shannon_mattern + urban_archaeology   78

City Ground
Modern humans tend to naturalize the ground; to construe the earth — terra firma — as the immutable and natural product of geological processes working over eons. This understandable tendency leads also to a predominant sense of ground as inherently horizontal — the surface of the earth stretching to and beyond the horizon. Yet this perspective underplays the importance of the vertical composition of ground. For the terrestrial material of our rapidly urbanizing species is increasingly anything but “natural”: it is the vertical accumulation of manufactured ground. The making of geological strata is an essential but often neglected component of the mass shift of humankind to urban living; it is also a crucial by-product of the industrialized technologies of construction, agriculture, mining, and warfare.

Geologists now estimate that the deliberate shift of material by humans due to construction, agriculture, and mining, as well as the generation and movement of waste, now amounts to around 59 billion tons a year. 2 Rising levels of global urban development mean this figure is growing fast. 3 Little wonder that geologists are on the verge of formally declaring that we have moved from the post-glacial Holocene to the new geological epoch of the Anthropocene: the age in which human agency shapes land and soil, the very geology of the earth, as well as the atmosphere, biosphere, and oceans, more powerfully than any other force....

Geologists describe human-generated geological features like Teufelsberg as “artificial” or “manufactured” ground. Not surprisingly, such ground is densest and most complex in ancient cities that have been inhabited — rebuilt again and again — over millennia. It is particularly thick beneath old industrial cities which have experienced many cycles of construction and destruction: cycles as old as urbanization, though the scales of which have multiplied massively in the last two centuries. Fire, earthquake, war, decay, obsolescence, redevelopment, the desire for improvement — all can result in the destruction or demolition of buildings and infrastructures, or sometime in their absorption into a higher level of ground, aided by gravity....

In artificial ground, as in most other geological formations, depth down is usually equated with temporal distance back into history. More recently, though, the aggressive processes of modern urban redevelopment — based on deep excavation, the driving of piles into rock, the construction of extensive subterranean infrastructures — have been producing highly intricate and complicated artificial ground. “Successive phases of development,” as the geologist Simon Price and his colleagues stress, “have added to, or in some cases re-used and recycled, this artificial ground, leaving a complex ‘stratigraphy’ of deposits, including drains, middens, pits, cellars, foundations and trenches among other features.” 5 Urban archaeologists have done much to explain this complex patterning of human-made ground, especially in European cities occupied more or less continuously since Roman times. 6 While occasionally entire street surfaces or discrete historic ground levels are revealed during archaeological or construction projects, it is rare for artificial ground to consist simply of the vertical accretion of historic layers, piled one upon another in situ....

A few years ago the art and media collective Smudge Studio published a couple of informed and accessible volumes that sought to broaden cultural awareness of the city’s “geological pulse.” In Geologic City: A Field Guide to the GeoArchitecture of New York, Elizabeth Ellsworth and Jamie Kruse, the duo who make up Smudge Studio, trace the distant origins of vital resources ranging from food, energy, and water to gold, steel, and concrete, and they map the geologies and landscapes created by the ceaseless cycles of construction, demolition, and waste.

A later anthology, Making the Geologic Now, contains an especially remarkable analysis of how cities have adapted to cold winters by creating their own “terminal moraines” — the landscapes that result from the debris of glaciers — by bulldozing millions of tons of dirty snow — filled with road salt, tire dust, worn brake linings, exhaust pipe chips and other detritus — into huge glacier-like mounds. These then melt in the warmer months, dumping their “moraines” and building up new layers of manufactured ground. 8 Throughout these volumes Smudge Studio provides valuable insights into the ways in which cities work to metabolize nature...

Some Scandinavian cities are already exploring techniques that will allow them to extract the valuable metals within obsolete or forgotten infrastructures — old tram lines, disused district heating pipes, abandoned power and telephone wires, 19th-century gasworks — as resources to sustain contemporary economic development. In the Swedish industrial city of Norrköping, for instance, technology scholar Björn Wallsten estimates there are 5,000 tons of iron, copper, and aluminum available to be extracted...

Which raises a pertinent question: Is manufactured ground the purview of the geologist or the archaeologist?

Well, both; the proliferation of artificial ground is drawing the two disciplines into dynamic and unprecedented collaboration. Leicester University archaeologist Matt Edgeworth has suggested that the artificial ground created by humans should be considered a hybrid domain, formed through a complex mix of natural and cultural forces; Edgeworth calls this the “archaeosphere.” 11 Historic streets, tunnels, ports, industrial sites, foundations, and religious and commercial buildings — the stuff of urban archaeology — are all understood as layered within and through the complex strata in which is contained waste, human remains, rubble, ballast, soil....

Urban landfills are not only vast concentrations of the effluvia of consumerism and capitalism; they are also a new and highly toxic geology, massive emitters of greenhouse gas emissions (though in more advanced sites these are captured for use as fuel). Not surprisingly, these modern archaeospheres of artificial ground constitute prime sites for the burgeoning field of contemporary archaeology. Little wonder cultural historian Cinzia Scarpino has described landfills as “the true archaeological sites of late modernity.
geology  waste  anthropocene  ruins  urban_archaeology  archaeology  infrastructure  dredge 
november 2016 by shannon_mattern
Why ancient Roman graffiti is so important to archaeologists - Redorbit
Pompeii’s graffiti is the world’s most frustrating goldmine.

When it comes to ancient Rome, the vast majority of insights into their world we have are from one group: Wealthy (or patronized) free men. According to Charles Freeman[1], in all of the surviving works from Rome, only one author speaks of his life as a former slave—a philosopher named Epicetus. Meanwhile, every female Roman voice has been lost to time.

But there is one place on Earth that may yet hold their stories: The Bay of Naples, where in 79 CE, Mount Vesuvius buried the two seaside towns of Pompeii and Herculaneum under feet of lava and ash. These places weren’t necessarily vast repositories of lost literature, but the eruption froze them nearly perfectly in time, preserving them for nearly 2,000 years—and preserving thousands of pieces of graffiti along with them....

Without this threat of punishment, it seems that graffiti was readily practiced by people at all strata of society, making it perhaps the most valuable text we have from the ancient world. Man, woman, child, slave, poor, rich, illiterate—it did not matter, so long as there was an empty spot on a wall. Which means that, through graffiti, we are able to hear the voices of those who have been traditionally voiceless, granting us the possibility of astounding insights into lives and minds we’ve never been able to access....

in graffiti scratched into the soft plaster walls of various buildings, there seems to be examples of what some call “recreational literacy”. As in: There are what appear to be many attempts of people practicing writing alphabets and practice sentences, likely in an attempt to boost their ability to read and write. Paper was expensive, but walls were free and easy to scratch—and thus were the perfect place to drill oneself....

it seems that ancient Romans, as a whole, were much more literature (and steeped in works of literature) than previously guessed—which would only make sense. At the very least, functional literacy, or knowing how to read key things like prices, seems like it would have been much more common than absolute illiteracy....

ancient Roman women often spoke to each other using baby talk (blanditiae)—so the language here could simply be that as well, since many of the nouns are in diminutive forms, like pupula (making “my darling” “my little darling”). All in all, the jury is currently out (but hopeful)....

Another problem with context is not knowing who drew or painted a graffito, nor when they did it. With rare exception, the graffiti of Pompeii isn’t dated. And when it is, it very rarely gives the year.... graffiti was the text of the everyman in ancient Rome, granting us unique insight into how everyone lived—not just wealthy free men. But for everything we learn, there seems to be a tantalizing mystery we have no way of resolving, making graffiti both our greatest aid and our most frustrating foe.
rome  media_archaeology  urban_archaeology  graffiti  writing  literacies  urban_history 
august 2016 by shannon_mattern
Why Are New York City’s Streets Always Under Construction? - The New York Times
It was the Great Blizzard of 1888 that drove the city’s utilities underground. After more than 20 inches of snow downed overhead electric, telephone and telegraph cables, paralyzing the city, officials ordered that lines be buried.

But unlike Paris or Tokyo, where tubes and wires are usually bundled inside a cavernous sewer system or tucked underneath sidewalks, much of New York’s underground infrastructure lies within five feet of the asphalt surface.

ELECTRICITY: The bulk of the city’s power grid is operated by Consolidated Edison, which maintains 88,724 miles of underground cables, 32,911 underground transformers and 255,867 utility holes.

TELECOMMUNICATIONS: Well over a dozen companies have laid tens of thousands of miles of fiber optic, copper and coaxial cables to deliver television, telephone and internet communications. Much of it runs through tubes, called conduits, owned by Empire City Subway, an entity that was formed in 1891 to consolidate communication services underground and currently owns 58 million feet of pipes and about 11,000 manholes in Manhattan and the Bronx.

DRINKING WATER: The approximately 6,800-mile-long network of mostly iron and steel pipes, some of which are a century old, distributes water that has wended its way down from upstate.

STEAM: Con Ed maintains the largest steam system in the world. There are more than a hundred miles of piping that provide energy to more than 1,800 buildings in Manhattan, including hospitals and other large institutions.

NATURAL GAS: New York has one of the oldest systems in the country. Con Edison and National Grid maintain about 6,400 miles of gas mains, which they are slowly upgrading.

SEWAGE: Wastewater is carried through about 7,500 miles of pipes and tunnels, some of which were placed in the ground more than 100 years ago....

Before excavating, plumbers and contractors are required to call 811, the 311 for underground infrastructure that alerts registered utility companies where work is being done, so they can visit the site to mark the locations of their cables and tubes and prevent workers from drilling into them.

When the city undertakes a major project, like installing a water main or reconstructing a road, it can take several months of serious detective work to identify who owns what, and whether wires are still active.

Dino Ng, an associate commissioner of infrastructure for the city’s Department of Design and Construction, said utilities and private companies don’t always keep perfect records and don’t like sharing information because of industry competition and security concerns. Also, cables may have been mapped for one location but installed in another to work around a gas main, steam pipe or another obstacle that couldn’t be moved.

On site, they’ll dig test pits to find out what’s there, or try to use radar....

When determining which streets will get a face-lift, Galileo Orlando, the deputy commissioner for roadway repair and maintenance, said officials considered the needs of each community board, as well as current underground construction projects , like the Second Avenue Subway in Manhattan. They also check who controls the road — the city, the state or a private owner — and its quality rating....

Since the late 1970s, the city and utility companies have been experimenting with what are known as trenchless technologies, like remote-controlled tunnel boring machines, to minimize the invasiveness of certain work, and to reduce disruptions to pedestrians and drivers. Other recent innovations, like removable concrete slabs, allow utilities to make repairs quickly, without damaging the surrounding pavement. But there is a limit to what even perfect planning and engineering techniques can accomplish.
urban_archaeology  infrastructure  visualization  urban_history  maintenance  forensics  transportation  urban_design 
august 2016 by shannon_mattern
Strange Horizons Articles: Future Cities: PD Smith & Darran Anderson in Conversation, by PD Smith & Darran Anderson
You walk around and there's a Gothic church or a Brutalist tower block or an Art Nouveau facade and what you're seeing is a series of functioning time capsules; the flotsam of earlier times. I always have a feeling that the city can be read and deciphered—and layers of time seem to be crucial to that.

I began seeing space that way when I started to notice the curiosities of street names where I grew up in Derry. Places named after mysterious individuals like "Hogg's Folly" and "Stanley's Walk" or long-lost features like "Windmill Terrace" and "Asylum Road." ... When I go to cities now, one of my fixations isn't just the architecture and the people but the ghosts in the language. Aside from the individual stories, the street names can reveal something of the essence of a city. New York attempts a wiping-the-slate-clean of the baggage of history with its numeric grid. ...

Of course, the ground beneath old cities really is like an archaeological layer cake. The tells, or ruin heaps, that now litter the arid landscape of Iraq contain as many as eighteen layers of buildings, one on top of another. The earliest date back some seven thousand years....

For some four thousand years, right up until the twentieth century, China built its imperial cities as a celebration and reflection of the sublime perfection of the celestial realm. Their deeply symbolic cities were designed by the courtly geomancers to create an ideal equilibrium between nature, the state, and the cosmos. What an incredible idea!

Heaven on Earth in the form of a city: from Plato to Leonardo da Vinci, many great visionaries have dreamed this seductive dream of an urban eutopia—or to use Thomas More’s sly subversion of the word—utopia: not "good place", but a "nowhere place."

Ideal cities are pure blue-sky thinking. They are urban fantasies, like Tommaso Campanella’s City of the Sun from the early seventeenth century—a Babel-like megastructure that was designed to shape the minds of its inhabitants throughout the course of their lives, guiding them to intellectual and ethical enlightenment. The idea of living in a city designed for such a purpose appals me. It would be the dream capital of a dictator but a nightmare for his or her subjects....

