All Seeing Eye
Technologically advanced system are shaping the future city to be a “neighbourly” Panopticon. In the context of ubiquitous monitoring and surveillance, how can we employ infrastructural system to dissolve geographical segregation and empower favela inhabitants?
-Surveillance & Security
The theory of employing surveillance in the control system was firstly experimented by Jeremy Bentham in the late 18th century with Panopticon. In his scheme, inmates were living in the circular structure with an “inspection house” located at its centre, which allows them to be observed with a single watchman. However, inmates are not able to tell whether they were being watched or not as they cannot see into the inspection house. The setting motivates inmates to act as they are being watched all the time, so they are compelled to regulate their own behaviour. The inmates become highly self-disciplined as a result of being under constant surveillance.
The use of CCTV in public spaces seems to follow the same mechanism, but the emphasis today hasn’t been on correcting behaviours, but on providing security. In the context of international terrorist risks, governments of different countries have taken measures to reinforce their protective security strategy. Various mass surveillance schemes have been implemented in all aspects of everyday life. “For security reasons” seems to be a formula that can function in any domain nowadays as “a password in order to impose measures that the people have no reason to accept.”
Living in modern cities means not only being visually watched by physical cameras but also being virtually watched through digital platforms. Without physical ownership and without an explicit sense of exposure, people don’t feel they are being watched through digital surveillance and data capture.
Information extracted from the collected data can be valuable in city administration and operation fields. Proliferation of digital technology has driven the city’s transformation radically. The development of artificial intelligence and big data analysis make it possible to manage the urban facilities and services efficiently. Urban uses of information and communications technology make the idea of “Smart City” widely spread. It is still difficult to define the term “smart city”, while the emphasis here is using the monitoring and data capture in city scale to optimise its functional aspects, and in particular of its infrastructure.
Geolocation and augmented reality are two fundamental dimensions of a sort of return to space, or “spatial turn”. This spatial turn of digital technologies has been reinforced by the multiplication of electronic interfaces and the proliferation of wireless communications, which makes it possible to speak of ubiquitous or ambient computing. These evolutions constitute the foundations on which the smart city can begin to be built. To project the scenario to the future, it is important that the spatial infrastructure needs to be upgraded.
Unmanned drones and organised surveillance programs have been widely employed by government as high tech targeting practices to monitoring domestic urban spaces. Drones were expensive and complex objects ten years ago, while nowadays domestic drones are becoming common possession in daily lives. This can transform the cities revolutionarily, because drones could not only change the way people travel and good being delivered but also change the way of cities being perceived. The aerial view captures building’s roof as its fifth façade, which would greatly influence how architecture is built in the future.
-Rio Operation Centre
Rio is one of the most integrated smart cities in the world. IBM helped Rio to build its smart city control system in 2012 and then it was called upon to act as the hub of operations for Rio’s planning and execution as the host city of 2014 World Cup and 2016 Olympic Games. This complex system is centralised into one single building called Rio Operation Centre. The control room of the centre has a big screen with 80 monitors watching every corner of the city. As a legacy remained after the tightened surveillance during those international events, Rio Operation centre functions as an administration centre of the city. It has more than 30 agencies covering different aspects of the city, such as weather, traffic, energy… It reacts to emergencies and optimises the infrastructure’s functions of the city. The mayor of the Rio, citizens and the civil defence are all connected together by Rio Operation Centre.
Favela has always been a problematic issue in Brazil. There are 1.3 million Rio inhabitants living in favelas which is around 22% of the city population. Notorious for violence and crime, these slums are often located at undesirable site and lack of civic infrastructure. The origin of the favela can be traced back to late 19th century where the eviction and demolition of low-income inhabited houses as part of the urban renewal programme ironically led to the birth of the first favela. Historically, the Brazilian government has conducted several movements to eradicated favelas since then, which includes social reform by rehousing favela residents, large-scale upgrading living conditions, and gentrifying and modernising favelas with infrastructural projects. However, with all the efforts made, the percentage of urban poor living in favela maintains growing from only 7.1% in 1950 to 22.8% in 2010.
The underlying problem the state has with favela is its inability to control it and therefore its inability to both impose its sovereignty on it and exploit it through legitimate avenues. The formal city needs favelas to provide cheap labels for service industries while the crime and drug cartels in the favelas threaten the security of the neighbourhoods. The current strategy is to upgrading and gentrifying the existing favelas and providing cheap social housing on the periphery of the city. At the same time, violent oppressions are taken to deal with crime and drug cartels, which has exaggerated the tension between the local and the authority as bloody conflicts in the favela involved in innocent people.
