Tag Archives: detroit

Photography ● 100 Abandoned Houses

“The abandoned houses project began innocently enough roughly ten years ago. I actually began photographing abandonment in Detroit in the mid 90’s as a creative outlet, and as a way of satisfying my curiosity with the state of my home town. I had always found it to be amazing, depressing, and perplexing that a once great city could find itself in such great distress, all the while surrounded by such affluence.”

For more infos and the rest of the photos visit ☞ (+

Click to view full-size photos


Dead Church Installation

Given the fact that im a big fan of Kurt Schwitters or Raumlabor it was impossible for me not to like this big size installation by Revok and Jim Darling.

via revok1

I first met JIM DARLING a few years ago in Miami when we were showing together in a group show. Jim is a super nice guy and his work blew me away and we stayed in contact every since. Jim recently visited me here in Detroit and we finally got to collaborate on something together. After cruising around for a bit we found this massive dead church and spent two days creating this really large installation inside using only materials already inside the church. It was fucking exhausting labor but well worth it since we had such a blast doing it.

We ended up carrying a massive organ up two flights of stairs, a piano, a TV, and a ton of other random shit to erect this gigantic monument.

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The Image of the City // Ruth Conroy Dalton & Sonit Bafna Part 2

* * *

Lets continue from Part 1 (link)

6.1 Edge

The definitions of an “Edge” according to Lynch are: “Linear elements not considered as paths” (62) “Boundaries between two kinds of areas” (62) “[Edges are] visually prominent, … continuous in form and impenetrable to cross movement” (62)

“Edges, whether of railroads, topography, throughways, or district boundaries, are a very typical feature…and tend to fragment [the environment].” (63) “Edges are often paths as well”. (65)

If we consider edges, which are neither paths nor the boundaries of districts, are there spatial and visual qualities to an edge, which are unique to the concept of an edge and are definable in terms of the spatial descriptors used in space syntax? Consider one of Lynch’s definitions of the edge, that edges are usually “Visually prominent,… continuous in form and impenetrable to cross movement” Let us consider what this might mean in terms of isovist properties. What are the attributes of an isovist, which could be “visually prominent,… continuous in form and impenetrable to cross movement”? Obviously, we are talking about surfaces bounding spaces, and to use Benedikt’s terms (Benedikt, 1979) we are distinguishing between the ‘real surface perimeter’ and those portions of an isovist’s boundary, the ‘occluding radials’, that constitute the rest of the isovist’s perimeter. If we imagine an isovist consisting of a high number of lines of sight radiating from a single point in space (‘isovist radials’), we can ‘unfurl’ the isovist and plot the distribution of its radial lengths. See Figure 10 for an example of three such isovists and the graphs showing the distribution of their radial lengths. An edge, in isovist terms can be defined as a specific property of the distribution of these isovist radials, namely where there occurs a smooth or uniform increase or decrease in the radial lengths. This is the case in the first two examples shown in Figure 10; these two examples illustrate isovists with visually prominent edges constituting a major proportion of the visual boundary. Where the chart demonstrates this characteristic of a regular rate of increase or decrease in radial lengths (the slope of a portion of the graph), then it can be held that there is a flat, occluding surface bounding the space. This is directly equivalent to Benedikt’s ‘real surface perimeter’.

Where there is a sudden ‘jump’ in the distribution of radial lengths in the graph, this indicates the presence of an ‘occluding radial’ in Benedikt’s terms. This reflects Gibson’s definition of a edge, “An occluding edge is usually but not necessarily projected as a… discontinuity in the gradient of binocular disparity (not when vision is with one eye).”9 This characteristic can clearly be seen in the rightmost example of Figure 10. The graph is not smooth and continuous, but is irregular and disjointed. A sudden increase in the radial lengths represents a line of sight that shoots past the corner of one occluding surface, continuing until it terminates at another occluding surface some distance from the first surface (a line in the ‘all line axial map’ and an possibly an E-partition). Since any edge can be defined as the real surface perimeter of an isovist, the question must be asked, what degree or amount of real surface perimeter constituting an isovist must be present for that edge to be perceived as a “visually prominent” boundary. We suggest that if a continuous section of an isovist’s real surface perimeter constitutes a high proportion of an isovist’s perimeter, then this would be perceived to be a visually prominent boundary or an ‘edge’ in Lynchian terminology.

In Lynch’s Boston study, however, there seem to be very few edges, and this indicates that something more than their own visual property might come into play in determining whether visually prominent boundaries act as edges in a cognitive map. As Lynch points out, paths and boundaries of districts may often act as edges. In Lynch’s maps of Boston, the subjects identify only two edges—the harbour to the east and the Charles river to the west and both are areas where the axial map ends abruptly. The only path that is picked-up as an edge is the elevated central artery, and that too only by his trained observers. Interestingly, this is also a situation of a sharp transition in the axial map. What is puzzling is that the water-front in the North End does not appear as an edge. Once again, the axial map provides clues for this phenomenon. There is no strong axial line parallel to the water-front here, as in the other two cases. In other words, the edge in an urban environment seems to depend to a great extent, not only on its own visual (isovist) properties, but where it occurs with respect to the main paths of movement (the structure of the axial map).

