Skeuomorphism

These days, everyone seems to talk about skeuomorphism, not in the last place because of Jony Ive’s design revolution at Apple. I follow this discussion closely because this discussion also applies to Kiozk.com, a company I co-founded. More on skeuomorphism later, first a little introduction on Kiozk.

When you visit Kiozk.com and set the location to Groningen (a Dutch city), you’ll see a long list with activities based on your time and location. The activity at the top of the list is about to start, the more you scroll down, the later the activity takes place. Essentially, this is all you need to know about Kiozk, although there’s much more to it.

screenshot Kiozk Groningen

Kiozk, a modern kiosk

We see Kiozk as the modern equivalent of a kiosk. No need to collect dozens of flyers or search the Internet to find something to do. Instead, use Kiozk and you’ll immediately see activities taking place nearby. This led to an important design-question. If we see ourselves as a modern day kiosk, shouldn’t we look like a kiosk as well?

Skeuomorphism

We quickly learned this is called skeuomorphism… Skeu-what!? In short, it means that a digital object closely emulates objects in the real world. Check these examples: 12 and 3. In other words, a digital button looks like a real-world button, so our digital Kiozk should resemble a real-world kiosk as well.

To Skeu or Not to Skeu

Last year, there were many arguments in favor of skeuomorphism. After all, Scott Forstall still worked for Apple and iOS was filled with real-life objects, materials and shapes. Since many people were (and still are) used to this skeuomorphic design, it made sense to apply the same design philosophy to Kiozk as well. So we did (well, only during our mock-up phase).

We tried wooden textures…
kiozk skeuomorphism - wood
Made the activity-feed resemble paper…
kiozk skeuomorphism - paper
We even used leather stitching at some point (yes I know, it looks terrible).
kiozk skeuomorphism - leather stitching

We literally tried hundreds of designs for the Kiozk homepage. Some were skeuomorphic and some used the so called flat design. In the end, we choose the modern and more minimalist look and ditched skeuomorphism. In hindsight, this is the best decision we could’ve made. After all, with the current design revolution at Apple, skeuomorphism is now officially outdated.

kiozk skeuomorphism - current flat designThis is the current activity-feed.
We hope to perfect the design within several weeks.

chbl

Chess Academy Baku

Wolf Prix is well known for its incomprehensible sketches. And I was fortunate enough to be around when he made one for the Baku Chess Academy. Before we continue, first some background info. The same client of the Central Bank project happened to be involved with chess as well. He wanted the best chess academy and commissioned Wolf Prix, founder of Vienna architecture firm Coop Himmelb(l)au, for the project.

I briefly worked on this project and saw Wolf Prix when he sketched out his vision. This is what it looked like:

It took the team several weeks, ultimately they came up with this:

I guess the Central Bank of Azerbaijan was designed the same way? Maybe clichés about architects are true after all.

Fyra fiasco

Icedome Almere, fiasco in the making

Forget the financial crisis, global warming or conflict in the Middle East. A high speed train and national ice skate arena is all we currently talk about in the Netherlands. Why? Well, one of these topics is a fiasco, the other will be in a few years.

Fyra, which is should be a high speed train from Amsterdam to Brussels, is something that turned out to be too good to be true. Several years ago, the government and railway officials of Belgium and the Netherlands painted a bright future with two possible outcomes. 1) Everything would work out exactly as planned, thus creating a perfect train connection between the two countries… or 2) the project becomes a fiasco… guess what, it’s the fiasco that happened.

In 2013, exactly the same is about to happen with the national ice skate arena.

Here’s the situation

1. The Dutch are crazy about ice skating (it’s one of our national sports)
2. All the major national and international ice skate events allocated to the Netherlands take place in a single ice skate arena, which is Thialf.
3. Thialf, our national ice skate arena is outdated and needs to be modernized
4. Local politicians waited too long before making any decisions regarding a modernized Thialf
5. This prompted the Dutch national ice skate federation to write out a competition. ‘Which city wants to build the next national ice skate arena?’
6. Three cities responded, including the city where Thialf is located. But another city, Almere, has the best plan thus possibly wins.
7. There only seems to be one problem… Icedome Almere (the best entry), feels too good to be true…

It’s all about the money

Thialf, the current arena, presented a plan which costs about 80 million euros. The plan is divided in three phases, the first and most important one costs 50 million, which is covered for by the local government. The other contender, Icedome Almere, presented a much more ambitious plan which costs over 180 million. Paradoxically, this plan doesn’t need support by the government. Instead, businesses cover all costs involved. Although this sounds great, it feels unrealistic. Especially when the initiators are tight lipped about any (possible) investor involved.

In addition, Icedome Almere expects 1,2 million annual visitors, which equals more than 3000 people a day. To be fair, they plan to host non-skate events like musicals, festivals and concerts as well. Still, it’s a large number which feels a bit optimistic. What if ‘only’ 600.000 people visit the arena (still a huge number). In that case, who’ll cover the investment of 183 million euros + 15 million in annual operation costs?

A perfect stadium or fiasco?

Let me rewrite the second paragraph, but instead of Fyra (the train), It’s Icedome Almere we talk about. Here we go: Recently, initiators of Icedome Almere painted a bright future with two possible outcomes. 1) Everything works out exactly as planned, thus creating the perfect ice skate stadium… or 2) the project becomes a fiasco (which forces the government to help out, again)… Guess what, I think the latter.

Let’s see how this project develops. I’ll keep you posted.

chbl

Central Bank Azerbaijan

“And here’s the Non Disclosure Agreement”, simultaneously, she presented me with a piece of paper which I had to sign. Otherwise, my stay at Vienna architecture firm Coop Himmelb(l)au would be very short lived.

The Non Disclosure Agreement prevented me from including three CHBL projects in my portfolio and blog. But… finally I’m allowed to share one of the projects with you. In fact, it’s the project I worked on most. It’s a skyscraper located in Baku, Azerbaijan. And this is not just any building, it’s the Central Bank of Azerbaijan headquarters.

During the course of three months, I worked on countless floor plans, exterior views, some elevations, the vault, the bank president’s office (including a private elevator) and much more.

Read more about the project on the Coop Himmelb(l)au website.

Square 2013, part two

As promised, here’s the second episode of Square Journaal 2013. Enjoy!

This year, Square Journaal (English: Square News) isn’t a news show. Instead, it’s more like a short movie mixed with news-items, aimed at teenagers.

Our story: Baroness Lulu von Pfirsch, the main character, wants to destroy Square, a large Christian teen event in the Netherlands. In three episodes we see her trying to achieve this goal. How it ends? Well, I guess you should watch all three episodes to find out.