• Invisible Cities: Architecture's Geophysical Turn
    Geoff Manaugh

Geoff Manaugh, “Invisible Cities #2,” 2020. Collage of public domain maps and photographs, courtesy the US Geological Survey and US Library of Congress

The use of geophysical tools by archaeologists and architectural historians has expanded the respective fields in technically thrilling and metaphorically rich—even poetic—new directions. Lost buildings, architectural debris, and entire buried villages can now be mapped and visualized based on nothing more than magnetic fluctuations or slight chemical changes in the soil. Through archaeological site visits and expert interviews, this project explores how particular geophysical tools—including ground-penetrating radar, magnetometry, muon detection, and others—are changing how the architectural past is defined and studied. Seen through the tools of geophysics, architecture becomes something almost ghostly, a presence to be detected, a digital blur, or a technical signature accessible only through specialist machines.

Geoff Manaugh is a freelance journalist based in Los Angeles. He regularly covers topics related to technology and design for publications such as the New York Times Magazine, The New Yorker, The Atlantic, and Wired. His most recent book, A Burglar’s Guide to the City (FSG Originals, 2016) addresses the relationship between crime and architecture. Manaugh has taught graduate-level design and writing studios at University of California, Berkeley; Columbia University, Southern California Institute of Architecture (SCI-Arc), the Strelka Institute, and University of Southern California. From 2011–13 he was codirector of Studio-X NYC, an off-campus event space and urban futures think tank at Columbia University. Manaugh’s design collaborations with British architects Smout Allen have been exhibited at the Architectural Association, Royal Institute of British Architects, University of Southern California, the Chicago Architecture Biennial, and the 2012 and 2020 Venice Architecture Biennales. His book on the history and future of quarantine, coauthored with Nicola Twilley, is forthcoming from MCD Books (2021).