Paranoid But Pretty

In his new show at the German Architecture Center (DAZ) Matthias Megyeri has developed a design language for the artefacts of protection and security in public space.

Megyeri poses the question: does protection have to be inconsistent with harmony and beauty? His answer is a family of padlocks, chains, fences, and razor wire that he describes as ‘lovable objects’. Read More »

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What Makes A Change Lab Successful?

The UK government’s digital services platform,, has won the Design of the Year award – and if I were running a big IT consulting firm grown fat on big government contracts, I’d be worried. is a revolutionary web operation that governments around the world are beginning to notice. Twenty four UK government departments will be on the site by the end of the month –  and Government Digital Services (GDS) plans to bring 300 adjacent agencies on board in a next phase. In all, the programme will replace 2,000 websites.

In the UK, more than a billion transactions per year take Read More »

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The Ecozoic City

Over the ages we’ve invested huge amounts of effort and energy to keep cities and nature separate. What would it mean if that were about to change? 

The writer Thomas Berry described as the ecozoic the “reintegration of human endeavours into a larger ecological consciousness”. The ecozoic, Berry believed, would supplant the Anthropocene age, that we live in now, in which human needs take precedence over the health of the earth’s forests, oceans, and other living systems. Our species will only begin to make true progress, Berry believed, when

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Artefact as Campfire: Where People and Living Systems Meet

(Photo: Mapping a bioregion with plants – Joachim Robert Cyanotype workshop at FuturePerfect 2012)

In what ways can design help people interact with living systems in ways that help both of them thrive? And, what small practical steps might one take to test the effect of small actions on the system as a whole? Read More »

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Cycle Commerce: The Red Blood Cells of a Smart City

[The chart above is from the online catalogue of cargo bikes at Nutzrad]

India’s many millions of bicycle and rickshaw vendors embody the entrepreneurship, sustainable mobility, social innovation, and thriving local economies, that a sustainable city needs.

As an ecosystem, they’re also part of the metabolism that makes a city smart.

That said, cycle commerce is a challenge for a city’s managers. Many different actors are involved in bicycle commerce – often with differing or downright conflicting agendas. Managing this kind of urban constellation is Read More »

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An Open Design School for India

(Image from

In recent months a working party in India, chaired by Sam Pitroda, Advisor to the Prime Minister of India on Public Information Infrastructure & Innovation, has been developing the plan for a nationwide network of 20 Design Innovation Centres, an Open Design School, and a National Design Innovation Network. The latest public version of the plan is here: Download pdf   

During this process, I was invited by Abhimanyu Nohwar to make a short statement to the group by way of a ‘useful provocation’. Here, below, is what I said:

Sixteen years ago, when Sam Pitroda spoke at our Doors of Perception conference, whose theme was “speed”, he told us that connectivity is as much about the design of clever business models, as it is about Read More »

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Healing The Metabolic Rift

The term metabolic rift describes the alienation between humans and nature that opened up with the growth of the the modern economy. Could the growth of bioregionalism, and research into ‘social-ecological systems’, be signs that the rift may be healing? And if so, what are the opportunities for design to contribute? 

[Picture: The Stockholm Resilience Centre investigates the governance of social-ecological systems. Shown here is a rural agricultural system in Madagascar]

Spare a thought for global business leaders as they prepare for this year’s World Economic Forum, in Switzerland. Instead of a guide  to apres-ski eateries, their host has sent them Read More »

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German Government Think-Tank Supports Fringe Change Agents

Good news from Germany: A ‘global transformation of values has already begun’. It’s proving tough to leverage changing attitudes into sustainable behaviour – but a transition to a more sustainable society ‘would be welcomed by a significant part of world society’.

In a 400-page report called World in Transition: A Social Contract for Sustainability, the German Advisory Council on Climate Change (WGBU), the heavyweight scientific body that advises the German Federal Government on ‘Earth System Megatrends’, reviewed a wide-range of values surveys. A significant majority of the German population, it found, views growth and capitalism with scepticism and ‘does not believe in the resilience of Read More »

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Venice: from Gated Lagoon to Bioregion

Computer rendering by Christian Kerrigan.

Rachel Armstrong, who develops synthetic biology applications for the built environment, believes it could be possible to grow an artificial limestone reef underneath Venice using ‘metabolic materials’ – photosensitive protocells, engineered to be light averse. Her idea is to stop the city sinking into the soft mud on which its foundations are built – and to do so in a way that respects its non-human inhabitants.

Armstrong’s approach sounds like science fiction – but it’s informed by the ways living systems actually survive in hostile environments. When algae, shellfish and bacteria search for new territories and nutrients, for example, they sculpt the materials of their surroundings. Armstrong describes these as Read More »

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