Iterative City

Iterative City is an animated interactive projection developed from a series of 3D rendered urban structures and systems (transit hubs, water treatment facilities, oil refineries, government buildings, schools, hospitals, etc.) which exist within a video game engine. Each structure is animated by a motion sensor, to detect the movement of viewers entering into and navigating the presentation space. Each structure in the projection will move along a predetermined path, based on the amount that the viewers are moving around the physical gallery space. As they do, the cityscape that is presented to them will fluctuate, adjust, and reform constantly, never standing still. 

Projected onto one or several walls of the room, Iterative City presents a window into a hypothetical city, constantly repositioning in relation to its viewers/occupants. An infrared motion sensor is mounted in a plinth along the wall opposite to the projection, gathering data on viewers moving into and through the space. In order to drive home the user-initiated motion present in the projection, the structures depicted will also each have their own audio component, whose volume will increase as the structure is driven into motion and telegraphing to the audience that their presence activates the work. 

Iterative City seeks to reify the interrelated imperative of urban structures, presenting the city as an entity wherein change is constant and is driven by the interactions between individuals and the components of the urban fabric. The movement of the cityscape depicted in the projection will be in constant fluctuation, redefining the spatial relationships between structures and adapting its form based on the presence and movement of viewers. In doing so, it will highlight the impact that each individual has on the formation of their environments. The work intends to reveal the unending process of city-building, and the necessary responsiveness that must be built into cities in order to respond to changes in their populations. 

The projection uses key pieces of infrastructure that facilitate contemporary life, using their recognizability and prevalence to address interactions that affect as broad a population as possible. 

Particularly in the face of dramatically rapid changes in the state of the world and the urgency of challenges we face, our urban spaces must be increasingly adaptable, responsive, and resilient. The work references threats to the urban fabric created by rising sea levels (such as the sea wall in Venice or the increasing threat of major flooding in Miami Beach, Florida), and questions circulating around the sustainability of energy generation and supply (related to the source of fuels like coal and oil, and the installation of renewable energy infrastructure). While such challenges are inherently geographically specific and engender differing engineering and policy solutions, they are linked by the shifts in lifestyle that come with constant and increasingly dramatic change. The work aims to foreground conversations around the adaptability of urban design, and how we approach mitigating the negative impacts of climate change in our built environments. 

Iterative City, interactive projection, filmed at SNAP Gallery, 2021.

all images © Alex Thompson 2022
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