Forty Four Sunsets


One of the amazing things about the building at 240 Central Park South is its history, and throughout our focus groups and research of the building and its inhabitants we’ve been reminded of this. One bit in particular stood out to a few of us, author Antoine de Saint-Exupéry lived in the building and wrote a portion of the best selling children’s story The Little Prince while living there.


As a group, Sheiva Rezvani, Luis Daniel and I were fixated on this point and the beautifully illustrated stories of Saint-Exupéry. We each read the book again and we decided to try to recreate the experience narrated by the prince of watching sunset on his little planet whenever he felt sad.

A cursory search of webcams online led us to a wonderful website The Eternal Sunset where you can watch sunsets on a series of curated webcams around the world. We utilized this set of webcams as well as others we found from EarthCam and coded everything into a Processing Sketch (github) that would cycle through the sunsets, analyze the sky image and decide if the sky was light enough for a sunset or if the sun had already set and then transition on to the next.

We also had heard from the residents during our focus groups that noise was a ever obtrusive element in their lives at 240CPS. We decided to weave a little noise into the picturesque Sunsets to transform the piece from a simple screensaver-ish piece into more of a visualization of the peace of mind of the residents as well as a reminder of the colorful history of the building.

At first we tried to inject noise through a physical interface by stripping the electric magnetic shielding and then warping the signal along the VGA cable. You can see our experiments below.


SensitiveBuildings-3 SensitiveBuildings-7 SensitiveBuildings-6


Glitching a Video Signal from Luis Daniel on Vimeo.

Ultimately we decided to concentrate on keeping the noise software-based. Utilizing the sound data feed that Michael Uzzi and Alex Olivier built for their group project Hive240, we added a few lines of code into our sketch to create noise that would fade in and out based on how loud the data stream indicated it was outside.


Salaat Bento Box: Part 3

So I’ve started prototyping the prayer mat, and I’ll be working on prototyping the actual kit later today with the help of some fantastic CNC geniuses here at ITP.

Further research and conversation with fellow Muslim designers has led to the discovery of Prayer Travel Mats:

There are several problems with these that I hope my design’s will rectify. One is that the extremely lightweight material means that it blows away easily and is actually very unpleasant outdoors without weights like stones to hold it down. The other problem is that the thinness of the material makes it unpleasant to use for the prostrating prayer.

To rectify these problems I propose using magnets to both offer weight and interactivity to the prayer mats, allowing the mats to link to each other for group prayers and to allow for quick and easy folding. I’ve begun prototyping this using paper and small magnets. I’ll also use felt pads to offer cushion for the knees, ankles and forehead, also adding to the weight to keep it from blowing away. But I’ll position these in such a way to take advantage of the thinness of the nylon while allowing the proper support for a prostrating supplicant.

So there are two ways of sub-diving a standard sized prayer mat (2.5′ x 4′), one is a 3×3 grid and the other is a 6×6 grid. I tend to believe that you can fold the mat as tight as 3×3, but with the felt it’ll become too difficult so I’ll be sticking with a 6×6 grid:

I’ll begin prototyping the actual case for the kit on Friday with a CNC cut foam version of the bento box I imagined and a neoprene case as well.

Religion: The Box Set

The Abrahamic religions, Judaism, Christianity and Islam, have a lot in common. So much in common it’s hard to study one without studying the others. Often theologians and academics interested in religion will study all three religions and their respective texts at the same time to understand their commonalities and difference.

To illustrate these commonalities I will be working on a design for a box set of the Torah, The Bible, and the Quran. The set will use iconography common to all three texts as well as elements distinct within each faith to link and distinguish.

Specifically the imagery associated with heaven and Eden, the apple and vines of green will serve as a point of commonality that will reach between all of the books. the distinguishing marks will be a bit more challenging since i’d like to avoid the simple icons currently used to denote the faiths as the Star of David, the Cross and the Crescent Moon.

Images to come soon!

Salaat Bento Box, Part 2

So I’ve been working on developing the Salaat Bento Box idea a bit further, and the idea has evolved a bit.  I met with a former ITP alumni, Noah Waxman as well as with some classmates to get input regarding materials with embedded magnets and fabricating these objects and that conversation got me thinking about simplifying my original idea to concentrate more specifically on the Prayer Mat itself.

The Salaat Bento Box is an attempt at improving the lives of billions of Muslims through design, specifically taking a very Eastern design object, the Bento Box or the Tiffin and using that model to create a modular Prayer Kit that will make it easier for Muslims on the move to pray.

A colorful set of Tiffin tin lunch boxes.A designed wooden Tiffen lunch box from Design Republic by Neri & Hu

Like a lunch box, the kit will be modular, easy to clean and compact while comprehensive.

I wanted to build a prayer mat made specifically for the kit that would fold up easily according to a predetermined pattern and fit perfectly into the confined space. Magnets seemed like the natural starting point, since their subtle interaction can be hidden and embedded into the fabric, but at the same time would allow for a structured folding process.

But simply discussing the concept got me thinking about the mat more closely. A prayer mat is designed to both help point a Muslim as well as offer a comfortable and clean surface to bow upon. The plushness of the material cannot be overlooked, nor can the culture already associated  with the mats. The mats are typically ornate, embossed with beautiful designs that evoke images of mosques and Mecca. When Muslim’s pray in groups (as they often do) they lay out their mats side by side.

Prayer mats layed out side by side at a Mosque for prayer
Muslim’s often use multiple prayer mats side by side to pray together. Pius Lee /

The realization I came upon when trying to plan out the layout of the magnets was that the magnets can in fact be used to help link the mats as well, rather than simply help to fold up a mat.

