A visual exploration of the act of walking in an urban landscape. 

The immersive video is conceived as a reflection on the concept of “block,” a basic element of urban design. A city block is a group of buildings surrounded by streets, the smallest element of the pattern of an urban environment. There is great variety in the shape and size of city blocks, depending on how the city was planned (or not planned) and how it has grown over the years. Some cities are based on a grid plan, e.g., cities based on Roman settlements, modern cities, etc., having square or rectangular blocks. Cities that have developed by accretion over time, e.g., medieval-founded cities, don’t have a regular pattern, and consequently, blocks have a great variety of shapes and sizes.
The Italian word for block is isolato; it comes from insula or isola, the Italian word for island. It means “something isolated”. The terms point to the fact that the buildings are isolated from the rest rather than forming a block, a group of buildings.

The city of Venice is one of a kind; it is unique in its structure and urban design. Venice is formed by several insulae – islands – divided by canals. Each insula is connected to the others by one or more bridges. Today’s Venice is the result of several modifications over the centuries, with the latest being the “pedestrian reform” made in the early XIX century, in which many canals were paved to make room for walkways. The same thing is happening in several cities with blocks designed with an autocentric structure. Planners are turning portions of the cities into pedestrian-centric areas by aggregating blocks to form superblocks, e.g. Superilles in Barcelona, Stuyvesant Town in New York City, etc.

The immersive video aims to be an experimental way to visualize and compare views of different places at once. It combines spherical video footage of a walk in Venice made by me, compared to walks in several cities around the world made by friends and colleagues working with immersive media.
The equirectangular projection allows the vision of the whole space briefly. The final video will not be wrapped as VR but seen as a flat spherical map. This visualisation preserves the ability to view and compare the elements immediately, e.g., height of buildings, presence of trees or monuments, shops, or other services; width of streets, bike lanes, walkways.
The Venice video is the base item that will guide the others in terms of length, rhythm, resolution, etc. All the video contributions are stacked using a blending mode in order to obtain ghost views on top of the first one.

The video

Cities: Venezia + Belfast + Berlin + Brooklyn + Ciudad de México + Georgetown + Helsinki + London + Porto Alegre + Praha + Québec + Singapore + Tangerang + Tokyo + Valencia + Wien + Zurich

The map of the contributions

Insulae is a project made during the PhD program in Digital Media Arts. UAb / UAlg; course “Média e Arte Digital”, Prof. Bruno Mendes da Silva. Presented in occasion of the 10º Retiro Doutoral em Média-Arte Digital; Convento do Espírito Santo, Loulé (PT) – 10-14, July 2023.

Special thanks
The contributors: Dominik Baumann, Henky Christianto, Luis Erantzcani, Thomas Erh, Juan Carlos Izquierdo Garay, Karyn Laudisi, Jeffrey Martin, Keith Martin, Thomas McVea, Christopher O’Grady, Michele Piazza, Sam Rohn, Pentti Sairanen, Tomonori Taniguchi, Russell Vargo, Luc Villeneuve; for their availability and enthusiasm.
Daniela Almansi for the lovely chat about words in different languages in front of a glass of Prosecco. Max Schwitalla and Sergey Prokofyev for the precious advises that helped me to shape up the concept. Sam Rohn, Jeff Starley, Luca Vascon and Luca Zanazzi for supporting / encouraging / tolerating me (also) during this project 🙂

Planet Contributors. Thanks!

References and further readings
Cullen, G. (1961). The Concise Townscape. Architectural Press.
Davis, R. C. (2022). Il giocattolo del mondo. Venezia nell’epoca dell’iperturismo. Wetlands.
Di Biagi, P. (2009). I classici dell’urbanistica moderna: Alexander, Astengo, Benevolo, Bernoulli, Cullen, De Carlo, Geddes, Giovannoni, Howard, Le Corbusier, Lynch, Mumford, Poëte, Samonà, Sitte. Donzelli Editore.
Jacks, B. (2004). Reimagining Walking: Four Practices. Journal of Architectural Education, 57(3), 5–9.
Lynch, K. (1960). Image of the City. MIT Press.
Psarra, S. (2018). The Venice variations: Tracing the architectural imagination. UCL Press.