Étienne-Jules Marey air visualizations
In principle, by its own nature, air is an element that avoids spatial description, visual representation, and ultimately, historicity. Its resistance to formalization puts air almost on the opposite side of architecture: air is shapeless, neglects order, and is inclined to invisibility. As architecture, air is a tangible material, but its volatile physics is refractory to traditional interpretations of tectonic art. Yet they share an essential spatial feature: the habitual experience of air, necessary to our living condition, likewise that of everyday spaces we inhabit, calls the immersion of the body, and similarly, it is so integral to our habits that tends to precipitate in unconscious forms of perception. Parallels are not merely phenomenological but properly political. For air is one of the most meaningful public spaces of the city, since it is vital and communally shared. If we shift the perspective therefore, looking form the point of view of air instead of focusing the built environment, a series of modes of visualizing and describing the urban are suspended. What was before not presented to knowledge now requires a cartographic description; the void becomes full of content and acquires the consistency of a space in itself. Integrated in the modes of seeing, conceiving, and governing the city, air becomes a matter of collective attention, visual elaboration, technological intervention and political action.