City As Material

Project + documentation eBooks

Posted in Urban Intervention by gileslane on December 10, 2009

City As Material Project eBooks

Chenxi Cai – London’s Canals, A Beginners Field Guide A4US Letter PDF 350Kb
Chenxi Cai – London’s Canals, Treasure 1 A4US Letter PDF 115Kb
Chenxi Cai – London’s Canals, Treasure 2 A4US Letter PDF 160Kb
Chenxi Cai – London’s Canals, Documentation eBook A4US Letter PDF 350Kb
Marie Dugo – Tube Torts A4US Letter PDF 710Kb
Marie Dugo – Tube Torts Documentation A4US Letter PDF 610Kb
Lauren Dyson – Ludic London Documentation A4US Letter PDF 1.6Mb
Sara Leon – Moda Mapping Documentation A4US Letter PDF 1.1Mb
John McCartin – Trashscapes Documentation A4US Letter PDF 1.4Mb
Avey Venable – ITS London A4US Letter PDF 930Kb
Avey Venable – ITS London Documentation A4US Letter PDF
Michael Zipp – Foundry: lost and found A4US Letter PDF 1.4Mb
Michael Zipp – Foundry: lost and found Documentation A4US Letter PDF 450Kb


ITS LONDON: London’s Green Wave Potential

Posted in Urban Intervention by slothstalk on December 7, 2009


As a driver myself, for the past four years of driving I have unexplainably been personally fascinated with traffic control and flow – trying to understand the reasons why traffic lights are and aren’t placed at certain intersections, why some turn-protected signals change before or after the majority of traffic goes through, why some consecutive lights are well-timed and easy to travel through while others have each driver stopping and starting with every new intersection. The reasons behind these questions fascinated me. With this intervention project, I saw an opportunity to take this interest and expand it into a project by which I might be able to posit solutions in the traffic signal problem areas within London.


With Ken Livingstone as mayor of London, the London environmental transport initiatives have been and currently are in a state of transition. An effort is being made by Livingstone to seriously reduce London’s carbon emissions as seen in his creation of groups like the London Hydrogen Partnership and the London Energy Partnership in his first tern as Mayor of London. With his new Energy Strategy, Livingston has committed himself to reduce London’s emissions by a full 20% by 2010.


It appeared to me that through my research into Livingstone’s initiatives that there were even small things that could (and should!) be re-examined as the city is just becoming more and more congested. What information could I bring to light to a few interested London motorists and where could these people be?


The London Motorists Action Group (LMAG) and readers of the Motorist sections of both the Guardian and the Telegraph newspapers both became target audiences for the small but hopefully significant research I did regarding Traffic Signal Green Waves. On their forums and blogs I was able to post links to my ITS LONDON: London’s Green Waves E-Book on which comments were allowed so as to facilitate more discussion on something so effective but as simple as Traffic Signal optimization.


This E-Book project consisted first and foremost of gathering information – information on travel times and congested zones across Central London, an in-depth understanding of traffic flow and the algorithms used to reduce delays and amount of time stopped (thereby reducing carbon emissions), and a list of the current traffic initiatives proposed by Ken Livingstone.

I also spent time getting to know a number of motorists on both the newspaper forums and LMAG threads in order to gain an understanding of the current atmosphere regarding traffic signals in and around London according to local motorists who are forced to do the drive daily.

After that, it was a matter of collecting all my data into an easily accessible E-Book format which I could distribute both physically and electronically. Physically, I decided to tape a number of the E-Books onto Parking Meters, which would hopefully capture the attention of motorists paying for their parking. The back of the E-Book contained the link to my created blog onto which interested followers are now able to comment and generate more discussion. I also put the link to the online E-Book on the LMAG “Ken Livingstone Forum” as well as a number of recent postings on the motorist sections of the Guardian and Telegraph websites to attract the already traffic-interested Londoners to my E-Book to mingle my own ideas with theirs.


With this project, I hoped that I could simultaneously make a small opportunity for difference in the stifling traffic situation in London, as well as a chance to do a little research on a topic I have always been interested in. I also thought it would be a great chance to connect with some of the motorists who drive here on a regular basis as I am very fond of driving and was keen on gaining a better understanding of the traffic situations at work here.

In retrospect, I wish I could have maybe had a chance to rent a car myself for a day and experience first-hand a number of the traffic light timings around the city. This probably would have given me a richer and truer first-hand experience rather than just learning second-hand from forums and blogs, but I think it is understandable given the small budget I had to work with. Overall, I am very glad at my chance to work on such a project as it really allowed me to pursue a personal interest of mine as well as to communicate with a section of local Londoners I probably never would have been in contact with otherwise.

