Archive for the 'Technology' Category

Silicon Roundabout’s ‘Start-up City’

September 28, 2011

Silicon Roundabout (Old Street, London)

London-based design practice 00:/ ∫(‘zero zero’), in partnership with Space Station, have published proposals for the redevelopment of the Old Street roundabout in East London. The proposals outline a new enterprise and start-up institution at the central hub of Old Street, Hoxton and Shoreditch; an area which in recent years has been dubbed ‘Silicon Roundabout’ due to the rising success of new technology and .com enterprises concentrated in the area.

At a time when much of the economic and employment news in the UK makes for gloomy reading, Silicon Roundabout stands out as a remarkable success story, with a number of successful British technology companies emerging in one small area, and myriad new start-ups seeking to establish themselves in the area. Yet the roundabout which gave its name to this phenomenon remains, by contrast, unloved and fallow but for a small number of popular shops which inhabit the concrete underpass.

Boosted by government support for the ‘Tech City’ emerging in the East of London, the effort is now on to bring together investors, backers and the tech community to build upon this emerging London success story. “The roundabout is a landmark opportunity to articulate and amplify what is happening in the area”, explains Space Station director Russell Chopp.

Architecture and strategic design practice 00:/, themselves based in the area, have led the design for the proposals. They are already leaders in innovative enterprise environments and future workspaces: having been co-designers and partners behind the Hub network in London, which provides collaborative workspace for social entrepreneurs. Not surprisingly then, their proposals go far beyond the kind of corporate office design often associated with business campuses.

“It’s partly about realising why this place is already successful in the first place”, explain 00:/. “This is an economy which works in a completely different way, it’s far more open, far more sociable. It’s about the aggregation of many small, energetic, and rapidly growing start-ups with a sharing culture rather than single, large corporate setup which have driven the design of the sort of office buildings we got used to during the boom.”

Their proposal has a number of key distinctive features. First, the base of the structure is not a corporate lobby or a shopping mall, but a large, enclosed public space.

“In a sense, it’s about realising that London already has another major public space, sitting there, waiting to be found, used and loved” say the designers. “It should be something like a cross between Trafalgar Square and Grand Central Terminal in New York.”

The design has to respond to the very tight constraints of building around an existing underground and railway station, located at the centre of one of London’s busiest traffic junctions. Its structure and construction would have to be strongly shaped by these factors.

The resultant building, sitting astride this new public space, could not be more different from the glass office buildings of the City of London a few hundred metres further south. Not a series of floor plates, but a kind of city-within-a-city.

Within this compact city would be workspaces for companies which range in size from large to tiny, as well as shared resources and flexible workspaces for start-up enterprises of only one or two people.

On the outside, the faceted facade is a vast, programmable advertising board, reminiscent of Tokyo’s Shinjuku district. “We’re told the advertising space on the roundabout is some of the most expensive in Britain. Rather than resist that, we saw an opportunity in turning that onto its head, by opening the whole thing up. By selling the façade per pixel, per minute, the building creates a system which allows small, local companies, individuals and online campaigns to use it, alongside the big global players.” The result is a kind of neighbourhood-based ‘million-dollar homepage’, reflecting outwardly the energetic entrepreneurialism which is driving the change in this part of London.

Click here to download the press release as a pdf:

Silicon Roundabout Press Release_110928

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Compendium for the Civic Economy: Official Launch 12 May 2011

May 4, 2011

Finally, after more than a year of blood, sweat and tears (and just a pinch of hard work), 00:/ will be launching its newest publication; Compendium for the Civic Economy – a book that showcases 100 existing civic initiatives that are transforming local economies and places in the UK and abroad. The official launch is scheduled for 12 May 2011 at 8.45-10.30 AM and will be hosted by NESTA at 1 Plough Place, EC4A 1DE, London.

Speakers include Pam Warhurst (Incredible Edible Todmorden), Sam Coniff (Livity) and our own Indy Johar.

To register for the FREE event, please visit: http://compendiumcivic.eventbrite.com/

From 12 May, the book will be freely available online at www.civiceconomy.net – please check the website and/or our twitter profile @civic_economy for updates.

TA

Launch of London Hackspace in Hoxton

August 3, 2010

London Hackspace had their space warming party on Sunday to celebrate their move into Cremer Street Business Centre so I went along to find out what was going on. As soon as you enter there’s the thrill of a workshop crossed with a mad inventors lab. I saw angle grinders next to a half repaired (or deconstructed?) bike, old school singer sewing machines, a workbench, an amazing open source 3D printer by makerbot industries that replicates itself and other tools and machines that i dont know the name of. Oh and a disco ball with flashing ligts. Hackspaces as i understand it, are places where like minded people can get together and tinker around, invent, make, play, exchange ideas and tips on many things. They describe it as a communal garden shed. I thought it might be limted to a few techy boffins playing with circuit boards and computer parts but that was just my limited interpretation of hackers. Actually the members of London hackspace don’t define hacker activity to a particular area. One described hacking to me as the act of taking, remaking anything – at London hackspace, this currently includes a planned knitting class (referred to as the first type of programming language), a lock picking sports club, bike repair shop, as well as the more techy activities of playing with circuit components and a tesla aerial (just because it made a cool noise when 4000volts was run through it).

There are quite a few precedences for hackspaces – I had previously come across the more well known ones such as the NYC Resistor in New York and c-base in Berlin – the Hackspace Foundation networks these spaces together. There’s clearly a real community feel to the crowd – faces being recognised from gatherings such as hackdays and dorkbot events.

