chgroenbech / Christopher Heje Grønbech

There are no people in chgroenbech’s collective.

Huffduffed (96)

  1. 99% Invisible #39X: The Biography of 100,000 Square Feet

    In the center of San Francisco, there is a plaza with no benches. Its central feature, at the entrance of the plaza, is a unique fountain that was designed by Lawrence Halprin in 1975. The water shoots out at various angles, from inside a sunken pit, filled with large granite slabs. It’s a design that kind of pulls you in and invites you to take the steps down to the water and climb in between the hulking stones. And that’s part of the problem.

    In 2004, radio producer Ben Temchine, created a really fantastic documentary of UN Plaza, called “The Biography of 100,000 Square Feet” that first aired on my first radio program called Invisible Ink in May of 2004. (Yep another “invisible” show) The documentary really takes a hard look at UN Plaza when it was really at its worst and asks the question, is there a point where the good intentions and idealism of a design become so removed from reality, that it actually borders on negligence?

    I was down at UN Plaza today (November 17, 2011), recording the fountain and taking pictures. The Arts Market was being set up and the water was flowing in the fountain, that was marred by a bit of trash circling in the eddies, but nothing too grotesque or unexpected. The yellow chain that cordoned off the fountain in 2004 is gone. And this morning, with the market being set up, I got a much stronger feel for the intention of the plaza than was evident when it was at its worst. But the big issues were still plain to see.

    The Landscape Architect, Lawrence Halprin, who designed UN Plaza and is featured in the piece, died in 2009. If this is your first exposure to Halprin, I really recommend you look him up and check out his other work. He is absolutely revered in much of the landscape architecture community and the very principles of interactivity and engagement that worked to the detriment of UN Plaza, yielded stunningly successful results in other places. It’s worth exploring more of his legacy.

    —Huffduffed by chgroenbech

  2. 99% Invisible #39: The Darth Vader Family Courthouse

    It’s hard to imagine a place where more desperate and depressing drama unfolds on a daily basis than a family courthouse- custody battles, abuse, divorce- and if you were to design a place to reflect and amplify that misery, not mitigate it, it’d probably take the form of the old New York County Family Courthouse in Lower Manhattan.

    The original shiny black cube, built in 1975, was referred to as the “Darth Vader building” by court employees (presumably after 1977). The foreboding and intimidating structure was primarily criticized in relation to its function as a family courthouse, which should strive to inspire a feeling of trust, authority, and (one hopes) inclusion.

    The building was remodeled in 2006. The bones are largely the same, but the shiny, black cladding is gone, replaced by a more conventional grey/beige. The problematic entrance to the building has been completely opened up, making ingress and egress a much less daunting proposition. To quote our 99% Invisible reporter this week, Brett Myers (a producer at Youth Radio), “walking into the building is no longer like being consumed by a beast.”

    But a little something was lost in the facelift. The original building was definitely not boring and commanded your attention. I don’t know if the same can be said for the current design. Modern design principles and cultural preservation are not necessarily at loggerheads, but when they do come into conflict, it’s not always easy to answer which ideology should win.

    —Huffduffed by chgroenbech

  3. 99% Invisible #38: The Sound of Sport

    If Dennis Baxter and Bill Whiston are doing their job right, you probably don’t notice that they’re doing their job. But they are so good at doing their job, that you probably don’t even know that their job exists at all. They are sound designers for televised sporting events. Their job is to draw the audience into the action and make sports sound as exciting as possible, and this doesn’t mean they put a bunch of microphones on the field.

    Peregrine Andrews produced this piece narrated by Dennis Baxter for Falling Tree Productions for BBC Radio4. It is an extract from a much longer, and really stunning doc called “The Sound of Sport.”

    —Huffduffed by chgroenbech

  4. 99% Invisible #37: The Steering Wheel

    If I asked you to close your eyes and mimic the action of using one of the simple human interfaces of everyday life, you could probably do it. Without having a button to push, you could close your eyes and pretend push a button, and that action would accurately reflect the action of pushing a real button. The same goes for flipping a switch or turning a door knob. If you closed your eyes and faked the movement, it would sync up with its real world use.

    Now if I asked you to do the same with a car’s steering wheel, you’d think you’d be able to describe steering accurately and mime the correct movements with your hands in the air, but you’d be wrong. Very, very wrong. You’d probably kill a bunch of imaginary people.

    Our friends at Humans in Design, Tristan Cooke and Tom Nelson, bring us this story about how our brain knows how to steer without really knowing how to steer, and what that means for steering wheel design. They interviewed Dr. Steve Cloete, from The University of Queensland, who conducted the awesome blind driver studies.

