Test Cases for the Total Environment: Data, Democratic Methods and Urban Planning in the 1970s.
In the two decades after the end of World War II, a range of thinkers, politicians, architects and planners attempted to describe their emerging world and its range of problems with the recognition that tools to confront them may not have yet been created. But for some, advances in computing and data management provided a promising direction to address some of these concerns, including the environment, population control and political unrest. Throughout the United States, planners in local governments, universities and scientific institutions worked to create a universal and objective approach to city and regional planning. For example, Santa Barbara, California served as the site of a pilot study in the early-1970s sponsored by the National Science Foundation and the American Society of Landscape Architects that aimed to devise a universal and democratic planning process, which included new forms of data analysis and graphic communication. The study’s leaders claimed that these new forms could “cut through semantic difficulties that confuse […] different political and cultural views” to offer an unambiguous means of conveying complex ideas.
This paper focuses on this and other projects in American cities that attempted to manage their built environment through similar methods. Given the unrest facing American cities, it is unsurprising that many emphasized technical approaches to planning to circumvent conflicts through seemingly objective methods. Investigating the ways that these places embraced new strategies to assess and plan their built environments offers a new perspective to consider the influence of modernism’s legacy and raise questions about its afterlife.
Pollyanna Rhee is a PhD candidate in History and Theory of Architecture at Columbia University, where her research centres on modern architectural and environmental histories, especially in the United States. Her dissertation focuses on conservative grassroots environmental movements and their effects on Southern California’s architecture and landscape in the twentieth century. She regularly writes book reviews for The Architect’s Newspaper and her writing has appeared in the Journal of the Society of Architectural Historians, Domus online and other publications. She has taught at Columbia University, Barnard College and California College of the Arts.
Helen Runting KTH Stockholm
Arthur Röing Baer Sandberg Instituut Amsterdam
A City of Bits and Atoms: The Uber Network as Megastructure.
A world populated by subjects in constant movement: this was the image that fascinated us both, that we kept returning to, in a year-long inter-disciplinary conversation about the technology company Uber and its distributed transport network. Whilst sharp critique has emerged in relation to the labour politics underlying the “ride-sharing platform”, its megastructural scale has been largely ignored. Here, we argue, size matters.
What are the implications of designing transport architectures for cities assumed to be populated by supposedly “autonomous” subjects in perpetual motion, figures (to quote Joseph Vogl) “wandering in a twilight zone between home and office, career and private life, personal and professional relationships”, watched over by the restless procedures of semiocapital? What kind of future is being realized in the present by key players like Uber’s founder Travis Kalanick, and—importantly—what forms of deviation from that future might be achievable for designers of distributed transport architectures?
Taking the form of a dialogue between practices—“as”, to deploy Isabelle Stengers’ first rule of her ecology of practices, “they diverge” – this paper documents a dialogue between disciplines (architecture and marketing) and practices (theory and design), wherein we weave together sound-bites extracted from social media flows; excerpts from the recent work of Maurizio Lazzarato, Bifo Berardi and Joseph Vogl; and stories from a design practice, in order to explore the political and formal implications of the contemporary megastructure that is Kalanick’s Uber.
Helen Runting is an urban planner (B. UPD) and urban designer (PG Dip. UD; MSc. UPD), and a PhD candidate within Critical Studies in Architecture at KTH in Stockholm. Her research is situated within the field of critical architectural theory and addresses the biopolitical productions facilitated by architecture under emergent neoliberal conditions within the Nordic region. Helen is co-editor of the journal LO-RES, and a member of Svensk Standard.
Arthur Röing Baer is an art director and designer (B. Des), and a Masters student at the Design Department at the Sandberg Institute in Amsterdam, where he also founded and co-organizes the Quicksand lecture series. His work focuses on persuasive design, branding and advertising, with a special focus on the visual narrative legitimizing the “sharing economy”. His Masters project is a conceptual and technical proposal for a decentralized cooperative ownership model for urban logistical infrastructures.
Diana Alvarez-Marin ETH Zürich
The City As Digital Contract.
The unprecedented urbanisation of our planet and the spread of ubiquitous computing and urban data streams have given way to the idea of an object which is no longer corpus, but sheer abstraction. Yet, the abstract object is not radically new. Already in the fifteenth century, Alberti’s concept of lineamenta places the cornerstone of modernity by introducing a clear distinction between object and design where an instantiated object becomes an identical copy of its own design.
In this way, the modernist project focused not on the creation of an architectural object per se, but rather on the establishment of architectural manifestoes and general urban rules that aimed at explaining “how” and “why” design should be exerted, circumscribing either theoretical models or phenomenal approaches. However, information works in a different manner. Information is neither matter nor energy; it doesn’t have structure or form. Dealing with information transforms into a (symbolic) contract with the regular physics of our world. An object, a sound, an image, a map become an any-render, an operational entity constituted by clouds of bits, pixels, dots, voxels; palpitating and unsettled.
With this in mind, is the concept of abstract object (or city) shifting from the world of things and things in their ideality, towards one of multivalent, symbolized and yet unsettled entities or “digital contracts”? How to find (unstable) stability when both indexes and apparatuses of measurement are unsettled? How do these contracts reinvent the concept of civitas, as collective contract that engenders the res publica?
