The New Normal and How We’re All Creating It

The latest generation of Strelkavites talk about how yesterday’s future is silently becoming today’s reality.

For its 7th academic year, Strelka Institute has launched The New Normal, its latest multidisciplinary postgraduate programme. Shaped by the rapid development of technology — AI, biotechnology, automation and virtual reality — a newly emerging contemporary condition has become the main focus of this year’s research. With the curriculum designed by sociologist, media and design theorist, and author Benjamin H. Bratton; and the core faculty joined by digital media theorist and new media expert Lev Manovich; architect and founder of Tomorrow’s Thoughts Today Liam Young; architect, writer and Yale University professor Keller Easterling; and Metahaven (Daniel van der Velden and Vinca Kruk), Amsterdam-based studio for design, research and art, The New Normal will attempt to chart new paths for urban design and development.

Last week 30 students from 15 countries gathered at the Strelka Institute, where they will spend the next five months taking apart this new modern reality and putting it back together again with a new and better understanding, shaping the New Normal into what it should be. Coming from diverse fields such as architecture, design, art, programming and many others, the latest generation of Strelkavites described how they understand the new normal, why they chose to study it, and how it has affected — and has been affected by — their work.

Francesco Sebregondi, France, architect, researcher

Through my research on urbanisation in frontier zones around the world, questions of new and emerging forms of sovereignty came to be central for me. The works of Keller Easterling and Benjamin Bratton on infrastructure, logistics, and computation as increasingly prevalent technologies of power today soon became some of my key references. When the call for the New Normal came out, it was only logical for me to apply.

In 2015, in the context of the Forensic Architecture project at Goldsmiths, University of London, I oversaw the development of  PATT RN: a data-driven, participatory fact-mapping tool to be used in a variety of investigative and research contexts. Essentially, it is a tool to map complex events such as conflicts, protests, or crises as they unfold. PATTRN is designed to enable its community of users to share and collate first-hand reports of events on the ground and to make sense of diffuse fragments of information. The recognition of pattern as a new epistemological paradigm opens up a whole field of questions, and I was excited to discover that a module of the New Normal programme will be dedicated to exploring these questions.

Holly Childs, Australia, artist, writer

I am a writer and editor working in contemporary art contexts. I applied for the programme to experience an extended period of immersive learning, experimentation, and development in a completely new environment. I want to develop new ways of telling stories and more ways of making new things real. I want to make software for reading and writing in new ways and create text-work that engages non-readers; to explore new modes of design that can activate possibilities for learning and growing unknowns and future (im)possibilities into unstable realities.

My novel Danklands, published by Arcadia Missa, is an investigation of urban space. I have fictionalised and speculated upon the area of Melbourne Docklands, a planned suburb that doesn’t really fit together, checking in on what happens in the cracks of the new concrete, under highways, and in places that can’t be reached by Google Maps.

Egor Kraft, Russia, media artist

I’m an artist whose background is in design and art direction, and my toolset is similar to those of an architect or a designer. I’m interested in working with large projects that are in one way or another connected to social and public spheres, cities and public spaces.

I decided to apply for The New Normal, as the program appealed to me with its multidisciplinary approach and its goal of pushing the boundaries of the disciplines it includes. Hopefully, this experience will result in the start of my next large project.

In 2011 I launched my project The New Colour. It started with an internet intervention: I designed a website for a fake company that claimed to have discovered a new colour. The response was overwhelming: the company started receiving emails asking for samples of the hue for research purposes, investment propositions, and requests to see the colour in person (the fake company stated that current monitors and TV screens are unable to reproduce the colour).

Recently I published a collection of these emails in a book. It was surprising to discover how easily information can be manipulated, how non-facts can quickly be turned into facts: this is especially relevant considering the current situation, where the real and virtual can hardly be distinguished anymore.

Karina Golubenko, Russia, culturologist

When I saw Strelka’s postgraduate program for this year, the thing that really excited me was the decision to go beyond the traditional methods of research in the Russian context by expanding the vision towards a more conceptually complicated and provocative model. I’m interested in trying out speculative design that is not merely a scientific prediction of what is going to happen, but an experimental and futuristic vision for potential scenarios of how cities will look in the future.

