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Table of contents :
Emerging Protocols of Post-Fordist Flow
Urbanism After Geography: The Network is Context
Double Vision: Total Design, Total Choice
Split Second City: Time as Vehicle for Urbanism
Urbanism On Demand: The City as Service Platform
Smart Landscape, Dumb Building: Ground Rules
Conclusion: Logistical Narratives
About the Author
Learning from Logistics: How Networks Change our Cities
Learning from Logistics How Networks Change Our Cities
Learning from Logistics How Networks Change Our Cities Clare Lyster
Layout, cover design and typesetting: Camille Sacha Salvador at Luke Bulman — Office Copy editing: Jayne Kelley, Montréal Project management: Ria Stein, Berlin Production: Katja Jaeger, Berlin Typeface: Univers Paper: MultiOffset 120 g/m2 Printing: DZA Druckerei zu Altenburg Library of Congress Cataloging-in-Publication data A CIP catalog record for this book has been applied for at the Library of Congress. Bibliographic information published by the German National Library The German National Library lists this publication in the Deutsche Nationalbibliografie; detailed bibliographic data are available on the Internet at http://dnb.dnb.de. This work is subject to copyright. All rights are reserved, whether the whole or part of the material is concerned, specifically the rights of translation, reprinting, re-use of illustrations, recitation, broadcasting, reproduction on microfilms or in other ways, and storage in databases. For any kind of use, permission of the copyright owner must be obtained. This publication is also available as an e-book (ISBN PDF 978-3-03821-096-2; ISBN EPUB 978-3-03821-677-3). © 2016 Birkhäuser Verlag GmbH, Basel P.O. Box 44, 4009 Basel, Switzerland Part of Walter de Gruyter GmbH, Berlin/Boston Printed on acid-free paper produced from chlorine-free pulp. TCF ∞ Printed in Germany ISBN 978-3-03821-470-0 987654321
Contents 01 – 14
Introduction Emerging Protocols of Post-Fordist Flow
17 – 190
Lessons 01 Site Urbanism After Geography: The Network is Context 02 Plan Double Vision: Total Design, Total Choice 03 Zone Split Second City: Time as Vehicle for Urbanism 04 Circulation Urbanism On Demand: The City as Service Platform 05 Architecture Smart Landscape, Dumb Building: Ground Rules
Apply Conclusion: Logistical Narratives Logistical Players
Appendix Acknowledgements Image Credits Index About the Author
Introduction Emerging Protocols of Post-Fordist Flow
“We begin with the concept of Movement, which underlies all mechanization…” — Sigfried Giedion 1 “The Network is the Message.” — Manuel Castells 2
In an era of increasing metabolic flow, we can no longer afford to read the city solely in terms of the architectural object — traditionally the lens through which architects have interrogated the city. Instead, if designers are to stay relevant in urban matters, we must shift to engage the city from the perspective of its operational systems and procedural flows. In the absence of all but a few historical frameworks within the discipline to conceptualize urban space in this way, it behooves us to hijack other flow models as a way to think more critically about the city as a fluid condition and thus revitalize the agency of urbanism and planning in the age of globalization. Alexander Galloway opens the preface of his book Protocol by anticipating the reader’s surprise that someone with a background in literature and culture has written a book about computer science, and you might equally be wondering (as I have done) why someone with an architectural background has written a book about logistics.3 The answer is because until now, the city has been designed according to geometric, palliative, symbolic and geographic principles, but increasingly urbanization is organized through flows — flows of people, information, goods and services across multiple scales of territory. Going forward, designers must fathom the city as a “networked condition” and invent protocols to represent and configure the material realities that respond to this phenomenon. That the network is now the primary motivator of urbanism constitutes somewhat of a crisis for design. For the longest time architects have focused on the design of the city through building volume and now must shift their thinking to approach the city from the perspective of the processes that pass through it. In other words, there has been a
Emerging Protocols of Post-Fordist Flow
1 “The Shrinking Map of the World” The map highlights how increases in speeds of communication compress our perceptions of time and space.
shift from “figure” to “flow,” generating new configurations of urban space born out of the networks that increasingly dominate our lives. Landscape architects, who have the capacity to theorize dynamic systems, which one would assume gives them an advantage here, have for the most part restricted their attention to natural and ecological flows. Neither architecture nor landscape articulates a design project in the constructed networks that pass through and organize the city; instead, each field pursues its own established agenda through the figural and natural artifacts deposited within urban space. In the case of architecture, adapting does not mean abandoning figural expression but rather rethinking the agency of form vis-à-vis the processes of urbanization. In the case of landscape, it means reapplying existing conceptual and professional knowledge of dynamic phenomena to artificial flows. Because logistics deals with networked environments and has developed specific ways of handling flow, it is presented here as a particularly useful source of insight for design. By examining logistical networks since 1970, their effects on the built environment and their implications for architecture and urbanism, this book reveals how flow shapes the city and, more importantly, identifies new protocols to address the hypermobility that characterizes much of how we live today. In other words, in translating research on logistics into key concepts, one might arrive at a design schema to revitalize urbanism and reclaim the role of design in the networked city. We live in an era of extreme mobility made possible by technological innovation, and globalization and logistics constitute the latest stage of technological progress in the urban environment. While the city has always been shaped by production and distribution flows, from the trade routes of the middle ages to the steamship, from the telegraph to the railroad, since the 1970s a new set of time-space networks has been radically reformatting the built environment and recalibrating how we live (figure 1). These networks manage the fast and efficient flow of products, people and information across cities, regions, nations and the entire world. In the realm of personal mobility, the popularization of air travel that followed the deregulation of the airline industry, first in the US in 1978 and later in Europe in 1997, gave rise to a new class of low-cost airline networks offering cheap and direct flights beyond gateway cities to secondary and tertiary
Emerging Protocols of Post-Fordist Flow
locations. In the realm of manufacturing, the flow of materials is dictated by new global economic regimes based on international production and distribution, where goods are made in one part of the world and transported to another part of the world for consumption. In the realm of information flow, advanced software technologies from email to the Internet to the latest apps facilitate real-time access to and communication between firms and industries, while the availability and affordability of technological gadgets and software in most parts of the world has meant that data flows are now integral to how we relate to the environment around us as well as to each other. Suffice it to say that personal mobility as well as material and communication flows are the DNA of our contemporary condition. Central to the operation of this ever-more-globalized and mobile-centric society is a specific genre of time-space planning networks that interconnects these circuits by marrying digital information technologies with global and local transportation systems with the objective to swiftly manage the distribution of materials, information and people across continents, regions, countries and cities each day. These systems are known as logistics and are the subject of this book. It is hard to separate logistics from any aspect of our lifestyle. In fact, logistical systems have penetrated the subconscious of a large sector of the global population. Logistics allows us to order a book online from our home and have it delivered to our doorstep. Logistics makes it possible for us to place a package in a drop-box in New York at 10 p.m. knowing it will be delivered in downtown Los Angeles by 8 a.m. the next day. Logistics lets us browse and reserve hotel rooms, schedule flights and arrange for most of our other transportation needs online. Logistics makes sure we can load up our car with groceries twenty-four hours a day, and if we are too lazy or busy to go to a bigbox store, logistics will facilitate their speedy delivery directly to our home. Logistics brings us fresh food from anywhere in the world: lamb from New Zealand, sushi-grade tuna from Japan or lobsters from Nova Scotia. None of these modes of exchange would be possible without info-organizational regimens that combine digital information technologies with global and local distribution systems to link people, places and products in ever-faster timeframes. As citizens we participate more and more in a larger range of complex flows, and most of
us now depend on the mobility, not to mention the convenience, that logistical systems have facilitated. Logistics weaves globalization into the patterns of daily life. While there has been much discussion of the restructuring of space as a result of globalization in the social sciences and in the geographic and political-economic spheres, the design disciplines (architecture, landscape architecture and planning) — which are responsible for forming buildings, public spaces and cities and have presumably the most at stake in this topic — are only just beginning to comprehend the shifts that emerging systems of flow impose on the built environment, a lag that results, perhaps, from the lack of interpretive frameworks to make such an examination possible. Despite the overwhelming mobility that characterizes today’s society, there are surprisingly few methodologies in place that analyze the production of space as a fluid condition. No wonder many of the significant readings about the contemporary city in the last fifteen years have come from outside the design disciplines. This brings me back to logistics and the premise of this book. First, the job of logistics is to organize flow. In its purposeful and artful role in managing and transferring people and stuff, logistics offers a pure and productive lens through which to explore how networks produce space. Second, if fluidity epitomizes globalization, could it be that in understanding how logistical procedures format space one could also arrive at a larger reading of the implications of global network space for design? Or, put another way, could logistics yield a design theory of globalization? Just as Galloway deploys computer protocols (code) as a subject to examine the relationship between computers and critical theory, this book deploys logistics both to translate discourse on global networks into design and as a conceptual tool to identify new protocols for space that address fluidity. Although I am far from an expert on logistical systems (I am even more of an amateur in my subject matter than Galloway claims to be in his, and you will certainly need to go elsewhere if you are looking for hard-nosed, up-to-theminute technological analysis of the logistics industry), I nonetheless contend that treating logistics as an epistemic tool has the potential to inform design more broadly, not only in how we consider mobility in the city but also in how we forecast the future of other sites in the built environment. In the same way that Robert Venturi, Denise Scott Brown and Steven Izenour used Las Vegas as a lens to teach us about
Emerging Protocols of Post-Fordist Flow
the role of communication and symbolism in space (a methodological precedent that the title of this book makes obvious reference to), architecture can learn from logistics to identify a new set of design protocols that allow it to participate in the city at a time when flow, as opposed to figure, has emerged as the dominant shaper of the urban landscape.4 Over the last forty years the West completed a move from an industrial to a post-industrial economy, a transformation made possible by interconnected production, financial and informational networks that have overhauled traditional time-space limits and brought about what Marshall McLuhan identified in 1962 as the “global village.” 5 As the latest stage in the development of capitalism, this shift is difficult to date precisely, but many scholars identify the early 1970s as a pivotal moment in the emergence of new economic and social structures. Geographer and anthropologist David Harvey cites the recession of 1973 as a critical juncture in economic production practices and the end of the post-war boom, which caused massive ruptures in the employment sector in almost every advanced nation except Japan. The situation was made worse by the increased outsourcing of labor away from advanced nations to other parts of the world.6 This economic transformation is often described (and perhaps oversimplified) as the shift from Fordism, or industrial manufacturing based on automation (as in the mass production of goods through repetition of tasks in an assembly-line model), (figures 2 and 3) to post-Fordism, a more flexible form of production whereby goods could be customized or varied in response to consumer markets that arose concurrently with the increasing atomization of Western culture. Lower manufacturing costs for smaller runs of different products in certain parts of the
2 Ford Motor Company Model T assembly line, Louisville, Kentucky, 1925 This image and others like it exemplify the systems of mass production in the US in the early twentieth century made possible by Henry Ford’s successful adoption of Ranson E. Olds’s moving assembly line model to the auto industry. In addition, because the assembly line is a time-space model for organizing flow, it is presented here as a very early precedent for logistics.
3 Pork packing in Cincinnati, panoramic painting, 1873 Prior to Ford, it was the meat-packing industry in the American Midwest (especially in Cincinnati and Chicago) where the timesaving assembly line model was first implemented. It was known as the disassembly line, since animal carcasses were moved on overhead trolleys (operated by chain pulleys) to be gutted and dissected. Production flow was organized on a specific division of labor, whereby each man remained stationary to carry out a single task while the animal moved from one workstation to the next. This image depicts four stages of the process: killing, cutting, rendering and salting.
world, combined with faster, cheaper and more coordinated distribution options, meant that companies could produce goods in one place, assemble them in another and easily transport them for consumption somewhere else. A 2007 New York Times article, for instance, explains the wide-ranging geographical supply chain of an iPod by breaking down the source, cost and assembly of the 451 parts that make up the device. Flexible production has resulted in an unevenness in the global manufacturing economy:7 deindustrialization in some areas of the West, where production has become too expensive, and massive industrialization elsewhere, namely in India and China, where labor costs are low. For example, the same article estimates that in China, a single iPod costs $4 to assemble.8 In an even wider context, flexible production’s dependence on computer technologies coincided with the rise and popularization of digital information systems, which can also be traced to the early 1970s. An ARPANET (Advanced Research Projects Agency Network) developed by the US Department of Defense was established between MIT and Harvard in 1970, modeled on a package-switching system (and forerunner to the Internet) designed by Paul Baran of the Rand Corporation and a similar system was successfully installed between Stanford and UCLA a year earlier.9 By 1971, the network had spread through the Northeast and to a few select institutions in the Midwest. In 1973, University College London was linked, making transatlantic email a reality (figure 4). Personal computing was made possible when Intel created the world’s first single-chip microprocessor in 1971. The entertainment industry transformed in 1972 when Atari introduced Pong, an early commercial video game (figure 5), and in 1974 a UPC (Universal Product Code) was scanned for the first time (on a ten-pack of Juicy Fruit gum), enabling automated checkout at supermarkets and
Emerging Protocols of Post-Fordist Flow
revolutionizing retail (figure 6). The application of sophisticated management systems also took a big step in 1971, when United Airlines introduced Apollo, its first computerized central reservation system (CRS) that could store and retrieve passenger and flight information allowing travel agents to offer greater business and tourist services to the public. It was based on SABRE (Semi-Automated Business Research Environment), which was created by IBM for American Airlines earlier in the 1960s (figure 7). In fact, it is important to note, that many of the advances listed above built on a series of pre-established integrated technologies, mainly in the field of electronic communication, which had been sponsored in part by early and mid-century military research, but it was in the early 1970s when these innovations moved out of their institutional think tanks and into society.
