Code and other laws of urban space

Mobile phones offer more radical possibilities than ‘PC + internet’ in terms of bringing information into the real spatial environment, argues The City Project – which means architects and urban planners need to start engaging with the way space is experienced and manipulated through mobile software. Map-tagging and location-tracking could help planners to understand how space is used, reducing the tension between the ideal space of architecture and the real space of inhabitation.

So if the prophets of user-generated-everything need to learn that space matters, do those who dream of clean, Cartesian space also need to learn that use matters? No doubt – but to reduce location-aware software to a feedback channel from users to developers (in either sense), or to see it as another element in an architectural programme, would be to miss its truly radical potential, which would lie – if sufficiently open platforms could be developed – in enabling the unplanned, disorganised and ever-changing use of space, without architects.

3 Responses to “Code and other laws of urban space”

  1. i fully agree, mike. great pointers there! do you know Agnieszka Mlicka? also, do you have any idea whether it would be possible to encode ‘the use of space’ in some metrics? e.g., with which metric/measure one is able to differentiate the use of space in south kensington vs. that in brixton?

  2. a start may be to replicate/automate what Milgram described in 1970 (page 5 of this)
    “In advertisements placed in the New York Times and the Harvard Crimson we asked people to give us accounts of specific incidents in London, Paris, or New York that best illuminated the character of that particular city. Questionnaires were then developed, and administered to persons who were familiar with at least two of the three cities^.” At the time, the idea was to test whether there is any consensus about the qualities that typify given cities

    ^ N. Abuza (Harvard University), “The Paris-London-New York Questionnaires,” unpublished.

  3. mike says:

    Interesting suggestion – it reminds me of another recent City Project post about cities and ambition: what does your city tell you is important in life?

    However, I’m a bit wary of attempting to quantify the ways people use space, because that seems to lend itself to the incorporation of specified, enumerable uses into architecture – design a space that can be used for x, y, z – rather than the (admittedly utopian) bypassing of architecture through unspecified and innumerable use.