The SmolPhone

“The SmolPhone project is an action research on the topic of low-tech in the domain of IT systems. Its practical aspects consist in designing a sort of low-tech smartphone offering some services of a classical smartphone with a one-week battery lifetime. The goal is not to optimize a typical smartphone but rather to reconsider the smartphone design space, exploring unusual architectures and evaluating the set of features that should be part of long-lasting smartphones.”

Quoted from: Rautureau, Aloïs, et al. “Quantifying the tiny-Small design of the SmolPhone.” ICT For Sustainability (ICT4S). 2024. Related articles.

After Comfort: A User’s Guide

Image: Ducts in a row. Photo: Daniel A. Barber. Taken from: After Comfort: A User’s Guide.

Comfort is a construct. Many new commercial and institutional buildings built over the past few decades rely so heavily on fossil-fueled mechanical HVAC systems that they would be uninhabitable without them. Many of the stylistic and programmatic debates in architecture in these same decades similarly relied on HVAC for their explorations and innovations. In other cases, often at the residential scale, buildings have been produced with an expectation of cheap energy, which has meant that adequate insulation, cross ventilation, and other design-based passive thermal measures have not been considered. Our determinedly slow, casual move away from fossil fuels, with limited political or socio-economic support, is already resulting in “green inequity” and novel forms of thermal violence. Over the decades to come, enclaves where upper-class neighborhoods engage with expensive “green tech” such as electric vehicles and heat pumps will coexist alongside poorer areas that cannot afford to make any transition from the carbon-fueled lifestyles they need to get by.

After Comfort: A User’s Guide is a project by e-flux Architecture in collaboration with the University of Technology Sydney, the Technical University of Munich, the University of Liverpool, and Transsolar.

The Shrinking City

In Europe alone, there are more than 500 cities with continuous demographic shrinkage, which in many cases concern small‐ to medium‐sized, peripherally situated, former industrial cities. The surplus of space (land, buildings) in these cities and the diminished role of market parties might create favorable conditions for experimentation with alternative types and ways of urban development and land use. Moreover, in shrinking cities, there is also a need for urban development solutions that improve the quality of life in the absence of economic growth, and therefore there may also be more interest in the outcomes or lessons of urban degrowth experiments and a higher probability for larger‐scale uptake and implementation.

Read more: Hermans, Maurice, Joop de Kraker, and Christian Scholl. “The Shrinking City as a Testing Ground for Urban Degrowth Practices.” Urban Planning 9.2 (2024).

Hailing the Ferry

Hailing the Ferry, oil on canvas painting by Daniel Ridgway Knight, 1888, Pennsylvania Academy of the Fine Arts.

How Medieval Readers Customized their Manuscripts

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No Tech Reader #48: Digital Technology