Author: johnmarshall



Friday 30 June 2017 to Thursday 13 July 2017.

Exhibition Co-Produced By the City of Enghien-Les-Bains and the Cité Du Design of Saint-Etienne

With the contribution of the UNESCO creative cities of Design:
BEIJING (China) – DETROIT (USA) – DUNDEE (UK) – GRAZ (Austria) – HELSINKI (Finland) – KOBE (Japan) – MONTREAL (Canada) – NAGOYA (Japan) – SAINT-ÉTIENNE (France) – SÉOUL (Republic Of Korea) – SHENZHEN (China)

rootoftwo’s participation was supported by Detroit Creative Corridor Center through the UNESCO Detroit City of Design initiative and the Whithervanes Open Hardware Kit (WOHK) was supported through a Knight Arts Challenge Detroit grant.

The venue was La Serrurerie, 6 rue de Mora, Enghien-les-Bains, France. This was the first cultural event to take place in a previously abandoned locksmith’s workshop.



Curatorial Statement:

“In less than 10 years the terms “connected devices”, “Internet of Things”, “smart things” and “smart cities” have already invaded technophile vocabularies and our collective imaginations, like the beginnings of an El Dorado heralded by the service market. By talking to each other, such objects will be able to help us make decisions, identify needs and organise our lives. By exchanging information via the web, these devices will be programmable and responsive, enslaved to our wellbeing. For better or worse, they promise a sea change in our lifestyles, supporting our habits but also confusing our true needs. The wealth of potential afforded by embedded technology is explored by designers and startups1 to show possible scenarios of future living environments. By 2020 there will be 28 billion connected objects.”

Olivier Peyricot, Designer and Director of the Research department of Cité du design and co-curator of the exhibition.

The exhibition is composed of 2 zones: 1. ARE YOU TALKING TO ME? and 2. WE ARE TALKING TO YOU. These were also organized into 4 themes: 1. In The City (Mobility and Environment), 2. At Home (Domestic Space and Security), 3. Objects, 4. For Our Body (Health and Well-being). Our work was included in the WE ARE TALKING TO YOU zone.


“Empathy and interactivity: Interactive objects imitate our singularity. They offer to communicate on our behalf with the world around us as we see it: controlling airflow, listening, memory, spatial considerations and creating a kind of empathy between an individual and the wider world, where the smart object mediates through and by means of the imaginary.”



RBTS 2.0 presents spectators with three appliances: a radio, a mixer, and a toaster. Mobile appliances that behave like robots. Each appliance has its own movement to mark its independence.







Shaky-cam footage shot during set up:


Exhibition design is by Isabelle Daëron.


Whithervanes Open Hardware Kit (WOHK): an early warning system composed of plastic parts in the shape of a headless chicken. The object is connected to the Internet and parses news-feeds looking for predetermined keywords related to fear. the project aims to highlight the extent to which we are affected by data which mostly goes unnoticed by us.



As ever, our work continues to be a hit with children and inner-children, everywhere.


The catalog for the exhibition is DATA CITIES. ISBN 978-2-916639-44-4.





The prototype Whithervanes: Open Hardware Kit is almost ready for the 11th Annual Meeting of the UNESCO Creative Cities Network (UCCN) from the June 29 to July 2, 2017 at the Centre des Arts (CDA) in Enghien-les-Bains, France. The exhibition will then reopen September 14, 2017 to January 7, 2018 at the Cité du Design in Saint-Etienne, France. The kit is for non-profits/hacker-spaces, citizen journalists, activists, artists, designers and tinkerers that want to develop new modes of access to, engagement with and common ownership of existing data streams using news-feeds as the starting point.


We will represent Detroit UNESCO City of Design at the 11th Annual Meeting of the UNESCO Creative Cities Network (UCCN) from the June 29 to July 2, 2017 at the Centre des Arts (CDA) in Enghien-les-Bains, France. The exhibition will then reopen September 14, 2017 to January 7, 2018 at the Cité du Design in Saint-Etienne, France.

