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Revealed by snow and ice

Recently I rediscovered a series of photos I took around Oslo last winter. It was one of the coldest winter in quite some time. Yet again we are in the middle of the season of snow-covered roofs and glacial streets. The photos reminded me how Oslo is truly a bi-seasonal city.

The experience of living and being in the city changes with the seasons. City life with technology changes with it too. We are currently in the season where outdoor computing doesn’t make that much sense. Wireless wi-fi networks bleeding into streets and parks are suddenly irrelevant and not that important anymore. Operating a touchscreen phone is complicated by the logistics of gloves and reduced dexterity. I bet parks are not trending on Foursquare. My Instagram feed, however, is filled with snow-covered trees, frosty mustaches and the occasional snowman. The joy of sharing is greater than the fear of dropping our phones into the snow, I guess.

Snow narrative.

These images are a set of noticings of snow and ice. When the snow hits the ground it adds another layer to the city, a layer of narrative which is not that visible to us in the warmer seasons. This new layer on the city reveals infrastructures, traces and behaviours that we otherwise would not see.

The path of an underground heating cable.

Some years back I remember some heavy trench digging outside AHO. I didn’t know at the time what was being put in it. But the snow tells me it’s the path of an underground cable from the the district heating system.  In the summer I can’t tell where the cable snakes its way through the city or if it even exists. But every winter I know.

Little vent melts ice.

The snow also tells tiny stories about buildings and their exhausts. This little vent is one mean ice-melting-machine. It’s the smallest vent on this building, yet it has such a warm exhaust and powerful blow that it can melt about a meter of ice.

Heat-loss from a building.
Heat-loss visualised.

The heat loss form this building is visualised by the glacier-free pavement. I can’t help but dream that we could have snow-free pavements in the winter if more buildings were designed like this.

Lastly, I want to point to how the snow also tells us stories about human behaviour.

The popular part of the pavement.

It’s no surprise that people tend to walk mostly in the middle of the pavement, but it’s just nice to see it represented there in the snow, in a gradient of powdery dirt.

Length of parking.

It’s interesting to notice the amount of snow on the parked cars in my neighborhood. The snow reveals that a surprising amount of them are rarely in use, thus raising interesting questions about the amount of parking space in the neighborhood and who that should be for.

There are a few more photos of snowy streets on Flickr.

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