Diana Alvarez-Marin is a researcher, teaching assistant and PhD candidate at the Chair of CAAD. She is co-author of the book, A Quantum City, Mastering the Generic, and is currently involved in the “Quantum City” research group, where she is developing her PhD This group problematizes the question of the object and the idea of city under the light of abundance of information and computer literacy. Diana graduated with honours from the Ecole Nationale Supérieure d’Architecture et de Paysage de Lille, France in 2007. Her diploma work focused on the shift towards a more virtual phenomenon of “Metapolisation”, in opposition to the widely established idea of “Metropolisation”. After her diploma, she collaborated with international practices such as Rem Koolhaas’ OMA and group8. She attended the Master of Advanced Studies (MAS) programme in Computer Aided Architectural Design at ETHZ (2011–2012) and was a visiting researcher at the Future Cities Laboratory in Singapore, interdisciplinary research program of the Singapore ETH Centre (2013–2016).
Joachim Huber Berner Fachhochschule
Michael Walczak Berner Fachhochschule
From GIS to the Automatic Dencity Analysis Model (ADAM).
“SCCER Mobility” aspires to make the complex dynamics of mobility, transport and all of the energy systems – including their interactions with urban planning – more transparent and therefore easier to understand. The area of competence “Dencity – Urban Development and Mobility” of the Bern University of Applied Sciences addresses the task of “Urban Planning and Environmental Impact”. The aim is to demonstrate the effects of the interaction between existing building typologies and CO2 emissions from private households. ADAM was developed in order to achieve this goal. The model identifies existing building typologies for the whole of Switzerland and is able to handle an incredible amount of variable data input. To this end, ADAM must be integrated into the Swiss GIS (Geo Information System). ADAM is able to identify, coordinate and superimpose the coordinate systems of the data input. The analysis model is based on its own algorithm, which combines the linking of Open Source data, data from the Swiss Federal Statistical Office, as well as data for CO2 emissions per household. The output of ADAM, with its identification of the household, coordinates and CO2 emissions, constitutes a novel database and map for all existing building typologies in Switzerland. This database can identify existing site-specific typical patterns to assist, optimize and predict in the context of future urban and spatial planning studies in relation to energy consumption and also serves as a basis for cities, municipalities and related organizations (public and private) when making planning decisions. The analysis options that become available for planning scenarios are tremendous. ADAM is the gateway to “Big Data” and spatial analyses and manages “Big Data” and complex processes for architects, planners and engineers during the course of their daily business. The strengths of the analysis models consist in the handling of huge complex amount of data as well as the extraction of the necessary underlying principles. ADAM identifies, processes, combines and classifies data in order to solve questions.
Joachim Huber, Dr. Ing. Dipl. Architect ETH EMBA HSG, Professor for Architecture. Since 2015, Huber has been Deputy Head of Dencity – Area of competence Urban Development and Mobility at the Bern University of Applied Sciences BFH in Burgdorf (CH). From 2006 to 2014, he was Head of Specific Research Unit “Architectural Processes” at the BFH. From 2004 to 2006, he was Executive MBA HSG in General Management at the University of St. Gallen (CH). He has also been a lecturer in Scenographical Design ZHdK (CH) (2003–2006), and a guest professor at Ohio State University (2001–2002), with practical experience in the Netherlands, Germany and Switzerland. In 2002, Huber completed his dissertation on “Urbane Topologie, Architektur der randlosen Stadt” at the Bauhaus University Weimar. From 1986 to 1993, he studied architecture at the ETHZ and the Architectural Association London.
Michael Walczak, M.A., has been a scientific collaborator for Dencity – Area of competence Urban Development and Mobility at the Bern University of Applied Sciences BFH in Burgdorf (CH) since 2016. Since 2014, he was expert and lecturer for digital technologies for the course of studies Bachelor of Architecture at the University of Applied Sciences and Arts Northwestern Switzerland (FHNW) in Muttenz (CH). From 2012 to 2016, he was assistant with Dencity and the Specific Research Unit “architectural processes” at the BFH. Between 2012 and 2016, Walczak undertook a Masters in Architecture at the BFH, and spent a project semester at Stanford University, California in 2013–2014. Prior to this, Walczak completed a Bachelor in Architecture at the BFH. In 2011, he spent an exchange semester at Bremen University of Applied Sciences.
Daniel Fernández Pascual is a PhD candidate at the Centre for Research Architecture, Goldsmiths University of London. He holds a MArch from ETSA Madrid, and MSc Urban Design from TU Berlin and Tongji University Shanghai. His research focuses on ambiguity of the law, real estate speculation, demarcation of spatial boundaries, architecture of financialization, and the housing crisis. In 2013 he organized a house lottery to explore alternative tactics to circumvent debt. He also co-founded the Modelling Kivalina Working Group to investigate the changing shoreline and the phenomenon of climate refugees in Alaska, supported by The World Justice Fund 2013. He co-runs Cooking Sections, an independent critical spatial practice that investigates relationships between territory, power structures, land value and food networks through the overlapping boundaries between visual arts, architecture and geopolitics. Cooking Sections was part of the exhibition at the U.S. Pavilion, 2014 Venice Architecture Biennale and are UK-residents of The Politics of Food, Delfina Foundation London. Cooking Sections has led student workshops at the AA, RCA, Goldsmiths, the Bartlett, EPS Alicante, and UTS Sydney.
Steffen de Rudder (PhD) is an intermediate professor of urban design at the Bauhaus University Weimar. He was a guest professor of urban history at the University Anhalt in Dessau, adjunct professor of urban and architectural history at the University Erfurt, a DAAD fellow at the Academie van Bouwkunst in Amsterdam, assistant professor at the Bauhaus-Universität Weimar and adjunct professor at the Humboldt University in Berlin. Before entering the university he worked as an architect and urban planner in Berlin. He received his PhD from the Bauhaus-Universität Weimar and graduated from the Technical University Berlin. His research is focused on the history of post-war modern architecture and urbanism.