One thing that struck me while writing City was the continuity running through urban history. The idea that cities are expressions of timeless human needs—to trade, to socialise, to be creative—reflected in spaces like marketplaces and stores, restaurants and theatres that are present in all urban communities.

But what does the future hold for cities and urban life? Will we live in streetless vertical cities? Or will climate change force us into defensive structures: underground bunkers or floating cities? Will the future cause us to radically rethink what a city is?...

One aspect of this that interests me is that although we’re facing climate change, migration crises, the dismantling of the social contract, mass political and corporate kleptocracy, and a thousand other manufactured disasters, very little of this is reflected in prevailing futurists’ visions of what's to come. Instead you get a lot of snake oil chrome and chlorophyll visions of gleaming cities or else this continual promotion of the Smart City with no recognition that it will also be the Surveillance City. The much-touted idea of Big Data will be great, provided again you're lucky enough to exist above its tideline.

It seems to me our visions of the future tell us more about the present than they do the future. The clean open marble piazzas of Renaissance Ideal Cities were dreamt up amidst narrow alleyways and unhygienic squalor. Bruno Taut was dreaming up visions of crystal palaces on top of the Alps, dedicated to universal brotherhood, at the time when millions were living like troglodytes and killing each other in the trenches of the First World War. The age of optimistic futuristic Googie architecture was also the age of "Duck and Cover" and imminent nuclear holocaust. I believe the futurists of today keep producing dazzling visions despite or because subconsciously they know how screwed we actually are. When times are threatening, we dream of utopia. When times are stable, we can indulge ourselves with apocalyptic visions.

Our visions of the future seem to me to be still determined by imperial dominance and cultural hegemonies. So, in this part of the world at least, when asked to think of a future city, our default tends to be to think of future New York or Tokyo or London. These are fine, fascinating cities but they overshadow others. The future will be nothing if not a plurality....

Advances in technology, such as 3D printing coupled with downloadable house plans, may well mean temporary, even nomadic, cities will grow up within the span of a few weeks. New geopolitical realities will create new cities in unexpected places. And they will not be the gleaming steel and glass towers imagined by today’s Smart City planners. They’ll look more like the first, densely packed urban communities than the futuristic cities touted by architectural studios. They’ll grow and evolve like biological structures, driven by basic and timeless human needs.
urban_history  urban_archaeology  urban_form 
june 2016 by shannon_mattern
The Graffiti at Pompeii - The Atlantic
All this is why Benefiel is leading an effort to map the graffiti of Pompeii and Herculaneum, a nearby town that was also buried by the 79 A.D. eruption. With a grant from a National Endowment for the Humanities, she and other scholars are building a suite of tools to digitally catalogue, contextualize, and analyze these ancient inscriptions.

“I’m really interested in trying to look at the whole of what we have from these cities, and thinking a bit more broadly about how we can identify who’s writing messages and where they’re writing them,” Benefiel said. “Right now, that’s really hard to do just because of how they’ve been published, and how the map has completely changed because excavations got much more expansive.”

Digitizing what’s known about the graffiti at Pompeii—and making a searchable database that’s rich with metadata like height, writing style, language, and other details—is also a way of teasing out connections between inscriptions that aren’t otherwise apparent. Perhaps, for example, scholars will be able to identify common authorship among a variety of geographically disperse messages. Or maybe they’ll be able to understand what kinds of establishments are adorned with certain graffiti, based on the nature of the messages written there.

Scholars can tell, for instance, that a tavern was once beyond the wall where a welcoming greeting—“Sodales, avete,”—can still be read. Some graffiti describes how many tunics were sent to be laundered, while other inscriptions mark the birth of a donkey and a litter of piglets. People scribbled details of various transactions onto the walls of Pompeii, including the selling of slaves. They also shared snippets of literature (lines from The Aeneid were popular) and succinct maxims like, “The smallest evil, if neglected, will reach the greatest proportions.”

And then there was the trash talk.
graffiti  media_archaeology  urban_archaeology  archaeology  inscription 
march 2016 by shannon_mattern
Using Lasers to Preserve Antiquities Threatened by ISIS
Faced with the apparent impotence of governments and international agencies to stop ISIS’ fanatical levelers, other cultural organizations are trying to create 3-D records of heritage sites to preserve them, at least in digital form, for future generations....

Cultural organizations are working with Iraqi and Syrian experts, drawing on local knowledge and providing equipment and training, to create digital records of endangered ancient sites....

“Our human nature impels us to ask, ‘Where did we come from?’” he said. “By destroying these heritage sites, we are not just losing the sites, we are losing the stories they tell us. People like ISIS want to obliterate these stories because they want to obliterate all memories in order to bring to the forefront their own story, and their kind of logic. I abhor it.”

Another organization, the Institute for Digital Archaeology, is putting together an open-source Million Image Database. Its aim is to use images taken before the destruction of sites such as Palmyra to record, and even rebuild, some monuments....

“Of course, a reproduction is only a reproduction, not the original object,” Dr. Karenowska said. “It can only ever be second best, but if we are in a situation where it is all that we have, I do think we should embrace the possibility of having that.”

Plenty of nondigital work is necessary too, of course. The site of Babylon needs laborious and costly conservation work — which will be helped by a $530,000 United States Embassy grant announced last week — if its vulnerable monuments are to be preserved in the real world, not just virtually.
digital_preservation  archaeology  preservation  3D_scanning  urban_archaeology 
december 2015 by shannon_mattern
Artist Theaster Gates Bought a Crumbling Chicago Bank for $1 and Turned it Into a World-Class Arts Center | Colossal
One might think that an abandoned 1920s bank on Chicago’s South Side, crumbling from top to bottom—the roof long collapsed, exposing the interior to snow and rain for years—would be destined for a wrecking ball. Like so many other decaying structures in the area, that was certainly the fate of the Stony Island Savings & Loan building before artist, urban planner, and Chicago resident Theaster Gates intervened.

Armed with only a vision to carry him through, Gates acquired the 20,000-square-foot bank for $1.00 from the city of Chicago and set about an unbelievable restoration. This month, amidst all the hubbub of Chicago’s Architecture Biennale, the doors were thrown open and the public was given the opportunity to walk through the new Stony Island Arts Bank. While construction is complete, several details of the bank’s history including peeling paint and damaged ceiling tiles have been preserved to physically merge the past and present....

The Stony Island Arts Bank is a place that proudly defies convention. A community savings and loan bank shuttered since the 1980s turned into a world-class arts center in the middle of a greatly under-resourced community most in need of bold ideas. It’s the kind of place that civic leaders propose and residents dream of, but for a thousand reasons it never seems to materialize. And yet here it is.

Gates’ idea has now manifested itself as a platform for site-specific exhibitions and commissions, artist residencies, and as a home for the Rebuild Foundation, a nonprofit organization founded by the artist in 2010 that seeks specifically to foster culture and development in underinvested neighborhoods. In addition, the arts bank houses the vinyl archive of Frankie Knuckles, regarded as the “Godfather of House Music,” as well as 60,000 glass lantern slides from the University of Chicago and the School of the Art Institute. You can also find the personal magazine and book collection of John H. Johnson, founder of Ebony and Jet magazines.

In a press release Gates describes the Arts Bank as “an institution of and for the South Side,” “a repository for African American culture and history, a laboratory for the next generation of black artists,” and “a space for neighborhood residents to preserve, access, reimagine and share their heritage, as well as a destination for artists, scholars, curators, and collectors to research and engage with South Side history.”
theaster_gates  urban_archaeology  archives  archive_art  race 
october 2015 by shannon_mattern
Uncovering the Early History of “Big Data” and the “Smart City” in Los Angeles | Boom: A Journal of California
Like many smart, new ideas, however, it’s not new. It’s not even new to Los Angeles, which has been pursuing computer-assisted data and policy analysis for decades. Beginning in the late 1960s and through most of the 1970s, the little-known Community Analysis Bureau used computer databases, cluster analysis, and infrared aerial photography to gather data, produce reports on neighborhood demographics and housing quality, and help direct resources to ward off blight and tackle poverty.....

A data-rich snapshot of LA from forty years ago, the report didn’t categorize Los Angeles into the usual neighborhoods or community plan areas, but into scattered clusters with names like “the singles of Los Angeles,” “the suburbs from the fifties,” “richest of the poor,” “gracious living,” and more.[7] The nomenclature was seemingly drawn more from market research than traditional city planning reports.

I mentally filed it away as just another 1970s urban experiment, an attempt to sort and categorize places across LA’s expanse. As I read more about the methodology, however, I became intrigued by the Community Analysis Bureau’s ambition to create an “Urban Information System” that could be applied to tackle the problems of the day. I wondered whether this urban intelligence had influenced city policy or programs. How had the bureau fared as the politics of planning, poverty alleviation, and land use in the city changed? ...

In the years after World War II, that know-how and faith in machines translated, in part, to an interest in computer-assisted social analysis, thanks to the availability of both mainframe computers and large federal grants during the Cold War. Social scientists in particular were interested in exploring the possibilities that data and computers could bring to public policy, as were city planners and architects. In A Second Modernism: MIT, Architecture and the ‘Techno-Social’ Moment, Arindam Dutta writes that for them, “the emphasis on assembling, collating, and processing larger and larger amounts of data” was “paramount in the postwar framing of expertise.”....

ata was the key to know-how, and Los Angeles was key to the techno-optimism of the era. Although the region’s lingering reputation may be for unchecked sprawl and popular entertainment, twentieth-century LA was highly planned—and proud of the systems on which it depended: its networks of streetcars and freeways, its flood control and water infrastructure, and its intentionally fragmented municipal and quasi-public governance. Southern California had a huge high-tech cluster in the aerospace industry....

In 1962, the city submitted a proposal to the Ford Foundation seeking funding for “A Metropolitan Area Fact Bank for the Greater Los Angeles Area.” In proposing the “fact bank,” the mayor’s office noted that Los Angeles “was one of the first non-federal government agencies to use electromechanical and electronic data processing systems in accomplishment of its day-to-day service rendering tasks...

In forming the Community Analysis Bureau, Los Angeles sought new tools to address the old challenges of deteriorating housing by providing detailed local data to identify neighborhoods showing early signs of obsolescence. The city had razed “blighted” housing in Chavez Ravine in the early 1950s[17] and, when the CAB launched in the late 1960s, was using federal funding to redevelop the Bunker Hill area.[18] The bureau’s data would help identify blighted areas across the city for renewal efforts like these and inform measures aimed at alleviating the poverty that led to blight in the first place....

First, however, the bureau had to digitize and centralize relevant information from the US Census, the Los Angeles Police Department, the LA County Assessor, and other private and public sources using the city’s existing IBM-360 mainframe computers. As a partial step toward a comprehensive Los Angeles Urban Information System, the bureau created a database using 220 staff-identified data categories as the nucleus of its database. This eventually expanded to 550 categories available to analyze individual census tracts....

Even with a vast array of data at their fingertips, evaluating the physical state of more than a million housing units spread out over Los Angeles’s nearly 500 square miles was an enormous challenge for the bureau—so bureau staff took to the air. A 1970 report from the bureau noted that “the use of color infrared (CIR) aerial photography offers immediate aid as a relatively inexpensive means of locating those areas most affected by conditions of blight and obsolescence....

The bureau’s data and analyses were intended to spur interventions in the city. An early report on the bureau’s methodology used the analogy of a “thermostat that samples changes in data… and, based on these measurements, or studies, makes recommendations to operating and staff agencies of the City as to the differences in the desired City climate and the actual.”[32] The city’s data-driven climate control would help to regulate everything from crime rates to unemployment to traffic....

But the ultimate failure of the Community Analysis Bureau suggests that data analysis needs to be better linked to planning, policy, and even advocacy. The bureau wasn’t closely allied with social movements that might have pushed for changes related to the agency’s findings, nor was it sufficiently integrated into the structure of decision making and budgeting in the city. With no core constituency in the heart of city government, the bureau’s findings were easy to dismiss as interesting but inessential factoids. Bureau employees predicted this problem in 1970 in a report that noted, “Political realities must be very carefully amalgamated with the tools of technology. This amalgamation will be difficult at best since, by design, the conclusions of technology tend to be objective, while those of politics tend to be subjective and emotional.”[
data  smart_cities  Los_Angeles  algorithms  urban_design  urban_planning  urban_policy  infrastructure  flowcharts  data_visualization  statistics  census  urban_archaeology  urban_history  photography  aerial_photography 
august 2015 by shannon_mattern
Google's Sidewalk Labs is taking over the plan to blanket NYC with free Wi-Fi | The Verge
Earlier this month, Google announced the creation of Sidewalk Labs, an independent, Google-owned company that would focus on improving city living through technology innovations. At the time, Google didn't give any details about what projects it would be working on first, but now it seems that Sidewalk Labs is going to dive into the challenge of bringing widespread Wi-Fi to big cities — starting with New York City.

