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The screen and the city

January 23, 2010 |  8:00 am

The question that I explore in a Sunday Arts & Music piece this weekend -- how the rise of digital screens of all varieties, from video boards at football stadiums to iPhones in our palms, is affecting our relationship with architecture -- seems particularly relevant for Los Angeles, a city long associated in the public imagination with all kinds of insistent and charismatic signage. But it applies in cities around the world, as these related stories make clear:

In Port-au-Prince, Haiti, American filmmaker Dan Woolley was trapped for three days under the rubble of his collapsed hotel, according to a number of news reports. He used light from the screen of his iPhone to illuminate his surroundings and then an iPhone app to learn how to treat his wounds. The scene seemed almost too perfectly symbolic of a world in which buildings fail us but screens are seen as saviors or all-knowing digital guides through the city.

In Tokyo, meanwhile, a new structure called the N Building, designed by Teradadesign Architects and Qosmo Inc., has a QR code -- a kind of digital bar code -- sandwiched between layers of its facade. That allows cellphone users to see Twitter feeds of the building's inhabitants, among other remarkable features.

Here's a short video on how it works:


More on the technology behind the N building can be found here

And you can read my essay on architecture and screens here.

-- Christopher Hawthorne