Time is in the air: Clocks, temporal infrastructures and urban life in nineteenth-century Paris
About the project
In the nineteenth century, having all the public clocks show the same time was a big concern – and problem – for city governments, achievement of which was a source of civic pride. The citizens were not that different either; they were ready to pay to get the ‘true’ time in their homes. The most common technologies were electric systems. There was, however, one odd case: in Paris, time was distributed to the city’s public clocks and to its citizens’ homes through a pneumatic system. Time in Paris was in the air, in compressed form under the ground, surfacing, each minute, in public spaces and private homes to make the clock hands move.
Between 1880-1927, time was pumped throughout Paris in the form of compressed air using a network of pneumatic tubes, which not only took unified time to the city’s public clocks, but also to its citizens’ homes, connecting them to a common time regime.
The aim of this project is to establish empirical and conceptual links between ‘urban temporal infrastructures’ and everyday urban life. ‘Urban temporal infrastructures’ refer to an ensemble of inter-related components that are involved in the production, distribution, maintenance, representation and consumption of time in the city. By focusing on the installation, everyday workings, maintenance, and disappearance of this pneumatic time network, this project seeks to develop a new way of looking at and understanding cities through the prism of temporal infrastructures.