Category Archives: schools

Politics of Design: critical positions from FH Potsdam

A much belated review of Politiken des Designs / Politics of Design, an exhibition i saw back in January at Kunstraum Potsdam, a forum for fine arts near Berlin.

The exhibition showcased the work of young designers recently graduated or still studying at the University of Applied Sciences Potsdam (aka FH Potsdam – Fachbereich Design or FHP.) As its name suggest, the show aimed to demonstrate that design can play an important role when it comes to engaging with today’s social, social and political concerns. Through various visual and experiential strategies, designers can make more visible and even tangible problems that are under-discussed or too abstract to be easily understood.

The young designers used various strategies to tackle sociopolitical issues: data viz, gaming, photography, animation, etc. I’m going to mix and match below some of my favourite works in the exhibition:

José Ernesto Rodríguez, Philipp Strixner-Weber, Thomas Miebach, Mario Klemm and Merle Ibach, Urban Dataobjects (Poverty and social exclusion in Europe)

José Ernesto Rodríguez, Philipp Strixner-Weber, Thomas Miebach, Mario Klemm and Merle Ibach, Urban Dataobjects (National dept per person in 2015)

José Ernesto Rodríguez, Philipp Strixner-Weber, Thomas Miebach, Mario Klemm and Merle Ibach, Urban Dataobjects

José Ernesto Rodríguez, Philipp Strixner-Weber, Thomas Miebach, Mario Klemm and Merle Ibach, Urban Dataobjects (Young people not employed and not participating in education or training between 20–24 in 2015)

Every year the Bertelsmann Foundation publishes the Social Justice in the EU Index. The survey comprises 27 quantitative and eight qualitative indicators, each associated with one of the six dimensions of social justice: poverty prevention; equitable education; labor market access; social cohesion and non-discrimination; health; and intergenerational justice.

The design students took to the streets of Potsdam and Berlin to confront the passersby with statistics they might otherwise not pay much attention to. The deisgners glued, tagged, sprayed and otherwise communicated the results of the Social Justice survey onto the public space, always selecting the most appropriate medium and place for each set of data.

Flavio Gortana, The Internet of Other People

Flavio Gortana, The Internet of Other People

The Internet of Other People is not quite ready to go public yet (hence the screenshots from the work instead of a link to the actual website) but the work is so interesting and premonitory in the light of the Cambridge Analytica scandal that i had to mention it. The project allows you to find out what other people get to see on their personalized internet, in particular on social media sites. A user can connect with her/his Facebook or Twitter account through the project platform (still in beta), and then see what other people see when they use these services.

The discovery of other people’s internet is mediated by an algorithm that makes predictions about someone’s personality and preferences, based on his/her Facebook likes or Twitter activities. The service is similar to the one offered by Cambridge Analytica. Social media platforms themselves use this type of prediction algorithms in order to select content and target advertising. These predictions include demographic data such as age, gender and political orientation, but also personality traits such as openness and extraversion.

The idea behind the project is not to satisfy anyone’s voyeuristic penchant but to make web users more aware of the traces they leave when using digital technology. The work also brings the spotlight on targeting and exploiting mechanisms that takes place completely in the dark. At least until leaks, investigations and reverse engineering reveal their existence.

Julian Braun, Elmar Kriegler, Boris Müller, A Brief History of CO2 Emissions

The Urban Complexity Lab of the FHP collaborated with the Potsdam Institute for Climate Impact Research to create an animated visualization of past and future carbon dioxide emissions, one of the driving forces behind climate change.

This striking visualization of CO2 emissions from 1751 to 2100 demonstrates convincingly the urgency of limiting the amount of CO2 into the atmosphere.

