She walked by just as I was taking the shot. This little old lady next to the tall, glass, modern building in SOHO, filled with architects sitting down for a presentation, those builders and definers of the urban space.
While in New York last week, my senses were heightened of course, as they always are when I'm in New York City – whose aren't? I walked a lot and stopped a lot and listened a lot and observed a lot. All in the vein of what interests me most right now: the city as interface.
We gave a presentation on Wednesday night as part of the fall lecture series for the School of Visual Art's new MFA, Interaction Design program. I spoke mostly about the visual + emotional design aspects of the new NPR.org, noting that one of our goals was to create an interface that allows the content to sing. Because our content is what makes NPR unique. To do this, the interface needed to recede. We needed a quiet interface. A crystal goblet.
And so, having this typographic metaphor swimming around in my head, I pondered this question: what about the city as a quiet interface? Does this physical interface need to be quiet in the same way a digital one does?
The answer, of course, is no. For a city, this principle is the exact opposite. Cities need to be noisy interfaces. They need hustle and bustle and people and dogs and lights and cars and bikes and babies and colors and type and film and laughing, crying, shouting, whispering, screaming, stealing, eating, chilling, acting, dancing, mourning, celebrating, selling, buying, wheeling, and dealing. At various times of day. And sometimes in your face and all at once. The noisier the better, actually. Noisy urban interfaces make for good urban experiences, generally speaking. This is exactly what Jane Jacobs wrote about.
In an urban interface, the content is the interface.
Which made me think of Baltimore and of the two mugging notices I received recently via MICA's campus safety. Baltimore is a city designed to hold a million people but which now holds a little over half that. It has a quiet interface. In some areas, dead quiet. And in those areas, like behind the Rite-Aid a few blocks from our house where those muggings took place, the user experience greatly suffers.