Saturday, January 31, 2009

notation2: CT Scan of a House

This notation exlores the relationships between the CT scan, a house and the experience inhabitants may have with both. The motion of the video along with the audio overlay portrays the emotional turbulance a person might experience during a medical CT scan. This scenario is superimposed onto a private dwelling place that may at one time or other encase the same sense of anxiety or tumult. The process of taking exploratory images of a house gives the viewer accumulated information that can be emotional as well as analytical because of the human imprints left on their surrounds. This additional emotional information gives the viewer an mental impression perhaps as well as a layout or plans.

A Day in Flight

Aaron Koblin's
Animation of flight traffic patterns and density.

Koblin's Flight Patterns reflect one day of air travel as they transcend to, from, and within the U.S. I think in a way it is obvious that you can see the relationship between these aerial taxis and the taxis of San Francisco, in how they both generate a network or framework that reveals patterns of density. Flight Patterns becomes an established infrastructure, the air is in a way completely free of obstruction, but the patterns begin to reveal an aerial infrastructure that links a series of nodes (major cities).

Flight Patterns

Thursday, January 29, 2009

notation2: hallway

In this notation I explored the traditional hallway as an architectural condition. The lack of natural daylight and dependency on artificial lighting leads to a displaced sense of time. This notation is influenced by CT scans by transitioning through different "slices" of activity (represented by light) over time. Throughout the notation, lighting alters the space as activities occur, thus changing how it is perceived.

notation 2 - CT-scan

You are to reference projection drawing (architecture), moving image (cinema) and radiology (medicine) to create CT scan as a dissection of both time and space.

Use your idea of notation 1 (section) as a point of departure by reinterpreting it or developing it. Focus on the revealing of the interiority of a space and its activity.

To consider (you don’t have to consider all, choose one or two):
qualitative and quantitative
Place and event
Physical and ephemeral
Abstract and realistic
Objective and subjective
Static and active

Keep it simple, yet exploratory. Be rigorous in your thinking. Reference CT scan as multiple “slices” (axial step and shot acquisition, cine acquisition, multislice…). The notation is to be between 30 and 90 seconds but consider length and time break down carefully. Time is a measuring system. Structure the notation in a measured manner adding graphics that mark data specific to each slide.


What are the inherent qualities of the CT-scan? What properties must be expressed through mapping and imaging to be considered a thorough or appropriate analysis? The city is a conglomerate of flows, manifested as a multitude of entities literally constructed by atoms and elements. While the city as an event is constantly in motion, differentiated by the speeds and collisions of its parts, the traditional CT-scan is a rarefied moment, a frozen image, negating various qualitative characteristics. For instance, a CT-scan does not tell us if an individual is moody, creative, happy, open minded, or enjoys sunsets. CT-scans are inherently ambiguous, portraying a series of parts, but making little reference to the character or catalyst of the parts. CT-scans lack a personification of the elements that make the entity. A city is very much a collection of personalities or traits that begin to define the whole. We attribute traits of being upfront and outspoken with "New York", well mannered, shy, sweet, and conservative, with "Charleston", or hippie and liberal, with "San Francisco". Are cities personified? How does personification play a role in the way we synthesize and draw the city?

Tuesday, January 27, 2009

Cycles: Collective and Individual 1.4

Cabspotting, by The San Francisco Exploratorium and Design and Technology Studio Stamen Design, is a project in which the city of San Francisco is mapped via the trajectories of individual cabs moving through the city. These cabs are already equipped with GPS devices to orient the driver through the city but in this case they are also used to capture in real time the cycles of the city. The Cabspotting web site is a living map of the city of San Francisco which regenerates as the cab rides change, stop, pause, repeat, as passengers are dropped off, picked up and transported through the city day by day, hour by hour, minute by minute. In looking at this document, in looking at the intersecting lines and markings representing cab with passenger, pause, exchange, empty cab moving and throbbing on the black screen of the website one can begin to imagine the life and activity held within, around and about the cabs of San Francisco. Like the taxi rides in director Jim Jarmush’s 1992 film Night on Earth as described by literary theorist Trui Vetters in ‘Night on Earth’: Urban Practices and the Blindness of Metatheory; these moments transmit and contain networks of relationships and each is a “paradoxically mobile point of stability”. Vetters continues, “The random encounters that take place in this confined space between places, which is usually invisible to all but its occupants, are fleeting and transitory, yet meaningful and in some cases life-changing”. (21) Is it “life-changing” like the effect that the single interaction of two ants in the colony while focused and contained is transmitted one by one to have a significant effect on the overall system? In that essay, Vetters like de Certeau and Nuti argues for a more immersed experience of place and against the all encompassing view from afar, as removed, singular and totalizing.