Sidewalk Labs just announced that it is launching Intersection — another new company formed of Control Group and Titan. While those names may not mean anything to you, Control Group and Titan were two of the key players behind the LinkNYC plan that was announced last fall. LinkNYC's goal was to convert the city's old phone booths into 10,000 ad-supported Wi-Fi "pylons," a plan that Bloomberg says is still scheduled to begin this fall. From there, the plan is to roll out similar programs in other cities, though where exactly this will happen hasn't been announced yet.
wifi  wireless  urban_archaeology  infrastructure  google 
june 2015 by shannon_mattern
Mapping, Beirut-style: how to navigate a city without using any street names | Cities | The Guardian
Try to locate any place in the Lebanese capital and this, typically, is what you will hear: details and places, not the names of streets or their numbers. Whether visiting a friend for the first time or trying to find someone’s office, the best bet is always to find landmarks, not official addresses – they may exist, but probably won’t be of much help anyway, because no one really uses them....

“That data was already available from the ministry of transportation, but they never thought it would be useful,” Ghubril explains. “We mapped the buses – but then, of course, you have to find out exactly where to catch them.”

To know that, you must do what people in Beirut already do – ask their way around. Urban dwellers all over the world do the same; indeed, Google Maps took the idea of adding landmarks to maps from its team in India, where winding and unpredictable roads, informal neighbourhoods and a sprawling, makeshift economy make cities highly communicative places.

“I know that many Indian tourists prefer to travel abroad in groups for this reason,” says Mumbai resident Preethi Pinto. “They’re used to finding their way by interacting with others, so when they encounter a country that doesn’t offer that interaction, it’s hard.”

Yatin Pandya, an architect from Ahmedabad, agrees the notion of location in Indian cities is highly social and visual, relying on memory and experience. “Addresses are very particular, with detailed references and directions like ‘nearby’, ‘opposite’ and ‘in between’, because roads often have no signs.” Instead they tend to take creative, often literal, names like “The Road with the Oak Tree”.

Beirut does the same, says Ghubril. “There’s a street here officially named Baalbek Street, but everyone calls it Commodore Street because of the Commodore Cinema, which doesn’t exist any more – but the Commodore Hotel does, and that helps a bit!”
mapping  cartography  urban_archaeology  palimpsest  itinerary 
june 2015 by shannon_mattern
Rome’s Invisible City | BBC One
The show explores Roman infrastructure and ingenuity, all below ground level. We journeyed via the icy, crystal clear waters of subterranean aqueducts that feed the Trevi fountain and two thousand year old sewers which still function beneath the Roman Forum today, to decadent, labyrinthine catacombs. Our laser scans map these hidden treasures, revealing for the first time the complex network of tunnels, chambers and passageways without which Rome could not have survived as a city of a million people.
visualization  archaeology  infrastructure  Rome  urban_archaeology  urban_history  3D_scanning 
june 2015 by shannon_mattern
San Francisco Repurposes Old for the Future - NYTimes.com
It has gone widely unremarked, maybe because it’s so obvious to people here, that tech firms in San Francisco have not (yet) been moving into new buildings; they’ve been taking over old ones. Twitter has leased a onetime furniture mart on Market Street, and AirBnB has renovated a century-old industrial warehouse south of Market. Yelp occupies part of 140 New Montgomery downtown, the magnificent Art Deco former Pacific Telephone tower from the 1920s, lovingly revamped by Cathy Simon, an architect with Perkins & Will, and the developers Wilson Meany Sullivan.

Scores of other tech firms, like hermit crabs living off whatever’s around, have colonized auto-body shops, Victorian mansions and vacant and formerly unloved 1970s office buildings. So much media attention has focused on the multibillion-dollar suburban campuses by celebrity designers in Silicon Valley, among them Norman Foster’s doughnut-shaped headquarters for Apple, that adaptive reuse has pretty much slipped under the radar.

But it’s a big deal here: Tech firms have taken over more than three million square feet of existing office and industrial space. That’s nearly the equivalent of New York’s new 1 World Trade Center. Driven partly by young tech workers’ desire to live in cities, the trend helps explain why those suburban office-park projects like Mr. Foster’s seem far behind the curve even before they’ve been completed.
urban_archaeology  media_architecture  internet  media_workplace  renovation  reuse 
june 2014 by shannon_mattern
Dan Hill on the need for innovation in city services
It feels like this is what a city like London really is, the accretion of infrastructure over time, a physical diagram of flows of resources in and out. Most of the structure is mile after mile of domestic services, each culminating in the enclosed cul-de-sac of a house, fingers creeping upwards through walls and floorboards, virtually each of London's innumerable houses with its own wiring, its own immersion heaters, its own boilers. It’s all physically connected, yet it’s all functionally disconnected. All those individual decisions by homeowners, each one with their own power plants, effectively, also feels like London — a triumph of diversity and individualism, for better or worse....

For while [Nest] is indeed a "connected product", with the crystalline code structures of the Internet on one end, the other end is connected to that enormous soggy mass described earlier. Even the first few centimetres of that physical connection might be hitting wiring from the 1970s, addressing a boiler from the 1980s connected to Edwardian pipes sitting within a Victorian wall. While that palimpsest of domestic services might have an organic quality befitting an early Will Self short story, it does not make for what Reyner Banham once called a "well-tempered environment"....

Nest is really a sketch of a product that unites these aspects, facets of architecture that even the forward-looking Banham saw as disparate — it both concerns "life support" and communication of persons, information and products.

Banham often quoted Marcel Breuer's 1934 statement that "what the new architecture did was to civilise technology." We might now find that the new technology is about to civilise architecture, by entwining information, people and services. But will this drive come from architecture, or the likes of Google/Nest?
sentient_city  infrastructure  internet_of_things  palimpsest  urban_archaeology 
may 2014 by shannon_mattern
The Sense-able City | Carlo Ratti |
Ambient intelligence can indeed pervade new cities, but perhaps most importantly, it can also animate the rich, chaotic erstwhile urban spaces — like a new operating system for existing hardware. This was already noted by Bill Mitchell at the beginning of our digital era: “The gorgeous old city of Venice […] can integrate modern telecommunications infrastructure far more gracefully than it could ever have adapted to the demands of the industrial revolution.” Could ambient intelligence bring new life to the winding streets of Italian hill towns, the sweeping vistas of Santorini, or the empty husks of Detroit?

We might need to forget about the flying cars that zip through standard future cities discourse. Urban form has shown an impressive persistence over millennia — most elements of the modern city were already present in Greek and Roman times. Humans have always needed, and will continue to need, the same physical structures for their daily lives: horizontal planes and vertical walls (no offense, Frank O. Gehry). But the very lives that unfold inside those walls is now the subject of one of the most striking transformations in human history. Ambient intelligence and sensing networks will not change the container but the contained; not smart cities but smart citizens.
smart_cities  urban_archaeology  urban_form 
april 2014 by shannon_mattern
New York Underground: A Centuries-Old Underworld of Caverns, Squatters, and Unmarked Doors | Vanity Fair
Deep below the streets of New York City lie its vital organs—a water system, subways, railroads, tunnels, sewers, drains, and power and cable lines—in a vast, three-dimensional tangle. Penetrating this centuries-old underworld of caverns, squatters, and unmarked doors, William Langewiesche follows three men who constantly navigate its dangers: the subway-operations chief who dealt with the devastation of Hurricane Sandy, the engineer in charge of three underground mega-projects, and the guy who, well, just loves exploring the dark, jerry-rigged heart of a great metropolis.
infrastructure  urban_archaeology  exploration  subways  cable 
october 2013 by shannon_mattern
The strange world of urban exploration | Books | The Guardian
Urban exploration: a guide for the uninitiated. Urban exploration, urbex or UE is recreational trespass in the built environment. Among the requirements for participation are claustrophilia, lack of vertigo, a taste for decay, a fascination with infrastructure, a readiness to jump fences and lift manhole covers, and a familiarity with the laws of access in whatever jurisdiction you're undertaking your explorations. Archive and web skills are useful too, for acquiring the schematics and blueprints that will inspire and orient you. Among the sites in your sights are disused factories and hospitals, former military installations, bunkers, bridges and storm-drain networks...

Garrett acknowledges the difficulty of generalising a motive for urbex (or, as he puts it, "reifying a co-ordinated explorer ethos"), but he personally celebrates it as a form of activism, which "recodes people's normalised relationships to city space", and creates temporary "regions of misrule". Or – as Foucault in a militant mood might have said – they aim "to disrupt dominant hegemonic spatial control through tactical urban infiltration". His book ends with a manifesto-climax that readers will find either rousing or riling: "Wherever doors are closed, we will find a way through. Wherever history is buried, we will uncover it. Wherever architecture is exclusionary, we will liberate it."

Perhaps. It's still unclear to me exactly how urbex will roll back privatisation or resist surveillance culture. It may even do the opposite (more cameras, more "seccas"). Successful access campaigns have tended to be large-scale movements rather than lone wolves, the most famous instance being the Kinder Scout Trespass of 1932, though I suppose a counter-example might be the fascinating optical trespasses of the contemporary American photographer, Trevor Paglen, whose ultra-long-lens cameras peer into the black-ops sites and classified landscapes of the American security complex, making visible what the state keenly wishes to keep unseen.
urban_archaeology  urban_exploration  exploration  travel 
october 2013 by shannon_mattern
Urban Exploration Helps Terrorism, Counterterrorism Agency Warns | Danger Room | Wired.com
Some people are into spelunking through the urban ruins and crevasses of unfamiliar cities. The National Counterterrorism Center has a term for these sorts of people: terrorist dupes.

“Urban Explorers (UE) — hobbyists who seek illicit access to transportation and industrial facilities in urban areas — frequently post photographs, video footage, and diagrams on line [sic] that could be used by terrorists to remotely identify and surveil potential targets,” warns the nation’s premiere all-source center for counterterrorism analysis.

You might think that dude climbing across the girders of a suspension bridge late at night intends to get a good view or to write some graffiti. But the National Counterterrorism Center can’t help but notice the pathway he takes exposes “security vulnerabilities” inherent in the urban landscape, like “access to structural components including caissons (the structures that house the anchor points of a bridge suspension system)” — all of which a terrorist would find useful. Spelunking through subway tunnels might alert terrorists to “electrical, ventilation or signal control rooms.” The vantage point of a rooftop provides a glimpse useful to the “disruption of communication systems.”

All of this was part of a one-sheet warning that the National Counterterrorism Center issued in November, unearthed by our friends at Public Intelligence. Named in the document are prominent urban-spelunker websites like Undercity.org and Placehacking.co.uk, which grew out of urban-geography PhD research.
urban_archaeology  exploration  walking  terrorism 
march 2013 by shannon_mattern
Journal of the Imaginary and Fantastic : Vol.2 No.4 : Deep Maps : liminal histories and the located imagination.
Iain Biggs. Deep Mapping : a brief introduction (Spectral Traces catalog, 2010).

Michael Kowalewski. Contemporary Regionalism.

Jesse Shapins. Deep Mapping Landscape as a Phantasmagoric Practice.

Christopher C. Gregory-Guider. Deep Maps : William Least Heat-Moon's psychogeographic cartographies.

Cinzia Schiavini. Writing The Land : horizontality, verticality and deep travel in PrairyErth.

Kenneth M. Sroka. Making plain/s space : the literary geographies of Cather, Kroetsch, and Heat-Moon.

William Least Heat-Moon. Extract from PrairyErth: 'Regarding Fokker Niner-Niner-Easy'.

Clifford McLucas. Ten Things I Can Say About These Deep Maps.

Pamela Walker. The Necessity of Narrative in William Least Heat-Moon's Blue Highways and Prairyerth.

Sue Matheson. When North is South : propinquity and the production of place and space.

Alba Rebecca Newmann. "Language is not a vague province" : mapping and twentieth-century American poetry.

