#rp17 Speaker Usman Haque: Smart, beautiful cities for everyone

We would like to introduce Usman Haque as our next speaker – an urban designer from London who doesn’t just build with bricks, but also with interactive surfaces. His installations and works, based around both analogue and digital interfaces, have made the architect famous. Usman creatively applies technologies. He is, however, by no means an uncritical advocate of the smart city, but rather prefers to reflect processes and tools.

His design is political. His strength lies in channeling observations from daily life and the surrounding architectures onto larger societal contexts within the framework of his lectures and designs. His accolades include being Invited Researcher at the Interaction Design Institute Ivrea in Italy and Artist in Residence at the International Academy of Media Arts and Sciences in Japan.

Usman’s Umbrellium office designs and builds interactive systems and investigates how people interact with each other. The results of these observations are then used to help consult communities, organizations and institutions on how to better integrate citizens into design processes for the cities of the future, so as to foster a sense of ownership in the technological enfranchisement and spaces. 

Besides the Umbrellium tech consultancy, Haque is also the co-founder of a search engine for the Internet of Things (IoT) called Thingful and the Pachube platform for sensor, energy and environmental data from smart objects. He is a lecturer at MArch Urban Design, an interactive architecture research project at the London Bartlett School of Architecture, where he focuses on participatory systems for networked urban environments.

Design is not a marketing tool for Usman Haque, but rather an extension of the free arts that is closely connected to society. This is especially true for the cities of the future: decision-making and design processes are central for the integration of technologies. The power of definition regarding concepts such as efficiency, optimization, etc., which often underpin such processes, will determine how and why certain undertakings will be implemented in the future – and indeed already are in cities today – also determining around which groups of the population power will be concentrated and which groups will be stifled or marginalized.  

Haque will be getting political with us as well: in his lecture “Mutually Assured Construction” on the main stage, he will be discussing processes in the urban context and how the Internet of Things affects our relationships with one another and the environment. He will also be discussing which tools and strategies are available for a collaborative organization of cities, both online and off. These questions will be discussed in connection with his IoT work and architecture projects.

His TED-Talk “Making decisions about technologies that make decisions about us” from last year offers us a little taste of Usman Haque’s upcoming talk at #rp17.


photo credit: Sylvia Fredriksson (CC BY 2.0)