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“Obsessed as we have been in Leeds with mimicking the success of other ‘great’ northern cities, we seem to have lost our way in ensuring that the city develops in keeping with its unique geography, culture ans architecture, and it is this which perhaps defines our current dilemma.

..

Can we transcend the ‘meaningful cities shopping list approach’ and concentrate  instead on ensuring that Leeds develops in its own unique way?”

Jonathan Morgan, “City Living: is Leeds really missing out?”

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Meeting with professor M.A. Hann

Euclide using compasses in "Scuola di Atene" by Raffaello

Euclide using compasses in “Scuola di Atene” by Raffaello

Some weeks ago, following Steve’s suggestion we met professor M. A. Hann, teacher at University of Leeds and director of ULITA (University of Leeds International Textile Archive). He was pleased to hear from us, also because he has deep interest in Leeds’ History and since our first meeting he gave us some materials and he invited us to his lectures.

He told us that his researches have brought him around the world (except Italy, where he’s like to come) especially t the far East (China, Korea, Japan…). He studies patterns, structure and their relationship with culture. He’s also deeply interested in mathematics and how numbers series is related to pattern and module in architecture and design. But,it’s better to go in order. He has two different courses here at the University, linked one to each other.

The first is Patterns and Culture. In those lecture Prof Hann go through paleolithic art, caves’ paintings, Mesopotamian evidences to find similar structures, pattern, use of symmetry trying to understand their meaning in those cultures and how they spread in the world and why. In relationship with trades, religion, route of communication and people migration. The aim is to give a framework to examine arts and to understand the way of cultural diffusion and the discover the innate capability of innovation of different communities.

The second one, named “Design theory 2” is for older students, and it’s about universal principles governing structures, forms and performances in design and architecture. He kept saying that it could sound a lot about mathematics and boring things but, actually, symmetry and basics geometry is the starting point of every pattern. So he went through many existing pattern in building, and old paintings trying to answer the same questions:

How they can be rationalized?
How the space is divided?

We will discuss both two and three-dimensional stuff, try to individuate equilateral triangles, squares, hexagons an the rules that organize them: symmetry, rotation, repetition.. And that why he started his lesson showing us the Scuola di Atene, by Raffaello, whit Euclide drowning with a compasses. The key is to find a rule in the complexity, the regular basis on which a particular element is repeated.. Thus you’ll discover that from minimum inventory you’ll get maximum diversity.

I’ve linked prof. Hann’s books to the course names for any further information.

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“In the early Seventies Leeds had thirteen mills. In 1980, only six firms are listed in the Leeds directories as manufactures of cloth.

The old mill buildings lie empty. Some have disappeared and have been replaced by multistory flats, others house a multiplicity of small businesses. Some lie in wait for the vandals and their matches.

Who would have thought a century ago that the hanging fleece, so proudly displayed one the City’s coat-of-arm, was ironically prophesying the death of the city’s earliest and greatest industry?”

Barbara Nelson, The woolen industry of Leeds. D&J Thornton, Leeds, 1980.

Leeds Coat of Arms

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“Throughout its history, the secret of Leeds’ success has been its outstanding ability to introduce new industry and adapt older ones when patterns of demand have changed and new opportunities have arisen.”

Burt and Grady, 1994, The illustrated history of Leeds, Breedon Books.

 

“It’s a great place to see tacky, rapacious capital butted up against proper Victorian architecture.”

Vanalyne Green, Professor of Fine Art, University of Leeds.

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Spectro-photo-radio-meter… Lab tour!

Today we had an other quick talk with our tutor Steve, that showed us how the color measurement tools work. Vien had already revealed something, but we hadn’t seen anything in practice, until this afternoon. So, there are 3 rooms, but they have a lot of instruments inside that should be place in more and more space. The room are: measurement laboratory, imaging laboratory and psychophysic (?!) lab, where they do focus groups and surveys.
The measurement tools are divided in two categories:

  1. Spectrophotometer. Instrument that measure colours for contact, connecting with a computer it gives back the color description in term of wave lengths. For this instrument you need flat sample and uniform color.
    Pro: independent from external light, very scientific method.
    Con: can’t measure pattern and screen colors (it records reflected light). Sometimes different wavelengths correspond to the same color, for the weakness of our visione, it doesn’t match the colors.
  2. Spectroradiometer. Instrument used at distance, for measuring avery kind of surfaces and things but:
    Pro: it can measure and record monitor colors (es: color monkey) and also food (you mustn’t touch it), or not flat shape.
    Con: it depends on the external light.