21 Vetters, Trui. ‘Night on Earth’: Urban Practices and the Blindness of Metatheory.

Cabspotting website

Cycles: Collective and Individual 1.3

Recently with the ability of GPS instruments to record human movement in utmost precision, a couple of studies have taken what Paul-Henry Chombart de Lauwe did with Trajects pendant un an d’une jeune fille du XVIe arrondissement to the scale of the collective. In these experiments the routine of multiple inhabitants of the city are documented. These experiments have the potential of revealing what was discovered by the Gordon’s ant studies that Johnson refers to. The “ants think locally and act locally, but their collective action produces global behavior”. (19)

In 2002 Amsterdam's Waag Society and Artist Esther Polak provided several inhabitants of the City of Amsterdam with these portable (GPS) devices to create Amsterdam RealTime, a plan drawing of this city that emerges out of the movements of the participants as they go about their routines during the period of two months (Fig.). This drawing, like the Louis Kahn example, “does not register streets or blocks of houses, but consists of the sheer movements of real people". (20) In this case it is the pedestrian movement that is captured but not as a frozen moment in time as in Kahn’s studies but as an alive document, moving and changing. Here the document also embodies the temporality that it represents. Here the streets and sidewalks do emerge as white lines, human traces of different densities and qualities as defined by the specifics of city dwellers’ routine and their movement through their city in time. In their abstraction, they visualize the cycles of the city (fig. 4)

19 Johnson, Steven. Emergence, The connected lives of ants, brains, cities and software Scribner, New York 2001 p. 74
20 See Amsterdam RealTime website

Amsterdam RealTime website

Cycles: Collective and Individual 1.2

In 1957 the urban sociologist Paul-Henry Chombart de Lauwe who was interested in understanding the city through the activities of the citizens collected the trajectories of one young girl in Paris’s 16th arrondissement over the period of a year in a document called exactly that; Trajects pendant un an d’une jeune fille du XVIe arrondissement. The drawing, an accumulation of lines in a triangular pattern revealed that her movement through the city during this long period of time was actually quite simple and repetitive. The blurry triangle marked her movements from home, to school, to piano lessons. The abstract diagram of repetitive lines in a closed geometric formation revealed her cyclical use of the city, it visualized her routine in time (fig. 4). In 1953 Architect Louis Kahn did a series of drawings of Philadelphia, which illustrate the city through the movement, speed, and flow of its vehicles rather than by its physical configuration (fig. 4). In these documents, an inversion occurs in which the physical and static (the building blocks) are simply suggested, becoming residual space against the accumulation of marks which define the traffic flow of the city. However while these documents suggest the importance of the ephemeral activity of the city (moving car traffic, in this case) it does not capture or explain the patterns in time of the city, it does not illustrate the cyclical aspects that these movements define. The potential is clearly visible in the 1983 film Koyaanisqatsi by experimental documentary film director Godfrey Reggio where a series of stationary moving image views of the city are sped up visualizing the city in movement and revealing the infrastructure of the city in time. The throbbing of car and pedestrian traffic that stops and goes in a rhythmic pattern as coordinated in two directions by the traffic lights. In watching these moving image segments one imagines the pumping flow of blood in a body to the beat of a heart.

Cycles: Collective and Individual 1.1

Cities are not static or fixed but rather dynamic and ever changing entities. As landscape architect James Corner states in The Agency of Mapping: Speculation, Critique and Invention; “The experiences of space cannot be separated from the events that happen in it. It is remade continuously every time it is encountered by different people, every time it is represented through another medium, every time its surroundings change, every time new affiliations are forged”. (16) Cities like bodies move, change, evolve, repeat, cycle. As physicist and novelist Alan Lightman writes in one of his fictional theories of time in his novel Einstein’s Dreams, “And just as all things will be repeated in the future, all things now happening happened a million times before”. (17) In the film Smoke, by Wayne Wang and Paul Auster, the character Auggie photographs his corner cigar store at exactly 8:00 a.m. every day. It is “his life’s work” to be there and to capture the cycles of life, the changes of light and of people in his small corner of the world. Repetition and change become evident against the consistent time/place as a reference point (fig. 4). In his photographs he finds “sometimes the same people, sometimes different people, sometimes the different people become the same, and the same ones disappear as the earth revolves around the sun”. A friend of Auggie’s who is flipping through the thousands of photographs remarks that they are all the same. Auggie agrees but also corrects him, pointing out that each interaction is the same yet it is unique. (18)

