Anthropocene: Living with Limits 4

The Fun Slide, a fixture of summer carnivals countrywide.

This week I’ve been attempting to circle in further on my Limits to Growth project.  I started out by engaging in a series of Generative Operations presented to us in class.



  • Limits to Growth is part of a warning system, a call for change
  • Limits to Growth encompasses modeling, research efforts
  • This project is a ride within a festival of coming-to-terms
  • This project is childhood in a lifetime of coming-to-terms


  • This project is like a black comedy, like Gilliam’s Brazil
  • This project is like a banana-peel-gag
  • This project is like reverse psychology


  • Physical + Emotional
  • Physical + Philosophical
  • Humor + Play
  • Art + Amusement


  • Up / Down
  • Amusement / Interrogations
  • Invitation to energy / Call to reduction
  • Ephemeral play / Lingering provocation


  • The amusement park barker
  • The child selling lemonade
  • The peddler of amusements

Continue reading Anthropocene: Living with Limits 4

Anthropocene: Leverage Points

Leverage Points and Ron Finley’s Urban Gardening

This week I collaborated with Rebecca Lieberman, Kat Sullivan, and Jessica Wilson, to dig into the concept of Leverage Points as described by Donella Meadows, through the case study of Ron Finley’s urban gardening in LA.  We considered possible design engagements that could intervene in urban food systems.

Follow this link for our work, posted on Rebecca’s blog.

Kinetic Shadows: Design & Prototyping 1


IMG_6499Thus begins the homage to Kentridge.

Going over the concept for my Piecing-it-Together Midterm/Mechanisms Final, I outlined a shadow installation reminiscent of the work of William Kentridge.  I hinted that there was a potential collaboration, and the imagery would be drawn from Peter Pan.  I can confirm now that the collaboration is between my wife, Greta Wilson, and I.  Greta is a performer, founding member of the Satori Group, and also an illustrator/watercolorist.  A few years ago she started developing projects around an adaptation of Barrie’s original story Peter and Wendy.  We were slated to realize an installation for Storefronts Seattle (they never found us a matching location) that would involve storytelling through kinetic light sculptures.  When I started talking about my midterm ideas, we both had an aha! and agreed we could explore our previous concept seeds now.

Continue reading Kinetic Shadows: Design & Prototyping 1

Non-Rectangular Box: Geodesic Birdhouse Final

When I posted last week about Andy and my Non-Rectangular Box project for Piecing it Together, it was the night before the final prototype was due and we had come up short of the goal of a wood version.  The next day Andy got up early, stopped by Artist and Craftsman, and purchased enough veneer to cover our birdhouse.  It was a pleasant surprise to me.  Using our same Illustrator file, we were able to achieve this result by covering the structure piece-by-piece:


Andy had also wanted to experiment with NeverWet, and so in the name of achieving functionality, our final prototype was coated and, true to form, can now (for as long as the compound lasts) repel water. Andy is going to continue making adjustments, and the aim is to actually put our project out in the elements and see if a) it holds-up and b) it gets inhabited by its intended users.


Watching Birds

Watching Birds from Nick Hubbard on Vimeo.

During the Fall Semester 2014, David Gochfeld, Jonathan Han (no longer at ITP), and I spent several hours at Prospect Park in Brooklyn filming tours and interviews with members of the Brooklyn Bird Club.  Our goal was to document the intersection of human and avian activity within the park, which is “Migrant Trap” along the Atlantic Flyway.   Because greenspaces are limited within the urban, developed landscape of the New York metro area, migratory species collect at such traps and they become vital ecological resources.  We wanted to highlight this characteristic of Prospect Park, but through the lens of the intimate, personal connection local birders have to it.

In total we shot several hours of footage on Canon EOS 5D Mark iii cameras, using Zoom H4n recorders equipped with Audio Technica shotgun mics as well as lavalier mics on the tour guides.  We followed along on two bird-watching tours (one for beginners and one for regulars).   The tours provided most of our b-roll, while our audio was in large part supplied by individual interviews.  We had 2 additional interviews that were not included in the film but I hope to post at a later date (once we are able to edit them down).  The interviews were conducted with administrators and Tour Guides within the Brooklyn Bird Club, as well as individual members.  Here is a rough draft of the interview questions we used:

General Questions:

  • Can you make any bird calls? or What is your favorite bird call?
  • Can you describe what happens within the birdwatching community when there is a sighting of a rare bird?
  • How did you begin your journey into bird watching?
  • Is there a personal habit or routine by which you go about bird watching?
  • What are some of your memorable bird watching moments?
  • What do the non-birdwatchers in your life think about your interest in birds?
  • What does bird watching mean to you personally and to those around you, ie: family and friends?
  • What are some birds that you’ve been wanting to see in the city, but haven’t?
  • Where are your favorite spots within Prospect Park to watch birds?
  • Which aspects of bird watching do you personally enjoy the most?

Individual Questions:

Heidi Cleven –– Member of the Brooklyn Birding Club

  • How do you share birdwatching with your children?
  • How often would you say you go out birdwatching in a month?
  • What is meaningful for you about logging the bird species that you see?
  • You mentioned that you don’t necessarily see birdwatchers in a social setting outside the context of Prospect Park.  Can you speak about about the way birdwatching has connected you to other New Yorkers/Brooklynites, those you might not otherwise know?

