SITU Research joins panel discussion about US drone debate at Studio-X

This past Thursday, SITU Research participated in a panel discussion titled “Landscapes of Secrecy: Data and Reporting in the Drone Debate”, hosted by Columbia University GSAPP’s Studio-X New York and Bard’s Center for the Study of the Drone, and moderated by Arthur Holland Michel from Bard’s Center for the Study of the Drone.

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Brad Samuels, Partner at SITU Research, Naureen Shah, Legislative Counsel at the ACLU, and data artist and web developer Josh Begley talked about the gathering and reconstruction of data regarding US drone strikes in the context of their practices. All three panelists stressed how important it is for the law makers’ and the general public’s understanding of the nature and extent of U.S. targeted killing operations to not only gather reliable data on civilian deaths by drone strikes, but also to disseminate this data in an accessible format.

SITU Research shared a recently launched interactive website presented as part of UN Special Rapporteur Ben Emmerson’s drone inquiry, detailing 30 drone strikes in five different countries.

A screenshot of the web-based platform that maps - and collects information and media relevant to - each of the thirty strikes the UN Special Rapporteur has called for further investigation of. © Forensic Architecture in collaboration with SITU Research, 2014.

A screenshot of the UN SRCT Drone Inquiry website
© Forensic Architecture in collaboration with SITU Research, 2014.

Naureen Shah highlighted how personal narratives in Amnesty International USA reports on drone strikes impact the broader public, and described how detailed on-the-ground accounts and in-depth interviews help to put a human face on the statistics.

Data artist Josh Begley’s intervention is an app that disrupts its users’ daily routine by sending push notifications directly to the mobile device in their pocket whenever a drone attack happens. These real-time alerts for every reported United States drone strike can also be added to an application programming interface (API) – a collection of building blocks for software development that allows anyone with basic coding skills to organize, analyze and visualize drone strike data dating back to 2002.

Josh Bogley’s Metadata+ app sends real-time alerts for every reported United States drone strike to its users.

Josh Bogley’s Metadata+ app sends real-time alerts for
every reported United States drone strike to its users.

This event was the second in the Studio-X Global series on Security Regimes, which examines global spaces of exception, from supermax prisons to territories where mass surveillance or lethal targeting are allowed in the name of security. The series will be followed by a collaborative publication by Studio-X, the Center for the Study of the Drone, the New Institute and dpr-barcelona.

Design Lab: Backstage Install

With the installation of the Backstage, the fourth out of five distinct learning environments that will make up the NYSCI Design Lab, we are making another big leap forward towards the completion of the project in June 2014.

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The defining architectural feature of the backstage is a cantilevered welded steel truss with a bent perforated metal mesh skin. Mobile furniture, made of aluminum pipe and standard pipe fittings, allow the open floor area to be easily reconfigured.

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Fabricator Lars Christensen installing on-site.

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© Andrew Kelly, NYSCI

© Andrew Kelly, NYSCI

Once finished, kids will use the Backstage to experiment with all the behind-the-scenes ingredients that go into a theatrical production – from rigging to lighting to costume design. It will be a flexible space that can be transformed to accommodate a variety of activities and group sizes.
We are looking forward to seeing the little makers at NYSCI getting creative in the Backstage!

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Emerging Voices 2014

This year,  we are fortunate to be among eight groups of practitioners in architecture, landscape design and urbanism honored by The Architectural League of New York as Emerging Voices in their discipline. This invited, juried portfolio competition recognizes potentially influential firms and individuals based in the U.S., Canada, or Mexico.

All eight winning teams have been giving lectures in New York throughout March, and on the fourth and final evening of the lecture series on March 27, we had the pleasure of giving a presentation on our practice alongside Guadalajara-based Estudio Macías Peredo at the Scholastic Auditorium in Manhattan.

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Salvador Macías Corona and Magui Peredo Arenas from Estudio Macías Peredo
share recent design and construction work.

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SITU partner Aleksey Lukyanov-Cherny shares images of Heartwalk installed in Times Square last year.

A shared interest among both Estudio Macías Peredo and SITU is making. The material experimentation and fabrication processes in our work, as well as the celebrated role of local masons, blacksmiths and craftspeople in the building process were highlighted in both presentations.

A warm thank you to The Architectural League of New York for this opportunity. We are honored  to be in the company of so many talented designers in receiving this award.

