Emergent Conditions

Creating a city

Over the course of 6 weeks, I worked with a group to discover the answer to the question: What is a city? Through various research methods and embracing the absurd, our group come up with a unique idea for a metropolis that fueled further interesting discussion and design questions

Time: FALL 2021 // GradLab1

Role: Speculative Futures

Tools: Illustrator, Cinema 4D, Photoshop, Photography, Procreate

Our group ended up creating "The City of Regulation" for our final submission. The Regulation City is seperated into three rings: Serene City, Neutral City, and Chaotic City. At the top level in Serene City, everything is hyper regulated for maximum serenity - People move around via self powered watercraft, no one is in a rush, nature lives in coexistance with the citizens, etc. For those that prefer a more vibrant lifestyle, they can take the fast track system down to one of the other levels. At the center of the city is a central automated hub where the entirety of the citizens waste is put on display. The waste is converted into energy which powers the city as well as the distribution system of drones that sends out goods to various different areas of the city. The citizens obtain "Eco Points" by providing eco friendly services to the city. Of course, like any city, there are citizens that take advantage of the systems in place. No city is perfect. Enjoy a quick tour of our metropolis below:


The brief was to create a city, a metropolis. This is, of course, an absurd task to try to tackle literally. Your project - your city - will be a creative and radical abstraction, a speculative imagining where certain conditions or situations are reinterpreted and amplified. Crucially, rather than taking a top-down approach to designing your city, you will create it from the inside out. You will let its form emerge through the act of combining custom parts which you will formulate. Consider your city as a condition which spreads out in all directions, an immersive environment without beginning or end. Your custom kit of design elements – the building blocks of your city – will emerge from your group's shared and individual investigations, interests, subjective experiences. Your city will ultimately take the form of a composite multimedia drawing, which you will collectively engineer, annotate, and imagine inhabiting.


week 1

Assignment A

Inspiration Excursions: For this assignment we want you to get out into the city – both literally (physically) and virtually – and creatively document your encounters. You are asked to plan to undertake three inspiration excursions, ideally one of which is IRL/physical. Build on your thoughts to answer the question: What is a city? It's a deceptively simple question.On each of your excursions, employ strategies to document and look beyond the mundane familiarities of thee everyday to discover unseen, unspoken, unknown layers. Try to avoid the obvious, familiar, lazy. Consider: What’s been designed here? What choices have been made, by who?

For this weeks excercise, I explored elements of interest in my excursions. The first was the city as a living organism that emerges and grows similar to biological processes. The second was the city as organized chaos. I found it interesting to read upon the origins of various cities and how the city generated in it's own way over time: infrustructurally, economically, socially, etc. The last was based around a hike I took in LA. I noticed both how cities try to control their environment. This can be via signs that tell citizens what they can and can't do as well as how humans attempt to control their environment only to have nature take back control over time.

week 2

Assignment B

Each group member is asked to choose three specific interest areas derived from their research excursions, and for each develop a catalog or kit of speculative design actors or elements, which expand on this interest. Find a way to express each kit visually on a slide.

For this weeks assignment, I explored three aspects of Los Angeles; economic distribution, waste, and sound. For my first "kit" I found a map of LA neighborhoods and isolated the different areas based off of medium wealth data and organized them by largest medium income to least. This was interesting to explore how cities were intended or structyurally set up vs how they organize naturally overtime. The second exploration was taking audio samples from various places around the city. I wanted to focus on the plethora of sounds that makeup a city. By putting the clips side by side, it highlighted the various differences. Lastly, I collected photos of trash around the city. It was interesting to find these fossils or remnants of individuals within a city. I started to think about how we manage our individual outputs and how this differs from city to city.

week 3

Assignment C

Each group member is asked to create three contrasting 'imaginary city' drawings which utilize the kits/collections generated in Assignment B.

I came up with three imaginary cities: The city of inequity, the city of harmony and the city of trash. For the city of inequity, I took the idea of inequity literally and created a city where each neighborhood is on a moving module based on median and income resources trickle down the line which further adds to the cycle of inequity. If a neighborhoods median income increases, it gets to move up in the line. For the city of harmony, while studying the sounds of the city, I noticed how cacophonous the various neighborhoods are. In this city, each sound emitting object would be required to be tuned to a key for each neighborhood. Interesting to note how different cultures would describe "harmony". In the city of trash, instead of hiding our waste from view, I chose to think of a city where the city center was the landfill to put the cities waste on display. Every year, the city would host a festival to rid the waste and start anew shifting trash to a source of pride for the city.

week 4

Assignment D

This week, I developed the idea of the city of trash further. I explored the idea of "gamefying" the waste management to incentivise proper waste handling.

week 5

Assignment E

For this final week, we were instructed to work as a group to create a composite city. We would bring our city to life by taking the viewer on a tour of some of the goings-on in our collective city which led to our final presentation shown above.


This was a ridiculous brief. But in the ridiculous came some profound practices. Working on such an abstract project within a group was difficult yet intriguing. Finding ways to fit multiple seemingly incongruent concepts into a unifying world was a very useful practice. The process of trying to figure out what makes sense in this crazy world was a very important skill to flex. It was illuminating to find out what communication techniquies proved succesful and unsuccesful. I also enjoyed the weekly practices that helped guide the project along the way to promote new questions and creativity. Our discussions and conversations were the most useful aspect of this project. The project was not supposed to be realistic but what happens if we were to add reality to it? what happens at the borders? what happens over time? It's generative in a way that we start with the structure and then press play and watch it go. interesting thought experiments come about in the process. How can we expand upon those questions? What if we had to prototype something from this city? What happens when you add the human element to a system? Who will take advantage of what? Who will benefit from what? What might be broken? How do aesthetic choices influence the presentation? Lots of questions to sit with a explore in future projects ahead.

Instructor: Ben Hooker
Group members: Leslie Ho, Noah Curtis, Yining Xie, Yue, Fanxuan Zhu