4 Evolution of ARPANET between 1969 and 1972
The twelve- and thirteendigit UPC barcode is the most familiar barcode pattern used today and was invented by George J. Laurer (with help from William Crouse and Heard Baumeister), an engineer at IBM in 1973. The first patent for a barcode in the shape of a bullseye was issued to Norman J. Woodland and Bernard Silver in 1952, (Patent #2,612,994) marking the dawn of automated management systems.
The socio-cultural implications of these new production regimes and their enabling technologies have been and still are feverishly discussed. In his widely read book The Rise of the Network Society, anthropologist and urban geographer Manuel Castells highlights how the development of the Internet was not just an extraordinary technological feat in its own right but more importantly was (and still is) instrumental in the production and dissemination of a whole host of other communication systems. As a result, he argues, the Internet is to the technological revolution (1970–) what the steam engine was to the first industrial revolution (1780–) and electricity to the second (1850–). In enabling the successive and far-reaching distribution of other important advances, the steam engine and electricity acted as macro-innovations for the diffusion of other technologies. For example, the telegraph could not have become a global communication system without the already-widespread diffusion of electricity. In the same way, the Internet is the mechanism through which other innovations are realized because it creates opportunities for the proliferation and popularization of other new communication networks, from apps to online shopping. Sociologist Daniel Bell also argues for the significant role of technology in critical shifts in history, although he does not consider it the sole determining factor of transformation. Bell focuses on the term “information society” to articulate his schema for post-industrialism, which he describes as the next stage in the trajectory of a world that was first pre-industrial, sustained and organized around extracting, or mining resources for agriculture, fishing, hunting and timber economies, and then industrial, centered on fabricating, or using energy and machines to produce goods; the post-industrial world is premised on processing, or the exchange of information and knowledge via computers and telecommunication networks.10 The new knowledge-based industries made possible by the information society are known specifically as service (or tertiary) industries, professional and technical fields of expertise that economist Saskia Sassen argues provide the support structure to flexible production processes and are responsible for the growth of a series of world cities that she designates as global.11 Whatever theory one subscribes to or term one uses to characterize the new organization of the Western world — post-industrial or
Emerging Protocols of Post-Fordist Flow
5 Pong, 1972 Screenshot of the table tennis game created by Allan Alcorn for Atari, which in 1972 became one of the first successful and popular commercial video games.
87654 32109 6 UPC A Encoded Barcode Symbol
post-Fordist; information, service, network or knowledge society — all imply a sense of increasing mobility across local, regional and global territories facilitated by new network topologies that allow the unprecedented liquidity of money (derivative markets and e-trading), people (wider high-speed travel networks), information (e-retail and online social networks) and goods (overnight shipping networks). Castells has coined the term “space of flows”12 to describe these new topologies, which he summarizes as the processes and spaces that allow near-simultaneity of exchange in time and space without territorial proximity. The concept parallels McLuhan’s theorization of the rapid communication made possible by electronic media in the 1960s (the T.V., telephone and computer) as “simultaneous happenings,” a term that describes the expansion of the senses of an individual no longer responsible for participating in a local community but instead part of a larger, global one. Logistics is central to the compression of time and space within Castells’s space of flows. Also common to all terms is recognition of the subsequent changes to lifestyles based on the material organizations, economic exchange and consumption patterns of the last forty years. From the perspective of architecture and urbanism, it is these broader lifestyle implications (not the economic or technological circumstances) that will engage disciplinary issues. As such, and based on Krisham Kunar’s framework, I choose to use the term post-Fordism since it highlights the “relations of production” of the logistical era rather than the forces that cause it and thereby insinuates a much broader matrix of social, and by extension, spatial consequences.13 Logistics can both mediate these relations and offer a mechanism to visualize the changes post-Fordism prompts. Logistics is a Greek term that has become synonymous with military procedures in that it describes the efficient and intelligent movement of resources, materials and troops. In warfare, logistics comprises both practical and artful calculation to yield a favorable outcome in battle. In handling large, complex situations through its careful consideration of details, logistics involves discipline and rigor, while its inherent ability to quickly orchestrate sudden manoeuvres makes it an opportunistic, devious and even shrewd model of time-space planning. Moreover, given its close association with strategy, tactics,14 organization, distribution, performance and coordination, all familiar
terms used by architects to engage with the contemporary city, it is no surprise that logistical concepts are gaining traction in contemporary architectural and urban discourse, especially in narratives that focus on the relationship between urbanization and fluidity. So far, scholarship of logistics in the design fields can be categorized into specific genres of design research ranging from analysis of corporate logistical systems15 to investigations of the infrastructure and attendant spaces that support logistical systems (warehouses, superhubs, cold storage, distribution centers, port terminals, SEZs and EPZs and data farms)16 to indexing the landscapes of logistics (waste, food consumption and distribution).17 Clearly, logistics is no longer marginal to urban discourse. On the contrary, a study of logistics is a constructive exercise toward understanding how new production regimes and their ensuing flows format the built environment. To advance these discussions, what this book brings to bear is not just additional interrogation of the topic but the chance to use logistics to articulate a comprehensive research position vis-à-vis design and urbanization. It takes this on by mining, parsing and speculating on the operations and attendant landscapes of paradigmatic logistical systems developed during the last forty years. Focus is on three anchor case studies: FedEx, the once-US and now-global shipping network, seemed an obvious system to start from because of its territorial scope — it delivers to over 220 locations globally — while Amazon.com and Ryanair logically round out a set of networks that manage distribution, the supply and ordering of merchandise, and the transportation of people. Other networks including Facebook, Netflix, Redbox, Peapod, Southwest Airlines, Kickstarter and Uber, among others, are explored to a lesser degree. These case networks encompass many of the attributes that we associate with post-Fordism: They have all been implemented since 1970, which as mentioned earlier is a milestone in the evolution of global urbanism (established in 1971, FedEx and Southwest Airlines are the oldest of the studies); they are all examples of corporate infrastructure; they were largely the creations of individual entrepreneurs (Jeff Bezos in the case of Amazon.com, Fred Smith for FedEx and Herb Kelleher for Southwest Airlines) and supported by venture capitalists; they rely equally on information and physical infrastructure, making them both soft and hard systems; they are all organizational models that demonstrate expertise
Emerging Protocols of Post-Fordist Flow
in time-space planning; they cover extensive territory (FedEx is worldwide, Amazon serves three continents and although the European Ryanair operates at the scale of a continent, the logic of its point-topoint network is found in other parts of the world — its idea is global whereas its geographical range is not); and finally, huge populations of people participate in these networks, rendering them cultural and infrastructural space. Yet logistics may offer an even more valuable contribution that responds to what urban theorist Neil Brenner describes as a need for new conceptual frameworks to conceive the city. Certainly in its artful and functional handling of complex flows, its synthesis of multiple layers (and variables) of data, the interpretation of its own feedback loop, its temporal precision, its responsiveness
7 Diagram of SABRE SABRE was the first commercial semi-automated reservation system, unveiled by American Airlines (in partnership with IBM) in 1964. It was developed from SAGE, a Cold War computerized air-defense project commissioned by the US military based on research by Jay Forrester and George Valley, professors at MIT in the early 1950s, using computers built by IBM. By the time SABRE was fully operational in 1964, it comprised 10,400 telephone lines, making it the largest civil data-processing system in the world. SABRE enabled an agent to look for a flight, reserve a seat and issue a ticket to a customer electronically. Previously, all flights were processed manually and it could take up to three hours to fully process a ticket. Today SABRE handles 42,000 inquiries per second, including those entered through online travel sites such as Orbitz and Travelocity.
to user demands and its simultaneously strategic (long-term) and tactical (short-term) thinking, logistics emerges as a viable model for urban production. The book weaves together research on the case studies in order to extrapolate implications delivered under the auspices of lessons, with each chapter contemplating a different protocol of city making: Site, Plan, Zone, Circulation and Architecture. While these categories are somewhat defunct in terms of how we conceive the city today, they nonetheless serve as a structure to contextualize the lessons within historical modes of urban organization and test how effective and instrumental they might be. In pointing out how design might see the city differently through logistics, the lessons posit a new a-geographic context for future urban settlement; articulate a new planning model for the network city; hypothesize that time is the most critical attribute of city making; reconceptualize the city as an integrated service platform rather than a series of figural artifacts; and argue that ground, not building shell, is the most significant feature of contemporary space. A final proposition explored at the end of the book acts as a conclusion to the individual lessons and includes a series of hypothetical design narratives that not only test the implications discussed in earlier chapters but also speculate on (and leverage) the opportunities embedded in logistics, rendering it a form of urbanism in and of itself. In summary, the book is delivered in three sequences: theoretical essays with historical and contemporary precedents that help position research on logistics within a larger trajectory of urbanization and network thinking; maps that graphically illustrate logistical systems and their attendant spaces; and design projections that envision logistical intelligence as a vehicle for new architectural and urban configurations. Working in tandem, these sequences use logistics to advance and expand the existing discourse on global cities that this book is indebted to, yet which for the most part remains situated in social, cultural and economic frameworks and methodologies rather than in design.18 It is a handbook for the design of the city in the age of globalization. Let’s Learn From Logistics.
Emerging Protocols of Post-Fordist Flow
References 1. Sigfried Giedion, Mechanization Takes Command: A Contribution to Anonymous History (1948; repr., New York: WW Norton & Company, 1969), 5. 2. Manuel Castells, The Internet Galaxy (2001; repr., New York: Oxford University Press, 2003), 1. 3. Alexander Galloway, Protocol: How Control Exists After Decentralization (Cambridge, MA: MIT Press, 2004), xxiii. 4. Robert Venturi, Denise Scott Brown and Steven Izenour, Learning from Las Vegas: The Forgotten Symbolism of Architectural Form (Cambridge: MIT Press, 1977). 5. The term “global village” first appeared in McLuhan’s The Gutenberg Galaxy and served to describe the shrinking of the world as a result of information technologies. 6. David Harvey, “Flexible Accumulation through Urbanization: Reflections on ‘Post-modernism’ in the American City,” in Post-Fordism: A Reader, ed. Ash Amin (Oxford: Blackwell Publishers, 1994), 361–386. See also his hugely influential book The Condition of Postmodernity (Oxford: Blackwell Publishers, 1990). 7. For a concise report of the many aspects of the new capitalist regime in Western economies from information society to flexible specialization see Ash Amin, “Post-Fordism: Models, Fantasies and Phantoms of Transition,” in Post-Fordism: A Reader, 1–33. 8. Hal R. Varian, “An iPod Has Global Value. Ask the (Many) Countries That Make It,” New York Times, 28 June 2007, http://www.nytimes. com/2007/06/28/business/worldbusiness/28scene.html?_r=0. 9. Manuel Castells, “The Information Technology Revolution” (Chapter 1) and “The Edge of Forever: Timeless Time” (Chapter 7), in The Rise of the Network Society (Oxford: Blackwell Publishers, 1996). 10. Daniel Bell, The Coming of Post-Industrial Society: A Venture in Social Forecasting (New York: Basic Books, 1973), xii. 11. Saskia Sassen, Cities in a World Economy, 1st ed. (Thousand Oaks, CA: Pine Forge Press, 1994), 1–8. 12. Manuel Castells and Martin Ince, “Conversation 3: The Space of Flows,” in Conversations with Manuel Castells (Cambridge: Polity Press, 2003), 55. 13. Krishan Kumar, From Post-Industrial to Post-Modern Society: New Theories of the Contemporary World, 2nd ed. (London: Wiley-Blackwell, 2004), 62. 14. Marc Angélil and Cary Siress, “Discounting Territory: Logistics as Capital Principle of Spatial Practices,” in “Scales of the Earth,” New Geographies 4 (2011): 33.