Rob Kitchin, Chris Perkins, Martin Dodge. Thinking About Maps.
mapping  deep_maps  urban_archaeology  methodology  archives  UMA 
february 2013 by shannon_mattern
“Deep Maps”: A Brief for Digital Palimpsest Mapping Projects (DPMPs, or “Deep Maps”) [eScholarship]
"Deep Maps would embed links to archival texts and images (along with interpretive materials) in nodes on an interactive map. To construct them, scholars would mine archives... Deep Maps would also focus on topics that cross borders and would include links to texts and images in different locations... Deep Maps would be accessible to as broad an international public as possible. Ideally they would be free and would be available as pedagogical tools..."
deep_time  deep_maps  mapping  urban_archaeology  UMA  archives  methodology 
february 2013 by shannon_mattern
Jorge Otero-Pailos: The Ethics of Dust at the Venice Biennale: Places: Design Observer
Jorge Otero-Pailos desperately needed a wall to clean. It was January 2009, and he had been invited to participate in the 53rd Venice Biennale, the flashy and prestigious art fair opening later that year, in May. Instead of contributing, say, a painting, or a video installation or sculpture or room-sized light exhibit, Otero-Pailos intended to clean the wall of a gothic monument with a high-tech latex solution; to wait for the latex to dry and peel it off; and then to display the gauze-like material that results — a 40-by-23-foot pelt — as a work of art with an unintentional aesthetic. Dirt settles where it wants....

[Mark Wigley] sees Otero-Pailos as expanding the legacy of the school’s historic preservation program — launched in 1964, the first of its kind in the country — and its iconoclastic founder, James Marston Fitch, an architect, social activist and historian who argued that complete restoration was undemocratic because it didn’t allow the public to see what had been restored and how...

...in a recent project for Philip Johnson’s Glass House: Noticing the smoke stains on the ceiling of the living room — the scene of countless soirees — Otero-Pailos and Rosendo Mateu, perfumer and head of the Puig Perfumery Center, worked to recreate the atmosphere, the smells, that would have been so strong a part of the social experience of the place during Johnson’s long and convivial life...

In 2008 Otero-Pailos was invited to create a work of conservation and art for the European Biennial of Contemporary Art (also known as Manifesta) in Bolzano, Italy. In the disused aluminum factory where the biennial was housed, and from which the curators expected artists to take inspiration, he spent a month on scaffolding with three former students, cleaning a wall with latex... Otero-Pailos called the Bolzano piece “The Ethics of Dust.” The project was inspired, in part, by one of Otero-Pailos’s heroes, John Ruskin, the British art and architecture theorist whose prodigious literary output included a book called The Ethics of the Dust (Otero-Pailos omitted the second “the”), originally published in 1865. Ruskin, who spent long periods in Venice, believed that dust and dirt had value, and when deposited on buildings, became intrinsic to their history. He called the accumulation of grime a “time-stain” and encouraged Venetian conservators to preserve the city’s dark and dirty facades. Soiling meant age, and age was a building’s “greatest glory,” he wrote...

Viollet-le-Duc never hesitated to take creative license with his restorations, adding elements that were never part of a building to begin with and arguing that monuments should be brought to a state of perfection — of “completion.”... By the late 19th century it was Viollet-le-Duc who appeared triumphant: Ruskin’s influence in the world of preservation began to fade in the 1890s when Camilo Boito, a Venetian conservator, dismissed the time-stain as “extrinsic filth.” Boito inspired wholesale cleaning campaigns and this view has, more or less, dominated the field for a century...

as he sees it, historic preservation consolidated into a discipline when dirt was no longer valued as a time-stain but instead was derided as filth. “The material source of preservation’s existence is pollution,” he said. “Had there been no pollution, I sincerely doubt we would have preservation as we know it.” When Otero-Pailos conservatively cleans a building wall to leave a patina (which Ruskin would have liked) and displays the latex cast of the pollution as art, he is conserving both the wall and the dirt. He is letting the dirt tell a story (and sometimes even going so far as to have it analyzed in a lab for its make-up).
urban_archaeology  forensics  architectural_history  architectural_preservation  preservation  conservation  dust  pollution  materiality  Ruskin  cleaning 
february 2013 by shannon_mattern
The Ethics of Dust: A Conversation with Jorge Otero-Pailos | Art21 Blog
The Ethics of Dust is a project to preserve the world’s pollution, a material that I see as emblematic of modernity, but which we know only obliquely through its effects on other objects.

Paradoxically, even though conservation was formed in the effort to deal with the advent of pollution, we really don’t know very much about it politically, culturally, historically, and aesthetically. We also know very little about its own long-term behavior, or how to preserve it. But without it, a major part of our cultural history will be lost.

I’ve attempted to open up this conversation and to focus attention on pollution with this series of installations, in which I save pollution from major monuments. I’m using latex as a way to transfer the pollution from the buildings.
architectural_history  urban_archaeology  pollution  dust  conservation  preservation  architecture 
february 2013 by shannon_mattern
Gabriele Basilico (1944–2013) - News - Domus
Perhaps, the death of the photographer Gabriele Basilico yesterday marks the end of a certain way of looking at our cities. Basilico was an outstanding, neutral, intelligent and profound observer who saw the masses of buildings (i.e. the city) as something constructed by humans but that no longer needed them to survive...

I cannot think of any of his pictures showing people and I presume he worked early in the morning because the shadows are nearly always long. His photographs of central Milan were probably taken in the deserted dog days of August. Nearly all of Basilico's portfolio is black and white, and only recently had he started using colour, demonstrating, among other things, that the city-product is essentially colourless.
media_architecture  media_city  photography  ruins  urban_archaeology  borders  nonplace 
february 2013 by shannon_mattern
Cartographies of Media Archaeology: The Underbelly of the Underground
on the microlevel, imagine the work and consideration that had to be in place. For years, planning and building, engineering the project; considerations of ventilation and sewage had to the priority. Discussions about the soil and shafts, a true mining project that provided the underground transport media it's viability that 150 years later seems more idealistic... And it was not without its dangers. Remember the Schivelbusch line, familiar from Virilio as well? That every technology co-produces its accident? The train comes with the train accident, but not all railway accidents and dangers have to do with trains. Indeed, there was a lot more to be worried about before trains were running... This is the microhistory of engineering projects, of transport and media: it takes into account the various seemingly grey elements which actually precede any events and dates that are then deemed of significant from a symbolic point of view. Instead of 150 years of London Underground, we have a longer history of the underbelly of the Underground and its relation to the soil, engineering, labour and other material formations. The city lives not only on top of the surface. It has its guts, where we also move, but also other things move, and our life support has to flow; sewers and ventilation, an underground teeming with life, in the soil.
media_archaeology  urban_archaeology  geology  engineering  transportation  subways 
january 2013 by shannon_mattern
99% Invisible! | girlwonder
Molly on pneumatic tubes on 99% Invisible -- "last-mile problem," steam, using sound to identify blockages, "liveness," trash disposal on Roosevelt Island
pneumatic_tubes  telegraph  media_history  urban_archaeology  radio  materiality  trash 
december 2012 by shannon_mattern
BLDGBLOG: Monuments of Misdirection
surveyor John Randel, her book's subject, back in 1811 as he staked out Manhattan's future grid... Randel spent "10 years staking out and marking the intersections from First Street to 155th Street with 1,549 three-foot-high marble monuments and, when the ground was too rocky, with 98 iron bolts secured by lead. (He had to resurvey 30 miles after vandals or disgruntled property owners removed the markers.)"

Manhattan at that time was thus, however briefly, a kind of game board or field of acupuncture points—a ghost grid, in advance of the city it surveyed—with thousands of monuments and bolts pinning down the spots where streets and intersections would soon appear.

Holloway's concluding point, however, is that even something as real and tangible as Randel's iron bolts, anchored by lead into solid bedrock, nonetheless remain extraordinarily difficult, if not impossible, to map with objective accuracy.
grid  manhattan  urban_planning  gps  urban_archaeology 
december 2012 by shannon_mattern
Urban Omnibus » The Fall of the American Movie Palace (especially that one on Flatbush)
“After The Final Curtain” is the resulting series of documentary photographs, focusing on those theaters in need of renovation among the hundreds still standing in American cities today, from Yonkers to St. Louis to northern Manhattan, in varying stages of rehabilitation, re-use, or regal rot.

These movie palaces were constructed between 1910 and 1940, keeping pace with the burgeoning of the country’s motion picture industry. Initially, many hosted live vaudeville acts, but the growth of the movie-going public led to the building of dedicated, single-screen cinemas. The ornately decorated theaters, with evocative names like “The Regal” or “The Majestic,” were designed specifically to foster a sense of wealth, privilege, and high culture among those who paid for the experience. Lambros quotes Marcus Loew, the self-made American movie mogul — founder of Loew’s Theatres and Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer — who purportedly said: “people buy tickets to theatres, not movies.”

By the mid-1970s, that mentality had changed. Moviegoers began flocking to multiplexes, which are about as architecturally distinctive as the big box shopping centers that house them. Single-screen movie palaces all over the country were redeveloped for live performances or closed.

Matt Lambros has been fascinated by abandoned architecture since his early childhood in Duchess County, New York. He has channeled his curiosity into advocacy for greater public awareness and care for these largely neglected structures. And the photographs do feel like official documents; Lambros generally forgoes nostalgic flourishes of light and shadow in order to portray the “facts” of the space. His photography is sensitive to the distinguishing features of each building: the stage and seating layouts, ceiling decoration, plasterwork, and entryways.
media_architecture  film  theatres  photography  urban_archaeology 
december 2012 by shannon_mattern
BLDGBLOG: Lost Rivers
"Once upon a time, in almost every city," the film states, "many rivers flowed. Why did they disappear? How? And could we see them again? This documentary tries to find answers by meeting visionary urban thinkers, activists and artists from around the world."
urban_archaeology  geology  water 
october 2012 by shannon_mattern
Media(al)[ity] Wondering Alice: Paris Ville Invisible
A combined work of visual art and sociology, Paris: Invisible City, is a web-based document that works toward orchestrating the methodology Latour proposes in Reassembling the Social, namely Actor-Network-Theory, as a mapped hypertext. A collaboration among Latour who wrote the text, Emelie Hermant who took the photographs; and Patricia Reed who handled the web design, this piece presents an overlapping of the multiple gestures of the gaze, administered uncritically by the visitor to Paris and vigilantly by the invisible support systems of the French capital; these “internal” glances by those involved in the infrastructure of municipal functioning are ones that both make all other gazes possible and yet administer as well their own kind of view, as modes of surveillance, contingent to the proper carrying out of daily life. The combined semiotic/material gazes that Latour’s project maps are much more elaborate and encompassing than those based on any single instance of gazing, and the project works toward describing the nature of these varied and multiple views as well as significance they render. Through this we see that Latour’s theory includes the collaborative/combined viewing positions beyond the three persons creating the document that is Paris: Invisible City, to include the people, routes, streets, bureaucracy, and cafes of Paris, creating an oligopticon that includes all actors involved in the relationships of the Parisian socius, however long-standing or fleeting they may be....

Observing the city in this methodical but narratively haphazard way, plotting a course with the help of touristic maps but also via the unseen informatics that keep the city clean, demarcated, and moving with a degree of order to accommodate ten million residents and perhaps three times that many annual visitors[1], Latour and his collaborators present a view that is both scientific and aesthetic. It further opens the oligoptic panorama, and while not all-inclusive, it allows observation to occur at many levels, both physical and discursive, and through many kinds of eyes. Those performing the labor of surveillance, like police, traffic administrators, and writers, are overlaid with those surveilling as play: some are narrow and focused; some are broad and sweeping; some are informed by computer renderings and real-time connections; others are shaped by dreams and desire. The network that these many types of gazes create by overlapping only begins to address the kind of circulation of information, the channels through which any given actor observes and is observed. Power structures are unveiled that are certainly not the purview of a visitor or even a long-time resident. Further, by flattening the form of observation performed as labor with that performed as play, that which is detailed with that which is sweeping, Latour opens trajectories for further inquiry into how “the former tubes of the pneumatic dispatch system” might convey relationships, constantly undergoing reconstruction, and continually returning “to incarnation, to virtualities.” Clearly the gaze is not fixed and neither is the sociological functioning that might be observed or noticed by any given actor.
urban_archaeology  latour  urban_form  infrastructure  actor_network  multimodal_scholarship  cartography  gaze  methodology 
september 2012 by shannon_mattern
the performative ground: rediscovering the deep section | Landscape Urbanism
With more and more landscape projects today being built over infrastructure, over unstable soils, or even atop capped landfills, it is critical for landscape architects to deepen their understanding of complex site dynamics. While the visual action of landscape happens above ground, landscape architecture’s intelligence, technical problem solving and performative attributes often occur beneath the surface...

For landscape architecture projects to perform and persist over time, landscape architects need to not only design the benches, plantings, and pathways on the surface of the ground, but to have a deep understanding of the site’s underlying substrate, of the flows of water, traffic, and nutrients, of the architectural and infrastructural context of the site... These ideas were well understood by the architects and engineers at the turn of the mid-nineteenth century who designed and built much of the conveyance infrastructure that lies beneath the feet of city dwellers today...