7.2 Relationship between intelligibility and hierarchy

This paper examined the relationships between what we have termed first order elements (structurally distinctive) and second order elements (visually distinctive) demonstrating how both sets can be defined by Lynch and through space syntax terminology. In doing so, we increasingly observed that the dependencies connecting them did not suggest a mutual mapping. We conclude that there is a dependency of the Lynchian elements upon the basic space syntax spatial descriptors but no such dependency exists in reverse. This hypothesis can be summed up by the following statement: all imageable cities must be intelligible , but all intelligible cities need not be imageable

The potential for visual differentiation arises and can only arise from an already existing structure and hence hierarchy of use. It is true, as Lynch claims, that a visually differentiated and ordered landscape (an imageable landscape) is characteristic of a functional city (as opposed to a dysfunctional or pathological one), but the visual differentiation can only arise from a well-developed structural hierarchy.

The Image of the City // Ruth Conroy Dalton & Sonit Bafna Part1


I suppose you are all familiar with the “image of the city” by Kevin the Lynch (+). If not better check it out before you get to 2nd year of uni.

Last night I came across a paper by

Ruth Conroy Dalton and Sonit Bafna


Georgia Institute of Technology, USA

which is based on the book & some new injections and potential ideas


This paper presents a study of the relationship between city elements, as defined by Lynch, and the spatial descriptors commonly used in space syntax research, leading to a proposed relationship between the hitherto unrelated concepts of intelligibility and imageability. The paper starts by demonstrating how each of Lynch’s five city elements (the node, path, district, edge and landmark) may be redefined using a selection of spatial notations, primarily the axial line and the isovist. Furthermore, by precisely defining the relationship between the axial line and the isovist, it can be shown that all of Lynch’s elements may be redefined using a single, coherent family of tightly-related spatial entities. A case study of Boston, circa 1950, is used to test an application of these redefinitions and the relationships between the various spatial descriptors and Lynch’s elements. In turn, this leads to a hypothesis concerning the relationship between the concepts of intelligibility and imageabilty, concepts that were previously considered to be independent. Finally, the paper concludes by building upon the relationship between intelligibility and imageabilty to conclude that this relationship provides strong evidence for an underlying cognitive basis to space syntax.

1. Introduction

Kevin Lynch, in The Image of the City (Lynch, 1960) argued for legibility being a significant quality of the city. According to him, the legibility of the city, or “the ease with which [a city’s] parts can be recognised and can be organised into a coherent pattern”, is significant not only for aiding practical tasks such as way-finding, but also that it is central to the emotional and physical well-being of the inhabitant population, personally as well as socially. He continues by equating the legible environment with an “imageable” one. Imageability, according to him, is “that quality in a physical object which gives it a high probability of evoking a strong image in any given observer. … It might also be called legibility.

2. First and second order elements

An obvious starting point is to attempt to re-interpret Lynch’s five environmental features in terms of the basic spatial descriptors commonly used in space syntax research. The motivation behind reinterpreting Lynchian elements in space syntax terms is not reductive—we are not claiming that all of the Lynchian elements can be completely characterised in terms of syntactical variables—but rather the effort is to find out how much of Lynch’s theoretical approach and his specific findings can be accounted for by a syntactic approach. Our study, therefore, has a two-pronged approach. On the one hand, we will try to determine whether there is a syntactic logic underlying the basic descriptive elements through which Lynch describes the inhabitants’ cognitive maps of cities, and on the other, we will try to offer a syntactical argument for why particular environment-features of the selected study area are picked up by Lynch’s subjects and not others.

Our argument is that Lynch treats his five elements in a resolutely empirical sense; he seems to have identified them as being the best elements available for characterising how inhabitants map their cities, without making a case for how they come together to give a systematic mapping of cities. Despite his reticence on the subject, however, it is easy to see that the elements are anything but random. We can sort these elements into two groups. At the first level are the spatial descriptors— nodes, paths, and districts. They are elements of zero, one, and two dimensions that observers acquire and utilise as anchors for location, and the relationship of these elements to the observer is topological. Not only can the observer position himself in space in terms of basic topological relationships (“to the front of”, or “to the right of”) but also ‘at’, ‘on’, or ‘inside’ them. At the next level are primarily visual descriptors—edges and landmarks. The observer’s relationship to them is of a higher geometrical order (at least projective), in that he/she locates her position vis-à-vis these using a rough polar or vector orientation (a sense of both distance and direction), 59.3 but does not actually occupy them.