15. For example, Walmart and FedEx. For analysis of Walmart see Jesse LeCavalier, “All Those Numbers: Logistics, Territory and Walmart,” Places (online journal), 24 May 2010, http://places.designobserver.com/feature/walmart-logistics/13598, and Angélil and Siress, “Discounting Territory,” 33–40. For analysis of FedEx see my essay “Learning From FedEx: Strategies for the City,” Journal of Landscape Architecture 7, no. 1 (Spring 2012): 54–67. 16. I’m referring to the following significant texts: Nicola Twilley, “The Coldscape,” in “Logistics,” Cabinet 47 (2012): 78–84; Deborah Richmond, “Consumers Gone Wild,” in Infrastructural City: Networked Ecologies in Los Angeles, ed. Kazys Varnelis (Barcelona/New York: ACTAR, 2009), 208–219; Keller Easterling, “DPRK,” in Enduring Innocence: Global Architecture and Its Political Masquerades (Cambridge, MA: MIT Press, 2003), 14–34; and Ellen Dunham-Jones, “Free Trade Zones, Downtown Financial Cores, and Sprawl: The Landscapes of Globalization,” in Architecture, Ethics and Globalization, ed. Graham Owen (New York: Routledge, 2009), 17–32. Although not specifically focused on logistics, it’s important to note a few influential texts by Alejandro Zaera-Polo that examine global production regimes — what he terms “late capitalism” — as a reference for contemporary practice. See the section titled “Global Positioning Systems” in his compilation The Sniper’s Log (New York: Princeton Architectural Press, 2013). For the same reason, I think it’s also important to cite Sanford Kwinter’s book Far From Equilibrium: Essays on Technology and Design Culture (Barcelona: ACTAR, 2008). 17. Alan Berger and Charles Waldheim, “Logistics Landscape,” Landscape Journal 27, no. 2 (Fall 2008): 219–246. 18. I’m referring here to scholarship categorized under the rubric of Global Cities Research, specifically the work of Ulrich Beck and Manuel Castells (sociology), Neil Brenner (urban theory), David Harvey (anthropology), Saskia Sassen (political economics) and Stephen Graham (urban technology), among others, who have produced some of the most relevant and polemical commentary on contemporary urbanism over the last twenty years. The book specifies the formal and spatial characteristics generally overlooked by those social geographers and economists with less visual training, and at the same time opens up a new zone of operation for design research, which has previously been hampered by its location “between” narrower disciplines (architecture, landscape, engineering, etc.).
Lessons 01 Site Urbanism After Geography: The Network is Context
“These places are not meaningful in themselves but only as nodes of these networks.” — Manuel Castells 1
Geography is no longer a prerequisite for urbanism; the network is. At the same time that logistics denies place, however, it would be misleading to say that it is completely a-geographic. Logistics upends the city’s traditional reliance on geophysical qualities to facilitate new possibilities for where the city might be and what it might look like. If the city is no longer a product of geography, what becomes of the age-old relationship between a city, its context and its identity? For the longest time, proximity to favorable geophysical features in the form of hydrologic, topographic, geologic and/or climatic attributes was the key factor in deciding where a city would be located. A body of water (river, lake or coast), a hill or a valley, good soil composition, adjacency to natural resources for extraction and, in some cases, weather (hot and cold) were primary urbanizing agents. In short, the city was a geographic artifact. Recently, new global networks (from social media to e-trading, from fast-track shipping to online commerce, and from high-speed, frequent transportation to apps) have shifted the long-standing relationship between geography and patterns of urbanization to the point that the contemporary city has fewer ties to place than at any point in its historical configuration. One only has to look at Aaron Koblin’s Flight Patterns from 2005 to be reminded of how mobile we are (figure 1.1); in many ways, we have become indifferent to one particular location over another. With the decreasing role of geography as a premise for urbanism, what then is the basis for the development of new or the expansion of existing urban settlements? In other words, where is the city and what form does it take?
Urbanism After Geography: The Network is Context
Anywhere, Nowhere and Everywhere Locations such as Weeze, Kaunas, Lodz, Nador, Knock or Pula may not immediately ring a bell to even the most seasoned tourist. Weeze, a German town of 10,500 people and the site of a British Royal Air Force base that closed in 1999, lies close to the Dutch border, 30 miles (48 kilometers) from Duisburg and 43 miles (70 kilometers) from Düsseldorf. Kaunas is Lithuania’s second city, with 330,000 people, and is known in history as the location where Napoleon crossed into Russia with his army in 1812. Lodz is Poland’s second city, 84 miles (135 kilometers) south of Warsaw. Nador is a port in northeast Morocco, Knock is a pilgrimage site in the west of Ireland and Pula is the fifth-largest city in Croatia, not far from Trieste on the Italian border. Yet every year 15 million people in total pass through these places because each of them has an airport principally served by the world’s largest and most popular low-cost airline network, Ryanair. Ryanair introduced the low-cost airline industry to Europe in the mid-1980s when it offered a cheaper alternative to British Airways and Aer Lingus for travelers flying between Dublin and London. In May 1997, after twelve years in business and with fourteen routes between Ireland and the UK, the company began to expand into mainland Europe by targeting small airfields with available landing slots within 100 kilometers of a major city. Lower landing fees at peripheral airports allowed the company to keep airfares low, while the logistics of flying to a less-busy airfield increased efficiency. Minor and dispersed airfields did not demand the same concentration of infrastructure, and low gate counts allowed for quick turnaround between incoming and outgoing aircraft. In fact, at twenty-five minutes between landing and takeoff, Ryanair claims to have one of the fastest turnaround times in the industry, enabling it to squeeze in up to two more flights per
1.1 Aaron Koblin, Flight Patterns, 2005
A visualization of airline traffic over North America during a single twentyfour-hour period. Colors are coded to the 573 different types of airplanes (205,000 flights) traveling through North America on a single day.
50 miles 25 miles
1.2 Ryanair terminal radii, 2010 Diagram illustrating the distances between airports used by Ryanair and closest major cities
day to a single destination. 2 For example, Beauvais (37 miles or 60 kilometers from Paris) and Charleroi (29 miles or 46 kilometers south of Brussels), which would become the company’s ﬁrst European base in 2001, both offered extraordinarily cheap deals to Ryanair for the use of their airﬁelds as backdoor portals to major cities. By the end of the year Ryanair was ﬂying from Stansted, its UK base since 1991, to Skavsta (62 miles or 100 kilometers from Stockholm) and Torp (68 miles or 110 kilometers from Oslo), and by the summer of 1998 to Carcassonne (57 miles or 91 kilometers from Toulouse), Treviso (12 miles or 20 kilometers from Venice), Malmö, Saint-Étienne, Pisa and Rimini. In 1999, the number of routes increased to include Hahn (80 miles or 128 kilometers from Frankfurt), Biarritz, Ostend, Ancona, Genoa, Turin, Derry and Aarhus (three hours from Copenhagen) (ﬁgure 1.2). In 2000, a route from Prestwick, Scotland, to Beauvais (aka Glasgow to Paris) became the ﬁrst of a series of ﬂights characterized by the public as a nowhere-to-nowhere route. Yet in three years, the company had more than doubled its annual passenger count, to 7 million. Travelers found reason to go nowhere. Jokes circulated about Ryanair’s refusal to mention to its customers that it did not ﬂy to major business centers or capital cities. Just a few months ago a sleepy South Sweden town, with a rudimentary airport called Nykoping (roughly pronounced “no shopping”, and very aptly named) discovered that it was really called Stockholm South, even though it is not much closer to Stockholm than it is to Copenhagen. Meanwhile, a disused airbase not far from Luxembourg has become Frankfurt (Hahn), and it is only a short 747 hop from Frankfurt itself, or a two-hour drive in good conditions... 3
Yet going nowhere was not only an economic phenomenon — more importantly, it became a cultural one. Ryanair, like other low-cost airline networks, preferred provincial cities ignored by legacy airlines and high-speed train systems. It speciﬁcally targeted countries with a shortage of trains, such as Sweden and Norway; poor services, as
Urbanism After Geography: The Network is Context
Inverness Aberdeen Edinburgh Glasgow
Durham Tees Dublin
Leeds Doncaster Manchester East Midlands Birmingham
L Pari Brest
Poitiers La Rochelle Limoges Angouleme Bergerac Santiago de Compostela Santander
Valladolid Zaragoza Madrid
Palma M Ibiza
Marrakesh Agadir Tenerife South
Stockholm (Vasteras) Haugesund
Stockholm (Skavsta) Gothenburg City
Smaland Aarhus Kaunas
Lodz Dusseldorf Eindhoven Maastricht Brussels
Memmingen Friedrichshafen Basel-Mulhouse
St. Etienne (Lyon) Grenoble Turin
Graz Klagenfurt Milan Brescia
Trieste Venice Pula
Parma Genoa Bologna
Nimes Montpellier Nice Marseille rs Toulon pignan
Lamezia Palermo Trapani
Ryanair primary base Ryanair base Ryanair terminal Ryanair fleet maintenance
Urbanism After Geography: The Network is Context
in the case of the UK; or expensive train transport, as in Germany.4 The use of cheap, remote-yet-accessible airfields as access points to major cities was producing a new map of Europe that revealed an alternative spatio-geographic indexing of the continent, one that focused on previously obscure places and projected them as significant points on the Euro map (figure 1.3). In building a dense web of point-to-point routes to secondary and tertiary cities and opening up new connections between them, Ryanair demonstrates how networks act as urbanizing agents for smaller insignificant places — new geographies — that suddenly emerge as pivotal sites, not because of natural features, resource extraction or climate (i.e., traditional geospatial catalysts), but because, in the case of the airline carrier, these sites had an available runway and offered quick turnaround times and cheap landing fees, rendering them potentially profitable nodes in its continental airline network. A brief itinerary for some of these locations amplifies this:
Previous: 1.3 Ryanair route network, 2010 Main image: Route map Upper left: Network trajectories Lower left: Terminal points
KNOCK AIRPORT, now called Ireland West Airport Knock, lies in a part of the country with little or no industry that has suffered sustained emigration since the famine of the 1840s. Supposedly the world’s smallest international airport, Knock was completed in 1986 on the speculation of a tourist trade to a pilgrimage site built after a reputed appearance by the Virgin Mary, St. John the Evangelist and St. Joseph to two local women in 1879. After verification by the Vatican, the site became a recognized Marian shrine that is visited by 1.5 million people each year, the centerpiece of which is a basilica big enough to hold 10,000 people. Despite the miracle, religion did not prove to be a successful motivator of business, and the airport at Knock was rendered a white elephant and further tainted after news that it was part of a laundering deal involving the then-Taoiseach Charles Haughey, who had initially given the go-ahead for the project. Nonetheless, Knock was exactly the airfield location that Ryanair was looking for: remote, cheap and accessible to a local population that traditionally did not avail of air travel. Moreover, it is one hour from Galway, Ireland’s third-largest city, which in 2004 — before the global economic crisis, which was particularly severe in Ireland — was one of Europe’s fastest-growing cities. Ryanair also hoped that their presence would cater to those who left this part of the country to find work in the US and England starting in
the mid-1970s. Conceivably, it soon became possible for young people to commute to London rather than leave home for good, adopting a jet-setting working lifestyle instead of full-on emigrating. Ryanair and later EasyJet and Bmibaby conducted scheduled air services to Knock from Birmingham, Bristol, Dublin, East Midlands, Glasgow, Liverpool, Gatwick, Luton, Stansted and Manchester, and in so doing not only popularized the shrine but also energized economic development in and around the airport and region. In April 2013, Ryanair added a weekly flight to Málaga to their already-popular services to Alicante, Faro on the Algarve coast, Gran Canaria, Lanzarote and Tenerife and later added Eindhoven, Prestwick and Kaunas. An ambitious plan to develop a major world-class business park with eco-friendly features adjacent to Knock Airport is under discussion that attempts to leverage the airport as a regional economic driver for the west of Ireland. The population of the village of Knock in 2006 was 745, yet today, nearly 700,000 passengers come and go each year to twenty-eight destinations. Knock beats Venice for the largest disparity between resident and visiting populations. Now that’s a miracle! CHARLEROI is not a pretty place. Located 31 miles (50 kilometers) south of Brussels in the French-speaking region, with a population of 201,000, Charleroi is the Pittsburgh of Belgium. Legend has it that there were sheep grazing on the runway at Charleroi airport when Ryanair arrived to discuss the possibility of opening service from Stansted with the Walloon government. 5 In April 2009, the airport authority completed a new terminal at the airfield that is now called Brussels South Charleroi Airport. In June 2009, 348,000 passengers passed through, marking a 40 percent increase from the same period in 2008. Routes from the airport doubled from thirty-one to sixty-two over the same period. Yet these routes aren’t exactly scenic: located in an area called the “pays noir” — French for “black country” — after its extensive coal deposits, the city was the location of some of the largest industrial and steel manufacturing plants in northwest Europe until recently. Charleroi is the quintessential post-industrial northern European urban landscape, as evidenced by the numerous conical slag heaps that ring its periphery and those of other towns in this area. Unemployment is about 25 percent, the highest in Belgium. A 2010
Urbanism After Geography: The Network is Context
article in the Wall Street Journal opens with the following description of the city as it is experienced on a particular local tour: Nicolas Buissart leads an “Urban Safari” that includes climbing a slag heap, exploring never-used metro stations, walking down streets reputed to be the ugliest in this country, and visiting the house where the painter Magritte’s mother lived — before she drowned herself in the canal.6
If curiosity (or depravity) persists, it is possible to arrange a visit to the home where an infamous Belgian serial killer imprisoned his victims. Buissart, an artist and the organizer of the tour, says that reservations at 25 euros per head are “robust” and mainly due to the people passing into and out of the airport. Despite the fact that locals are mesmerized that outsiders would actually want to visit, Buissart admits in the same article that he has started selling “I love Charleroi” T-shirts and bumper stickers in Flemish and French. BERGERAC, in the southwest of France, has become one of the more popular destinations for Ryanair, serving British people with houses in the Dordogne area (or the “Dordogneshire,” as it has come to be known).7 Ryanair now flies here from six British airports. By the early to mid-1990s, thanks to a favorable exchange rate, cheaper property prices, a slower pace of life and an extensive low-cost airline network in place between the two countries, Britons began to buy second homes in France for weekends and holidays. There are currently twenty-six Ryanair destinations in France, the most of any European country (Britain and Italy follow, each with twenty-two routes), which is surprising given that France, more than its European neighbors, is centralized and well served by high-speed rail (the TGV) at an affordable price. 8 A quarter of the population of the small town of Eymet is British, for example, and its public commons hosts 22 yards (20 meters) of green matting for a cricket wicket.9 The Emyet Cricket Club (or Club Eymetois de Cricket) is one of the first of its kind in France, and according to its website was founded in 1983 by expats who were “seriously missing their favorite sport.” Brings new meaning to the term “French Cricket.”
