Emirhan Altuner @ Istanbul Technical University, Diploma Project, 2016
Random Flaneur is an experimental graduation project which was completed in Istanbul Technical University, in 2016. It was created via use of all digital resources such as Google Earth, Google Images, personal blogs and Instagram accounts, and also some detailed websites about Manhattan without physically being there. It is a long distance challenge for the architectural design process.
The story is based on both physical and digital strolling of a random New Yorker through different points of view.The project “Random Flaneur” stands at the end of the Highline. In the entire story, Highline promenade depicts the curated path for the users/citizens/New Yorkers, however the “Random Flaneur” always reminds quickness and randomness of the social media.
(Above) Fake The New Yorker cover refers to the monotony and everyday routine of a New Yorker. Via that analogue and curated publication, he/she reads oneself in a printed material, but this time, in the Random Flaneur, the citizen reads oneself on movable facade which was covered with digital surfaces.
“The [place] is not already there before the bridge is. Before the bridge stands, there are of course many spots along the stream that can be occupied by something. One of them proves to be a [place], and does so because of the bridge. Thus the bridge does not come first to a [place] to stand in it; rather a [place] comes into existence only by virtue of the bridge.” (Heiddeger for Architects, 2007 , p. 52)
“Manhattan is a ”lab” for the invention and testing of a metropolitan lifestyle and its architecture.”
(Delirious New York: A Retroactive Manifesto for Manhattan, 1997, p. 32)
(Above) Here is the main view of Hudson Yards; Convention Center, a pier, end of the West Side Rail Road, ongoing Hudson Yards projects, ’34 Station of the NY Subway, etc.
Midtown Manhattan, especially Highline Park and Hudson Yards region are in a state of change because of the gentriﬁcation in Chelsea District. Both New Yorkers and the tourists influx to area to comsume art, different events or just their times, but they aren’t actual habitants. When someone new comes to the Highline, and starts to experience Manhattan from upper level, finds oneself in a “curated” path that is surrounded by famous buildings, ongoing big projects, Hudson River in some parts or just the sun, and gets excited by that designed nature.
A close look to the Random Flaneur and final part of the Highline can be seen below with the images from Neighborhood.
Meanwhile some curious New Yorkers act as a Flaneur, and still discover new places via old railways, sewage systems of the city and buildings, subway tunnels, parks, etc. We know the term Flaneur which depicts a stroller or a person who walks the city in order to experience it. In this context, flaneur is owner of the city and daily user of it, so it is an ordinary New Yorker, not only specific type of an observer.
How Manhattan is seen by daily users inside the imperative route of the Highline?
Lets look at the diary of a random New Yorker flaneur;
(Above). The Book of the Random Flaneur, pages 1-6: First collages with some images that was collected via Google Earth application as a digital journey or Flânerie / act of strolling.
Text from page 1 & 2: When a flaneur starts to explore Manhattan, he / she realizes the openings of the buildings, some old and known buildings (Empire State, Westyard Contribution Center etc.), under construction buildings and green or touristic places as High Line. People are scribbled with yellow markers beacuse in the first experience, the flaneur doesn’t know their identity, and probably he will not know lots of them. The sky is also drawn by flaneur, because he can’t focus on all buildings or objects. In this collage, the flaneur sees post-industrial buildings, the trees, entrance of the Convention Center, street lambs, Highline, cars and traffic.
Text from page 3 & 4: Extruded buildings depict the density of the solid objects on the sky, above HighLine. The next step is related with this montage, they are in a race, and they have to pass the max. heights of the surrounding buildings too see the environment. By the way, the buildings turns to the “walls” and tourists can only see these buildings, so their “acting flaneur” is not same with the observation of the real flaneur.
Text from page 5 & 6: Proposal for the site : as the flaneur, the place acts as “bridge” and brings different materials together.
(Above) Day and Night external views of the Random Flaneur.
As Walter Benjamin says, Flaneur can be a bridge between the modern city and the people. This 20th century expression overlaps with [place] and [bridge] concepts of Heiddeger, and also these terms are familiar with multilayered core of Manhattan. That mentioned core includes all New Yorkers without the need of gentrification.
So, how can we find or create a bridge to identify a location as a place, and also is it possible to get rid of curated Manhattan visions of Highline?
The answer hides inside the social media, and its randomness.
“Timeline” of any social media application which dominates our age, expose us to non-stop random views. We are always in that digital media even we don’t think of any sharing issue, and city can still need it to get rid of designed environment. But how?
If we turn social media to a physical structure, and strollers start to send images to Random Flaneur from all over Manhattan, the building acts as a web blog or a live broadcast service. When an image, a place, a video or just a writing or feeling status shared by both New Yorker and a tourist, it appears on facade of the building, and every post flows in “timeline” of Manhattan. Besides, each image holds an information and creates a bridge between city, building and other New Yorkers. With accumulating the data of city, Random Flanuer becomes a [ place ], and continues to improve itself.
