Catalog for Scalable City

Includes short stories by Kim Stanley Robinson and Geoff Ryman. Essays by Bruce Sterling and Geoff Ryman. Interview with Sheldon Brown by Eduardo Navas and introduction by Sheldon Brown. Also available from

Cutting across somewhere beween in the scalable city

Bruce Sterling

Sheldon Brown's creative activities are well-considered, and elegant. They're also quite hard to describe in today's language. The streets of his scalable city have no names. The nicknames we might too-hastily give to them - harsh technical acronyms that repel the reader's eye - or that brassy host of prefixes: "neo" this, "hyper" that, super, ultra, virtual, mega, poly, meta, cyber & nano. Do they help us understand? They're jammed onto older terminology as if to knock the dust off it. Those formulas rather badly serve today.s artistic public. Now, Sheldon.s works are very much what they are. Yet, they're not cinema. Nor animation. They're not computer games, or simulated architecture, or urban maps, or even sculpture. They do partake of those things. They are a form of expression that "cuts across somewhere between."

A Scalable Me For Scalable Times

Geoff Ryman

Like all games, Scalable City practices aspects of life and gets us to ask questions. How, really, do we end up devouring landscape? How really do we want cities to grow? If this process, as automatic as the real process of building suburbia, results in things we don.t like, the program invites us to consider others. Would we like a process that built upwards? Or that once a saturation point had been achieved, jumped to a new setting and started building there? If this is in fact how things change, only speeded up, what role do I play, how do I change, in this ever re-scalable world?

Troiage Aesthetics (revised)

As the world around us is transformed into digitally enabled forms and processes, aesthetic strategies are necessitated that can serve to articulate the multiple layers of complexity involved. I have developed an approach to this through a number of projects that engage a formal and conceptual vocabulary derived from collage, montage and assemblage. This triple ďageĒ (Iíll call it troiage), renders surprising zones which articulate more then just the edges of a formal transformation of culture, but reveal aspects of social structure itself. One approach to put these mechanisms of articulation into play is by looking at binary relationships such as nature/culture, personal/public, U.S./Mexico, freedom/coercion, mediation/experience. This aesthetic approach is connected to, and develops from, a number of disparate areas of art and cultural history.

Accelerating The Scalable City

Scalable City consists of 5 major components - landscape, roads, lots, architecture and vehicles. The process of developing each of these begins with data captured from networked real-world applications. This raw data, drawn from a real world referent, is transformed by an algorithm that creates a characteristic imprint of its own. In the case of the landscape, the captured data comes from satellite imaging. This visual representation of the landscape is transformed by a simple process of duplication, rotation, copying and pasting; the process creates a new landscape which retains naturalism in its details, but with a high level of algorithmic decoratism in its large scale structure.


The 4K cinema format is another moment in the ongoing negotiation between the realms of the fictive and the real, its lack of apparent pictorial artifact removing another veil of mediation. However, it operates within a culture that has a well-developed history of cinematic perception. This work recognizes that there is enough of a transformation of the image in this configuration that it causes the viewer to re-negotiate their own spectatorship, to re-calibrate the cinematic stance.