Some time ago I was involved in the development of the second edition of the Make City Festival. I was a part of a curatorial team researching the best urban practices and innovative architecture and community development projects in Berlin and other cities and the future of architecture in general. New materials, alternative construction methods, smart data/mobile systems, biotechnologies and artificial intelligence already are seeing large-scale usage, and this will definitely lead to a huge shift much faster than we can anticipate.

Calum Bowden, Great Britain, interaction designer

I am a designer and film-maker, with a background in anthropology and speculative/critical design. I wanted to come to Strelka to explore the Stack as a narrative structure and a tool for building worlds in the context of Russian alternative urbanisms and storytelling tactics.

Characters rendered as hives of activity, planetary-scale conglomerates, and political ecologies. Shape shifting, alienating and augmented. Functional stories not just about, but for non-human perspectives.

One of my recent projects is Calls of  Duty, a series of occupations of the open voice communication channels of multiplayer war games. Over a series of live sessions, I worked with a group of teenagers to devise a performance where we used songs and texts found online to begin dialogues with random players we encountered. Trolling was used to extend beyond filter bubbles, and to examine the networking of public space, geopolitical simulation, and playful violence.

Alexey Platonov, Russia, filmmaker, creative director

I found the 2017 curriculum extremely inspiring and couldn’t resist applying. The programme involves an exploration of fields that coincide with my current professional and personal interests to a surprising extent. I expect the next few months spent here to become a platform for integrating my scattered skills, ultimately enabling their reconfiguration into a new toolset.

Recently I completed a web documentary project on rural Russia. For that project, I was travelling through small towns and villages with a video camera. My three trips to the Vologda region resulted in mult imedia material combining text, video, photography and illustrations. The web documentary format might not be something new, but for me, it was a fresh way to give flavour to otherwise flat video material by enhancing it with layers of different media.

Elizaveta Dorrer, Russia, architect

I am an architect at Rhizome group in Saint-Petersburg, and one of the missions our team pursues is the improvement of the design environment both city- and country-wide. But in order to achieve that goal, I feel that I need to discover new ideas and get exposed to broader horizons. I hope that the knowledge I get here will allow me to take on larger, more complex, and more interesting projects.

A few years ago my friends and I launched a website that functioned as a link between 3D printing companies and their clients. But our work was more than that of a middleman: sometimes we received complex projects which required an individual approach. For instance, once we received an order for a 50 cm large animatronic head, so we had to search for engineers who could fit the object with the required electronics.

Recently this experience got a follow-up: a school in Voronezh invited me to hold a 3D-printing workshop for its students.

Jariyaporn Prachasartta, Thailand, architect, designer

I see The New Normal as an opportunity to explore interdisciplinary research and design methodologies where unique perspectives are brought to the table by various professionals who explore space and time in a real, constructed, or imaginary world. Digital technologies, be it A.I., VR/AR or other platforms, are becoming a vital part of city infrastructure. The advancement of media, technology and all forms of expression is changing notions of the proper use of things, and we will inevitably become an urban species to a degree that is somewhat unforeseen.

My project, Palace of P ublic Opinions, investigates the boundaries between the abstract and the figurative and explores the interdisciplinary intersections of architecture, arts, culture and politics through different means of representation. It challenges the normative interpretation of architecture by reimagining human interactions and attitudes towards political opinions through virtual reality simulations. The project, on one level, addresses the symbolic importance of past political power by integrating virtual reality as a tool for historical preservation and cultural conservation. On another level, virtual reality becomes a tool for the public to voice their opinions and judgement. New layers of meaning emerge as digital technologies become strategic interventions in urban governance.

Artem Stepanov, Russia, architect

My decision to join the programme was driven by my desire to become a part of a team shaping the philosophy and discourse of a new age. As different fields of knowledge become more complex and more interrelated, I expect The New Normal to provide me with sufficient skills for identifying and analysing patterns in a sophisticated modern environment.

