City As Material: Underside

Our fourth Pitch In & Publish: City As Material event was held last Friday, around the theme of “Underside”. Participating was our special guest, Alexandra Deschamps – Sonsino, alongside Giles Lane, Mandy Tang, Radhika Patel and myself. We met at Poppies Diner in Whitechapel, a cafe decked out in Americana, quotes from Hollywood films adorning the walls (though some a bit off the mark) and the most glamorous of culinary staples …. fried chicken and builders tea. This caff / diner hybrid proved a fitting start for Underside, a theme more ambiguous than our previous events.

Alexandra had suggested visiting the 4D Model Shop round the corner, to pick up some materials to work with along the walk. After acquiring  some unusual knick knacks, including miniature models of Barack Obama and the first lady, and a polystyrene egg (clearly novelty triumphs over practicality every time), we set off.

We were particularly interested in hidden flows in the city, and the alternative uses of the networks that these travel within. Alexandra speculated over what would become of BT’s phone lines in the future, once technology had outgrown their capability. Giles explained the history behind manhole and coal covers, and the abandoned infrastructures London rests upon. Our walk took us through side streets some of us had never traveled through, and the slow pace highlighted quirky features dotted around the city that are ignored in frantic daily routines.

During lunch, we fiddled around with our bounty from 4D, and after Alexandra experimented with using different props she had made against the backdrop of the Barbican, a place containing vast expanses, though also riddled with unusual nooks and crannies.

Once at the studio, we started to form the eBook, sketching the layout and deciding how the materials we had gathered during the day could work within our theme. We are in the process of creating it, so look out for the Underside eBook on Diffusion soon, and keep track of the discussion online with the #cityasmaterial hash tag on Twitter. You can view all our photos from the event on the City As Material Flickr page.

Our final Pitch In & Publish: City As Material event, “Sonic Geographies” is on the 10th of December. Book a place here.

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