SurfaceCities studio projects 2009:

In 1960, Kevin Lynch published The Image of the City, an influential architecture textbook, which awakened us to the problems of legibility in American cities. Lynch’s book ties legibility to navigation, civic identity, and the special pleasure of simply looking at cities. 2010 will be the 50th anniversary of The Image of the City. In order to commemorate the contributions of this book and reflect on how the notion of legibility in cities might be applied or revised through the use of networked mobile technologies, the SurfaceCities Studio developed concepts for an interactive version of The Image of the City. This new versionis unlike Lynch’s original printed text; it is responsive, location-aware and has vibrant animated graphics and sound. Itthus prioritizes multimedia over text, interaction over reading, and concrete experience over abstract study.In resituating Lynch’s work for networked mobile technologies, post-professional students in the SurfaceCities Studio developed and answered a broad range of research questions on cities and related those questions to themes that interested them personally: media, discourse, urbanism, technology, and ecology. During the semester, students completed three problems in which they developed new concepts, proposals, and technology prototypes to study the contemporary cityscape.The studio visited Boston, one of Lynch’s three original case studies, in early October and used the city as a test case.


SURFACECITIES is a research and teaching initiative, established to study our changing images of cities in the context of a new visual culture developing around information technologies. This website hosts a range of projects and papers developed by faculty and students in the Department of Architecture at Cornell University. We are using information technologies to explore new ways of reading and handling cities for a variety of purposes, from environmental activism to extreme commuting. Our approach is to create dynamic, graphic and situated projects that extend or challenge established theories of urbanism. This work cuts across numerous fields (architecture, information science, and urban studies) in order to challenge traditional conceptions of the city that are static, depersonalized, and focused primarily on built form. In addition, it suggests new configurations of people, computers and cities that shift the discourse on human-computer interaction towards human-computer-environment interaction.