The New Normal is about bringing some unconventional knowledge to a conventional field. During the spring of 2016 I took part in a workshop on the development of a city park in Zayinsk, Tatarstan. During the project, we had to fight traditional perceptions of the roles of government, architects and local residents in the design process. We used real-life interviews and looked through social networks in order to gain essential information on the needs of local people. We witnessed how new norms can be brought to conventional fields and become widely accepted and used.

Michaela Büsse, Germany, design researcher

I consider myself a researcher at the intersection of critique and innovation and I’d like to understand design as a medium instead of an end in itself. At The New Normal my aim is to explore the space of possibilities for a critical speculative design practice to trigger change and encourage reflection within the context of the urban. I hope to gain knowledge of emerging technologies and data analysis in order to get a broader understanding about the coherences between the human, society and technology. I think the ability to interpret and use data in a meaningful way will become crucial in the future.

The fundamental project for my practice was Ap plied Fiction — An Object-Based Exploration of Possible Futures, which analyses the potential design features concerning the development of future visions. My work is based on the hypothesis that design implies materialised speculations about a future world, and thus offers a tangible and accessible format of mediating possibilities. The outcome of the project is a scenario tool, which enables non-designers to create speculative design proposals. Within The New Normal it will be our task to develop tools to help us articulate the social, cultural and ecological changes that are taking place, and explore new modes to speculate about the present and the future.

Alina Nazmeeva, Russia, architect

I believe that in the coming decades humanity will require a new type of architect. The advance of virtual realms is already informing physical space and fuses the competences of architects and programmers. My ultimate academic goal is to be able to anticipate the future consequences of these developments and to create architectural ideas resonating with these prognoses.

In my thesis project, Moscow_intervals, I researched and interacted with abandoned and underutilised buildings located within the Sadovoe Ring in Moscow. The project presents these territories as city «gaps»: unused, unpopulated territories amidst an otherwise highly dense environment. I created temporary, flexible objects within and around these abandoned buildings. Government- or organization-initiated restoration of these territories would take years and years. The project advocates an interim solution of letting the abandoned territories be utilised by the creative class. The objects I create within and around selected abandoned buildings are temporary, flexible, and don’t change anything in the permanent physical realm. The impermanent means of interaction with these abandoned spaces can be considered a metaphor for the ephemeral nature of digitally augmented reality.

Ildar Yakubov, Russia, interaction artist

I am an interaction artist and a new media tutor. Most of my projects involve usage of new technologies such as VR and neurointerfaces as a means of artistic expression. The artistic methodology has always been advancing human progress, and the fact that nowadays artists are using the latest available technologies in their work is yet another example of the new normal we have today.

In November of last year, I did a project called Vir tual Reality Van. In the US, I acquired a 1981 Chevy van, filled it with VR equipment and took a road trip from Albuquerque, New Mexico to Reno, Nevada. Along the route, I made several stops at university campuses and galleries to hold Global Friendship workshops, where the participants used VR technologies to visualise the concept of global friendship, a supranational structure aimed at resolving global problems. The van itself was connected to studios in Saint-Petersburg and Moscow. To create their videos, the participants used special panoramic stop motion animation kits I developed specifically for this project.

Martin Byrne, USA, architect, writer

I found The New Normal to be a very attractive program for a variety of reasons. Foremost is its engagement with speculative design in the nearish term. Speculative design is a practice in which one researches budding trends, technologies and policies and extrapolates their effects, shortcomings, and offshoots. For quite some time, this has existed mostly under the purview of science fiction. I hope to engage in this type of discourse and design in more depth than I have, transcribing it into design fictions of many types. And as an added bonus, the open-ended nature of the program allows for a broader application of the research we will be pursuing.

