Archive for the ‘Projects and Products’ Category

Design and the Elastic Mind

Tuesday, February 26th, 2008

“Surround Sound Eyewear,” produced at Industrial Facility in 2005 has been included in MOMA’s new exhibition “Design and the Elastic Mind.”




“Surround Sound Eyewear” is an advanced hearing aid built into traditional spectacles. The sound amplification and improvement apparatus is based on the experimental notion of superdirectivity pioneered by Professor Marinus Boone of Delft University of Technology in the Netherlands. Four microphones placed on either side of the spectacles massively improves sound fidelity and speech intelligibility.

From MOMA’s exhibition description:

“The exhibition will highlight examples of successful translation of disruptive innovation, examples based on ongoing research, as well as reflections on the future responsibilities of design. The objects range from nanodevices to vehicles, from appliances to interfaces, and from pragmatic solutions for everyday use to provocative ideas meant to influence our future choices.”

A New York Times review which calls the exhibition “exhilarating” and “required viewing for anyone who believes that our civilization is heading back toward the Dark Ages,” is available here.

Foreground: REGIONAL’s work at the Shenzhen Biennale

Sunday, February 3rd, 2008

(The opening day of the biennale. The red carpet leads to our piece ‘foreground,’ the entrance to the biennale.)

REGIONAL did extensive research on Chinese urbanization, including the environmental practices of massive population and spatial redistribution. In Shenzhen we researched the changing topogaphy of the city and the modes of urbanization, applying the findings to our participation in the Shenzhen & Hong Kong Biennale of Urbanism and Architecture.

‘Foreground’ was the response to an invitation for an original work that would serve as the entrance to the biennale and address the theme of “cities of expiration and regeneration.”

Shenzhen has responded to the flattening of the global economy by flattening its own topographical features, replacing natural landmarks with built construction. In bringing awareness to the life-cycle of cities, REGIONAL sought to superimpose the natural topographical past onto the built present.

‘Foreground’ uncovers and remaps the lost mountainous topography of the central axis of the Biennale by using GIS data of the pre-urban landscape that came before the factory complexes.

The evocative bamboo construction references the ancient and local material contemporarily connoting renovation and renewal. The construction was entirely performed by teams of bamboo craftsmen whose techniques have barely changed over centuries.

‘Foreground’ stimulates an expanding dialogue on Chinese urbanization and environmentalism by referencing the dramatic ecological change induced by radical topographical alteration. By visualizing what came before the city, foreground ask us to contemplate what could come next.

* * *

A video showing the urbanization and flattening of Shenzhenfrontwithmountain-or-web.jpg
foreground emerging from above the treeline and intersecting with the factory building. the amputated mountain ridge in the background.belowtwo-for-web.jpg lookingup-for-web.jpgwholethangfromfront-for-web.jpg





The Process of Design and Construction

worker-smiling.jpg workers.jpg bamboo-used-for-scaffolding-in-shenzhen.jpg craftsmen-lashing.jpg

gwendolyn-in-simulation-room.jpg gwendolyn-in-simulation-room-2.jpg gwendolyn-in-simulation-room-3.jpg bambo-yard.jpg

bamboo-delivery-at-night.jpg foreground-construction-at-night.jpg gwendolyn-with-contractor-mr.jpg craftsmen-on-structure.jpg

foreground-bamboo-forest-2.jpg forground-intersection.jpg foreground-sunny.jpg foreground-through-window.jpg

foreground-with-factory-workers.jpg gwendolyn-during-construction.jpg construction-team.jpg wholeback-for-web.jpg

Special Thanks to:

Mr. Li Wenjing for assembling and leading a team of fine local craftsmen in the swift, safe and excellent construction of Foreground.Huang Lu (Laura) for her vital cultural translation and linguistic translation.

Ma Qingyun and the whole Biennale team for their assistance.

Carson Chan and Fotini Laziridou-Hatzigoga of the PROGRAM initiative for art and architectural collaborations in Berlin for their early and ongoing support and guidance.

Maryann O’Donnell for her scholarly mentorship and essential companionship while in Shenzhen.

Xiaodu Liu chief architect of Urbanus in Shenzhen and Beijing for his international perspective, local vision and belief in the project from the start.

Ben Reynolds of d-e-p-i-c-t for his masterful renderings and conceptual input.

Jason Danziger of thinkbuild architecture for his valuable initial advice.

O’reilly’s ETECH

Sunday, February 3rd, 2008

O'Reilly Emerging Technology Conference 2008

We’ll be speaking at O’reilly’s Emerging Technology Conference in San Diego March 3-6 about our ongoing work in Cuba.


Of Necessity and Humanity: what Cuba can teach us about ourselves and our technology.

What can a people without emerging technology teach us about our own technology?The recent history of Cuba starts with the Special Period, that dark decade or so after the Soviet Union collapsed. Technology, energy, and other subsidies that kept the Cuban economy afloat instantly disappeared, causing the country to contract by a third. Fossil fuels for industry and transportation, expertise for education and enterprise, food for people; it all vanished overnight.

