New Mobility @ A2B International Architecture Symposium

The world is changing and with it the cities.

The new possibilities of physical mobility in the industrial age have decisively influenced architecture and city planning.

The question now arises as to how much the present revolution of information and communication will have.

Lecture Technology & the City @ A2B International Architecture Symposium 02, Basel, Switserland, 24+25 January 2002


“The world is changing and with it the cities. The new possibilities of physical mobility in the industrial age have decisively influenced architecture and city planning. The question now arises as to how much the present revolution of information and communication will have.

“Des yeux qui ne voient pas”, Le Corbusier sneered in 1923 in “Vers une architecture”, about the architecture of his contemporaries, who remained arrested in traditions. He illustrated his Manifesto with photographs of automobiles, aircraft, railway compartments and steam ships. The revolution of mechanical mobility had set the world moving. Together with the leading industries of the machine age, the architects should invent a new, modern architecture.

And he also went ahead with the “good example”. With the project “Ville Contemporaine” Le Corbusier designed the vision of a car-free city for three million inhabitants. In 1934 the famous counterpart Le Corbusier, the American Frank Lloyd Wright, spoke with his utopia of modern urban planning: the “Broadacre City”, a right-angled urbanization of the country, which makes urban Moloche, like Chicago or New York, superfluous should. This design also built entirely on the new physical mobility, which had opened up by means of the individual means of transport, ie the car.

These designs remained abstract thinking models. Nevertheless, the new mobility has significantly altered the structure and urban image. They fell into residential districts as well as industrial and industrial areas, leisure districts and large shopping centers on the periphery. In between, the traffic on new, huge urban motorways rolled. However, the search for a high degree of individual physical mobility also has its limits: more and more often, the currents of the movers are stuck in traffic jam.”

“In the meantime, a new technological revolution has been announced, a revolution of a new form of mobility that seems to have no limits: the global digital network creates new ways of relationship between activities and places. Side by side with the physical meeting points establish themselves virtual market places. Communication and the use of services are no longer necessarily dependent on physical mobility. Virtual cities, universities, trade fairs and pastoralists can be visited without getting up from the chair. Telemedicine can replace the doctor’s visit in more and more cases. Financial transactions are much easier to do online anyway. And in many cases the physical presence in the workplace is no longer a technical necessity.

In other words, one can be mobile and yet remain connected to the same place; One can be immobile and still keep in touch with different places over the data networks. The human being, the inhabitant of houses and apartments in settlements, is thereby caught in a new tension between physical and virtual mobility.

No question: the triumph of the new communication technologies influences architecture and urban planning in their basic function and function. The global digital network has created a new infrastructure that can interfere with cities and individual buildings as much as the highways, power lines and telephone networks have done in the past.


William J. Mitchell, Dean of the Faculty of Architecture at MIT, describes this process in “etopia” as creeping and unstoppable: “New urban infrastructures have always begun in the past with the connection of already existing nodes created by older networks and As parasites who take over their host, they have transformed the functions of the systems to which they have been superimposed, redistributed activities and extended the systems in an unforeseen way. ”

It can be assumed that the city will survive as a physically real center of politics, economy and culture. Digital networking also has its nodes: the so-called nodes. The data of the cybergeographers show that such nodes are still largely identical to the traditional urban centers. Phenomena, such as the brainparks of the software industry, which were shot in India in Bangalore as a result of the installation of direct satellite connections, however, suggest that the new economy also introduces a new logic of location advantages.

In any case, the city is given a new boost in the process of its constant transformation by the consolidation of the communication networks. “Urban organisms change from hierarchically structured systems of the center and the periphery, where the periphery is organized around a single center, to the heterarchy of network organizations,” explains Frans Vogelaar, architect and partner at Hybrid Space Lab and professor for hybrid space at the Academy of Media Arts in Cologne. Or, as the Italian architect and city planner Stefano Boeri notes, concepts such as “center – periphery” or “public – private” are no longer suitable for analyzing the urban networks of the digital age. The challenges for urban planning are immense.


