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— urbantick

Tag "morphology"

The situationists aimed at developing a different method to explore the city. With phrases like “We are bored in the city, there is no longer any Temple of the Sun.” (Gilles Ivan 1953 in International Situationniste no 1) they set out to explore the daily urban environment by “cruising” it. Guy Debord describes the technique of exploring in his “Theory of the derive” like this: “Among the various situationist methods is the derive [literally: ‘drifting’], a technique of transient passage through varied ambiances. The derive entails playful-constructive behavior and awareness of phsychogeographical effects; which completely distinguishes it from the classical notions of the journey and the stroll.” (Guy Debord 1956).

Image from notbored.org

The illustration “The Naked City” was developed with these ideas in mind and represent bits and pieces of a map of Paris hold together by a number of arrows indicating connections. This view of islands within the fabric of the city not only represents random walks but also general daily experience we all make. The places we visit are very often not linked through experienced space, but rather through a spatially disconnected mode of transport, e.g. tube or a busy bus.

A nice clip showing the rhythm of a derive

derive (1x6x4x1) from Ricardo Greene on Vimeo.

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Plymouth city centre is a very specific area. It has a very distinct character arising from the strong postwar design by Patrick Abercrombie. It has a truly mono functional use, it is a shopping centre in the most literal sense of the word possible. There are no offices, no restaurants, no pubs or bars, no housing, just shops and on the first or second floors storage space for the shops.
The shops open at 10h00 am and close at 18h00. These hours then basically determine the “opening” of the city centre. Outside of those the centre is dead, again literally. There is a very special phenomenon attached to this. Although the opening hours are as described above, shoppers vanish around 17h00. So approximately one hour before closing the shops are already empty and so is the center. Being in HMV at half five is like a scene out of “I am Legend” – hello is there someone? (I have written a longer article about this topic on JLF urban research.)
To my surprise this pattern shows up dramatically in my records. Although I was aware of this pattern and could have behaved differently, but I didn’t. There is no reason to walk through this area, as there is nothing happening and on top of this it becomes rather scary to be on your own in this vast outdoor shopping centre at night.
This short clip shows the activities within 24h. It is zoomed right into Plymouth center. The activities start around 10h00 and end exactly at 17h00. There is the odd crossing outside of these hours, but the characteristic shows clearly.

plymouth365_plyCentre from urbanTick on Vimeo.

To illustrate this in a bit more context, the following images include the city centre of Plymouth but cover also bits of outside area. What this shows is, that even after 17h00 the track record shows still a high number of activities, but they all exclude magically the centre.



Images by urbanTick – Time sequence 07h00, 09h00, 11h00, 16h00, 17h00, 19h00 and 22h00 activity in the Plymouth city center. Click for larger view.

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What is now possible is to compare three different cities. I have a track record from Plymouth, Basle and London.
The following three screenshots are taken from Google Earth at an altitude of 9km. So they are comparable in scale.
What they all have in common is the fix points. The main structural elements of how my days work in terms of space and time are the same. Leaving home going to the same workplace everyday and returning back home. Between those fix points there build up quite intense tracks lines. This base layer get extended by some secondary points, e.g. location for the weekly shopping, favorite spots, friends location, … The third element are the trips. Journeys that are usually going out of the daily routine to a further destination or just a stroll. They occur characteristically on days off or weekends. Depending on how familiar I am with the surrounding they are more focused or of more explorative nature.

Image by urbanTick – Plymouth

Image by urbanTick – Basel

Image by urbanTick – London

Interesting is to compare how I respond to the urban surrounding. The three cities have very distinct urban patterns from one another. Take Plymouth, a city completely planned almost from scratch after it was destroyed in the Second World War. The planner was Patrick Abercrombie who also presented ideas for the reconstruction or better new construction of London after the Blitz. Basel on the other hand is a similar size city in a very different setting with its growth patterns structuring very much its appearance. Or London as the third example, the world city with its single centre core.
To explore how those characteristics influence my interaction with the built environment in terms of routs I choose I overlay my tracks onto maps that capture the characteristics of the three cities.

Image by urbanTick – Plymouth Abercrombie Plan with Plymouth 365 track overlay

Surprisingly, or maybe not so surprisingly, the tracks redraw quite exactly the characteristics of the Abercrombie Plan.

Image by urbanTick – Basel city center with track overlay

Note area A (dark brown) is the old medieval town surrounded by walls dated ca 1860. Area B (beige) is the extension, ca 1875,but still surrounded by a wall. Area C is the extension of the city ca 1926, but is also mainly the present extend. It is important to know that after the walls have been demolished, the freed up space has been used for major infrastructure placements such as roads, but also as open spaces. This means that additionally to the link roads that from the centre outwards there is also a no of ring roads (on the ground of the former walls) that tie in very well with the rest of the network. Moving radial is quite simply in therefore and the use of it is represented in through the no of tracks. Compared to this in London it’s quite tricky to travel radial as it has a strong centralized structure, roads mainly leading into or out of the city centre.
This then is represented in the London track log. It is strongly linear and this represents exactly this centrality as the line is pointing towards the centre.
So now guess which track log is which city.

Images by urbanTick – track record line drawings

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