Tan Gee Yang | 1002140
I had the opportunity to attend the xLAB Summer Program this August. The program served as a platform, bringing together a total of 16 students from universities all over the world and diverse faculty from architecture, business, technology and science. The 16 of us were divided into 2 studios led by Greg Lynn and Kaz Yoneda and Andrew Witt and Toshiki Hirano respectively. 3 people from Nikkei Sekkei and Nihon Sekkei also each joined the 2 studios. The theme of this year’s program was mobility. The studio by Greg Lynn looked at mobility on the ground plane and explored the concept of atomizing mobility modes whereas the studio by Andrew Witt looked at the future of aerial mobility from 2m above the ground plane. Besides working on our studio project, during these 2 weeks, we attended seminar lectures by people from the field of architecture and architecture-related fields such as science, management, engineering and robotics and lectures by the main faculty whom led the studios. We also attended a symposium where a big table format was adopted. The theme of the symposium was “Reimagining Tokyo’s Mobility” where there was 3 panels, namely alternative mobility, computational mobility and non-physical mobility.
The series of seminars were eye-opening and provided insights regarding the theme of mobility from various perspectives. There was a total of 7 lectures conducted and the most memorable one for me personally were by Eric Baczuk and Professor Shibasaki.
Eric Baczuk shared about the projects he previously worked such as the Copenhagen wheel, the wire one, as well as the projects he is currently working on now in Google. Baczuk graduated from the Harvard Graduate School of Design and besides sharing about the amazing projects which he worked on, he shared about how the architecture education which he received enabled him to have a different perspective when tackling a design problem, which I found inspiring.
Professor Shibasaki shared about data visualization. One of the projects that he shared was the visualization of the movement of people in Tokyo before and after the 3.11 Tohoku Earthquake using analysed GPS data from mobile phones. Another project that he shared was also the visualization of the movement of people but in Bangadesh, where this visualization served as a basis to solve traffic and congestion issues. Besides sharing on the data visualization, he also shared of ethics and the question of how one tracks the movements of over seven billion people and all their stuff without abusing the knowledge and infringing on privacy.
The faculty lectures were an extension of the seminar lecture series where the professors leading the studios, Greg Lynn, Andrew Witt, Kaz Yoneda and Toshiki Hirano shared more about their works. This faculty lecture also featured Laurence Keefe, a pro skater, who shared about mobility and architecture in urban environments and the possibility of skate friendly cities. It was really interesting to hear the thoughts from the perspective of a pro skater and it sparked discussions and questions from the audience.
The theme of the symposium was “Reimagining Tokyo’s Mobility” where there was 3 panels, namely alternative mobility, computational mobility and non-physical mobility. The first panel, alternative mobility, discussed the diversification of mobility and its impact on cities. The panel discussed the last-mile problem and the possibility of a 20 minutes lifestyle where one’s work, leisure, and schools are located within a 20 minutes walking radius from one’s home. The panel also discussed the possibility of a car-free city center in major cities around the world where the removal of parking lots would make way for spaces to increase the liveability of the city. The second panel, computation mobility, broadens the thinking of mobility from the moving of people and things to and from specific places to a dynamic system of intelligent mobility linked to information networks. With the rise of autonomous mobility, in conjunction with the evolution of AI, there is the possibility to fundamentally change large-scale urban systems such as roads, parking lots and public spaces. The last panel, non-physical mobility discussed how to redefine mobility in a hyperspace where real and virtual images and place and time coexists. A popular example of non-physical mobility is Pokemon GO, where the game attracts millions of players and gets them to move about in search for new pokemons. The panel also discussed the new possibilities that have emerged due to the expansion of information space and its subsequent integration with the physical space.
Abdrew Witt and Toshiki Hirano’s Studio
I was in the studio led by Andrew Witt and Toshiki Hirano and our studio explored the future of aerial mobility which was defined as anything 2m above the ground plane. Our studio looked at Hibiya as a site and our vision of it as a future leisure mobility city. Building on Hibiya’s running culture, festival culture and developmental plans to promote it as an entertainment district, the studio looked at temporary, flexible infrastructure which could connect the city better for events and recreation and create unique new mobility entertainment activities and venues for next generation leisure. Our studio also looked at a drone infrastructure network to enhance every day and event leisure experience as well as to create new ones.
The lectures and symposium provided the background upon which our studio built our proposals on. Overall the studio was predictive in nature but the proposals we put forth were rooted in precedence. It was an enjoyable experience where 9 students from different countries came together and provided different perspectives on the design problem. The studio instructors also provided great insights. The studio put together a successful presentation during the final studio review where our presentation sparked discussions among the panel and the audience on the future of aerial mobility.
Students from Andrew Witt’s Studio
From Left: Tamaki Inahata (Waseda University), Yuqiong Lin(Tongji University), David Russkamp (University of Applied Arts, Vienna), Monique Wong (University of Hong Kong), Timothy O’Hare (Architectural Association), Andres Antolin (IE School of Architecture + Design, Madrid), Tan Gee Yang (Singapore University of Technology and Design), Keitaro Onishi (Keio University), Akifumi Kage (University of Tokyo)
Final Presentation by Andrew Witt’s Studio
Final Presentation by Gregg Lynn’s Studio
A photo of Andrew Witt with me
This summer program has been a meaningful and eye opening two weeks and I am really thankful for this opportunity. The lectures and symposium provided wonderful insights to mobility from various different perspectives and the studio allowed us to build on this to come up with a proposal exploring the future of mobility in cities. Besides being an eye-opening experience, the people I met and the friends I made over these 2 short but fruitful weeks may have been the greatest takeaway from the program.