Blog 4 – Emergent Practice Example

‘Did you know data has become a 21st century design material?’


In 2014 the Chicago Architecture Foundation in collaboration with numerous creative studios and technology companies including TruthLabs, DCBolt Productions, Luci Creative and IBM opened an exhibition titled Chicago: City of Big Data, which according to Associate Curator Ingrid Haftel sought to “show citizens how data provides a critical lens for exploring and understand the design issues that matter.”


The exhibition explores community health, safety and sustainability, by tapping into the concept of the digital age of urban design, showing the city of Chicago is affected by big data. Furthermore, there was an aim of displaying where urban data comes from and how it is used in industries like architecture, city planning and civics to influence the design of modern cities, exemplifying the fact that data is becoming an invaluable material in the processes of 21st century design.


Through the visualisation of various data sets, the exhibition allowed visitors to explore Chicago through a different perspective, with exhibits like Air Lab, which used sensors to collect information about the air quality inside several residential buildings in the area, and a display which let residents browse their neighbourhoods for data related to health and disease and its impact on a local level, using mass data collection.


One of the most engaging sections of the exhibition was a piece entitled Data Trail, which let users interact by contributing the way they move around the city, and in return the exhibit would let the participant know how their activity contributes to the entire volume of data generated within the city on a daily basis.


Overall, the exhibition looked to invoke thought and discussion around the variety of ways that big data is such an influential part of how an individual’s daily life plays out in most modern urban landscapes.


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