A giant monkey rock, that is how the office of the future might well look like

Sitting kills. RAAAF | Barbara Visser made with their Outstanding Landscape of Affordances a vision on the future of the workplace where the chair and the table are no longer the starting point. Barbara Visser is a visual artist and since 2014 chair of the recently re-established Society of Arts of the Netherlands Royal Academy (KNAW). This new work was commissioned by the Netherlands Chief Government Architect and motivated by a widely shared feeling of dissatisfaction with present-day standardized open spaces for “flex-working” as implemented at the various ministries, municipalities and universities.

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Medical research has suggested that constantly sitting at work is bad for you. Even worse, a recent BBC News article noted: “We can’t simply fix it by heading for the gym.” Sitting kills. The BBC-article was titled: “Could offices change from sitting to standing?” Outstanding Landscape of Affordances shows how our offices could invite a more active and healthy life style. RAAAF | Barbara Visser presented an animation of a futuristic landscape of possibilities for working while standing up, a sculpture to be realized by the artists in Amsterdam later this year.

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The mute animation ‘Sitting Kills’ shows a large rock-like structure. It is designed out of a thousand different possibilities for working in positions between standing and laying. The key is that the sculpture’s affordances stimulate people to take up different working positions during the day and promotes concentration. The richness of this landscape of affordances gives people the freedom to find the optimal position for their different tasks and needs during the working day. This vision presents a radical break with regular office furniture and current working models such as “flex-working”, which all are still based on sitting. In fact our societies’ entire surroundings are designed for being seated. This is a first step towards a future in which standing at work is the new norm. A lifelong health where we are both physically and mentally active.

This project is is also a next step in visualizing the landscape of affordances, this time focusing on possibities for standing, leaning and hanging provided by the monkey rock-like sculpture. Links to earlier visualizations related to Erik Rietveld’s VIDI-project ‘The Landscape of Affordances’ can be found here.

Designboom’s coverage of the animation can be found here.

See also how Barbara Visser has filmed the tendency towards optimal grip on standing affordances in these making-of movies: 

Update 11/12/14: The Landscape of Standing Affordances has now been built as an enactive art installation, see here.

Upcoming invited talks Spring 2014

Over the next few weeks we will present work at several interesting and recommended events. Most are in the field of enactive or embodied cogntive science, some in the fields of art & architecture.

May 22, An Outstanding Landscape of Affordances, lecture and animation, RAAAF together with Barbara Visser, Invited by Atelier of the Chief Government Architect (Rijksbouwmeester Frits van Dongen), Ministry of Finance, The Hague.

May 26, Sitting Kills: Towards an Landscape of Standing Affordances, Grand Round, Academic Medical Center (AMC), Amsterdam.

June 20, The Landscape of Affordances: Situating the Embodied Mind, Expert Meeting Psychiatry & Philosophy, Radboud University, Nijmegen.

June 20, Expert Practice in DBS Parameter Optimization (presented by Maarten van Westen), Expert Meeting Psychiatry & Philosophy, Radboud University, Nijmegen.

June 24, Vacant NL on the Move (together with Ronald Rietveld), Kunsthal, Rotterdam. (An interview with Dutch newspaper Volkskrant can be found below.)InterviewVolkskrant2zoom230614

June 24, Vacancy Studies (presented by Arna Mackic), Strijp S, Eindhoven.

June 26, Affordances in archtectural practice, EWEP 13 symposium organized by Rob Withagen ‘Affordances and architecture: Towards an ecological approach‘, Queens University, Belfast.

July 6-14, Action readiness in a landscape of affordances (together with Jelle Bruineberg), International Summer School in Affective Sciences, Swiss NCCR Affective Sciences Center (ISSAS), Geneva University, Château de Bossey, Switzerland.

 

Vacancy Studies: Toward a new professional and academic field

Proud to present our new book Vacancy Studies!!
A first media-preview for the international press will take place where it all started: at the Venice Architecture Biennale. The book is available in the better book stores and online here and now.

Vacancy Studies: Towards a new professional and academic field

Many bunkers, forts, churches, castles, hospitals, water towers, post offices, prisons, palaces, and airports are empty. Thousands of them. The book Vacancy Studies focusses on the affordances they offer and provides the architecture world with an optimistic perspective on the temporary reuse of vacant spaces.

According to RAAAF (Rietveld Architecture Art-Affordances), there is great potential in vacant public and government buildings. At the Venice Architecture Biennale in 2010, RAAAF visualized the gigantic scale of these vacant spaces in an installation called Vacant NL. The worldwide media attention by organizations such as The New York Times, The Guardian, and The Architectural Review shows the international relevance of RAAAF’s vision for the new field of Vacancy Studies.

