In Context | Brendan Crain

 

Icons in Real-Time

If, as Alexandra Lange writes in Writing About Architecture, “The idea of a landmark becomes fuzzier as we move closer to the present,” then how are landmarks defined as the present keeps speeding up? That question was stuck in my head as I dove into the MAS Context archives to curate this In Context. Richard Prouty contrasts Wordsworth’s London–a city that could be seen in its entirety from a bridge–with the contemporary techno-augmented cityscape to great effect. Today, we’re as likely to navigate a city by looking down at our smartphones as we are are by looking up at our buildings, meaning that a landmark can be created simply through the manipulation of data. That has huge implications for what–and who–defines the city.

Troy Conrad Therrien explains the difference between the speed of information (fast) and the speed of knowledge (slow), highlighting how widespread public access to data is eroding the very idea of “official,” for better or worse. Tom Keeley’s account of the re-framing of un-loved structures (in this case, a pair of cooling towers) as an emotional touchstone for the city of Sheffield serves as a case study for how a meaningful civic landmark can be established by a couple of determined individuals. Ethel Baraona Pohl, in her piece on J├╝rgen Mayer’s Metropol Parasol in Seville, shows how even a formally pure, officially-sanctioned landmark can be claimed and re-defined by the motliest of crews.

Iker Gil’s interview with Everything is a Remix creator Kirby Ferguson provides an interesting jumping-off point for considering how the experience of a city’s “sense of place” could be remixed by agents of its myriad subcultures. This consideration is vital, as technology democratizes ownership of urban identity. But as Ferguson’s series points out, gatekeepers don’t cede authority without a fight. So how will this democratization play out when a city’s global brand is at stake? Something to think about.

 

THE DATA CITY
Essay by Richard Prouty
Issue: 7 | INFORMATION FALL 10

LOOKING FOR A THEORY OF REAL-TIME KNOWLEDGE
Essay by Troy Conrad Therrien
Issue: 11 | SPEED FALL 11

BOOM BUST RUBBLE DUST
Essay by Tom Keeley
Issue: 12 | ABERRATION

METROPOL PARASOL
Essay by Ethel Baraona Pohl of dpr-barcelona
Issue: 12 | ABERRATION

EVERYTHING IS A REMIX
Iker Gil interviews Kirby Ferguson
Issue: 13 | OWNERSHIP SPRING 12

 

Brendan Crain is a writer and urbanist who spends an inordinate amount of time pondering the effects of social technology on the urban environment (and vice versa). He is the founder of the Where blog and the Communications Manager at Project for Public Spaces.
http://thewhereblog.blogspot.com | @thewhereblog

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