Aljoscha Seuss, Tachinahare, 2017

Tachinahare takes a look back at the incidents of Minamata disease in the 1950s, ’60s and ’70s to raise awareness of environmental pollution. Minamata is a located on Kyushu, Japan’s most southwesterly island. In 1956, four patients from the town were admitted to hospital with the same baffling symptoms: very high fever, convulsions, psychosis, loss of consciousness, coma, etc. As more and more people presented the same ailments and died, an investigation was open. It concluded that the disease was caused by the industrial poisoning of Minamata Bay by plastic manufacturer Chisso Corp. As a result of wastewater pollution, large amounts of mercury and other heavy metals found their way into the sea life that comprised a large part of the local diet. Thousands of residents have suffered from the disease over the decades. It remains Japan’s greatest environmental tragedies

The video is part of Aljoscha Seuss‘s graduation project Plastic in Motion.

Christian Laesser, They Know

Christian Laesser, They Know, 2014

They Know makes the issue of mass surveillance programs more tangible by using a fictional monitoring software. The work demonstrates with great clarity the modus operandi of surveillance agencies and the ease with which the data of any a normal citizen can be intercepted and (mis)interpreted.

The website of the project lists and describes types of surveillance, strategies, potential repercussions on the individual’s life, etc. but it also features a helpful lineup of tips to protect your data against mass surveillance or at least complicate the work of the intelligence agencies.

Garden at FHP

PDF of the book in english.

School Garden Root Network is a 100-page booklet that celebrates school garden cultures around the world. The publication dives into the significance of these garden. They don’t provide just fruit, herbs and veggies but also lessons about cultivation, management of resources and community-making. On a macro level, school gardens give space to reflect on and discuss issues like climate change, soil loss, land grabbing, traditional knowledge, food politics, sovereignty, etc.

The students put theory into practice and made their own school garden in the vast courtyard of FH Potsdam.

Jens Over Drößiger, Natalie Schreiber, Antonia Fuchs, Flavio Gortana, Mathias Wolff, Hühner à la Carte

Hühner à la Carte is a quartets card game with 32 different chicken breeds. From the very humble broiler to the organically grown one, from the one day chicken to the wild jungle chicken.

Each card features a portrait of the chicken but also basic information about its way of life: living space, life expectancy, weight, as well as performances in terms of animal welfare, meat and laying. Which of the chicken breeds leads the happiest life? Which is the strongest? Which one is the most remunerative?

Through the game, a more nuanced, more critical view of chicken breeds (and their respective “privileged” or miserable life) emerge.

Jule Garschke, Die Befriedung der Welt

Jule Garschke, Die Befriedung der Welt

Jule Garschke, Die Befriedung der Welt

Jule Garschke, Die Befriedung der Welt (exhibition view)

Number of Separation Barriers Initiated Around the World, 1945–2014. Source: The Atlantic that comments “The chart above doesn’t account for all of these new barriers, a number of which have been constructed since 2014”

As a result of the refugee crisis, Europe will soon have more physical barriers on its national borders than it did during the Cold War.

Jule Garschke photographed walls and fences and catalogued them as if they were animal species, some of them invasive species. Some are charming and take the form of a leafy hedge. Some are mobile and temporary. Others are downright menacing and imposing a state of Apartheid on the communities enclosed behind high walls and barbed wires. Each of them says about our culture than most of us might suspect at first glance.

Sabina Fimbres Sabugal, Nach dem Beben / After the Quake (exhibition view)

Barely two weeks after the powerful earthquake that violently shook Mexico City, Sabrina Fimbres Sabugal visited her native country. She photographed and interviewed friends, relatives, acquaintances. Each of the black and white portraits is accompanied by a text in which people describe their experience of the event. The stories are moving and sad but also strangely uplifting. They talk of resilience, solidarity and small gestures that make up for the chaos and inadequacy of local authorities efforts to handle a disastrous situation.

Moritz Jekat, US Legal

Moritz Jekat, US Legal

Moritz Jekat, US Legal (exhibition view)

A personal narrative of a Berlin photographer’s experience of the days that followed the announcement of the winner of last U.S. presidential elections. Moritz Jekat was in the Los Angeles area (where 71.76% of voters had chosen Clinton) that day. His images show people in shock, protesting or simply trying to carry on with their lives probably hoping things would be ok. The photobook combines portraits and street scenes with social media posts and comments that a political activist published during that period of time. Jekat’s images are dark but they also show the inspirational energy that animates the citizens who can’t identify with a racist, homophobic, sexist and bigot president.

