Sunday, September 4, 2011

Metacity/Datatown, MVRDV

MAAS, Winy, et al., Metacity/Datatown, 010 publishers, Rotterdam, 1999, 224 pp.
(Source: Google Books)
Metacity/Datatown is a book, based on a video-installation of the same title that was exhibited in 1998-1999 and produced by MVRDV. It consists of two parts: Metacity and Datatown. Here I will summarize and discuss the most relevant, interesting and inspirational statements from the book.

The first part of the book describes the concept of the Metacity. The Metacity is a more advanced state of the 'global village', where more and more regions have become a more or less continuous urban landscape.

"... And as the population and its communications options continue to multiply, this metamorphosis seems far from finished. Not only has this process increased the number of these urban zones, it has also intensified the 'in-betweens'. Even the former anti-urban elements are colonized; they are now concentrated parts of the urban condition. Nature has become crowded. ..."

An interesting illustration of the Metacity in this book is the one of New York City (page 31).

If we mark the borough of Brooklyn, we notice that it has a central position in the continuous urban landscape. Therefore it's interesting to look at Brooklyn as part of a huge Metacity. In Brooklyn we clearly see two uninhabited dots as concentrated moments, part of the urban condition: Prospect Park and Green-Wood Cemetery.

The second part of the book is interesting, although not very relevant. Here MVRDV explores the most extreme state of the Metacity by selecting and analyzing statistical data: "... It's a city that wants to be described by information: a city that knows no given topography, no prescribed ideology, no representation, no context. Only huge, pure data. ...".

At the end of the desciption of Datatown, there is a series of interviews. Here the artists Jan van Grunsven and Arno van der Mark have a though-provoking opinion about the nature of the contemporary public space:

"Public space in the classical sense - a representational model of the communal - no longer exists. It has been replaced by the space of transition. If we look at today's society, we see a high degree of individualism. But I think that as long as the individual has a need for a space to 'meet' or a space to share a common interest, we have to consider the meaning and form of those spaces. ... At the moment, we have a new kind of public space. It's a communicational space, like the internet. Public space has been altered into a kind of 'traffic', a coming and going. I think a new relationship will emerge between that which is interior and that which is exterior. The result will be an obvious decomposition of what has been known up until now as public space. ..."

Visual artist Ronald van Tienhoven also gives an opinion about information design, a new branch of graphic media:

"The information designer organizes a variety of data into structures that coordinate complex systems and processes in a clear way. It's precisely in times like ours that an increasing need exists to represent - with the use of maps, genealogical documents, statistics, diagrams, plans, and other sources of information - the complexity of that which our society produces. ... Information design is, therefore, a consequence of an increase in the amount of information available to the public. ... Collecting data and coupling it to decisions (art-related or utilitarian) are activities requiring a study that should have a certain visual quality in and of itself. Information design is a new phenomenon that deals with this visual quality. An attempt is made to produce a representation of data not based on its collection or to render it as tastefully as possible while producing a matchless marriage of quantities of complex information. In this way we try to distill a crystal-clear image. The result is more than a graphic interface, it's also a social interface. ..."

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