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Melancholy urbanism

I revisited Waverley Cemetery in Sydney a few weeks ago. It covers a valley that looks out to the Pacific Ocean. It’s a site of loss and remembering of course, but it also conforms to the architectural geometry of melancholy. The horizon is sovereign, and reminds the visitor of the reaches of time, distance and … Continue reading

What a mess!

Anyone with a sense of order can’t help but notice that problems frequently occur at the seams, where things join, or don’t join, or don’t quite align as they should — where the joins don’t survive successive adaptations. Sociologist Richard Sennett illustrated the demoralized state of crafters in the former Soviet Union. Once when shown … Continue reading

Share city

In his book on the “sharing economy,” Arun Sundararajan maintains that commerce is shifting “away from traditional corporations and toward a crowd of entrepreneurs we find through a digital marketplace” (6). Within the constellation of these new (shared) business models he places Airbnb, a platform that allows individuals to capitalise on their own under-utilised domestic … Continue reading

Big Data: a non-theory about everything

“Instead of looking through telescopes and microscopes, researchers are increasingly interrogating the world through large-scale, complex instruments and systems that relay observations to large databases to be processed and stored as information and knowledge in computers” (449). This is how geographers Harvey Miller and Michael Goodchild describe Big Data in their critical article “Data-driven geography.” They add that this data flow amounts to more data than … Continue reading

Big data metaphysics

Anyone with a personal computer knows about the problem with data, not least its tendency to grow at an unnerving rate, take up space, demand upgrades, and clog bandwidth as it gets moved around. Emails and tweets are data, so are picture files, music tracks, and movies. Sometimes we store it, or it flows through our world as … Continue reading

Brand melancholy

Who would want to brand their city as melancholic? I’ve just caught up with the Guardian’s city brand barometer. One of the parameters by which they measure brand success is “buzz”: “a combination of social media (Facebook likes and Twitter sentiment analysis) and media mentions.” They don’t measure melancholy, but if buzzing is frenetic activity, then it’s opposite is … Continue reading

Nature into the city

Parks, gardens, tree-lined streets, balconies, atria, glasshouses, allotments, bird feeders, green walls, nature reserves, aviaries, zoos: these are amongst the most obvious ways that planners, designers and citizens bring nature into the city. But something similar happens via certain marginal urban practices, that by their very nature construct and re-construct the city as wilderness, bringing the values … Continue reading

Wet and wild

In a recent experiment into green landscapes and their salutogenic (health giving) potential (led by colleague Jenny Roe), we presented people with a range of images of urban and green space — dry images deliberately selected without “blue space” (i.e. water). Such is homo sapiens‘ powerful affinity with life-giving water, we thought its presence would … Continue reading

Betwixt and between

Architecture is not a polite discipline. According to architectural theorist Bernard Tschumi, “the ultimate pleasure of architecture lies in the most forbidden parts of the architectural act; where limits are perverted, and prohibitions are transgressed. The starting point of architecture is distortion” (91). Rem Koolhaas asserts something similar. Design is not “meticulous definition, the imposition … Continue reading

Absence of melancholy

The muted joy of autumn melancholy: who can resist the temptation to be lyrical in such a season? By all accounts melancholy is the feeling you get in the event of loss or absence, as in the passing of summer. Melancholy is also absent from classifications of mood and emotion as devised by experimental psychologists. For … Continue reading

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