What happens when the sensor-imbued city acquires the ability to see – almost as if it had eyes? Ahead of the 2019 Shenzhen Biennale of Urbanism\Architecture (UABB), titled "Urban Interactions," Archdaily is working with the curators of the "Eyes of the City" section at the Biennial to stimulate a discussion on how new technologies – and Artificial Intelligence in particular – might impact architecture and urban life. Here you can read the “Eyes of the City” curatorial statement by Carlo Ratti, the Politecnico di Torino and SCUT.
First, let me declare my unambiguous aversion to the envisioned future in which “any room, street or shop in our city can recognize you, and autonomously respond to your presence.” Despite this, can I see any positive potentials in pervasive systems of urban surveillance and response?
Rather than designing cities to “see” us—in aid of social control and commercial targeting and at risk of increased fragmentation and narcissism—how instead might we design cities that help us be active witnesses to and collaborators with, the many non-human lives unfolding around us, which we may currently overlook? Beijing park-goers can scan QR codes to learn about plants and birds. Melburnians can already send emails to their favorite street trees.
So, could the office elevator remind me to pop up to the roof on my coffee break to watch the butterflies emerging from their chrysalises? Could a lamppost help urban foragers detect whether the tasty-looking mushrooms at its base are indeed chanterelles or a poisonous look-alike? Could a motorway sense a bevy of otters playing on its verge and switch its traffic signals to shield them from oncoming drivers? If my neighbor’s phone received a spontaneous live stream of mother bats tenderly nursing their pups, would it dissuade him from over-pruning the tree that they roost in?
This age of increasing urbanization, destabilized climate and mass extinction calls us to defend and enhance places of refuge for diverse forms of life within our cities (and, of course, beyond them). How then might we design modes of urban “vision” that enhance inter-species communication; allowing us to better see, appreciate and accommodate one another; moving toward regenerative coexistence?
About the Author
Sarah Mineko Ichioka is a strategist, curator and writer. She leads Desire Lines, an international consultancy for environmental, cultural and social-impact organizations and initiatives.
In previous roles, Ichioka has explored the intersections of cities, society and ecology within institutions of culture, policy and research in Asia, Europe and the United States. She has been recognized as a World Cities Summit Young Leader, one of the Global Public Interest Design 100, a British Council / Clore Duffield Cultural Leadership International Fellow, and an Honorary Fellow of the Royal Institute of British Architects.
Before relocating to Singapore in 2014, Ichioka served as Director of The Architecture Foundation (UK) and Co-Director of the London Festival of Architecture. She has served as an adviser or judge for many diverse projects, including the XXII Milan Triennale, Water as Leverage for Resilient Cities Asia and the European Prize for Urban Public Space.
"Urban Interactions": Bi-City Biennale of Urbanism\Architecture (Shenzhen) - 8th edition. Shenzhen, China
Opening in December, 2019 in Shenzhen, China, "Urban Interactions" is the 8th edition of the Bi-City Biennale of Urbanism\Architecture (UABB). The exhibition consists of two sections, namely “Eyes of the City” and “Ascending City”, which will explore the evolving relationship between urban space and technological innovation from different perspectives. The “Eyes of the City" section features MIT professor and architect Carlo Ratti as Chief Curator and Politecnico di Torino-South China University of Technology as Academic Curator. The "Ascending City" section features Chinese academician Meng Jianmin and Italian art critic Fabio Cavallucci as Chief Curators.
"Eyes of The City" section
Chief Curator: Carlo Ratti.
Academic Curator: South China-Torino Lab (Politecnico di Torino - Michele Bonino; South ChinaUniversity of Technology - Sun Yimin)
Executive Curators: Daniele Belleri [CRA], Edoardo Bruno, Xu Haohao
Curator of the GBA Academy: Politecnico di Milano (Adalberto Del Bo)
"Ascending City" section
Chief Curators: Meng Jianmin, Fabio Cavallucci
Co-Curator: Science and Human Imagination Center of Southern University of Science and Technology (Wu Yan)
Executive Curators: Chen Qiufan, Manuela Lietti, Wang Kuan, Zhang Li