A corporation known as Pegasus Global Holdings is building a city — named CITE — in the desert outside of Hobbs, NM for the purpose of allowing companies to run prototypes of their new technology. CITE will have no citizens, only scientists and developers who hope to test products in an empty space. As Emily Badger reports (you can read the article here), New Mexico is hoping for big gains by means of urban boosterism of their undeveloped land. Of course, technology companies capitalize by selling this citizen free city for big returns and, ostensibly, to make “dumb cities” smarter. Bob Brumley, a senior managing director of Pegasus, sells the space as one that he hopes will answer this question: “How do we effectively spend billions of public dollars needed to make our cities smarter, more efficient, and sustainable, if we don’t know for certain exactly which technologies will do the job?” (Badger, FastCompany 5-23-12). The questions remains: what will human citizens in the “legacy cities” that CITI is modeled on gain from the project? It would be helpful to know which problems companies already investing in CITI– google is one example — are hoping to solve for people in the lived spaces they inhabit, especially when the testing is done in an uninhabited space. Even though this project does seems to suggest a potentially positive partnership between private industry and public funds, without knowing the issues the companies hope to address — social justice or more efficient consumption — , it’s hard to not see this as part of the plot line of a post-apocalyptic sci-fi novel. In fact, it is the plot line of a post-apocalyptic sci-fi short story by Miguel de Unamuno, Mecanópolis (1913).
I first saw Lebbeus Woods’ science fiction inspired architectural drawings at the Carnegie Museum of Art in Pittsburgh, PA. I was immediately drawn to his dystopian cityscapes overcome by buildings resembling machines and monsters. According to Woods, the spaces he designs are intentionally uncomfortable and aimed at disrupting bourgeoisie practices, “You can’t bring your old habits here. If you want to participate, you will have to reinvent yourself” (qtd in Ouroussoff, Nicolai. New York Times, August 2th, 2008). Primarily seen as an architect who is revolutionary but who ultimately designs the impossible, he theorizes places in crisis, re-designing buildings and structures such as the site of the former Berlin wall, war zones in Bosnia, and the Korean De-militarized zone. Described on his faculty webpage at The European Graduate School, Woods “holds the position that architecture and war are in a certain sense identical, and that architecture is inherently political. An explicitly political goal of his highly conceptual work is the instantiation of the conflict between past and future in shared spaces” (For his bio, click here).
It will be exciting to see one of Woods’ buildings leave the purely visual and be completed in real space. Set for completion in 2013 in Chengdu, China, the structure that Woods, in collaboration with Christoph a. Kumpusch, designed is “a riot of angled steel beams housed in polycarbonate sleeves containing LEDs” (Fred Bernstein, Architectural Record. March 26, 2012). I love the disjunction of the word “riot” to describe what Woods envisioned as a sanctuary among the urban sprawl. Surely, its effect on the space and the experience of space will be interesting to follow. For more info click here.