One of the more successful projects I’ve pursued deals with humanity’s reach beyond our terrestrial «situation». The project was a design research studio with Vito Acconci, in which we explored how humans might exist in space. I sought to design the mechanism by which a person could achieve changes enabling more complex varieties of existence in alternative conditions. The result was a Post-Human Production Facility at the Spirit Rover Landing Site on Mars; projected completion 2047. Further, in the accompanying narrative text, the story proceeded that as the Mars colonists began to use the facility, they became addicted to modifications and upgrades to their corporeal selves and in turn reclaimed the facility as they saw fit. And so the final product, much like the post-humans it was producing, became a monstrous hybrid of its own technologies turned outwards; a hulking behemoth scouring the landscape for raw materials. Perhaps not a future some might expect, but certainly a candidate for The New Normal.

Konstantin Mitrokhov, Russia, photographer

The complexity of the everyday and ineffability of the vernacular have been among my photographic interests for quite a while now: as a photographer, I mostly explore public urban spaces and the way the city is growing. I treat photography as one of the tools available for understanding and exploring the environment we live in. I hope to gain knowledge and understanding of new methods and tools and, overall, expect a perspective shift in the way I’m looking at the urban environment. Also, lately I’ve been doing a lot of aerial photography and I would to take this further: I have some ideas which need testing and I hope that studying at Strelka will bring some insights into how we can use aerial visual data for research and analysis.

In my project Useless Landscape, I set out to explore the virtual space offered by Apple Maps. The notion of a map implies a significant degree of a presumably objective, stiff relationship to reality, which is deeply rooted in the model of vertical perspective. This is not necessarily the case with the redundant homogeneous 3D models of the biggest cities offered by the modern software we use on a daily basis. I would drift through the cities I’ve never been to, surveying the disused areas of urban landscapes. Surprisingly, after days spent in the software, I did not feel that I knew the cities any better, but is that so much different from the unstable, imperfect memories we have of places after briefly visiting them in real life?

Aiwen Yin, China, artist, designer

I chose to apply for The New Normal because the curriculum proved to be a perfect fit for a passion project that I have been working on for the last two and a half years.My project deals with the relationship between architecture and IT; as it happens, Benjamin Bratton and Keller Easterling have been my major references.

One of my previous projects was The Massage is The Medium, a performance-installation that invited people to watch a story about the relationship between their bodies and the medium while receiving a Chinese medical massage. Many of the participants later said that they had never realised how much of an impact digital technologies have on their bodies and that the pain revealed by the massage forced them to confront themselves, and eventually introduce changes to their lives. I think that the project and The New Normal share a similar objective: to enable critical and artistic reflection on our current lives in order to redesign and reengineer them for the better.

Lina Bondarenko, USA, architect

In 2011, in the midst of Occupy Wall Street and its swift growth of its presence on social media, I began to write a thesis asking questions about what comfort a disenchanted generation of protesting millennials was finding in the guerilla occupation of a privately owned, prominent public space, juxtaposed directly with the privatised system they were in direct and physical opposition to. This movement was one of the first to really transcend the world not just through organised media channels, but through self-published mediums of communication, enabling a global conversation on a digital platform and a simultaneous physical dialogue in participating cities.

At the time, my solution was to supplement the emerging and exponentially popular digital world with an equally malleable physical presence, in the form of an architectural project.

Now, 5 years later, I am interested more than ever in engaging with the way the overlaid multiplicity of digital and physical activity may have become the new normal we are living in. Strelka is an ideal venue to explore this beyond the lense of architectural analysis in an interdisciplinary and global discourse on how the technologies we employ play their definitive roles in urban planning, globalisation, and the re-definition of locality.

Cory Levinson, USA, software developer

For the past 5 years I have been working at SoundCloud, first as a data analyst, data scientist, and then product manager for the data infrastructure team. Witnessing a technology platform evolve and mature, I’ve learned a great deal from operating on the inside of the tech industry. Recently I’ve been looking for ways to bridge my technical knowledge with a deeper understanding of the impact planetary scale computation has on society, culture, and the physical world we inhabit.