1.4 Aerial view of Stansted Airport Hard to believe that such a bucolic site is the epicenter of the European low-cost airline network.
STANSTED opened its terminal as London’s third airport in 1991. Once a naval base, the airport sits in a bucolic agricultural area, 30 miles (48 kilometers) northeast of London. It was developed as part of an expansion plan after the BAA (British Airports Authority) proposed to cap traffic at Heathrow as a means of reducing congestion. After much protest from transatlantic airlines at the prospect of no new landing slots at one of the world’s busiest airports and being forced to land so far from London’s city center, the BAA reversed its decision and removed the cap, leaving Stansted stranded without any airlines — that, despite the attraction of a cheaper fees and quicker turnaround times, preferred to fly into Heathrow irrespective of congestion. Desperate to strike a deal, Stansted contracted with Ryanair in return for very cheap landing fees. By 2002 Stansted was a mecca for the Euro lowcost air travel network largely because of the presence of Ryanair, its biggest customer, who at that point ran forty-four outbound routes to European destinations. In 2003 Ryanair purchased Buzz, KLM’s low-cost wing, and in the process acquired additional landing slots at Stansted as well as a means to gain valuable access to European countries not yet in the European Community. After this takeover, Ryanair held 60 percent of airport operations at Stansted, with routes to over one hundred destinations. Stansted became the fourth-busiest airport in the UK (after Heathrow, Gatwick and Manchester). Despite a fall in the number of flights since an all-time high in 2007, Stansted at one point was itself considered for expansion under a larger plan to solve air-traffic congestion in the Greater London Area, since it is one of the few locations where additional runways are plausible. Recent reports seem to suggest that this is no longer an option.10 Either way,
Urbanism After Geography: The Network is Context
a one-room glass pavilion designed by Norman Foster (1981–1991) in a cornfield in Essex considered by many to be too remote from a major city is arguably one of the most significant hubs in Europe — not to mention a global lounge for Europe’s youth as they wing their way through European sites previously accessible via the famous but now superseded InterRail ticket (figure 1.4). And now Europe is represented by a continental map with barely recognizable place names, a cartographic feat made possible by entrepreneurial vigor 11 in tandem with a series of revisions to the political limits of European airspace and larger structural changes in the EU.12 Facilitating this physiographic upheaval was a very specific species of logistical intelligence: the point-to-point airspace model. Developed by Southwest Airlines in 1971 when it began carrying passengers on its three planes between Dallas, Houston and San Antonio, Texas, as the name suggests, the point-to-point system allows direct transfer from point A to point B. This differs form the “hub and spoke” model, popularized by Delta Airlines after deregulation of the airline industry in the US in 1978, which transported passengers from point A to point B by transferring them through point C. This system is preferred by the larger, legacy airlines because it offers more destinations with fewer planes, as passengers can fly to a wide range of places via hub airports rather than direct transfer.13 Ryanair likened the emphasis on point-to-point travel and the scale of Southwest’s system, which specialized in direct transfer to cities less than 400 miles (644 kilometers, or one hour) apart, to the geographical distance and time between many European cities, although today Ryanair’s most popular routes are between even closer cities (and in some cases cities within the same country).14 The connectivity offered by the point-to-point model, combined with political and economic transformations across the EU, has eroded the continent as a series of large nation-states in favor of a matrix of points — cities — that are identified not in association with or by their geographic location or host country but through the communication axes made possible by the network in which they find themselves. This only reinforces the upheaval that many sociologists and global-city theorists have already been writing about: the demise of the socio-spatial organization of the modern nation-state in favor of
cities; the privatization (and splintering) of infrastructure; the liquidity of borders; a redefinition of the term regionalism beyond political and geographic boundaries; and the fact that the primary socio-economic magnets are now transnational networks, not symbolic capitals of the industrial era. But from the perspective of architecture and urbanism, other disciplinary linkages emerge from Ryanair’s alternative map that might advance discourse on the decaying relationship between urbanization and geography and more explicitly identify a new affiliation between urban configuration and site. In dissociating the notion of “place” from a location in a particular country and considering it as a moment in a larger set of processes, in this case a destination in a continental air-traffic network, logistics liberates the city from traditional territorial constraints and instead positions it within a larger mesh of connectivity, what Manuel Castells calls a “space of flows.” Place has lost its association with a literal geophysical context and is instead defined by a more abstract relationship with some other point in a larger geo-network context. Its local territorial value is less significant than its continental one. As a result, the city no longer has to be somewhere to exist as an urban environment; instead, it can be nowhere — for example, Knock, Charleroi or Pula. In turn, the dense connectivity to a lot of nowheres made possible by the point-to-point network allows small cities the same degree of access as larger ones. Lodz is on par with Paris. In permitting total access, geographic hierarchy is abandoned and the city is anywhere. Moreover, the direct point-to-point shuttle connections made possible by Ryanair facilitate a transportation network that reorganizes Europe as a single mega-regional landscape rather than four distinct spatial categories previously set in place either by politics (the Eastern Bloc) or geography (the British Isles, Scandinavia and mainland Europe). Iceland and Ireland are no longer islands. Sweden and Norway deny their northerly latitudes to become part of mainland Europe.15 In summary, the most notable effect of the point-to-point air network — frequent route schedules and multiple travel itineraries to peripheral cities offered first by Ryanair and later by EasyJet, mibaby (BMI) and, more recently, Norwegian Air Shuttle — is a new urban field at the transnational scale, a field where urbanity has burst its seams to extend beyond oceans and regions and encompasses
Urbanism After Geography: The Network is Context
a sort of continental urbanism, overcoming the geophysical barriers and hierarchies that previously organized the territory. The city is not just nowhere and anywhere, it’s everywhere. Nowhere, anywhere, everywhere, what we learn is that geography is overwritten as an agent for urbanization because space is now rendered active by communication flows. Other logistical networks beyond airline transportation only reaffirm this, as is illustrated by the following:
1.5 Mapping the Internet, 2011
1. The increase in the size and significance of certain metropolitan areas beyond their geographical origins and irrespective of their geographical location. Cities such as London, New York and Paris (among others) have ascended as elite centers — what sociologist and economist Saskia Sassen characterizes as global cities — not because of where they are located but because of the many networks (mostly money, trade and stocks) that pass through them and the corresponding accretion of facilities and economies required to serve these networks. These range from corporate operations to logistical processes and the corresponding secondary and tertiary services in the form of legal, educational, research and public relations agencies and their support
1.6 Shipping routes, 2012
infrastructure (from R+D firms to lorry drivers) that piggyback on the networked infrastructure already in place.16 2. Telecommunication flows linking cities that are geographically distant from each other. Geographer Richard G. Smith describes how high-speed fiber optic cables linking London and New York in milliseconds enable these cities to merge into a single urban entity that he calls NYLON, ignoring the ocean that separates them.17 A land-borne fiber optic cable serving the stock market laid in 2007 between New York and Chicago was built as the straightest possible infrastructural conduit, denying natural obstacles, rights of way and privately owned land in between,18 while popular international telecommunication networks such as Facebook and LinkedIn allow one living in Antwerp to connect in real time with a friend or an associate in India (figure 1.5). 3. The ease and speed with which goods are distributed across territories and geographic boundaries. FedEx, the once-US, now-global priority shipping company, claims it will deliver a package to 95 percent of the world within forty-eight hours. Amazon.com, the world’s largest online retailer, is available on three continents, promising an endless supply of goods regardless of where you live (figure 1.6). From whatever perspective you take, logistics has a huge impact on the relation of cities to geography by either identifying alternative sites of interest based on criteria beyond geophysical and natural phenomena (new geographies based on economic, infrastructural and social networks, such as Ryanair destinations) or upending the importance of location (physical place), licensing an undeniable degree of fluidity that removes us from almost all territorial dependency in almost every aspect of our lives. Live in Pisa, work in Luxembourg. The network has replaced geography as the context for urbanism.
Urbanism After Geography: The Network is Context
A Brief History of Urbanism and Geography It is very hard to explain why a city was located where it is or why one city would develop at a particular site more than another, but for the most part the location of a city historically was greatly influenced by its physical features — what in planning terms is commonly referred to as natural advantage. Lewis Mumford writes that the sites for intermediary Mesolithic settlements, which date from the period circa 13,000 BC and mark the transition from the Paleolithic (early stone age) to the Neolithic (late stone age), were chosen for practical concerns such as provision of water, shelter and food. Preference for a particular location was therefore decided by its adjacency to a spring as well as a mound of land accessible to and protected by a river or a swamp and close to a waterway for fishing.19 (Mumford also notes that in some cases, symbolic rituals and supernatural phenomena — a grotto, a tomb or a pilgrimage shrine — played a role in the development of settlements as well.) Natural advantage also encompasses broader geophysical features. For example, soil conditions were responsible for the location of the earliest great civilizations in Egypt, Mesopotamia and present-day Pakistan and Iran; it is no surprise that early urban communities flourished in this part of the world given the rich silts deposited in its numerous river valleys, facilitating fertile farming. It was also during this period that ancient Egyptians and Sumerians first made boats from reeds, a natural advantage that was defined by adjacency to infrastructural landscapes — in this case, rivers that were no longer seen only as food sources but were also recognized as transportation arteries. 20 Much later, tidal rivers became significant assets to Roman outposts and early medieval towns because they simultaneously offered transportation routes as well as a means of defense, in that settlements had access to a coast but were not left vulnerable on the coast itself.Interior settlements were equally grounded; the typical Roman city, regardless of location, was geographically determined by the orientation of its principal axes, the cardo running north–south and the decumanus running east–west. Late medieval towns, where security was paramount, fashioned hilltop enclaves that defied any practical logic. Narrow winding streets mimicked contours, demonstrating that natural advantage equated to topographic advantage, which according
Newcastle Durham Whitehaven Cleveland Leeds Manchester Liverpool
Derby Birmingham Northhampton Banbury Swansea Cardiff
1.7 Resource urbanism Looking at the location of many of the larger cities in the UK emphasizes the correlation between the industrial-era city and geological resources.