Moreover they have grey boxes, in which you can arrange different light settings, and a particular tool that they’ve invented for taking pictures in a particular light. It’s a big metal box with a drawer where you put the subject of the picture. Then you close the drawer and put the camera on the top of the box, in a stuff designed to handle the camera and to take a picture from the top view. It’s useful for samples with strange shape or pattern surfaces.

Steve also explained to us some practical applications of these tools. Basically (almost) every industrial good is coloured so that (almost) every company need instrument to measure colors. They ran projects with textile companies, pharmaceutical or, for example, with Smarties and Weetabix, that uses a spectroradiometer for checking products quality. But also for the police, he were asked to try to understand the color of a car from a security cam video.

We may think that this subject of studies is very scientific and specific and for more people knowing nothing about it it’s enough, because the ICC (an other interest of color lab) make all the work. But actually colors are everywhere in our life and more and more people are concerned about it.

We’ve also discover this amazing tool called the Swatchmade Cube that will come from Australia..and now we want it!
ps: If it’s not enough have a look at Steve’s blog!
...and maybe buy a new coffee machine, he ensured that it works perfectly!

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Conversation with Steve. #2

Conversation with Steve. #2

“Steve and the sleeping giant”

This morning we discovered some more information about the University of Leeds and its history, through a nice chat with Steve, our tutor. He told us that the Textile and Colours department is the most ancient part of the University and that the Clothworkers’ building is its core, founded in 1874, and after that all the others faculties developed around it, since 1904. And textile and colours seems to be exactly what Leeds has always been famous for. Here colors have been considered from a scientific point of view, explored with quantitative methods and strictly related to technology. But.
But in the early 90s, or probably before, there were a crisis in the textile sector due to international competitor with cheaper labour costs.
Moreover, in the 2000, in Leeds there were also a college for Fashion and Arts but its head seems to had have some problem with finance and taxes so the government asked to the Leeds University to absorb the college for not loosing it.

So that, since 2000, the Uiversity of Leeds held its textile and color heritage with this new art and fashion department. They couldn’t have been separated for long, so in 2005 the School of Design were founded.
But a problem still remain: with so different origins in which direction should the school go?

Maybe they should find a common direction and here is the reason for the brand identity project. But for now the school remain a sleeping giant, with high potentialities, looking for his own direction, hesitant between practice and theory. The difference sometimes is not so easy to define.

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Leeds. Live it. Love it. Brand it

Leeds. Live it. Love it. Brand it

This morning we had a little chat with Mike Sheedy, teacher at MA Advertising and Design and deputy head of School of design. He, with others, is now working on the brand identity of the school of design of Leeds. The aim is to transmit the richness of this school that have so many souls inside: music, graphic, performance, visual, art, textile… People here should be proud of this variety and diversity, that it’s a kind of unique situation among others english uni.

He also gave us some useful tips about Leeds:

  •  It’s one of the biggest city in England, but it concentrates in a small territory.
  • 70s – 80s. There weren’t so good time here, the industrial Leeds was declining..
  • early 90s the city Council decide to improve the ex-industrial area and relaunched Leeds as a new business city, so they encouraged people to build in the waterfront area, to start creative companies and new businesses. They highlighted the stategic location of the city, placed in the middle of England and that it’s area is not so big, it’s a kind of “condensed city”.
    And it worked!
    It really worked, also in the 2007 recession (think about the Trinity Leeds!)
  • 2005. Leeds. Live it. Love it. Marketing Campaign on air! (the official website doesn’t work now)

…and now? Is it still working? Which is the evaluation of the campaign?

And today which are the needs of the city?