Imagining the Recursive City: Explorations in Urban Simulacra

While sorting out our About and Publications pages we noted that Working Paper 98, Imagining the Recursive City: Explorations in Urban Simulacra was not on the blog.

Written in 2005 the paper explores 3D Printing, Virtual Worlds and the Digital City. Its interesting to look back as the Virtual World section focused on our work in Adobe Atmosphere which was sadly dropped by Adobe.

It would be interesting to a take a new look at the paper in terms of Second Life which is what we are currently doing for a forth coming book chapter on Iconic Simulations: Entries to a Recursive World in, Foth, M. (Ed.), Urban Informatics: Community Integration and Implementation. Hershey, PA: Information Science Reference, IGI Global, Forthcoming. As is traditional the chapter should be out as a working paper on the blog shortly.

In ‘Imagining the Recursive City: Explorations in Urban Simulacra’ we view that cities are microcosms of societies, worlds within worlds, which repeat themselves at different spatial scales and over different time horizons.

In the paper, we argue that such recursion is taken to an entirely new level in the digital age where we can represent cities numerically, embed them within computers, scale and distort their representations so that we can embed them within one another, even believing them to be ‘computers’ in their own right. We begin with the conundrum of recursion, showing how its occurrence in cities through spatial similarity at different scales, leads to worlds within worlds.

We illustrate these ideas with a large-scale digital representation of the core of a world city, London, showing how we can generate different realizations of the city for different purposes. We embed these representations within one another, building virtual worlds, moving from the material to the digital and back again, using the digital model to represent the material world in different ways, and finally printing – fabricating the model.

Our message is that digital representation opens a cornucopia of possibilities in representation and communication through a variety of devices which in turn can be embedded in the city, Escher-like, and which indeed are rapidly becoming the city.

Download the full paper (1047KB .pdf)

Author Bio

Andy is Professor of Digital Urban Systems at the Centre for Advanced Spatial Analysis at University College London.

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