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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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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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What should design researchers research?

It’s 2020, and a degree-awarding ceremony is about to take place at Doors of Perception University.

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Is an environmentally neutral car possible?

The future of the car has been electric for what? Five years now? ten? The answer is 110 years, for it was back in 1899 that La Jamais Contente (“The Never Satisfied”) became the first vehicle to go over 100 km/h (62 mph) at Achères, near Paris. Since then, as we produced hundreds of millions […]

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Design steps to heaven

I recently visted Luzern, in Switzerland, for a workshop at thethe oldest art and design school in Switzerland, Hochschule Luzern. My host, Andy Polaine had asked me to set students in the first semester of the MA Design a challenge. The task I gave them was as follows: find a neglected asset somewhere in Luzern, […]

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A Tale of Two Trains

Oslo Airport’s mean-looking bullet train reaches the city centre in nineteen minutes. At 210 kph [130 mph] it is not the world’s fastest – some of China’a new trains will soon reach nearly twice that speed – but Norway’s is surely the most macho to look at. Traveling on Oslo’s mean-looking machine for nineteen minutes […]

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Silent tree hugging in Tenerife

The criminal over-development of the Canary Islands – and the loss of biodiversity and social capital that followed – was financed by the same banks and speculators that our governments are now trying so desperately to save. Given the desecration of these beautiful islands, the bankers who financed it all do not deserve to be […]

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My plan to save the city of Nice $250 million

This blog first proposed the replacement of trophy buildings with street art back in 2002. In a piece called “Trophy buildings are over” we argued that because they are conceived as spectacles, so-called signature architecture would be subject to the law of diminishing returns: the novelty would wear off, and buildings conceived as tourist destinations […]

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From mega, to micro: What You Can Do With the City

[Summer re-run; first published last year] The atmosphere at last week’s Megacities conference in Delft was subdued. I don’t suppose my own talk, which ploughed a similar path to the Debt, Diesel and Dämmerung narrative I mentioned yesterday, helped lighten the mood very much. Spirits were low because it is becoming clear that mega solutions […]

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