Brian McGrath, Mark Watkins

Manhattan Timeformations

An interactive model of the evolution of the Manhattan skyline over time.

Manhattan Timeformations

Manhattan Timeformations


McGrath: Recent practicioneers in urban representation have embraced a belief that computer-generated models will provide a greater truth and accuracy in depicting the city, whether in the seduction of „realistic“ rendered views or in an increased capacity to compile quantifiable data. the immanent convergence of Geographic Information Systems and „walk-through“ urban simulations has generated great enthusiasm, but little critical reflection. This project, in contrast, begins with a desire to „view“ the city beyond the seduction of simulated natural perception and the belief in the transparency of data. My representational language borrows from both the arts of cartography and cinematography.
While the history of cartography makes claims to a greater truth in accuracy, cinema, through the a-centering of the subject by the movint camera eye, and the temporal displacements of montage, brings traditional ideas of „truth and accuracy“ to a state of crisis.
Following Gilles Deleuze and Friedrich Nietzsche, I believe that „... it is never at the beginning that something new, a new art is able to reveal its essence; what it was from the outset it can reveal only after a detour in its evolution.“ Manhattan Timeformations is such a detour in the evolution of computer modeling and urban representation.

Theory / Research

Innovative aspect of the project and particular research interest:
To quote WIRED, McGrath "liberated" the NYC map from the x-y plane with an unusual third dimension: time.This succently describes my interest, to understand how cities unfold in time.

Reactions to and evaluation of the project:
The reaction was quite diverse. Art organizations christened it "digital art", journalists called it on on line data base, designers called it "information architecture", some even called it a 9/11 memorial. The openness of interpretation and diversity of the audience is the most important consequence in evaluating the project. The users learns how to coordinate temporal and spatial information to better understand urban complexity.

Updates or follow-up projects:
No updates. Elaboration of the lower manhattan portion of the model for dvd installation in the world financial center, NYC to celebrate the re-openning of the winter garden.

(all answers by McGrath & Wattkins)

Exhibitions / Presentations