Another point of inspiration was that the mat does not need to plush throughout, only where the knees and ankles touch the ground. That can help reduce the thickness of the material and allow for a smaller fold area. Utilizing fabrication techniques like those seen in Issey Miyake’s bag I can create a structure that inherently folds one way while at the same time offering a plush surface as well as a thin material.

Salaat Bento Box

Over 1 billion Muslims pray 5 times a day. They stop what they’re doing at the sound of the adhaan, a lyrical call to prayer and file into the streets and into the Mosques and point themselves towards Mecca and whisper the words of the Quran. Like any ritual, there are elements that have attached themselves to the process, though not required they’ve gained cultural significance.

All of these items function independently of each other and often a devout Muslim will pick and choose these items as they come across them from their travels. These items often have a sentimental value as well as their religious value.


To pray all a Muslim needs to do is to purify themselves, typically by washing their face and arms with water, but if water is not available sand would do. Then they should orient themselves by pointing themselves towards Mecca, and finally they need to perform the prayer if they are able, while reciting the verses. If they are not physically able to stand they can sit. If they are not physically able to sit they may lie down. The entire process is quite forgiving.

What you will notice is that many Muslims use a prayer rug, this is not necessary but it offers the Muslim a clean surface to bow upon. Shi’ite Muslims use a piece of clay known as a mohr to rest their forehead upon when they bow. Some Muslims like to add additional prayers using a tasbeeh, which looks a lot like a rosary. Some Muslims carry with them compasses and booklets with the directions you should pray in order to line up best with Mecca wherever you might be in the world. Muslim women might choose to cover themselves using a chador.

I propose to combine all or some of these artifacts into a single object, a Salaat bento box if you will. Compartmentalized and modular, a design minded devotee could purchase the modules they feel is important to them and carry it around in their bags like a lunchbox or camera.


Ideas taking shape

I’ve been wracking my brain as to what I should build for a final project and I’ve got a few ideas, but nothing I’m happy about just yet.

The first is a multipurpose device which was originally concepted as a intra building mesh network to allow tenants to give feedback and receive information to and from building management. I believe this idea can also be easily repurposed into a clinic patient seating and performance monitor with simple modifications in the software. Tangential to this idea is a (psuedo) second idea (inspired by Sandy) is a waterfront mesh network for flood warnings, using sensors buried in the ground, coupled with a weather based cloud engine and alert devices in house that will warn of impending flooding.

The second idea is a prayer kit for Muslims, which includes a prayer rug, a Qibla finder and a tidy container for all of it that can also indicate time for prayers.

The third idea is an experiment that I’m not certain I’ll be able to create successfully, but I’m interested in exploring it… I want to find a way of creating a silent radiator steam vent. Our

A Simple Sensor Network

Phil Groman and I got together to work on an assignment for Sensitive Buildings this afternoon. Together we followed the instructions of our class textbook, Building Wireless Sensor Networks. Using our collective 4 ZigBee’s, 2 Arduino’s and a smattering of sensors and resistors we built a network that could communicate wirelessly the pressure being exerted onto a FSR and the state of a simple potentiometer.

Check out our setup below.

Damn Lamp Redux

The “Damn Lamp” was a lamp my friend Sarah Lowe made for her MFA thesis at San Jose State. The Lamp was a visualization of mortality of the plague in 1665 London. She would call it the “damn lamp” because of both its embodied data and the stress involved in producing and exhibiting it.

I now have my own damn lamp, though it doesn’t embody any particularly damning data. As you might have gleamed from my previous posts on the matter, I’ve had several ideas that I’ve chased in my quest to build this lamp, all ending in failure for one reason or another.

After almost giving up I came back today and pulled on some of the lamps I’ve found most inspiring. It turns out the most inspiring lamps (to me) are the ones that play with ready made materials and put them together in different ways.

I first thought of building a faucet light, switched on by turning a spigot. This was inspired by one of the many trips I made to the Home Depot to try and get materials for the failed lamps I have half built. While wandering the piping isle looking for bases I found a spigot with a red handle that just stood out to me.

I started putting together my faucet lamp, but out of frustration with embedding a switch inside the tight shaft, I gave up and re-examined the materials I had available and the constraints that were forcing my design decisions. With the time remaining I decided I had to work with materials that were going to be easy to work with. Instead of soldering LED’s which hadn’t arrived yet, I had to reconsider the LED based design. Lighting Plus on Broadway was a source of immense inspiration. I found the bulb couplers and I couldn’t stop playing with them. I purchased a few and then reimagined my faucet lamp instead as a wall lamp.

Focus on Focus Groups

This week all 16 of us are participating in two focus groups with tenants from 240 Central Park South to better understand what they are interested in as tenants.

As students, artists and interlopers we can only glimpse a slice of life at 240 CPS and to help us understand a bit more we turn to the age old technique of asking and chatting.

Paraphrasing, these are some of the points that help me best understand what life was like for the four tenants we spoke with:

“240 CPS is like the center of the world to me, everywhere I go is relative to here.”

“It’s hard knowing your neighbors, it’s much easier to know their dogs.”

“The staff here are wonderful and seeing the doorman every day, coming and going, makes life here just a little more pleasant.”

“Technology is great in the building, but I kind of miss having to talk with the front desk and checking for mail and packages. Instead we just get emails now.”

“Noise is unbearable, and it’s the one thing that might make me move. The changed traffic patterns and constant construction have made it difficult to find peace.”

You can see more of what my classmates noticed in the same focus groups by looking at Phil Groman’s post on it, or Engin Ayaz’s recap.