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Projections at Pinkcomma Gallery

Running through late November, Pinkcomma Gallery in Boston is hosting Projections, an exhibit on the future of cities and the ways that they could change.  The exhibit is a joint effort with Carnegie Mellon University School of Architecture and over,under production which is led by Rami el Samahy .  The research portion of the exhibit was led by Adam Himes and the installation was led by Jonathan Hanahan. We spoke with Rami el Samahy to learn more about this unique exhibit. Be sure to catch it before it leaves!

SB: Will the projections event help generate material for the opening exhibition at BSA?

Rami: Projections was an exhibit supported by Carnegie Mellon University, Qatar Foundation, and over,under. It represents the first milestone in our research efforts on the future of design for cities. Although it is unrelated to the ongoing preparatory work for the opening exhibition of the new BSA Space, it offered an opportunity to test certain ideas about exhibit design that proved to be lessons for future exhibits, in particular with regard to incorporating digital technology.

SB: Can you tell us about what the Projections event revealed?

Rami: First, the event revealed that there seems to be a vibrant interest in the future—the gallery was packed on opening night. This seems to be the case despite an general pessimism about what is to come. Second, predictions about the future often reflect the anxieties of the age rather than provide accurate windows into what’s next. Today we find a huge increase in ecological doomsday projections, whereas in the 1970s and 1980s, the fear was nuclear destruction—and in the fifties it seemed to be aliens. Finally, while we’re mindful of the pitfalls of prediction, this research is intended to get a sense of where the future is heading, so we might be able to assess where design opportunities lie. The exhibition also demonstrates the use of recent technologies to drive design research through an interrelated process with multiple feedback loops whereby several efforts are used to move a project forward. Projections utilizes an everyday tool – the blog—to organize research so that it reveals trends and potential avenues for further investigation. Similarly, the open source tool of processing literally makes visible some of the trends uncovered through research, temporally positioning each to make apparent the visions for and fears of the future as they developed through successive eras. The blog creates a venue for open-source research via an undergraduate college seminar. Students build on existing avenues of research in potentially new directions.The course also acts as a first pass at applying the themes developed via the blog to architectural and urban design projects, thus leading the way to the generation of design parameters based on a number of projected criteria that could be applied in the development of future cities.

SB: Where do you think future design opportunities lie?

Rami: Technological changes will have a profound effect on the way we will live, from the growing ubiquity of information technology, to the increased reliance on automated processes (robotics), to the remarkable potentials of nanotechnology. What does all this mean for architects and urban designers? Will the cities of the future look like the ones we live in today, except more connected to a greater number of people? Or will these technological changes necessitate a more substantial morphological and programmatic evolution? We suspect that the answer is a little bit of both. If you think about what we’ve experienced in the past two decades, technology has fostered profound change, but has also been absorbed seamlessly into the existing city. In addition to the technological advancements, it’s also evident that the future promises significant environmental and sociological change. While the extent of impact remains unclear, as both depend heavily on political will and cooperation, significant transformations will occur in both areas. There is no shortage of design opportunities as a response to either outcome, whether the goal is to mitigate a worst-case eventuality or to adapt to a soon-to-be situation.

SB: If you could redesign Boston for the future – what would you change and improve upon?

Rami: It’s difficult to answer this question without resorting to trite sound bites so I’ll just say I would design a way to allow the city to stay up later. Not all creativity occurs between 9 am and 5 pm, but almost all requires the consumption of liquids.

SB: What makes designing for the future important to you?

Rami: It’s where we’ll live tomorrow. It’s where we already live.

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