Vivacious Vienna: Hundertwasser

I was an exchange student to Switzerland in 1994, and my first host “mom,” Esther Sterchi-Wyss, loved the architect Hundertwasser. I arrived at her home never having heard of the designer despite having more than six years of university-level architecture education.

Hundertwasser, you see, is self-made. A craftsman-turned-architect. His work wasn’t taught in modernist schools of architecture at the time, but he had certainly hit a chord with Esther, who had postcards and posters of his vibrant buildings posted in her Ferenberg kitchen.

It’s a bit odd not to have heard of him, as his work is in the same realm as Barcelona’s Gaudi, whose work I’d made pilgrimages to visit. Nevertheless, I had not.

While I was in Vienna this past February for the 2019 MCAA-General Assembly, I had the chance to visit three Hunderwasser creations.

It was just a brief encounter, but I enjoyed the joy and playfulness I found. And I finally understood Esther’s fascination. I hope you’ll enjoy seeing some of the images I collected during my brief visit.

Sites where you can see Hundertwasser’s work

Apartment block in Vienna

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Hunderwasser Village 

Kunsthaus Wein

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Vivacious Vienna: Exploring the City

During my February trip to Vienna for the MCAA General Assembly, I had the chance to look around the city center as well as some sectors not far from the center.

Vienna is an architect’s dreamland, full of beautiful spaces and artifacts old and new. In fact, the architect/urbanist/painter/historian Camillo Sitte documented many of the world’s most successful plazas in his quest to define what makes a public space beautiful. Many of his favorites plazas are located in Vienna. I often referenced his book “The Art of Building Cities”, published in 1945, when I was an architecture student and later an architecture professor.

Although I actually only had six hours to explore Vienna after the Assembly concluded, I took in plenty of sites. Below, I’ve posted my slide shows of spectacular architecture.

The slide shows start in Alservorstadt, with the Votive Church (Votivkirche), Hotel Regina, and University of Vienna. The slides proceed downtown and show visits to two more churches (Stephansdom and Der Graben), concluding with the Globe Museum. In other posts, I share photos from Hundertwasser and Otto Wagner ‘s Austria Post Headquarters or “Osterr Postparkasse” (blog forthcoming).

Votive Church (Votivkirche) 

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Hotel Regina

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The University of Vienna

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Vienna City Center

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Stephansdom

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Der Graben

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Globe Museum

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Directors of TU Dublin’s MSc in Transport + Mobility Visit UCL to Compare Notes

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When my colleagues at Technological University Dublin announced to me they were launching a new Master’s degree in Transport and Mobility (student handbook available here), I immediately invited them over to London to meet my supervisor, Professor Nick Tyler, who is a leading expert in transportation design, particularly where accessibility and mobility are concerned. He advises cities worldwide about their transportation systems, and in the Queen’s 2011 New Year’s Honours ceremony, Nick was appointed Commander of the Most Excellent Order of the British Empire (CBE) for Services to Technology. That followed an earlier appointment to OBE. As an American, I wasn’t quite sure what all this meant, but Wikipedia provided me a handy primer:

The five classes of appointment to the Order are, in descending order of precedence:

  • Knight Grand Cross or Dame Grand Cross of the Most Excellent Order of the British Empire (GBE)
  • Knight Commander or Dame Commander of the Most Excellent Order of the British Empire (KBE or DBE)
  • Commander of the Most Excellent Order of the British Empire (CBE)
  • Officer of the Most Excellent Order of the British Empire (OBE)
  • Member of the Most Excellent Order of the British Empire (MBE) –Quoted from Wikipedia,

Overall, I wanted my Dublin colleagues to learn about how Nick teaches his Master’s level module on their MSc topic, to see the research center he has built that is named PAMELA, and to encounter Nick’s epic personality and his can-do, ger-her-done spirit.

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Shannon Chance hosting TU Dublin’s Sinead Flavin, Roisin Murray, Lorraine D Arcy, and David O Connor

 

Four colleagues from TU Dublin took me up on the offer and traveled over to University College London this past Monday to meet with Nick and other world-leading researchers and experts in transportation, accessibility, and spatial planning.

