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My first day back in Liverpool was spent at the Main Library looking at old maps of the Mersey Tunnel. In the past weeks the library personnel unearthed a map they did not know existed within their archives. Seeing librarians giggly with excitement is lovely and the opening of the cannister containing the map was like a ceremony.

Digging deeper into the urban archeology of all aspects of the Air Vent building and the tunnel.



In 1920’s, the city became the subject of a number of landmark films that shaped the body of the cine city in important ways. These include Manhatta (1921), Metropolis (1926) and The Man with The Movie Camera (1929).

Looking at these panoramas form an architectural perspective, the city emerges both as something more than and something different form the mere objects of films. Here, metropolis and film interface as a distinctly modern production in which a correspondence between the city space and the film space, between the motion of the city and the moving image, exists. The machine of modernity that fabricated the city is also the “fabric” of film. The 1920’s, a period full of fluid exchange between architecture, created a nexus investing the actual mechanics of the bond.

The modern architectural model of film even came to be projected onto the architecture of the movie house itself.

As a view from the body, film is architecturally bound: sized to the body, experienced from life, architecture is haptically imaged and mobilized. Architecture is neither static structure not simply just built. Like all tangible artifacts, it is actually constructed – imaged – as it is manipulated. And like a film, architecture is built as is constantly negotiated by (e)motions, traverersed by the histories both of its inhabitants and its transient dwellers. Seen in this way, architecture reveals urban ties; the product of transactions, it bears the traces of urban (e)motion and its fictional scriptings. A relation is established between places and events that forms and transforms the narrative of a city: the city itself becomes imaged as narrative as sites are transformed by the sequence of movements of its traveler-dwellers. Film, a principal narrator of city space. Provides the very fictional dynamics of the urban text. As with all urban forms of traversal, its image-movement continually reinvents places as sites of narrative. Cities are filmic afterimages imprinted on our own spatial unconscious.

From Atlas of Emotions: Journeys in Art, Architecture and Film – Guliana Bruno 

A product of the era of the metropolis and its transits, film expressed an urban viewpoint from its very inception. As Paul Virilio puts it: “Since the beginning of the twentieth century…the screen…became the city square.” Adressed primarily to urban audiences, early film fed on the metropolitan consciousness and unconsciousness.

From the depiction of foreign views to the simulation of traveling through space, filmic representation is never static. Not only do the subjects of urban views move. But the very technique of representation aspires to motion. A film like Panorama from Times Building, New York (1905), portrays New York’s aerial cityscape by first tilting upward and then panning across an urban bird’s eyes view. In panoramas like this, the camera strives for diverse viewing possibilities from the height of buildings or from different perspectival points in the city. . The genre was also attracted to the street motion of urban strolling and frequently represented the daily urban circulation of male and female dwellers.

Public circulation takes cinematic shape in these films, and the sidewalk becomes the site where gender openly dwells. In At The Foot of the Flatiron (1903), a film that records a street scene, architecture and body are more then metonymically conjoined as the camera scrutinizes the ankles of passing woman at the “foot” of the building. The camera catches the reactions of passersby of all sexes when, at the windy street corner, women’s skirts blow up, revealing even more flesh. 

From Atlas of Emotions: Journeys in Art, Architecture and Film – Guliana Bruno


From a friend:
It occurred to me that I’ve never seen a bird or animal (not ever!) in the tunnel. Also, before the tunnel was wired for radio reception (quite recently) you used to get a little blast of radio reception when you passed under what I guess must have been the vents. I also remember that the first trip I made through the tunnel was in 1965 with my dad during a trip to Liverpool to see what all the fuss was about. He said we had to hold our breath because we were going underwater – so I tried and, of course, failed. has an excellent Flash-based animation of Manhattan over time,  broken down into many categories including farms, urban renewal, landfill, rails etc.  Click around for a visual tour of the many layers that make up New York City…

Animated Manhattan at

Animated Manhattan at

Last week I spent time in Liverpool working with Jacqueline and Hannah Peel, who is the curator of AudioVision. Much time was spent visiting the Air Vent site, filming inside the building and recording sound. I also spent time shooting areas of transit in the city – capturing a similar sense of urban activity and movement as previously shot material from New York. Since ideas of alternative city screens and urban visual architecture are part of our thinking for this project, it was interesting for me to look around for other natural city projection surfaces. 

Further Glenn Small- check out this article: Trees cut crime rates. I found this when searching for a study I read several years ago which drew correlations between increasing the percentage of greenspace and lowering crime rates in New York City housing projects.


Boston will plant 100,000 trees during the next 13 years, with the bulk of the plantings to take root in the city’s least green neighborhoods, Mayor Thomas M. Menino will announce today.

By expanding the urban forest by some 20 percent to cover more than one – third of the city, leaders hope to reap a range of benefits, including cooler temperatures in summer, absorption of carbon dioxide and storm water runoff, and increased psychological well-being among residents.

As part of the initiative, the mayor will also announce a new partnership with the US Forest Service that designates Boston as an urban experimental forest — one of three such sites in the country — where scientists and arborists will conduct research to document the effects of trees on people and the environment.

“There’s no downside to having more trees,” Menino said in an interview. “They bring people together and give people pride in their neighborhood.”

The push to increase the tree cover in the city reflects growing national awareness of the value of urban trees, after decades when their potential to help cities address environmental problems was little considered. The project began with a comprehensive inventory of the trees in Boston, conducted by the city and private organizations over three years and completed last fall. Among the inventory’s findings: The tree canopy covers 29 percent of Boston, more than several other major East Coast cities.”

Biomorphic Biosphere Megastructure: 1965-1977 Developed over a span of ten years, Glen Small’s biggest, most ambitious, and most recognized vision evolved from his Vertical City design. Small describes the BBM as “a perfect city designed to solve the ecological problems of the world in a beautiful, gorgeous manner,an “alternative to the existing mediocrity”.

Some wild designs, centering on the city as an environmentally friendly utopia…

More on Glenn Small in an interview here

Some beautiful illustrations with fantastical and adventurous urban environments…

An interesting way to view the city is as a living, breathing and continually evolving organism.  Here is an excerpt and a couple of links that nicely explain this:


“For the first time in history, the majority of the people on our planet live in cities. Going forward, human history will become urban history: homo sapiens has evolved into homo urbanus.

The back story for this profound if not evolutionary shift in human behavior is that fact even in 1800 only 3% of the world’s population lived in cities.

Dr. Geoffrey West, President and Distinguished Professor of the Santa Fe Institute, led a team of scientists that has found that city growth driven by wealth creation increases at a rate that is faster than exponential. The only way to avoid collapse as a population outstrips the finite resources available to it is through constant cycles of innovation, which re-engineer the initial conditions of growth. But the greater the absolute population, the smaller the relative return on each such investment, so innovation must come ever faster.

Thus, the bigger the city, the faster life is; but the rate at which life gets faster must itself accelerate to maintain the city as a growing concern so much so that to maintain growth, major innovations must now occur on time-scales that are significantly shorter than a human lifespan.

“In this crucial sense cities are completely different from biological organisms, which slow down with size; their relative metabolism, growth rates, heart rates, and even rates of innovation – their evolutionary rates – systematically – and predictably – decrease with organizmal size,” West said. “Several thousand years ago the evolution of social organizations in the form of cities brought a new dynamic to the planet that seems to be uniquely human: People actually do walk on average faster in larger cities whereas heart rates decrease as animal size increases.”  

More here, and the more scientific/research oriented take on the biological metaphor here.