But not only the functioning of large urban regions is affected, but also the everyday mobility of working, living or shopping. Also in the area of ​​the organization and typology of individual buildings, the architecture presents new challenges. For example, flexible work and teleworking have already begun to change fundamental issues in the design of office buildings. The office building is no longer primarily the place where typewriters or computers are located. On the other hand, his role as a physical meeting place for the employees of a company comes to the fore. Architectural solutions from other constructions – lobbies, lounges and the like – are introduced.

Comparable developments are also evident in the design of universities, schools, hospitals or prisons. In all these institutions, the organizational structure changes. As a result, new building types emerge – to the point where institutions dissolve or merge into one another and create new, hybrid building forms.


New information and communication technologies influence the work of the architects not only in their tasks, but also in the way in which they perform these tasks. In principle, architects formulate the wishes and requirements of their customers as a space program and agree on the local conditions of the construction site and the requirements of building laws and regulations. They design a spatial organization of the program and present their design ideals using models, plans or three-dimensional visualizations. In constant contact with various specialists, they then work out the design by means of structural engineering and determine it in work plans. These serve as the basis for the realization by contractors and suppliers. Parallel to the design process, construction costs and scheduling are constantly monitored.

Every single step in this information chain is affected by the innovations in the field of information and communication technology. The Internet has significantly simplified access to data relevant to the design process. Collaboration on distance is made possible by e-mail, but more and more also through communication platforms specifically tailored to the needs of architects. The mobile phone is an integral part of the everyday life of the construction site and will soon be supplemented by the wireless networked laptop. Digital work plans could be translated directly into prefabricated components using computer-controlled machines. Such new tools are also a new way of addressing questions about the authorship and individual creativity.

Architecture and urban development have undoubtedly come to a considerable extent in the sphere of influence of the new information and communication technologies. On 24./25. In January 2002, the first international architectural symposium A2B 02 entitled “mobility: immobility” in Basel will discuss the possible consequences of this development. The prominent symposium brings architects and IT specialists together with business and political representatives. A2B takes place within the scope of the Baumesse Swissbau of the MCH Messe Basel.”
International Architecture Symposium 02


Processing hybrid space: think-tanks and development vessels
Prof. Frans Vogelaar

The opening address presents models for researching and developing “hybrid” (combined analog and digital, urban/architectural and media) space.

The model of artistic and speculative research and development is presented: Research in architecture, urbanism and design is powered by a programmatic approach of developing general speculative scenario-frameworks. This formulation of conceptual working hypothesises enables the generation of market-forcing visions. Enhancing the visionary elements of design strengthens the role of the designer-architect-urbanist in the process of shaping our environment.

Speculative programmatic research -merging analytical investigations with the intuitive design process- uses strategies such as hybridisation and bastardisation as methods to speculate on and generate the “new”.

This approach is illustrated by the project ‘Public Media Urban Interfaces’, a project on publicly accessible interfaces between the global media space and the local urban place. It is a design for a public “hybrid” urban space, a fusion of media space and urban space. It develops an alternative scenario for the interplay of mass media in order to reinforce the function of public urban space. It emphasises the role of the public in an increasingly privatised society and occupies the vacuum in between the local and the global.

This project represents a prototype for a new interdisciplinary field of planning and design (‘Soft Urbanism’), researching the transformations of architectural, urban/regional space in the emerging “information/communication age”. ‘Soft Urbanism’ explores the dynamic interaction of urbanism and the space of mass media and communication networks and develops interfaces between the urban and the media networks.

Another research model, the model of conceptual/theoretical research is demonstrated in the survey on “the use of space in the information-communication age” that we conducted within the framework of Infodrome, a think-tank for the Dutch government. Infodrome can be described as an interdisciplinary “programme of studies, reports, evaluations, conferences and other activities focused on contributing to the design of governmental policy in the information society”.