Surveying the Great Hall

Directly above our Design Lab project at the New York Hall of Science, one of the most unique spaces in New York City is currently undergoing major restoration work. The Great Hall, also known as the Cathedral of Science, is a 7,000 square foot exhibition space enclosed by a 100 foot tall scalloped dalle de verre façade, where 5400 inch-thick panels of cobalt blue glass are cast into concrete tiles and then set into cast-in-place concrete cells. Restoration work entails tediously waterproofing each of the cells and cleaning the tiles with a latex application. In order to access each of the tiles, an elaborate scaffold has been constructed in the Great Hall, echoing the undulation of the concrete walls with a matrix of metal pipes and wooden planks.

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To us, the scaffolding construction is just as impressive as the original building. Standard, off-the-shelf units, typically used for rectilinear construction, gradually curve into and around each turn of the façade. Straight wooden planks overlap and spread as the pathways transition from concave to convex. The construction is an architecture within another architecture, built to allow for inhabitation of the space not intended by the original architect. The construction is built with an economy of materials and time; built for a specific purpose, without aesthetic consideration. The combination of the architectures, the original Great Hall, and the scaffold recalls the work of our enormously inspirational former professor and friend, Lebbeus Woods.

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To document the moment in the history of the building and to inhabit this extraordinary space, we’re attempting to fly a time-lapse camera through the middle of the space. The project entails building a camera rig where we will be able to slowly lift a time-lapse camera 70 feet from floor to ceiling. As the camera rises and falls over 3 hours the camera will be slowly rotating and tilting to survey the space with a corkscrew motion. To see the design and construction of the rig and some of the footage, have a look at the little ‘making of video’ we’ve put together here:

SITU Research participates in FORENSIS exhibition at the Haus der Kulturen der Welt, Berlin.

Operating within the frame of the Forensic Architecture project, work produced by SITU Research will be presented at the upcoming exhibition and conference FORENSIS at the Haus der Kulturen der Welt in Berlin.

The FORENSIS brief states:
The exhibition will explore the procedures, tools, and spatial arrangements used in forensics, as well as the potential of a new aesthetic-political practice. FORENSIS seeks to invert the direction of the forensic gaze and designate the emergence of new aesthetic-political practices by which individuals and independent organizations use new technologies, aesthetic practices, and architectural methodologies to bear upon a range of issues from political struggle to violent conflict and climate change.

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Image from the 3D virtual model reconstruction of the scene at the moment of the shooting of Bassem Abu Rahma | © Forensic Architecture and SITU Research.

Working in close collaboration with the team at Forensic Architecture, SITU Research’s role has been to provide spatial analyses and visualizations pertaining to inquiries into international human rights violations across a broad array of sites and scales. As part of this work, SITU has worked with Ben Emmerson, UN Special Rapporteur on Counter-Terrorism and Human Rights (UNSRCT), Human Rights Watch and B’tselem, among others. Investigation subjects include the impact of drone strikes on civilians, the use of indiscriminate munitions in densely populated urban environments and the death of migrants at sea. For more information on these projects and others visit http://situresearch.com/human-rights.

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Image of the reconstruction of a drone strike in Datta Khel, Pakistan that occurred on 17 March 2011
© Forensic Architecture and SITU Research.

In the accompanying conference “The Architecture of Public Truth” on March 15th and 16th, SITU Research will discuss this new territory for designers and architects, and their potential role in politics, science, society, and the environment.

FORENSIS will be on display from March 15th – May 5th, 2014.
The opening reception will take place on March 14th, 6pm.
The “The Architecture of Public Truth” conference will be held on March 15th and 16th.

Work by Forensic Architecture and SITU Research presented as part of UN inquiry into Drone Strikes

Today marks the public launch of a web-based platform created by Forensic Architecture (Goldsmiths, University of London) and SITU Research for the United Nations Special Rapporteur on Counter Terrorism and Human Rights, Ben Emmerson.

A screenshot of the web-based platform that maps - and collects information and media relevant to - each of the thirty strikes the UN Special Rapporteur has called for further investigation of. © Forensic Architecture in collaboration with SITU Research, 2014.

The website provides an online presence for the Special Rapporteur’s inquiry into civilian casualties by drone strikes in Afghanistan, Pakistan, Yemen, Somalia and Gaza. The report calls for increased government transparency and documentation of drone strikes when civilian casualties are known or suspected.

