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

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