to Bernard Cache was “a primary concern in the establishment of cities.”21 By the early industrial era, natural advantage was defined not only by proximity to a primary waterway but also, and perhaps more importantly, by proximity to natural resources for extraction. Geography was power. Coal mines, among other resources, were responsible for the location and size of many of the industrial towns in France, England and the Ruhr area of Germany as well as the Appalachia region in the American northeast, while in the US the Gold Rush (1848–1858) was responsible for San Francisco (figure 1.7). Necessity for hydropower resulted in mill cities being dispersed in regions with fast-flowing streams or waterfalls, and later, when steam was used, it was locations adjacent to both hydrological flows and coal mines that developed most, a double natural advantage that explains Manchester’s evolution in its day as one of the major cotton-spinning centers in the world. Natural advantage was also responsible for the zoning of the industrial city. Factories were positioned near waterfronts, mostly
Urbanism After Geography: The Network is Context
rivers, because they were an easy site for the disposal of refuse. A specific stretch of the South Branch of the Chicago River was known as “Bubbly Creek” owing to noxious gas emitted from rotting waste cast out by the Union Stockyards, which at the turn of the century was one of the largest meat processing plants in the world — gases, according to author Upton Sinclair in his famous novel The Jungle, that documented the sordid conditions at the yards and caused the water to bubble. 22 Not far away, in Cleveland, another Midwestern city, the Cuyahoga River became one of the most polluted rivers in the US and reportedly caught fire on no fewer than thirteen occasions from the mid-nineteenth century to 1969. 23 By the turn of the century, oil extraction was the development mechanism for some cities in the US (e.g., Houston) and other boom-and-bust urban settlements elsewhere, while hydroelectric power was a source of regional development, illustrated best in the Tennessee Valley during the 1930s. 24 However, despite the a-geographic tendencies of contemporary logistical systems, it would be foolish to think that natural features no longer have any agency in determining a city’s location. Resource extraction is still an active instigator of urbanism, and at the time of writing this chapter, a new species of rapid urbanization is emerging as a result of shale oil extraction in Texas and Wyoming and “fracking,” or hydraulic fracturing, in North Dakota. (In 2013 the fastest-growing city in the US was Odessa, Texas.) While offshore oil extraction in South America is producing new cities, many of them are temporary and lack adequate infrastructure. 25 Elsewhere, cities from Calgary to Cairo to Perth are emerging as boomtowns as a result of oil and/or gas industries. 26 When it suits them, even the emerging networks that claim to deny geography are not immune to the benefit of natural advantage in the form of climatic opportunism. The cooling required by the massive data centers that store and process the information necessary to operate contemporary logistical regimes has resulted in the development of sites with access to cheap or, where possible, free energy. In the case of the former, of particular interest is Quincy, Washington, which is located on the Columbia River, one of the largest hydroelectric power sources in the US. Microsoft opened a data storage center there in 2006, when local utility companies began to offer large technology companies power at half the national average rate. 27 Google built a facility in 2006 close to one of the five dams
near the town of Dalles, on the Oregon side of the river. The half-mile Dalles Dam includes a 1.8 gigawatt power station that provides the facility with 103 megawatts of electricity. That’s equal to the power required by 100,000 homes. (There are 1,552 homes in Quincy.) Of importance here is not just the river as a cheap power resource, but that Dalles is also linked by an artery to the coastal landing base of the Pacific Crossing PC-1 network at Harbour Pointe, Washington, a high-speed fiber optic cable that connects Asia to the US. Access to a global fiber optic network with cheap electricity combines natural and network advantage to render the Quincy Cluster as one of the emerging territories of the twenty-first century. Suffice it to say that natural advantage is still a valid concept but not enough on its own. Whether for food, shelter, defense, trade, power or symbolism, the city in history was a product of geography, and by extension so were perceptions of place. Even as time-space networks from the railroad to the telegram advanced in the industrial and early modern eras to erode a city’s geographic dependency, people were for the most part still bounded by some sort of fundamental, visceral understanding of and attachment to place. David Harvey writes that in feudal times, one knew little beyond the confines of one’s village, rendering the notion of place both a tactile and interior concept; anything beyond was represented through sinister imagery and demonic tales. With later advances in surveying and mapping techniques, fear of the outside diminished in favor of control over it, 28 while developments in urban technologies and infrastructural networks in the mid-nineteenthcentury city cultivated feelings of alienation and dislocation as the city evolved into a more abstract place. 29 Notwithstanding modernity’s geographic neutrality, for the most part a typical person’s territorial range over their lifetime remained confined to his or her city and region. Transportation was slow (in 1900 the fastest option for travel from New York to Los Angeles was by train, which took four days) and expensive (it was not until the late nineteenth century that many of the new rail lines in London were affordable for the working class). 30 Despite that, these technologies began to destabilize the city’s sociospatial organization; one worked and lived close to the factory or office, and although the rise of the suburbs and highways expanded the city’s reach regionally, geospatial references (downtown and suburb, core and periphery) remained familiar categorizations of urban order.
Urbanism After Geography: The Network is Context
Not until the 1970s, when logistical systems began to penetrate daily routines, did the a-geographic tendencies of neoliberal production flows really start to reshape perceptions of the city (and thereby definitions of place) by finally severing the city’s flailing reliance on territorial relationships. The ultimate denial of these relationships is most cogently summarized by the Castells term “space of flows,” and by Stephen Graham when he writes that the scales of urbanism (building, neighborhood, city, region and continent) have lost significance in structuring the built environment because in the space of flows, remote locations sometimes have more in common than places within in the same city.31 Graham reminds us that it is now unclear where one spatial category begins and another ends. Given the continued shifts in urbanization made possible by logistics — flows of people (the deregulation of the airline industry that led to an upsurge in air travel), flows of goods (advances in shipping infrastructure courtesy of FedEx et al.) and flows of information (communication flows as well as social and entertainment networks) — it’s no surprise that today scholarship on the relation between geography, urbanism and place looks beyond
1.8 Diagram of an eperopolis Diagram of an evolving eperopolis in the Rhine region of Europe that was already emerging at the time of Doxiadis’s predictions. Encompassing an area extending from Paris to Prague and from Bremen to Munich, Doxiadis categorizes this as a small eperopolis that by the year 2000 would comprise the integration of sixteen cities and about 120 million people. In contrast, a mature eperopolis in the middle of the twenty-first century would comprise 500 million to 6 billion people.
the natural, geophysical and geological to alternative frameworks that explain contemporary conditions and anticipate future modes of urban organization. One such framework is complete urbanization — that is, the notion that urbanization will become so prevalent that it will take over the entire world. This thesis has its origins in French sociologist Henri Lefebvre’s theory of the mesh, a term he coined to illustrate global capitalism’s continued absorption of rural and agricultural lands into urban areas in the 1960s.32 The recent neo–geo-urban narratives of urban sociologist Neil Brenner borrow from and advance Lefebvre’s thesis of compete urbanization and the concept of the mesh with a framework for complete urbanization that Brenner calls the planetary, a concept describing an expanded field of large-scale urban constellations composed of fragmented bits comprising traditional built-up core areas as well as thin support landscapes (for example, waste and resource sites or infrastructural, industrial and commercial zones found outside the traditional city limits that become the glue that connects one built core settlement to another).33 The mesh and the planetary are not the only frameworks for dealing with the hypothesis of complete urbanization. In 1975, Greek planner and architect Constantinos Doxiadis projected the city of the future as a continuously urbanized zone. Doxiadis’s theory emerged from his own interpretations of Jean Gottman’s research on the expansion of cities on the eastern US seaboard, specifically the territory from Boston to Washington DC, which at that time was developing as one large continuous urban area and to which in 1954 Gottman applied the term megalopolis. Doxiadis’s future city would be made up of a series of ekistic units of various scales. For example, an eperopolis is a larger unit of urbanization than the one proposed by Gottman and comprises the fusion of a number of megalopolises; Doxiadis estimated that by the year 2000 twelve eperopolises would exist around the world comprising fifty to fiftyfive megalopolises, the largest of which would have a population of 250 to 300 million people (figure 1.8). By the mid-twenty-first century these eperopolises would develop into even bigger settlements that would, to use Doxiadis’s words, “form larger coherent systems at the scale of continents.” By the year 2100, these would merge to form the largest spatial unit, an ecumenopolis named Anthropos, a city that would take on the dimension of the entire globe, occupying between
Urbanism After Geography: The Network is Context
28 and 50 percent of the world’s total land area with a water supply sufficient to support a population of 19 to 20 billion. 34 And Doxiadis was not alone in devising a plan for continental urbanism. In 1994, Yona Friedman outlined a schema for large-scale urbanism based on high-speed train transportation in Europe and envisaged that 120 to 150 of the largest cities in Europe would be interconnected to render the continent one large city.35 As conceptual frameworks, none of these imply a formal vision of complete urbanization. Lefebvre’s is a theoretical reflection and Brenner’s an interpretive one, although Brenner has deployed nightlight aerial views of regions to communicate the planetary to great effect; 36 Doxiadis is ultimately articulating a planning schema formatted as charts and projections, although his maps indicate that a mature eperopolis would take on linear characteristics composed of dense tentacles extending out along transportation systems and coastlines, bringing to mind more visionary linear megastructural proposals completed by architects from a slightly earlier time period. In fact, the megastructure is important here for two reasons, not only because it’s a familiar trope (one might say the only one) to visualize continuous large-scale urban configurations, but also because the main premise of the megastructure was its complete indifference to local geography. In depicting the landscape as a wholly constructed architectural artifact in the form of an infinitely extendable structural framework into which smaller units can be positioned, or as a field-like assembly of repetitive units that aggregate across large areas, the megastructure had an inherent capability to organize large stretches of territory. Mike Mitchell and Dave Boutwell’s Comprehensive City Project (1969), a transcontinental city running east–west across the entire United States intended for 1 billion people and Raimund Abraham’s Universal City (1966) were both modeled on the idea of the linear city and are worth mentioning for their capacity to colonize the entire world. 37 Superstudio’s Continuous Monument for Total Urbanization (1969), more explicit in its monumentality, remains agnostic when it comes to geographic features and place; a linear aqueduct-like superstructure invades working-class streets in Dickensian Coketown in the same way it bridges over the Hudson River in New York. A caption to one of the project’s many storyboard sequences reads, for example, “One may cross deserts, cover over canyons, join up Alpine lakes.” But it
was Archizoom’s No-Stop City (1969) that illustrated the most extreme version of this impulse, not only because it had a similar global ambition, but also more significantly because the absence of an exterior, surely the ultimate denial of geography, implied that complete urbanization was in effect an interior condition.38 The problem — and one that is somewhat overlooked in the recent uptick of interest lauding the merits of megastructuralism — is that the uniformity put forward by these projects and others belies what all contemporary theorists of global and network urbanization are telling us; despite what their titles imply, complete urbanization is uneven. Lefebvre’s mesh is holey: Brenner interprets Lefebvre’s mesh more or less as a woven fabric, but one with variable densities where natural features and rural islands that resist expansion still exist. So the mesh, while continuous, has an uneven consistency. Meanwhile, Brenner’s bits are fragmented; the planetary similarly describes an uneven expansion of the city outward. Bits vary in size and density, and while they are urban, they might exhibit lower degrees of urbanity than the built-up areas they serve to connect. In this way these support landscapes are read simultaneously as gaps, akin to Lefebvre’s holes, within a larger planetary organization that is neither rural nor urban overall. (In fact, Brenner uses the term as a means to remove himself from historical definitions of the city that are premised on the opposition of these terms.) In the case of Doxiadis, the size of settlements is based on the extents of “daily systems of movement,” with the radii of systems at different cities overlapped and superimposed to form a larger unit. Even the ecumenopolis is not presented as one vast built-up area; instead his diagrams describe core zones (composite settlements) linked by transportation networks and held together by in-between dispersed zones, which are conceived in much the same way as Brenner’s planetary glue. 39 And finally, more recently, Saskia Sassen describes the global city as “lumpy” — in other words, large world cities display a certain unevenness expressed by areas that exhibit extreme intensity surrounded by areas of low activity.40 At the same time, setting aside its monumental aspirations and penchant for extreme order — both unsuitable models for the city given that flexibility, time and change are critical forces of contemporary urbanization — the legacy of the megastructure, more so than the other concepts mentioned above, lies in how it visualizes the critical
Urbanism After Geography: The Network is Context
role of the network as the generative force in large-scale urban settlements; in these projects it is the network that allows new lifestyles to emerge, and the mechanism that mediates between the large territorial scale and the individual unit. Paul Rudolph’s LOMEX (1967–1972), Sir Geoffrey Jellicoe’s Motopia (1959) and Kenzo Tange’s Plan for Tokyo (1960) as well as Vittorio Gregotti’s extension to the University of Florence (1971), among others, are cities on a highway; Jersey Corridor by Peter Eisenman and Michael Graves (1965) and Mitchell and Boutwell’s project mentioned above propose a city above a transcontinental high-speed train network; Raymond Hood’s project for Manhattan in 1950 (1929) is composed of a series of inhabited bridges. The megastructure recognizes flow as the organizational mechanism for complete urbanization by rendering the network as not only a context for urbanism but also the form of urbanism. These frameworks (from Lefebvre to Tange) are significant in that they contemplate urbanism after geography and thereby offer up potential models for the nowhere, anywhere and everywhere manifested by communication and logistical flows that will only become even more prevalent as networks increase their reach and influence. For example, if I turn attention back to the Ryanair route map, it might be that the 75-mile (120-kilometer) distance between Frankfurt and Ryanair’s airport at Hahn or the area between Hahn and Luxembourg already reinforces the concept of Lefebvre’s mesh. In having passengers travel for two hours to reach their destination, Ryanair extends Frankfurt to Hahn (or vice versa), rendering it as one continuously, although uneven, urbanized vector. Like the mesh, the Hahn/Frankfurt/ Luxembourg vector comprises both traditional core settlements as well as rural landscapes within the vector’s territory. Moreover, Brenner’s conceptual framework can be applied to explain the implications of Ryanair’s use of peripheral airports as access points to elite settlements (as the airports can best be described as the bits linking larger urban cores), the combined effect of which is a reading of the entire continent as a series of planetary conditions or one large galactic one. In addition, one might say that continued expansion by Ryanair to remote places only serves to urbanize the entire continent, which is not so far from Friedman’s Continent City or Doxiadis’s theory and the settlements he describes. Moreover, in 1960 Doxiadis calibrated the global average radius of movement systems to be 56 miles (90
kilometers) but predicted that this number would triple by the turn of the twenty-first century to 120 miles (200 kilometers). Using the typical distances Ryanair covers we can expand this number, and by extension the average movement radii (remember, live in Pisa, work in Luxembourg) even further. The eperopolis exists. Finally, it’s important to mention that urbanism’s exchange with geography should not be restricted to a discussion of large-scale socio-spatial organizations and cultural perceptions of place but can also be channeled through a more specific discussion of city and site. Historically this kind of discussion has been directed in architecture through opposing debates centered around phenomenology — placemaking and context — on the one hand, and around the tabula rasa and the generic on the other. Christian Norberg-Schulz’s famous book Genius Loci identifies the intangible phenomena of a place that extend far beyond physical features to that which involves an “environmental character” or the “essence of place,” a geographic attribute that cannot be reduced to physical (quantifiable) properties but rather embodies an existential dimension in the form of an atmosphere or spirit, which nonetheless can only be found at a place where the identity of the natural landscape figures predominantly.41 Norberg-Schulz’s genius loci is presented as fundamental to the building of a legible identity for a city, a belief that has percolated more directly into architectural discourse through regionalism (the thought that buildings could and should express some facet of their local surroundings); 42 as contextualism (that buildings should respect the physical and historical fabric that exists);43 and through the term site specificity, an idiom imported from the art world used for works that integrate themselves with their surroundings or that render tangible a quality of the place in which they are situated.44 In all cases geography became synonymous with the creation of a certain sense of place and a means to distinguish one specific location from another — what Kevin Lynch would characterize as imageability.45 In opposition to this, architecture’s other approach to geography is to deny it: for example, by ignoring site in the tabula rasa approach of post-war urban design and mid- to late-century “urban renewal” in the US and, more recently, through the sameness or universality of the material configurations (the mesh and bits) of globalizationdriven urban reorganization. While some critics describe this condition
Urbanism After Geography: The Network is Context
as nondescript and homogenous, others find autonomy in the belief that the generic liberates designers (planners and architects) from the constraints and ideologies of a place, freeing them to generate their own.46 In other words, geography and its associated placeness need no longer be determined by local environmental or natural features but might be shaped by artificial ones created and customized at will. So how does one position urbanism and geography now within this continuum? That the network now has more significance in the urbanization of a site than any natural, geographical and phenomenological attributes raises an important question about placemaking — and this should not cause concern for those who think that network context is another disguise for generic context or, worse, no context at all. But the fact remains: with the denial of geography, the identity of the city is called into question. That network advantage, not natural advantage, is emerging as a more significant mechanism for urban form signifies a new relationship between city, place and site. In lieu of geography, can network context provide a new sense of meaning, place, identity and imageability? The answer is yes, and in some cities, such as Chicago and LA, it already has.