Our research within this framework focuses on the questions raised by the developments in information/communication technology and their interaction with the urban, such as: How do the developments in information and communication technology affect architectural, urban and regional space? What will the significance of location be? What will change @home, @work, in the urban public space and in the mobility networks? How will planning develop? It addresses the new challenges of urban/regional planning and introduces strategies and instruments to process the transformations in today’s network city.

The next research and development model introduced is the experiment, illustrated by a series of larger and small scale experimental projects on “hybrid” spaces.

An example of such an experiment was the project ‘ReBoot-NRW.NL’, a networked boat with 80 participants on board, that descended the Rhine in 1999, connecting the network and the nodes (harbour-cities) of the river with media networks (Internet/TV). Within this vessel a series of projects on “hybrid” trans-local space were developed and experienced.


IDENSITY®: the communicational paradigm in architecture and urbanism or new relationships between urban space and the individual
Prof. Elizabeth Sikiaridi

In the contradictory dynamics  of today’s urban environment with its antithetical tendencies of concentration and decentralisation, of functional mix and segregation, traditional terms of spatial distinction are losing validity. In this fragmented urban landscape, categories like “centre” versus “periphery”, “landscape” versus “city”, “functional zoning” (such as living, working and recreation), are becoming obsolete.

The polarity of private versus public space is disintegrating. Public and private environments are becoming intermingled and blurring in the fusions of media and “real” space: for example in the “hybrid” spaces of the publicly broadcasted (inverted) privacies of “reality TV” and the “Big Brothers”, in the media presence of war intruding on our private living rooms or in the private (communication) space of mobile telephony within public urban space.

To understand these fusions, this superimposition and the interactions of media and “real” urban spaces, the new term ‘idensity®’ is introduced, replacing the obsolete conventional terms of spatial distinction. It does not differentiate between information/communication networks and urban/architectural environments, it offers an integrated model for dealing with “hybrid” (media and “real”) space in the information/communication age and incorporates the widest range of future (communication) spaces.

It is a composite term consisting of the combination of the word “density” of real (urban) and “virtual” (media) communication spaces (density of connections) and of the word “identity”.

It can be implemented to steer the processes of urban development. ‘Idensity®’ integrates the concept of “density” (density of connections, density of physical and digital infrastructure, density of communication-spaces etc.) with the concept of “identity” (“image policies”, “urban brands” etc.). It can therefore, for example, help in understanding the processes of spatial segregation and distinction between “urban fragments that have qualities of ‘global’ performance and that can be seen as part of a “global urban condition” and those other, sometimes neighbouring (parts of) cities that lose in relevance and disappear from (global) mental maps.

But it is not a mere summation of the two concepts of “density” and “identity”. It is rather a fusion, as it inverts “identity”, linking it to communication: “identity” being defined by connectivity.

Therefore, it does not just address the “clear-cut identity, the particularity, the individuality of the traditional places or sites” but also the layered ‘idensities’ of the “non-lieux” (“non-places”) of today’s “generic cities”, which are to be found especially in the realms of mobility and consumption (airports, hotels, shopping malls, motorway rest areas, etc.). It does not refer only to object-qualities but describes a field of superimposed (communication) spaces: the branded space of the chain-shop, the symbolic space of the traditional building the shop is housed in, the media space of teleshopping, the communication space of the GSM…

The term ‘idensity®‘ carries the discussion on the urban from the morphological level of a formal description of the network patterns of the “network city” to a more integrated structural understanding of the networks of spaces for social communication. It is a conceptual tool for researching and developing space in the information/communication age.


Thursday, 24.01.02

The Networked City The Influence of Mobility and Ambient Intelligence on Architectural Theory and New Practices

Keynote: Prof. William J. Mitchell, Dean of Architecture MIT, e-topia Cities in a Wireless World

10:30- 10:45
Keynote: Toyo Ito, Toyo Ito & Asso.