More images from the Politiken des Designs show:

All images by Franz Grünewald and Moritz Jekat.

Related stories: Graphic design for social change, Drones, pirates, everyday racism. An interview with graphic designer Ruben Pater, Design and Violence. Part 1: ambiguous violence and Part 2: violence where you wouldn’t expect it, Khandayati. Turning objects of oppression into spinning weapons, Disobedient Electronics: Protest, Design My Privacy. 8 Principles for Better Privacy Design, etc.

Performance-driven Fabrication

Syuko Kato and Vincent Huyghe, Fabricating Performance

Syuko Kato and Vincent Huyghe, Fabricating Performance

Syuko Kato and Vincent Huyghe from the Interactive Architecture Lab have designed a robotic system that turns dance into architectural forms.

Fabricating Performance could maybe also be called Performing Fabrication because of the way the dancing and the building processes inform and respond to each other. The design proposal aims to explore the potential of digitalised notation for implementing fabrication of physical space from imagery of dance movement.

A circularity of human body-gesture and computer machine-gesture leads to the construction of notational spatial artefacts. Driven by the motivation of a participating performer/designer, body movement is tracked, analysed and translated into tool paths for fabrication by a robotic armature and an industrial CNC pipe bending machine. Discrete construction elements are fabricated in response to the dancer/designers performance. ’Fabricating Performance’ qualifies movement in space and raises questions of how these qualitative motion segments can be articulated in a quantitatively physical.

The videos documenting the project are mesmerizing. They reminded me a bit of Lillian and Frank Gilbreths’ chronocyclegraphs. In the early 20th century, the couple employed time-lapse photography to pare a complete factory work cycle down to the shortest and most efficient sequence of gestures. They attached a camera to a timing device and photographed workers performing various tasks. The motion paths traced by small lamps fastened to the worker’s hands or fingers were then turned into wire sculptures.

Interactive Architecture Lab, Fabricating Performance

Syuko Kato, Fabricating Performance

If you’re interested in performance, interactivity and architecture, then you might want to keep your eyes peeled for the projects that will come out of MArch Design for Performance and Interaction, a new masters programme at The Bartlett School of Architecture. I’m already looking forward to see how creatively future students and graduates will use the latest innovations in fabrication and in networked and responsive technologies.

In the meantime, i’ve had a quick chat with Syuko Kato and Vincent Huyghe about their project. The interview even features special guest appearances of Interactive Architecture Lab director Ruairi Glynn.

Hi Syuko and Vincent! What were the biggest challenges you encountered while developing this work?

Syuko: Once we’d managed to capture live movement, the question was how do we translate it into a notion that describes paths and intent with a simple line. We wanted those translations to also start to describe habitable spaces so there’s a lot of filtering and rationalisation in the software. We began with a very analogue dance investigation. Movements were described through terms such as weight, flow, speed, length and then we built it up from there.

Vincent: The bigger, longer term challenge is how do you fabricate notional elements quickly enough to create on continuous performance. We need an array of robots and bending machines if we wanted the fabrication to keep pace with a dancer. So at the moment working with just one robot, there’s a mismatch between dance and fabrication but it’s a gap we’re tightening every day.

Bending system whole view

Does FP leave any space for the involvement of a human choreographer (other than the dancer)?

Ruairi: That’s an interesting question, we haven’t got that far with this project but that’s certainly something we’re expecting to do. Having choreographers work in a team on an interaction project is always interesting because typically a choreography is linear. Here however the spatial notation is emergent out of a back and forth process we can’t fully control or predict. So every dance, and every space it creates is unique. Luckily in the past we’ve been able to work with great choreographers like Shobana Jeyasingh & the RAMS team from YCAM who embrace this non-linearity.

