Tag Archives: Innovation

The Outlaw Urbanist at SSS10 |13-17 July 2015 | London

mark_v3UPDATE: Dr. Mark David Major is scheduled to speak at SSS10 on Tuesday, July 14th at 12 Noon during the “Urban Morphology” session in the Leolin Price Lecture Theatre.

Dr. Mark David Major, AICP, CNU-A, founder of The Outlaw Urbanist and author of the Poor Richard Almanac series for architects and planners, will be speaking at the 10th Space Syntax Symposium (SSS10) held in London from 13 to 17 July 2015 at University College London, Bloomsbury. Major was the Symposium Organizer for the inaugural 1997 conference in London and generally regarded as the founder of Space Syntax Symposia, which is now approaching its twentieth year.

Major will be speaking about “The Hidden Corruption of American Regular Grids: why space syntax doesn’t work in the United States, when it looks like it should”. Read the abstract below for a sneak preview:

ABSTRACT
Space syntax has made remarkable progress in practice and research around the world over the last 40 years. However, this is not the case in the United States. Space syntax remains on the fringes of the American planning and development process. This is odd since there appear to be several inherent advantages for the widespread application of space syntax in an American context, i.e. continuing large-scale urban growth, an established research programme at one of the country’s leading universities, and seemingly ‘natural’ allies in professional practice.

cartoon

The paper outlines the financial, institutional, and legal hurdles and pitfalls confronting space syntax in the American market, especially in the private sector. Using a series of ‘back-of-the-napkin’ financial calculations common to the American planning and development process, the paper demonstrates how these challenges can transform into a distinct advantage for advocating the cause of the space syntax in the United States. Given this, the paper concludes by discussing the enormous challenges and opportunities for space syntax in America today.

More information about SSS10 is available here.

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RE-POST | Steve Jobs | On the Social Potential of Built Space

RE-POSTING THE MOST POPULAR ARTICLE IN 2013 ON THE OUTLAW URBANIST! THIS ARTICLE EDGED OUT BY ONLY 3% THE “URBAN PATTERNS” ARTICLE ON OLMSTED’S RIVERSIDE SUBURB IN CHICAGO.

Pixar Animation Studios AtriumView of the atrium at the Pixar Animations Studios building (now called the Steve Jobs Building).

Steve Jobs on the Social Potential of Built Space
by Mark David Major, The Outlaw Urbanist contributor

While reading Walter Isaacson’s biography of the co-founder of Apple and former majority shareholder of Pixar Animations Studios, Steve Jobs (review available here on The Outlaw Urbanist), I came across a fascinating passage. I wanted to share it because the point is so powerful, it bears repetition and celebration. The most important passages are in bold.

Pixar Animation Studios was reaping the creative and financial benefits of a $485 million worldwide gross for Toy Story 2 so…

(Excerpt) …it was time to start building a showcase headquarters. Jobs and the Pixar facilities team found an abandoned Del Monte fruit cannery in Emeryville, an industrial neighborhood between Berkeley and Oakalnd, just across the Bay Bridge from San Francisco. They tore it down and Jobs commissioned Peter Bohlin, the architect of the Apple Stores, to design a new building for the sixteen-acre plot. Jobs obsessed over every aspect of the new building, from the overall concept to the tiniest detail regarding materials and construction. “Steve had the firm belief that the right kind of building can do great things for a culture,” said Pixar’s president Ed Catmull… (John) Lasseter had originally wanted a traditional Hollywood studio, with separate buildings for various projects and bungalows for development teams. But the Disney folks said they didn’t like their new campus because the teams felt isolated, and Jobs agreed. In fact he decided they should go to the other extreme: one huge building around a central atrium designed to encourage random encounters. Despite being a denizen of the digital world, or maybe because he knew all too well its isolating potential, Jobs was a strong believer in face-to-face meetings.

pixar-phase-5-low-res-9“There’s a temptation in our networked age to think that ideas can be developed by email and iChat,” he said. “That’s crazy. Creativity comes from spontaneous meetings, from random discussions. You run into someone, you ask what they’re doing, you say ‘Wow.” and soon you’re cooking up all sorts of ideas.” So he had the Pixar building designed to promote encounters and unplanned collaborations. “If a building doesn’t encourage that, you’ll lose a lot of innovation and the magic that’s sparked by serendipity,” he said. “So we designed the building to make people get out of their offices and mingle in the central atrium with people they might not otherwise see…” “Steve’s theory worked from day one,” Lasseter recalled. “I kept running into people I hadn’t seen in months. I’ve never seen a building that promoted collaboration and creativity as well as this one.”

