Finding Your Speed

September 12, 2011

Issue introduction by Iker Gil, editor in chief of MAS Context.


Mas issue speed cover opening

Form #20, 2007, C-Print, 120 x 270 cm. © Josef Schulz.

The way we live is continually changing—from the way we communicate, travel and learn to the way we produce, consume and govern. But the speed of those shifts, the real pace at which physical and social change happens, varies from one place to another. And so do the consequences. To begin to imagine and identify these consequences across contexts and disciplines, in this issue we explore the speed of production, consumption, transformation, implementation, growth, transfer, movement and preservation in our built environment.

We open the issue with Jeffrey T. Schnapp, curator of the exhibition Speed Limits produced on the occasion of the centenary of the publication of the Founding Manifesto of Futurism and presented at the Canadian Center of Architecture and the Wolfsonian-FIU. Discussing the role of speed in history, he establishes that “whereas somatic movement provided the driving force in the era of Marinetti, it is data flows that propel the chariot of contemporary civilization.”

Later in the issue, Troy Conrad Therrien also writes about the speed of information (a topic also covered in Issue 7, Information). As he points out, “the passage of time can be said to be measurable through the constant information stream of updates we parse, edit and, increasingly less so, process.”

Through the visualization of the data from the Council on Tall Buildings and Urban Habitat, André Corrêa and I investigate the increase in speed in the construction of buildings over 150 meters in the last decade and provide a snapshot of the current global location of these buildings.

At an urban scale, we focus on the stories of three cities and the challenges they face as they continue to grow and transform. We talk to Camilla Nielsson, co-director of Mumbai Disconnected, a documentary exploring the precarious infrastructure of one of the world’s biggest megacities through three human stories. Architects José María Ezquiaga and Juan Herreros present the project “Proyecto Madrid Centro,” a strategic plan that identifies the possible solutions to address, in a sustainable way, the challenges that Madrid is facing. Finally, we look through a series of diagrams at the spectacular transformation experienced by Bilbao in the last three decades. Always excited and proud to share the story of the city in which I grew up, it is time to put in context why and how this transformation happened in such a short period of time. It is time to understand that the so-called “Bilbao effect” is the result of much more than the success of a museum.

Some interventions at the urban scale require long-time planning and big economic resources. And some don’t. Candy Chang shows us how low-tech public installations, quickly implementable, can be a fantastic community activator and a successful tool to make us think about the potential of the public spaces that surround us.

In the work of photographer Michael Chrisman and architect Antón García-Abril, we find that the desired result is achieved through a slower speed. Michael Chrisman produces 1,000-hour long exposures, something that makes him explore the limits of the medium. In his interview with Andrew Clark, he discusses the process and aspirations of this very slow experiment. Antón García-Abril, principal of the architecture office Ensamble Studio, presents The Truffle, a project in which nature, as well as the calf Paulina, determines the pace and result of the project.

If The Truffle uses the cow as a tool in the process, Farmland World reinvents the nature of farming itself. In this project, Design With Company uses speed as a catalyst for reconfiguring the relationship between the city, the rural landscape and the animal/machine hybrids that cultivate land. Part theme park and part working farm, a new typology is born.

In his essay, writer and urbanist Brendan Crain writes about the role of new digital tools in preservation efforts. In the existing conflict between preserving buildings to slow the process of loss and the dynamic nature of people, digital layers can maintain a sense of urgency around long-passed events that lend the built environment much of its import.

And what would be speed without cars and the culture of cars? Stephen Killion combines the speed of an incredibly intense annual urban transformation with the impact of the Indy 500 in his series of diagrams about Speedway, Indiana. And photographer Andrew Bush documents individuals driving cars in and around Los Angeles, probably the city most identified with car culture, suggesting different speeds and personal spaces. His series was published in 2008 in the book Drive (Yale University Press).

With urgency or not, enjoy the articles of this issue at your own speed.