The exhibition ‘Are you talking to me: Uses and applications of connected objects’ is curated by Dominique Roland, Director of the Centre des Arts (CDA), and Olivier Peyricot, Designer and Director of the research department at the Cité du Design of Saint-Etienne. Exhibition design is by Isabelle Daëron.

We will be showing our prototype Whithervanes: Open Hardware Kit. The kit is for non-profits/hacker-spaces, citizen journalists, activists, artists, designers and tinkerers that want to develop new modes of access to, engagement with and common ownership of existing data streams using news-feeds as the starting point. We are also showing our newly refurbished and upgraded RBTS 2.0 our trio of robotically-enhanced domestic appliances. The project attempts to progress the discussion from ‘symptom-focused’ approaches to sustainable design to address consumer psychology and the design of objects capable of supporting deeper and more meaningful relationships with their users.

Whithervane Open Hardware Kit


We are working on creating Whithervane kits.

Coming to a desktop near you, soon!

We are excited to be SXSW Eco Place by Design: Art + Interaction Finalists:


We’re joining SXSW Eco ‘s 2016 speaker lineup! Check out our session here

Not singular!


small chicken big roof

Recently we visited Miami to meet with people and visit potential sites for our forthcoming Whithervanes US debut in 2017. We are working with Locust Projects with support from the John S. and James L. Knight Foundation. The picture above was taken on the roof of the Alfred I. DuPont Building. We also spent some time looking at rooftops in Little Haiti. One of the highlights of the trip was the comment “Its a headless chicken that tells you the news? Oh, we get that here.” This was a reference to Santería.



r+d LAB (rootoftwo + daub-lab) is one of three teams selected to develop public art and light projects for the undersides of three viaducts located in Midtown Detroit’s TechTown district.

Created for the Midtown Viaducts Public Art + Light Project (MIDVIA) with funding from the New Economy Initiative and the John S. and James L. Knight Foundation, r+d LAB’s project, “Resonance”, will transform Detroit’s historic Second Avenue viaduct into a vibrant pedestrian walkway.

“r+d LAB is committed to working to generate creative, environmentally responsive, and innovative solutions to Detroit’s urban challenges,” says John Marshall, principal, r+d LAB. “Built in 1934, the once magnificent Second Avenue viaduct had been poorly maintained and lacked adequate lighting, contributing to perceptions of the district as unsafe. We wanted to create a space that would make tangible the movement and meeting of passersby and amplify way-finding with light, transforming the experience and usability of the space.”


Resonance builds on the naturally occurring bands of dark and light created by the viaduct’s arched openings, amplifying this sequential lighting and patterning as the user moves deeper into the space and in response to the presence of multiple people.

Consisting of 22 LED light boxes mounted on the viaduct walls and ceiling between each viaduct archway, Resonance increases the amount of available illumination the farther into the space one walks from either side. Each LED unit will have a range of sensors that trigger the lighting in response to the number, speed and direction of pedestrians in the space. This will generate a ‘pressure wave’ of increased illumination in advance of people as they walk. This wave will then burst and diffuse in a cascade of ripples when it meets the wave of someone coming from the opposite direction.


“From low-tech to interactive light experiences, the work of these artist teams exemplifies experimentation and new ideas, further positioning TechTown as an innovation district,” says Susan Mosey, President of Midtown Detroit, Inc., the organization administering the MIDVIA.

Resonance will begin construction summer 2015.

MIDVIA (Midtown Viaducts Public Art + Light Project) is one of the recommended interventions stemming from the TechTown District Plan which aims to improve safety, accessibility and placemaking efforts in the area. Midtown Viaducts partners include: the New Economy Initiative, the John S. and James L. Knight Foundation, Midtown Detroit, Inc., the City of Detroit, Consolidated Rail Corporation, and CN Rail.

Midtown Detroit Inc. is a nonprofit planning and development organization that supports the physical maintenance and revitalization of the Midtown Detroit neighborhood, while working to enhance public awareness, appreciation and use of the district.

The New Economy Initiative, a special project of the Community Foundation for Southeast Michigan, is the largest economic development initiative of its kind working to build a network of support for entrepreneurs and small businesses. Our mission is to create an inclusive, innovative regional culture by reawakening and leveraging Detroit’s creative entrepreneurial drive.