The Network as Context and Catalyst One might assume that Reyner Banham’s seminal book about LA, with its subtitle containing the words Four Ecologies, would reinforce traditional associations between geography, urbanism and identity. After all, geography is presented not only as a geophysical and natural attribute but as an active cultural agent, since the ecologies in question — Surfurbia (the beach), Autopia (the freeway), the Plains of Id and the Foothills — have all actively impacted the architectural evolution of the city and, in a perfect registration of environmental determinism, the way its citizens have come to occupy it. However, of interest in Banham’s book is that one of these ecologies, the freeway, is not a naturally occurring geographic condition but instead an artificial one, and — even more significant given the argument here — a network condition presented on equal footing with the other three. In fact, despite the power of the natural landscape in establishing the
identities of the beach, foothills and plains, it is the network ecology that has emerged as dominant, something Banham attributes to the scale of the highway system as well as it being an unavoidable space in the city. The significance of the highway is further highlighted by the way postcards, surely the most popular graphic representation of a place, proudly illustrate the sprawling infrastructure and its spaghetti intersections as the de-facto image of LA, such that the network and not geography emerges as the iconic identity of the city. Not at all a generic landscape, on the contrary the highway is imbued with that most critical component of placemaking — a local inflection — and thus possesses the same genius loci that Norberg-Schulz reserves for the natural landscape. Banham writes, “The freeway system in its totality is now a single comprehensible place, a coherent state of mind, a complete way of life.… The freeway is where the Angelenos live a large part of their lives.” 47 In the thirty-five years since the book was written the network has become the pervasive context for the city, a reading amplified by recent books such as those by Jane Wolff and Kazys Varnelis that continue where Banham leaves off by illustrating that the infrastructural networks of a city (from telecommunication cables to a water channel to a freight rail) are not merely service conduits but are the social, cultural and physical context of a metropolitan area.48 So too Chicago reveals the pretense of geography as either planning agent or urban icon. Supposedly blessed with “unrivaled geographic location,” Chicago soon experienced the disadvantages that nature had to offer. William Cronon argues that it was the emergence of the railroad, not necessarily the city’s position on the Great Lakes, that fueled urban development. Just as well, too, since Cronon is right to highlight that despite its geographically superior position on the southern edge of Lake Michigan, Chicago’s natural features required a good deal of work to maintain their usefulness.49 Chicago’s natural geography has been so operated on that it’s hard to tell what the original urban canvas looked like. Here, geography has either been combatted (a stubborn and reoccurring sand spit was finally dredged to allow access from the river to the lakes); reversed (the flow of the Chicago River was altered in 1900 to prevent contaminated water from entering Lake Michigan); reconfigured (the river was straightened in 1929 so that rail yards could align with the city grid); raised (the city
Urbanism After Geography: The Network is Context
is 10 feet higher than its original elevation to allow efficient drainage of surface water, the extra height accommodated by debris from the great fire of 1871); or ignored (by the mid-to-late nineteenth century, the railroad had superseded the lakes as the primary transportation corridor). In fact, it could be argued that the city is more indebted to the railroad — network context — than to its geography, an identity made clear in the form of the multi-layered infrastructural systems and public works projects so vividly depicted by Alvin Boyarsky in the postcard collection of the city published in his famous essay “Chicago à la Carte.”50 Rather than play up the picturesque virtues of the flat prairie, here, harbors, canals, bridges, railroads, elevated trains, freight tunnels and subterranean service roads (as many as eight levels of infrastructure) are presented as “the highly desired apparatus representing the tangible miracles of contemporary life” that to Boyarsky was the materialization of the first great network metropolis, Marinetti’s Futurist city. And it was the infrastructural systems of the early twentieth century, not geographic genetics, that in turn informed Chicago’s architecture: its buildings and their environments are legacies not of nature but of the early logistical systems of the modern city in the form of grain (Chicago Board of Trade), mail (post office), meat processing (Union Stockyards) (figure 1.9) and mail order (Sears Tower) networks that in turn awarded it a gritty but nonetheless “inverted aesthetic acceptance”51 — in other words, its identity. It’s enough to say that the network has agency to inscribe imageability and by extension is simultaneously a placemaking device. Chicago and LA illustrate the role of industrial-era network formations (rail, water and highway) in the planning and identity of the city. Consequently, it’s worth anticipating contemporary and future network contexts and their opportunities for and effects on architecture. That systems of flow are the primary engineer of urbanization might suggest that the attendant spaces of global networks are important catalysts for urban development. If, as Brenner writes, “urban space can be understood by the networks that pass through it,” then from
1.9 Chicago packing houses and Union Stockyards, 1901 The stockyard on the South Side of Chicago, the largest slaughterhouse and meatprocessing facility in the US (and perhaps the world), was a city in and of itself, employing 40,000 people in its heyday in the 1920s. Live animals were transported here on railcars from the Great Plains and the South. Later packed meat was shipped onto the eastern seabord in refrigerated cars. Drawing by SanbornPerris Map Co. Ltd., New York City.
the perspective of architectural design, significant sites along these networks, zones that have “material infrastructure” (to quote Brenner again), are ripe sites for new urban form.52 And that gives new relevance to sites that previously have been ignored by the architectural (and planning) community or sites that are deemed on the margins of urban space — new geographies such as airports and distribution sites, data centers and even logistical centers emerge as urban catalysts in their own right. This is not to naively imply these sites have the power to introduce new forms of density in the way that industrial urban cores did in the past; rather, these sites might restructure the horizontal sprawl and its associated lifestyles that are slowly emerging as the only material reality of global urbanism, despite other existing conceptual frameworks and avant-garde visions of complete urbanization. Moreover, isn’t it the case that the aerial images of logistical sites — especially port terminals and inland ports, with their supra-rational compositions of linear infrastructures, mostly trunk and spur rail lines and container parking — are emerging as the new image of the city? Developing synergies at these locations and contemplating their corresponding cultural scenarios requires a specific approach to planning. Networks extend across large territories yet uncover very specific local attributes. Rumor has it that FedEx uses bike couriers for delivery in Shanghai, and in Japan corner stores host computers for online commerce. While the network claims to deny place, it simultaneously recalibrates itself in response to local criteria, sometimes at very small moments. In fact, the real intelligence of logistics is to resolve small details (tangible localisms) as a way to smooth out the larger global (abstract) strategy. Finding and documenting these details within the immaterial processes of global flow allows one to hijack, leverage and even reconfigure the technocratic suppositions on which logistical flow rests. Abstract processes, if rigorously explored, can be mined in order to uncover nuanced moments of latent opportunity. This shifts how architects and landscape architects approach “site analysis” as a generative act in configuring urban form, from only drawing the geophysical qualities of a given site to identifying other contextual properties (time, change, sequence, and so on) that are germane to networks. In an attempt to explain how designers might pursue new interpretations of site, a few years ago I coined
Urbanism After Geography: The Network is Context
240 es mil
Mitchell Airport Milwaukee 9,848,377 passengers Wayne International Airport Detroit 32,377,064 passengers
O'Hare Airport Chicago 66,665,390 passengers
Total Yearly Passenger Population of Midwest Airline Corridor: 108,890,831 Proposed HIgh Speed Rail to Air Link
the term “infrastructural cartography”: a two-stage procedure that involves the detailed drawing of how and where networks operate followed by a post-drafting exercise in which one mines these drawings for new forms of design intelligence. Not only does infrastructural cartography produce new representations of the city, which in itself is a significant project — there is an absence of models that depict the city as flow, which explains why Louis Kahn’s image of traffic flow in Philadelphia from 1961 is still held up as the paradigmatic depiction of the city through movement rather than architectural form — but it also advances James Corner’s argument that drawing itself is an agent for ideas.53 For example, to return to the topic of the airport: The rigorous mapping of transportation and ecological networks and their associated processes and spaces at O’Hare Airport in Chicago can generate a host of design proposals ranging from a new public park on vacant land on the airfield’s perimeter, to a land-air transportation interchange, to new housing.54 The projects employ the airport’s more unusual and or challenging attributes — from beekeeping or goats cutting grass on the runway to treating unwanted byproducts such as the glycol-contaminated stormwater that results from the de-icing of planes to expansion of the airport to acoustic pollution in the greater area of the site — as a context for design (figures 1.10 and 1.11). The flows of air transportation seen through the space and operations of the airfield allow the extraction of a range of new aesthetic, social and cultural meanings for the site that extend beyond phenomenology, tabula rasa and site specificity along with other unproductive polarizations of autonomy versus contextualism that have dominated urban planning in the twentieth century. In focusing on the performance and effects of flow, network context opens up a formal exploration of space beyond expressionistic gestures to using systemic intelligence as a generator of place, which
1.10 Shared platform: Midwest transportation interchange at O’Hare Airport, Chicago, 2010
Analysis of airports and passenger travel counts in the Midwest region of the US
1.11 Shared platform: Midwest transportation interchange at O’Hare Airport, Chicago, 2010 A regional transportation interchange is proposed at O’Hare Airport that conceives air travel in the Midwest as an integrated regional system. Airfields in major cities (Chicago, Detroit and Milwaukee) are linked together by highspeed rail to form one large airport network. Rather than continually expanding the footprint of O’Hare to accommodate additional flights, the proposal allows the region to maximize facilities through sharing infrastructure
might give more resonance to architectural design at a time when systems, not figures, are the primary instigators of urbanism. Furthermore, network context can be also be embraced opportunistically — the conceit being it allows architecture to rejuvenate itself by slipping in design under an infrastructural rather than an architectural premise. While national, local and personal identities are challenged by the a-geographic nature of post-Fordist regimes, the space of flows and its logistical accouterments can provide a new context to which the city can relate. This suggests not a displacement of place, as has been projected in many sociological dirges for the city in the era of globalization, but rather the creation of a new type of context with new visual and cultural identities and associated collectives — whatever these might be. You can believe the T-shirt when it says “J’aime Charleroi!”
