Processing Cities Seminar 2010:

In this seminar, students used computation to critically engage discursive models of cities from Kevin Lynch’s ‘Image of the City’ to Rem Koolhaas’ ‘Junkspace.’ The class created interactive applications that visualize these models, but also challenge them by opening the city to new computational interpretations. Students learned Processing, a simple, open-source programming language for visual designers, in order to image cities and make them legible in pluralistic ways. The practical goal of the course was to empower graphically-oriented students with basic skills in computer programming, which they can use to build an unlimited range of applications on future projects in school and practice. The intellectual goal of the course was to prompt students to ask how our images of cities, presented as interactive geometries, might be reconsidered in relationship to computation.


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.