Towards the end of last year I began work with a few engineers from the data infrastructure team to develop an ontology for datasets that is understood throughout our organisation. The project provided definitions and examples for datasets, as well as the types of transformations and equivalence relations that may exist between them. More recently, this work evolved into a set of documents establishing guidelines for the roles and responsibilities of dataset ownership between engineering teams. I hope that taking a fresh look at the language we use to define our digital footprints, and the ways in which different datasets can evolve, merge, and multiply will be an important building block for making sense of this «New Normal».

Alina Kvirkveliya, Russia, architect

I have been keeping an eye on Strelka for a while, and this year’s programme seemed like a perfect opportunity to further explore the ideas of my previous education. During our introductory lecture, programme curators emphasised the experimental approach adopted by Strelka, and experimentation is exactly the thing I expect from my time here.

My project, entitled  |0, was an attempt to use poetry as a basis for shaping an architectural environment. I was designing a virtual space, a scenographic reflection of Andrey Bely’s Petersburg. My efforts resulted in a two-part structure symbolising two characters of the novel, each section divided into two spaces representing their consciousness and unconsciousness. The four spaces correspond to four phenomena (distortion, causticity, noise and the golden ratio), and the text of the novel functions as an abstract environment defining the entire project. The project was an attempt to showcase the process of blurring the borders between reality and abstraction in architectural practices.

Enrico Zago, Italy, 3D artist

I learned about The New Normal one day before the application deadline and I did not think twice. So I put away the sketches I was working on and spent the night making a new portfolio.

The more I pursue a career as an artist, the more I feel the need to open my skills to contemporary research that involves the human perception of the issue of big data, new blurred social institutions and the evolution of the individual in a default hierarchical society. I believe that the core faculty will lead us firmly through a tangled path for understanding what the sociopolitical standard was until now and revealing the new possible perspectives that are ready to be designed.

... and When I Woke Up My Eyes Were Dazzles and My Ears Were Screeches in the Noo ntide... was a VR installation presented at the Parallel Festival and the Bitoresc event in Vienna.

This project adopts a critical approach towards how new technologies are exponentially and steadily colonising day-to-day life. In a world where the human being changes its own social role from civil/citizen to consumer/user, new blurred borders are appearing. The populist call of duty is changed in terms of its appearance, now focusing more on the hypernormalization of the individual, and pushing for a super-awareness built with uncountable clusters of data; all this useful data is collected and stored on devices defined by their controlled evolutionary function. New escapist strategies are emerging in this reality, and technology provides the possibility of looking away from the mass taming and for the experience of personal space.

Melissa Frost, USA, architect

The challenge of deciphering the complex present has been central to my work and the core faculty were the exact people I’d hope to see leading this inquiry. As an educator, I’m interested in alternative institutional models and radical pedagogy, so I’d long been intrigued and impressed by Strelka. As an American, it is a strange, but also perhaps the most vital time to be in Russia, given the purpose of studying what our present moment is leading towards.

In 2016, I finished my master's degree in Architecture at Princeton University. For my thesis project, These Utopian States, I directed a live-action multi-media installation of alternative presents or near futures illustrative of canonical utopian social structures. While post-war conceptions of utopia often confuse it for fantasy drawn from a suspension of reality, the most foundational texts of the utopian project [Plato’s Republic & More’s Utopia], presented highly designed dialectical processes of social dreaming. The fantastic ideal is utilised as an experimental function of reality, reason and causality. Applying the utopian project to the present and near future, I saw potential in considering emerging technologically-driven social shifts in order to drive a discussion of utopic potential.

Jelena Viskovic, Croatia, game designer, programmer

My work is focused on creating speculative narratives in virtual worlds and gamespaces. As a game designer, I would like to explore how my practice connects to urbanism. I work with documentary materials, such as found buildings and urban experiences, and project them into ‘virtual’ worlds. Whatever city I happen to be in inevitably influences my work with its cultural and architectural context. Here at Strelka, I expect to achieve a more complex perspective and enhance my world-building capabilities.