16 Corner, James. The Agency of Mapping: Speculation, Critique and Invention. In Mappings, edited by Denis Cosgrove, 211-252. London: Reaktion Books, 1999, p. 227
17 Lightman, Alan. Einstein’s Dreams. New York: Pantheon Books, 1993, p. 11
18 See Smoke by Wayne Wang 1995

Monday, January 26, 2009

Questions for discussion 2

Subjective Vision and the Separation of the Senses in Techniques of the Observer, by Jonathan Crary.

What are some instances in 21c. art and architecture where the combination of science and art, the subjective and the objective, sensory and logical is necessarily used?

How is the “visual infantine” theory important today? Is it even an objective among today’s artists and architects to view our surroundings as well as our art as if we were seeing it for the first time? Is this important in our culture?

Is our present culture more focused on the dissection of the senses or the conglomeration of the senses?

Invisible Cities, by Italo Calvino

How could this combination of philosophy and architectural description affect your work?

On page48 Calvino talks about the changes of language that occur from city to city, he states “I realized I had to free myself from the images which in the past had announced to me the things I sought: only then would I succeed in understanding the language of Hypatia.” What are some of the “language” differences faced today when considering new architecture in a new city?

Sunday, January 25, 2009

Artist R. Justin Stewart

R. Justin Stewart is an artist who focuses on mappings in his work and how they can be represented three dimensionally. This is a link to his work "Bus Structure 2AM to 2PM".
I think his work is interesting in regards to Living Sections and how they can be represented in many different ways.

Notation 1

This video represents an architectural section that is influenced by the activities and actions that occur within the space. These activities occur because of the personal priorities, hobbies and habits of the occupants as well as the interactions with the physical environment that contains them. This living section documents the ephemerality of life and the comparisons between the more fleeting nature of human beings to the more constant nature of the surrounding architecture . It also shows how the ebb and flow of the human life affects the nature and mood of the unwavering, established surroundings and make it more transitory.

Friday, January 23, 2009

notation 1 - A Section

A Section

You are to reference Architectural projection drawing and moving image and create Section as a dissection of both time and space.

To consider (you don’t have to consider all, choose one or two):
qualitative and quantitative
Place and event
Physical and ephemeral
Abstract and realistic
Objective and subjective
Static and active

Keep it simple, yet exploratory. Be rigorous in your thinking. Reference the meaning of section as an idea… a section, a segment, a fragment, a view within - physical and temporal. The notation is to be between 30 and 90 seconds but consider length and time break down carefully. Time is a measuring system.

Multiple Sections : CT-scans of the City 1.4

GPS (drawing) and audio/video (moving image) provide an interesting hybrid at the scale of the city. What is the potential of this fusion? The attempt is to approach the balance of the mathematical and picturesque that Nuti describes. The portable GPS, which uses satellite data to calculate exact geographical position of its users, is able to in utmost mathematical accuracy register the direction, speed, pauses, rhythm, density, rate, delay, detour, and so on of the inhabitants of the city as an abstract system of changing lines of various qualities and densities as well as provide charts of information about the city like altitude, weather, time, etc. and about the human body in the city such as calories burned, heart rate, etc. at that particular moment in time. While audio/video has the potential to capture and reveal the various activities happening along these trajectories as a series of life-like moving views and sounds into the interiority of this complex system, GPS reads and writes the quantitative while audio/video reads and writes the qualitative aspects of the city.

