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Andrew Atwood Receives Seed Grant for New Apps for New Audiences

This year the Berkeley Center for New Media offered four junior faculty research grants to seed ambitious academic scholarship in new media at Cal. Andrew Atwood (Architecture) was selected for “New Apps for New Audiences.” Read more about the project below!

I propose to further my previous work and research on interactive app designs as a way to engage and attract new audiences to architecture. I have previously designed a series of mobile and web apps that work alongside more traditional gallery installations and design proposals to enable public participation in settings which traditionally alienate or exclude certain groups through the perceived formality of art and architecture institutions. Examples of these apps can be seen and experienced here. Each of these apps was released alongside a more typical gallery installation, making the specific parallel content of the exhibition more accessible through a fun and intuitive game. These apps are not meant to be didactic or instructional, rather they are participatory and open. Using the mobile-app’s ability to circulate more freely and lightly in the world outside of the gallery they help to open the door to a wider audience than typically would engage with these exhibits.

Within the spirit of this accessibility and freedom, this research grant would support the development of an app that builds on my ongoing research into Accessory Dwelling Unit (ADU) design. This grant will aid the production of an interactive mobile tool that enables people to consider the possibilities of adding housing to their existing home, like a traditional ADU, but additionally will allow people to speculate on small scale housing solutions in other open spaces that have not yet been considered by planning institutions or developers. In this way, the app enables everyone, practitioners and the public alike, to rethink our preconceived notions about zoning and challenge us to think small on a big scale.

The app will coincide with an exhibition of this research and also allow people to experiment with alternative housing solutions that provoke future changes in zoning and help educate the public about alternate land uses. To do this, the app will use open source GIS data as a layer in addition to mobile-device real-time camera images, producing an augmented reality application that enables everyone to see what adding small buildings to vacant spaces would feel like. These augmentations could be shared across social media and collected to produce a catalog of crowd sourced small scale urban interventions and open a dialogue about such spaces and the yet unimagined possibilities of their use.

As described, this project represents an evolution and combination of three research areas: small scale housing solutions, broadening the audience for contemporary architecture and art, and software driven tools that together produce a fun and interactive app enabling us to collectively reconsider the use of space in our communities.

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