The use of poché –the hatched or shaded space inside the cutline–in sectional drawings indicates material or space which does not need to be considered. In architectural drawings, poché traditionally represents the space inside the wall, indicating areas not experienced or deemed superfluous to the focus of the drawing...

While the environmental movement galvanized around Rachel Carson and dying birds, landscape architecture inherited Rem Koolhaas and Parc de la Villette. OMA’s proposal for the Parc de la Villette competition remains a seminal project for contemporary landscape architecture, presenting a conceptual approach to landscape process and heralding the era of a new drawing style, the diagrammatic plan... Thirty years after La Villette, landscape architects and architects are still struggling with the flatness that came with the diagrammatic, ungrounded approach to landscape. Academic and professional exploration of folded and thickened surfaces within the city exhibit a desire to counteract this purported flatness of landscape, in order to express a more didactically complex reading of the urban surface...

While architects continue to struggle to express depth and dynamic performance through largely formal and narrative devices, contemporary landscape architects have re-embraced process and a hyperconnected view of nature through a re-engagement with the urban ground and its messy complexity. In this view, site conditions and contexts are treated not as a disconnected engineering problem, but as integral to the design strategy...

If a Deep Urbanism is a reading of the city as a complex system composed of interconnected layers of social and biogeochemical processes, then the deep section is its primary graphic device for communicating a synthetic view. The deep section is an essential representational tool in expressing and addressing design challenges holistically—allowing varied processes to become visible and be explored relationally, rather than analytically. The deep section breaks away from reliance on the visual and apparent—creating space for the visualization of the processes of urban nature more readily than do plans and perspectives. The deep section also brings infrastructure, hidden both underground and in plain sight, to the forefront, expanding our understanding of the pre-conditions of projects and the boundaries of our interventions... The “deep section” holds out promise as the graphic platform for convening the interdisciplinary conversation necessary to solve the complex and layered challenges of contemporary urban landscape projects within a medium that is native to landscape architecture.
media_architecture  rendering  drawing  section  landscape_urbanism  infrastructure  urban_archaeology 
august 2012 by shannon_mattern
Urban Omnibus » Undercity: The Infrastructural Explorations of Steve Duncan
For the past fifteen years, Steve Duncan has been exploring the rivers, tunnels, sewers and utility networks running beneath city streets around the world. Through his photography, historical research, public talks and tours, he seeks to communicate his profound (and infectious) enthusiasm for these underground marvels, focussing on how hydrological and wastewater technologies conform to their natural environments and relate to broader histories of design, ecology, public health and public works.

In so doing, he illuminates infrastructures that we take for granted — until, of course, we find our basements flooded — and reminds us that contemporary challenges of wastewater are much more than a technical policy issue. They connect us to our past, and just might motivate us to demand comprehensive, long-term infrastructure planning in the future... I think greater understanding and appreciation of infrastructural systems has the potential to change cities, and the world, for the better... preserving natural environments or preserving cities has to acknowledge that they are constantly evolving. What I am most interested in doing is broadening our understanding of how cities work, and history is an inherent part of that. The whole point of historic preservation is that the site itself becomes a communication tool: by communicating history you preserve it.

...it is a failure of understanding the connections between different parts of the city and the ways that one kind of development impacts other areas.

...If you go into sewers, you can tell the time period they were built from the shape and the materials used. The earliest sewers built in New York had round, brick tunnels with a small amount of flow. After a decade or so, the City realized that the dry weather flow in round sewers is very slow and easily clogged up, so it switched to an egg-shaped profile that sped the flow during dry weather. And in the 20th century, we see bigger, concrete and rectangular sewers. You can see an entire history of design choices that, for their time periods, each served the city’s needs incredibly well. And you can see how much our urban systems reflect pre-urban, natural systems.... The more you look at different layers of the city, the more you realize that we haven’t escaped nature in our modern city. Cities exist within natural environments, are shaped by natural resources, and function everyday through processes of interlinked natural and urban systems.

Besides your photography, in terms of making some of these hidden natural and urban systems visible, what modeling and visualization strategies do you use?
I like maps a lot. Maps never tell you the whole story about anything, but maps are among the best tools I know of to communicate data about place (other than taking pictures and talking to everyone I meet at parties about sewers). Good mapping, in my opinion, is capable of connecting data to specific places and communicating it in an instant.

But my ideal way of raising awareness isn’t just to bring evidence of what’s underground – photographs, maps, historical records – aboveground. I also want to bring people underground to see for themselves. Some of the places I’ve seen – like the beautiful set of tunnels near Van Cortlandt Park pond in the Bronx – would be landmarked in no time if they were above ground. They’re just gorgeous: the craftsmanship of the construction, three or four layers of hand-laid brick in arches and sweeping curves....

Why? How would that level of visibility enrich public understanding and make us more responsive to our infrastructure and environment?
By seeing, people would be better equipped to understand how stuff works as well as how previous generations dealt with these issues.
urban_history  urban_archaeology  urban_studies  infrastructure  infrastructural_literacy  mapping 
august 2012 by shannon_mattern
Telluric Conditions | willschrimshaw.net
Absolute empiricism is presented as diffusive concept recognising sensation and locating objects of study well beyond anthropic horizons according to the requirements of speculative thought; it is herein adopted as a method in investigating the lingering subterranean traces of industrial production contributing to the contaminated earth and in particular its information of surface activities.... This industrial, absolute or unconditioned empiricism entails a praxical openness to `syntheses that “make themselves felt”;3 where chemistry is equated with sensory dynamics, sensation is located within both the inhuman and inorganic.... The ubiquitous distribution of sensation as a result of its being unbound in thought from the anthropic sphere occurs where one recognises sensation as a synthetic production occurring wherever there are chemical interactions. Sensation is thus production and product of interaction and production creation; we thereby arrive at a notion of industrial creativity as a diffusive conception of influential or informational productivity....

Uncovering the trace elements of a chemical insurgency entails a minimal descent into the dark, synthetic depths of this contaminated territory in order to exhume whatever might remain of its contagious and contaminant productivity. Digging beneath the surfaces of the city that informs much psychogeographical practice, enquiry beneath the pavement entails a shift from the interpretation of the city as a set of signs to the experimental investigation of its affective and material substrates—an approach that yields just as many projectiles.... Debord’s call for critical engagement with the city `by means of [...] experimental d’erives, [through which] a cartography of influences can be drawn up’ is here realised not as a smooth flow or drift across the surface but as an action punctuated by requirement to mine.7 With each pause and descent a little more of `the objective field of passion in which d’erive is propelled’ is uncovered.8 The mining of influential substrates—contrary to the Situationists’ assumption that beneath the authoritarian surfaces of the city lies the freedom of the beach—uncovers a deeper ecological determinism and subliminal substrata that subsists its political conscription and participation within the material practices of ideology. Through digging, mining and drilling a `cartography of influence’ extends beyond the outlines and architectonic organisation of the surface towards informative subterranean dynamics, a cartography of influence that includes substata and not simply a topographical overview.
urban_archaeology  derive  excavation  infrastructure  sensation 
july 2012 by shannon_mattern
The Invisible Underworld of London - Arts & Lifestyle - The Atlantic Cities
Artist Stephen Walter has found and documented the city's underground complexion in a hand-drawn map of subterranean London. Part of a new exhibition running at the London Transport Museum, Walter's map reveals the buried history of the city, and also the underground infrastructure that keeps it running. From the underground transportation network to homicides to World War II underground shelters, the map bring the under-recognized and maybe even forgotten parts of the city to the surface.... The space under our feet reveals the history of the world and us as a species. Its can be read like a layer-cake book. It holds secrets and offers a huge amount of untapped space.
mapping  urban_archaeology  infrastructure  underground 
june 2012 by shannon_mattern
Eleven Things That Were Different About Old New York -- Daily Intel
The New York City Department of Records recently made 870,000 photos from its archives available online for the first time, offering a fascinating glimpse into the city's past, and some of the ways that life here has changed over the years.
archives  photography  urban_media  new_york  urban_archaeology 
may 2012 by shannon_mattern
BLDGBLOG: Burying Bits of the City: Hong Kong Underground
Now, according to the South China Morning Post, civil engineers in Hong Kong are exploring the possibility of developing large-scale underground spaces—artificial caves—for incorporation into the city's existing infrastructure... the Hong Kong government "is moving towards burying bits of the city—the unsightly ones—in underground caverns, freeing up more land for housing and economic development"... Specifically, city engineers "will begin by identifying suitable rock caverns to house 400 government facilities that can be relocated, notably the not-in-my-backyard utilities disliked by nearby residents." These include "sewage treatment plants, fuel storage depots, refuse transfer stations and columbariums."
infrastructure  urban_archaeology  underground 
march 2012 by shannon_mattern
The Quietus | Opinion | Black Sky Thinking | Kindred Spirits: Burial The Urban Explorer
Burial's treatment of the human voice, premiered in full on second album Untrue, has a lot to answer for. In London at the moment, it feels as though you can't travel more than a few metres without bumping into another producer using similar pitchshifted vocal inflections to far lesser effect... The answer lies, I think, in his deep-seated connection to the world immediately surrounding him. Listening to any of his records - and Kindred is no exception - it's very apparent how strongly they're grounded in physical reality... Public transport is often mentioned in the same breath as his music... playing Kindred while out and about in London, the bleed of natural sound from outside the headphones feels completely contingent with the music itself... The obvious elements that have been noticeable since his early work are still present: vinyl crackle and static as the patter of raindrops on the roof of a bus shelter; sub-bass as great volcanic belches and whipping wind, like the stale air and omnipresent rumble of a tube train; beats built from very organic sound sources - the clack of train carriage on rail, the clink of a Zippo lighter, the slamming of a door... Within the title track alone a thunderstorm bellows away in the background, while further in the foreground its percussion (pointing more strongly towards jungle than anything he's done before) comes in violent slashes, like the rapid sharpening of knives in a takeaway restaurant. Even the very melodic synth drone that draws the track to a close becomes, when inspected closely enough, a dissonant cacophany of car horns at a busy intersection. To city dwellers all of these sounds speak strongly of the minutiae of everyday life within an urban environment, both by direct sonic representation and also by association... Urban exploration - or 'place hacking' as he also calls it - is all about breaking through the surface layers of our city environment to access the hidden zones that lie beneath the facade, either for purposes of documentation or the simple thrill of discovery... The modern world saps our lives of chronology. The city's surfaces - those that we wander though on the way to and from work or leisure - are wiped clean every day, kept devoid of the detritus of past inhabitants. The internet, the great leveler, flattens out time, so that our access to information exists on a single plane, downplaying accepted physical realities like context or cause-and-effect. Slipping through cracks in the city's surface it's possible to find traces of people left scattered around, allowing us to physically touch - handle, or photograph, or even smash - the history of that space. By breaking into derelict spaces where traces of past lives remain intact, entombed, we are able to experience a city's reality not only in three dimensions, but, with the addition of time, four... There's been a lot of talk about Burial as a mourner for the death of rave, a hauntological reading that suggests he taps into a sort of generational sorrow for a present that never came to fruition - one where the UK rave scene continued to make good on its early utopian promise. That, as Harper explored in his analysis, is a pretty tough idea to dispute, especially in his earlier recordings, whose primary thrust comes from the sonic properties of UK club music. However, there has always been more to his music than that. The process of change that began with Street Halo, and has now come several steps further with Kindred, has laid that fact increasingly bare. Moving into long-form, multi-part 'suites' of sorts, his approach on this new EP brings his music into a wider space, where the 'post-rave' interpretation is merely one facet of a far larger whole. Burial is increasingly playing the role of urban explorer - his music digs into the underbelly of the city and probes around, uncovering tiny fragments of the past and present which are then used to construct new narratives... "Ashtray Wasp": Running to nearly twelve minutes, its first half evokes sensations of a train journey, rhythmic slippages lending it the slight back-and-forth rock of a locomotive carriage in motion. As he/she rides, the narrator-of-sorts draws residue from the surrounding environment. These are more tangible things - flickers of voice ("Alright, bye", from a girl on the phone, slogans from billboards, R&B leaking from someone else's over-loud headphones, a couple of schoolchildren a few seats away blasting music on their phone), percussion as the chug of the train itself, four-to-the-floor kickdrum as heartbeat. Halfway through the track, the narrator disembarks and walks on foot out of the station and into a new neighbourhood. Here the tone of the piece changes entirely. The tempo shifts, the rhythms flit like two-step and the music begins to decay, picking up on more less immediately obvious cues and associations - the arrangement of buildings, graffiti on the walls, rubbish on the street... In Kindred most obviously, but in his other recordings too, he plays local historian and archivist, placing fragments of the present and recent past into an order and context that a wider audience can recognise, understand and connect to... Both his full-lengths - 2006's Burial and 2007's Untrue - tackle the ghosts of pirate radio, the former strongly referencing jungle and the latter drenched in UK garage and two-step, albeit twisted out of shape. That's a trait they share with London collective LHF, whose upcoming Keepers Of The Light album whips up a very similar atmosphere. Both artists' music suggests an alternate reality where the last 25 years' worth of pirate radio transmissions, blasted out from council flat bedrooms through improvised antennae, didn't simply vanish into the ether. Instead they all remained, ricocheting around the city, trapped within a plane just out of earshot, waiting to be tapped into. But there are other aspects to Burial's music too, superimposed on top of that one interpretation - and it's these other narratives, outside of the comparatively niche world of UK club music, that perhaps go some way towards explaining his vast appeal beyond the realm of the 'headz who remember'... The emotional core of the 'death of rave' interpretation of Burial's music is nostalgia - an ache for a past we can no longer access, and can remember only in fragments, sensations and impressions... What's so involving about Burial's music is that he relays these pieces of information with the same sort of ambiguity you'd experience wandering through a derelict building. The phantom voices that infest his tunes are intentionally androgynous, female deliberately pitched down and distorted to appear male, and male shifted into a higher register to resemble female. The end result is to strip them of any easily identifiable gender - a trick Untrue's 'Archangel', perhaps his best known tune, pulls off with virtuosic skill - leaving them free to exist as whatever form a listener chooses to visualise. His rhythms are indicative of dance styles past and present, but remain volatile, ignoring commonly accepted constraints in favour of looser and less genre-defined structures.
music  hauntology  materiality  voice  urban_archaeology  sound_space  glitch  radio  pirate_radio  urban_history  nostalgia 
february 2012 by shannon_mattern
What We Can Learn From Urban Nostalgia - Commute - The Atlantic Cities
In 1980’s "The Necessity for Ruins," landscape essayist J.B. Jackson explained that such leftover edifices often inspire us "to restore the world around us to something like its former beauty.” I've often written of Jackson's advocacy for the use of ruins - not for what we now call "urban exploration" of abandoned places, but to reclaim what worked before.
ruins  urban_archaeology  urban_redevelopment 
february 2012 by shannon_mattern
Culture Class: Art, Creativity, Urbanism, Part III | e-flux
In the not-so-distant New York past, tenement roofs, and even those of lower-middle-class apartment buildings—ones without doormen, say—were where women went with their washing and their children, in good or just tolerable weather, to hang the damp laundry on the line, thus joining a larger community of women in performing the necessary and normal, good and useful, labor of reproduction and maintenance of family life... Before air conditioning, you went to the roof for solitude, and for some prized “fresh air,” and if you were lucky you could catch sight of the nearest body of water... The new, and newly relaxed, attitude to the (apparently) natural world in New York—in contradistinction to a city like Helsinki, where wildness is not appreciated—is reflected in the resurrection of the city’s High Line, a disused elevated industrial rail line in lower Manhattan’s far-west former industrial zone... In another register, the city has now decided to embrace neighborhood community gardens, especially in places where the working class has been effectively priced out... we should read the “becoming creative” of the post-industrial urban core as the formation of a homogenous space drained of the incentives for political engagement... It is in this sense that we must consider the newfound municipal enthusiasm for parks and park-like experiences, and the sanctioning of “neo-hippie” chicken-keeping and urban and rooftop farming, along with many of the examples to follow, as bound up with the shift in the class composition of the urban fabric... The greenmarkets sited around New York City, the bicycle lanes, and the outdoor patios built in the middle of busy streets, express the conviction that the city is no longer a concrete jungle but a cultivated garden enclosing a well-managed zoo or kindergarten, in which everyone and his or her neighbor is placed on display, in the act of self-creation, whether you choose to look or not. The gardens, urban and rooftop farms, water slides, and climbable sculptures that have replaced the modernist model of public art works (which had itself displaced the state-sanctioned monumentalism of previous eras) must be understood as of a piece with the increasingly suburban character of creative-class politics.