Multiple Sections : CT-scans of the City 1.3

In a more recent one of my studies of cities, the exploration of the merging of the vocabularies of drawing and moving image which aims to read and write the city simultaneously through its abstraction and its reality came closer to defining the city as a “manifold story that has neither author nor spectator”. BiCi_N (fig. 5), examines the city of Barcelona through the CT-scan idea but not from one single point of view or axis but from a multiplicity of views. As a Multislice CT-scan, in this case, images are not restricted to one axial plane but can be adjacent, distant and overlapped. (15) The project utilized the recently instituted Barcelona open public bicycle transportation system Bicing, in which individual users of the city can pick up a bike at any of the 300 stations in the city, ride it and drop it off at another location, as the framework by which to collect the information. In the BiCi_N project the bikes are equipped not only with audio/video cameras but also with GPS (Global Positioning Systems) devices. What is collected, “fragments of trajectories and alterations of spaces” writes the city from within and from the multiplicity of the routine of the city as individual users displace themselves within the city on the moving bikes as they go about their individual routines. With the body(ies)/bike(s) as extensions of the human body into the city body and as drawing apparatuses, numerous itineraries are collected. As individual slices of a body under analysis these are reassembled to describe the city as alive, moving and changing - as “daily and indefinitely other.”1

5 See CT-scan in wikipedia

See the Bicing bike station map
Visit Bicing

Multiple Sections : CT-scans of the City 1.2

In NY A/V, one of my audio/video mapping explorations of cities, (fig. 3), 636 stationary video shots zooming north on Manhattan on Broadway Street were taken from sunrise to sunset for a period of seven days. The ubiquitous Broadway Street, the only street deviating from the grid of the city while traversing the entire island, served as the axis by which these slices of the city were collected and assembled. “In axial ‘step and shoot’ acquisitions” CT format, each take, each zoom, each section-cut of the city was collected as a series of slices walking the length of Broadway Street; (9) “between each shot there is a 15-minute wait that involves the walk north [one third of a city’s bock length] and the set-up of the next shot. By walking the city slowly—minute-by-minute, block–by-block—over the period of seven days, one is consumed in a process that clearly observes, a process that discovers the city”. (10) Like the axial CT scan format in which “each slice/volume is taken and then the table is incremented to the next location” and later connected, these numerous section-cuts were connected in post-production editing into one continuous zoom through the city, a seemingly continuous take which fades in and out of days into nights while collecting the life of the city during that particular week in July 2001. (11) In particular the project uses the cine acquisition method of CT-scans in which temporality is important. In medical terms, this method evaluates “blood flow, blood volume and mean transit time. Cine is a time sequence of axial images…” where “xray is delivered at a specified interval and duration”. (12)

In looking at the tomography of this city, as we inhabited and traveled this line, “we understand the city in its entirety as a physical entity that lives, throbs, changes”. (13) It like a human body is composed of “dynamic processes and flows” of activities and interactions which define the interiority of the city. In the process of collecting the information, “each day, the investigator, through the view-finder, was entranced by a different story, by a different place as the various personalities of the city were experienced. Like novelist Italo Calvino’s recount of Venice in Invisible Cities, each day along this line, as we traveled the city, was as if a different place – as if a different story has taken place. By this trajectory, we inhabited seven places in seven days, yet remained in once place”. (14)

9 See CT-scan in wikipedia
10 Skinner, Martha. South to North: Zoom/Section Seven Day Trajectory on Broadway Street. In South edited by Ronald Rael, 30-39. Clemson School of Architecture, 2005, p. 32
11 See CT-scan in wikipedia
12 See CT-scan in wikipedia
14 Calvino, Italo. Invisible Cities, Giulio Einaudi Editore, 1972, Skinner, Martha. South to North: Zoom/Section Seven Day Trajectory on Broadway Street. In South edited by Ronald Rael, 30-39. Clemson School of Architecture, 2005, p. 32

Multiple Sections : CT-scans of the City 1.1

In order to understand the city as a living body under analysis one must look at the city the way a CT-scan looks at the human body. CT scans (Computed tomography scans) is a medical imaging tool, which visualizes the inside of the human body and its “dynamic processes such as blood flow and function”. The method employs tomography, which is based on basic principles of projective geometry and “is derived from the Greek tomos (slice) and graphein (to write)”. (8) In a CT-scan multiple x-ray “slices” or section-cuts of the body are combined along a central axis of rotation to generate cross-sectional or three dimensional views, the computerized axial tomography of the inside of the human body, the accumulation of written slices of the city.

8 See CT-scan in wikipedia

Wednesday, January 21, 2009

Inauguration - from above and from below

These two timely projects are examples of quantitative and qualitative aspects of yesterday's event and records of a significant turning moment in time.