Urbanism After Geography: The Network is Context
References 1. Manuel Castells and Martin Ince, Conversations with Manuel Castells (Cambridge: Polity Press, 2003), 57. 2. In 2004, a Ryanair plane traveled an average of 11 hours per day; by comparison, a British Airways plane traveled 9.2 hours. Frédéric Dobruszkes, “An Analysis of European Low-Cost Airlines and Their Networks,” Journal of Transport Geography 14 (2006): 250, http:// geography.huji.ac.il/.upload/Mamrim_ggironit/7.pdf. 3. Bill Colegrave, letter to the editor, The Times, reprinted in Siobhan Creaton, Ryanair: The Full Story of the Controversial Low-Cost Airline, rev. ed. (London: Aurum Press, 2007), 180–181. 4. Dobruszkes, “European Low-Cost Airlines,” 254. 5. Creaton, Ryanair, 123. 6. Frances Robinson, “Tour Embraces a Town’s Ugly Truth: It’s a Dump,” The Wall Street Journal, updated 14 December 2010, http://online. wsj.com/news/articles/SB100014240527487033501045756528501 84361966. See also “Belgium: Tourism in the Ugliest Place on Earth,” European Journal, 7 April 2011, accessed 6 January 2015, http:// wn.com/charleroi,_belgium. 7. Creaton, Ryanair, 228. 8. Dobruszkes, “European Low-Cost Airlines,” 254. 9. Tom Rawstone, “Dordogne-shire: How British expats could be be [sic] destroying an idyllic French paradise,” Daily Mail Online, updated 28 February 2008, accessed 2 June 2014, http://www.dailymail.co.uk/ news/article-522689. 10. London’s airport expansion project is an ongoing and tumultuous story. Stansted was one of many proposed options for increasing air travel into and out of southeast England. As is the case for other options, there’s a lot of opposition to the four-runway plan, and it may have already been scrapped, at least for the time being. For more information see the following: “Airport Expansion: What Are the Three Options?” BBC News UK, 2 September 2014, http://www.bbc.com/ news/uk-19570653; Nathalie Thomas, “Stansted: Four Runway Expansion Would Cost £10bn,” The Telegraph, 19 July 2013, http://www. telegraph.co.uk/finance/newsbysector/transport/10190194/Stanstedfour-runway-expansion-would-cost-10bn.html; and Matthew Beard, “Four-Runway Stansted Is a Flight of Fancy, says Essex Council Leader,” London Evening Standard, 4 October 2013, http://www.standard.co.uk/ news/transport/fourrunway-stansted-is-a-flight-of-fancy-says-essexcouncil-leader-8858690.html. 11. I refer here to Sir Freddie Laker, who pioneered the low-cost airline industry in the UK in the 1970s; Tony Ryan, who founded Ryanair in 1985; and more recently Sir Stelios Haji-Ioannou, who started EasyJet in 1995. 12. For more information on the successive lifting of political restrictions on airline travel in Europe in the 1990s, see the Ryanair entry in the section titled "Logistical Players" in this book. 13. David Pascoe, Airspaces (London: Reaktion Books - Topographics, 2001), 222. 14. For example: Stansted–Dublin (291 miles or 468 kilometers in thirty-five minutes, not including takeoff and landing); Gatwick–Dublin (298 miles or 480 kilometers, thirty-five minutes); Dublin–Cork (137 miles or 221 kilometers, fifteen minutes); Stansted–Belfast (317 miles or 510 kilometers, thirty-five minutes); Rome–Milan (296 miles or 476 kilometers, thirty-five minutes); and Stansted–Frankfurt (388 miles or 624 kilometers, forty-five minutes). (Distances and times from travelmath.com.) In 2004 the median distance and time per Ryanair flight was 393 miles (634 kilometers) and 1.4 hours; in Europe, 70 percent of low-cost flights that year traveled less than 621 miles (1000 kilometers). Dobruszkes, “European Low-Cost Airlines,” 253. 15. For the sake of argument, Britain lost its island status with the completion of the Channel Tunnel in 1994; more recently, the mayors of Helsinki and Tallinn have proposed a tunnel that would connect Finland and Latvia, merging Scandinavia with mainland Europe.
16. Saskia Sassen, Cities in a World Economy, 1st ed. (Pine Forge Press, 1994), 1–8. 17. Richard G. Smith, “World City Topologies,” in The Global City Reader, ed. Neil Brenner and Roger Keil (London: Routledge, 2006), 400–408. 18. Michael Lewis, Flash Boys (New York: WW Norton & Company, 2014), 7–22. Refer to Chapter 3 of this book for more information on the implications of high-speed cables for the city. 19. Lewis Mumford, The City in History: Its Origins, Its Transformations, and Its Prospects (1961; repr., New York: MJF Books, 1997), 10–57. 20. Ibid., 57. 21. For more details on topography as an agent for urbanization in the medieval city, see Cache’s essay “Territorial Image” in his book Earth Moves: The Furnishing of Territories (New York: Anyone Corporation Writing Architecture Series, 1995), 5–19. 22. Upton Sinclair, The Jungle (1906; repr., Barnes and Noble Classics Series, 2003), Chapter 9. 23. “Cuyahoga River Fire,” Ohio History Central, accessed 2 June 2014, www.ohiohistorycentral.org/w/Cuyahoga_River_Fire. Credit to my colleague at UIC, Andrew Moddrell for bringing this to my attention. 24. I refer here to the role of hydroelectric power in the redevelopment of the Tennessee River Valley beginning in 1933. For more details see Tim Culvahouse, ed., The Tennessee Valley Authority: Design and Persuasion (New York: Princeton Architectural Press, 2007). 25. For more details see Neeraj Bhatia and Mary Casper, eds., The Petropolis of Tomorrow (New York: ACTAR/Rice University, 2013) as well as Rania Ghosn, ed., “Landscapes of Energy,” New Geographies 2 (February 2010). Of specific interest is Carola Hein’s essay “Between Water and Oil: The Logistical Petroleumscape” (pp. 33–42). 26. “Rigzone Ranks the Top 10 Oil & Gas Cities in the World,” Rigzone, 3 May 2013, accessed November 2013, www.rigzone.com/ news/oil_gas/a/126250/Rigzone_Ranks_the_Top_10_Oil_Gas_Cities_in_the_World/?all=HG2. Urbanization and resource extraction grow hand in hand. 27. Google is opening a data center in Iowa that avails of cheap wind power, similar to another facility it opened in Oklahoma in 2012. Companies are researching sites in northern latitudes and desert climates to exploit free cool air. Regions such as Ireland, Wales, Scotland, Iceland and Siberia are important locations for other data storage clusters. One of Microsoft’s (and Amazon’s) largest data centers is in Dublin, Ireland; the site is one of their most efficient since the facility uses naturally occurring cool air as part of its cooling systems. Iceland is of interest because of its geothermal energy, which is a possible alternative energy source, and at one point Microsoft was said to be considering the city of Irkutsk in Siberia — where the temperature remains below zero degrees Celsius for more than three months of the year — for one of its data centers. For more details see Rich Miller, “Microsoft Plans Data Center in Siberia,” Data Center Knowledge, 26 November 2007, accessed 2 June 2014, http://www. datacenterknowledge.com/archives/2007/11/26/microsoft-plans-datacenter-in-siberia/; see also George Gilder, “The Information Factories,” Wired, October 2006, http://www.wired.com/wired/archive/14.10/ cloudware.html?pg=1&topic=cloudware&topic_set=. The development of cooler sites expands architecture’s territorial range to encompass regions previously deemed too remote, too cold and too inaccessible for design, providing a more nuanced definition of natural advantage, one based not on the physical surface of the earth but on an environmental condition or an energy — in other words, a climatological advantage. 28. David Harvey, The Condition of Postmodernity (Oxford: Blackwell Publishers, 1990), 241. 29. Georg Simmel, “The Metropolis and Mental Life,” trans. Kurt H. Wolff, in Simmel on Culture: Selected Writings, ed. David Frisby and Mike Featherstone (London: Sage Publications, 1997), 174–185.
30. In 1864, a lower train fee for workmen was introduced in London by the Metropolitan Railway and was known as the penny train. The Cheap Trains Act was introduced in 1883 as a strategy to mitigate overcrowding in the city and to encourage the working class to move to new housing outside London by offering low cost transportation. For more information, see http://www.railwaysarchive.co.uk/docsummary. php?docID=670 31. Stephen Graham, “Communication Grids: Cities and Infrastructure,” in Global Networks, Linked Cities, ed. Saskia Sassen (New York: Routledge, 2002), 71–92. 32. See Henri Lefebvre, “Right to the City,” in Writings on Cities, trans. and ed. Eleonore Kofman and Elizabeth Lebas (Malden, MA: Blackwell Publishers, 2000), Part II. 33. Neil Brenner, “The Urban Question as a Scale Question: Reflections on Henri Lefebvre, Urban Theory and the Politics of Scale,” International Journal of Urban and Regional Research 24, no. 2 (June 2000): 361–378; see also Roger Diener et al., Switzerland: An Urban Portrait: Vol. 1: Introduction; Vol. 2: Borders, Communes: a Brief History of the Territory; Vol. 3: Materials (Basel: Birkhäuser Verlag, 2005). 34. C. A. Doxiadis and J. G. Papaioannou, Ecumenopolis: The Inevitable City of the Future (New York: WW Norton & Company, 1974), 297-299 and 362. 35. For more information on how high speed train would render continental Europe as one major city, see http://www.yonafriedman. nl/?page_id=357 36. Neil Brenner and Nikos Katsikis, “Is the Mediterranean Urban?” in “The Mediterranean,” New Geographies 5 (2013): 215–234. 37. Reyner Banham, Megastructure: Urban Futures of the Recent Past (New York: Harper & Row, 1976), 197 38. Timothy Hyde, “How to Construct an Architectural Genealogy,” in CASE: Le Corbusier, Venice Hospital, ed. Hashim Sarkis (New York: Prestel, 2001), 104–117. See also Pier Vittorio Aureli, “More Money/Less Work: Archizoom,” in EP Vol. 1: The Italian Avant Garde 1968–1976, ed. Alex Coles and Catharine Rossi (Berlin: Sternberg Press, 2013), 146–164. 39. Doxiadis and Papaioannou, 1974, 305 40. Sassen describes the global city as exhibiting thick intersections of economic exchange — what she characterizes as a “lumpy urbanism” — that then give way to a thinning of activity before giving rise to a thick space again. Incidentally, Mumford described the centralization of events in larger industrial cities in a similar way, except he used the juxtaposition of “clotting” and “thinning” (The City in History, 458). Lumpy urbanism can be found in already-large and significant cities such as London, Paris, New York and Tokyo. See Saskia Sassen, “Seeing like a City,” in The Endless City, ed. Ricky Burdett and Deyan Sudjic (London: Phaidon, 2008), 276–289. 41. Christian Norberg-Schulz, Genius-Loci: Towards a Phenomenology of Architecture (New York: Rizzoli, 1991).
