Adonis Diaries

Archive for February 21st, 2012

A “Wonder Forest” in concrete Beirut? How funny

Wassim Melki from StudioInvisible is suggesting to grow tree on Beirut rooftops. Why?

There are no spaces left to grow anything green. Tall concrete building for the rich expatriates and the Gulf Emirs are mushrooming and disfiguring the landscape. 

Old building are left to crumble and kill its inhabitants to construct new highrises… Literally, that’s what’s happening: Many buildings crumbled, killing scores of people, because owners wanted to sell the expensive land

Type:Conceptual Proposal


Architect:Wassim Melki

Sir Mark Sykes, on his last visit to Beirut, said:

“In a city of concrete, a city stranger to green spaces, a city where sidewalks like roads have been carjacked, a city where a dark smog looms over daily, you’d figure, there’s more to rooftops than rooftop bars”.

Proposal to the Municipality of Beirut
Beirut is a concrete and pollution mayhem. Ironically, the high pollution levels are not caused by the industries that we do not have, or by the crippled political system, or by armed militias or by foreign interferences…, but instead, it is a problem from within the populace itself, which has proven throughout the years to be uncooperative and inconsiderate towards its surrounding.
The people in Beirut reject the mere idea of replacing the Humvee with a smaller car, or the “blasphemy” of riding a bike to work.
Given the circumstances, the most pragmatic solution will be to have a municipal decree that requires each building to grow its simple rooftop garden.
Harsh fines will be necessary.
Nothing fancy, just a couple of trees in a large fixed pot on each rooftop.
As incentives to the urban population, the municipality can offer tax incentives or benefits to the buildings that have a well maintained rooftop garden.
The gardening/plant companies could offer discounts and sponsorship, and later claim that they turned Beirut green (we can already predict their campaigns).
There are many types of trees that can grow in the Beirut climate to 3-4 meters high in a simple 1 meter pot.
Trees such as the olive tree, the Schinum Molle, Morus Alba, Melia azaderachh, Punica Granatum, Etc…
In order to prevent these trees from falling in case of high winds, they could be connected by three steel wires to the roof slab.
The advantages of having this done on a large scale are many:
1. Better oxygen levels and a healthy environment is the first that comes to mind,
2. a layer of trees will provide shade and accordingly soften the increasingly hot and arid climate, which in turn would lead to a lower level of energy consumption.
3. semi public green spaces will be created for the respective residents of each building,
4. increasing even further the quality of living within the city itself.
5. depending on the choice of trees and plants, these gardens can evolve into a sort of urban farming, yielding a small but valuable agricultural output.

Ultimately, if the plan works out, Beirut could become a rooftop wonder forest, the whole city as a Landmark.

StudioInvisible is a multidisciplinary design consultancy working in the fields of Urban Planning, Architecture, Interior & product Design, Visual Branding and Political Science,

It aims to provide the world with Avant-Garde Design interventions as well as in-depth Cultural, Social and Political guidance.

Composed of Architect and Urban Designer Wassim Melki, Colonel Sir Mark Sykes and Francois Georges-Picot, the studio is an open platform for debate and thought-sharing.

Designing IBM PC: “We want it for entertainment. We want it in the living room. Now, how should we design this damned keyboard to fit in the decor…?”

Dan Formosa of Smart Design recalls in an interview with Debbie Millman: “Eliot Noyes at IBM hired me to design their first IBM PC since I was one of the rare people in the 70’s who was familiar with computer.  I recall the design brief that said: “We want this PC for entertainment. We want it in the living room. Now, how should we design this damned keyboard to fit in the decor…?”

The IBM design team knew that other teenagers were building personal computers in garages (Steve Wozniak, Steve Jobs…), and they wanted to be first in the PC market.  IBM had about 100,000 employees and they decided to contract out a team of three in the West Coast (Gates was one of them) to write the operating system.  If I had my wherewithal, I would have been the fourth member in the operating system team…

The person running the IBM PC design program made a comparison between Betamax (exclusivity of Sony invention) and VHS.  He wanted the operating system to work with all computer companies, and that was Windows.  Apple went Betamax route.

In the 70’s, people viewed computer and marketing companies as “evil”, and they were dumped in the same basket as Big Brothers.  If a product looked “designed” it was considered suspicious.  I recall presenting a computer generated design of a wireframe to my art class and I was made fun of and taunted as rallying the evil bandwagon.  I refrained to show any other computer designed works to my classmate.

“Everyone should have access to whatever product and technology your brand offers…Left handed, right-handed, tall, short, expert or first-time novices should feel they have access to a brand product or service…Usability tests were rare in the 70’s and 80’s…

To whom corporations designed before 1980? Marketing and engineers had idealized images of the perfect consumers who didn’t exist…Whatever was designed was for the median population

When I asked the marketing divisions to talk to consumers for input to my design they freaked out. They said that customers are their exclusive rights and responsibility: It was unheard of to consult with customers on what they liked…Usability was not considered a designer responsibility: Design connoted simply “esthetics”.

Marketing divisions looked at designers with antipathy: marketers were considered the power players when it came to deciding what consumers wanted.

The Design phase was attached at the very end of the project when engineering job was completed.  When Dan worked on OXO kitchen products for Sam Farber he conducted usability studies to ensure that people could use the product. “I never asked permission for conducting usability studies and I designed for the edge (tails) of the population and not for the mainstream…”

Designers tend to be a conservative group. It should be a good strategy to “manage change” as we introduce an innovation..

Introducing a new technology should be a step-by-step process:

First, you should take the trouble and time to educate the consumers to digest and integrate the product in their lives, be able to respond with positive feedback…That is why most new innovations are not success stories, until 20 years later as someone else revisit the product attributes for ready consumers.

Looks like voice recognition is one of these innovations ready to fly big time.

Note: Dan Formosa designed one of the first laptop computers and participated in the design of OXO kitchen products for Sam Farber. Dan launched Smart Design in 1981.  Dan recently received a National Design Award for “Product Design” and was recognized for “Corporate Institutional Achievement“. Formosa went ahead and earned two other degrees: a master’s in biomechanics and ergonomics in the mid 80’s, and then in psychology.




February 2012

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