Urban Dings adopts composition as a strategy to speculate on new spatial organizations through the use of typography and tools of digital software as a method of production. The project is an investigation of the process of making. Our proposal is a model for thinking about new forms of societies, making room for the designer while embracing multiple authors because of its nature as an open source model. Our speculation is on the role of the architect in the contemporary model of collective authorship.
Taking Archizoom’s NoStop City as our predecessor, we revise the method of typography as a generator of architectural language: what latent possibilities are present when you trade the typewriter in for the computer? The typewriter has a limited range of expression; it works linearly and in permanence. It does not allow modification after the fact, nor erasure. But the possibilities of continual editing make the importance of an infrastructural framework irrelevant. Since we now have access to digital software, we are not restricted to the symbols of the keyboard, freeing the output of the keyboard from the manual input.
[WINGDINGS + FONT GENERATION]
The history of Wingdings is an evolution from pictorial representation into digital typography. Early medieval illuminated texts had peripheral sketches of scenes and natural imagery. With the advent of the printing press, those floral and geometrical patterns became simplified characters known as “dingbats.” These were adapted in the early digital age as symbol fonts to ornament documents in place of images. Dozens of symbol fonts, including the original “Wingdings,” exist today for a variety of practical purposes, including for use in software like ArcGIS.
This font extends the use of Wingdings into the realm of worldmaking. We have developed a font that appropriates universal, “common denominator” symbols to create a base typeset to be modified, altered, and otherwise adapted. We were particularly interested in symbols which operate in multiple ways, across multiple fields. (for example, the + sign, which can also be read as an ‘X’ or a cross).
[CREATING THE PARAMETERS]
With software like Microsoft Word and Adobe Illustrator, a body of text can be modified and remodified in infinitely variable ways by adjusting typographical parameters: backspace, kerning, leading, boldness, italics, scale, orientation, justification, and positioning. Compositional qualities emerged from the manipulation of these parameters.
Within the character set, we analyzed adjacencies between multiple characters. By placing characters together in spatial studies, we can think about figureground relationships, transformational diagrams, superfigures, conformity, path, and similarity. These devices become parameters of architectural expertise that can shape, rather than dictate, the way complex compositions can be read as formations. Typing with our font becomes a code for spatializing new worlds and urban compositions.
Using the parameters established by our spatial players and spatial resonances, we generated a set of scaleless compositions which open themselves up to multiple readings. Each composition suggests internal ideas about the role of the individual figure in relation to the collective or larger composition. Compositions were grouped to provoke ideas based on the articulation of a broader idea.
Three dimensional models translate compositional studies into objects, presenting one realm of possibility for how the compositions can be interpreted: as a plan, an axon, a section, or perspective.
The models are arranged on a series of 18 identical pedestals, configured like Buckminster Fuller’s Dymaxion Map. The graphic on the table conceptualizes how the worlds imagined by the models might act to unify fragmented territories or exist in realms of greater conformity.