Category Archives: architecture

Future of offices: in a post-pandemic world (Arup)

COVID-19 has accelerated a range of preexisting trends in the commercial property sector around health and wellbeing, activitybased working, flexibility and the drive for better space utilisation. Sustainability, smart buildings and the digital workplace are also reshaping the commercial offer. Taken together, these trends and developments will profoundly impact the kinds of workplaces likely to be needed in a post-pandemic world.

The super-rich ‘preppers’ planning to save themselves from the apocalypse

Taking their cue from Tesla founder Elon Musk colonising MarsPalantir’s Peter Thiel reversing the ageing process, or artificial intelligence developers Sam Altman and Ray Kurzweil uploading their minds into supercomputers, they were preparing for a digital future that had less to do with making the world a better place than it did with transcending the human condition altogether. Their extreme wealth and privilege served only to make them obsessed with insulating themselves from the very real and present danger of climate change, rising sea levels, mass migrations, global pandemics, nativist panic and resource depletion. For them, the future of technology is about only one thing: escape from the rest of us.

Imagining Invasive Species Community Kitchens 

“When Henry Hudson arrived in what is now New York City in 1609, there were approximately 350 square miles of oyster reefs in the harbor and its surroundeing waters. These waters contained nearly half of the world’s oyster population — some of which are said to have been, gulp, almost one foot long.”

In an article from October 2020, the NY Times reviewed a broader movement to reduce, if not eradicate, invasive species by changing our appetite for them. 

“The theory goes that the more people eat invasive species, the more incentive there is to hunt and harvest them — a classic free-market approach, except that the point is to boost demand until there is no supply. Should diners in fact grow fond of these novelties, the plan could backfire, recasting the species as a valued commodity.”

What Happened to Manhattan’s Oyster Barges?

Tuning the Prompt

Perugina. Airport. Sepia. Soldier. Rome. Yet, another precious family photo lost in Google Photos among mundane recipe screenshots. And, yet, another reminder that it’s all about the prompt. The prompt I never set up and lazily relegated to the wisdom of a Google algorithm.

When we’re using prompts in search, we use them like fishing lures slowly trolling cyberspace. The more technically proficient we are, the less we are bothered by combing through junk to reach what we need. But the emerging GPT-2 and GPT-3 language models has turned that expectation upside down, revolutionizing what we can do via prompt engineering. 

Now, we can not only retrieve, we can create.

And the breadth is relatively wide from NLP to AI synthesis, emails can be generated and images can be rendered through iterations of text prompts. The trick to getting it right is through effective prompt engineering. And that is a cultural issue. (No different than ethnographies are only as good as their recruitment.)

Lisa Li Xiang and Percy Liang write about prefix tuning, “a lightweight alternative to fine-tuning for natural language generation tasks” (Li, 2021). They propose that “Fine-tuning is the de facto way of leveraging large pretrained language models for downstream tasks. However, fine-tuning modifies all the language model parameters and therefore necessitates storing a full copy for each task…good generation performance can also be attained by updating a very small prefix.”

It’s within these small spaces that cultural context can be applied. We began this discussion in March 2020 at the Intelligent Human Systems Integration Conference in Modena, Italy. The challenge is to have the design remain open to human potential, rather than structural control.

“It’s no surprise that most people engaged in ‘tech-mediated intimacy’ prefer sexting with ‘adult’ chatbots over sex robots. They can imagine a human at the other end. As designers, we need to understand human traits and be ahead of that moment” (Stock, 2020).

Let’s not forget that according to Encyclopedia Brittanica, “the words engine and ingenious are derived from the same Latin root, ingenerare, which means “to create.” This is one thing when we are haphazardly throwing prompts at Midjourney. There, it’s okay to have others run with your prompt and see where it goes.

