the city unplugged

Along with Kadambari Baxi, Reinhold Martin, and Daniela Fabricius, I will be speaking at The City Unplugged, a book launch event at the Columbia GSAPP on October 15. (for Blue Monday, Multinational City, and Informal, all ACTAR publications). Michael Kubo, of ACTAR, will moderate. Together, we will be addressing the question "Do Urban Models Still Exist?" It’ll be a great privilege to share the stage with these authors, who I greatly admire.


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E-Book Prototype at the Netlab

With the start of a new school year nearly upon us, I have been putting up some student work that I really should have posted last year at the Netlab Web Site. Teaching at Columbia is a real treat and the work my students have done is so frequently superlative. I’ll post a little of it here and there prior to the start of the next semester.

Take, for example, Sang Hoon Youm’s fantastic prototype book interface. Unlike, say, Apple’s Cover Flow artwork, this proposal wouldn’t just use graphics as icons, it would allow you to browse in a way that is both familiar and entirely new. Think a book meets a browser meets hypercard meets … something else.

The project was done for my "Architecture of Interfaces" course, taught last fall.

Beware, this is a 30 mb flash video.

ebook image

Click here (or on the above image) to open a new window containing the flash video.

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los angeles from helicopter

The end of August at the Netlab brings the end of the Infrastructural Los Angeles project and little by little it’s getting assembled into a book. From now until publication (hopefully by Christmas!) I will be showing off projects from the book.

To start, take a look at Lane Barden’s trilogy of aerial photographs of Los Angeles. Lane and I taught at SCI_Arc together and it’s a privilege to have his work grace our book.

Three series of photographs, all taken from helicopter, show the Alameda Corridor, the Los Angeles River, and Wilshire Boulevard. Together these demonstrate the force of these
entites—in turn devoted to moving objects, fluids, and people—as they shape the city in their very different ways. Together, they suggest that it is not the urban plan as much as the infrastructural project that has shaped—and continuous to shape—the city.

Although you will have to purchase the book to see these in print glory, you can see a selection (together with other great work by Lane) at his Web site.

alamedia corridor trench by lane barden

los angeles river by lane barden

wilshire boulevard by lane barden

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curating the city

It’s rare that I like a Flash site, but The Los Angeles’s Conservancy’s Curating the City impressed me. At present, the site consists of an interactive map of Wilshire Boulevard that allows you to look back at the the history of that sixteen mile long street in detail. Even though I lived on Wilshire for a decade, I learned quite a bit from the site.

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Time for yet another gratuitous post to plug Blue Monday. This go around, since some of you have asked about the typeface, I thought I should post a link to Section, a typeface designed by Greg Lindy of the Village Collective. Although ACTAR chose the face, it seems rather apt, given that AUDC’s base at the time was L. A.:

Section was designed specifically as the identity font for Intersection
, a multidisciplinary design firm in Los Angeles. The goal was
to create a flexible, yet distinctive and legible font. Section’s
application involved everything from business forms to collateral
material. This font was a key element in establishing the Intersection
Studio brand. It is suitable for text as well as display. Eurostile and
News gothic served as reference in the creation of Section.



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Archidose Blue Monday Review

Saturday means I’m finally at my friend Paul and Viola’s retreat and am recharging. Maybe you are too and you’re starting to think about summer reading? Well, of course, that means another plug for our book, this time in the form of a long overdue link to John Hill’s Archidose for his review of Blue Monday.

A brief excerpt:

As an alternative research practice, AUDC’s focus and methods may be difficult to understand or grasp initially, but this book skillfully explains their point of view. The three moments—LA’s One Wilshire Boulevard "telecom hotel," the Muzak Corporation, and Quartzsite, Arizona—offer alternative urbanisms that have, in one way or another, been incorporated into contemporary life without our knowledge or any voluntary participation.

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infrastructural city prospectus

Little by little my summer book projects draw nearer to completion. Here, as a teaser, is the text that ACTAR is publishing in the next catalog, together with some photos I took to accompany it.