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The web-based platform focuses on the 30 drone strikes that are included in the Special Rapporteur’s report. The strikes are  geospatially located and are correlated with additional information provided by Emmerson’s report. Forensic Architecture’s work also analyzes several strikes in greater detail by synthesizing multiple sources of data including photographs, interviews, and satellite imagery and the resultant spatial analyses are shown through short videos.

The online platform can be accessed here.

A short demonstration video of the platform can be found here.

The videos and stills detailing the four cases can be viewed here.

Design Lab: Studio Install

While the kids visiting NYSCI have been building dowel structures down in the Sandbox, we’ve been busy installing the tessellated panels and cladding of the next Design Lab workshop – the Studio. The Studio workshop is primarily used for small-scale, hands-on activities, such as DIY electronics and the exploration of urban issues through model-making. One prominent design feature is the “Aggregator” – a space where participants can display and test their creations collectively, learning from one another and building each other’s ideas.

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Design Lab at The New York Hall of Science is a space for tinkering and creative problem-solving for teachers, students, and families. By using simple tools and everyday materials, Design Lab projects invite kids to wrestle with STEM topics through personally motivating problems and to come up with their own creative solutions.

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In Spring 2014, Design Lab will offer four different hands-on design sessions at the museum that tackle challenges ranging from designing and erecting emergency structures to reusing excess plastic bags. The project “Happy City”, for example, invites students to think about how light and movement could make their city a happier place, and to then apply their ideas by building a happy model city with LEDs and motors. This particular activity lets children examine and confront contemporary urban planning issues.

NYSCI DesignLab Happy City

(photo courtesy of The New York Hall of Science)

To learn more about Design Lab and the four new workshop spaces, visit this page.

Structural engineering by Laufs Engineering Design (LED).

Design Lab: Sandbox Opening

A couple weeks ago we finished installing Sandbox, the first of four new workshop spaces that make up Design Lab at the New York Hall of Science. Now open to the public, Sandbox first opened its gates during the New York Hall of Science’s event ReMake the Holidays.

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The four-day event welcomed families to come in “to bend, twist, light, sculpt and animate a new version of the holiday season” with workshops, demos, artist installations, and more. The open landscape of Sandbox was perfect for the hands-on projects of ReMake the Holiday’s theme of  “Build It,” and on December 28th the Sandbox was filled with kids building dowel structures.

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With some help from their parents and the Maker Space staff, the kids explored building technique and structure by piecing together 3-foot dowels with rubber bands.

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These same components will be utilized in the New York Hall of Science’s “Engineering Day” on February 17th, and will be integral to future programming at the Museum.

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Curious as to what we will be working on next in the Design Lab? Check out the rest of the workshop spaces here.

Structural engineering by Laufs Engineering Design (LED).

All photographs courtesy of Andrew Kelly for New York Hall of Science 

Folk Couture: Fashion and Folk Art Opening at the American Folk Art Museum

This past Tuesday we celebrated the opening of Folk Couture: Fashion and Folk Art at the American Folk Art Museum.  The exhibit is open to the general public for free and will be on display from now until April 23rd, 2014.

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An image from the installation "Folk Couture" at the American Folk Museum in New York City designed by Situ Studio.

 Photo by John Muggenborg

Exhibition Design – Folk Couture: Fashion and Folk Art

For the past few months we have been experimenting with new materials for our exhibition design with the American Folk Art Museum. The exhibition, Folk Couture: Fashion and Folk Art, showcases original ensembles from thirteen designers inspired by objects from the museum’s permanent collection. The results will be displayed alongside the original folk art objects; exploring the boundless relationship between inspiration and creation.

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We sought to find a flexible material to create a system that could be customized to respond to different objects while providing  tactile and visual continuity to the show. Inspired by the draping of a dress form, we chose to work with concrete impregnated fabric to create a series of custom pedestals specifically crafted for the garment or object it holds.

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The process of constructing the pedestals involved building a series of simple armatures from which the concrete canvas was suspended upside-down and saturated with water.

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Once cured, the result is a series of light-weight, structurally sufficient, modified-catenary forms that appear to float and billow upwards, grounded only by the weight of the objects they support.

Folk Couture: Fashion and Folk Art will be on display from January 21st- April 23rd, 2014 at the American Folk Art Museum.

The exhibition is free and open to the public.

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