City Research

Of the three topics- migration, power/technology and the hidden city- the topic that got me thinking most was the hidden city. I am interested most in this topic initially as it allows me to look a bit close at details of the city that are overlooked, or re-interpret aspects of the city, the topic seems much more open.

My first idea is to look at maps and pathways as these create their own pattern which I immediately think could work well as print. To make this more of a ‘hidden city’, I thought of desire paths/lines- these are paths from an origin point to destination following often the shortest route and also avoiding man-made pathways. These are often seen in parks or grassy areas in the city.

desire path

I feel like desire paths represent the hidden city as they show people breaking conventions of man-made cities an following our natural urges, in a very basic form, therefore creating a city trail completely different to the formulated pathways, which could be seen as hidden.

My own ideas for designs based on desire paths would be perhaps using textiles, leading on from the idea of creating a print using maps. I thought to represent hidden parts of the city I could take rubbings of various surfaces throughout the city, preferably more unrecognisable and interesting surfaces. I could copy or draw these out and create a background texture for my print. I could overlay this surface with the print pattern of a map and perhaps in a brighter colour, print the lines of desire paths.

I also thought to maybe mould iron wire into the pattern of maps/pathways and use these to rust fabric with the patterns of these shapes, perhaps also singe or burn the fabric by heating these moulded shapes and pressing them into the fabric.

Incidentally, during the first week in which I began working with glass, I came across a glass artist who has completed a series inspired by desire paths. She uses natural materials, such as wooden sticks, wraps these in wire and pours molten glass over these into a mould. The hot glass burns away the wood and leaves a void in its shape, the wire is also left in the shape of the stick and bubbles are also left encased in the glass. The wire and the paths created by the gas escaping form paths, similar to desire paths. julie alland–hydrophobia–statement.html . The artist, Julie Alland states; “In this body of work, I use the transparency of glass as a symbol for revealing what is secret, overlooked or lurking beneath the surface…I cast glass because of its ability to burn organic materials, activate chemical reactions, trap bubbles and create ghost images in an unpredictable way.” She is examining through her glass pieces what is normally hidden, which links very well to the hidden city. I also love her method of working, “I cede control at this stage of the process and let chance complete the piece.”, she allows the materials to work and react together organically, creating unpredictable results, which a way of working which I love. I feel like the best results come from unpredictable methods.

Looking at desire paths also led me to an article about re-designing zebra crossing in a way that respects our natural urge to take these shortcuts-

“korean designer jae min lim shortlisted entry in the seoul international design competition 2010 proposes to do away with the zebra crossing and replace it with a crosswalk that doesn’t dismiss the natural act of taking shortcuts as well as reminding the drivers. we bend the laws to respect human nature.”


Here is an example of jae min lim’s simple redesigning of the zebra crossing. This simple but effective redesign just shows how easily basic human attitudes can be overlooked in design, just think, how many times have you cut a corner like the on a crossing? This curved crosswalk makes such a big change allowing the crosser to follow their urge to take a shortcut legally and safely. This article got me thinking about perhaps looking at features of the city such as these crossings and redesigning them so they are more effective/better use of material/eco-friendly.

On the last topic of eco-friendliness, a product designer whose work I have looked at for my furniture project, had a design I particularly liked that works well for the city project. His design was to use car tyres as planters in city area, Curro Claret states; “The planters are made of recycled rubber from car tires of different sizes and shapes. Due to their innate flexibility, they can be placed on inclined surfaces, stairs, beside existing elements (such as next to a lamppost where the plant can grow upwards), on newsstands, bus stops, on walls or bridges… Since the material is soft, it is able to suffer impacts from cyclists, pedestrians, motorcyclists, motorists… and therefore much less dangerous than a conventional planter or cement casting…”. I feel like these are such a great example of repurposing material as it benefitss not only the environment but takes into account the people in the environment and how it could benefit them. Though this kind of idea is probably better suited to power/technology topic?


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