INSTRUCTOR Ariane Lourie Harrison
The recent exhibition at the Architecture League of New York, Toward the Sentient City, manifests new interfaces with the urban realm, merging technology and situated information with an environmental agenda. The exhibition is the culmination of a series of pamphlets and initiatives set forth by the Architecture League around the theme of situated technologies. It is the latest development in a long postmodern debate on the role of the object in the city, which I believe technology has transformed into a new relationship with the body and mind.
From this post-war point of departure, when Urban Design was set forth as a discipline, I look to introduce theories based on how the change a way of thinking about the urban/architectural edge. The first set in the 1960s and 70s includes Kevin Lynch, Aldo Rossi, and Archizoom, reframing the city as a collection of artifacts which hold either a cultural/historical or consumptive reference. With urban documenters such as Jan Gehl and William H. Whyte I believe that there was a shift in the late 1970s and through the 80s toward a greater social bias and taxonomy of the city. Through the 1980s this interface between the object and the subject is fairly static; one that holds an embedded meaning or role in the public space but is solid and can be defined by place. The integration of technology opens up new avenues and possibilities for situated interaction. The effects were written about extensively through the 1990s and into the current decade by a series of writers from William Mitchell to Malcolm McCullough, exploring the capacities of a networked culture.
This paper’s title is a doubly refracted wordplay from the exhibition title, Toward the Sentient City, and Le Corbusier’s seminal book, Toward a New Architecture. I have reinserted the “a” and “new” to reference the ubiquity to which these changes are affecting our urban realm and the multiple modes in which they can perform. Roughly shaping my own thesis of the new urban interface around this integration of technology, I would categorize the current projects into three branches: As informational [device-centric], As service-oriented [object-centric], As ambient [human-centric]. The Architecture League’s exhibition touches on all of the categories to an extent, but is only the first of many drafts. Through analysis of the Situated Technologies pamphlets and the projects they sponsor I will define each of these branches in further detail and postulate on their ultimate social and cultural consequences.