Posted in personal, technology by johnsnavely on July 19, 2011

It’s been a while since I’ve updated and there’s a lot going on. I’ve given a couple talks and finished a few big projects (I’ll post on those separately.) But the biggest news is that I’m going to be a dad. Fatherdom is coming this winter.

So I’ve instantiated a new thread in my brain that’s been working on what I’m going to give my son for his first birthday. He’ll have physical toys, to be sure, but I’m talking about a digital bounty (or my digital detritus).

Do I friend him on delicious and show him my network of friends? Or buy him a kindle filled with all my favorite books? Or make a youtube account filled with some Donaghy advice? Maybe I should just buy him a 3d printer and tell him to make his own iPad if he wants one…

I remember when I was a kid my mom brought home an early x86 computer which booted from a floppy. My brother and I broke it in an hour. Later, I started playing early Sierra games– the ones where you had to type commands in: “Feed chickens”. I had a friend named Peter Shin, who was a math whiz and we’d play Kings Quest for hours at his house. Eventually, we decided to make our own game and that’s when I started to learn how to program.

I’ve probably been thinking about Mac Tonnies too long. It’s too early too ponder mortality when I don’t even have a legacy. More than likely, my kid is going to be giving me some digital lessons. I’m going to school him pretty hard in UT, though.


The Valley of the Lamb

Posted in art, personal, technology by johnsnavely on October 31, 2010

As most of you know, I am obsessed with the Uncanny Valley. I want to live there.

Actroid F is a modified version of the Geminoid F female robot that we discussed earlier. A lot of effort has gone into making these robots simpler, cheaper, and easier to power. The air compressor and valves that control Actroid F’s motion can run off of household electricity. Actroid F is also 30 kg lighter than other full scale robots in the Actroid/Geminoid series. The webcam setup for telepresence is meant to be as simple as possible while still providing the right experience for the user. To talk through Actroid F you need three cameras: one aimed at the speaker to pick up facial expressions and movements, another camera showing the Actroid’s face so the user can see how the robot is conveying her emotions, and a final camera that shows a panoramic view of the robot interacting with people in the room. A little more complex than your standard Skype portal, but that’s to be expected when you are speaking through a robotic avatar. Pay attention in the videos below to see how Actroid F can clearly pick out face and head movements, and adjusts its eyes to follow sound. This is a very life-like robot…which, again, is probably why it can be so eerie to watch.



Posted in architecture, personal by johnsnavely on September 22, 2009

It’s been a while since I posted anything here. Instead of talking about my work, I thought I’d give a little shout out to all my friends who are making interesting things happening.

A friend of mine from MIT, Sarah Dunbar, is showing a piece at the biennial in Korea. She’s posted a few in progress photos of the installation to flickr. It looks amazing!

Image:Sarah Dunbar

Image:Sarah Dunbar

Bryan Boyer, who works for Sitra these days,  just finished running creating the website for a Low2No a sustainable design competition. Arup was the winner in a field that included REX and BIG. The designs were “sketchy”, but I thought the design brief itself put some stakes into the ground at the appropriate scale– somewhere in-between an urban and architectural project. I’m excited to see what comes out of it!

In the spirit of green, my friends over at Howeler Yoon have posted a couple of rad looking renders of a new project they’re working on. I wonder if those pods are truncated octahedrons.

Image: Howeler Yoon

Image: Howeler Yoon

Image: Howeler Yoon

Image: Howeler Yoon

Last but not least, Stephen Perdue, one of my close friends from MIT is recently underemployed thanks to the construction recession in Boston. I’ve worked with him on a number of projects and he makes beautiful work. The upside of this is that you can hire him. He’s quietly updating his portfolio here. (Expect more great stuff in the next couple days.)

Some of my favorites are “Malibu Nights” and Stephen’s thesis “MegaShed”

Image:Stephen Perdue

Image:Stephen Perdue


Posted in hobbies, personal by johnsnavely on August 17, 2009


I spent last week on vacation with K. No, internets. (whew!)

We backpacked for 3 days in the Olympics, which was beautiful even though it pretty much rained the entire time. In a show of solidarity, Mattie packed in and out her own food.




It was really amazing. Afterwards, K and I stopped by Olympic National Park (which doesn’t allow dogs– so we’ll have to come back another time without the furry one) to see the rainforest.

I used to read a lot of fairy tales when I was a kid… [Aside: When I first learned to read my father would only let us read books in the non-fiction section. But I found a loop hole! Myths and fairy tales have a call number, so they count!] Anyway, fairy tales and even Tolkien have represented the woods and forests as something mysterious, dark and even scary. For the most part, I didn’t understand it. At the Olympics National Forest, the trees are huuuuge, with roots that make strange shapes, burrows and passage ways. A series of trees will grow in a row on a fallen log and form a nurse log colonnade. Then the log will rot out and you’ll have a tunnel of roots underneath the trees. Architecture!

