Surface: the connective tissue of our malleable city

Breanne Gearheart

The surface is being remade.
The city is in the midst of itself.
It is a reinvention and an unbiased creation.
It is a record, an accumulation.
Impressions made by a living city
pressed into its body by the pressure of time.
It is no one’s fault and no one’s genius.
It is because of us and in spite of us.

Concrete is poured, smooth walls are pieced together, metal is shaped and embedded in the ground, asphalt is scorched into place. These physical undertakings create the body of our cities. We often conceive of the urban environment as entirely designed. Decisions were made. Architects, city planners, landscape architects, neighborhood organizations, graffiti artists, and shop owners are seen as the creators of our urban surroundings. Yet, a quieter design is adding depth and richness to our cities.

Built forms are physically scarred, rubbed smooth, or momentarily altered by passing phenomenon. Physical form is activated by accidental interventions. The city becomes a physical record of intangible temporal occurrences. Time passes, people move about, rain falls, wind blows. The city is an expression of the processes that occur within it.

Through observing the changes on its surface, we can come to see the built environment as a malleable expression of the life of the city. Multiple narratives are unified and expressed in the flexible form of the city.

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