Africa, Where Events Are King. John Thackara talks to Mugendi M’Rithaa

First published in Design Observer. [Introduction] As the global crisis unfolds, interest in alternative economic and social models is growing – and with it, attention to what we might learn from Africa. Most of us in the North are badly informed about a continent that is home to over 900 million people, living in 53 […]

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Bangkok Cable Ways

On of the reasons we underestimate the sheer physical mass of our power and information networks is that they’re hidden from view. But not in Bangkok. The German photographer Thomas Kalak has spent ten years decade capturing images like these.They feature in an exhibiton at Munster Art Museum from 19 March to 3 July.

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UK design policy becomes multi-scalar

An interesting rebound effect of public spending cuts in the UK is that the UK Design Council and CABE (Commission for Architecture and the Built Environment) are to merge. The move brings UK policy for design, architecture and public space together in a single organization. The new entity will provide a one stop shop for […]

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Ultra Modern

I dislike the word ‘glocal’. It’s an ugly word used by high altitude thinkers to add zest to another word – local – that they find tedious on its own. I also dislike the word ‘creative’. It tends to be used by uncreative people to describe people like themselves. Its bastard child, ‘cultural creative’, is […]

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Renewable energy: salvation, or snake oil?

[First published at Design Observer] Unsettling patches of metallic eczema have started appearing on former vineyards where I live in the south of France. They turn out to be solar farms, the first spores of a clean energy revolution that will soon cover the land. People tell me I should be pleased, but I feel […]

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If it’s not the destination, and it’s not the journey…

A study by Transportation Alternatives found that up to 45 percent of traffic in an area of Brooklyn was caused by cars circling the streets looking for parking. And in 2006, UCLA professor of urban planning Donald Shoup calculated that, within a year, vehicles searching for parking in a small business district in LA consumed […]

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What Kind of Design Institutes for India?

A decision by the Indian government set up four new National Institutes of Design [NIDs] in the country has sparked a lively debate about the kinds of design they should teach. An influential group of design thought-leaders has launched a campaign called VisionFirst that calls for a “rigorous co-creation process to bring clarity to the models […]

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The service ecology of a city

Milan has approved a new Territorial Government Plan (Piano di Governo del Territorio] in which public services, and the way they are planned, are at the centre of the whole project. Since 2008, Id-lab has worked alongside the City Administration to change the way Milan thinks about urban development. Each of the city’s 88 existing […]

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Afghan culture museum

A lifetime ago, during a six month journey in Afghanistan, I passed the spectacular site of Bamiyan, shown in this photograph, on my way into the Hindu Kush. This was long before the three enormous statues of Buddha, carved into the sides of cliffs, were destroyed by the Taliban on the grounds that they were […]

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