Concrete City

An ultralight approach to urban interventions

Workshop duration: full day


In the past few decades, the intensity of the transformational forces that disrupt the “urban condition” has called into question the claims to control and stability upon which the ambitions of the urbanistic project have traditionally been based. This state of things is not without repercussions on the ways of imagining, theorizing and putting into practice urbanism and the territorial project. If the relation to fluxes can be operated by the action of big­scale architectural infrastructures, the deployment of a constellation of urban micro­elements would constitute another way of thinking and implementing the idea of infrastructure as an equipment that is atomised, reticular, open and malleable. An ultralight approach to urbanism reframes the role and ambition of micro­intervention in the urban project as a strategic territorial vector of action. What was usually belittled or simply not even seen by the conventional architecture and urbanism approaches– the very small, the moving, the informal : the “plankton” – thus regains a new informative and operational value to imagine territorial intervention. “Plankton” not as a cluster of indistinct, apathetic and passive organisms, but rather as a virtually multitude of small devices meant to facilitate varied performances and uses, a moving myriad for a creative colonization of the spatial and temporal potentials of the urban landscape.

The workshop ConcreteCITY aims to incite participants to conceptualize, construct and implement an ultralight, large­scale wireless intervention of audio elements inserted in a public space, transforming a section of the city into a sound experience. The work will be achieved through a hands­on approach constructing and deploying an ephemeral wireless ubiquitous computing network, by temporarily grafting actuators, small devices “plankton”, that inhabit tap (solenoids), shake (DC motors), stimulate (piezos/servos) objects and urban infrastructures, (...can a stop sign shudder ?). These urban elements, diverted from their primary use, create a furtive audio orchestration. The resulting composition is a large­scale spatialization of sound with multiple points of listening. The spatial forms include elements of the site’s material things, social activities, phenomena and the processes that are concomitantly taking place, specific to a time, place and culture.

ConcreteCITY focuses on the imagination of urban sites, their materiality, usage and memory. By interfering with what is normally a given “state” of operations, the intervention reveals an “augmented everyday soundtrack” leaving the field open to exploring the potential of the sounds of the city, the interaction with urban spaces and objects and the diverse interpretations of what surrounds us. ConcreteCity reveals itself as a sonic experience of i nexplicable beauty, evoking the Sharawadji effect.

• Rationale / target audience of the workshop (academics, professionals, general public?

The workshop ConcreteCITY is an interdisciplinary workshop, aims to gather academics and practitioners interested in ubiquitous computing, urban interventions, audio and device art, computational and contextual art. ConcreteCITY is a sort of m usique concrete, a wireless network of microcontrollers which activate a mesh network superimposed on existing city infrastructures. The s ystem for this workshop and collective intervention will be developed specifically to be “embedded” in public space, a sort of electronic plankton living on existing infrastructures, or an ephemeral audio graffiti intervention. The interaction between these elements, consisting of nodes and relations, are remotely controlled live for a predetermined time in a public space as well as activated interactively through the passers­by with sensors according to the context. The signal multiplexing device and the use of wireless nodes for communication will be set according to the sites specificities. Access to switches through sensors will be determined on site and by the participants. The individual control of each electric device will then be possible from a central computer located in the area and controlled in real time by the participants.

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