For those who don’t believe architects such as New Urbanist Andres Duany or Space Syntax people such as Alan Penn, Tim Stonor and Kerstin Sailer about the social potential of built space, then believe the words of a genius like Steve Jobs. Design matters, space matters, and architecture matters to innovation.

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Steve Jobs | On the Social Potential of Built Space

Pixar Animation Studios AtriumSteve Jobs on the Social Potential of Built Space
by Mark David Major, The Outlaw Urbanist contributor

While reading Walter Isaacson’s biography of the co-founder of Apple and former majority shareholder of Pixar Animations Studios, Steve Jobs (review available here on The Outlaw Urbanist), I came across a fascinating passage. I wanted to share it because the point is so powerful, it bears repetition and celebration. The most important passages are in bold.

Pixar Animation Studios was reaping the creative and financial benefits of a $485 million worldwide gross for Toy Story 2 so…

(Excerpt) …it was time to start building a showcase headquarters. Jobs and the Pixar facilities team found an abandoned Del Monte fruit cannery in Emeryville, an industrial neighborhood between Berkeley and Oakalnd, just across the Bay Bridge from San Francisco. They tore it down and Jobs commissioned Peter Bohlin, the architect of the Apple Stores, to design a new building for the sixteen-acre plot. Jobs obsessed over every aspect of the new building, from the overall concept to the tiniest detail regarding materials and construction. “Steve had the firm belief that the right kind of building can do great things for a culture,” said Pixar’s president Ed Catmull… (John) Lasseter had originally wanted a traditional Hollywood studio, with separate buildings for various projects and bungalows for development teams. But the Disney folks said they didn’t like their new campus because the teams felt isolated, and Jobs agreed. In fact he decided they should go to the other extreme: one huge building around a central atrium designed to encourage random encounters. Despite being a denizen of the digital world, or maybe because he knew all too well its isolating potential, Jobs was a strong believer in face-to-face meetings.

pixar-phase-5-low-res-9“There’s a temptation in our networked age to think that ideas can be developed by email and iChat,” he said. “That’s crazy. Creativity comes from spontaneous meetings, from random discussions. You run into someone, you ask what they’re doing, you say ‘Wow.” and soon you’re cooking up all sorts of ideas.” So he had the Pixar building designed to promote encounters and unplanned collaborations. “If a building doesn’t encourage that, you’ll lose a lot of innovation and the magic that’s sparked by serendipity,” he said. “So we designed the building to make people get out of their offices and mingle in the central atrium with people they might not otherwise see…” “Steve’s theory worked from day one,” Lasseter recalled. “I kept running into people I hadn’t seen in months. I’ve never seen a building that promoted collaboration and creativity as well as this one.”

For those who don’t believe architects such as New Urbanist Andres Duany or Space Syntax people such as Alan Penn, Tim Stonor and Kerstin Sailer about the social potential of built space, then believe the words of a genius like Steve Jobs. Design matters, space matters, and architecture matters to innovation.

 

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Think Different, Be “Insanely Great” | REVIEW | Steve Jobs by Walter Isaacson

Steve-JobsThink Different, Be “Insanely Great”
REVIEW of Steve Jobs by Walter Isaacson

by Mark David Major, The Outlaw Urbanist contributor

FULL DISCLOSURE: I am writing this review on my MacBook Pro with Retina Display with my iPhone and iPad Mini sitting near at hand while I listen to a shuffle of classical music in my iTunes Library. When I started writing this disclosure paragraph, I noticed my apps were syncing to all of my devices via iCloud, which finished well before I had completed this paragraph. I have been an unapologetic member of the Apple Cult since 1993.