In my recent projects, I focused on technologies that virtual spaces of escapism emerge from. The video game I built over the course of the last year takes place in a dystopian city called Nirgendheim. The interactions of the game are set around the workings of this city; its sonic and visual landscape based on found documents and personal experiences. The architectural objects you see in the open world of the game have been designed after buildings from three European cities. Nirgendheim (a conjunction of the words nowhere and unhomeliness) connects to the topic of the ‘New Normal’ through critically reexamining existing urban landscapes with the use of game mechanics.

Maksym Rokmaniko, Ukraine, architect

I am a founding partner and director of anarch itects — a collective that functions both, as a design practice and a platform for research and explorations on matters related to built environment.

I decided to come to Strelka immediately after I saw 
https://thenewnormal.stre lka.com. Being well acquainted with the work of all of the core faculty, I was sure that this year’s program would attract many interesting people and allow me to accelerate my practice.

Pekka Tynkkynen, Finland, architect

The introduction of The New Normal came at a moment when it felt logical to me to go through a shift in paradigm, method and location. For me the programme is a chance of taking the time to look at architecture and urbanism from an expanded, planetary scale, the speculative point of view, while subsumed in a deeply cross-disciplinary pool of specialists, accompanied by the most relevant faculty imaginable.

Total Gaze, a project which refers to a reality in which a ubiquitous topography of non-carbon otherness is "experiencing" us, the anthropocenic actor. A series of collaborations and solo work, it communicates the predicament arising from the suddenly expanded interaction with bio-techno-geo-political toolkits and their penetration to spatiality and materiality. It comprises mostly of a range of experiments with space, sound, materials and different platforms. One of the most interesting outcomes came together with designer collective Ensæmble and dancer Mira Kautto, where we installed gyroscopic sensors to a human body to open up a type of spatial augmented reality via motion data translated to light, video and sound in real-time. The experiment exposed projective futures that may or may not be born when synthetic sensing reaches new levels of access and monitoring all the while the entire system lives as part of a governing and morphing infrastructure space. Another recent collaboration that looked at communication with otherness, possibly future users, possibly with the post-anthropocene, was working with the third episode of Human Interference Task Force by Anna Mikkola and Matilda Tjäder, a project questioning the reposition of nuclear waste into Finland’s bedrock and the consequential setting of a 100.000-year timescale.

Inna Pokazanyeva, Russia, journalist, photographer, illustrator

My fascination with urban design started at the time I was studying in the US, where I participated in the Seminar on Social Entrepreneurship and Innovation. I hope that the programme will help me understand the nature of the human-machine interaction in the upcoming Fourth Industrial Revolution. I see an opportunity to work alongside local organisations and community groups in delivering urban change — and help create places that are successful both socially and economically and are comfortable to live in.

About 5 years ago, I witnessed the birth of Travel 2.0 phenomena. For a while it was interesting to explore the new possibilities of this user-generated content; i.e. media representation is the creation of the place from the scratch. My current research contributes to a better understanding of space as a general concept, created by the means of the new media and shaped by the mediated crowds. The city should be approached as an open diverse digital ground, which, in order to be explained, should be broken up into the media reflections — this way it can be deconstructed into its real self.

Christian Lavista, Argentina, architect

Timing is of the essence. I have an intuition that we are currently at a critical point where the processes in place are driven globally by free market economics, and its underlying ideology has come to a distinct time. Its development has introduced several structures, tools and ideas. Each of them carry their own potential to improve our way of life, but we have been reflecting upon them in a distorted way.

The pace at which they are developing is one we cannot grasp. This reframing, or reinterpretation of these processes at hand was the reason why I chose to apply for the program. The program appeals to me by accepting the complexity embedded into the structures at large (economics, technology, culture etc.).

One of my previous projects involved research of Sub-Saharan agriculture. It seems like a stretch, but the economic activity of agriculture could be thought of as a «structure» that determines how people live in this part of the world. Be it a physical, or an ideological structure, agriculture in this area has the potential to create an alternative way of development in these countries. If the role of small-scale agriculture increases it could have a society that flourishes in a more equitable manner thus also creating an alternative form of settlement and a different form of what we understand as «cities».