The Special Period was extremely hard on the Cuban people, and echoes of it are still felt today. The entire country, built for Soviet material and energy inputs, had to adapt indigenous resources and ideas to run or evolve the infrastructure left behind. The survival of the Cuban people in this time of terrifying necessity rested on their incredible ingenuity and humanity.

What emerged was a series of deliberate and accidental technological revelations, spanning organic and sustainable agriculture, demand-responsive transportation, and a very quirky and effective ‘energy revolution’ that continues today.

In the last years Cuba has undergone a change in leadership, welcomed substantial foreign investment, and has precipitated rising hemispheric influence through the discovery of coveted natural resources, and the growth of strategic alliances with Venezuela, China, and others. All the while, barely 1 in 1000 people have access to the Internet in a form recognizable to the average connected person. Mobile phones are nearly as absent from the technological mix. In Trinidad de Cuba, one hustler proudly showed off his mobile phone to us, though it didn’t even have a service provider.

In its peculiar and unconventional emergence, Cuba and its people provide an important model for an expanded discussion on emerging technology. In addition to the feats of technological improvisation, Cubans display early analogues to the social technologies that are prominent today, and uncover the tension that drives our technological innovation and curiosity.

What happens when inventive people hack and play with limited technological ingredients to make best with what they have? What will happen when a cultured, literate, hyper-social people get access to the Internet for the first time? How will their virgin experiences and experimentations impact the rest of the world? Cubans teach us to strip away layers of plastic, metal, and code to the root of what technology is, and what it has always been. From a people that have been greatly anticipating the future—any future—we’ll be left with clues for the promising technologies of our own near future by looking at recent progress and universal lessons in the Cuba of today.


We’re really humbled to join such an outstanding group of thinkers addressing so many of the subjects and movements that inspire us. Just have a look at the speaker’s list, or the topic list:

Body Hacking. Genomics Hacking. Brain Hacking. Sex Hacking. Food Hacking. iPhone Hacking.

DIY Aerial Drones. DIY Talking Things. DIY Spectrum. DIY Apocalypse Survival.

Emerging Tech of India
, Cuba, and Africa. International Political Dissidents.

Visualize Data
and Crowds. Ambient Data Streaming.

Good Policy
. Energy Policy. Defense Policy. Genetic Policy. Corruption.

Alternate Reality Games
. Emotions of Games. Sensor Games.

Ma Qingyun asked us to answer 10 questions on cities of expiration and regeneration

Sunday, February 3rd, 2008

(projection of a new urban growth, from the simulations of the urban planning office of the city of Shenzhen, 2007.)

Head Curator of the Shenzhen biennale Ma Qingyun (who’s also Dean of the USC school of Architecture and planning consultant to the Beijing Olympics) asked all participants and exhibitors to answer 10 questions on the theme of urban expiration and regeneration. The results were published in a 32 page newspaper distributed to all visitors. I can’t find this gem of aggregated thoughts on the future of our cities, but here’s what we contributed:
1. What do we need and get from the city? Conversely, what do we provide for the city?

What we now get from the city is what we can take from it. Our demands exert pressure on the city to adapt to us, and inspire opportunists to shape the city for our further taking.

The city always responds, but we should not confuse that reaction with meaningful spontaneous responsiveness. We have allowed the city to develop without our collective wisdom. We have built mute cities that cannot learn independently.

The city should function as a permeable system of exchange where a dynamic populous with an uncertain future can participate with it in a process of mutual inspiration and complete material and metabolic recycling.

2. Can we trust our judgment of the future?

As the future is something collaboratively created, judging the future is judging our own ability to cooperate in envisioning, illuminating and realizing it.

Can we trust ourselves to envision the future that is most harmonious, equitable and prosperous?

Can we trust each other to mutually build that future?

Can we trust that given our current organizations and practices, there will even be a future?

3. Should we invest in intelligence that maximizes a building’s performance in a given time period or in sentiments which demand its perpetuation?

Building intelligence maximizes ecological integration and democratic participation in the creation of spatial experiences.

We should invest in building intelligence that understands its own context. Then buildings will be extensions of the environment, and evolved and flexible extensions of our life-supporting selves.

4. How can we maximize our needs today?

We can maximize our needs by reconsidering our wants.

We must commonly alter our wants so they reflect what is needed for a healthy interconnected civilization on a delicately finite planet.

5. Should buildings have expiration dates?

Unlike perishable food products, we just can’t tell when buildings should expire. But as technology advances and needs change, buildings render themselves no longer valid and should expire and perish as improved building or non-building solutions emerge.

Rather than look at the expiration date on a building, the building should engage in dialogue about its own existence vis a vis its occupants, their use of the building, and the state of building technologies at large.

Buildings should consider their own life, and play a part in their own decomposition, material redistribution and unrecognizable displaced reassembly.

6. Should a city stay in its current form forever?

No. A good city, like a good tool, should reflect its purpose and function.

Cities should be constantly learning, improving and reflecting the collective and imaged ethos of its occupants.