A few times in Steve Jobs by Walter Isaacson, the biographer and his subject admit there will be a lot that Jobs won’t like in this authorized biography. Once again, Steve Jobs was right. Isaacson’s biography is not a great product. The writing is often repetitive, even diverging into triviality on occasion, with the biographer/interviewees (except Jobs himself) all too eager to engage in ‘Dime Store’ Freudian psychoanalysis about the book’s subject. At 656 pages, Isaacson’s biography would have benefited from the same zeal for simplicity and minimalism (in terms of editing) that characterized so many of Apple’s products during Jobs’ two tenures at the company. In fact, Steve Jobs by Walter Isaacson reads like Simon & Schuster rushed the book to market months ahead of schedule so it could financially capitalize on Jobs’ death in late 2011. The release date is a mere two weeks after Jobs death on October 5, 2011. This is something Jobs would have never tolerated while he was alive. Isaacson’s biography is not a bad book but it could have been “insanely great” like its subject. There are many useful, some wonderful insights (usually originating from Jobs himself) contained within, so it is well worth your time to read. In the end, what shines through in the book, despite its problems, is the genius and greatness of Steve Jobs.

Isaacson’s fairly ridiculous thesis is Jobs was driven to greatness by a desire to prove his natural parents were wrong to put him up for adoption, which begs the question why there aren’t more industry leaders with adoptive parents. Jobs is fairly dismissive of this line of thought. Isaacson’s equally ridiculous aim is to get his subject to admit, “He is an asshole.” We are all angels and assholes (some, more one than other). It is called being human so it’s unclear why this is important. Jobs was a perfectionist but he never (thankfully) claimed he was perfect. Many of Jobs management techniques are tried, tested and effective even if Jobs’ form of brutal honesty lacked a ‘politeness’ filter. Anyone successful, who has been in a leadership position, will recognize these techniques.

Isaacson devotes a considerable amount of words to Jobs’ tendency to construct a “reality distortion field”, an ability to weld or ignore reality to his wishes but also compel designers and engineers to do the seemingly impossible. We all construct “reality distortion fields” in an attempt to warp reality to our wishes. Some are more successful and ambitious at it than others. It is unclear why Isaacson finds this distinctive human trait so compelling other than the fact Jobs changed the reality of the way things work in this world. The fact is there are many people in the world, who simply cannot abide greatness in their presence. They seek to bring genius down to their level, a sort of “stupidity distortion field.” Jobs would describe this as Grade C people bringing down the Grade A people around them to the average, “the ugly”, or the “totally shit”. Isaacson could easily devote an entire book to how otherwise seemingly intelligent people (like Bill Gates, who comes across as a decent and pleasant schmuck but a schmuck nonetheless) adopt stupid arguments, decisions, and positions to distort the greatness or genius of individuals around them. The fact is there are more like Steve Jobs out there but the herd is too busy trampling them under foot to recognize them. In the end, Steve Jobs by Walter Isaacson is best when all aspects of Jobs (the good and the bad) filter through the biographer’s gaze. Was Steve Jobs perfect? No, he was human. Personally, I never asked for Apple products to be perfect. I only asked that Apple products be the best in the world and, usually, they were. I never asked Steve Jobs to be anything than what he was: a brilliant businessman, an insight artist, and a (sometimes) source and (often) shepherd of technological innovation. In the end, what was remarkable about Steve Jobs was not that he changed the world but he changed the world in the face of the ‘conventional wisdom’, which is often polite code for the stupidity of the consensus. Frankly, I prefer to live in Jobs’ reality. Along the way, he lived a remarkable life. Surely, that is enough. The world seems smaller without Steve Jobs in it. We have Jobs’ Apple to thank for it but it is also a testament to the legacy of Steve Jobs. He will be missed.

I’m attaching video links to a couple of seminal moments in the life of Steve Jobs. First, the famous 1984 MacIntosh commercial, directed by Ridley Scott, which aired during the Super Bowl (above in the body of the review). Many in the trade (including TV Guide) say it is the greatest commercial ever. Second, is the famous commencement address Jobs gave at Stanford University in 2005 (see below). Remember: think different.

Steve Jobs by Walter Isaacson
Simon & Schuster
Hardcover, 656 pages
Available from Amazon here.

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