustrated by Joshua Puppe
Inaugurated in 2007, the International Design Awards serve to recognise, celebrate and promote excellence in design practice in fields including architecture, landscape architecture, interior architecture, and product, transport, graphic, and fashion design. A juror since 2008, I can attest to the overall standard of entries to 12th edition, the results of which have just been announced, being the highest yet. Both technically and conceptually, several categories, and in particular architecture, medical and scientific equipment, and graphic design, were populated by not one, but a number of entries of which the standard merits recognition. Consequently, my fellow jurors and I deliberated long and hard over our 2019 voting choices. However, close though the results, there was a consensus.
Congratulations to all as were awarded Gold, Silver, and Bronze, and Honourable Mentions across the many award categories, and in particular to International Design Awards 'Architecture Design of the Year' award winner, Challenge Design, [lead designer Jie Lee] for their entry Yuanlu Community Center in Chongqing and International Design Awards 'Emerging Architecture Designer of the Year' award winner, Istituto Marangoni Milano Design School's Eric Batista for his entry Taino Interpretation Centre. Further outstanding winning entries include Diana Kellogg Architect's Rani Ratnavati School and Women's Centre; FNDA Architecture Inc.'s Ismaili Jamatkhana and Centre, Khorog, Tajikistan; SUP Atelier / School of Architecture, Tsinghua University's [lead designer Yehao Song] Village Lounge in Shangcun [above]; Junsekino Architect and Design Co.,ltd's [lead designer Jun Sekino] Brick House in Bangkok; Locus Associates' [lead designer Jerome Lee] Sanya Forest Wetland Park [below]; and Discover Echo Inc.'s Rebel.
Entries for the International Design Awards 13th Edition are now open and those interested in submitting an entry can find out more here.
On December 12th I had the pleasure of joining the staff and students at The Bartlett's B-Pro Urban Design MArch programmes as external critic for the Research Cluster 15 [Cross-scale Design: The Amphibious Laboratory], and Research Cluster 16 [The Inhuman City, part of the Urban Morphogenesis Lab] programmes. The former led by Amphibious Lab co-founder Maj Plementias, the latter by ecoLogicStudio co-founder Prof. Claudia Pasquero and architect and computational designer Filippo Nassetti, RC15 explores the interface of cities and dynamic hydrological systems at a time of dramatically amplified, accelerating and evolving environmental change, and how architectural, urban and territorial design may adapt, whereas RC16 ‘aims to mobilise multiple forms of intelligence, human as well as non-human, to redefine the urban’, examining the potentialities of developments in fields including synthetic biology, bio-hacking, artificial intelligence, and nano-technologies. Having been aboard as a B-Pro Masters critic since 2014, I've witnessed the programmes go from strength to strength, as an ever greater number of future urban potentialities emerge. RC15 and RC16 academic year 2018 - 2019 cohort can take a bow for having delivered one of the most impressive term #1 prevention sessions yet. Populated by urban research projects exploring topics including how biocomputing can help make urban transport networks more efficient; the variances between terrestrial and marine collective living intelligence; non-human architectures; evolving amphibious architectures; and developing human applications for hydrological flows in estuaries, snapshots of works-in-research-and-development progress are pictured above and below.
Founded by Royal Charter in 1919, the University College of Estate Management delivers CIOB, CABE, CMI, and RICS accredited undergraduate and postgraduate degrees, and apprenticeship programmes in subjects including construction and real estate management, building and quantity surveying, architectural design technology, and environmental and business studies. In celebration of its fast-approaching centenary year, UCEM will be hosting a series of events that both explore its past, while anticipating its future, of which the highlight is a 1-day conference and VIP reception titled, 'The Built Environment of the Future'. Taking place at home to the world's largest interactive exhibition of future cities, The Crystal on May 16th 2019, I am delighted to be aboard and joining speakers including Craig Bennett, CEO, Friends of the Earth; Sherin Aminossehe, Head of Offices, Lendlease; Ben Bolgar, Senior Director, The Prince's Foundation; Mark Farmer, CEO, Cast; and Amanda Clack, Executive Director, CBRE; amongst others. Places limited to 270, those interested in attending can find out more and request attendance at the following link:
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...
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