Real-Time, No Future

Permanent Crisis and the Responsive City

Double Lecture
25 February 2019
The New Normal Year 3
Strelka Institute, Moscow

Francesco Sebregondi &
Hisham Awad

Control room designed by Territory Studio for Zero Dark Thirty (2012)


All over the world, the data dashboard is replacing the masterplan as the primary instrument of contemporary urbanism. What is at stake in this shift?

Savvy corporate storytelling has turned smartness into the seemingly irresistible dream of the 21st-century city, not least so by selling the fantasy of synoptic control and autopilot governance to municipalities worldwide. In stark contrast with its salesman promises, smart urbanism needs to be understood first and foremost as a response to a new normal of permanent crisis – the canonical expressions of which are the ecological, financial, and security crises that have occupied the present while taking the future hostage. The smart response to such permanent crisis is the real-time, automatic optimisation of (urban) systems – a process simultaneously involving the fostering of valuable flows and the curbing of unworthy ones. Behind the constant optimisation of an evermore responsive city lies, arguably, a highly conservative agenda: one committed to keeping a structurally broken system running for as long as possible and against all odds. How, then, to escape the trap of real-time?