In Celluloid Skyline, James Sanders explores the New York of the movies, and how its portrayal in film influences not only our perception of the city, but ultimately the shape of the city itself. I am interested in this reciprocal relationship, in particular the way in which an idea can influence a physical construct, as it manifests itself in actual, observable patterns.
Cities are the product of codes, programs which determine the shape of the urban environment. At both a macro and a micro scale, they steer the growth of cities, from the department of city planning to the individual developer. Such programs range from formal (eg. zoning laws), to informal (eg. aesthetics). Yet regardless of scale, codes are intrinsically influenced by the idea of the city: beyond shaping our perception of the city, these programs shape cities according to an idealized image. Patterns—the evidence of programs within the urban environment—can help piece together the collective image of a city, a collage of fiction and reality.
Finding and interpreting patterns is essentially the process of reverse-engineering those forces which lead to the creation of a physical construct. And while there are as many perspectives of the city as there are inhabitants, as a process of analysis, it can provide a foundation for describing the collective image of a city.