    —Huffduffed by chgroenbech

  5. 99% Invisible #36: Super Bon Bonn

    Cities are pretty robust organisms, they tend to survive even when put under tremendous stress and strain. Local industries rise and fall, people immigrate and emigrate, but most of these changes happen over decades. What happens to a city when its purpose is stripped away virtually overnight? Bonn was the quiet, unlikely capital of West Germany and then the newly unified Germany for 50 years, and then the Cold War ended and the seat of government was moved back to its historic home of Berlin. Ten years after the move, Bonn is finding its new identity and purpose, but hidden clues in the urban landscape remind us of the city it used to be.

    Cyrus Farivar takes us on a tour of his neighborhood in what used to be the diplomatic quarter of Bonn with local historian and tour guide Michael Wenzel. Farivar is the science and technology editor at Deutsche Welle English and the author of The Internet of Elsewhere – about the history and effects of the Internet on different countries around the world.

    —Huffduffed by chgroenbech

  6. 99% Invisible #35: Elegy for WTC

    I want to be careful not to overstate what it means for a building to die. A building’s worth is an infinitesimal fraction of the worth a person’s life. Even two buildings don’t even move the needle in comparison to real human loss. But a building is still a living thing in a way. It breathes and it moves. This movement makes a sound.

    Les Robertson, the structural engineer of the World Trade Center, says that the people working inside the tower couldn’t feel this movement, but they could hear it.

    This episode of 99% Invisible was produced with the Kitchen Sisters, Davia Nelson and Nikki Silva, and the creaking “Buildings Speak” section was mixed by Jim McKee of Earwax Productions. It’s comprised of extracts and outtakes from the Peabody Award Winning Sonic Memorial Project produced in 2002. A new, tenth anniversary edition of the Sonic Memorial Project, which is narrated by my literary hero Paul Auster, is going to be playing on public radio stations around the country. Find out where and when it’s playing on your local public radio station and make an appointment to listen.

    —Huffduffed by chgroenbech

  7. 99% Invisible #34: The Speed of Light for Building Pyramids

    Last year, Steve Burrows CBE (Principle at the engineering consulting firm Arup) spent several weeks in Egypt studying the pyramids through the eyes of a modern day structural engineer. The result, which was presented in a documentary for the Discovery Channel and published in an article for DesignIntelligence, presented fascinating insights into the design of the pyramids and offers some lessons in how we may think about sustainability through longevity in modern architecture.

    Burrows’ research reveals that some of the same practical considerations that structural engineers and architects contend with today, may have driven all the major decisions about the design and construction of the Giza Pyramids.

    —Huffduffed by chgroenbech

  8. 99% Invisible #33: A Cheer for Samuel Plimsoll

    If you look at the outer hull of commercial ships, you might find a painted circle bisected with a long horizontal line. This marking is called the load line, or as I prefer, the Plimsoll line. This simple graphic design has saved thousands of lives. The Plimsoll line shows the maximum loading point of the ship and lets a third party know, plainly and clearly, when a vessel is overloaded and at risk of sinking in rough seas. If you see that horizontal line above the water, you’re good, if you don’t, you could be sunk.

    The load line was named after the crusading British MP Samuel Plimsoll. The advent of insurance in the 19th century, created an incentive for ship owners to purposely sink their own ships and collect the insurance money. This grim practice became so widespread, and killed so many merchant seamen, that the over-insured, overloaded vessels became known as “coffin ships.” Samuel Plimsoll (“the sailors friend”) fought for sweeping merchant shipping regulation that led to the adoption of the load marking that bears his name.

    Tristan Cooke, a human factors engineer and creator of a great blog called Humans in Design, tells us the history of the Plimsoll line and explains why it’s one of his favorite examples of design. I predict you will being hearing more from Tristan and his partner at Humans in Design, Tom Nelson, on this site and on the program. Every entry on their blog could serve as the basis of an episode. You should also follow them on twitter @humansindesign. Fun stuff.

    —Huffduffed by chgroenbech

  9. Macworld: Breaking down Apple’s new announcements

    Philip Michaels talks about Apple’s product announcements with Macworld’s two staffers who were there on the scene (and got their hands on the products), Jason Snell and Dan Moren.

    —Huffduffed by chgroenbech

  10. 5by5 | Amplified #72: I Have to Shiv a Guy at 7

    This week, Jim is joined by Back to Work’s Merlin Mann to talk about hands-on experiences with Apple’s new iPhone 5s and 5c and iOS 7.

    Including a deep dive on Touch ID; how easier security measures could boost iTunes sales; Jim’s new-found photo skills with the 5s camera; what Jim looks for in the wiring under his wood; and more.

    Special guest Merlin Mann.

    —Huffduffed by chgroenbech

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