Salon, And thanks for all the fish.

Posted in hobbies, personal, projects by johnsnavely on July 30, 2009

My lovely partner, K, has organized a “Salon” at our place and we’re about to have the second of what is hopefully a long series. Basically, we pick two of our talented and unsuspecting friends to give a presentation on something that interests them.

I’ve built a little website for the event here. (still working some bugs and content fixes!)

If you’re around Seattle, and would like to come, please let me know. It’s been really great to talk to people in depth about subjects that they find fascinating.

Maybe you could present?

Presenting Salon Fremont


Posted in architecture, art, friends, hobbies, personal, projects by johnsnavely on July 20, 2009

I’ve been away from this blog for a while, but it’s because I’ve been sort of busy…. and also lazy, so lazy. Here’s a batch of updates in no particular order. More to come, of course.

For work, I’ve been managing construction for two interior projects at Microsoft.

One is an office remodel for my group, Office Labs. We’ve been working in an old building: Building 4– the buildings are numbered by when they were built on the Redmond Campus– that’s been less than ideal for team work and collaboration. Basically, we’re taking down a lot of walls and putting up some glass to provide areas where people can work together more easily. I’ve designed a couple really simple pieces of furniture for the space too. Pictures will come soon.

The other is the second phase of the Envisioning Center, a lab space where my team (the Envisioning Team) will experiment with different software and hardware prototypes. I’ll talk more about this later. There’s still much more work to be done on the space. Another phase. Furniture. Technology pieces. For now enjoy the renderings.


At home, I’ve been playing around with type and some Oppen lines (many thanks to K). Posted a few more to flickr.


In older news, my friend, Pablo Herrera, has published a book which accumulates the work we’ve (Kenfield, Daniel, Pablo & our students) done in  a series of Rhino Workshops in Latin America.

Last but not least, my good friend Arthegall is finally engaged to the lovely R. Congratulations! (It’s about time.)

Différance Engine

Posted in art, personal, projects by johnsnavely on April 26, 2009

Had an “art” idea:


Take Derrida’s Différance lecture and run it through google translate, translating from French to English and back again. Repeat until the translations remain unchanged. Voila!



Click on this image for the poster sized version.

O, Canada

Posted in architecture, personal, projects by johnsnavely on April 20, 2009


A month or two ago I had some work of mine (a collaboration with Shirley Shen and Andrea Brennen) on display at the Canadian Centre for Architecture. The show was called Actions: What You Can Do With the City. From the CCA’s call to action:

The Canadian Centre for Architecture (CCA) presents the exhibition Actions: What You Can Do With the City, an exhibition with 99 actions that instigate positive change in contemporary cities around the world. Seemingly common activities such as walking, playing, recycling, and gardening are pushed beyond their usual definition by the international architects, artists, and collectives featured in the exhibition. Their experimental interactions with the urban environment show the potential influence personal involvement can have in shaping the city, and challenge fellow residents to participate.

The proposed project, was sparked from an early art piece by Gordon Matta-Clark called Odd Lots. In the project, Matta Clark mapped out a series of tiny plots of land in New York that because of their shape or size, were “valueless”.

For our contribution, called Super Neutral,  we proposed that a carbon credit market could be used to connect small projects with small design firms. Individually, the projects could be tiny, but taken together you might see changes on an urban scale.



All photos Michel Legendre ©CCA. More photos, courtesy of the CCA can be found here.

Ceci n’est pas une pipe

Posted in personal, programming, projects, technology by johnsnavely on April 15, 2009

As part of my hiring package at Microsoft, I got a very modest stock award. Those of you who know me also know that I have never owned any stocks in my life and also usually don’t have any savings.

However, these are tough economic times and I’d at least like to keep track of how the stock I have (it’s not much and it’s all in one company) is doing. I’d also like to keep track of it with a daily reminder, a daily notice that fits in with my other daily activities. For me this means twitter.

What I want is something pretty simple. A twitter account that I can follow that will update me on Microsoft’s stock price daily. Now there are a number of twitter stockbots out there. Generally, however, you have to ask them for a stock quote. (Which defeats the whole push model of twitter to begin with) After searching for 5 minutes on the internet and not finding a solution, I decided to build my own.

I took an rss feed from and then used to tweet it to a new Twitter account. I think it’s all working, and it literally took about 10 minutes from start to finish. The only annoying part was having to create a new twitter account; this seems really dumb.

In the same way that I can build and manage my RSS feeds, I’d really really like be able to create virtual twitter accounts. Twitter isn’t just about looking at other news sources or information outside of myself. Twitter should be able to deliver stuff that I can curate.

I need a Yahoo Pipes for Twitter.

Poster at Colophon

Posted in architecture, personal, projects by johnsnavely on March 17, 2009

Edwin Gardner from Volume Magazine sent me a couple of photos of the poster I made on display at Colophon.



More photos in a slideshow of their sweet setup.