UrbanAId covers three core themes:-

THEME (1) Digital-Physical Urban Media

Below: SmartSlab Facade; UTS Urban Digital Media campus review; Bricklane Digital Airship; Bishopsgate Goodsyard Digital Artists' Quarter; Millennium Dome Mind Zone
face1.jpgdigital_urbanism.jpgbishopsgate_3.jpg bricklane_2.jpgmind_zone_external.jpg

This research investigates architecture and urban spaces that have a digital presence. Urban Digital Media is a field that is re-defining the intersection between science and culture in the arena of technology and building. Historically, the built environment has been based on centuries-old materials, construction techniques, and static functionality. But contemporary requirements also include adaptability, new modes of communication and transformative environments. This research investigates how digital tools, display technologies and networked communications can transform and augment the constructed reality of the built environment, allowing new forms of intelligent, adaptive, interactive and self-aware architecture to be developed.
The research will initiate a future centre of excellence for research and development of the next generation of digital urban information architecture applications, strategy, design tools, and upgrades to existing digital media in cities. Cities around the world utilise the current generation of outdoor urban digital media, which is typically video displays used for commercial advertising. A few cultural buildings have animated art and information media content as part of their fabric. As cities grow, outdoor digital media has the potential to become a ubiquitous part of our urban fabric, and Australia can take a lead in this relatively new area. This will be aided by existing and new international collaboration and knowledge exchange.
The key research aims within the emergent field of Urban Digital Media are:-
1. QUALITATIVE Research ways of enhancing the quality, engagement, functionality and dynamic elements of urban buildings and public spaces in terms of Design, Social, Cultural, Political, Economic and Environmental criteria. This will be Informed by case studies and projects.
2. QUANTITATIVE Using a prototyping and project based approach, investigate design and technological methods for the coherent syndetic3 or esemplastic4 3-way combination of:
a. buildings and urban spaces, with
b. dynamic visual digital displays of multimedia information, and
c. locality-based human activities and interaction
3. COMMUNICATIVE Establish a high level of international engagement and dissemination with world class research peers in academia and industry to critique the work, brainstorm ideas, and ensure contemporary and future relevance.
There is great interest in the science, engineering and design communities as to what will inform advanced urbanism and buildings of the future (Addington, Michelle and Schodek, Daniel, 2005). Contemporary requirements for the built environment typically demand flexibility, good communication and adaptability. Historically, buildings have been based on centuries-old materials and construction techniques. Traditional buildings invariably do not change, respond or adapt: they are passive and static (Goulthorpe, 1999).
However, the recent history of the built and urban environment is, to a great degree, about advances in building technologies (Banham, 1984). Late 19th and early 20th century developments in new materials like steel, glass and lightweight concrete led to a revolutionary transformation of cities and buildings. New complex systems and infrastructures like elevators, air-conditioning and heating made it possible to inhabit these new spaces. While not initially associated with the construction systems and materials of modern building, new media, information and communication technologies have in turn transformed the ways in which we live and work within the built environment in this century.
Recent advances in advanced digital design software, broadband media and networked design, manufacturing and production processes are now transforming design tools, working concepts and the constructed reality of the built environment (Massumi, 2006). As a result, new forms of intelligent, self-aware architecture are being developed – built environments whose capacity for adaptation and interaction with their users is increased as a result of the augmented technologies built into their initial conception, design, development and eventual operation (Manovich, 2001).