Having decamped from a shared space with an archery range where they were located for a year, London Hackspace are hoping this move to their own space means that they can grow their membership but also have the room to really have fun. The monthly membership is £40 (less if you can’t afford that) it’s 24/7 access, a proudly anarchistic operation(there are no strict rules or preset definitions of what goes) and people act very much in a shared spirit evidenced by the donated tools and kit and their openess to talk to anyone that is curious in learning.

There was much conversation on the fact that spaces and places like this don’t exist easily, particularly in London because of the commercialisation of space. How do we value these activities that are beyond hobbies but not quite “work” – yet their value in creating a skill and knowledge base is invaluable – and primarily the self taught education of exploring by doing and making. This is the real classroom that should be present in all neighbourhoods – not only do spaces like this spread knowledge and other ways of learning, they are a class in civil society itself. Go down to check it out.

AF

00:/ Sycamore Table prototype @Techhub

July 12, 2010

Friday night saw the launch of Techhub on City Road – a new workspace for tech start ups using a similar model to The Hub based on monthly membership subscription that can give you access to different subscription packages varying from drop in hot desking through to permanent desks depending on what you sign up for. Mike Butcher (@mikebutcher) of Tech Crunch and Elizabeth Varley (@evarley) are the people behind the venture having been in and around the tech community for some years, they decided one day that what was really needed was a place that could provide affordable workspace, meeting rooms hire and a space for events where members of the tech community from around the world could come and work together – or at the least work out of their homes for a short while. The evening was launched by Brent Hoberman – founder of lastminute.com followed by a live broadcast on sky news! With sponsors ranging from Pearsons through to Google, TechHub seems set to accelerate the way tech start ups are formed and work.

We at 00:/ were glad to be part of something so close to our way of thinking – and only down the road from us! So when we were asked to help out on the design, we took it as an opportunity to see what could be done on a shoestring budget to convert a very standard office space with office specification down to the ceiling tiles, into a space that would be more functionally suited to tech types. One of our solutions was the Sycamore Table (#sycamoretable) that we were able to prototype for the launch night. It is inspired by the Petal Table at The Hub (by Katy Marks) and we have learnt from our Hub experience that membership based organisations such as these, need their spaces to work flexibly and smoothly. So – the brief we came up with was that the table would serve the area allocated to hot desking area that could also be transformed into an event/hack space in a minimal number of moves making it easy for 1 member of staff to clear desks away. So the end result is this table you see here prototyped from MDF. The table can be collapsed to 1 leaf and mounted on wheels making it easy to roll to one side. It can seat anywhere from 3-7 persons with a variety of work modes – from ad hoc 5 minute meetings at the end of the table to standing up at the 3rd leaf or working alone but together around a communal table. It is powered by hanging plug in points that jack into the top of the table at a single point with a power points on the underside of the desk avoiding floorboxes and making the table easy to disconnect and store. The shape was defined by social curves that enabled collaborators to sit next to each other and share a screen more comfortably than if they were around an orthogonal rectangular table. The shape was also a counter effect to the office-ness of the space and allow multiple configurations in the space avoiding the repetitiveness of most office desk layouts – when you spend as much time working at a screen as these guys do, monotony is something to be avoided where possible! We will be making the final version with a few adjustments (such as universal adaptors to suit the international crowd of tech start ups as suggested by @edent), but if you’re interested in the real thing then pop down to old street and see how this venture takes off.

AF

00pen-source

May 27, 2010

00:/ is hard at work on a new Web2.0 platform for open-source urban planning… ‘EDIT’ (Everybody Doing It Together) will be a web-app offering members of the public the opportunity to propose interventions and improvements to their local neighbourhoods, and provide them with the tools to realise those proposals through collaboration and sharing of resources. In many ways EDIT is a mash-up between Kickstarter, The School of Everything, and FixMyStreet… (just three examples of the plethora of collaborative, enabling, and engagement-based tools the internet is throwing up within the framework of our emerging civic economy).

At its heart, EDIT will be about empowerment – subverting the traditional idea that we are powerless to affect the public realm, and must rely entirely on local authorities to maintain and improve our neighbourhoods. Moreover EDIT will attempt to bridge the gap between surplus capacity within the community and aspirations for real action amongst community activists. We hope that EDIT will eventually provide an outlet for local councils to engage with the dreams and proposals of local people, and furthermore offer them the opportunity to release public funds and support to community action groups to enable positive change, thereby reducing their own resource burdens.

We are currently hard at work putting together a first (alpha) version of the software, and hope to have a beta ready for release over the coming months. The platform is being built on the excellent Cappuccino framework. In addition to working through use-cases, various iterations of interface and the like, we have also been doing some coding from ground up – and feel it is in the spirit of the very civic economy we hope to service to release (at least some!) snippets from time to time…

We have launched an official 00:/ github account (http://github.com/architecture00). Github is an amazing resource allowing software developers to share code and collaborate in evolving their output – it is founded on relatively simple principles of versioning (git repositories specifically), but through its communication potential and some very clever visualizations facilitates an incredibly efficient workflow. We will hopefully be using our account as a platform for sharing all sorts of software developments in future (…along with edit we have ideas about a version of github’s own network graph, for use as a journey catalogue through strategic decision making and project development… about which more later)!

It may still be early days, but watch this space.

NI

Locational micro-blogging

October 30, 2009

http://foursquare.com/
http://gowalla.com/

A couple of neat smart-phone apps helping to socialise the process of submitting place-based reviews (mainly restaurants and bars) and building a gaming environment for people to drop and collect ‘gifts’, and be rewarded for their loyalty to particular shops/restaurants/places. A cool way of building a shared database of local knowledge about stuff… perhaps a platform for dropping location-based community news and pledges…?