In the project by GeoEye a high resolution image of Washington D.C at 11:19 a.m. January 20, 2009 is collected from above by satellites "at 41 centimeter ground resolution" as stated by Mark Brender from GeoEye to mathematically calculate the numbers of people present at the event. Steve Doig, a journalism professor who specializes in crowd counting said; "It's actually fairly simple math, getting the square footage and dividing that by some number of feet per person".

See cnet news article Satellites, balloons, and math used to count inauguration crowd at cnet news

In the project Picturing the Inauguration by the New York Times a multitude of qualitative moments (photos of individuals) globally are submitted composing a vivid, textured matrix of events big and small, intimate and collective of this transformative moment in time. As a collective from below mapping, you may contribute to its making by submitting your own photo to

See New York Times Picturing the Inauguration: The Readers’ AlbumJanuary 18, 2009 at

What is the potential of combining these two types of data?

Tuesday, January 20, 2009

Questions for discussion 1.2

In “Night on Earth”, it speaks about Michel de Certeauʼs experience of “Seeing Manhattan from the 110th floor of the WTC.” It talks about a “migrational city” that “slips into the clear text of the planned and readable city.” Even from the birds eye view, there are parts of the city that cannot be seen, movements that resist rationalization. The article then compares this to the different vantage points as seen by a cab driver and the mayor of NYC.

Compared to a set of construction documents for a building, this is not all that different from looking at an overall plan and then a set of detail drawings. Could the vantage point of the cab driver be a detail of how the city works and is put together?

Can the city be mapped or built by the inside view or vantage point of the cab driver alone, or does there still need to be some kind of overall comprehension of the city?

In “Walking the City” it is said that the operations of people walking can be traced on city maps as a way of transcribing their paths and trajectories. However, the reading says this kind of mapping is missing the act of passing by: the operation o walking, wandering, or window shopping.

Is it possible for this activity to be mapped or shown as some kind of trajectory?

Is the architecture or the people informing the mapping, or both?

In “Mapping Places” the some of the examples described seem to explore the limits of our visual realm. We can only see an comprehend to the limits of what are eyes can contain. If we want to see more we must turn our head, leaving other things out of our sight. Even if we could see 360 degrees, are our brains built to be able to comprehend what we are seeing?

If you think about this in the concept of mapping, is there a limit to what we can comprehend?

If you try to map everything, will it get to a point to where things be come to much or unclear?

Questions for discussion 1.1

These are some quotes I found significant from Michel de Certeau's "Walking in the City", along with some response questions:

"The city becomes the dominant theme in political legends, but it is no longer a field of programmed and regulated operations. Beneath the discourses that ideologize the city, the ruses and combinations of powers that have no readable identity proliferate; without points where one can take hold of them, without rational transparency, they are impossible to administer."

"What spatial practices correspond, in the area where discipline is manipulated, to these apparatuses that produce a disciplinary space?"

"...spatial practices in fact secretly structure the determining conditions of social life"

How do you construct a "disciplined" space? Is it ethical or even possible to try and control space and structure the conditions of social life?

Quotes and questions from "Night on Earth" by Trui Vetters:

" put all partial views together not simply as composite vision but as a cognitive map that shows how each view can itself be explained by and integrated into some grander conception of what the city as a whole, what the urban process in general is all about."

How important is it to have an all encompassing view of a space as a whole? Can it be more meaningful to emphasize certain moments as parts of this "whole"? Which view is more accurate in understanding a city?

For example:
Giuliani's pictures (iconic and controllable) vs. Cabby's pictures (moments and uncontrollable)

Living Section 1.4

While Across-Section, by student Mason Edge, is a moving section traversing the city with the speed of a car. The driver takes a segment of the strip city with it at the plane (the cut) that coincides with his own placement within the car as he drives. He, the (car/city body/car occupant), appears near the middle of a horizontally elongated document of parallel vanishing spaces as a silhouette figure vibrating to the motor of the vehicle while pushing the strip city with it forward at 35 miles per hour. The study is actually constructed by walking the city exhaustibly four times, each time covering a segment of the strip; two vast and empty sidewalks, a linear network of unconnected drive-through zones and parking lots, and a railroad track that runs parallel to the street. Through video editing, the individual views, which are next to each other yet imperceptible during a normal drive, were connected. In this case as is the role of a conventional section-cut drawing, adjacent yet disjointed spaces alongside each other were revealed. However, in this case the section-cut is a moving plane as informed by the act of driving and the activities flashing past the driver in that particular body/car/city space, a condition that we so often inhabit.