3. Axial lines and isovists

The question that naturally arises, at this point, is which syntactical descriptions will best help our case. The axial line representation seems the ideal descriptor, partly because it is the commonest representation in the space syntax repertoire and empirically the most successful for urban contexts, and partly because it is the closest to computational studies of wayfinding (Kuipers, 1996; Kuipers, Tecuci and Stankiewicz, 2003; Penn, 2003). However, Lynch’s stress on the visual characteristics of elements does raise the question of whether we should be including other spatial representations in this paper, and the isovist appears a potentially useful candidate.

What we would like to clarify, in this context, is recent work, which can be held to bridge the conceptual gap between the concept of the axial line and the isovist2. The traditional definition of the axial line is that it represents the fewest and longest lines of sight that pass through every space comprising any system. The definition of an isovist is that it is the field of view, available from a specific vantage point; a horizontal slice through this field of view is then calculated, usually taken at eye height and parallel to the ground plane. It is the resulting polygonal representation of this two-dimensional, visual ‘slice’ that is referred to as an isovist. It is worth noting that axial lines and isovists are one and two-dimensional representations respectively. (Viewsheds, used predominantly by geographers, are on the whole, three-dimensional and represent the entire field of view from a single location).

* * *

If we consider briefly isovist integration or VGA analysis, there is a relationship between isovists and convex shapes. If an isovist is generated from an array of vantage points forming a regular grid filling all possible navigable space, then the relationship of isovist connectivity (or mutual visibility between points) can be established. In work by Turner et al they established that each clique in the graph is analogous to a convex space. That is to say, a space inside of which any pair of points are mutually visible.

A formalisation that used the single concept of the line of sight to create both a consistent convex partitioning and a definite axial line structure for any spatial setting has been suggested by Peponis and his colleagues (Peponis, Wineman et al., 1997; Peponis, Wineman et al., 1998). Using only the extension part of the lines of the all-line map as boundaries, Peponis and all show how a given space can be partitioned into informationally stable shapes called E-spaces (or using a more limited set of all line extensions, into S-spaces), and these in turn used to automatically

generate axial lines.

The main body of the work is very long for a “blog post”

I will try to split it up in 3 or 4 parts. Maybe we will get you a link to download it from here soon

ciao minions

The Ruins of Detroit//by Yves Marchand

“At the end of the XIXth Century, mankind was about to fulfill an old dream. The idea of a fast and autonomous means of displacement was slowly becoming a reality for engineers all over the world. Thanks to its ideal location on the Great Lakes Basin, the city of Detroit was about to generate its own industrial revolution. Visionary engineers and entrepreneurs flocked to its borders.

In 1913, up-and-coming car manufacturer Henry Ford perfected the first large-scale assembly line. Within few years, Detroit was about to become the world capital of automobile and the cradle of modern mass-production. For the first time of history, affluence was within the reach of the mass of people. Monumental skyscrapers and fancy neighborhoods put the city’s wealth on display. Detroit became the dazzling beacon of the American Dream. Thousands of migrants came to find a job. By the 50’s, its population rose to almost 2 million people. Detroit became the 4th largest city in the United States.

The automobile moved people faster and farther. Roads, freeways and parking lots forever reshaped the landscape. At the beginning of the 50’s, plants were relocated in Detroit’s periphery. The white middle-class began to leave the inner city and settled in new mass-produced suburban towns. Highways frayed the urban fabric. Deindustrialization and segregation increased. In 1967, social tensions exploded into one of the most violent urban riots in American history. The population exodus accelerated and whole neighborhoods began to vanish. Outdated downtown buildings emptied. Within fifty years Detroit lost more than half of its population.

Detroit, industrial capital of the XXth Century, played a fundamental role shaping the modern world. The logic that created the city also destroyed it. Nowadays, unlike anywhere else, the city’s ruins are not isolated details in the urban environment. They have become a natural component of the landscape. Detroit presents all archetypal buildings of an American city in a state of mummification. Its splendid decaying monuments are, no less than the Pyramids of Egypt, the Coliseum of Rome, or the Acropolis in Athens, remnants of the passing of a great Empire.

This work is thus the result of a five-year collaboration started in 2005.”

Ruins are the visible symbols and landmarks of our societies 
and their changes, small pieces of history in suspension.
The state of ruin is essentially a temporary situation that happens at 
some point, the volatile result of change of era and the fall of empires.
This fragility, the time elapsed but even so running fast, lead us to watch them one very last time : 
being dismayed, or admire, making us wondering about the permanence of things.
Photography appeared to us as a modest way 
to keep a little bit of this ephemeral state.

credits/ Marchand & Meffre (+)
yo/design.level.zero (+)