Dan Hill has a great interview with architect Carlo Ratti, director of MIT’s SENSEable City Lab, discussing the relationship between digital space and architectural space, the production of both, and the changing role of the architect:
This is hardly the traditional work of the architect, yet this sense of working with a layer of soft infrastructure, overlaid onto the hard infrastructure of the city, is a theme common to this work. One thing that I consistently get asked by clients when I talk them through these kinds of changes is, “Yeah, but how will it change the physical form of cities? How will the cities look different?” I sometimes respond by referencing those other bike-sharing schemes in Barcelona, Paris, Lyon et al and illustrating how these are really informational services; soft infrastructure coordinated by informatics, and laid over the existing fabric of the city. Aside from hubs for the bikes, there are very few physical changes to the cities. Yet these systems have radically changed the sense of mobility in their cities, utterly changing the way the city feels.
Ratti agrees, seeing that digital activity is a layer in interface with the city. It’s not a separate virtual space, as some seem to think, but it’s augmenting our physical space. As he points out, we’re hardly going to change or destroy all these existing buildings and spaces anytime soon – urban form just doesn’t change that quickly, but the profound changes in the way cities feel and function may be in this internet-enabled informational layer.
Read the rest of the interview.