The aim of the visit was for TU Dublin staff to get advice on starting their new degree program and to identify potential projects and research where they could collaborate in the future. The delegation from TU Dublin included:

David and Lorraine are co-chairs of the new MSc in Transport and Mobility.

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Meeting at the Bartlett with leaders of the Space Syntax group

All members of the visiting group are all involved with a new multidisciplinary part-time MSc in Transport and Mobility at TU Dublin which has a focus on sustainable transport. The first students started this January. All members of the group are Early Stage Researchers, most less than 6 years past earning their doctorates, despite having years of consultancy and teaching experience behind them.

The TU crew touched down at London Heathrow a little late due to extreme winds, but it was, nevertheless, an action-packed day!

10:30

Meeting at the Bartlett School of Architecture with Professor Laura Vaughan who is Director of the Space Syntax Laboratory, and her research associates Professor Sophia PsarraDr. Ashley DhananiDr. Kayvan Karimi, and Ph.D.candidate Kimon Krenz.

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Meeting with experts from Civil, Environmental, and Geomatic Engineering at UCL

12:00

 

Meeting with transportation experts from UCL’s Department of Civil, Environmental and Geotechnical Engineering (CEGE) at the Chadwick Building to discuss Transport and Mobility. Attending from UCL were: Professor Emeritus Roger Mackett, Dr. Tom Cohen, Dr. Adriana Ortegon, and Visiting Professor Shannon Chance. Professor Mackett is an expert in how transportation affects public health–a topic near an dear to my heart and one I’ve published about.

13:20

Head up to Tuffnell Park to visit the PAMELA Lab.

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Meeting with Nick Tyler at the PAMELA lab

14:00

 

Start of Nick’s MSc class in Transportation Design “T19 Accessible Design”. Meet with Professor Tyler to learn about his teaching and research, which has been called “The London Lab With A Fake Tube Train” by Londonist magazine.

There were a number of additional experts my TU Dublin colleagues would like to have met with so, hopefully, they will return again soon.

 

Celebrating International Women’s Day Building Arcade Games in Dublin

In Dublin last week, to conduct interviews with architecture and civil engineering students on their conceptualizations of design creation, I took an afternoon away to help teach girls from St. Bridig’s in the Coombe to build small hand-held video games. This was part of International Women’s Day 2019. It was one of two workshops our TU Dublin RoboSlam team conducted.

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Frank Duignan (far left), his two sons Sam and Oran, Shane Ormond (far right) and I all helped coach the students.

The workshop I helped conduct was the beautiful and newly-renovated Kevin Street public library (see photo gallery below). We had about 20 students and a handful of teachers there to build their first electronic devices. The game’s design was created by TU Dublin’s own Frank Duignan.

The students from St. Bridig’s were great–so focused and so very polite. They finished their breadboard gadgets in no time and had a chance to pay the games Frank had programmed in.

Thanks to TU Dublin’s Civic Engagement Office and St. Bridig’s of the Coombe for helping our RoboSlam crew get this experience to the students. The teachers posted a blog on their school site.

 

Learning London: Enchanting Holland Park and Victorian House Museum

A couple of weekends ago, we visited Holland Park on both Saturday and Sunday. There was too much to see in the area for just one go. We had to spread it out. In fact, we’d also visited a weekend prior, bringing our 2019 total to three days.

In this blog, I’ll show you around the park and give you a peek inside one of the nearby Victorian house museums, 18 Stafford Terrace.

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On all three of our recent our visits to Holland Park, we were en route to the Design Museum. 

Walking Cards

In addition to using the handy walking cards pictures below, I also referenced my guidebooks and the internet to sketch out our trips.

Kyoto Japanese Garden

These beautifully designed and cultivated gardens boast a waterfall and a pride of peacocks.

Holland House

This house was greatly destroyed during the Second World War, but part of it lives on to delight the park’s visitors.

Belvedere Restaurant

There’s a lovely, posh restaurant in the park. We had a splurge.

18 Stafford Terrace

This is one of two Victorian house museums near Holland Park and the Design Museum. This one, on Stafford Terrace which runs parallel to Kensington Hight Street, was once home to an illustrator for Punch magazine, Edward L. Sambourne. It’s a lovely house filled with his artwork. It’s a delight to see how the stately homes on this terrace are laid out and lived in. This one is furnished in the “Aesthetic Movement.”