Artists, architects, and other designers can make a major contribution to social issues such as vacancy, and this requires new ways of working. The field of Vacancy Studies has been further developed in the practice of RAAAF and by a multidisciplinary team at the Sandberg Institute, Gerrit Rietveld Academy Amsterdam. The book ‘Vacancy Studies: Experiments and Strategic Interventions in Architecture‘ introduces the design approach of ‘strategic interventions’, and presents new ideas and experiments. Vacancy Studies is an indispensable reference work for anyone interested in the possibilities of vacant spaces.

This book consists of two parts:

Part I, Surfing on a Sea of Vacancy, presents a vision of the potential offered by vacancy and a new way of analyzing and designing known as ‘strategic interventions’. Some radical experiments for knowledge development are presented in this part;

Part II, Parachuting above Vacant NL deals with experimentation in art & architectural design education and in real life.

RAAAF (Ronald Rietveld, Erik Rietveld & Arna Mackic) wrote this book together with Jurgen Bey, Barbara Visser, Ester van de Wiel en Martine Zoeteman. Ronald & Erik Rietveld are the editors-in-chief. The book is available in English and Dutch. Graphic Design by Studio Joost Grootens.

Sketch of the Field of Affordances published in Frontiers

One of my ongoing interests is visualizing the field of affordances. See for instance the Trusted Subcultures-project RAAAF presented at the Sao Paulo Biennale 2009, using social affordances to create new public domain for the centuries old water city of Amsterdam. Or, more recently, our project Outstanding Landscape of Affordances.

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Another example is the Dutch Atlas of Vacancy in which we investigated the affordances (in context) of 10.000 empty public builldings in the Netherlands. For instance the possibilities for making noise: at a vacant air base or in a vacant bunker one can make sounds of 140DB without disturbing anyone.

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In a new special issue on Neurophenomenology edited by Evan Thompson for Frontiers, Sanneke de Haan, Martin Stokhof, Damiaan Denys and I have now published a more abstract sketch of different fields of affordances.

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Figure: Sketch of different fields of relevant affordances (De Haan, Rietveld, Stokhof & Denys, 2013)

We propose that the changed world as described by the 18 OCD patients with Deep Brain Stimulation interviewed by us at the Academic Medical Center can be fleshed out in terms of changes in their field of relevant affordances. We can distinguish three dimensions to this field: the “width” refers to the broadness of the scope of affordances that one perceives. This dimension relates to having a choice or action options. The “depth” of the field refers to the temporal aspect: one not only perceives the affordances that are immediately present here and now, but one is also pre-reflectively aware of future plans and possibilities for action: the affordances on the horizon that one is responsive to, so to speak. This temporal horizon reflects our anticipatory affordance-responsiveness. Lastly, the “height” of each of the affordances refers to the relevance or importance of the affordances that one is responsive to, i.e., to the experienced solicitation or affective allure. This dimension of relevance and salience relates to the motivational force of affordances.

The title of our (open access) article is: The phenomenology of deep brain stimulation-induced changes in OCD: An enactive affordance-based model. 

News Items: New Radicals

Last year in the UK, the Observer and the National Endowment for Science, Technology and the Arts joined forces to find 50 New Radicals. They selected “people who were coming up with creative answers to the big issues of our times”, according to newspaper the Guardian.

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Yesterday this initiative got a follow-up in the Netherlands. My brother, Ronald, and I were selected by a jury chaired by Herman Wijffels as New Radicals because of our innovative interdisciplinary approach to architectural design, which also integrates insights from my work in the philosophy of enactive or embodied cognition. Just like the report of the Rotterdam Design Prize jury last year, this confirms the potential of translational embodied cognition and, more in particular, of the field of enactive architecture.

For more information see news item at Netherlands Organisation for Scientific Research (NWO)-website, here.

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Award and new publication

Last Friday the Dutch Psychiatry & Philosophy Foundation has awarded my chapter with a prize for the best contribution to the Dutch Handbook Psychiatry & Philosophy. In my opinion this award confirms the potential of the new field of translational embodied cognition.

Another chapter for a Cambridge University Press volume on Neuroscientific and Philosophical perspectives on Free Will has been accepted recently and is forthcoming:

De Haan, S, Rietveld, E. & Denys, D. (forthcoming), Being free by losing control: What Obsessive-Compulsive Disorder can tell us about free will. In Glannon, W. (ed.) Neuroscientific and Philosophical Perspectives on Free Will. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.