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Great Street Games
Great Street Games


Speaking of augmented game spaces, here is an interesting interactive installation set to come online at the end of the month in three UK cities. Created by KMA, Great Street Games [dead link] will be a “huge, participatory, high-tech athletics tournament” in which participants in Gateshead, Sunderland and Middlesbrough compete against each other virtually in real-time using the city as platform.

KMA will use projected light and thermal-imaging technology to create interactive 'courts' in which human movement triggers light effects. The physical movements of players determine the outcome the games, which will run on ten-minute cycles. Participants develop their game-playing skills as they progress through a number of levels to help their area to victory or to simply have fun.


The parameters of this urban sport are described thus:

The ‘courts’ created by projected light; each court comprising a central playing area and two zones representing the other two locations. Balls of light appear from the centre of each court – these projected images can be moved by players physically ‘touching’ them. The aim of the first game is for each location to gain points by moving as many balls as possible to the other locations. Games last 90 seconds and 5 games make a series – through which the games increase in complexity as players become more familiar with the rules. The town or city with the most points at the end wins.


It reminds one of the telepresent urban spaces of Rafael Lozano-Hemmer.

Great Street Games


You're walking home alone one night through pedestrian unfriendly, darkly lit corridors. All of a sudden, you trigger a sensor and projectors spray the pavement with technicolor lights. Ebullient geometries seemingly float above the asphalt.

“Wanna play,” a disembodied voice rings out from a speaker.

“Umm, sure,” you instinctively respond, even if you don't how to play what is to be played. “I'll learn along the way,” you say to yourself.

And then it's hours later; the sun is about to rise and wash out the lights. The two of you promise to return the following night (tonight, actually) to continue the game, with friends to make it a team competition. It'll be Chicago vs. Manchester.

“Is this some sort of a next generation MMORPG game?” you wonder.

A week or two later, you find out on Twitter that there are other similar game spaces installed throughout the city, but their locations are a secret. There's no iPhone app for it yet. So you set on a walkabout, hoping that you might again trigger a sensor.

Urban Golf
Urban Golf


Actions: What You Can Do With The City finally comes to Chicago at the Graham Foundation. Organized by the Canadian Centre for Architecture, the exhibition features “experimental interactions with the urban environment [that] show the potential influence personal involvement can have in shaping the city.”

These “actions” tend to be modest in scale and budget, opportunistic and informal, communal and participatory. If broadly categorizing, they might fall messily under the heading of urban hacking. They are not the great tectonic reconfiguration of urban landscape and infrastructure dreamt up by messianic urban planners, urbicidal architects and despotic graphic designers. Rather, they are merely common activities like walking, playing and gardening, but reprogrammed with new tactics to “instigate positive change in contemporary cities around the world.”

As there are 99 “actions,” we'd like to offer one more to round out the number: urban golf.

Urban Golf


While the rules may differ in cities and even within cities, the game is invariably played in urban settings. Rather than in well-tended lawns, players tee offs on the street, sidewalks, alleys or on top of buildings. Urban parks, it would seem, are avoided, though certainly not a prohibited course.

One aspect of the game that we find interesting is that it isn't merely the manifestation of ennui among the hipster crowd. It's guerrilla theater with the requisite social commentary.

Quoting Wikipedia (though we might be quoting an outside text copied almost verbatim but uncited by a wiki editor):

Urban golf is seen by many as social commentary on the nature of golf and its traditional opinions and attitudes [i.e., elitist, sexist and racist club policies]. Considering golf pompous, dogmatic and quite often inaccessible, urban golfers worldwide have adopted many different urban environments as their new course to engage in this recreational pastime. Commonly, urban golf organisations tend toward using disused or under utilised urban areas to play golf, not just to reduce the risk of damage or injury, but also as a statement toward the development and reuse of the city.


Urban Golf


We haven't used this meme on this blog yet, so: is there an iPhone app for that?

If not, it probably isn't too difficult to program an app that maps out an urban golf course, pinpoints where the teeing ground and “hole” are located, shows and vectorizes the streets or alleys or parks or bridges or whatever disparate features of the built landscape comprise the “fairway,” and lists what hazards to expect, for instance, traffic, storm drains and street furniture.

Wired to sensors strategically placed on buildings and lamp posts outside the course, this app could even forecast wind speeds at various urban canyons. Perhaps a popular feature would sync your urban golf calendar to Twitter or Facebook, announcing your scheduled tee off time in the hopes that you will be joined by other enthusiasts.

Once finished with one course, it will direct you to the next one and then further on to another and so on until the final hole. Collectively, these courses represent a new urban layer augmented physically and virtually onto the city. At the end of play, you will have explored your city from one end all the way to the other end, perhaps experienced it anew.