Learning London: Birthday Celebrations with Weekend Excursion to Oxford

Last week at UCL’s Engineering Front Office we celebrated birthdays, for my colleague Inês, and for me as well. A group of us had lunch out together on Wednesday and we also enjoyed lunch in the office together on several other days of the week.

It’s really not so bad getting old when you’re surrounded by loving friends! Even if they keep rubbing in my nearly-senior status….

At the end of the day, Friday, Aongus and I darted out of the city for a weekend away in historic and picturesque Oxford. This blog post recounts these birthday adventures using pictures.

Birthday Lunch at Sagar

On Wednesday, a group of us enjoyed a south-Indian lunch together at Sagar, which our lovely colleague, Sital Thanki, has introduced us to. In addition to a few photos of the birthday lunch, I show below some of the many kind cards and gifts I received from colleagues, friends, and family. The packages, calls from parents, and online messages I received from friends via Facebook and LinkedIn were also heartwarming.

Weekend in Oxford

As a birthday present, Aongus booked a weekend away in Oxford. We left London after work on Friday by bus (cheaper than the train, but with its own unique pitfalls). Overall, we enjoyed two nights in one of the world’s loveliest university cities before re-boarding a bus back to London.

Exploring the City

We ventured out briefly for dinner on Friday but focused on resting up for Saturday.

On Saturday morning, we wandered through the city fairly aimlessly. We wanted to see the high street areas, visit some of the shops, and get a feel for the University of Oxford.

Natural History Museum

On Saturday afternoon, we visited Oxford’s museum for Natural History, which I’d read about in one of Bill Bryson’s books. In addition to the exhibits on dinosaurs, mammals, birds, and insects, we also took in the special exhibit on bacteria. I’d need an extensive blog to tell you what I learned about bacteria, and I held off posting all the photos I took. But you’d be surprised to learn how bacteria created oxygen, photosynthesis, and cell-splitting that enabled human life to form.

Really amazing stuff!

Visiting this museum, you see the huge value that researchers add to our knowledge of everything in the physical world. Curious minds want to know! And many of these curious-minded people become life-long researchers–exploring the world to find answers to questions we didn’t even know we had, as well as questions we knew!

History of Science Museum

We narrowly missed the departure of the morning “Footprints” tour on Sunday, but we booked in for a later tour and headed into the History of Science Museum, originally a stockpile of curiosities, and now spread across three floors. My favorite parts covered sundials, photography, and penicillin–crucial research on penicillin was done at Oxford. Also fun were the measuring devices, calculating machines, and astronomical gadgets. Again, thank goodness for curious minds, figuring all this stuff out over time!

Blackwells Bookstore

To escape the cold–and take a little rest between the science museum and the planned walking tour–we stepped inside Blackwell’s Bookstore. A mindboggling collection indeed! It’s multiple floors and the basement sprawls far under Trinity College. Incidentally, at Oxford, the colleges are residential–they are where the students live, eat and sleep. Every student belongs to a college, and every student studies in a department.

Thankfully, Blackwell’s also features a coffee shop, which is optimal for a welcome and well-deserved rest.

Footprints Tour of Oxford

The Footprints company offers free walking tours as well as paid ones. To ensure we were part of a small group and could enter some Oxford sites where there are entry fees, I purchased tickets for the two-hour walking tour at £15 each. Although the plan seemed ideal, the weather turned ugly. Just before the tour started it got very cold, and shortly after the start, hail pounded down. The tour guide had to skip the first two sites and run straight into a library. Aongus was frozen solid by the tour’s end.

Divinity School

The large hall with its ornately carved stone ceiling at the Divinity School is featured in all sorts of films–from Harry Potter to the recent Mary Queen of Scots and The Favourite. Our tour guide brought us inside for a stop off–and I was thrilled to see this space.

New College: squares, dining hall, chapel and cloister

Of the 38 colleges at Oxford, we peeked inside only a few–they have entrance fees, and what you are permitted to see varies from one to the next. I wasn’t sure how to manage all that without insider knowledge, so we hired a guide! There were only ten of us in the tour group.

