The modern Picturesque and techniques of adaptation

If the eighteenth century Picturesque can be regarded as a proprietorial strategy for mediating the visual experience of landscape, then the proliferation and configuration of CCTV systems into webcam networks that imagistically promote iconic city form can be seen as its contemporary counterpart. These pervasive digital systems, in their most voyeuristic and passive form as a new privileged vantage point for the ‘remote’ tourist to view the city, allow civic authorities to curate the visual experience of the contemporary urban landscape.

Yet, unlike the inherent formal stability of the Picturesque, the webcam’s conversion of the real into the virtual provides viewers with a greater facility to adapt and mediate their experience. More importantly, this digital conversion is able to offer the designer new ways to materialize three-dimensional form. The extended interactive capacity of webcam content, as a digitally manipulated environment, paradoxically subverts the original surveillant role and the more recent promotional aspect of these systems and converts it into one that is qualitative and experiential.

The paper, drawing on recently completed design-orientated research, will discuss how an array of open-source digital softwares has been strategically recruited to process and interpret raw virtual qualitative data from webcam images to generate a formal response to civic space. This digital manipulation of the two-dimensional webcam view, asks the designer to relinquish the images commonly used to substantiate urban form and to respond to duplicate virtual and real-time sites whose coexistence shifts the temporal framework traditionally used to guide formal intervention.

The application of this unprecedented technique reveals an opportunity to reinterpret the paradigm both for our experience of ‘virtual’ and urban space and for material intervention within it.


Gavin Perin

Gavin Perin is a Lecturer in the Architecture program at the University of Technology, Sydney. Gavin has recently completed a design-based research Masters of Architecture Degree at Royal Melbourne Institute of Technology. This project employs a design-based research methodology to critically explore the issues associated with the generative agency of the figure in the making of architectural and urban form.

Gavin’s main area of academic interest is the role of representation in architecture and the generative and instrumental affect of the forms of representation on design practice and its artefacts. Gavin is also co-director of the Centre for Locative Media Lab at UTS, which is an interdisciplinary research group engaged in theoretical and practice based research exploring the design potential of a range of digital representational tools and techniques.

Linda Matthews

Linda Matthews is undertaking a design-orientated PhD concerned with the development of architecture and urban design methodologies that procedurally utilize the optical logics of digital surveillance systems. The aim of the research is not only to understand how these systems frame and re-present the city but to use these virtual spaces as a source of qualitative and quantitative information sets that can then be digitally reconfigured to generate architectural and urban form. Linda has recently completed her Bachelor of Architecture Degree at UTS where she was awarded the University Medal. She has won a number of significant academic awards including

the prestigious Design Medal from NSW Chapter of the Royal Australian Institute of Architects. She also has a Master’s Degree (M.Arch History and Theory) from the University of NSW.