Saturday, 6 March 2010

The City and the Shawl

Continuous Conveyor Belt City was one of Superstudio's Twelve Ideal Cities. A giant factory rolls across the landscape at 40 centimetres per hour, devouring resources and leaving a trail of brand-new buildings which start to decay after only a few months - richer families move house two or three times per week to stay within the newest, shiniest apartments, while the poor and social outcasts live amongst the wreckage further back along the trail. CCBC is clearly a satire on waste and consumerism, and could theoretically represent any city or suburb, although in this interview architect Octavio Zaya argues that Detroit works on a similar principle albeit at one quarter the speed.

A version of CCBC also features in Tony Ballantyne's novel Capacity: the Factory is transported into orbit, and the City hangs down towards the Earth as The Shawl, with sectors that gradually move down until they are eventually released to burn up in the atmosphere. As with the original CCBC, The Shawl is a symbol of impermanence, the philosophy of the computers and Social Care workers who appear to be guiding humanity in this complex story of cyberspace clones, artificial intelligences and Von Neumann machines.

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