Our tour guide brought us to her favorite, the New College. You’ll likely recognize the dining hall, which is featured in movies. Of note, the cloister and the tree in it appeared in Harry Potter, but the dining hall used in that series of films was custom built, a near replica of a hall on campus that has only three actual long tables for the students. As Hogwarts had four schools, they made the studio version a bit wider to accommodate the extra row. Most college dining halls at Oxford also have a high table where the privileged sit and eat superior food.

The chapel in the New College is exquisite, and we heard a bit of organ practice while seated in there. Many colleges destroyed their historic old chapels and replaced them with more modern ones. What a waste. This Gothic one is stellar, though the ornate end wall was a somewhat recent addition.

Bodleian Library

Perhaps the most iconic building at Oxford is the round Bodleian Library, a reading room for students. Turns out, a cylinder isn’t quite conducive to storing books. It’s better for studying, we hope!

Overall, Oxford has a massive collection of books. This library is second only in size to the British Library (a copy of everything published in the UK goes there, similar to the Library of Congress in the USA, which is the world’s largest library collection). Like these other two libraries, you can view books only on-site here–it’s not a lending library.

Famous Folks

Oxford provided inspiration for C. S. Lewis’ Narnia and Tolkien’s Hobbits. Although I must admit I know little of Harry Potter, I did read some Hobbit stories and all of The Chronicles of Narnia.

Near the end of our tour, we saw the door that inspired Lewis’ lion, witch, and wardrobe. We also saw the Oxford lamp post he made famous.

We also learned about some very destructive and badly behaved boys who attended Oxford (David Cameron, Boris Johnson, and their political cronies). We learned about others who misbehaved in the town less aggressively (Bill Clinton) and we learned of people burned for political crimes on Broad Street, where our tour had started.

Look for the Footprints office there on Broad Street, near the shop Boswells of Oxford. Pick up some new luggage and an Ameribag while you’re there! It will take your mind off the stories of deviant behavior.

Learning London: At the lovely Bethnal Green library

img_5776Aongus and I stopped by the public library in Bethnal Green over the weekend since I wanted to show him its glorious architecture. It’s in the park we traverse en route to the Central Line Tube Station. The woodwork and the natural lighting in the reading rooms are superb.

And since Aongus selected a new thriller from the shelf, it freed the copy of “Brooklyn” he was carrying along in his bag. I dug it out of his bag on the Tube and read much of it in the course of over our weekend adventures. Granted, I normally read non-fiction since it’s much less addictive. Once I get started with a novel, I can’t put it down.

img_6125As such, I’m nearly finished reading the novel now. It is, as you probably recall from the contemporary motion picture by the same name, about a young Irish woman who boldly moves, alone, across the Atlantic to start a new life. I empathize with her experiences and I recognize many of the places she describes–both in Brooklyn and around Enniscorthy town and county Wexford, her original home. I’ve enjoyed both the book and the feature film but have learned more about Ireland form the book.

Aongus borrowed the paperback of “Brooklyn” from the Idea Store in Whitechapel–a modern edifice but also lovely. It was designed by architect Sir David Adjaye, who we learned much more about later in the weekend while visiting the Desing Museum. More on his exhibition in a future blog!

In any case, Aongus and I are very lucky to live near great libraries here in London!

Learning London: How office trivia aboard a double-deck tour landed me “The Language of Cities”

I’ve been spell bound all day by Dayan Sudjic’s 2016 book, “The Language of Cities.” I purchased the book after work yesterday to keep my knowledge of city-building fresh and up-to-date. I made that find at Waterstones, across the street from my office in Bloomsbury, and sealed the deal with a £10 gift card I won at Christmas.

In the past 24 hours, I’ve devoured every last page.

img_3672The Faculty if Engineering held a team-building event for Christmas, aboard a private double-decker bus that toured around the city of London. I got to know other members of our faculty as I sat with three people I didn’t previously know. Our table of four formed a team for the trivia contest, developed by our Dean’s personal assistant, the marvelous Maria Speight. Maria invented all the questions, having to do mostly with the sights we were passing. Excelling in this game required in-depth knowledge of the history of this fine city, which dates back to Roman times.

