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Hacking the City

London, United Kingdom
1 of 7
Subterranean London

As London has evolved over the centuries, one constant has been its title of being the 'financial capital of the world'. Especially the past two decades saw a rapid ascent in the power and influence of the city's financial sector. In this broader process of 'neoliberal urbanisation', the city is experiencing a 'vertical urban turn', undergoing massive vertical, aboveground transformations, growing and densifying in terms of dramatic scale and speed. This urban regeneration process, highly connected with a phenomenal construction boom, gave rise to the emergence of high-rise clusters, such as the City's Eastern Cluster. However, as the project argues, although the City keeps going vertical, its aboveground image still remains flat and segregated, raising hot debated urban issues of privatization and loss of public space. This increasing privatization, with the rising of POPS (Privately Owned Public Spaces) along with the introduction of sensors and CCTV cameras for monitoring and controlling access make the area a closed system that has become commodified, securitized and exclusive.

Taking into account the abovementioned context, the project builds on the idea of 'hacking' as a creative tool in order to re-code and re-program the spatial networks in the City. What makes hacking so interesting and powerful, is this mix of temporariness and sharpness, a solution not designed to prevail in time, but left open for others too. In this light, drawing also on the idea of 'place hacking', the project begins to explore the subterranean world of infrastructure, ranging from the extended sewage system to the abandoned bunkers and tube stations, moving on to seek possible alternative ways to appropriate the City from below. The dense field of the unused infrastructure revealed could offer some of its enclosed spaces to the public sphere, allowing us to envision alternative ways to transform these underutilized spaces that function today as 'modern ruins' into realms of opportunities and new affordances.

Concluding, drawing on this 'vertical urban turn', the project tries on the one hand to enhance our vertical thinking of contemporary cities that exceeds the above ground realm and boundaries, opening out vertical urban imaginations and exploring the potential of hidden and long forgotten urban spaces. At the same time, it envisions alternative ways of human and machine interaction in the era of artificial intelligence and automation, rethinking new forms of open access and control. This kind of understanding of the relationship between the city and technology suggests also new modes of design and challenges new ways of space appropriation that involve both human and non-human actors.

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bostjan, March 6th, 2017
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