Syuko: This kind of tool invites people from all sorts of disciplines to explore movement and design. It doesn’t have to be a staged dance performance. It could be about our every day movements. It would be interesting to see it used to design a bus stop or to allow children to design a playground. If dance and movement can convey a design intent, it opens up people’s ability to express themselves spatially.

Fabricating Performance also made me think about the growing role of algorithms and robots in creativity. The works of some visual artists, for example, relies heavily on the ‘creativity’ and actions of algorithms. What do you think about this increasing space that algorithms and robots are taking in creativity?

Syuko: Dance has been codifying movement algorithmically for a very long time. Laban’s notional system for example has its own rules (or algorithms) that inspired a lot of our early discussions on how to analyze movement.

The translations of complex movement to simplified geometries is a translation where a lot of information gets lost but rather than see that as a negative thing we think it opens up room for individual interpretation, play and creativity. So the emergent properties of the system is where the creativity springs out of this in a way that leaves you as a dancer feeling like you’re dancing with a partner rather than on your own.

Ruairi: We now have 10 industrial robots arms at the Bartlett, and dozens of Makerbots. Its extraordinary how robotics is changing the way we think about design and making architecture but the typical approach is to treat the robot as the end of a linear process of design to fabrication. Basically big dumb blind machines doing what we tell them to do. So what we’re interested in is challenging that model moving from linear to circular feedback processes of production. Interaction in fabrication is a really rich untapped territory.

Syuko Kato and Vincent Huyghe, Fabricating Performance

Syuko Kato and Vincent Huyghe, Fabricating Performance

Syuko, you are also a dancer. So what did Fabricating Performance teach you as a dancer? About movement, human body, choreography or other?

Syuko: At each stage of the research process, I developed more understandings toward the design space in relation to my body. I’ve watched the software’s evaluation of the movement data a lot, and this helped me to decide how I would move to try and develop a space I had in my mind. Once the space starts to build up, you stop thinking about your original idea and respond more to what is around you. As I gained more experience, it became more of a free flowing and creative process.

Thanks Syuko, Vincent and Ruairi!

Home catastrophes, wandering mining hole and limbo embassy. (My) best of the Graduation Show Design Academy Eindhoven

A week or so ago, i was in Eindhoven for the Age of Wonderland festival and realized the city was in full Dutch Design Week swing. There was far far too much to see for someone like me who has only a mild interest in design. So i went for the blockbusters. One of them was the Graduation Show of the students from Design Academy Eindhoven. I’m sure most of you know the school already. Its mission is to form designers whose work reflect on the fast changes the world is going through, whether these changes are technological, societal, ethical or cultural. There were two floors filled with all kinds of armchairs, musical instruments and ‘concepts.’ Here’s my best of because the blogosphere loves a best of.

22280413175_fe800602c0_bRight! So it turns out i forgot to take a photo of the installation when it was actually turned ON

The first stop is Echoes, by Quentin Péchon. The installation uses CRT (Cathode Ray Tube) tv sets from past decades to visualize sound. The translation of sound into light doesn’t happen through software programm wizardry, but by ‘hacking’ the hardware with an oscilloscope, turning the electric signal into light. The neon lamps blink on the drums, the piano plays with the light bulbs and the bass, guitar and keyboards each have their own television screen. “What you see comes closest to what the soundwave does,” says Quentin. ‘Echoes’ makes the soundtracks resonate in a light show that’s true to the rhythm.

Echoes is an elegant and mesmerizing light orchestra. Everything is electrical and in this everything digital culture, a return to electricity almost feels like magic.