Before the World Cup and Olympic game, the city had started several beautifying schemes which includes building a sound barrier wall on the edge of the Favela de Mare (next to the highway from international airport to city centre) and demolish the favelas next to the Olympic Park.
Clearly, cosmetic beautification does not address the urban poverty in the first place. The urgent demand is to generate incomes for urban poor to reduce the wealth gap. As inaccessibility to formal means of employment is the main source of urban poverty, the strategy to deal with the issue is to create approachable job opportunities for favela residents.
– Operational Threshold
The boundary between the favela and the formal city is considered as an unrivalled testing ground to implement the proposal of the infrastructural threshold. The division has existed socially and geographically. Either side of the city has its own ecological system, while both rely on each other economically and culturally to form the whole urban symbiotic system. Building an infrastructural threshold could be an opportunity to reconstruct the urban landscape and social structure.
Infrastructural capacity has to be recognised with its role as a part of the formal inhabited city. This would suggest an instrumental engagement with ecological systems as well as with the function of infrastructure and the social and cultural needs of the community. The favelas are often divided from the rest of the city by physical infrastructure such as motor ways. An operational threshold is to use the infrastructure to dissolve the rigid lines in between through a performative landscape lens and new modes of operation that produces dynamic relationships. To conceive infrastructure through such an operative lens is to foresee a strategy of urban arrangement following which the empty apace connects the built-up structures in a whole so that; it ensures the permeability of currents in the field of active forces and a constantly open opportunity for new arrangements.
Infrastructure as such a spatial construct conceives an urbanism that is created in an addictive way so that no higher level of spatial organisation, except of networks, is given simultaneously in advance. The whole is composed of an infinite number of situations of the same kind which repeat themselves through different measures of space by combining smaller patterns into a larger one. The wholeness of structure is defined by relationships between the neighbouring identities in different fields which are autonomous with regard to their surroundings.
In the visual aspect, the strategy is to employ the vision differences between the aerial perspective and human elevational perspective. Surveillance from the sky and the population of drone is providing us an alternative aerial vision. The socio-political modes of surveillance and domination in the modern era were enabled by perspectival seeing. Foucault’s diagram of the panopticon, for example, is the same as that of aerial reconnaissance. Both diagrams consist of an empowered (and dangerous) eye, searching a relatively shallow field of activity for abnormalities. Taking a camouflage from World War II, Douglas Aircraft Facility of Santa Monica, as an example, one can see how to use architectural communication to fool the eyes from the sky. There is another layer in the diagram of aerial reconnaissance, however, which sets it apart from the panopticon. This is the layer of the camo net, which functions as a trompe l’oeil, tricking the detached, elevated and all-seeing eye into thinking another kind of reality exists altogether. The strategy provides an opportunity to create two folded world by employing different visions.
How to implement surveillance through architecture? From Jane Jacob’s “eyes on street” to Oscar Newman’s defensible space, from Alice Colman’s Utopia on Trial to Bill Hillier’s Space Syntax, we can see the most important element is people in the space. To make people care, make people participate in the process of control and surveillance is how to secure a safe space.
The association of infrastructure with local community triggers complex organisational potentials incorporating a sense of time and change over time and project the participation and consensus of multiple stakeholders. Infrastructure becomes a flexible and participatory medium within the notion of urbanism. They operate with time and are open to change and by specifying what must be fixed, they become both precise and indeterminate.
The ground strategy of thickening the surface is a more scalar shift in the reconceptualization of infrastructure as landscape catalyst. This strategy focuses more on the physical, geometrical and material product of the surface under action that generates a more fluid and interactive stage of ne conditions for certain futures. Such a surface is articulated in two ways: “as planar folds and smooth continuities and as a field that is grafted onto a set of new instruments and equipment”. In either cases, creating a surface that becomes a staging ground for the unfolding of new events-towards a surface that is not merely the venue for formal experiments but the agent for evolving new forms of social life.
Rebuilding, incorporating, crystallising, connecting, intensifying, multiplying – these words describe not only the physical character of the thickened surface but also their programmatic associations. Such an active surface can variously clad, isolate and wrap, inflate, delineate and make materially manifest, performing roles that are simultaneously natural and social, testifying to the possibility of a vital public space, one that does not settle differences but rather allows them to exists. The strategy to rework infrastructure in the form of such thickened surfaces not only targets towards the physical but also social and cultural transformations that function as social and ecological agents. The proliferation of infrastructure as such thickened surface provides the opportunity at the city level to generate a model that is capable of “integrating differences into a coherent system; an unbounded series of landscapes rather than over coded, delimited place.