Link to blog:

London’s Canals 101 – A Beginner Field Guide

Posted in Urban Intervention by cchx0000 on December 7, 2009


When I was visiting Leeds, I was very impressed by the way people engage with the canal, which connects Leeds and Liverpool and historically led to the boom of many towns on its route. That is why I decided to do something that reveals canals’ transformed function from industrial to leisure use. I intended the project to help visitors make the first step to get to know the canals here.


So how do I go about doing this? I want to interview canal users and hear about their experience, so I first visited the Bow’s Back River area, where the Olympics site is centered on. I was disappointed to find that it was not used quite extensively yet and many parts of the canals are still to be reclaimed, but I did see how the Olympics Park will incorporate the canals when it is finished.


I came into contact with the Inland Waterways Association, which is a non-profit organization whose members’ interests include boating, towing path walking, industrial archaeology, nature conservation and many other activities associated with the inland waterways. The London branch head was very nice and invited me to one of their gathering at Camden Town. The talk was about how a team of volunteers spent weekends restoring canals all over the country. I also got to meet lots of canal users, including one lady who cruised through Leeds, Liverpool and back. Many of them own more that one boat.

I also tried to contact the British Waterways, and a lady at Campaign and Volunteer affairs sent me some online links. She told me that BW has just experienced a major shift of staff and her colleagues at Regeneration could not be reached for the time being.

I took a walk along the Regent’s Canal, from Regent’s Park to Camden Town. The canal was rather busy with pedestrians, cyclers, photographers, and people just hanging out and chatting on the bench. Camden Market is built right by the canal and is bursting with commerce and activities. It struck as an interesting contrast with the Bow Back Rivers, which is still under development.


The project I decided on, London’s Canals 101 – A Beginner Field Guide, consists of a guide book giving an introduction to the Regent’s Canal and the Bow Back Rivers, with a scavenger hunt challenge for which I placed several more “treasure” books around the canals.  I hope the project will engage its reader by actually getting them to visit the canals.


One curious problem that came up was where to place the “treasure” books. I went to both canals again and searched for ideal locations. They should be neither too easy nor too hard to find. After careful observations I chose several spots where I hid them. Let’s see if people will be able to find them.

I made copies of the guide book and placed them at the front counter of Mason Place. When I was making the books, there were people watching me curiously. I hope they will be interested by my idea enough to go on the treasure hunt.


It was fun doing the project. I was able to focus on one aspect of London and work extensively on it through various methods. The design of the project required a lot of deliberation and was a good exercise.

One thing I regret has been the shortage of time. I could have done a lot more research into this topic and polished the project further if, say, I have several months more. But with the timeframe I am given, I am quite happy with what I have achieved.

Foundry: lost and found

Posted in Urban Intervention by mtzipp on December 7, 2009

Foundry: lost and found was initiated as a response the recently proposed plans to redevelop the Foundry Pub site into a new boutique hotel by the Art’otel chain, known for lodgings in hip, cultural rich areas.  Many in the local arts scene, however, feel as though the hotel will actually destroy culture rather than making it more accessible.

The Foundry: lost and found project aims to engage with and analyze people’s conceptions of the urban space in which they live, work and play. Primarily the project asks participants to reconsider the notion of preservation of a physical space. If we lose the physical manifestation of a building, a park, or other urban expression to redevelopment, does that mean that the essence of the particular space is lost forever? Is it possible to somehow capture that essence and preserve it in another form, to make it available long after the space in question has disappeared?

Key to this investigation was the creation of a ‘preservation diary,’ made available to patrons of the Foundry. Inspired by Remembering Minto, a project initiated to preserve the stories of residents of a doomed Australian community, the preservation diary provides a space to capture personal accounts of the Foundry, a place that has clearly held great cultural significance for many people over many years. If nothing else, the preservation diary is meant to serve as a proper eulogy for the Foundry.

What would you preserve about the Foundry?

Moda Mapping

Posted in Urban Intervention by sarahleon on December 7, 2009

My project explored the physical response people have to stereotyping. I decided to attach a style stereotype to each area of London. I used the London Tube map as my basic imagery because it has become an iconic representation of an organized image of the space of London. Although this design is extremely helpful, it can be misleading about the actual geography of the city. Distance between places is distorted. The reason I chose to replace the names of the stations with style terms is because I think that the fashion of a place represents something personal about a city. People feel passionately if you define them as Grunge, Hipster, Preppy, etc. I wanted to explore how people would feel if I defined their neighborhoods by what they wore.

