Model Structure

by Amna Ansari
As we are experimenting ways in which to visualize and represent larger ideas about cities as a blueprint or framework, I began to look at historical diagrams and model representations for larger concepts, and focused the research around ideas about the universe.  Some of these are simple line diagrams for concepts and beliefs about the universe that were held for centuries, and others are tested and accepted concepts that translate workings of the universe.
One that came to mind was the mandala, a buddhist circular model representing the structure of life starting from the center.  A method of drawing or model building that is also seen as a form of meditation.  This method dates back as far as 1st century B.C.E.
Introduced in 100 AD by Claudius Ptolemy, this model places the Earth at the center of the universe. Planets circulate on respective smaller spheres called epicycle, and these circulate on a larger sphere called deferent, while the stars circulate on the most outer sphere. This belief of the universe was held for approximately 1,300 years.
In 1543 Copernicus introduced the idea of a Heliocentric model placing the sun at the center of the universe, in opposition to the Ptolemaic model, a belief held for centuries which placed the Earth at the center of the universe. In this model the planets revolve around the sun.
In 1851 Leon Foucault built a representational model to demonstrate the rotation of the Earth, using a pendulum that tracks the equators position relative to Earth.  To depict the rotation, the plane of oscillation of the pendulum revolves an X amount of degrees (depending on the location’s latitude) in one full day.  Here a concept is rearticulated through the use of other objects and methods to depict a current and realized concept.  The viewer is reminded of their everyday position in space.

Reference: The Marvels and Mysteries of Science published in 1941.

During this research I was reminded of artist Edward Tufte whose work I saw at MIT during a lecture course, when he was explaining his markings on a beautiful plaque that communicates to other civilizations and extraterrestrial life of our civilization.   Looking further into his work, he is inspired by Feynman Diagrams, which are pictorial representations of the workings of the universe.  These diagrams depict mathematical expressions that govern the behavior of subatomic particles.  Feynman introduced the diagrams in 1948 as a way to understand calculations for QED, quantum electrodynamics.

Reference: America Scientist, Volume 93, Pg. 157
HUBBLE DIAGRAM: Expanding Universe to Big Bang
With the help of Edwin Hubble documenting and plotting distances and velocities of stars, in the 1920s scientists realized that the Universe is not static but rather expanding, which led to further inquiries about the beginnings of the universe, known as the Big Bang. Scientists realized that there may be no center to the universe or cannot yet be determined.   And recently in 1998 it was discovered that the universe is actually expanding at an accelerated rate.  However a full understanding of the universe is still unraveling, as to whether it is finite, infinite, or one of many, and what the fate of the universe will be.

Structuring Infrastructure Part I

by Amna Ansari

This post will continuously be updated with new findings and observations.

antonio sant-elia futurist

Citta Nuova
Italian Architect Antonio Sant’Elia was part of the Futurist Movement in 1912s, during which time he created some fascinating drawings of a possible future with monolithic buildings depicting a highly industrialized society.  In some of his drawings one can note a future concept of a multi-level transportation infrastructure and its integration with buildings.


How you may live and travel in the city of 1950.
“Future city streets, says Mr. Corbett, will be in four levels: The top level for pedestrians; the next lower level for slow motor traffic; the next for fast motor traffic, and the lowest for electric trains. Great blocks of terraced skyscrapers half a mile high will house offices, schools, homes, and playgrounds in successive levels, while the roofs will be airplane landing fields, according to the architect’s plan.”

Architect Harvey W. Corbett believed in planning for a future integrating freeways and landing strips with buildings for growing dense city centers, and did not believe in dencentralization of large cities.

Popular Science August 1925

minority-report-maglev-1340241758Minority Report 
A 2002 film based on a Philip K. Dick short story.  The movie portrays D.C. and the future as absolutely monitored by police with full scale (spanning time) public surveillance that one could assume supported by commercialism (i.e. biotagged personalized shopping identities).  Thus it naturally make sense why traffic infrastructure is imagined as magnetic tracks with vehicles that can be remotely controlled.  What is interesting here is the ability of the vehicles to switch directions and orientation and the infrastructure to accommodate these dual modes while integrating with city buildings.  The ground is dedicated to regular type vehicles.

Taking the opportunity to give a nod to John Underkoffler of MIT and others at MIT Media Lab who envisioned the interfaces of the computer systems for the PreCrime unit.  You can find his TED lecture here:


Total Recall 2012 
A 2012 film based on yet another Philip K. Dick short story We Can Remember It For You Wholesale.  Having recently watched it is what inspired looking into and documenting previous infrastructure theories.  In Total Recall magnetic tracks allow vehicles to utilize both sides of the infrastructure, either being held from above or below.  This multi-level, and efficient, use of infrastructure could have the potential of dedicating one side to passenger vehicles and the other for emergency and delivery vehicles, or whatever is deemed appropriate.  Unlike other imagined futures, the freeways or traffic support systems, run in between or above buildings.  Similar to Minority Report, the ground is dedicated to regular type vehicles.

A Constantly Changing Type

Our timeline below documents the parking garage which has been profoundly transformed by building technique, behaviors towards mobility, and the automobile industry. The garage is overwhelmingly characterized by its vacancy and lack of elements which make it a subject to material experimentation with sculptural cast in place concrete structures like the Temple Street Garage by Paul Rudolph, and precast structural screens like the Welbeck Street Garage by Michael Blampied in 1970. Between those moments however, are the ones we are most familiar with; the sloped floors, dim lighting, shallow sections with a spatial air that cinema captures as a space for the perfect crime, conspiring rendezvous.  More on its history later…

An Urban Medium


IMAGE: Constantin Melinkoff, 1925

An introduction excerpt from Urban Mechanic’s research from which we are extending our investigations:

When Henry Ford transformed the automobile from a novelty of the privileged few to an affordable tool for the masses it initiated a new pattern and pace for American modern life. By the 1930’s, over 23 million cars were in circulation on America’s roads. The automobile’s spatial demand for both movement and storage created an opportunity for revenue and expansion in city centers and peripheries with suburban populations exceeding the growth of urban areas by 30% in the 1950’s. The result was the adoption of the automobile that has dispersed nearly all American cites, and continues to today.

Louis Mumford said that the “right to have access to every building in the city by private motorcar in an age where everyone possesses such a vehicle is actually the right to destroy the city” In contrast, historian Reyner Banham frames the notoriously mobile city of Los Angeles in a positive light, as a city that functions less formally. Through Banham’s narrative on Los Angeles he may have argued with the medieval Mumford that within these new radically mobile cities, permanence is traded continuous renewal and therefore new experiences, and types, carry a functional specificity that escapes formal definition.

As an extension to Banham’s theme of ecologies, our continuing investigation on this topic will not only look at the parking garage, that has historically been subject to experimentation in circulation and construction technique, but also other structures that have the potential for experimentation as a type.