When someone gets closer to the end of Highline, starts to see shiny screens of Random Flaneur (RF) that are filled with a live broadcast, stage of performative area, daily sharings of social media and even exhibition passages, but user can decide to enter this brain washing place or not.
Through location of W34 Street and project site, Random Flaneur is an exact [bridge] role in Manhattan. It is an intersection area between Hudson River Line, new opened subway station, Highline Phase 3, Javits Convention Center and some of the underground railways like New Jersey Transit. Also Times Square and Central Park is in the aura of Random Flaneur while it’s acting as a mental bridge with every digital post.
(Above) The Book of the Random Flaneur, pages 7 – 12. Every number and sketch is the first idea of each part of the building. Detailed model and explanations can be seen in the next two images.
(Above) Diagrams and explanations of each machine part of the R.F..
Next three pages are the Comic Book sub-parts of “The Book of the Random Flaneur” that was mentioned above, and each dual-image depicts the most crucial parts of the R.F..
(Below) 3d plans of the R.F. can be seen as 2 main parts; Center Part, and Center Part + Housing Area.
(Below) Section and elevation of the R.F.
What prompted the project?
Theoretical research part of the Random Flaneur showed me a specific conflict between expectations of the designer from the users and behaviours of the user on that designed space. The project is questioning the limits of the architect because the land was impossible to reach. Moreover, i’m not sure the capability of the architect even if they can reach to the project site At this moment, Manhattan and gentrified promenade of the High Line Park show us how can a long distance design practice destroy the daily and perfectly working system of New York, and also this practice is questioned the position of the architect again. The research phase progressed via investigating social media applications which is a crucial part of the daily life. Generally Flaneur’s eye, quick drawings and notes on the sketchbook, and falling into the madness of digitalism and social media are just not a narration, it is a criticism of daily life and the designed environment.
What dictated the use of the New Yorker/book format? What is the effect and purpose for this?
This is the story of a flaneur as is also understood from its name, but particularly a digital wanderer. The word “digital” is not related with the research tools (some websites is filled with accessible data, personal blogs, Google Images and especially Google Street View etc.), it’s about the opportunity of following the daily life via some interfaces ( Instagram, Facebook etc.) quickly. In contrast with use of the mentioned tools, representation of the design phase is definitely analog. “The Book of the Random Flaneur” is full of hand made collages, quick conceptual drawings and even handwritten notes. This is a self discovery storage of an explorer New Yorker, besides The New Yorker magazine depicts the slow version of this self stores or any social media interface. It’s still a printed and analog material which a New Yorker reads oneself in it.
How important was the drawing as tool through which to develop and reveal the speculation?
A personal and unique storytelling was needed, because research part progressed via a wanderer’s eye and his/her diary. So the project can be followed via quick notes of the random straggler, and also they can be read as they belongs to the reader of the sketchbook. They can feel that Random Flaneur is their own adventure in a city they have never been. This is about how I interpreted the long distance design challenge. Drawing series gave the project flexibility a lot, so some of them evolved to design, and some of them did not.
How and to what extent do you think tools as the ones explored by you (google maps, earth & images) have effect the profession of the architect?
It’s commonly clear that tools can increase the ability of the designer, but sometimes they can start to be dangerous for all if that tool give the architect an opportunity to interfere from a distance as well. On the other hand, if the variations of these tools will be increased, an argument can start that we need the architects or not, and Random Flaneur already criticises this topic. I personally try to use analog methods as an active tool in order not to get lost in all digital and even online world.
How do you see these mediums developing? How and to what extent will we continuously engage even more?
If i repeat the previous answer, i believe that developments in digital mediums will question the necessity or need of architects. Besides i’m not even sure that a designer respects the space where he/she design or not in this profession. Maybe these digital mediums will improve so much, and the user can find an unique content for oneself in any interface. Some commercials which are related to our interests in any social media applications can be a starting point of this problem. Maybe we will be fascinated by these presenstings, and we will start to live in that fake digital delight.
What is your take on the contemporary relationship between social media and the portrayal of architecture?
Social media already got ahead of the projected environment. Infinitiness and randomness of that fake nature promote the designer to produce the same thing over and over again instead of helping he/she to think beyond. Because, if a designer see an image which is already produced version of the concept, they can start to move away from design practice.
After architecture education in ITU, Emirhan found himself designing exhibitions. He is curious about everything with material and every experiment related with it, and likes to use analog and digital techniques together. When he has time to do other things than researching architectural representation, he is dreaming about shooting more short films and finishing his ink paintings. He can continue rest of his life with his plants and 0.1 Rapidograph pen.
Emirhan assisted several undergraduate Architecture studios in filmmaking, besides he was a member of “Çık’Art” team that focused on all student works of Basic Design and Visual Arts lecture via short films. He is also co-founder of Gumwörk collective which was construted around interdisciplinary design.