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Using data to rethink space.

In this 1999 short film, MVRDV addresses the transformations created in cities by the ever-expanding communications networks and the immeasurable web of interrelationships they generate. "The world has shed the anachronism global village and is transforming into the more advanced state of the Metacity", wrote the Dutch architectural company. "More and more regions have become more or less continuous urban fields: Europe, the fringes of North America, Southeast Asia, India, Indonesia. And as the population and its communications options continue to multiply, this metamorphosis seems far from finished". In "Metacity/Datatown" MVRDV provided another meditation on the waste of space and the possibility of reducing our impact on earth.

In 1999, MVRDV feared the global transformations to be weakened by competitive nationalisms, but believed it could have a silver lining: "such regionalism might also be a way to escape from this very protectionism: through specialization, each region enhances its global position". 20 years later, things have gone differently - the world became more and more intertwined, but nationalisms are risen way more than expected even in the more traditionally "progressive" states. However, it is absolutely true that urban contexts have prevailed over the rural ones. What were MVRDV trying to address back then?

In the statement for Metacity/Datatown, MVRDV wrote that "nature has become crowded; agriculture needs to intensify due to an increased demand and a reduced amount of available space [...] addressing the spatial implications of this global act could actually help to define an emerging agenda for urbanism and architecture".
Their question was: how to study this? Using numbers and data, as "its web of possibilities - both economical and spatial - seems so complex that statistical techniques seem the only way to grasp its processes".
Metacity becomes a Datatown, in their vision: "by selecting or connecting data according to hypothetical prescriptions, a world of numbers turns into diagrams. These diagrams work as emblems for operations, agendas, tasks. A 'datatown' appears that resists the objective of style".

MVRDV imagined a denser world, that, through the use of hypothesis and scenarios would re-think and re-imagine the urban space, for which Datatown would be a prelude. "Datatown, therefore, is not a design; it is not about mix or not-mix, about compositions or relations. It can be seen as a prelude to further explorations into the future of the Metacity, explorations that could induce a necessary round of self-criticism in architecture and urbanism, and even a redefinition of practice."


Architect: MVRDV (Winy Maas, Jacob van Rijs and Nathalie de Vries)
Mentioned project: Metacity / Datatown (1999)
Project location: Rotterdam, the Netherlands
Editing: Eline Wieland and Marino Gouwen
Soundscape: Joost and Marcel van Rijckevorsel

Netherlands 1999
Duration: 10'30"