Under the surveillance

 Under the surveillance 

Rui Liu

We are monitored 300 times per day each person because there are 1.4 billion surveillance cameras worldwide now, and this figure is expected to reach 5 billion in 2022, quoted by IHS Markit. In addition to providing security for our lives, the excessive number of cameras also record all of our behaviors and activities every day. Surveillance is starting to invade our privacy gradually. Many designers and artists also began to pay attention to this issue and put forward their own views. Combined with the concept ‘panopticon’ put forward by Jeremy Bentham and Michel Foucault. I would like to apply this theory to my design and observe humans’ behavior patterns. Also inspired by Bernard Tschumi’s theory ‘architecture should be defined by events and activities that happen inside’, and structure of his deconstructive works. I have imagined a new building without pre-set functions, the function of this building/space will be designed by people who live in. By forming such a community to observe how people react under surveillance. The research based on many kinds of sources like novels, movies, essays and articles, is aimed at exploring the discussion about the current surveillance system dominated by the government. I am looking forward to hearing more voices and thoughts through this experimental design. It may not solve practical problems, but at least it can make people thinking.

Case studies were drew form different fields, such as installation art, performance art, fashion design and etc. All created by different people from different countries with different languages. At a time when the public completely acquiesces or treats the surveillance cameras that cover our public spaces as big brother’s protection or even guardian, the artists and designers reverse the surveillance cameras and regain a little freedom and power. One of my main findings was the fact that  height is an important manifestation of the power class. It gives a sense of control and it is easy to monitor others when the place you are in is higher. An exaggerated height could create an excellent condition for viewing, but it could also provide a condition for monitoring the city. At the same time, this monitoring behaves will not affect people in the city because they can not feel being monitored. It reminds me that when the physical properties of the building change, such as material, height, thickness, etc, the function of the building may also change. 


Architecture is not simply related to space and form, but also related to events and what happens in the space. – Bernard Tschumi

Surveillance is a set of modern technology to improve the living environment of human beings. It is also an invisible network that envelops the city. But while we are proud of our modern technology, should we also be wary of what are we unconsciously giving away for these new technologies?




If there were a space for constant growth, what would it eventually become?

The initial thought was creating a space with large amount of surveillance cameras and testing people’s different reactions under surveillance. And compared with the response of people who are not monitored at all. After I got further of my project, I would like to develop this space into a highly free space or community, where people can do everything they want with few limitation. They can define their own area for different activities like accomodation, store, exhibition and etc. But there is a prerequisite that they must allow complete monitoring of their actions. What’s ore, this space has the ability to grow (the number of floors will increase as the population entering this space increases) which means this space will gradually become the tallest building in Glasgow. At this time, the space is not only a tool for observing humans inside, but also a tool for monitoring the entire city.





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