Hannah Hiecke - The Wandering Hole MA Information Design (Keep an Eye Grant nominee)Hannah Hiecke, The Wandering Hole
1currentstatex725Hannah Hiecke, The Wandering Hole. The map shows the situation in June 2015

Hannah Hiecke’s The Wandering Hole maps and documents Garzweiler II, a brown coal mining hole in Germany. The designer calls this open cast exploitation the ‘wandering’ hole because it eats up the German landscape at the speed of 2,3 cm per hour. Nothing can stop the machines’ steady march. Not even its disastrous ecological impact. Nor the people who protest because their villages find themselves on the way of the excavating machines and have to be relocated.

manon_inlimboembassy_20145328_©AlexanderPopelier_CROP In Limbo Embassy ambassador. Photo by Alexander Popelier

There were quite a few projects dealing with immigration at the show. Some of them fairly perfunctory. I did like Manon van Hoeckel’s In Limbo Embassy very much though. It is a traveling embassy for and by asylum seekers ‘in limbo’: those who cannot stay in Europe but cannot go back to their own country either. The embassy functions as a neutral place where refugees and asylum seekers, acting as ambassadors, invite visitors to discuss about their situation.


Esserheem is a prison for repeat offenders in Veenhuizen. Jeroen Heeren looked at the way inmates spend their time and found out that many of them would love to learn an instrument. Existing DIY programs require lots of additional cables, devices and control systems. Either that, or the keys have been replaced by a touch screen, which doesn’t convey the feeling of playing a traditional instrument. Jeroen designed a keyboard that features both an innovative software on the inside and real keys on the outside. Easy to borrow at the prison library and ready for instant use without help from a pro. Prisoners can practice by themselves in their cell by playing along with the tunes of the ‘Edelhout’ band or even try solos. If it gets too difficult, they can always hit the Escape key. The project is called THE_”ALL_IN_ONE”_VEENHUIZEN_TIME_FLIES_KEYBOARD_TO_THE_RESCUE.

22tout8bc69c_bTalking Digital at the graduation exhibition 2swear65182_bTalking Digital at the graduation exhibition (i swear i wasn’t drunk when i took this shot)

Moritz Pitrowski-Rönitz looked at how older generations approach -or rather do not approach- digital technology. He met with a group of old ceramists who were puzzled by the way digital natives constantly use their phones. The designer used the traditional process of cyanotype photography to merge their craft with the photos produced by smartphone, adding tactile qualities to the digital information by printing it manually on three-dimensional ceramic objects. The machine to support this process allows the user to interact with it both digitally and manually.


Christine van Meegen‘s Curated Catastrophes service enables people to “regain control” of their home. Blending radical interior design, art intervention and happening, the process pushes the inhabitant out of the home-comfort-zone in order to break their paralyzation and reset the disharmony in the home. This inertia-breaking is initiated by playing the game Trojan House, which guides the player through tasks exploring spaces, experiencing them with different senses or from unusual perspectives. Impressions are recorded by the user into a personal logbook: a first step toward regaining control of one’s surroundings through deconstructing them and a basis for further cooperation with the studio. In the next steps of the relationship C.A.R.E. provides tailored instructions to implement an empathetic reconstruction of the interior. This is meant to alter our attitudes towards conflictual spaces, applying an approach similar to gardening: what is useless is cut out, what is helpful will be grown, and a healthy attitude toward failure, imperfection, and individual expression is achieved.

My photo album of the Dutch Design Week.

High-Speed Horizons. Using sonic booms and nuclear energy to power aviation

Tim Clark, The Boomjet, High-Speed Horizons, 2015. Photo by Juuke Schoorl

X-1SB and Boomjet painting.jpg
X-1SB and Boomjet models receiving initial coats of paint

High-Speed Horizons is another of my favourite works exhibited at the graduation show of the Royal College of Art earlier this month.

One of the models in the exhibition space

In this project, Design Interactions graduate Tim Clark plays with the language and history of aviation, offering us a trip into critical and speculative visions of alternative energies.

Aviation, says the designer, has always been viewed as a test bed for radical new ideas and visions to reshape culture, politics and economics on Earth and far beyond it. Some of these dreams of alternative futures became reality and even transformed other areas of life (especially in military or space exploration contexts), while others were aborted because of political, economic or environmental pressures.

Tim Clark tapped into this fascination for unrestricted innovation to design a series of airplanes that investigate the possibility to ditch environmentally damaging fossil fuels in favour of sonic booms and nuclear power.