Michelle Dreger –– Tour Leader of the Introduction to Bird Watching Walk at Prospect Park

  • Could you tell us about a particularly memorable question or reaction from someone on one of your tours?
  • Have you and other tour leaders considered imparting your wealth of knowledge to ‘train’ new tour leaders for future generation bird watchers living in the neighborhood? If so, could you talk at length about what might have been undertaken to get that initiative underway?
  • What is the Atlantic Flyway and how is it connected to Prospect Park?
  • What is the importance of Prospect Park for bird species?
  • Why are people drawn to bird watching, in your opinion?
  • Can you describe what happens within the birdwatching community when there is a sighting of a rare bird?

Rob Bates –– President of the Brooklyn Bird Club

  • Could you elaborate on the importance and relationship of the BBC to Prospect Park?
  • Could you elaborate on relationships that are forged as a result of the Community here at the BBC?
  • Heidi Cleven mentioned that often BBC members don’t know/see each other outside of the context of birdwatching at Prospect Park. Can you speak about the way birdwatching brings people together who might not otherwise connect?
  • How did the Brooklyn Birding Club come about?
  • How long have you been President of the Brooklyn Birding Club?
  • How many members are the Brooklyn Birding Club?
  • Please describe some of the weekly activities that the Brooklyn Birding Club organizes?
  • What are some of the current milestones of the Brooklyn Birding Club?
  • What are some of the goals and future plans for the Brooklyn Birding Club?
  • What is the history of bird watching at Prospect Park?
  • What is the Atlantic Flyway and how is it connected to Prospect Park?
  • What is the importance of Prospect Park for bird species?

Tom Stephenson –– Author of The Warbler Guide, Princeton University Press

  • Could you talk about your role within the Brooklyn Birding Club?
  • Could you describe your relationship with the Brooklyn Birding Club and as a result, Prospect Park?
  • Could you talk about how urbanization in New York might affect the nature of migration in Prospect Park?
  • Could you talk about the need for a space like Prospect Park for bird species — the way the Park is relevant to conservation?
  • If you could, describe in detail, the experience of birdwatching for a seasoned birdwatcher in Prospect Park?
  • What are some species of birds that have made Prospect Park their migratory stopover?
  • Tell us about the relationships between your passions of birdwatching, sound engineering and photography?
  • What is the Atlantic Flyway and how is it connected to Prospect Park?
  • What is the importance of Prospect Park for bird species?
  • Can you describe what happens within the birdwatching community when there is a sighting of a rare bird?

Kinetic Shadows: Concept

FullSizeRender (4)Initial sketch for my kinetic shadow installation.

This semester I have two courses that overlap in a lot of their concepts: Piecing it Together and Mechanisms.  I have decided to combine assignments across both for one of my next projects.  While I initially thought of making some kind of shadow installation for my Physical Computing Final, I went in another direction.  I want to return to shadows now, and also try to pay homage to one of my biggest influences, William Kentridge.

Kentridge’s series “The Return”.

The basic proposal is to put a point light source on a track — or more likely some sort of simple-machine-driven rig — and have a user-control that directs the path of the light.  The sculpture will be composed of several laser-cut particles, reminiscent of Kentridge’s torn paper fragments.  When the light passes the particles at a certain angle, scenes from a story/world will be projected onto a screen.

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I’m speaking to a potential collaborator about using Peter Pan as source material.  She would provide illustrations that would be the basis for the sculpture .

Anthropocene: Living with Limits 3

FullSizeRender Sketch of proposed “Limits Slide”

For my prototype project based on “Limits to Growth”, I’ve been musing on the concept of slides.  This has grown out of finding so many curves and slopes in the systems modeling research I was doing, as well as the links between cultural conceptions and metaphors of not giving up (“ain’t no mountain high enough”) and downward movements as losing or falling behind (e.g. Chutes and Ladders).

What if the slide had a physical barrier at the top of the stairs/ladder?  Ideally it wouldn’t be obvious from the ground, but even so maybe the idea of the slide is enticing enough.  Once you reach the top, you literally can’t go further in that direction, and have to turn around.  However, by turning you reveal the entrance to a slide.  If you have to go back down, why not at least take the slide?   As you descend, you loop around and end up further along in the direction you were going when you climbed the steps.  Is it possible to have fun, not retreat, and yet also accept a limit?

Continue reading Anthropocene: Living with Limits 3

Non-Rectangular Box: Geodesic Birdhouse Concept

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Inspired by R. Buckminster Fuller‘s experiments with geodesic domes and spheres, Andy I came up with the idea of making a bird house/box that was not the classic rectangular shape.

R. Buckminster Fuller’s Geodesic Dome Home in Carbondale, IL.

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The geometry of Geodesic domes derives from Platonic solids, typically the icosahedron.  Our initial sketching has looked at potential ways to transfer one of these solids to a functional bird-house.

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I started experimenting in Rhino to get a three-dimensional understanding of what the design could look like.  I’m still struggling to wrap my head around scaling dimensions and converting sketches to precision drawings.  Here’s a 3D model attempt: BirdBoxwPentagons

To make a prototype, Andy and I used a modular sphere section that we replicated and then glued together.


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