My team was fiercely competitive, and the two Brits in our team knew quite a lot about their city. I worried I couldn’t contribute; but I actually was able to help out.

I earned us a whopping nine points by knowing the name of every reindeer! In the end, there was a three-way tie. It took several rounds to break, but in the final round, I knew the winning answer. I had learned the population of London via my multiple visits to the city’s Building Centre. At the time the video at the Centre was made, there were about 8.8 million inhabitants. I extrapolated to today, guessing a current 8.9 mil, whereas Maria had an official count of 8.79…. Nevertheless, our answer was the closest and we won the top prize: Waterstones gift cards for our whole team!

What a great way to spend a day before Christmas, on a sunset tour of a glorious city, surrounded by passionate people who love their work in academia. I am truly blessed!

And now, I’ve soaked in every detail of Dayan Sudjic’s “The Language of Cities.”

The book calls me back to my days teaching “urban history and theory” to third-year architecture students at Hampton University, a module we provided students prior to their summer study abroad.

img_3706Sudjic’s book is full of insight, making fascinating new connections, so the synapses in my brain have been firing furiously today! Sudjic makes plenty of reference to the history and operation of London as well as cities around the world, and I am connecting the principles to places I’ve been.

Sincere thanks to the Dean and Faculty of Engineering at UCL and Ms. Maria Speight for helping get this book into my hands so I can learn more about the city we toured by double-deck bus!

The photo gallery below shows the bus-tour day as well as an informal night out for Christmas with engineering colleagues.

Learning London: Enjoying the (bus/fellowship/research) Journey

img_5651When you’re supervising a Ph.D. student, s/he usually comes to you for meetings. In my case, however, I travel over to LSBU twice a month to meet with my supervisee, Thomas, and his primary supervisor, Professor Shushma Patel. I’m doing this for several reasons:

  • It helps ensure Thomas gets effective advice that coincides. That helps since Thomas’ work and his conceptual thinking are very complex and we can work together to make sure all the parts fit together coherently.
  •  As part of my Marie Curie Fellowship, I’m also in training myself. As part of Work Package 4, Training, I’m supervising Thomas. This is an excellent way to build skills supervising students. Once Tomas successfully completes his Ph.D., I’ll be eligible to serve as a primary Ph.D. supervisor at TU Dublin and other institutions. This will surely make my applications for future funding more enticing to grantors, in cases where I’m proposing to “train” others in research.
  • In this case, I get to learn from Professor Patel, Thomas’ primary supervisor, who has impressive experience guiding doc students. I’m the second supervisor.
  • Meeting with Thomas and Shushma is loads of fun!

In advising Thomas, I get to draw from many aspects of my past experience–design creativity, environmental sustainability, engineering teamwork, and higher education (its organization and inner workings).

We usually spend about two hours in each meeting, as there are multiple facets to our work:

  • Most importantly, Thomas is writing a thesis (which in the United States we call a “dissertation”). It will include case studies of innovative engineering production. This is the central focus of our work.
  • Thomas is implementing his background research in designing and delivering The Great Challenge competition for the Design Museum, as I blogged about last week.
  • We’ve had an abstract accepted for a conference on product design education and we are developing it into a full paper, to submit in early March.

These meetings are delightful! We connect lots of synapses and we most definitely grow our brains while discussing complex inter-related issues.

img_5647-1The appetizer for the main-course meeting at LSBU each week is the trip there. I take a different route than I take to work daily and, on these days, I enjoy getting a bit of exercise. The fastest route to their campus is by way of the DLR, which is a 15-minute walk away from our flat

The cake-and-icing of the day? The double-decker-bus trip back to UCL! I love taking the London Bus from LSBU near Elephant and Castle, past Waterloo and the London Eye (the city’s giant Ferris wheel), across the Thames, over Strand Street, past Holburn Station and then straight north, through Bloomsbury, past Russel Square, to Tavistock Square. Then, it’s a short walk to the Engineering Front Building.

img_5672-1All parts of the journey are full of interesting sights!

Today on the big red bus, I got my very favorite seat–right above the bus driver, perched high above the street. The lovely sunlight today helped me overlook the bitter cold, and enticed me to snap even more photos than usual. You can see shots of the trip overall, with a frame-by-frame of some of my favorite areas.

