New iPad App Explores the Architecture and Urban Design of Berlin, Beirut & Venice

Thursday, March 28, 2013


Architecture and urban design apps are appearing so fast its hard to keep up with the latest new site to investigate city history and growth. But a new one—Archipelago Town-lines—is the result of a 3 year-long research on three key places: Berlin, Beirut, and Venice. It uses original photo galleries, video, and audio content and interactive data visualization features, as a guide for new urban geography, history, and lifestyle of these three very different cities. These places are then place holders for the analysis of contemporary urban trends, in order to propose a new possibility for growth.

A second app second section puts forwards a new model for urban growth based on 9th century Venice and the figure of the archipelago whose archetype is to be found in a place built in the impossible like Venice, namely a place in which un-built areas have the same importance as built ones.

The third section of the app features video interviews of prominent architects, urban planners, and academicians, specifically produced for it, that suggest imaginary path and different reading of the urban phenomenon stimulated by the app itself. Archipelago Town-lines has been released in English as an app for the iPad. In April, it will be available for Amazon Kindle Fire and all tablets operating on an Android platform. It’s worth a download!

19 Responses to “New iPad App Explores the Architecture and Urban Design of Berlin, Beirut & Venice”

  1. marta moretti says:

    I am pleased to live in a archipelago town and to learn about how its model spread in many different directions. May be this is way people just come here attracted by something behind the carnival – something ancestral – that they barely understand.. thank you

  2. andreas kipar says:

    To read Archipelago Town-Lines is to understand that the reconstruction of our cities also means a repositioning of democracy because, at the micro scale proposed by the app, democracy is applicable.

    At the macro scale, democracy becomes a formality.
    Our European cities need scales that are appropriate to expressing a form of democracy.
    Archipelago Town-Lines makes this very clear.

    Today, I recommend this book almost more to urban activists than to architect-urbanists, because it’s the urban activists who, through their actions, have often succeeded in creating the line of democracy, in creating the archipelago.
    This is what happens in every city.
    Reading the book Archipelago Town-lines was really beneficial for me to understand this and to consider the city from another point of view.
    This is a great merit of this app.

  3. frank barkow says:

    The app is very readeable, very accessible. i found myself turning pages, looking at them one after the other. Accessibility is important because it means that it can be instrumental. it has a journalistic approach that allows for spontaneity and commentary that usual architectural material lacks.

    In the case study of Berlin is particularly relevant to form a different understanding of its various historical layers and the potential relationship between those histories. The comparison between the three cities builds a very compelling argument, providing insights to the possibility of scaling Berlin examples to Venice, and the other way around. The app show how there might be a gread deal of lessons to learn from comparing places.

    To read urbanity as a series of centers, or a series of islands has, for me, a high level of legibility as a kind of tactic with which to operate in the city.
    There is always the danger of working just with things that are right in front of you, but the app makes one realize that one needs an intellectual trigger that makes you step back and look at thigns from the outside.So the app is a very valuable tool for practicing architects, who tends to forget much of those things, as it makes the invisible visible.

    i recommend this app across the board as it is a useful tool for both students, planners and architects. it has an exciting mix of historical, media, and cultural components that makes it vivid, making the reader able to move from point to point in a very inclusive way.

  4. nick vergotti says:

    I am glad to express enthusiams about this very informative app that frame thre cities are usually not discussed together.

    The app intelligently suggests the use of the word “avatar” to describe the main
    problem afflicting italian cities and Venice in particular.

    I liked the following words, concepts & paragraphs related to:

    Theme park, orgy of crass vulgarity: Oh so true!
    Robert Venturi
    $20 ticket: would support it !
    John Ruskin
    Indro Montanelli, would love to see the TV segment!
    Subservience,indiscipline,materialism: quite right !
    Open season, legal avatar and avatar urbanism!

    I loved it.
    I learned stuff I did not know which I found interesting

  5. Maria Gallo says:

    I never thought there was a red line connecting Beirut Berlin and Venice. It’s a new way to trave through geography and society.

  6. mario cucinella says:

    The most interesting thing of this app is that it liberates urbanism from ideology.

    Urban studies have always been a form of abstraction or a rationalization of processes that—as the app shows–actually had other reasons: the system of the archipelago’s growth, the creation of communities, etcetera.

    Throughout the twentieth century, there has been a constant attempt to normalize building processes, and we are now really paying the price of having built a city with a forma mentis tied to the idea of different uses—living,working, playing, having fun. Some abstract ideological labels!

    What’s interesting is that this app reads three cities–and Venice in particualr–critically and it brings to light an urban DNA that has nothing to do with the superstructure that we’ve built around it, which is a structure that has created enormous confusion. So the app teaches us that it is important to go back to the origins.

    In finding an origin for why things were done, Archipelago Town-Lines, gives us a way of interpreting urbanity as an archipelago, one that is often saturated but can perhaps be recovered.

    The app describes Berlin and reinterpret its history and the anthropological model that still remains, namely a collection of neighborhoods.

    And the fact there might be someone (like Hitler) who wants to overturn this system is, I think,a really important lesson in ‘reading’ the city.