Bell X-1. Image Smithsonian Air and Space Museum

Chuck Yeager Breaks the Sound Barrier, X-1, 1947. Newsreel from 1948

The most experimental and speculative aircraft research is often classified. An example of this is the American X-Plane. Started after WW2 and still in operation today, the program conceived a series of experimental planes and helicopters and used them to test new technologies and aerodynamic concepts.

The first of American X-Plane model, the Bell X-1, was the first aircraft to break the sound barrier in level flight in 1947. This breakthrough opened up a new field of supersonic research and led to experimentation in aerodynamics and new propulsive systems.

Supersonic speed travel is accompanied by an explosive 'bang' sound called sonic boom. These sonic booms also generate enormous amounts of energy. In theory they could thus power planes with an efficient, green and sustainable energy source.

But sonic booms are one of the main reasons why supersonic airplanes never became more commonplace. In several countries, the law prevents aircrafts from flying above Mach 1 due to the shock wave's auditory and vibrational disturbance.

Limiting the impact of sonic booms is a current concern of the aviation industry as many are dreaming of a new supersonic age. But if it is to be more successful than the last one (the Concorde required high quantities of fuel), a supersonic plane would need an energy source free from the influence of global affairs, politics and planet scarring infrastructure. Something that we can quickly produce and have complete control over -- like sonic booms.

Tim Clark, The X-1SB, High-Speed Horizons, 2015. Photo by Juuke Schoorl

Tim Clark, The X-1SB, High-Speed Horizons, 2015. Photo by Juuke Schoorl

Tim Clark, High-Speed Horizons (X-1SB being airdropped by B-29 Duo mothership. Oil on canvas by Michael Lightfoot), 2015

The X-1SB, aka the "Sonic Sundae", is Clark's counterhistorical research aircraft designed to test the feasibility of this sonic boom propulsion. Its cone shape design is the combination of a .50 caliber bullet (an object know to be stable while breaching the sound barrier) just like the design of its predecessor the X-1 aircraft, and the shape of the shock wave created by an object traveling faster than sound.

The front of the aircraft features a housing for an interchangeable triangular spike used to test how different shapes could create potentially optimized shock waves to use for propulsion.

And because Clark's work is counter historical, Sonic Sundae and Boomjet (more about that one below) were to have existed before any of the anti-noise laws were to have been instituted.

He told me: I am suggesting that in a sonic boom powered world those laws would not exist because the ability to travel with that type of greener propulsion would probably be more beneficially economically than instituting the flight restrictions. In this case the benefit of the disturbance would outweigh the desire to limit the noise.

Conceptual drawing of a supersonic biplane. Image: Christine Daniloff/MIT News based on an original drawing courtesy of Obayashi laboratory, Tohoku University

Anyway if we were to live in true supersonic age these restrictions would need to be changed/relaxed anyway sonic booms or not. The big research in limiting the sonic boom now is finding a way to make a wing design that will create little to no noise when it breaks the sound barrier so it does not disturb people below the plane. Amazingly this question was answered over a decade (1935) before we even broke the sound barrier (1947) by Adolf Busemann who suggested a supersonic biplane design where the two wings would be used to cancel the other wave out.

It's crazy to think a supersonic jet would resemble a biplane from the 1920s but it would probably be the best solution and it was theorized way before it ever would be seen as a problem which is amazing. MIT just did some research into it in the last year or so and it would totally work and might be quite viable.

Tim Clark, B-29 Duo, High-Speed Horizons, 2015. Photo by Juuke Schoorl

Because of its large rear circumference, the X-1SB cannot fit under the fuselage or wing of a larger aircraft for taxiing and takeoff. The B-29 Duo "Double Mama" has thus been designed to be its carrier aircraft of choice.