If we consider the issue in terms of the role of art sited in public spaces, it would seem indisputable that the “public art” (or “art in public”) sector in the US has turned to a service/experience model... The appeal to Nature, to that which appears as an “outside” to a society organized so that there is no outside, is part of the simulacral effect that attests to the loss of distinction between public and private spheres, and to the atomization of publics into individuals in Brownian motion, often conveniently invisible to one another, or, more properly, no more consequent than street furniture...

One effect of this search for meaningful—or authentic—experience is the highlighting of authenticity as nothing more nor less than the currency of the experience economy... The fraying of traditional ties evident in the preferences and behaviors of the creative class also points to the tendency to form identifications based on consumerist, often ephemeral, choices. Taste in lifestyle choices with no political commitment has hollowed out the meaningfulness of taste—in art, music, furniture, clothing, food, schools, neighborhoods, vacation spots, leisure activities, friends—as a clear-cut indicator of the individual’s moral worth... In general, art institutions, particularly those smaller ones that used to form part of the alternative movement, have furthermore married the provision of experiences to the culture of celebration by turning up their noses at seriousness and critique, as reviewers, if not critics, have as well... No longer permitted to take the old-fashioned view and to see themselves as a locus of individualized contemplation of worthy aesthetic objects, museums have increasingly taken responsibility for the entirety of visitors’ experiences, shepherding them from the shop to the art works, with their enfolding printed and recorded and virtual texts, to the café, while also beckoning to those formerly excluded population groups and informing them about the manifold rewards that museum-going might offer them.

...postindustrial Detroit is presently trying to school its residents on how to grow small gracefully... Some of the renewed interest in Detroit stems from an analysis of the city as both the model failure of (urban) capitalism and a fertile ground for the seeds of the future. Some other observers seem to revel in the opportunity to pick over the ruins in a kind of extended rubbernecking, but with the sometimes-unspecified hope that the outcome takes place in the vicinity of the art world. Others still seem interested in pedagogical opportunities, whether for themselves or others. As is the case everywhere, many new arrivals are looking for cheap rent, for places to live and work comfortably, as Richard Florida has noticed; as Florida also tells us, where hipsters go, restaurants are sure to follow... Detroit is the site of artist-NGO do-gooder projects in the sphere of urban relations, some worthy, some hardly so. In the past few months I have met artists from around the world who have made the sad precincts of Detroit and environs their subject. Some of the projects rest comfortably within the tradition of salvage anthropology... mourning Detroit is a gesture that simultaneously evidences one’s social conscience and testifies to its absolute impotence... Such melancholia has nourished a post-apocalyptic futurism... I mention these projects on Detroit not to praise or to criticize them in particular but because they represent a movement within art, and architecture, to institute projects in the larger community, in the built environment or in reference to it, surely as part of the “go social,” community-oriented imperative. Is it troublesome that such works stand in contradistinction, implicit or explicit, to “political art,” to work directly concerned with access to power?

I do not know whether to be more pleased or apprehensive about art-world artists engaging in, as the sign on the door says, “social practice.” Certainly these essays into the world beyond the art world, which can include any of a spate of pedagogical projects in ordinary communities, feed the instincts of a sector of artists, a sector constantly reborn, to do something “real.” It is worth noting, following Mierle Ukeles, the replacement of the term public art by social practice.49 The emphasis on personal qualities and social networks will most likely give rise to projects that center on the affective. I have rehearsed some of the difficulties of these efforts. I have also alluded, throughout this essay, to the relatively easy co-optation of artists as an urban group in cities that simply allow us to live and work in ways we find conducive to our concerns—a pacification made easier by the expansion of the definition of the artist and the advancing professionalization of the field... These projects can capture the attention of journalists and municipal authorities... But it renders invisible the patient organizing and agitating, often decades long, by members of the local communities...

While artists look for the messianic or the merely helpful moment, aiming for “social change,” the institutional production is centered on various trendy formulas for the “future city.”... For the business and urban planning communities, culture is not a social good but an instrumentalized “strategic cultural asset.”

elebration and lifestyle mania forestall critique; a primary emphasis on enjoyment, fun, or experience precludes the formation of a robust and exigent public discourse. But even ruckuses have their place as disruption and intervention; some may see them as being less self-interested than social projects but as full collective projects, while fun remains a term that refers to private experience. There is no reasonable prescription for how, and in what register, to engage with the present conditions of servitude and freedom.
urban_gardening  nature  gentrification  activism  public_art  depoliticization  urban_archaeology  ruins  social_practice  do_goodism  diy 
february 2012 by shannon_mattern
BLDGBLOG: Remnant Infrastructure
engineers who discovered "an unused fibre optic cable in Mongolia" were able, after putting it back into service, to "shave milliseconds" from a British firm's internet traffic between London and Hong Kong. After all, there is "unused cabling infrastructure around the world," like forgotten limbs awaiting future reactivation... 'Quite often, when electricity lines are put down, there's underlying optical fibre as well, because if you're digging a hole you may as well whack as many services in there as possible. Some of these assets have been decommissioned or just forgotten about after companies go bankrupt. And sometimes when military objectives change, all of a sudden a bunch of infrastructure becomes available.'
infrastructure  urban_archaeology  cable  fiber_optics 
january 2012 by shannon_mattern
Lost Subways Map | WNYC
Here's the current subway map overlaid with eleven subway lines that were planned but never built. Cursoring over the map will bold the unbuilt lines, revealing a vision of an extensive New York transit system lost to expediencies like tightened budgets and the need to upgrade the first generation of lines.

The map also shows seven stations or platforms that were built and later put out of service. That includes the South 4th Street station in Williamsburg, which was constructed as an underground concrete shell but not opened. These stations are highlighted with thick lines around them.
mapping  transportation  subways  urban_archaeology 
january 2012 by shannon_mattern
Underground: The next urban frontier - Dream City - Salon.com
we might make the space under the sidewalks livable yet. A combination of technological advances and some recent changes in urban dynamics is sending developers onward and downward — even in New York, where, as Dan Barasch puts it, “People have been trained to think of underground systems as ugly, dirty, smelly and filled with rats.”

Barasch and his partner James Ramsey are the co-designers of a wild new public-park concept cast in the mold of the city’s acclaimed High Line — except that instead of hoisting their park into the sky, they want to sink it into the mud... “You gather the sunlight, concentrate it, then funnel it through fiber-optic cables and distribute it. What that allows you to do is, in effect, create a remote skylight.”

Underground sunlight could be the revelation that beneath-the-street development has been waiting for... “You gather the sunlight, concentrate it, then funnel it through fiber-optic cables and distribute it. What that allows you to do is, in effect, create a remote skylight.”

Underground sunlight could be the revelation that beneath-the-street development has been waiting for.
urban_archaeology  underground  infrastructure 
december 2011 by shannon_mattern
Urban Omnibus » Block by Block: New York’s Street Historians
"On November 20, Nathan Kensinger, in collaboration with UnionDocs, presented “Block by Block,” a panel discussion with four of New York’s most active street historians. Author Kevin Walsh, location scout Nick Carr, urban explorer Moses Gates and guide Cindy VandenBosch exemplify a vital and contemporary iteration of the long-standing New York tradition of “un-official,” “informal,” “underground,” and “alternative” histories... The first presenter of the evening was Kevin Walsh of Forgotten New York. Walsh, by his own account, is now an author, but has always identified himself foremost as an urban explorer. A New York native, he came of age investigating the streets, fascinated by the stories they tell...During his many journeys, he has found the few remaining red-brick paved roads and some rare two-light stoplights that flash only red and green, explored New York neighborhood institutions...Working on films like Spiderman 3 and The Taking of Pelham 123, one would expect that Carr’s work has taken him to some of New York’s most inaccessible rooftops and abandoned buildings, but it has also found him in the last arcade in Chinatown and rooftop beach houses... Moses Gates of All City New York presented next. An urban explorer, planner and demographer, Gates has taken on a number of ambitious urban adventures goals. First, he decided to climb every bridge in New York, then to explore all of New York’s abandoned subway stations and most recently to walk all of New York’s census tracts... Cindy VandenBosch of Urban Oyster was the final presenter. Drawing on her background in anthropology, she wanted to create a tour company that would not just simply showcase a space, but allow the participant to experience it as a place. With topics ranging from food carts to churches to the Brooklyn Navy Yard, her tours expand the traditional visual tour experience by drawing in locals for discussion, tastings and oral histories... What amount of historic or aesthetic value is sufficient to justify deterring or slowing physical change, even when rapid change makes the most economic sense?
urban_archaeology  urban_history  urban_studies  place  walking_tours  urban_development  nostalgia 
december 2011 by shannon_mattern
Hart Island, Record Storage Room
Many of the smaller structures on the island were used by the Department of Corrections as records storage buildings. Today, hundreds of thousands of pages of moldering records slowly decay in these abandoned buildings.
archives  urban_archaeology  record_keeping 
october 2011 by shannon_mattern
Studies in Urban Order: The History Chapter
"The A10 and A1010 began life between AD45 and AD75, as the Roman Ermine Street. The settlement of Londinium was founded in AD43 as a fort, and archaeological evidence of the Second and Sixth legions (Augustus and Victorius) have been found to support this. The choice of site was closely related to the geography of the Thames, and Londinium lay at a point where the river could most easily be bridged, and enemies be seen approaching along the river from the sea....Although many accounts of the construction of roads in the Roman empire assume their geometry is a result of a pursuit of economic efficiency, speed and convenience, there is another aspect to their construction which must not be overlooked. They also served as a statement of the power of the empire, and the imperial subjugation of both nature and any pre-existing society and paths they may have used."
urban_archaeology  london  archaeology  transportation  roads  urban_form 
august 2011 by shannon_mattern
daro: "Networked Cities: Infrastructures of Telecommunication and Modern Urban Theories"
"“The telegraph symbolically follows the railroad; the telephone, with kindred symbolism, follows the motor highway. So much for the business end of communication.” - Lewis Mumford (1925)... The infrastructures of telecom – electricity pole, cable, antenna, transmission tower – have become universal icons crossing the earth’s surface. These physical markers [created] networks for instant communication on a global scale; (2) were equipment around which cities would be rebuilt, giving rise to new ways of imagining + conditioning space in the metropolis. The diffusion of telephone, electricity + transport. networks, at the beginning of the 20th c., particularly as they were pioneered in North America, propelled widespread processes of urbanization. In the 1920s, Mumford and his colleagues in the Regional Planning Association of America argued for the decentralization of cities into ideal conurbations that were linked specifically by the transmission of electricity and telephone lines."
urban_media  telegraph  telephone  infrastructures  urban_archaeology 
july 2011 by shannon_mattern
Research | Place Hacking
"I am enticed by what is behind the functioning façade of striated city space. Underneath the park where memories hide in disused bunkers, I encounter ghosts. This is what entices me about every place where humans once resided – what was left behind and forgotten; what can be experienced; which transmutations can be anticipated. There is no one here to arrest this decay; no one to tell me how it should make me feel.