    We are currently living a moment of crisis that is full of interesting potential for architects as we try to understand what the new creative, intellectual tool may be.

    I am sure Archipelago Town-lines will help this discussion to take a decisive step forward..

  7. valerio paolo mosco says:

    conrad-bercah’s app is courageous as, by now, hardly anyone has the stomach to address the issue of city or at least the courage to face it.

    In the last ten years, we haven’t seen the city get much attention except as an a posteriori phenomenology, or as seeing it for what it was and not for what it might be. This book, instead, offers a hypothesis of what it might be, a hypothesis that refers to the Gestalt, to a cultural world that, for better or worse, has been abandoned.

    Ultimately, as Simmel or the great urban geographers have taught us, the city can be seen either from a cultural point of view—a large artifact produced by a culture and the overlaying of this culture—or from the perspective of its own physical phenomenology.

    This app takes leave from the second hypothesis, namely the one for which, at least in some respects, it is necessary to peel off all the cultural stratification, to simplify the reading of the city itself.

    In this app there is an a priori absolute—and this alone is rare—according to which, from the physical and Gestalt standpoint, the city has to be seen as a large artifact to be simplified. The hypothesis is that this simplification has to made through the figure of the archipelago, an ideal-typical figure a la Max Weber, which can’t be applied mechanically.

    We need a priori ideas, we need hypotheses, we need prefigurements. One has to have the courage for all of that. One has to have the courage to construct new cities according to strong new, potentially inclusive ideas. The ideal-type of the archipelago can give us a figuration of this kind; so I see this app as suitable for the future, not in what has already been.

    For years and years postmodern culture produced compelling if not seductive books, but with an underlying nihilistic attitude toward the city. So over the past twenty years we have found ourselves part, on the one hand, of Koolhas’s nihilism and, on the other, of Gregotti’s mediocre a priori civilization.

    We have to find a way out of rebounding between these two extremes, and the figure of the archipelago is a hypothesis that opens up positive, active interpretation, if not for cities that already exist, for those of the future.

  8. olivia czartoryska says:

    A pleasure to read! i

    It makes one travel in time and space through these amazing, full of surprises cities that never cease to stun….

    Finally, a theorist with the brilliant gift of presenting complex issues in an entertaining and understandable way.

  9. joseph rykwert says:

    What at first glance appears to be a book of urban theory is in fact a radical attack on traditional ‘theory’, sweeping away the otfen pointless and tedious foundations or urban thought.

    The app stands against the seemingly invicible forces of wild urbanization, proposing a new, compelling model, the model of the archipelago-town, as a dam against the various forces of the urban meltdown.

    A must read for the learned and the unlearned urban dweller alike.

  10. yola noujaim says:

    A true, uncompromising painting of the scary urban meltdown we all witness in most of the world today.

    Beirut as the final destination of the urbanization process?

  11. julia m. rafflenbeul says:

    I never thought that a Romantic urbanism could exist, yet, as a woman living in Berlin, I have to admit that this app enabled me to perceive something that i was unaware of before reading it….

    It puts into a single, compelling narrative, the complex and ambivalent appreciation of one side of modernity: the counter-enlightment that is so typical of Berlin and Berliners.

  12. cb says:

    What a great app!

    I felt like traveling in time and space…..meandering through the history of these ancient and contemporary places….

    It is good to feel to be able to make head or tail of such a complex issues as the urban conundrum one …

    loved the graphic layout, the audios, the audio reviews at the end….and the structure of it all!

    A true bravura!!!

  13. giulio gidoni says:

    The venice report is a true, sharp portrait of the reasons behind the sorry situation Venice finds itself in.
    I strongly reccomend to everybody

    As a member of a famili resiging in venice since many generations, i am somewhat releived by the idea that the urban model of venice may be used elsewhere.

  14. alberto scarpa says:

    It is exciting to explore the possibility of implementing the model of the archipelago for a new urban settlement….is this what the author intends to be the Venice’s swan song?

  15. ana zufic says:

    Loved the videos.
    Loved the audios.
    Loved the app!

    The Facebook -driven society we all live in! So true!!!

  16. robert langdon says:

    This is not only a wonderfully engaging app, but also a journalistic document of great value.

    What is so good about the way conrad-bercah tackeld the urban meltdown is that he allowed for the variety of issues that so marks the phenomenon, but managed to defined an underlying theme with wich we can reason and come to terms.

    That enabled him to do soemthing that few other theoreticians have brought off, which is to set each strand of a possible urban model in its own cultural place.

    This app puts into a single, multilayered narrative a rich, complex appreciation of the stunning process of urbanization of venice, providing what he calls a Swan Song, or the last, mesmerizing song of the most beautiful (dying) swan the world has ever seen: Venice.

  17. sabrina T. says:

    I strated to use it and was unable to put it down till i got to the end.
    Now i am going through it again… i do not seem to be able to put it down….

  18. elisabeth salander says:

    I usually travel quite a lot but this app made me discover a new way of traveling throught time and cultural and sociological issues.

    i particularly enjoyed the videos and the starck comparison between beirut and berlin which made me see things i was unaware of…

  19. David says:

    Load of dross

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