42. See Kenneth Frampton, “Towards a Critical Regionalism: Six Points for an Architecture of Resistance,” in The Anti-Aesthetic: Essays on Postmodern Culture, ed. Hal Foster (Seattle: Bay Press, 1983), 16–30. 43. I refer here to the work of Charles Moore, Vittorio Gregotti and (to a lesser degree) Emilio Ambasz. 44. Fabricating a unique relationship between the art object and its geographic place in the world — one that could not be replicated or moved — sponsored a whole genre of artwork in the land art movement, which witnessed artists occupying rural sites in the American West and where the earth was an active participant in the work. Significant works in this category include Robert Smithson’s Spiral Jetty (1970) and land art projects by Michael Heizer and Nancy Holt. “Site specific” became a popular term in architecture to describe a building that was either sensitive to or integrated with its site. For more information see Sandy Isenstadt’s essay “Contested Contexts” in Site Matters, ed. Carol Burns and Andrea Kahn (Abingdon, UK: Routledge, 2005), 157–184. 45. Kevin Lynch, The Image of the City (Cambridge, MA: MIT Press, 1960). 46. I’m referring here to Rem Koolhaas’s expletive call to forget context in his essay “Bigness” and the idea of sameness in The Generic City, which recognizes that the contemporary city is a collection of global franchises and that context is consumerism. See also Kelsey Campbell-Dollaghan, “Koolhaas’s Defense of Generic Architecture,” The Atlantic Citylab (blog), 20 December 2011, accessed 2 June 2014, www.theatlanticcities.com/design/2011/12/case-generic-architecture/771/. French anthropologist Marc Augé would describe these contexts as “non-places.” 47. Reyner Banham, Los Angeles: The Architecture of Four Ecologies (Berkeley: University of California Press, 1971), 195–204. 48. Sam Jacob, “Book Review: The Infrastructural City,” Strange Harvest (blog), accessed 21 February 2014, http://strangeharvest.com/ book-review-the-infrastructural-city. 49. William Cronon, Nature’s Metropolis: Chicago and the Great West (New York: WW Norton & Company, 1992), 55–96. 50. Alvin Boyarsky, “Chicago à la Carte: The City as Energy System,” in The Idea of the City, ed. Robin Middleton (London: Architectural Association, 1996), 10–48. See also Igor Marjanovic’s essay “Wish You Were Here” in Chicago Architecture: Histories, Revisions, Alternatives, ed. Charles Waldheim and Katerina Ruedi Ray (Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 2005), 207–225, and David Dunster, “The City as Autodidact: The Chicago Plan of 1909,” AA Files 23 (1992), 32–38. 51. Boyarsky, “Chicago à la Carte,” 11; 18. 52. Brenner (2000) 53. James Corner, “The Agency of Mapping: Speculation, Critique and Invention,” in Dennis Cosgrove, Mappings (London: Reaktion Books, 1999), 213–252. 54. For more information see my essay “Urban ORD: New Ecologies of Airline Flow,” Journal of Architectural Education 64, no. 2 (March 2011): 100–111.
Urbanism After Geography: The Network is Context
Lessons 02 Plan Double Vision: Total Design, Total Choice
“In the affairs of men, there always appears to be a need for at least two things simultaneously, which, on the face of it, seem to be incompatible and to exclude one another. We always need both freedom and order. We need the freedom of lots and lots of small autonomous units, and, at the same time, the orderliness of large-scale, possibly global, unity and coordination.” — E. F. Schumacher 1 “You mean if I ship a package from Milwaukee to Chicago it has to go through Memphis?” — Robert Alan Sigafoos 2
Most logistical networks are transnational corporate entities organized by top-down decision making. This is the only way to control vast amounts of information, ensure timely and safe deliveries, maintain promised route trajectories and satisfy large populations of users. At the same time, by enabling multiple options and a plethora of choices customized to our needs, logistics facilitates user participation, improvisation and flexibility. As a planning model it embodies a double vision: it is simultaneously big and small, strategic and tactical, top-down and bottom-up. The climate in Memphis, Tennessee, is categorized as “humid sub-tropical,” meaning hot, humid summers and mild winters. For a large logistical operation focused on global distribution, the forecast is, more or less, fairly reliable. Yet despite favorable environmental conditions (save some short-lived thunderstorms and bouts of freezing rain) at its home base, weather is of paramount concern for FedEx.3 In fact, it would be more fitting to say that the shipping company is obsessed by it. An office park adjacent to the airfield at Memphis International Airport hosts the company’s “Global Operation Control Center,” where a projected world map constantly displays the status of every plane in the fleet and hyper-analysis of meteorological conditions is conducted up to a week in advance. It’s the world’s second-largest
Double Vision: Total Design, Total Choice
in-house weather department in the airline industry,4 and its advanced forecasting methods can pinpoint weather conditions within a 5-mile (8-kilometer) radius of a particular place. Usually landing airports are of the most interest to the crew of fifteen meteorologists employed full-time at the center. The Control Center, as the title suggests, allows an Apollonian view across the company’s vast network surface; 5 the intensity of planes fulfills the fantasy of national, if not global, totality. The weather-watchers leave nothing to chance. Their job is to inform dispatch of any necessary last-minute changes to a flight route, and their aim is to stay one step ahead of nature — or cheat it, if possible. Running parallel to such panoptic surveillance is contingency planning, which is also a well-rehearsed routine at the center, for even with FedEx’s Zeus-like view over the firmament (in Greek mythology, Zeus and Hera were commanders of the gods of sky and weather), the elements, after all, are beyond its control. Yet FedEx has developed tactics that reduce costly inefficiencies arising from disruptive weather, as well as from variations in load volume and emergencies. These involve rerouting flights that are over- or undersubscribed, delayed or cancelled. For instance, the eruption of the Eyjafjallajökull Volcano in Iceland in April 2010, the largest disruption to air travel since 9/11, closed many Northern European airports, including Charles de Gaulle in Paris, one of FedEx’s main European hubs; this meant having to quickly relocate handling crew and redirect millions of pounds of freight to airports further south, outside the influence of the eruption. Referred to as “Plan B,” this sort of tactical resolve involves scenario planning as a means to determine the best decision in a particular situation 6 — not exactly thinking on the fly, but still a fairly resilient and organic planning approach. It’s evident that FedEx has figured out a way to blend strategic control and tactical decision making to mitigate something as uncontrollable as the weather. The same kind of double vision is even more clearly illustrated by exploring other aspects of logistical networks of the current era.
Two Visions 1. Big, Centralized and In Control The federal bailout of the US banking industry in the fall of 2008 was sold to the American public with the justification that certain banks were “too big to fail,” and that their collapse would precipitate the downfall of the entire economy along the lines of the crash in 1929, leading us into another Great Depression.7 In an era when distributed systems (both computing and contemporary networks in general) supposedly have an aptitude to self-regulate and avert crisis, how could the instability of just a few global financial networks — I refer here to a series of large, interconnected banks that make up the global financial circuit — be so totalizing? And more significantly, in an era of dispersed production, how could so few institutions be responsible for such a large crisis? It’s no surprise, then, that the word “big” has become associated, for the worse, with neoliberal transnational networks and their attendant institutions. After all, they produce big entities: big cities, big entrepreneurs, big money, big control and, in the case of finance, big power (and big bailouts). Corporate logistical systems beyond the financial industry exhibit some or all of these same traits. All the case studies mentioned in this book — from Amazon.com to Facebook, from FedEx to Netflix, from Ryanair to Peapod — are bigwigs within their respective network fields. Amazon netted total sales of $61 billion in 2012, making its revenue larger than the GDP of Kenya; 8 as of June 2014, Facebook had a population of 1.3 billion; FedEx has the largest fleet size of any cargo carrier; and Ryanair carries more passengers than any other airline in Europe. The logistical actors who strategically manage the flow of people, money, goods and information around the world rely on economies of scale. Their model is bigness. Weather watching is not the only inclusive behavior conducted by FedEx. During its early days in the 1970s, its focus was to serve emerging urban areas that required computer parts, medical equipment and architectural blueprints. To accommodate multiple locations and volatile distribution patterns with a small fleet of planes, the company implemented a “hub and spoke” distribution method that was the result of research into the operations of United Parcel Service (UPS),
Double Vision: Total Design, Total Choice
s ile Mitchell International Airport, Milwaukee
O’Hare Airport, Chicago
Elk Grove Bensenville Goose Island Hillside
Naperville Bedford Park
Airport cargo center Regional distribution centers FedEx offices
2.1 FedEx network operations, Chicago Metropolitan Region, 2009 Upper diagram illustrating shipping operations at the scale of +/- 100 miles (160 kilometers). Lower diagram illustrates shipping operations at the scale of the Chicago metro area.
major trucking companies and even telephone switching systems. 9 In the hub and spoke model, airlines direct trunk routes through a major airport before sending passengers on another plane to their final destination. As I explain in Chapter 1, the model was pioneered by Delta Airlines in 1955 but became widespread after deregulation of the US airline industry in 1978 because it allowed airline carriers to reach multiple destinations with fewer planes.10 By centralizing control in one or a few strategic sites, the hub and spoke model is supposedly more efficient to run, optimizes plane occupancy and, most significantly for FedEx, eliminates error. For these reasons FedEx decided that all packages would fly to a single processing hub in Memphis, Tennessee,11 before being shipped to a final destination, a decision that would later make Memphis International Airport the primary hub for freight transportation in the US and the second-largest cargo airport in the world, after Hong Kong. In the case of FedEx, the hub and spoke model is a hierarchical composition. At the top lies the SuperHub, which controls flow to many smaller nodes (sub-hubs) via different transportation connections (spokes). For example, besides the SuperHub, there are four other attendant nodes within the FedEx network. At most city airports, a cargo terminal receives packages that have already been sorted in Memphis according to zip code. A regional sorting facility performs a finer sort and loads packages onto trucks for final delivery. FedEx Office is a public commercial node that evolved after the company merged with Kinko’s (a franchised copy shop) in 2004, while the Drop Box, the smallest node in the system, is the ubiquitous metal box found on street corners and in office lobbies (figure 2.1). The system’s spokes are the routes covered by the company’s 669 planes and 90,000 vehicles, which deliver packages to 220 cities around the world each day. While FedEx operates several additional major hubs, including those in Indianapolis, Indiana (opened in 1988 and expanded three times), Paris (opened in 1999) and Guangzhou, China (opened in 2009), its principal hub remains in Memphis, a fact illustrated by the complex’s footprint, package volume and infrastructure, which exceed those of any other facility (figure 2.2). The hub and spoke infrastructural network as deployed by FedEx is stratified and concentrated enabling
Double Vision: Total Design, Total Choice
SUBIC BAY, PHILIPPINES CLOSED 2009
GUANGZHOU, CHINA OPENED 2009
CHICAGO, IL INDIANAPOLIS, IN NEWARK, NJ
FORT WORTH, TX
LOS ANGELES, CA
Wednesday, 18 February, 2009 FedEx Flights @ Memphis International Airport (MEM)
550 500 450 400 350 300 250 200 150 100 50
DOCUMENTS + PACKAGES (1000 per Hour)
475 450 425 400 375 350 325 300 275 250 225 200 175 150 125 100 75 50 25
111 11 1
112 12 2
1 0 10
1 10 45
331/2 11/2 /2
41/2 1/2 44 1/2
61 1/2 1/2 /2
12:00 : 0
the shipping company to minimize mishandling and delays in transit and allowing total control from pickup through delivery. FedEx is hierarchical and premised on centralization. In February 1999, after four years in business and seeing the potential to expand beyond books and music, Amazon.com began to purchase other online retailers to build a one-stop shopping experience. Over a period of eight months the company bought part or the entire stock of companies with extensive databases of customer information as well as software companies that enabled new computing strategies, such as Alexa Internet Co., which generated price comparisons for online goods (figure 2.3). Amazon was not just enhancing its stock
2.2 FedEx global site map, 2009
Since this map was made, Paris has overtaken other hubs as FedEx’s secondmost-active facility, after Memphis.
of goods but more importantly was buying retailer and consumer information to increase its dominance over other virtual retail markets. As Amazon’s retail offerings expanded to include other forms of merchandise and third-party brokerage services (companies who use Amazon’s website to sell their products but have their own warehousing facilities), its data storage needs grew in turn. Massive numbers of servers are required to handle its operations, especially during busy periods. Configuring its processing capabilities and data storage facilities to cope with demand on busy days such as Green (or Cyber) Monday and Black Friday means many underused servers during the rest of the year. To optimize its soft infrastructure, Amazon decided to lease its server space and processing power during off-peak periods to companies who need large-scale computing facilities yet are not in a position to purchase the systems themselves. In turn, Amazon has inadvertently evolved into one of the leaders in data storage facilities alongside Google, Microsoft, Digital Realty and DuPont Fabros. Netflix, the US-based and now-global online DVD rental service, uses Amazon Web Services to host its customer movie queues and search tools as well as its streaming media. The company also serves non-commercial agencies; for example, Amazon Web Services supports the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s BioSense 2.0 program, an exchange for health-related data.12 Despite having multiple backup locations, Amazon has a lot of big eggs in one proverbial basket. Its dominance lies not necessarily in the quantity of goods available and the large numbers of shoppers who frequent its site, but in the extent of information it holds. In logistics, somewhere someone is watching a screen where all the points in the system are on display. Nothing goes unnoticed. Knowledge is control and with control comes power. In being big, centralized and in control, logistics exhibits how the networks of communication and transnational corporations of postindustrial society have become the new authorities in the organization of space.13 In fact, with the dematerialization of the nation-state, the traditional purveyor of sovereignty, and the corresponding institutions of modernity (the school, the factory, the prison, the hospital) — Michel Foucault’s disciplinary societies — communication networks including the logistical oligarchies that are the subject of this book emerge to become what Michael Hardt and Antonio Negri describe as the next imperial order: the new Empire. What’s more is that we, the dumb
Double Vision: Total Design, Total Choice
Back to Basics Live Bid Tool Crib of the North della.com $135m