Friday, July 1, 2011

catching a blue

Today I received a knock on my door and a colleague, Joeri, kindly handed me some papers. It wasn't pneumatic post, but close to it: Molly Wright Steenson's article on the Poste Pneumatique in the latest issue of Cabinet Magazine.

Molly Wright Steenson, otherwise known as girlwonder, is a Architecture PhD candidate at Princeton University, and previously known for her Ignite video on pneumatic tubes. Her article, Interfacing with the Subterranean, provides a meandering journey through the historical sewers of pneumatic engineering in Paris and other cities in Europe (such as Marseilles, see above).

In the article she discusses various workers associated with delivering the
petit bleus, such as the petit facteur télégraphiste (telegraph delivery boy) and the tubiste (postal worker), as well as the sounds and obstructions in the system which I will explore further in future posts.

Towards the end of the article, Steenson puts forward her argument: the pneumatic tube system in Paris was both circulation and respiration for the city, and that as such was regarded as part of healthy progress. She writes (p86):
"The pneumatic tube network is a system that breathes, eats, circulates, fires synapses, and excretes; its structures are lungs that store air, pumps that move their charges, circuits that fire electrical impulses, devices that read them, mouths that swallow, and cloacae that expel"
I like this cyborgic corporeal-mechanical image, which resonates with my own way of thinking about pneumatic tube systems. I can't help but think of the wonderful images of Fritz Kahn, aesthetic master of the machine-body metaphor. I wish every knock on the door came with such inspiring post!

Image from Wikipedia.

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