Jason M. Allen, a maker of tabletop games, won the 2022 Colorado State Fair’s annual art competition for his AI-generated work using Midjourney. “Théâtre D’opéra Spatial,” took first place in the digital category. “Some artists defended Mr. Allen, saying that using A.I. to create a piece was no different from using Photoshop or other digital image-manipulation tools, and that human creativity is still required to come up with the right prompts to generate an award-winning piece” (Roos, 2022).

But, what about when we need to land effectively and quickly get to that promising work? That’s when we need to start tuning upfront.

Already, virtual prototyping is becoming essential for automotive research and design (Girling, 2022). Think about how far we could go without heavy investments in building upfront.

Imagine if we could simply focus on the thinking? Implications reach far beyond the tangible.

Consider occupational identities. Julia Yates & Sharon Cahill state “Evidence suggests that occupational prototypes have an impact on career decisions. Psychology undergrads were asked to evoke a typical member of each of four occupational groups and describe their prototype in detail. A classic grounded theory analysis identified the characteristics which were symbolised by the features of the prototypes and resulted in eight dimensions: warm, energetic, fun, intelligent, conventional, highbrow, successful and cool” (Yates, 2019). What if we could leverage prompt engineering to bring better context to education and career design too? But, then again, what if I could simply find that missing Google photo?

– by Tim Stock and Marie Lena Tupot

Works cited

Girling, W. (2022, July 29). Virtual prototyping is becoming essential for automotive R&D. Automotive World. Retrieved September 2, 2022, from 

Li, X. L., & Liang, P. (2021, January 1). Prefix-tuning: Optimizing continuous prompts for generation. Retrieved September 2, 2022, from

Roose, K. (2022, September 2). An a.i.-generated picture won an art prize. artists aren’t happy. The New York Times. Retrieved September 2, 2022, from 

Stock, T. J., & Tupot, M. L. (2020, January 22). Pre-emptive culture mapping: Exploring a system of language to better understand the abstract traits of human interaction.  Intelligent Human Systems Integration 2020. IHSI 2020. Advances in Intelligent Systems and Computing, vol 1131. Springer, Cham.

Yates, J., & Cahill, S. (2019). The characteristics of prototypical occupational identities: A grounded theory of four occupations. British Journal of Guidance & Counselling49(1), 115–131. 

Penn Station Plan Makes a High-Stakes Bet on the Future of Office Work

Financial analysts have warned that a permanent change in office-building use could profoundly affect cities like New York, leading to a decline in the value of those properties and the property taxes collected. According to the security company Kastle Systems, which tracks employee card swipes in office buildings, just 37 percent of workers in the city went into the office during the third week of August.

Yet the Penn Station development would be even bigger than the build out of Hudson Yards and include a similar mix of retail, residential and hotel space — as well as lots of offices. At 33 acres, it would surpass the size of Rockefeller Center, the last comparable development in Midtown, completed 80 years ago.

What Does the Future of Work Sound Like?

Before the pandemic, two-thirds of U.S. office workers were in open office environments filled with bad acoustics and distracting noises from loud group meetings, phone and video calls, watercooler chatter, and the clicking of keyboards. But it doesn’t have to be this way. Made Music Studio’s research shows that companies can improve employees’ workplace experiences — by creating a sense of privacy, masking bad noise, and enhancing mood, focus, and even productivity — through the right use of sound.

Inside the Rise of “Risky” Playground Design

Educators in Britain are embracing the idea that purposeful risky play promotes resilience and builds more self-reliant young people. As a result, public playspaces there are being redesigned or newly built to actively present that risk. What that looks like—playgrounds with access to saws, knives, loose bricks and two-by-fours, and fire—is something that might sound alarms for some parents here in the litigious U.S.

Paris to build $145M cable car system

Scheduled to open in 2025, the “Cable 1” project will travel from the Parisian suburb of Villeneuve-Saint-Georges to the Pointe du Lac station in Creteil in the Île-de-France region within just 17 minutes, less than half the time the journey would take on a bus.