The Project

Inspired by the beautiful work of Armelle Caron,, who re-arranges city blocks in order to expose similarities and differences in the built structure of the city, Shaping the City visualizes and interprets these shapes historically rather than spatially; each city block is organized by the date it was built (we have filtered results into 20 year spans — a young city allows us much precision). By re-animating the city in this way, we can see different moments of urban development and design represented as different shapes being etched onto the landscape, thus exposing  interesting and hidden assumptions about what we imagine a city to be.

A city map is a representation of its urban divisions and physical structures, containing, among other things, streets, blocks, landmarks, regions and natural barriers. Each of these entities is delineated by a variety of shapes: squares, rectangles, circles and a different range of geometric forms. These representations are mere conventions and usually cannot express the full meaning of what they represent. By “shaping” the city, we expose the chronology the city got its current outline, and we invite the reader to interogate what kind of information the shapes carry, and what they might tell us about the era in which they were built.

The project is inspired by Harpold’s (1999) concept of counter-mapping, in which he proposed that instead of using institutional political conventions, different results will emerge if people design their own maps using other contextual information.  Kevin Lynch (1964) also influences us through his argument that the boundaries and identity of a region are not pre-defined, but rather are socially produced by its dwellers (see also Lefebvre, 1992).

Status: Complete