SurfaceCities studio projects 2007:

The projects presented here were produced in the Cornell Department of Architecture. They are preliminary explorations of images of the city in/formed by the ever-expanding range of [simulated] experiences Google Earth provides. The premise underlying their production is the inverse of the one that motivated Kevin Lynch’s seminal study, “The Image of the City.” Lynch assumed that understanding the mental images of cities we create based on our experiences would help designers propose better, more legible cities. We believe that today, half a century after Lynch’s book, our pervasive ‘experiencing’ the city through its images on Google Earth already informs the way we perceive and use the city. With the expansion of Google Earth and possibly other providers, experiencing the city first through its image will increasingly shape the way we understand and use cities, and the subsequent mental images we form. The designer’s work on the city can already take place through understanding and manipulating the images and the means for experiencing them in Google Earth. Google Earth’s constantly evolving navigational tools and modes of representation, supplemented by a densely layered strata of user-generated information, constitute a richly complex virtual experience of the city. Exposing the city’s unique structure and patterns of use in Google Earth’s gravitationless, layered environment is, like Lynch’s studies in the Image of the City, not only a necessary precondition for manipulating its image, but in fact can already reveal existing alternative images.


John Zissovici

Yanni A. Loukissas

Office: B-46 E. Sibley Hall
Department of Architecture
College of Architecture, Art, and Planning
Cornell University
Ithaca, NY 14853

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Konrad Scheffer & Sarah Haubner