Los Angeles: Infrastructural City

Kazys Varnelis, editor

Once the greatest American example of a modern city served by infrastructure, Los Angeles is now in perpetual crisis. Infrastructure has ceased to support architecture’s plans for the city and instead subordinates architecture to its own purposes. This out-of-control but networked world is increasingly organized by flows of objects and information. Static structures only avoid being superfluous when they join this system to become temporary containers for the people, objects, and capital. Featuring a provocative collection of research through photography, essays and maps, Los Angeles: Infrastructural City uses infrastructure as a way of mapping our place in late capital and the city, while remaining optimistic about the role of architecture to understand it and affect change.

A project of the Network Architecture Lab in collaboration with the Los Angeles Forum for Architecture and Urban Design.


cell phone tower

long beach oil wells


beach with oil refinery


[note oil wells off the coast of Long Beach in second photo from top]


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more on gibson and the networked book

While waiting for the bookstore down the street from my Montclair home base to open its doors so I can pick up my copy of William Gibson’s latest novel, Spook Country, I decided to read another interview with the cyberpunk author, this time at Here, Gibson discusses how he came to write about the recent past instead of the future and the relationship of his latest work with the Internet.

Here is a brief excerpt:

How has technology changed writing?

The thing that has affected me most directly during Pattern Recognition, and subsequently, is the really strange new sense I have of the Google-ability of the text. It’s as though there is a sort of invisible hyperlink theoretical text that extends out of the narrative of my novel in every direction.

Someone has a website going where every single thing mentioned in Spook Country has a blog entry and usually an illustration so, every reference, someone has taken it, researched it and written a sort of little Wikipedia entry for it and all in the format of a website [my note:] that pretends to be from a magazine called Node, which is an imaginary magazine, within Spook Country, and which turns out to be imaginary in the context of the narrative.

I have this sense when I write now that the text doesn’t stop at the end of the page and I suppose I could create web pages somewhere and lead people to them through the text which is an interesting concept. I actually played with doing that in Spook Country but I didn’t know enough about it. Everything is bending towards hypertext now.

As a collaborator on two networked books (Blue Monday and Networked Publics), this part of the interview interests me greatly. These two books were networked in that they were collaboratively written on-line. I have long dreamed of key sections books being linkable, Wikipedia-style, like this passage here and we began doing that with Blue Monday although it was too time consuming to complete. Sadly, publishers are still not keen on having the entire text of books on the Web so giving networked versions of books something that print copies by definition can’t support would be very troubling for them.

In the end, I have only one essay with the degree of links that I feel I’d like my texts to have—Beyond Locative Media*—and it took a long time to manually add the links. Maybe the problem is my markup: I’m using TinyMCE, a WYSIWYG editor with Drupal, and that requires me to open a new window for every link I want to add. Wikitext might be a better strategy, allowing me to cite URLs inline.

But what happens in fifty years, or even five years, when Web pages have changed and the links become obsolete? What then? The networked book, it would seem, is inextricable from its context. Historians who will want to work on such books will be caught exploring only the very recent past.

*Curiously enough, this text was finished in December 2005, the novel is set in February 2006, and, after reading a few chapters, I was suprised to see that locative media artist hackers appear to be featured prominently… Rather than thinking that Gibson might be reading my texts, I think this is evidence of the sort of delirious intertextuality that he is talking about.

(this post draws on my earlier post at

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whither the protestant ethic?

Network Culture is predictated on an affluent society, but wealth is increasingly relative. As the New York Times reports, earnings that would once have been considered upper class now seem second-rate, especially if one lives in an area like Silicon Valley. The Times also has a story on Robert H. Frank’s Falling Behind: How Rising Inequality Harms the Middle Class. Extreme consumption by the super-rich drives us to try to buy larger houses, better toys, and bigger, more powerful cars even as the average family income has stayed stable since the 1970s.

audc : i love you, don't crush me crushed by the burden of possessions

Thus America becomes the very opposite of the society that Max Weber observed in the Protestant Ethic and the Spirit of Capitalism (not that the Irish are much different these days, as Chaos at the Crossroads suggests…and the same goes for many other countries) and we work more and save less than ever before.

A "correction" as the Fed likes to call it, or a crash of some sort, seems in the cards, both economically and ecologically. But what other consequences does this have for Network Culture? Is this the last burst of material desire prior to the full dominance of the immaterial? Or is the latter just a superstructure, unavoidably dependent on the former (this might be the argument of the Netlab’s research into logistics, for example)?



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