The physical form of a city will inspire and catalyze cultural crystallizations that will be inscribed in formless media. The content of the formless media will change the form of the city as reflected in the configurations of our past and possible experiences.

7. Can we envision a city composed of temporary buildings, instead of eternal monuments?

Yes, please see 5.

8. What is the polar opposite to the city?


9. What is the essence of agriculture?

Humans should be integrated into the natural world in a process of collaboration not control.

10. Is agriculture the next form of urbanism?

If we define agriculture historically as the cultivation of organisms, then some of the most profound innovations in agriculture are on the near horizon of biotechnology.

The communities and buildings of cities will be the fields and fertilizer of the new age of agriculture, sprouting living things that help us find new life. Organisms will take root that produce endless harvests, including energy (food and otherwise), medicine and environmental assistance.

Our deepest societal values and civilizational needs will make themselves known through our collective biotechnological agricultural practices.

How we engineer the undertakings of living things will establish the next form of urbanism as a platform for the birthing and reflective pondering of life itself.

* * *

are the answers from Neville Mars, a Dutch expert on Chinese Urbanization now living in Beijing.

Gwendolyn’s product designs I – “Gray Goods”

Friday, February 1st, 2008

“Gray Goods” – giving digital technologies a narrative nature

With networked objects appreciating informationalization of the product-material landscape, this project attempts to give cultural scale and proportion to technologies in order to justify their objectness.

Compared with the roles of white goods (cooking and hygeine) and brown goods (entertainment) in the domestic setting, “Gray” goods attempt to serve a psychological and cultural function that creates a quiet bond of familiarity and personality between user and product.

Through a combination of ambiguity, familiarity and novelty, the gray goods attempt to create a relationship between thinking, using, and doing. It is in part an attempt to carry the goals of modernism into contemporary consumer goods. Form used to follow function, but now due to the arbitrary nature of componentry, a new narrative is needed to save form as well as our roles.

With so few material and technological constraints there is a chance to give products the transparency of a psychological, emotional and referential functionalism.





Hard Drive




Gwendolyn’s product designs II – “Kitchen Items: Revisited”

Friday, February 1st, 2008

Kitchen Items: Revisited

The contemporary kitchen has become less of an environment of cooking and meaningful interaction and more an architectural status symbol. There is an increased focus on gadgetry, design, and aesthetics at the cost of the kitchen’s traditional warmth and simplicity.

By editing certain ubiquitous kitchen objects and appliances, this project attempts to rehumanize the kitchen experience with both visually and experientially engaging products.

Gradient Dish Rack




Kitchen Hood




Under Cover




Self-portraiture and emerging artistic consciousness in Dafen

Saturday, December 15th, 2007

Dafen is a village surrounded by the thriving metropolis of Shenzhen, and the origin of most of the world’s reproduction oil paintings. In the popular imagination Dafen’s artists produce anonymous works for unknown customers, operating no differently than a faceless factory churning out counterfeits, replicas and nothing close to what would be considered art.

REGIONAL productively collaborated with the otherwise commoditized community in Dafen by asking selected individuals, some for the first time, to imagine themselves in their professional medium. The final works show the technical, creative, and professional facets of the artists identities subsumed by the styles and relationships they maintain with specific famous artists. The hybrid result of original subject with derivative style comments on originality, global cultural production and REGIONAL’s cooperation with emerging enterprise forms that are internationalizing the village.

The product of the collaboration are sets of images (seen below) comprising a digital photo of the artist in his studio, an indicative painting of their usual output and an original self-portrait. While the final works contain both the creative signature of the original masters and the emergent self-consciousness of the Dafen artists, it is equally important to note that they derived great fulfillment from using their talents freely, and were remunerated at a rate commensurate with the unique international nature of the project.

The series operates as a comment on iconicity in cultural reproduction and consumerism as well as posits strategies for enabling and activating creativity that would otherwise be absorbed by routine production. The works produced with the talent of DAFEN are part of a continuing series of our international collaborations that seek to engage and encourage untapped creative, cultural and economic opportunity around the world.

The paintings seen below are to be featured in galleries worldwide in the coming year.

Xiao Keman (b. 1980), Shanxi Province, PRC. Painter of DaVinci. Self-Portrait: 72cm x 72cm

Yang Guoyin (b. 1956), Hunan Province PRC. Painter of VanGogh. Self-Portrait: 72cm x 72cm renoir-for-web.jpg
Zhong Min (b. 1976), Jiangxi Province, PRC. Painter of Renoir. Self-Portrait: 72cm x 72cm
Zhang Fei (b. 1981), Hunan Province, PRC. Painter of Zhao Wuji. Self-Portrait: 72cm x 72cm

Xu ZanPeng (b. 1987), Yunnan Province, PRC. Painter of Russian Baroque (Иван Николаевич Крамской). Self-Portrait: 72cm x 72cm
He Weidong (b. 1975), Jiangxi Province, PRC. Painter of Zhang Xiaogang. Self-Portrait: 72cm x 72cm