Urban Golf


It's worth further fantasizing, meanwhile, this imagined urban layer becoming more and more codified. Teeing grounds become permanently delineated, not just marked with chalk. Viewing stands are placed next to the hole. Building facades that abut the fairways will be colored to denote this border. As urban golf becomes grotesquely popular and insanely profitable through sponsorship, these courses become permanent fixtures, like (18) stadiums but carved out of existing urban fill. Traffic and pedestrian flow will be diverted. Commerce will colonize their edges. And the city will grow thick around these recreational voids, encrusting the stadiums with an enveloping shell.

When urban golf suffers the inevitably crash in popularity, what happens to its walled game-spaces will be similar to The Stadium of Domitian, which later became Piazza Navona.

Urban Golf


It's also worth further fantasizing the notion that playing through all 18 holes across the city is a form of tactical tourism. The photos decorating this post were downloaded from Urbangolf.fr. We may be embarrassingly stereotyping the people behind the websites, but we're imagining them to be part of an underground scene, whose members are mostly of African and Middle Eastern descent — the ones probably fictionally documented in La Haine. At night after a day of parkour, they trace the imaginary outlines of urban golf courses. Starting from the suburban ethnic ghettos that encircle Paris, from streets disconnected locally from Haussman's boulevards yet ironically connected via immigrations to the rest of the world, they infiltrate the interior arrondissements of the French capital.

From cramped public housing high-rises of the banlieues to fin de siècle hôtels particuliers, from ringed roads to the spacious Jardin du Luxembourg, from the outer flames of race riots into the City of Light, a new breed of urban critics embarks on a self-guided tour of spatial inequity and conflict.

Fore!


We ♥ Irish Handball Alleys
CH2O
CH20


The recent climate change media event organized by the government of the Maldives reminded us of an exhibition mounted by a group of architects, designers and artists for EXPO.02 in Switzerland. Working under the collective name Waterproof, they imagined a(n) (im)possible scenario in which the water level in Switzerland has risen to 1400 meters (4600 feet), turning the landlocked, Alpine country into an island nation, its rocky peaks rising above a vast ocean.

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Waterproof's imaginative, sometimes hilarious, but always thought provoking images reflect something we've always been interested in: how countries might adapt to a climate changed world.

If in the unlikely event that everyone becomes carbon negative, not just carbon neutral, tomorrow, climate change isn't likely to be reversed anytime soon. Before whatever historical climatic condition that was codified as the international goal is reached, countries will experience water and food shortages, hotter and wetter weather, habitat loss, perhaps even extinction. During this interim, how will countries cope logistically? They will be geographically transformed, but will they also (intentionally) mutate culturally, even biologically?

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Waterproof were Alexandre Bettler, Sara Bochicchio, Manuel Borruat, Cédric Decroux, Eric Emery, Yves Fidalgo, Axel Jaccard, Sébastien Rappaz and Frédéric Seydoux.
New Maldives
Maldives
Public Water Purification Island
Jakub Szczęsny


Here's an art installation from Synchronicity, an architecture/arts festival in Warsaw, Poland. Conceived by Jakub Szczęsny as a member of the design collective Centrala, it consists of a floating island fitted with exercise machines. When the machines are being used, water gets pumped from the polluted Vistula River to a filtration device located overhead at the center of the platform. The water is intended to be potable at the end of its purification cycle, ready for use by thirsty festivalgoers.

Jakub Szczęsny


Jakub Szczęsny


According to Szczęsny: “The whole installation is supposed to perform a role of a propaganda tool changing the consciousness of Warsawers by showing the efficiency of human action in the process of purifying the waters of their river. What’s meaningful is the fact that many Poles, even after twenty years of liberalization, still don’t believe in their own potential as individuals or members of communities, in positively changing their environment.”

Jakub Szczęsny


Could Szczęsny also be presenting us an alternative to the much maligned bottled water? One could set up a stringed necklace of these water islands on a river, say, the Thames, or along a waterfront, say, Chicago's Lakefront, besides trails frequented by joggers, bikers and marathoners in training who, as a communal activity (a civic responsibility, in fact), keep the tanks full for use by themselves and the marginally active.


The Hydrological Playground
Irrigation
Irrigation
Hydrocity: Call for Projects
Hydrocity


On November 6, 2009 at the University of Toronto, InfraNet Lab, in collaboration with Alphabet City, will oversee a daylong symposium and launch an accompanying exhibition that will travel throughout North America. Called Hydrocity, they will be “devoted to studying the relationship between urban forms and the hydrological systems in which they are embedded.”

