Spark 117 - June 20 & 22, 2010

On this episode of Spark: Virtual Street Corners, responsive architecture, and the future of public libraries. To listen to the whole show, download the MP3 (runs 54:00).

The future of public library design


What can public libraries learn from retail bookstores?

For a long time, libraries were repositories of a scarce good: information. But now, information online is everywhere, at least for those with access to the Internet. So, public libraries need to think about being valuable as public space, as community hubs, and as places to help navigate the seas of data to find quality information.

One approach to this comes from the New Library in Almere, The Netherlands. It takes many design cues from retail bookstores. Nora talked to Chris Wiersma, the director of the New Library, and Erikjan Vermeulen from the architecture firm concrete about the library's design. Then, for a Canadian perspective on the future of library design, Nora talked to Gerry Meek, CEO of the Calgary Public Library. (Runs 16:12)

Virtual Street Corners


John Ewing is an artist based in Boston, and earlier this month, he launched Virtual Street Corners. It's a pair of interactive video screens in two different neighbourhoods: Coolidge Corner, Brookline, and Dudley Square, Roxbury. Each corner has a display, a camera and a microphone. When you look at one video screen, you're actually looking at a completely different corner in a completely different neighbourhood. It's like a digital portal. Nora talked to John Ewing about the project. (Runs 7:18)  

Gumdrop and upcycling


Each year in the UK, 3.5 billion pieces of chewing gum are disposed of improperly. And that's something product designer Anna Bullus is trying to change. Anna has created Gumdrop, a chewing gum disposal bin that's made of used chewing gum.

You might think that Gumdrop is just an inventive, kinda wacky idea, but beyond the issue of chewed gum, it's an example of something that's actually a big design trend these days: upcycling. Nora talked to Anna Bullus and product and experience designer Todd Falkowsky about the trend. (Runs 14:30)  

Responsive architecture


Imagine window blinds that shut themselves when it gets too sunny. Or a house that knows when you're coming home from a winter vacation.

Ideas like this are part of a new movement in building design: responsive architecture. Responsive architecture is actually already beginning to become a reality in the actual buildings around us. Lisa Rochon is the architecture critic at the Globe and Mail and she talked to Nora about Canadian developments in responsive architecture. (Runs 11:16) 

Episode Details

Additional links: Creative Commons sound effects used in this episode: You can receive Spark automatically by subscribing to any of our totally free podcast feeds: For more information (and instructions) visit [Original images by westher, Virtual Street Corners, Isla Macleod, North House]


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