Wednesday, August 8, 2007

Global Cities

Global Cities was one of the most visually powerful and thought-provoking exhibitions I have seen over the last few years - currently exhibiting at the Tate Modern until August 27th, Global Cities explores the urban environments more than 50% of the earth's population inhabit. Through five thematic areas - size, speed, form, density and diversity, the exhibition explores ten of the largest, most dynamic cities across our globe - Cairo, Istanbul, Johannesburg, London, LA, Mexico City, Mumbai, Sao Paulo, Shanghai and Tokyo, through facts, data comparison and visual representations alongside the work of established artists who came from, or formed a relationship with one of the cities.

This was a really interesting graphical representation of the built up/open spaces in each of the ten cities; from a birds-eye photograph of part of the city, a black and white image was created - black representing built up areas and white, open space. Shown above, Mumbai and Sao Paulo - when comparing this to the representation of London, you could see just how packed these urban spaces were in comparison to our capital - visually this was particularly effective.

I thought this area of the exhibition was another innovative approach to presenting what could be relatively boring information to the general public; four models represented, each to the same scale, the number of people living within the boundaries of four of the cities, the peaks indicating the highest residential densities. This ranged from the high-density of Cairo and Mumbai, to the more dispersed London and sprawling Mexico City. Just one example from the exhibition that illustrates how design and visual communication can play an important and innovative role in the presentation of numerical and fact based information that would otherwise be viewed as mundane.

Apart from the facts and fugures, the exhibition also contains a large selection of photography, film and commisions from a wide-range of practioners that explore different aspects of these urban landscapes.

The Global Cities exhibition, designed by Pentagram, has been built from a material synonymous with urban areas and our ever-growing cities - scaffolding. This complimented the atmosphere of the exhibition and it's visual presence in the large hall area was just one ingredient that made this exhibition so impacting. Furthermore, the design of the info-graphics throughout the exhibition was excellent; an industrial-style typeface was designed for the exhibition, the graphics were simple and clean, almost in stark contrast to some of the photography presented, and the use of typography throughout was eye-catching and impacting.

With 2007 being the first time one in two people in the world are living within a city, this exhibition is extremely relevant to us all. It offers a mix of powerful, thought-provoking information about the way we live and the future of city environments and an in-sight into the relationships of artists, photographers and film-makers with these unique spaces on earth. Well worth a visit.

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