Dmitry Alferov, Russia, programmer, engineer

I’m coming into The New Normal with an open mind and open expectations; I hope it will be a good opportunity to reframe by own knowledge in the field of machine learning.

One of the projects I worked on was a toolkit for digital photo forensics. It was a set of programmes designed to assist investigators in detecting doctored sections of digital images, a tool which could potentially validate the authenticity of digital evidence in court. The tool analyses metadata, usage of colorspace, chromatic aberration, Bayer array consistency, double jpeg compression and uses other algorithms to define whether a photograph is genuine. Unfortunately, the current the state of digital photo forensics is rather sad. Forgery is rarely discovered and punished, and the majority of dubious cases fall into a grey area.

Kei Kreutler, USA, web developer

Within most programmes, strict academic disciplines are prioritised, and collaborative work is a side effect. I got really interested in The New Normal’s scenario-driven and team-based approach reconfiguring education within an institutional environment, and I hope to continue working alongside programme peers long into the future.

PROXIMITY (Earl y Warning), a project that I worked on, was an experimental research platform for astrological inquiry into modern satellite technology and its quotidian geopolitical ramifications. Embracing a semi-fictional approach, the research project explored how cultural narratives could orient our relationship to satellite technology and history. Within the new normal, an accelerating rate of technological change often evades visibility. The PROXIMITY platform sought an alternative relation to the normalised objects orbiting overhead.

Anna Tolkacheva, Russia, programmer, analyst

Modern art is a constant fusion of various fields. In my case, these fields include computer science, visual art and text-work. But lately, my projects have been more and more shifting towards urbanism. Indeed, an artist cannot ignore their environment. And the environment we live in today is located on the edge between two spaces, urban and virtual.

In 2015-2016 Ilya Utehin, Alexander Shirokov and I did a project called Images of Nizhny Novgorod: What Could Instagram Tell Us. Our team, where I was a co-researcher and a programmer, pursued a goal to explore new ways of understanding the city with the aid of social networks. For the project I developed software which allowed us to collect, tag, analyse and visualise Instagram data. Our ongoing results were shown on a number of lectures and presentations, but the project has not been completed yet.

Arthur Röing Baer, Sweden, designer, creative director

During my previous education at the Sandberg Institute, I became interested in digital urbanism. After I completed my master’s in design, I made a decision to continue my education and dig deeper into the matter. People whose books I used to read at that time are now my tutors here at Strelka.

When I had to select a project to apply, I used my master’s project called  Co mmune. In Commune, I designed a distributed ownership model for logistical infrastructures. I developed a model for how to build a taxi business that could also scale into public transport and would be owned by drivers and passengers. In exchange for using the service, passengers would get an ownership share which would guarantee them a voice in governing the company, and a percentage of the company’s income.

Aliaksandra Smirnova, Belarus, architect

When I made my decision to join the programme, I was feeling a bit disappointed with my job in particular and the situation in the architectural world in general. I was on a search for fresh ideas for how to apply my architectural knowledge and experience in the professional world. I came to a realisation that traditional architectural practice doesn’t seem to apply anymore, and that futuristic aesthetic and philosophy are essentially becoming the new normal.

I would like to set up some kind of alternative educational platform for young people interested in architecture and urban development. I hope that The New Normal will help me understand what the architectural should become to suit the rapidly changing urban life.

In 2015 I participated in a design competition for developing an urban park in an abandoned railway area in the centre of Shanghai. Our goal was to connect the proposed park with other green spaces to organise an ecological continuum and create a new urban centrality based on ideas of inclusive, smart and connected city. Now, one year since we presented this project, I have come to consider it an eco-futuristic urban intervention — a mix of technological, sustainable and socially inclusive urban development. The merge of these urban concepts might one day lead (or already has led) to introduction of city-cyborgs — a combination of environmental efforts and technological achievements — and a new normal in the urban design.

Photos: Evgeny Kruglov / Strelka Institute
Text: Philipp Kachalin

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