My research is a visual ethnography of urban exploration, a practice which involves the exploration of derelict buildings, mines, subway tunnels, underground facilities, atomic bunkers, sewers, drains, cranes and catacombs, among other things. These activities, depending on the group of people involved, might be labeled as creeping, crawling, building hacking, reality hacking, infiltration, UrbEx, UE, urban spelunking, urban caving or draining. I like to call it place hacking."
urban_archaeology 
july 2011 by shannon_mattern
Subterranean Paris - WSJ.com
"Paris, the City of Light, is also a city of darkness: Caves and quarries, tunnels, vaults and crypts, aqueducts and ossuaries lie hidden beneath a good part of it. "Paris is a kind of lost cesspool," wrote Victor Hugo. "To plumb the depths of this ruin seems impossible."

Says you, Hugo. In Paris these days, down is the new up. Visitors are discovering a hidden world beneath the city's postcard surface. Steps from the Louvre, the surprising young American chef Daniel Rose recently moved his restaurant Spring into new quarters beneath the rue Bailleul. Here a series of levels descends both in space and in time: When you're sipping wine in his private cellar two levels down, you've made it back to the Renaissance.

The great chalk quarries of Issy-les-Moulineaux have over the years housed mushroom cultivators, beer brewers and bomb shelters. Today you can throw a party for 1,000 underneath the massive chalk arches of Les Crayères des Montquartiers...."
urban_archaeology  paris  catacombs 
june 2011 by shannon_mattern
Underground Public Library
"Libraries are memory banks, institutions that collect and archive the documents of human thought, action, and experience. In New York City, much human thought and experience takes shape underground, along the subway lines.

Subways offer a sense of privacy for readers. Reading material acts as a kind of enclosure, asserting a place of stillness within which the reader is transported. The public-private paradox of subway ridership and readership is embedded within the busiest, most noisy and crowded part of the city.

UPL collects reading material according to the subway line where it is read, without any other curatorial, hierarchical, or editorial system. Readers visit the website and catalog their reading material according to their ridership patterns. "
urban_archaeology  libraries  reading  subways  transportation 
may 2011 by shannon_mattern
MAS Context: THE CHICAGO FREIGHT TUNNELS BRUCE G. MOFFAT
"The Illinois Telephone and Telegraph Company had been organized in 1898 to construct a telephone system that would compete with the well-established Chicago Telephone Company. The City of Chicago required the IT&T to place their wires underground in conduits. Construction of the conduits began in late 1899; however. these were crafted to a size much larger than needed to hold mere wires. Built to a dimension of 7 1/2 feet high and 6 feet 9 inches wide, they happened to be just large enough to also accommodate a narrow gauge railway.
..The subterranean railway was envisioned not to handle passengers but freight. By diverting freight from slow moving wagons on congested streets to electric trains running beneath them, it would be possible to move goods of almost every description quickly between railroad stations, boat docks, department stores and factories. ..Excepting a specialized mail handling railway that would later open in London, it was unique among the world’s railways."
media_architecture  urban_media  postal_service  urban_archaeology  underground  railroad  telephone  infrastructure  chicago 
may 2011 by shannon_mattern
Finding Tarzan at the Sanitation Department - Cities - GOOD
"In June, 1976, a construction crew working on a road-widening project sliced through a Standard Oil petroleum pipeline that was 18 inches nearer the surface than expected. The resulting explosion...destroyed the north side of the block and killed nine people. In response to the disaster, CA instituted its now-standard DigAlert system, a warning code whose red (electric), green (sewers), orange (communications), and yellow (gas) spray-paint markings are visible (although largely overlooked) on concrete and blacktop across the state, inscribing our subterranean infrastructure on Earth’s surface.

The effect of this information is hard to describe. One minute I’m standing in a nondescript median, surrounded by six lanes of traffic and looking at the skinnier cousin of a fire hydrant; the next, I’m situated at the very center of some sort of infrastructural navel, from which a tangled tracery of colored lines, arrows, and numbers radiates outward across the streets of California."
media_city  urban_archaeology  infrastructure  telecommunications  urban_markup 
may 2011 by shannon_mattern
Lucy Raven and Thom Andersen in conversation: - artforum.com / in print
"HOW DO YOU SHOW what’s not there anymore--or what’s not there yet? Answers run throughout the work of both Lucy Raven and Thom Andersen, who trace processes and places that are gone, hidden, or changing so rapidly that we can hardly keep pace. Raven’s photographic animation China Town features thousands of photographs arranged in a loping, stuttering sequence that tracks the production of copper wire from the metal’s mining in Nevada to its processing and use for electrification in the vast Three Gorges Dam in central China. Andersen’s landmark films Los Angeles Plays Itself (2003) and Red Hollywood (1995), are precisely calibrated montages of cinematic clips that reveal, respectively, the movie industry’s grip on its city and its engagement in the suspicion, surveillance, and censure of global politics. Far from the stock-in-trade didactics of documentary or metanarrative, Raven and Andersen each offer audiovisual experiences that toy with the forms of time and media themselves."
media_architecture  media_city  film  memory  urban_archaeology  urban_history  los_angeles 
february 2011 by shannon_mattern
The City Concealed | THIRTEEN
"The City Concealed, an online video series exploring the unseen corners of New York. Visit the places you don’t know exist, locations you can’t get into, or maybe don’t even want to. Each installment unearths New York’s rich history in the city’s hidden remains and overlooked spaces."
urban_archaeology  urban_studies  new_york  video  geography 
december 2010 by shannon_mattern
cityofsound: Sensing the immaterial-material city
Timo Arnall and Jack Schulze's "Immaterials explores the spatial qualities of RFID in terms of its readable volume, captured with a simple LED/sensor and camera....Part of the purpose is to understand more about RFID in terms of an emerging 'material knowledge'...from the designer's perspective. But perhaps also in order to raise awareness of a technology which is essentially invisible - and often feared - such that we can better understand it....Despite the fact that it suggests the already massively overused term "making the invisible visible", I'm particularly interested in tapping into the content in such transactions, as well as their materiality/immateriality, as a way of understanding patterns of behaviour in 'the new soft city.'" -- finding a way of exhibiting these invisible phenomena back in physical space." -- Photos of urban workers "sensing" underground infrastructures: it's often a very material city...; just hidden"
material_texts  materiality  urban_archaeology  media_archaeology  media_city  sensors  sensation 
october 2010 by shannon_mattern
Steve Duncan, Urban Underground Explorer on Vimeo
"Steven Duncan explores the vast underground drainage system -pipes big enough to drive a truck through under Kissena Park in Queens, New York and documents an underground spring. He does a survey of other ventures up the WIlliamsburg Bridge, through Moscow's underground rivers, into a Titan I Missile Silo and up on an abandoned LIRR line in Queens residents' backyards. The photos he takes are for his book to be published next year."
urban_archaeology  infrastructure 
october 2010 by shannon_mattern
spodek.net: Technology
"Submedia and the medium of my art displays derive from a technology I conceived of. (Spodek et al, Apparatus for displaying images to viewers in motion, US Patents 6,564,486 B1, 6,718,666, and 6,731,370). I led and continue to lead its research and development through all stages. I also develop technology independently of Submedia; subways are only the start.

My one percent inspiration came in graduate school in 1996. I wondered if the zoetrope would work if it was straight instead of circular. Since all it consists of is slits and images, it seemed possible. Moving a display past a viewer seemed impractical, but moving viewers past a display would work. Subways move people past tunnel walls all the time."
urban_media  urban_archaeology  media_archaeology  film  transportation 
september 2010 by shannon_mattern
Geologic City
"Geologic City: a field guide to the GeoArchitecture of New York will visualize the reality that modern life and geologic time are deeply intertwined. With the field guide in hand, residents and visitors will be able to interact with familiar, even iconic New York architecture and infrastructure in an unexpected way: by sensing for themselves the forces of deep time that give form and materiality to the built environment of the City.

