Solar progeria versus renaissance of urban fictions


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A talk I've given on June 12 at the Cinémathèque Suisse in Lausanne. It's about representation of urban environments in science-fiction, how they aged... and how designer's work (design fiction) propose original representation about future cities.

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  • Progeria = “extremely rare genetic condition wherein symptoms resembling aspects of aging are manifested at an early age” (Wikipedia). This is what happened to the representation of the city in sci-fi movies. But there are interesting new forms of urban fictions.
  • The stereotypical representation of the urban environment in science-fiction... the generative metaphor copied many times by comic-books, movies and various artworks.
  • From movies to video-games
  • But lots of people already live in this kind of setting, it’s not longer sci-fi
  • Facade becomes interactive
  • Interior architecture looks like the Death’s Star
  • In Asia, it’s even more the case
  • Plus, sci-fi movies are shot in existing locations like university campuses! “Conquest of the Planet of the Apes - 1972” at University of California Irvine. See Paul Dourish’s webpage: How can this be a representation of the future if it already exists?

  • Nowadays, other kind of actors create curious and intriguing representation of urban futures. They’re not science-fiction writers or directors of futuristic movies. Let’s see some examples from designers.
  • An interesting material to be used by designers who want to describe the future of cities.
  • “Semiconductor make moving image works which reveal our physical world in flux; cities in motion, shifting landscapes and systems in chaos. Since 1999 UK artists Ruth Jarman and Joe Gerhardt have been exploring the material nature of our world and how we experience it, questioning our place in the physical universe”
  • Real-time Rome aggregated data from cell phones to better understand urban dynamics in real time. By revealing the pulse of the city, the project aims to show how technology can help individuals make more informed decisions about their environment. In the visualizations of Real Time Rome we synthesize data from various real-time networks to understand patterns of daily life and special events in Rome. MIT SENSEable City Lab, Real-Time Rome:
  • Video game designers also propose highly interesting spatial metaphor... which crystallize new sort of representation of how the urban environment could look like... and could engaged people in new sorts of interactions.
  • Moreover, these experience can also be translated on paper with new forms of signage. See for example “Here and There” from BERG ( which explores speculative projections of dense cities. A map very much inspired by game design mechanics and experiences.
  • Designers of location-based games also offer interesting insights and notions about how the city of the future could be experienced.
  • Same with designers who are interested in new forms of augmented reality. See for example Map/territory by Timo Arnall:
  • In sum, the new representations of the urban futures are mostly design fictons with the following characteristics:
    1. They’re not only about the urban morphology, they’re also about invisible phenomena such as radiowaves or the city metabolism (e.g. with cell-phone usage),
    2. A new asthaethic emerges from the digital culture (video games, web and mobile culture) and leads to curious metaphors and representations,
    3. The territory itself is augmented and new layers of information/experience is added on top of existing places.
  • Solar progeria versus renaissance of urban fictions

    1. 1. Solar progeria versus renaissance of urban fictions nicolas nova | liftlab 12 juin | Cinémathèque suisse
    2. 2. Metropolis (1927)
    3. 3. Terminator Salvation (2009)
    4. 4. Paris (1970-1978)
    5. 5. Rotterdam (2008)
    6. 6. Lisbon (2009)
    7. 7. Seoul (2009)
    8. 8. Conquest of the Planet of the Apes (1972)
    9. 9. where did urban fiction go?
    10. 10. alternatives fictions
    11. 11. Semiconductor
    12. 12. Real Time Rome (Sensable City Lab)
    13. 13. Rez (Playstation 2)
    14. 14. Here and There (BERG)
    15. 15. Mogi (Newt games)
    16. 16. Map/territory (T. Arnall)
    17. 17. thanks -