Everything On TimeTim Durfee & Ben Hooker, with Jenny Rodenhouse
To really understand what a smart city will be one must ask, instead, a dumb question: what is a city? Is a city something composed of buildings, infrastructure, and people? Is it merely the fateful result of geography? Is it a legal phenomenon, identifiable only through policy? Is it the intersection of thousands or millions of individual lives? An economic conspiracy? Is it an epically slow coincidence?
For us, the idea of the city presents itself as shorthand for the domain where issues of space, society, technology, culture, and people intersect. We are motivated to explore new agendas for design and architecture in a time when the prevailing brief defining the role of those disciplines has become increasingly out of touch with the daily realities of our augmented and algorithmically orchestrated lives.
Everything On Time is a type of construction site where new elements are added that alter the environment, creating unfamiliar scenarios and situations with a degree of unpredictability. Using non-fiction interviews and research, speculative urban environments and buildings, fictional narratives, and industrial simulation software, the vignettes become themselves simulations of possible cultures - new narratives of urban experience that arise from the collision of culture and “smart city” technologies.
From this process emerged five self-contained idea-worlds that serve as briefs for our ongoing work.
Cameras are everywhere, and increasing everyday. Is the selfie stick of 2017 actually a primitive antecedent to a more architecturally facilitated narcissism? Selfie furniture, selfie units, selfie buildings.
Real-time, virtual navigation of cities--Google Street View, but live--is imminent. As these networks age, new grids are added, like layers of redundancy visible in other forms of infrastructure. We continue to build around these, accepting that the landscape has eyes.
Images have always been eloquent in ways language is not—and indeed, image-centric social media is ascendant. As mores of visual privacy dissolve, cameras become increasingly more acceptable; well beyond mere security, but rather as expected elements of the civic infrastructure. Visible at all times, even our expressions will change. Walking through dozens of cameras will be as unremarkable as walking through a crowd.
The heroic gardens of the French Enlightenment were extreme expressions of the Cartesian will to control nature. Will today’s development of technologies for the control and manipulation of our environment—including flora, fauna, and the weather itself—lead to new forms of gardening, expressions of the time-honored human impulse to shape the natural environment?
Will weather eventually no longer be a regionally or seasonally determined phenomenon? How will that transform our deep cultural (and biological) associations with place and environment? Individual ideas of taste and comfort will migrate from our climate-controlled living rooms to our streets and beyond.
Even animals can be manipulated and corralled. Louis XIV would be envious of your glorious vortex of songbirds.
Presented at the Post-Internet Cities International Conference, MAAT - Museum of Art, Architecture and Technology, Lisbon, 26 May 2017
Included in the exhibition "Come-In: DTLA" at the Art + Architecture Museum, Los Angeles, CA
Included in "Now, There: Scenes from the Post-Geographic City," winner of the Bronze Dragon at the Bi-City Biennale of Urbanism/Architecture, Shenzhen, China
The capabilities and limitations of Unmanned Autonomous Vehicles (UAVs) will influence the physical shapes of cities. Just as an acre was the amount of land one could plow in one day, new dimensional measures will emerge from the particular characteristics of these machines, such as their efficient use of space, their particular service functions, their patterns of movement, their battery life.
New infrastructure will appear in the landscape. Privately sponsored charging and fulfillment towers will be the hubs of radial town plans - each spoke the distance of half a battery’s charge. Urban plans will reflect the layers of various automated agendas like security, delivery, transit. The humming sounds of these devices, like the lawnmowers and leaf blowers of today, will be the characterizing soundtrack of suburban life.
The social networks of 2017 look and operate nothing like cities. The cities of the future, however, may look and operate more like social networks.
YouTubers with enough followers are now becoming rich. We are leaving the era when the obscure enthusiasts that populate the niche realms of user groups and subreddits are outside of the reach of capital and agency. As traditional political entities yield to the much more engaged worlds of social media and other non-geographically defined structures of identity, will long-tail, niche groups begin to express their newfound power in the ways the powerful always have, through edifices and Grands Projets?
Free zones are sanctioned as areas of economic exception. They allow the flow of commerce unfettered by troublesome regulation and taxation. Perhaps new forms of urbanity will emerge that are exceptional for a new type of cosmopolitan: the citizen of the internet. These freek zones might be comprised of structures - not for residents of the city itself - but for the radically dispersed members of this new monetized class: Instagram celebrities, YouTube stars, Twitter influencers. Acts of public policy, like the granting of a building permit, might be triggered by reaching a gateway number of followers. A.R. spectacles crown these buildings, celebrating the brand or the trade, like medieval guild houses.
The Logistical Baroque
Everything can be scripted. Those scripts can be cut and pasted to control anything else. Crowds flowing like carefully choreographed packages in a fulfillment center. Uber orchestrates private individuals into municipal scaled transit systems. As social networks and gig-economies, logistics and GPS merge, even coincidence will be designed.
A.I., algorithms, and pervasive software currently occupy the stratum of civic life we dedicate to necessary and invisible infrastructure. They are still in a state of constant evolution and improvement. What will happen when they have achieved peak optimization? How will these vital elements express their influence on our lives as every previous transformative technology has? If the algorithm is hallmark of our upcoming era, how will it be manifest architecturally, socially, culturally? Can we reach ideal optimization? Will that yield a new Classical period? What follows?
A project by TIM DURFEE, BEN HOOKER, with JENNY RODENHOUSE. Project team ADAM FUJIOKA, CODY MINER, MARIANNE WILLIAMS with JOSH BOOKMAN, ANA MONROE FITZNER, GISELLE GUO, XING LU, NAN WANG. Actors JOSH HILLINGER, BONNIE JEAN, DARREN MARVEL SMITH, FOSTER WALKER. Interviewees JAMES DECKER, TOBIAS JOHANSSON, JUSTIN KELLIS, ROBERT ROGUS. Thanks to ELI ARENSON, BETH CORRY, AARON FOOSHÉE, ANDREW NAGATA. Support from ARTCENTER COLLEGE OF DESIGN (DEPT OF MEDIA DESIGN PRACTICES RESEARCH GRANT 2015 & FACULTY PROJECT GRANT 2015)