The Knight Foundation supports transformational ideas that promote quality journalism, advance media innovation, engage communities and foster the arts. The foundation believes that democracy thrives when people and communities are informed and engaged.



Its been a funny kind of a year…

TL:DR – We did some stuff. More than usual.

Two of our Whithervanes have been acquired by Folkestone Artworks – Folkestone’s permanent public art collection of 27 works originally commissioned by the Creative Foundation for the Folkestone Triennial that are now on permanent display in public spaces in the town. The chosen sites are The Cube (adult education center) and Rocksalt (restaurant). This collection of permanent works includes work by: Adam Chodzko; A K Dolven; Christian Boltanski; Cornelia Parker; Cristina Iglesias; Diane Dever & Jonathan Wright; Hamish Fulton; Ian Hamilton Finlay; Mark Dion; Mark Wallinger; Michael Sailstorfer; muf Architecture/Art; Nathan Coley; Pablo Bronstein; Pae White; Paloma Varga Weisz; Patrick Tuttofuoco; Richard Wilson; Richard Wentworth; rootoftwo; Ruth Ewan; Sarah Staton; Spencer Finch; Strange Cargo; Tonico Lemos Auad; Tracey Emin; Will Kwan; and Yoko Ono.

The Whithervanes were rebuilt for the long haul in fiberglass and stainless steel. They went back on site in June. Hannah Conroy of Folkestone Artworks took some pictures:



We received a matching award from the 2014 Detroit Knight Arts Challenge to explore how fear is used in contemporary media. The goal is to expand the “Whithervanes” project to create an open-source toolkit and provide workshops to help others create their own sculptures to visualize and humanize additional data and information flows.

Locust Projects in Miami, Florida and FACT (Foundation for Art and Creative Technology) in Liverpool, UK are currently fundraising to commission sets of “Whithervanes” for their own cities.

HASTAC is an alliance of humanists, artists, social scientists, scientists and technologists working together to transform the future of learning for the 21st century. Since 2002, HASTAC (“haystack”) has served as a community of connection where 11,500+ members share news, tools, research, insights, and projects to promote engaged learning for a global society. HASTAC 2015 was held May 27-30, 2015 at the Kellogg Center on the campus of Michigan State University. We were keynotes.

We had our RBTS on hand:


TBD Catalog Vol 9 Issue 24. (Book) Near Future Laboratory. ISBN 978-0-9905633-0-3 finally arrived! Megan Mulholland has a write up of the originating workshop in Detroit here.

TBD, A Catalog For Your (Normal Ordinary Everyday) Near Future from svanes on Vimeo.

“This video tells the story of the making of TBD Catalog. The Catalog started out as a modest effort by a workshop in Detroit, USA to discuss what was jokingly referred to as the “State of Things” and to assess the future of products, their design and associated services as society evolved with its exuberance for cultures, businesses and daily rituals in which technologies and sciences played a central, defining role.

To address this, we started by posing provocative questions to ourselves. How might the promise of what at the time was called an “internet of things” play out in the near future? What would the future look like in a world blanketed by advances in protection and surveillance technologies? If Autonomous Vehicle innovations continued its passionate race forward, what would it be to pick up the groceries, take a commercial airline flight, commute to work, have mail and parcels delivered, drop off the dry cleaning, meet friends at a bar across town, go on cross-country family vacations, or take the kids to sports practice or school?

Our design brief was to ask these questions and then represent the answers as design fictional services, evolutions of product categories and new kinds of social, domestic and retail experiences.

The result took the form of a catalog of the near future’s normal ordinary everyday. TBD Catalog is a design fiction that makes implications without making predictions. It sparks conversations about the near future. It serves to design-develop prototypes and shape embryonic concepts in order to discard them, make them better, reconsider what we may take for granted.”