I took the central London tube map and removed all of the existing names for each station. With my blank map I wrote in my own names for each station. The names I came up with originated from my own observations as well as iconic stylish places that might be nearby. For example, Knightsbridge became “Harvey Nichols.” If someone said they were going to the Harvey Nichols station everyone would know they meant Knightsbridge. In a similar train of thought, Oxford Circus became “Topshop”, Aldgate became “Petticoat Lane.” Other places are less obvious, South Kensington became “Anti-PETA Territory,” Covent Garden became “Glitter Gardens,” Liverpool St. became “Suits and Saris.”

Some particularly touristy places formed a trio of Fanny Packs: East, West and Central. I intentionally kept several of the locations with their original names to help me to study how closely my unwilling participants paid attention to the papers they were collecting from me.

My first attempt was at Oxford Circus, the center of High Street commercialism in London. I brought an initial thirty maps to the Topshop corner of the street and passed them out to the shopping tourists. This evening forced me to reevaluate my process for the rest of the intervention. It was somewhat of a success in that I handed out the fliers really fast and everyone thought it was an actual tube map. The downfall of the location was how crowded it was. None of the documentary photos worked and I couldn’t see anyone’s reactions.

For my next step I went to Old Street. I chose this location because of the multiple entrances and the long ramps. Lauren and Marie accompanied me to record the outing. I had 70 more edited tube maps to pass out and a lot of hope riding on the outcome.


I passed out all seventy fliers at each of the entrances to the Old Street station. I was originally planning on using a blog to offer a forum for people to respond but it turned out I never needed it (that would have been plan three had Old Street failed).

People were responsive to picking up my fliers, which at first glance appeared to be merely a central tube map. Most of the people who picked up my fliers just kept walking down the ramp and onto the tube, looking at it the whole way. A few people actually turned back to talk to me about it. They just asked me what it was that I had given to them, why I gave it to them. I pretended I was passing it out for a friend’s project to see their genuine reaction.

Ludic London

Posted in Uncategorized by ladyson on December 7, 2009

This project is a game, a treasure hunt, and an exploration of what it means to play in the city. I began to develop the idea an experiment to toy with the idea of London as a site of ludic fantasy, in opposition to the stark routines of daily commuter life. I wanted to engage citizens in play, but in a subtle way — to me, it was very important that the player make a conscious choice to step out of the mundanity of everyday life and become a participant.

I drew inspiration from major works of ludology, the study of games, and ludic theory. The word “ludic” is derived from the Greek ludos and means any philosophy where play is the prime purpose of life. I wanted to elaborate on the idea of people as homo ludens, or Man the Player.

I wanted to include aspects of collaborative puzzle-solving and designing for the hive mind, as exemplified in the Alternate Reality Games of Jane McGonigal. The ideas of fantastical narrative on a miniature scale within the city are derived from the work of Charles Simonds, who creates dwellings for an imaginary civilization of minute people in lower Manhattan.

I decided to create a secret trail of clues and objects for the people of London. At six different locations around the city, I hid a series of small brown envelopes containing handmade objects or notes. Each envelope provided a hint to another site on the trail.

Each envelope also had the address to a WordPress blog I set up explaining a little more about the project and providing a platform for discussion if necessary.

Tube Torts

Posted in Urban Intervention by Marie on December 2, 2009

tube (N): nickname for the London Underground

tort (n): a wrongful act, not including a breach of contract or trust, that results in injury to another’s person, property, reputation, or the like, and for which the injured party is entitled to compensation

Tube Torts:

1 – wrongful acts commited by riders on the london underground transit system that directly infringe on socially accepted etiquette guidelines for its use

2 – an urban intervention aiming to provide outlets for riders to document infringements committed on the london underground transit system in hopes that doing so will help reduce their frustration and cause a greater awareness among all riders of the expected social etiquette and their implicated compliance

3 – an eBook; your dirty little secret napkin to accompany your tube trials and tribulations that gets recycled into a constructivly critical lexicon of social norms that are expected to be respected from fellow riders

Twitter: @TubeTorts // #tubetort

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Notes from Session 6

Posted in planning by gileslane on November 25, 2009

CAM Session 6 CAM Session 6
CAM Session 6 CAM Session 6

Notes from Session 5

Posted in planning by gileslane on November 10, 2009

City As Material Notes 10/11/09
City As Material Notes 10/11/09 City As Material Notes 10/11/09
City As Material Notes 10/11/09
City As Material Notes 10/11/09 City As Material Notes 10/11/09
City As Material Notes 10/11/09 City As Material Notes 10/11/09
City As Material Notes 10/11/09

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What, Why, Who & How?

Posted in research by gileslane on October 28, 2009

Starting to map out the personal projects towards a first ‘dry run’ iteration.

City As Material Project 1 - What? City As Material Project 2 - Why?
City As Material Project 3 - Who? City As Material Project 4 - How?