If the twentieth century has been marked by our global thirst for fuel, the twenty-first century, will be defined by our collectively growing need for water. Impending water shortages are changing patterns of urbanization and requiring increasingly elaborate infrastructures by which to source, collect, divert and transport water to the urban centres that hold a growing majority of the world’s population. These population centres will in turn need to be redesigned and retrofitted to conserve, collect, repurify, and recirculate increasingly precious water resources while at the same time rethinking and rebuilding their cities’ relationships with the complex watersheds on which they are built and upon which they depend. The resulting liquid infrastructure is poised to redefine our notion of natural and artificial landscapes, as disparate ecological environments are networked and conflated. What forms of urbanism and landscape systems will emerge, and what design potentials exist, in this expanding liquid infrastructure?


Participants in the symposium include such top-notch hydrospatialists as Alan Berger, of P-REX; Katherine Rinne, of Aquae Urbis Romae; and Aziza Chaouni and Liat Margolis, who have also organized a traveling exhibition with a similar theme, The Out of Water Project.

As for the exhibition, some projects have already been selected, but InfraNet Lab is very keen to include other visionary projects — “built, unbuilt, dreamed, etched, scripted, carpet-bombed, etc.” — that address the same issues, preferably recent and unpublished.

To be considered, send a PDF (3 pages or less and under 6MB) of any project by October 15 to editors[at]infranetlab[dot]org. Space is limited, so earlier submission is preferred.

Send tips if you haven't a project of your own. We've suggested Watery Voids by MMBB Arquitectos and SpongeCity, which was designed by former students at Harvard Graduate School of Design.
Chicago 2018, or: A Proposal for the First Wholly Urban Winter Olympics
Trysil, Norway


So Chicago lost its bid to host the 2016 Summer Olympic Games. Rather than brood about what might have been or haggle over alternatives to the massive dose of money the city would have been given to stimulate its limping finances, it should immediately develop a bid for the 2018 Winter Olympics. Since the deadline is less than two weeks away and the bid committee may still be suffering from their Copenhagen hangovers, we'll help them out.

Almost everything is going for Chicago. Its infrastructure is less than perfect for the huge Summer Olympics crowds, but would be more than able to handle the modest attendance at a Winter Olympics and would definitely be unmatched by the usual winter bid cities and their smaller scale public transportation systems. Its gargantuan hotel industry would easily surpass capacity requirements.

There will also be no need to build a hulking, temporary 80,000-seat stadium, as Soldier Field will be more than able to seat the smaller crowd at the Opening and Closing Ceremonies. And perhaps it can even host another event. At the 1994 Winter Olympics in Lillehammer, Norway, the venue for the ceremonies was also the same arena for ski jumping events. As the following photograph shows, this combination is possible at Soldier Field.

Soldier Field


And as we re-imagined it a few months ago for a new century, this new prosthetic mountain analogue would be hinged, meaning it can be flipped up and down. Those traveling along Lake Shore Drive or boating on Lake Michigan would see the wavy profile of a half Eiffel Tower.

It's the technolicious descendant of the first Ferris wheel, built in 1893 for the World's Columbian Exposition in Chicago.

Vicente Guallart


It's easy to re-render venues in the failed summer bid into venues for a winter bid. For instance, next door to Soldier Field is the cluster of convention halls where various sports such as gymnastics would have been held; its sprawling spaces would be converted to house figure skating, speed skating and curling competitions. The United Center — formerly proposed for basketball — would host ice hockey competitions; it already serves as the home of the city's professional hockey and basketball teams anyway.

Some of the large urban parks in the old bid will again be drafted into the new bid. At Millennium Park, medal ceremonies will take place against the backdrop of the greatest skyline in the world. One or two will be re-landscaped for freestyle skiing, snowboarding and sliding competitions. As for the serpentine race track used in bobsleigh, luge and skeleton, one is tempted to hire Frank Gehry to replicate his BP Pedestrian Bridge.

Since all the venues will be wholly situated inside a major global metropolis and not in some sequestered, exclusive mountain spa resorts hundreds of gas-guzzling miles away from the supposed host city, chances are that they will be heavily used after the games; maybe a subculture of urban snowboarders will clique together. Perhaps one of the better legacies of the games would be the popular adaptation of winter sports (some or all of which are seen as the domain of the privileged) by new socioeconomic and racial classes.

In any case, during the summer, these same installations will add interesting landforms to the parks. The slopping concave hollow of the half-pipe could be re-landscaped as the seating lawn for an outdoor theater. The sliding track, meanwhile, becomes a monumental piece of public sculpture-cum-skating park.