THEME (2) NextGen: Next Generation Housing

Above: Blue Mountains Shacks, NSW Australia
Below: Greenwich Millennium Village; Singapore Masterplan; "Living in the Cities"
The research investigates the next generation of affordable housing for Australia. At the upper end of the market, contemporary Australian housing has achieved a certain standard that is good in terms of design and quality of construction. Environmental aspects are much less developed however, as are materials technology, higher density neighbourhoods, and construction processes.
At the mid to lower end of the market, housing can be inferior in terms of design and execution. Affordable housing represents the bulk of housing demand in developed countries. There are several definitions. These include housing in which costs do not exceed 30% of a household’s gross income, housing for “key workers”, and various price bandwidths in the market.
Spatial innovations in multi-residential housing – coming to terms with housing types and moving beyond the 'flat' and the 'McMansion' spatially dull, spatially wasteful.
In a way that is not such an issue in European cities, high density development has a taboo element in Australia, breaking the Australian ‘culture of space’. Hence a search for new paradigms using architecture, along with the ‘technology of efficiency’, to evolve higher density housing that is consequently more desirable.
Qualities and poetry of space, light and form. Built interrelationships: unit, block, neighbourhood.
Alternative ownership models of housing that might begin to open up affordability – this involves comprehensive case studies from Scandinavia and the UK, and looking at the work of philanthropic housing organisations such as the Peabody Trust (UK). More exotic economic models such as micro-credit financing systems.
Building typologies and neighbourhood integration.
Issues of programmed demographics, for example aged care, and the specific needs to ‘knit’ between groups in terms of community inclusivity to avoid isolation or ghettoisation.
From single dwelling to “Whole Town” concept: urbanism, transport and infrastructure requirements. Establish key performance indices and user feedback / metrics
Amenities, common ground, distractors and attractors such as art space and other cultural or leisure components. Vibrancy ‘seeding’ models such as ‘free’ art space, event space, community facilitators, etc.
Ensuring vibrancy is akin to predicting the future and many good examples of urban vibrancy have evolved over a long period or have been the result of accident. However, there are techniques for creating the ‘scaffolding’ for vibrancy through architecture, social-economic and cultural conditions.

THEME (3) Design Enterprise

Above: examples from "The pack of good advice" by Tom Barker
Design enterprise harnessing value from intellectual property, business process innovation, SME's (small to medium sized enterprises) in the creative industries, pathfinding for graduate designers, pedagogical methods for teaching design innovation in a market context, and design enterprise for developing countries.

2007+ Design for developing countries: Ghana

Above: projects by graduate students of the RCA London and students of KNUST Kumasi, Ghana
How can contemporary design collaboration and e-commerce models grow the creative industries in developing countries?
Professor Tom Barker with Ashley Hall

This project considers whether the creative industries in a developing country (Ghana, Africa) can be nurtured through design collaboration and an e-commerce model to contribute significant economic growth through increasing international trade. The research draws on practical experience of five annual projects, with a focus on GoGlobal Africa. Initiated in 2005, GoGlobal is a collaborative design research activity between the University of Technology Sydney, the Royal College of Art, the London School of Economics, RMIT Melbourne, and other partnering organisations. GoGlobal Africa was initiated in 2008 with 3 phases: creative studio with design students from the RCA UK and KNUST Ghana; an e-commerce process for supply, distribution and marketing; and a “hub” location to facilitate project delivery and dissemination. The context to GoGlobal is informed by the UNCTAD studies of global creative industries. This work is the subject of a paper in October '09 at IASDR in Seoul, Korea.

2006-7 Research fellowship in design: the future of design in business

Royal Commission for the exhibition of 1851
Prof Tom Barker and Garrick Jones
Above: the marketplace casino simulator game in use, using the Jameson market criteria
For the “The Future of Design in Business” the aim was to research, design/develop and test a set of complementary games. These were created specifically to introduce businesses to the value of design and in particular design process as a powerful source of strategic, creative, problem-solving, instrumental decision making. Two pilot precedents existed: “The Pack of Good Advice” pack of cards by Tom Barker 2005, and “The Marketplace Casino” brainstorming kit by Simon Jameson and Tom Barker 2004.

We define design as “product or process based creative innovation that improves commercial potential”. As such, design is a valuable tool for many companies and the value of design can reach into many businesses beyond the more likely creative industries. Good design can improve businesses internally and it can offer a significant competitive advantage in the global marketplace. Design is also an area where the UK designers are world class, with many of the world’s top design directors originating from the UK or trained here.

For our own contribution, we created inventive tools for design education to help businesses accelerate their uptake of design. Such “bridging tools” are facilitated by the backgrounds of Tom Barker and Garrick Jones, collectively having 35 years’ experience in creative design and business consulting, as well as academic teaching and research.

We found that games are an excellent way of introducing design to sceptical businesses, as well as to reinforce the benefits of design in companies that have already adopted design to an extent. The games were developed to allow their repeated, productive use in companies. Games are very powerful agents of change because they challenge thinking in a non-confrontational and supportive/fun way.