Video Creative Director: Christian Svanes Kolding
Video Producers: Nicolas Nova and Julian Bleecker
Production Manager and Technical Director: Tom Bray
Co-Director of Photography and Camera Operator: Marcus Bleecker
Camera Operators: Zack Jacobsen-Weaver and Meghan Mulholland
Voice Over: Wen-Ting Yang

rootoftwo were one of ten regional design studios nominated by an advisory council and then selected according to a criteria that included material use, functionality, impact and potential international significance of work for the DETROIT MADE exhibition at College of Creative Studies, A. Alfred Taubman Center for Design Education during the Detroit Design Festival and at DDF Design Village @ DLECTRICITY. We showed our RBTS. The selected studios were: The Smith Shop; Detroit Wallpaper Co.; Cyberoptix Tie Lab; Carhartt; The Floyd Leg; rootoftwo, LLC; Ali Sandifer; Mobel Link; Sundberg Ferar; and Shinola.

DDF Tent

Detroit Made



John’s Re:ToolKit project was also featured.

We formed r+d LAB, LLC as a research-led collaborative entity to remix models of practice including laboratory, workshop, think-tank, garage, studio, and agency that lead to innovative approaches, designs and environments. r+d LAB grows out of a meshing of rootoftwo + daub-lab.

r+d LAB presented Rules of the Road at Liberty Annex, Ann Arbor as part of the Research on the City exhibition series.

Rules Of The Road: Connecting Chicago To Underutilized Freeway Infrastructure Zones

r+d LAB (Karl Daubmann, John Marshall, Cezanne Charles with Patrick Ethen, Ryan Goold, Qetuwrah Reed and Claire Matucheski).

Transportation infrastructure such as waterways, Roman roads, railroads or the federal highways have always informed the design of cities. The National Interstate and Defense Highways Act of 1956 forever changed transportation, economic flows, connectivity and the landscape of the US. The mechanical efficiency required for the success of the freeway is created through separation from everything that might slow it down, but unfortunately the benefits of speed created by separation are constantly at odds with the slower, finer-grained, human concerns of dense urban cores.

Chicago is a unique city to consider regional and local connectivity given the history of commerce and the transportation of goods into, around, and out of the city. Many designers have considered the forces, forms, and implications of the freeway with wholesale utopian visions of buildings and roads merging into mega-infrastructural proposals such as Chambliss’s 1910 “Roadtown” or Jellicoe’s 1961 Motopia. Rather than negate the rich existing conditions of Chicago and its infrastructure, Rules of the Road engages the Federal, parametric, Fordist logic of the freeway with the requirements of a post-Fordist city and proposes urban design strategies that mitigate environmental, social, and formal concerns with an architecture that engages underutilized freeway infrastructure zones.

Rules of the Road

We did some other stuff too. Cezanne completed a Masters degree at the Gerald R. Ford School of Public Policy at the University of Michigan; John got tenure (see talk below) and promotion at the Stamps School of Art and Design and promotion at the Taubman College of Architecture and Urban Planning at University of Michigan; and John became the first Program Director of the new Master of Design in Integrative Design at the Stamps School.

Whithervanes: a neurotic, early worrying system from John Marshall on Vimeo.

A behind the scenes look at the making of Whithervanes. The video begins with Aaron Willette in the Taubman College FabLab cutting a chicken on the 5-axis CNC Mill – then there is a huge gap in the process where John covered the polyurethane foam in polyester resin and then rubbed his fingerprints off sanding the chickens smooth. The action picks up again at r+d LAB where the electronics and mechanics were built and the chickens were programmed and tested.

Next we see a brief moment of the code sprint with The Work Department and Travis Martin to create before the chickens leave on a truck to cross the pond. The action picks up again in Folkestone with us on various rooftops trying not to be blown off or set upon by seagulls. It all ends with the chicken on the roof of Rocksalt changing from yellow (elevated) to red (severe) as something fearful happens in Ukraine.

Folkestone Triennial Review in The Observer.

Whithervanes on dezeen.

Whithervanes on Port.

Whithervanes on Studio International.

Whithervanes on Fast Company.

Whithervanes on WIRED.



We have been learning to fly in advance of our residency at CLUI. There has been plenty of crashing but we are getting the hang of it.


This is our drone and camera set up.