"The City Quartered", Andy Stiff

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The City Quartered
Andy Stiff

Our environment, culture and way of life has been transformed by the use of Digital technology. As with photography over one hundred years ago, we are again looking at how we see the world around us. Institutions are no longer bound by the physical nature of building. Banks, shops, offices and homes are being transformed by the internet and networking technology.

The struggle to understand the nature of cities has been going on for centuries. Most cities have continued to develop and evolve over this time, and any one true ideology for the nature of urban living and meaning has proved just as elusive. It is this constant evolution that fascinates me. It is an impossibility to define the urban soul in one gesture, it would be foolish to try to.

My film for the 'Beyond The Digital Surface' exhibition, is an attempt to explore the nature of cities, in particular London, by using the idea of captured digital surfaces. In this project I have decided to take two elements and try to stitch them together to hint at the nature of my urban surroundings. The two elements I have chosen are, architectural structure, and architectural surface.

The structure I have used is from an historical map of Seoul. This map indicates the very formal nature of a walled city, and exemplifies the relationship between structures of habitation, and mankind's desire to formalise his surroundings. Walled Seoul, has a set of strong features that I could use as a structure for the film. The city had four main gates, North, South, East and West. Each gate has its own properties such as colour and a mythical animal. Traversing the city is the river Han. It was the North, South, East and West aspects of the city that I decided to use as a structure for my film.

London was once a walled city too. But these boundaries have long since disappeared, as the urban plan swelled to accommodate an ever increasing population. Small villages were swallowed up by the city to give us the districts that now sit in the centre of the London. The nature of the growth of London has provided us with quite distinctive areas, the city the west end and vast areas of housing that all have a distinct feel and quality. The nature of London's growth means there is no grid or systematised urban pattern. The only place in London to confidently predict direction is the river Thames. The river flows West to East.

So I have a structure, the four gates of Seoul's walled past, and I have imposed on that structure the surfaces to be found in London. It is these surfaces that need re-inventing, to be presented in a manner that reflect the nature and re-purposing of physical structures in the 21st Century. I have filmed areas of London, Canary Wharf, Regents Park, the West End and structures that sit on the south side of the river to represent the four points of the compass. The areas I have chosen all have their own unique qualities in both Architecture and atmosphere.

The treatment for each area attempts to play with the contemporary transient nature of the meaning of buildings in London. The reuse of building types in London for other purposes then the original intention is happening more and more. As digital technology makes redundant the need for the traditional building types, vast areas can be re-purposed utilised and the original nature of areas gets mixed up with the contemporary purpose. No longer do the facades display the purpose of the building and so the surfaces have just become patterns that perhaps can be deconstructed and rebuilt to relate to a new medium in a new era.

In conjunction with:
Matthias Kispert - wksound