Living Section 1.3

Mike Stopka, another one of my students’ studies, presents us also with the familiar section drawing; in this case to scale, with exact dimensions and placement of windows and doors and with appropriate wall thicknesses, yet suddenly a video window appears animating the static drawing with the activities of the user within the space (fig. 2). As we watch, we see and hear the user moving from one domestic activity to another as he crosses from room to room space the drawing and across the section-cut. At points, we are zoomed into the video leaving behind the drawing, as it exists the frame of the document. We find ourselves immersed into the story held within this drawing and presented as moving image. In this case, the section-cut fluctuates between being a drawing and being a movie while being both. In this drawing/movie the qualitative and quantitative characteristics of the place are presented in their intimate relationship.

Living Section 1.2

In Living Section, by former student Christopher Lanzisera, we are able to view and understand the adjacencies of spaces, their configurations and relative proportions, etceteras yet more importantly because of the ability of the camera to record activities in time, we are able to understand the fluctuation of programs that are happening across this section-cut of the city over a period of time (fig. 1). This study achieves what architect Bernard Tschumi refers to as the “tripartite mode of notation… (events, movements, spaces)…for all inevitably intervene in the reading of the city”. (5) However in this case it is drawing which is influencing our understanding and use of the moving image. And while the inspiration for this study comes directly from a common drawing convention, a similar condition can be found visually in the film; The Cook, The Thief, His Wife, and Her Lover directed by Peter Greenaway where the camera pans slowly across adjacent spaces and between walls revealing the activities happening within and along the indiscriminate line that traverses the building from a parking lot, through a kitchen to dinning room. (6) Similarly this occurs with audio in the film Delicatessen by Jean-Pierre Jeunet and Marc Caro where we hear the various spaces of a building playing against each other as sounds that originate in different spaces permeate each other or disappear into wall cavities. (7)

5 Tschumi, Bernard. The Manhattan Transcripts New York: St Martin’s Press, 1994 p.9
6 See The Cook, The Thief, His Wife, and Her Lover directed by Peter Greenaway 1989
7 See Delicatessen by Jeunet and Caro 1992

Living Section 1.1

To be immersed is to look at the city in section, to be inside, to look at the inner workings of this body, as a kind of x-ray vision. The section drawing as we know it allows us to understand the adjacencies of interior spaces, their configurations and relative proportions, etceteras. While they are revealing of this static, and abstract characteristics of space, they do not provide us with the representation or the analysis of what is happening inside, how often it is happening, what are the variations, the rhythms and patterns, the ephemeral, what is the life of that which is being investigated. To be immersed is to be inside but it is also to look at the city moving, to look at the city in time, to look at the city changing.

I have been involved in a series of dissections of time/space studies which take the conventional section-cut drawing as we know it and combine it with video to create a new kind of document, a document which is immersed, picturesque, yet also abstract and analytical, a document, or rather a thinking tool which allows us to reveal, study and communicate both the qualitative and the quantitative, and the fixed and temporal aspects of place. These projects include a series of my studies of cities as well as a series of studies done by my students. These explorations, which merge the vocabularies of drawing and of moving image started with the idea of exploiting the readily available audio/video camera as an investigative tool in our practice and has evolved to include other readily available time based tools at our disposal.

Urban CT-Scan: The City as Body(ies) in Movement

Philosopher Michel de Certeau in Walking the City argues that the plan-like image of a city as seen from above is nothing else but a “viewpoint… a picture, whose condition of possibility is an oblivion and a misunderstanding of practices”. He argues for the experience of wandering through the city as a “process of appropriation of the topographical system” (1). Urban historian Lucia Nuti in Mapping Places: Chorography and Vision in the Renaissance, states that before the renaissance, maps were pictorial, vividly describing the qualities of a place and that then maps became views from above, and, eventually, a chorography which is planometric (which in Latin means Flat) and in scale. She describes the ongoing attempt during that period to balance the qualities of the “intellectual and mathematical” with the “pictorial and sensual knowledge” (2). Steven Johnson in Street Level states that; “The city is complex because it overwhelms, yes, but also because it has a coherent personality, a personality that self organizes out of millions of individual decisions, a global order built out of local interactions” (3). In Street Level he compares this to the research that biologist Deborah Gordon is doing on ants stating that a queen does not organize ants, as one might think, but that rather ants communicate and organize via their individual interactions at the ground level, at the street level. Johnson continues, “There are no bird’s-eye view of the colony, no ways to perceive the overall system—and indeed, no cognitive apparatus that could make sense of such a view…” (4).

