The Copenhagen Wheel: Data Viz Journal II


Here are some following up images of the finally coming data. We are still figuring out the UI elements and color schemes.

Bird view of noise level:

Urban section:

CO level flowing through the streets:

NOx accumulative in one single day:

Urban heat islands:

Transportation and noise level:

Representations and Processes


This is an assignment for 4.580: Inquiry into Computation and Design by Prof. Terry Knight. We were asked to design an extension for Louis Kahn’s Richards Medical Center, and look into the relationship between process and representation.

We translated the plan into two types of components: square units and connections. We then built a program that automatically generate connections from any units layout. The appearance of a connection depended on the sizes and distance of two neighboring units. We believed the program somewhat reflected the underlying logic in Kahn’s original design, and could accommodate most possible extending scheme.


Ironically, in class, most designs submitted by the other groups could not be drawn by our program. Of course we could indicate that they do not follow the ‘true’ grammar of the original plan. After all it is impossible for such a program to accommodate any design intention. Processes are limited by the way of representation we choose. Unless we change the mechanism that machines learn and induce, they can only do things that we understand before them.

Collaborator: Ari Kardasis
Tool used: Processing

Customizable Production I: Umbrella Stand


This is a assignment for 4.580: Inquiry into Computation and Design by Prof. Terry Knight. We were asked to make an umbrella stand and discuss the question: to which degree can design process be made accessible for novice user.

We decided to make the most out of our limited material. Our design was a tripod stand with three holder for either long or short umbrellas. Ari did a fabulous job taking advantage of the flexibility of mason boards. The final design could produce 2 umbrella stands from 2 sheets (32”x16”).

Parametric method was used in the testing and implementing phase. The distance, width and angle of legs could be easily adjusted to reach the best performance. We believed this script could be hand to anyone with little training to produce his own umbrella stand. However, it could only exist after all joints were designed by us. It is not easy for a program to invent a way out of its catalog book to implement given design intention.

However, I am an optimist for a upcoming future of far more accessible design-making workflow. The architects tend to be reluctant to accept the idea that ‘anyone can design’. Actually, rural people, as well as city dwellers, have always been empowered to fabricate their own houses and furniture although this ability has waned with industrialization and globalization. If we compromise somewhat on the definition of design – and see it as decision making – ordinary people are already doing it while shopping or commenting.

I see the development in fast prototyping tools as opportunity for designers rather than crisis. One primary reason for architecture’s slow progress over history is the extremely time/resource consuming cycle of design, building and feedback, making it difficult to compare and learn from past experiments. I am doing further attempt on this later this semester for Larry’s class.

Collaborator: Ari Kardasis
Tools used: Rhino, Grasshopper, Illustrator

Moon Chair


This is a project for 4.510: Materializing Design by Prof. Larry Sass. I wam supposed to design a chair and run through the rapid prototyping process. My chair was part of a sphere, so it can rock/spin in any direction. The size was limited to one plywood sheet (8’x4′).

I was quite annoyed by the fact that our CNC cutter in the woodshop cannot perform 3D contouring (due to budget cut on software… errr). But I had a lot of fun playing with wood joints. The spine was cut into four segments so the plywood sheet could be used more efficiently. This main joint (#1×3) cost us more than 5 hours to put together. It was very strong. Slightly improved, I believe it can be used in larger scale wood structures.

The plywood sheet we had could be the worst material anyone would expect. It was brittle and cracked under CNC bits. I did realize that my design was not the best for this material in terms of reliability; luckily it worked out in the end (even for Larry) and looked pretty good.

I look forward to an opportunity sometime that I can combine 3d cutting, bending and all other possibilities in wood works. It can be really amazing.

Tools used: CATIA, AutoCAD

The Copenhagen Wheel: Data Viz Journal I


The goal of the Copenhagen Wheel project is to create a smart, responsive and elegant emblem for urban mobility. It transforms ordinary bicycles quickly into hybrid e-bikes that also function as mobile sensing units. It allows you to capture the energy dissipated while cycling and braking and save it for when you need a bit of a boost. It also connect your bike to a larger community through smartphone to map pollution levels, traffic congestion, and road conditions in real-time.

I was recruited to visualize the data collected into interactive graphics. In the first review I set myself 3 goals: i) visual impact; ii) insightful interpretation; iii) support for easy reading & decision making.
Embedding sensors in bicycle wheels has obvious advantages that make the visualization interesting, such as mobility and realtime networking. However in current phase of the project, we had no prototypes finished, and could only expect around 15 sensors sent out before the final presentation. That data is too sparse on a city of 4 square km. Moreover, since we have loose control of where the riders go, it is almost impossible to get a filled map at a random time spot.

My first solution was what I called ‘merged time’: users saw data from different time on a merged map, but could also tell which are old and which are new. Data left a fading trace after them. Here is the first demonstration video I made for the concept.