10:45 – 12:30
Connected and Perpetually Mobile? Tools of a Networked Architecture
Moderation: Dimitri Fatouros
Opening address: Jean Attali, Philosopher
Opening address: Hani Rashid, Asymptote
Lecture: Lars Spuybroek, Architect, NOX Editor
Lecture: Andrew Benjamin
Lecture: Prof. Elizabeth Sikiaridi, Architect, New relationships between urban space and the digital
Peter Trummer, time-sharing urbanism, Offshore Architects
Prof. Nicolas Michelin, LABFAC, Dean of Architecture, Versailles
Prof. Gerhard Schmitt , VP ETHZ
Marcos Novak, Centrifuge, Architect

Opening address: Prof. Frans Vogelaar, Academy for Media Arts Cologne, Hybrid Space: think-tanks and development vessels
Opening address: Prof. Peter Anders,, Integrating Realities: The Design and Realization of Cybrid Space

15:15 – 17:00
Working Panel: Transnational cities
Moderation: André Bideau, Editor of Werk, Bauen + Wohnen
ThinkTank: Moving in the future
Moderation: Andreas Ruby, Architecture critic
Working Panel: “Opportunity Maps”, New business models
Moderation: Spyros Pollalis, Head of Design Informatics
ThinkTank:“Smart” Architectural Tasks
Harvard Panel: Media/information environments
Moderation: Jacques Herzog, Architect, Studio Basel
Stephano Boeri
, USE Uncertain States of Europe
Werner Möller, TeleCity, Stiftung Bauhaus Dessau
Herbert W. Franke, Author
Peter Haimerl, CityPlanner Zoomtown
Prof. Dr.-Ing. Dietrich Stein,
Urs Pfister, Smart Mobility, DaimlerChrysler
Matthias Hollwich, Etekt
Manthos Santorinaios, Mediaterra, Fournos Culture
Norbert Streitz, AMBIENTE, IPSI Workspaces of the Future, Fraunhofer
Prof. Maia Engeli, Assistant Professor, ETH Zurich

17:00-18:00 Wrap panel:
Andrew Benjamin, Philosopher
Guests Wrap panel:
Derrick de Kerckhove, Director. McLuhan Program University of Toronto
Jean Attali, Philosopher
Andrew Benjamin


related PROJECTS


The international travelling exhibition NatureTecture presents the fields of landscape architecture in all their breadth and relevance.
The exhibition is based on landscape architectural expertise from North Rhine-Westphalia and refers to examples of landscape architecture from NRW.
NatureTecture focuses on those fields of work that will become increasingly important internationally for the design of our living environments and formulates relevant questions for the future.
The NatureTecture exhibition is dedicated to the tasks and instruments of qualifying landscape in the post-industrial age.
The international travelling exhibition on the fields of work of landscape architecture is organized by the Chamber of Architects of North Rhine-Westphalia with the support of the Ministry of Building and Transport of the State of North Rhine-Westphalia.

Concept NatureTecture @ Chamber of Architects, North Rhine-Westphalia, Germany, 1 September 2009
Exhibition NatureTecture @ Chamber of Architects, Düsseldorf, Germany 11 Februar -17 March 2010
Exhibition NatureTecture @ Representation of the State of North Rhine-Westphalia to the European Union, Berlin, Germany, 9 June-12 July 2010
Exhibition NatureTecture @ Chamber of Architects of Jeollabuk-Do Province (KIRA Jeonbuk), Republic of Korea, 1 September- 4 September 2010
Exhibition NatureTecture @ Building Culture Fair Daejeon 2010, Republic of Korea, 14-19 October 2010
Exhibition NatureTecture @ Architecture and Urbanism Fair Gwangju, Republic of Korea, 3-7 November 2010
Exhibition NatureTecture @ Turkish Chamber of Architects of the Metropolis of Istanbul, Turkey, 26 November-10 December 2010
Exhibition NatureTecture @ 20th Anniversary of German Reunification, Busan, Republic of Korea, 8-14 December 2010