To look at the city from below, to look at the city from within, means to consider the rituals of its many inhabitants. I, like de Certeau and Nuti, believe that an immersed reading and representation of place would reveal relationships otherwise imperceptible in these more conventional mappings. Can we create mappings where the current condition of the below being orchestrated from the above is reversed? Can we read and “write” “manifold stories” from within to define the above? Through the thoughtful rethinking of the technologies available today we can evolve our existing analytical methods to more accurately engage the complexities of our cities and have the potential of making documents that are both realistic and abstract, picturesque and analytical, immersed as well as removed? What is the potential of this merging?

1 de Certeau, Michel. Walking in the City. In The Practice of Everyday Life, Trans. by Steven Rendall. California: University of California Press, 1988, p. 93
2 Nuti, Lucia. Mapping Places: Chorography and Vision in the Renaissance. In Mappings, edited by Denis Cosgrove, 90- 108. London: Reaktion Books, 1999, p. 91
3 Johnson, Steven. Emergence, The connected lives of ants, brains, cities and software Scribner, New York 2001 p. 33
4 Johnson, Steven. Emergence, The connected lives of ants, brains, cities and software Scribner, New York 2001 p. 75


“The experiences of space cannot be separated from the events that happen in it. It is remade continuously every time it is encountered by different people, every time it is represented through another medium, every time its surroundings change, every time new affiliations are forged” James Corner, The Agency of Mapping: Speculation, Critique and Invention in Mappings, edited by Denis Cosgrove,

“The ordinary practitioners of the city live ‘down below’, below the thresholds at which visibility begins. ... whose bodies follow the thicks and thins of an urban ‘text’ they write without being able to read it. These practitioners make use of spaces that cannot be seen; their knowledge of them is as blind as that of lovers in each other’s arms. The paths that correspond in this intertwining, unrecognized poems in which each body is an element signed by many others, elude legibility. It is as though the practices organizing a bustling city were characterized by their blindness. The networks of these moving, intersecting writings compose a manifold story that has neither author nor spectator, shaped out of fragments of trajectories and alterations of spaces: in relation to representations, it remains daily and indefinitely other.” Michel de Certeau, Walking in the City in The Practice of Everyday Life.

Working from a series of texts and discussions on temporality, public space and representation, this seminar/lab will use audio, video and GPS (Global Positioning Systems) to explore the potential of a new kind of drawing. a mapping which is temporal and ever-changing and which looks at the body of the city in its intimate relationship to the mapping of the human body. What do calories burned, heart rate, and body mass mean as related to length and speed of travel, weather, and topography? And what does latitude and longitude of user, distance to destination, and time, and latitude mean as related to track, bearing and heart rate? Can we analyze this data of the human body and city body as interrelated an intimately connected? Can we analyze this data the way that a radiologist analyzes a CT-scan? In addition the merging of drawing (GPS) and moving image (audio/video) will be explored as a hybrid tool capable of capturing place in all of its qualities. With GPS we get the absolute, certain information of the trajectory such as location, altitude, weather, heart rate, cadence, speed, duration... while audio/video captures the perceptive, bodily characteristics of the space such as imagery, ambiance, texture, light, activity, conversations, sounds, expressions, etc….. The city will be mapped as a temporal system with documents that are both realistic and abstract, picturesque and analytical, immersed and removed. With these mapping technologies as wearable and as extensions of the human body into the city, the students will “draw” their cities from “below” producing a collective subjective map of the interactions, movements, pauses and events that make up the daily life of their cities.

The seminar will use historical references in architecture, film, cartography, photography, drawing, literature, urbanism, biology, sociology, science, physiology… as well as contemporary visualization examples in graphic design, art, architecture, medicine, aviation... The students will be presented with examples weekly as well as given reading assignments and short weekly exercises to exploit the possibilities. Part of class time will be used for lively discussions on the topics explored and presented. Students will also define, present, and write a seminar topic of their choice to fit under the course thesis and which will provide the basis for an independent student project. Recording equipment may be borrowed from the professor, checked out from the university or provided by the students.