Media Babies on CHANEL no.5 @ Items #6 1993

Telecommunications lack the tangible everyday reality of the residential neighborhood.

Conversely, the culture of the city is entitled to digital technologies.

This is why Frans Vogelaar and Elizabeth Sikiaridi developed the project “Media Babies on Chanel no.5.”

It is a more elaborate concept for a digital public space for London.

It is unlikely that the plan will ever be realized in its full scope.

But the concept offers plenty of starting points for making meaningful discoveries.

Media Babies on CHANNEL no.5 @ Items #6, Magazine for Design, Visual Communication and Architecture, 1 September 1993

Media Babies

Media Babies have nothing to do with the Internet, but with a totally different view of data networks.

This is a project by Frans Vogelaar and Elizabeth Sikiaridi with their firm Hybrid Space Lab. They strive for a much greater connection between a city’s public space and the promises of modern telecommunications. That is why they want to enrich the city of London, which lends itself as a prime example because of its floor plan and demographic structure, with a digital infrastructure that is accessible to everyone and that is recognizable in its entirety, from plug to programming station.

Inevitably, their plan covers all dimensions of design, urban planning and architecture, as well as interiors, equipment design and software development.


Media Babies can be understood metaphorically as germs of information that must be given the chance to mature. But within the plan, they are also simply public buildings, or at least buildings from which Media Babies are sent out into the wider world. The plan assumes that the right to vote gives way to the right to broadcast. All broadcasting takes place on a network with a clear hierarchy.
Through the Thames, the main line is an ISDN cable. This surfaces in eight places in as many structures, generally at a bridge. These are the “Bridge Clubs,” large manned information processing stations.
Each “Bridge Club” forms the heart of a North-South line to which eight nodes are connected on each side of the River Thames. And these are the Media Babies, a total of 128 (8 x 16). They are like community centers, where you can put together a broadcast, but also go to the hairdresser or laundromat. Anyone can follow the broadcast anywhere, including at home, just by the television.
Anyone who feels compelled to make something known to the world goes to a nearby Media Baby. There you will find the necessary programming facilities and the means to follow how the message goes. For there may be immediate supportive reactions to it.
Anyone can “strengthen” broadcasts in a wide range of locations by allocating additional airtime to them with a smart card (with an “Air Time” balance).
And as the power of a message increases in this way, the likelihood of it reaching a larger group increases: more “Media Babies,” a “Bridge Club,” the city and perhaps the entire Kingdom or through Channel Europe and the entire world.


The nice thing about this new conception of telecommunications networks is that – paradoxical as it may sound – it has limitations. To name just a few: you have to go specifically to a building, transmission time is limited, and the direction of transmission is fixed in principle.
The great advantage of what I call the lack of endlessness is that it is easier for citizens to identify with it. The “Media Baby” belongs to your neighborhood.
“Network Architecture” is what Hybrid Space Lab calls its idea. And the challenge is extremely interesting because it forces a different way of looking at the use, and therefore the design, of communication tools and buildings.

Vogelaar and Sikiaridi have equipped the concept of their Media Babies with numerous new functions. It is going too far to list everything, but just design a studio where amateurs can host broadcasts. For the fledgling novice, the architects are thinking of “Debutants Booth” that will show him his way around the network. By actually developing such a facility, you can gain a wealth of information about ways to design equipment and the space it sits in such a way that the greatest layman can get along with it.
In every “Bridge Club” there is a “Selector Platform.” There ritual selection takes place (partly automatic and partly based on serious or playful decision procedures) of transmissions that are deemed suitable for the entire city.
In addition, a “Bridge Club” can be the link between the network and neighborhood events. By developing the idea of a “Bridge Club” further, and delving into the new function of such a building, you can learn all kinds of things about the interaction between architecture and social processes.

The resulting experience might be used to develop a station, or a conference room. Or perhaps a party room, as Vogelaar envisions for the “Bridge Club” at Hungerford Bridge near Waterloo Station-where the TGV will arrive in the future-a “Debutants Ball” for prospective travelers who need to get to know the city and its people.
If the function of the project is to gain new knowledge and experience with a fresh perspective on telecommunications, then it is not a bad thing that the “Media Babie3s on Channel no. 5″ project assumes a need that may not exist at all.

Vogelaar: ” Someone asked: what do you do with the elderly lady who wants to know why her geranium is doing so badly. And I don’t have an answer to that.

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The international travelling exhibition NatureTecture presents the fields of landscape architecture in all their breadth and relevance.
The exhibition is based on landscape architectural expertise from North Rhine-Westphalia and refers to examples of landscape architecture from NRW.
NatureTecture focuses on those fields of work that will become increasingly important internationally for the design of our living environments and formulates relevant questions for the future.
The NatureTecture exhibition is dedicated to the tasks and instruments of qualifying landscape in the post-industrial age.
The international travelling exhibition on the fields of work of landscape architecture is organized by the Chamber of Architects of North Rhine-Westphalia with the support of the Ministry of Building and Transport of the State of North Rhine-Westphalia.

Concept NatureTecture @ Chamber of Architects, North Rhine-Westphalia, Germany, 1 September 2009
Exhibition NatureTecture @ Chamber of Architects, Düsseldorf, Germany 11 Februar -17 March 2010
Exhibition NatureTecture @ Representation of the State of North Rhine-Westphalia to the European Union, Berlin, Germany, 9 June-12 July 2010
Exhibition NatureTecture @ Chamber of Architects of Jeollabuk-Do Province (KIRA Jeonbuk), Republic of Korea, 1 September- 4 September 2010
Exhibition NatureTecture @ Building Culture Fair Daejeon 2010, Republic of Korea, 14-19 October 2010
Exhibition NatureTecture @ Architecture and Urbanism Fair Gwangju, Republic of Korea, 3-7 November 2010
Exhibition NatureTecture @ Turkish Chamber of Architects of the Metropolis of Istanbul, Turkey, 26 November-10 December 2010
Exhibition NatureTecture @ 20th Anniversary of German Reunification, Busan, Republic of Korea, 8-14 December 2010

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