Snow Mountain


Of course, there is one major thing that's going against Chicago. It's not the availability of snow, since this is also a concern in many alpine areas. Climate change is evaporating glaciers everywhere, and natural snow cover grows increasingly tenuous.

Chicago's gritty landscape shouldn't be much of a handicap as well. It may seem that way at first, as it definitely doesn't embody a certain sort of nature — rustic mountains, pastoral evergreen forests, a lonely goatherd, etc. — which is presumably a prerequisite for certain venues. But have the more traditional Winter Olympic sites not been over the years transformed into high-tech event landscapes, carefully managed and augmented with artificial snow and heavy plows that sculpt the slopes to a pre-programmed set of topographical parameters?

The one glaring negative is the city's glacial-flattened topography. Where does one hold the alpine events?

They'll be held in an artificial mountain. Obviously.

Natali Ghatan


But not that sort of tectonics, as this venue will have a more organic and geological veneer.

Liam Young


Liam Young


Liam Young


And its scale will need to be exponentially inflated. This is the Make No Little Plans for the 21st century.

If one is worried that no future host city will ever be able to architecturally outdo the Beijing Olympics (as if organizing and building the games once again in a free and democratic country with no ethnic cleansing being carried out along its periphery isn't enough to surpass it?), this Everest of the Prairie will surely top a fantasy list of the greatest Olympic venues.

How can the IOC mafia refuse this big, bold vision?

The Berg


It's an Olmstedian park writ large, and it's going be sited in the heavy industrial Lake Calumet sector of the South Side. Unless the Lakefront is larger, this will be Chicago's largest public open space, something which this part of the city sorely needs. Moreover, it will provide the opportunity to finally clean up this Superfund site.

Denia Cultural Park


Embedded within this double twin of the Loop Skyline and Millennium Park are spaces for use by athletes, officials and spectators. One could also hallow out spaces for the media center and even a satellite Olympic Village. After the games, they'll be converted into community centers, offices and residences, even theaters and indoor rock climbing caverns, all sheathed by the largest green roof in the world. And the views will undoubtedly be spectacular. On the outside surface, meanwhile, parts of the mountain will be turned into a refuge for imported wildlife.

As for the cost, we'll get back to you.


Ski Delft
Clouds
Another fascinating project from Paisajes Emergentes in collaboration with Lovisa Lindström, Sara Hellgren and Sebastian Monsalve. Called Clouds, it's a proposed installation to be located in every town that will be flooded by the Ituango Hydroelectric Dam megaproject in Colombia.

Clouds


Having not yet read any project statement, we can't accurately describe the actual mechanics of this installation. Nevertheless, we like what we think is the intent of the design team. That is, we're imagining this as an act of protest for environmental and social justice — which, if true, would be a refreshing change from the typical Archigram and Buckminster Fuller-inspired apocalyptic and utopian buoyant scenarios.

While cities and villages await the start of dam construction and their inevitable drowning, these ominous clouds will be deployed up to the water level of a future reservoir, forming an archipelago of artificial islands in an absent artificial lake. Their shadows will cast upon forests and mountains to be asphyxiated. They will loom high above lives about to be wrenchingly disrupted.

Clouds


Since the top is leveled, locals (and perhaps disaster tourists) will hop on and ride these aerial barges. Agents from the hydroelectric company will come to educate the benefits of the dam. Politicians will come to boast this public works project as civilizing and modernizing. And environmentalists will come to praise this new source of clean energy.

But other environmentalists who have actually done their homework will come to counter the engineers and bureaucrats with the dam's monumental destructiveness. Indigenous peoples will come to protest their displacement from their ancestral lands. Downstream localities already suffering from water scarcity will come to claim their water rights. And many more will come to seek redress of unfair compensations for their lost properties.

The views of the surrounding (contested) terrains will be absolutely picturesque, but the air will be highly charged. One false move from any of the factions and things will combust.

Clouds


But what are they exactly? Sculptures? Follies? Floating parks? Pavilions?

Pavilloons™?

Clouds


In the aftermath of the deluge, will they be used as diving platforms from which former residents will try to salvage what few they can of their possessions from their submerged cities? And unsurprisingly from where looters will carry out their moon fishing expeditions?

Perhaps while awaiting relocation, some of these hydro-refugees will use these platforms as temporary informal settlements, which then organize organically into permanent island cities.


Quito 1: Paisajes Emergentes
Rainwater Harvesting in Quito
A Proposal for an Aquatics Complex for the Chicago 2016 Summer Olympic Games Bid
Four Plazas and A Street


Balloon Park
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