© John Pobojewski


Reinterpreting our traces

Issue statement by Iker Gil, editor in chief of MAS Context.


In recent workshops that Antonio Petrov and I have run as part of the Chicago Expander program at Archeworks, we have been asking participants to explore Chicago and its region (intentionally leaving those boundaries open for interpretation) through specific topics (Energy and Economy; Agency and Consumerism; and Transportation) with the idea of activating questions that challenge conventional boundaries and perceptions of the city. With plenty of room to interpret the topics along with use of photo essays, films and diagrams that highlight networks and relationships, the result is a body of work that visualizes systems but also incorporates how each participant experiences the city. The combination of both has provided richer, complex, and even contradictory readings about what the city really is and how it is defined.

This issue continues that approach, featuring a series of contributions that explore a variety of traces that shape our cities in one way or another, but also ourselves and how we engage with those cities. Traces that describe aspects of our cities as well as open up new conversations and readings. Those traces range from physical explorations of our landscapes to obsolete zoning laws that define the current urban fabric of our cities; from visible remnants of buildings to invisible systems that make our cities run; from cultural traces that we collectively generate to those personal memories that mark us forever; from a look at the what no longer exists to the reinterpretation of what is left behind. Places and conditions that go unseen for most of us become the focus for others.

In the end, the selections are intended to provide a multilayered, complex and personal reading of the urban context. We would like it to add to the ongoing conversation about how we perceive, document and reinterpret our cities, a conversation that communicates the traces we leave raising questions about the future cities those traces will generate.



Trace has had invaluable help from: José Abásolo, John Barber, Krishna Bharathi, Dominique Boile, John Joseph Burns, Andrew Clark, André Corrêa, Frank Fantuzzi, Greg Girard, Renata Graw, Shannon Herber, Michael Hirschbichler, Lisa Hirmer, Matthew Hung, Jayne Kelley, Christa Lamb, Enric Llorach, Dennis Maher, Geoff Manaugh, Daniel Luis Martinez, Julie Michiels, Moby, Paul Mougey, Dimitra Ntzani, Charlie O’Geen, John Pobojewski, Travis Roozee, Andrew Ruff, Zoë Ryan, Kristine Samson, David Schalliol, Todd Simeone, Ljubica Slavković, Juan Carlos Tello, Frank Thiel, Nicola Twilley, Alexa Viscius, Annie Wang, Phreddy Wischusen, and Richard Wright.

Also we want to thank Sean Kelly Gallery (New York), Galeria Leme (São Paulo), Galerie Krinzinger (Vienna), Galeria Helga de Alvear (Madrid) for allowing us to include the work of Frank Thiel.



This issue is dedicated to our contributing editor Andrew Clark and his wife Ann Clark who welcomed their baby girl Emery Grace Clark on September 12, 2013. We look forward to the positive trace she will leave on the world.


Iker Gil is an architect, urban designer, and director of MAS Studio. In addition, he is the editor in chief of MAS Context. He is the recipient of the 2010 Emerging Visions Award from the Chicago Architectural Club. | @MASContext

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