Tomohiro Sugeta

TRANSLATING COLLECTIVE PORTRAITS OF CITY TO URBAN INTERVENTIONS – IMAGINARY MARSEILLE ON INSTAGRAM | Marseille, France | Unit 21 | 2016

Awarded Distinction for Thesis
 
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The focus of the project is to explore the possibilities in designing urban interventions by translating data obtained from Instagram in Marseille. This bottom-up approach informed geometrical principles and a site strategy, while the project attempts to reinvent civil space through a top-down analysis on sixteen years of minutes taken by the city council.
The overall strategy of the project involves both architectural and urban interventions, and are placed along proposed axes that connect popular geotag locations as shown on Instagram.
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A network of pavements is introduced along the axes as a device to manifest and claim territories that can induce new urban experiences. Small scale interventions consist of street furniture, such as bollards, bus stops, bike racks and street lights that are designed by translating fragments generated from numeric data of average brightness of sampled Instagram images geotagged around Marseille. The larger interventions employ similar geometrical principles, as well as architectural details. These fragmented pieces create unexpected urban encounters, not only to activate the boulevards directly but to lure people into alleyways that would not be experienced otherwise.
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The project employed Grasshopper to generate geometry from numeric value of average brightness extracted from a collection of Instagram posts using the technique of Iso-surface. What’s interesting about this method is that there is no one to one relationship between data and geometry resulting from it, rather it takes at least 8 images to produce one fragment, which thus results in collective constructs. Again, to avoid the subjective judgement, Grasshopper definition was developed to find a section of dataset, which are sorted chronologically, that generates geometry that meets certain geometrical criteria. Nevertheless, the aim of those process was not to claim the neutrality of data, but rather to question it. In other words, this design method developed specifically for the project is to question what it actually really means to design by data. It was a necessary step to reduce significance and meanings of them to the average brightness, as any attempts to literally analyse images using more conventional means through drawings and diagrams would be no different from orthodox of projects that have dealt with visual matters.
In parallel to the design project, the thesis was developed to question how the photosharing platform of Instagram could offer a collective view of city, and provides an interesting case for the discourse in architecture because it allows us to discuss images of built environment as collective constructs, as opposed to photographical practice of particular individuals.

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