An F/A-18 Hornet breaks the sound barrier in the skies over the Pacific Ocean, 1999. Image Ensign John Gay, U.S. Navy (via wikipedia)

Tim Clark, The Boomjet, High-Speed Horizons, 2015. Photo by Juuke Schoorl

Tim Clark, The Boomjet, High-Speed Horizons, 2015. Photo by Juuke Schoorl

Boomjet on mobile aircraft crawler. Computer rendering by Tim Clark

Tim Clark, High-Speed Horizons (Boomjet taxiing at water-based airport. Watercolor on paper by Hector Trunnec), 2015

Another of Clark's designs, the Boomjet is a sonic boom-powered commercial transport that sustains its flight by driving 47 propellers from the pressure energy released by the aircraft as it travels faster than the speed of sound. The sonic boom transport vehicle stores excess energy for use during takeoff which can be vertically or from water depending on location.

Clarks then looked at another source of energy that could disentangle aviation from its dangerous relationship with fossil fuels: nuclear energy.

The Convair NB-36 in flight, with a B-50. Photo: USAF - U.S. photo no. DF-SC-83-09332 via wikipedia

Nov 1951 Air Trails magazine for joinging technical college.jpg
Advert from November 1951 AIR TRAILS magazine promoting the promise of nuclear power as an unlimited energy source for flight. Image from Secret U.S. Proposals of the Cold War: Radical Concepts in Factory Models and Engineering Drawings by Jim Keeshen

During the cold war both the USSR and the USA had an experimental nuclear aircraft program. While the risk was high, nuclear power promised an aircraft with theoretically unlimited range capable of constant flight.

Only two known nuclear aircraft that have been fully built and tested. The NB-36H was America's nuclear-powered aircraft. Refitted for this new propulsion system after it was damaged in a storm and deemed unfit for combat, the aircraft featured a direct phone line to the President of the United States that was to only be used in the event of an incident. The NB-36H completed 47 test flights between 1955 and 1957 over New Mexico and Texas. It was scrapped in 1958 when the Nuclear Aircraft Program was abandoned.

The Soviet Union's aircraft, the Tu-95L, was based on the Tupolev Tu-95 strategic bomber and missile platform. First flown in 1952, the plane is still in operation today and Russia sometimes flies it in close proximity of the airspace of other European countries in order to affirm its military presence.

The nuclear variant of the TU-95 flew from 1961 to 1965.

Both the USA and the Soviet Union had ambitious plans for their second nuclear-powered aircraft but due to environmental concerns, political pressures, and rumors that the other side called off their research both projects were shelved.

While the risk of a nuclear accident is deemed too high in aviation, we have nuclear-powered aircraft carriers, submarines and 11% of all the world's electricity being based on nuclear power.

Tim Clark, Air Laissez-Faire, High-Speed Horizons, 2015. Photo by Juuke Schoorl

Tim Clark, Air Laissez-Faire, High-Speed Horizons, 2015. Photo by Juuke Schoorl

Designer applying the 500+ dry transfer window decals and nuclear logo decals to the Air Laissez-faire model aircraft

Clark proposes to update to our times a technology that looked promising at the height of the Cold War. And the ones willing to bankroll the experiment might not be countries but technology companies which are already at the forefront of some ambitious innovative projects (Richard Branson and Virgin Galactic for example.) Because these tech companies are increasingly under governmental scrutiny so that they don't get out of control, they might also take to the sky to further innovation free from the restriction of regulation, utilizing the energy source historically clouded by politics to sustain continuous flight and prove that anything is indeed possible through innovation. An inspiration for the idea is Blueseed. This "start-up community on a ship" proposes to gather hundreds of immigrant entrepreneurs on a floating startup city in international waters off the coast of San Francisco and have them live and work undisturbed by the burden of national boundaries and government regulations.

Clark's mini Silicon Valley on air is called Air Laissez-Faire. A nuclear power plant on board of this self-piloting aircraft would provide virtually limitless amounts of continuous propulsion, while a crew made of nuclear physicist, chemical engineer, radiation consultant, and other figures would ensure safety on board. The mega plane presents satellite and radar communication equipment for remote business meetings, all necessary business facilities as well as a landing space on its rear wings that allow small 'commuter aircrafts' to whisk entrepreneurs from and back to major business centers.