Master in City & Technology 2019/20- Term I
Studio Name: INTERNET OF CITIES – An urban exploration to the most isolated place on Earth
Total Hours: 40 hours
Faculty: Mathilde Marengo & Edouard Cabay

From the concept of the internet of things, commonly defined as “the interconnection via the Internet of computing devices embedded in everyday objects, enabling them to send and receive data”, the internet of cities speaks of connection, interaction and exchange of data and information through diverse scales of an urbanised context. 

We are therefore invited to reflect on what are the drivers and tools of interpretation for urbanisation today. Though today only 3% of the world’s surface is considered urbanised (GRUMP), 70% is consumed by human processes, transforming it from its “natural” or unprocessed state, into a state of alteration through human action, often linked to a form of consumption, whether this be related to physical or informational resources. In fact, it appears we have moved into an Anthropocene geological age, where human activity is the dominant influence on climate and the environment. We are therefore in a moment where the capacity to distinguish the natural from the artificial is debatable.

Traditional models and dogmas are no longer able to grasp and interpret the meaning of the contemporary urban context, and demand to be revised for new models of urban thinking and perspective, a new phenomenology linked to new ideologies. As Bocquet notes: “metropolises are also seen as places where the state of the relationship between global trends, space and society are most legible and their effects, both physical and social, for better or for worse, most spectacular” (2013). Each possible form of this evermore complex urban context brings with it its own set of social, economic and environmental consequences. Furthermore, a new urban geography, a new “fluid dimension” in a field of relationships (Ricci, 2012).

Within this framework of endless connectivity, where it appears that a direct relationship between activities and places no longer exists, the internet of cities studio will reflect, discuss and experiment with parameters and actuators of urbanization.

Can we define paradigms that help us understand and design for the urban territory?

The debate regarding the city is a potentially infinite discussion, as “the city is a subject apparently about everything. […] Without some sort of focus, or a framework applied to the ways in which we think about it, the city is a subject so all-embracing that any discussion about it becomes a discussion about everything – and so, in the end, about nothing” (Sudjic, 2007). It is therefore of great importance to define a specific framework in which this debate will take place. The Internet of Cities is interested in understanding whether a concept or a sense of the contemporary city exists that can be applied to the Antarctic context, as a whole. Keeping in mind that “giving visual form to the city is a special kind of design problem, and a rather new one at that” (Lynch, 1960).

In this framework, the Internet of Cities Studio proposes to use Antarctica, an extreme territory, confined by natural limits (taking on the characteristics of a petri dish), in a relatively untouched or pristine state, with the end goal of exploring and understanding, and then confronting this understanding with today’s most extreme urban contexts, in order to apply the learnings of this expedition to the most isolated place on Earth, towards finding responses to these existing urban extremities.

In this sense, the interest is to question at what conditions could we consider Antarctica as urban, hence using it as a lens and tool through which to look and study the urban phenomenon and question its limits and characteristics. We will reflect on Antarctica as “a spatial model for the understanding of contemporary global interactions”, reflecting on recent development challenges the city’s conventional boundaries, forms and social configurations (Bocquet, 2013).

Hence the choice to apply the concept of city to a much broader scale, than to that of a territory of networks and relations, of infrastructures and human density, to apply it to a geography presenting a “conglomerate of natural, artificial and immaterial elements, at once porous and fibrous, with dense and stable areas, made up of antithetical elements that have breached precise, traditional boundaries” (Àbalos et al, 2003).

An urban exploration to the most isolated place on Earth:

Facts and discussion points:

  • Antarctica is the youngest continent, it was discovered 200 years ago. 
  • Antarctica is a continent where human life can not be sustained. (most food can not be grown, life can not happen in the outdoor).
  • Antarctica does not have an autochthonous human population. No one lives there on a permanent basis. No one was born there. 
  • Most people that live, or have lived in Antarctica are scientists. 
  • The population of Antarctica is temporary, it is inhabited by scientists, most of them for 6 months period.
  • Antarctica generates interest primarily because of the potential it represents in terms of science – and not resources.
  • Almost everything that is built or consumed in Antarctica has been brought from overseas.
  • The antarctic treaty states that human inhabitation of the continent can not generate waste. And that no permanent structure can be erected there. 
  • There are no plans to develop human settlements in Antarctica. For other reasons than science. 
  • Antarctica is a continent that is dynamic: the outer limit is melting and therefore the coastline is changing. The ice layer that covers the continent is moving, meaning that there is no permanent ground. The territorial reality of today is different from tomorrow’s. 

What does urbanization mean, when studied through the lens of Antarctica?


The studio, before defining urbanisation strategies will define tools to understand a territory without actually being there. In other words, all the research we will carry through will happen by the collection of data and not through physical visits. And we will not only map human activities, but rather indirect human activities, meaning activities that relate to humans, but without needing its presence. The research has been orchestrated following an analytical and experimental methodology.

Antarctica, since it is not a place where we want to live, is a place where we want to find information and send it back. The research bases, therefore, are like sensors, sophisticated sensors hubs that act as communication interfaces. 

Global warming makes the continent move, it, therefore, needs a modern approach to cartography that needs to integrate a dynamic dimension. Where the information is being constantly fed and update, where nothing is certain, the past, as soon as it has occurred is no longer valid as opposed to the condition created by the incoming data, to underline the ways in which this territory defines a new phenomenology of the contemporary city with regards to the current change in the paradigm of the urban-scape.