I disembarked at Tavistock Square where a ceremony to commemorate Gandhi, held on the anniversary of his death, was concluding. The Square was magical and I felt Gandhi’s presence and the sense of peace he cherished–until I slipped on some black ice and nearly took a fall. Thankfully, I–or perhaps the spirit of Gandhi–caught me on the way down. I escaped injury.

img_5680Lessons of the day:

  • Completing a Ph.D. is a journey, best done with a collegial group of curious, knowledgeable, creative, and good-natured people.
  • A Fellowship also provides a gateway from the ordinary day-to-day routine and facilitates journey into the unknown.
  • There’s no better way to traverse the city on such a day than London Bus.
  • Seize the day and enjoy the journey. Make the very best of it you can.

AND:

BE THE CHANGE YOU HOPE TO SEE IN THE WORLD! –Mahatma Gandhi

 

The Many Senses that Matter in Transportation Design

list of senses by nick tyler

Attending the 2019 opening session of “Design of Accessible Transport Systems” reminded me of the need for designers of all sorts to consider a wider array of senses than the five that normally come to mind. This postgraduate course/module is taught by my primary research supervisor, Professor Nick Tyler.

According to Nick, human senses can be psychological, as we normally picture, but they can also be environmental and interpretational.

Psychological

Psychological senses include the main five that we all recognize: sight, hearing, touch, taste, and smell. But the list doesn’t end there. Far from it!

Other psychological aspects involve balance, proprioception (defined on Wikipedia as “the sense of the relative position of one’s own parts of the body and strength of effort being employed in movement), pain, vestibular awareness (having to do with vertigo), embodiment (essentially, seeing a person or thing as a clearly defined whole with clear boundaries), and temperature.

Environmental

Nick identified the following environment-related senses: rhythm, harmony, color, space, direction, pitch, time, and comfort. As an architect, I’m quite familiar with considering all these in the process of design.

Interpretational

Interpretational senses are even more subtle. They include the senses of self, ownership, justice, history, culture, politics, care, emotion, fear, wellbeing, safety, emotion, pride, responsibility, and symbolism. And, all clearly important to understand when designing anything for people.

During the class, meeting, Nick’s students practiced using tools to simulate various impairments, or as Nick calls them, different capacities.

Introducing PEARL

I had attended the class meeting to get another view of Nick’s research center at Tufnell Park, which is named PAMELA. This center will soon have a sister, named PEARL, as described by Nick in an email he distributed to his faculty last November:

November 19, 2018

Dear All,

Last Friday UCL Council approved the investment of £37.8M [37.8 million GBP]  in our PEARL facility (Person-Environment-Activity Research Laboratory), which will be a successor to PAMELA. This investment supplements a £9M [9 million GBP] contribution from BEIS, so the department will have the benefit of a new £47m [47 million GBP] research facility to add to its facilities in Gower Street and Here East. PEARL is the UCL component of the UKCRIC multi-university laboratory complex for research on Infrastructure and Cities.

PEARL will be a 9,500 m2 [square meter] facility, of which 4,000 m2 will be a laboratory space for building 1:1 scale environments and testing them with people — this means that we could have a 100m-long street, or a small town square, or a railway station with 4-carriage trains, station concourses etc. instrumented so that we can study in detail how people interact with such environments. The facility is available for use for transdisciplinary research and teaching where these require the use of big, instrumented, highly configurable space, and it will have a large and significant engagement with the local community.

PEARL will be located in Dagenham.

Huge thanks are due to Nigel Titchener-Hooker, who led the negotiations through UCL to secure this investment.

It is a massive vote of confidence in the department!

Yours,

Nick

Nick Tyler CBE FREng FICE FCIHT FRSA
Chadwick Professor of Civil Engineering
Director, UCL Centre for Transport Studies
UCL, Gower Street, London WC1E 6BT, UK
+44 20 7679 1562
@nicktyler4 @ucl-squared

Nick’s research is really making a difference–globally as well as right here in London– and I’m honored to have a first-hand view on some aspects of his work.

The two photos at the end of the gallery below explain more about PAMELA, and how to get involved as a participant in Nick’s research studies for people who live in or near London.