During 2010-11, we will research geologic materials of New York’s architecture and infrastructure and design the printed field guide and a supporting website. The project will illustrate several themes: geologic time is neither inert nor inaccessible; geologic time has composed—and continues to compose—the materials that make New York City; through design, humans enculturate those materials as the city’s architecture and infrastructure."
media_archaeology  urban_archaeology  urban_studies  environment  geology 
september 2010 by shannon_mattern
Material World: Urban Exploration: a Subculture at a Glance
"At the core of the subculture lies a special relationship that participants experience with physical spaces and the material infrastructure left behind by the waxes and wanes of a capitalist industrialized economy. Inherently, they create a system of value around objects that have been excised out of the economy of value. The value is attached to precisely the same factors that devalue these spaces in the mainstream economy: extravagance to the point of inefficiency, loss of use-value, severe decay."
urban_archaeology  urban_history 
september 2010 by shannon_mattern
The Internet Is Serious Business on Vimeo
"Have you ever wondered how the Internet’s physical infrastructure works? Who owns it and why that might matter? In the spring and summer of 2008, youth from New York City's City-As-School worked with CUP and People's Production House to investigate the politics of the Internet in New York City. The resulting video follows the adventures of an extra-terrestrial studying communications technology on planet Earth. The alien’s investigations bring her into contact with city council members, Verizon engineers, law professors, telco hotels, subterranean landlords, and packet switchers. Underneath the physical structures that move the data around, the alien discovers a pattern of ownership and regulation more shocking than she could have imagined."
media_archaeology  urban_archaeology  telephone  infrastructure  telecommunications 
september 2010 by shannon_mattern
Urban Omnibus » Elastic City
"Elastic City is a company founded by Todd Shalom to commission artists to reshape our perception of New York through original walks, to turn new audiences into active participants in “an ongoing poetic exchange” with the environments we inhabit. Current Elastic City offerings include a theater artist’s “Monumental Walk” in which “participants will walk, dance and commune with the architecture of our public buildings and monuments,” an alternative World Trade Center walk led by a cultural anthropologist and psychotherapist, and Shalom’s own “Dirty Gay Soundwalk” (one of several of Shalom’s soundwalks) through the West Village that seeks out places where “gay history echo[es] in the present soundscape.”"
urban_archaeology  walking  urban_studies  soundwalk  sound_space  pedagogy  performance  mapping 
july 2010 by shannon_mattern
Critical Urban Media Arts - Jesse Shapins & Brian House » Course Description
"This ten-week studio/seminar course offers students from architecture, urban planning, and related disciplines an intensive introduction to the evolving field of urban media arts. Over the course of the summer, students reflect on readings ranging from the beginnings of urban sociology with Georg Simmel in Weimar Germany to contemporary essays on database aesthetics and locative media. In conjunction with this classroom component, students conduct a series of urban research experiments designed to introduce multiple methods of critically investigating and engaging the city. To begin, each student chooses a specific site within New York City to declare as his or her territory. Through seven exercises ranging from ethnographic interviews to Fluxus-inspired non-theatrical performances to short city-symphony films, each student defines terms specific to their space by uploading text, photography and video to Periplurban, an online ‘dictionary’ of urban experience."
urban_archaeology  media_art  media_space  archives  syllabus  urban_studies  psychogeography  locative_media 
july 2010 by shannon_mattern
Urban Omnibus » Urban Topographies: Cuts & Patches
"As traces, these cuts and patches allow us to perceive physical and social dynamics of an urban site over time. Looking at them together, they are like a kind of archaeology without physical excavation: they register different eras of construction and settlement, the movement of water, the movement of pedestrians."
urban_archaeology  urban_form 
july 2010 by shannon_mattern
Public Record: Crimes and Documents in 19th-Century Pittsburgh – BOMBLog
"Justin Hopper’s Pittsburgh-based Public Record is a series of sound poems created from 19th-century crime reports which will be delivered via mobile phone to listeners standing on the sites where the crimes occurred, much like a historic walking tour. In a second phase, visual artists will produce illustrations to accompany his poems in a series of hand-bound books. Finally, the project will launch in July with a presentation of the written, oral and illustrated works.... Hopper quotes Raymond Williams in The Country and the City: 'The opaque complexity of modern city life is represented by crime, and the explorer of society is reduced to the discoverer of single causes, the isolable agent, and above all his means and techniques.'"
locative_media  urban_media  storytelling  urban_archaeology  sound_art  crime 
june 2010 by shannon_mattern
geology as infrastructure – mammoth // building nothing out of something
"Smudge Studio’s Geologic Time Viewer re-casts the “official Geologic Time Scale” as not only a way of looking back into the past, but also a window into the present: “the materialities of every previous geologic epoch flow into the present-as-middle and give form to our daily lives.” We learn, for instance, that iron infrastructures, like Manhattan Bridge, are built out of material laid down during the Precambrian; that it is Devonian oil which combusts in automobile engines; that East Coast brownstones are clad by Triassic stone; and that Cape Cod is an “ephemeral” Pleistocene landscape, “waiting for sea levels to rise and submerge it again”."
palimpsest  geology  infrastructure  temporality  urban_archaeology 
may 2010 by shannon_mattern
The Water Underground: Places: Design Observer
"As the Brooklyn-based Center for Urban Pedagogy learned, in the course of researching its video, The Water Underground, most of us haven't a clue — and some of us might not want to know. "Below the surface of New York City," says the CUP promo, "lurks an immense grid of pipes designed to carry water in various states of grossness." Or, in the words of one of their interviewees, the superintendent of a wastewater treatment plant on Manhattan's Upper West Side: "You flush the bowl ... it goes to the center of the earth. Somebody else's problem."

Created by CUP in collaboration with the Lower East Side Ecology Center and City-as-School, the 24-minute video tracks the complex — and aging and sometimes contested — systems of water supply, treatment and waste that serve New York City."
infrastructure  urban_form  urban_archaeology  video 
may 2010 by shannon_mattern
Urban Omnibus » Fast Trash!
Interview with Juliette Spertus: "I began thinking more about infrastructure, about the interface between architecture and infrastructure, and about how we relate these surface infrastructures that are so hard to visualize and are so important to how we experience and influence the environment – especially in cities."
infrastructure  urban_archaeology  urban_studies  exhibition 
may 2010 by shannon_mattern
The Pneumatic Post of Paris - Part 1 of 3
History of the pneumatic post of Paris - Edited by C.S. Holder; Copyright © 1974. The France & Colonies Philatelic Society of Great Britain.
pneumatic_tubes  uban_history  urban_media  postal_service  urban_archaeology 
may 2010 by shannon_mattern
Capsule Pipelines - History - Telegram Conveyors
Physics of pneumatic tube delivery - History of systems in Britain, mainland Europe & US
pneumatic_tubes  postal_service  urban_media  urban_archaeology 
may 2010 by shannon_mattern
No. 2117 The Internet of Tubes
"...pneumatic tubes were the pinnacle of late nineteenth century communication technology...1853, when a tube was used to transfer messages between a private telegraph office and the London stock exchange, 200 yards away....1870: J. W. Willmot [made] it possible for more than one canister to travel in a tube at the same time...Within four years...tubes connected London's Central Telegram Office with the many district post offices...system handled four-and-a-half million messages a year. 12 years later: the London system: over 34 miles, four 50 horsepower engines. Canisters made of gutta percha...were wrapped in felt and traveled at an average speed of 20 mph, propelled by pressure differences at the two ends of a tube. Throughout all Britain... over 18 million per year....Pneumatic tube systems were developed in Berlin, Munich, Vienna, Prague, Rome, Naples, Milan, and Marseilles. One of the world's great systems was in Paris, where the combined tube length was over 200 miles."
urban_media  urban_archaeology  pneumatic_tubes  postal_service 
may 2010 by shannon_mattern
Future of Urbanism - Taubman College - University of Michigan
University of Michigan's Taubman College of Architecture and Urban Planning hosted a conference, Future of Urbanism, March 19 & 20, 2010. An international roster of speakers – academics and practitioners – addressed some of the most critical issues facing our cities and their environs in six sessions, comprised of 15-minute segments and a panel discussion. Topics include: Urban and Regional Ecologies; Just Cities; MEGACITY / shrinking city; New Publics / New Public Spaces; Urban Imaginary; and Cities as Theaters for Conflict.
urban_studies  urban_history  urban_planning  infrastructure  urban_archaeology  video 
may 2010 by shannon_mattern
Flickr: Urban Markup Language
Urban Markup Language consists of marks, symbols, directional indicators and acronymic text that has been spray painted on and around the urban landscape. This is not graffiti. This is not stenciling. This is not traffic or pedestrian markings found on roadways and crosswalks. However, it is akin to tagging. Urban markup is the transient, functional language of construction and reconstruction.
media_city  urban_media  infrastructure  urban_archaeology 
april 2010 by shannon_mattern
Wired 12.09: Urban Markup Language
"The next time you pound the pavement, keep your eyes on the ground. You'll notice the curious spray-painted markings, leaping lines, arrows, crosses, swooshes, and strange acronyms that make up a form of street graffiti that's actually on the street. What do these weird tags mean?"
urban_media  urban_archaeology  infrastructure 
april 2010 by shannon_mattern
Jeff Knowlton dot info - 34 North 118 West
"34 North 118 West is an experimental art work utilizing digital media, computation and GPS to deliver an interactive narrative experience across a one half square mile area, in downtown Los Angeles near Sci-Arc, The Southern California Institute of Architecture.

In this work, participants walk the streets of Los Angeles with a GPS device attached to a TabletPC. It is a sort of "narrative archeology" unearthing the stories of forgotten lives in the urban space. Visible on the screen is a map with easily identifiable trigger points for story segments performed by voice actors. Trigger points for sound effects are hidden, left to be discovered as the user walks through the city. In this way, the landscape becomes the interface and the participant's movement becomes input."
media_archaeology  urban_media  locative_media  mapping  urban_archaeology 
april 2010 by shannon_mattern
Jeremy Hight Interview | Serial Consign
"I looked into...making a novel that was just drawers of objects in a dresser, a sort of physical novel with "chapters" in the drawers but no text, just photos, buttons, ephemera. I started sketching stories as being made in museums from their signage linked throughout the building with directional arrows to take those utilitarian texts and reconstitute them as one moved...I started work on a book that analyzes language and text through the lens of meteorology, flux, patterns and shifts in time as independent study... we began researching the history of Los Angeles I first realized that with GPS you could write with the physical world. I then realized that it was much more important that with GPS and location specific information places could "speak" finally; lost histories and areas of study otherwise elsewhere in books could be right there...possibilities of multiple annotations, simultaneous and dynamic annotations and archiving that is to be geospatial"
urban_media  infrastructure  textual_form  urban_archaeology  locative_media  mapping  palimpsest 
april 2010 by shannon_mattern
FAST TRASH: Roosevelt Island‘s Pneumatic Tubes and the Future of Cities « Gallery RIVAA
"On Roosevelt Island—located in the East River between Manhattan and Queens—there are no garbage bags on the sidewalks and no garbage trucks. Instead, garbage is collected from its 14,000 inhabitants via a retro-futuristic system of underground tubes. A computer empties the trash chutes several times a day, whisking away the waste of the Island’s residential towers, and zooming it through underground pipes to a transfer station at one end of the island. There it is compacted, sealed into containers, and loaded on a truck to join the rest of New York City’s waste.
Part infrastructure portrait, part urban history, the exhibition argues that service infrastructure plays a crucial role in cities and is even capable of inspiring the collective imagination. Roosevelt Island was designed in the late 1960s as a brand-new community where technology and urban design would allow New Yorkers of all incomes to enjoy the best of Manhattan without the nuisance of cars—or trash."
pneumatic_tubes  infrastructure  urban_archaeology  urban_studies  trash 
april 2010 by shannon_mattern
Observatoryroom.org » Modern Ruins, Urban Archaeology, and the Post-Industrial Sublime: Presentations and Panel Discussion
"Ruins as an aesthetic category were born in the eighteenth century, and they continue to seduce the contemporary imagination. But rather than antiquity’s shattered agorae or the stripped medieval abbeys..., the ruins that captivate us today are of the relatively recent past—not just the industrial era ..., but now an even more recent service/retail age that dominated American culture until the crash of the late 00s. A few individuals are committed to investigating and documenting this ruinous legacy. These photographer-researchers infiltrate a variety of hidden and abandoned sites, often risking physical danger or arrest, to capture and share stirringly uncanny photographs expressing the grandeur and pathos of these majestically crumbling spaces" -- “why now?": consider "acceleration of history which can make a ruin of sites as recent as a shopping mall, and ask if this contemporary fascination might speak to us of the twilight of our own empire."
urban_archaeology  palimpsest  urban_history  ruins  photography  tourism 
april 2010 by shannon_mattern
**BLDGBLOG: Lost Roads of Monticello
"These "elusive roads"—many of them "now all but unrecognizable as byways"—are lost routes, connecting equally erased destinations. In almost all particular cases, they have barely even left a trace on the ground; their presence is almost entirely textual.

They are not just lost roads; they are road that have been deterrestrialized. If these ancient routes can be re-discovered, however, then Vermont state law dictates that they can also be added to official town lands (and thus be eligible for some kind of federal something-or-other). Accordingly: Some towns, content to abandon the overgrown roads that crisscross their valleys and hills, are forgoing the project. But many more have recruited teams to comb through old documents, make lists of whatever roads they find evidence of, plot them on maps and set out to locate them."
urban_archaeology  urban_media  mapping  ruins  archives 
april 2010 by shannon_mattern
Greece: Eleusis 3D Archaeological Recording and Visualization Project — Archaeology
"This field school will introduce students to a broad range of 3D recording, mapping, animation and visualization methods. Students will be given hands-on instruction in these methods in the context of the major Greek archaeological site of Eleusis. Eleusis is world famous as the location of the Eleusinian Mysteries – a significant Athenian religious festival - and is located some 14 miles west of Athens opposite the island of Salamis. The students will record the site’s extensive architectural remains using terrestrial laser scanning, photogrammetry , GIS and GPS. 3D computer visualization and animation technologies will be used to re-create areas of the site."
media_archaeology  urban_archaeology  media_city  mapping 
march 2010 by shannon_mattern
New York Underground: Main Menu @ nationalgeographic.com
"New Yorkers go about unaware of what is happening just beneath their feet: Power pulses, information flies, and steam flows. The city’s infrastructure starts just below street level, but it doesn’t stop there."
mapping  data_visualization  urban_form  infrastructure  urban_archaeology  underground 
march 2010 by shannon_mattern
Urban Omnibus » Designers and Citizens as Critical Media Artists
"mapping platforms such as Google’s typically begin with the traditional, Cartesian representation inherent to geo-data. That’s problematic because it’s so reductive. These reductions may be subconscious, so all the more reason to address them artistically and pedagogically. A map begins with a view of the streets in a very car-centric navigational mode; at first, Google Maps didn’t even include subway stops for New York City, so we are clearly not starting from a point of concern for how different environments operate on the street level, especially not from a pedestrian’s perspective. Now, of course, Google has “Street View”, which is a pretty awesome database of panoramic images for streets in major cities. But its frozen perspective and positioning as an objective representation of the street further highlight the challenge at getting from a mapping platform to more complex urban dynamics."
media_space  public_space  public_art  mapping  digital_humanities  urban_archaeology 
july 2009 by shannon_mattern

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