Infrastructure vs...


Does infrastructural urbanism and landscpae urbanism create good cities or is it just sartorial (and formal) urban renewal? and why?

Sep 17, 06 4:44 pm

if this were the real jkaliski, i'd say he was trying to pick our brains for his next book.

but i expect the real kaliski would have given us more than an either/or setup. i expect that good urban leadership, a decent tax base, and an informed/engaged populace have something to do with it too?

what does urbanism have to do with clothing or tailors? will i make my city better by renewing my wardrobe?

Sep 17, 06 5:28 pm  · 

I renew my wardrobe every year. Whatever. Recently I had a conversation with a famous architect who relayed that they completely disagreed that XL infrastructural designs were by nature anti-urban and suggested that they were at this time the prime means to vision, move forward, adress the political and social ills of North American cities, etc. They pointed to the failure of New Urbanists to capture public imagination in New Orleans (Is this really true?). This of course is reminiscent of the failure of New Urbanism to address the situation at Ground Zero in the initial rounds of planning/reaction (this is a fact). Surely there is a lot of big thinking/implementation going on in City's in Europe, Asia, Dubai, and our famous delineators are seen as leading the way. There is also little critical resistance to these schemes. The design press more often than not seems to greet them with enthusiasm. I ask again, is this because they are good plans/good urbanism or is this just infrastructural garbing of restructuring late modern urbanism? and why?

Sep 17, 06 7:42 pm  · 

best cities I've lived in have a foundation (thanks to Olmsted & followers) in what would now be termed landscape urbanism- lots of parks/openspace to play in that are integrated with the transit and street fabric (not those things that R. Moses termed parkways).

The 19th c. street car urbanism (aka philly, boston, parts of brooklyn and the bronx...) is defacto infrastructural urbanism and can create good urban forms too- the neo-urbs problem is that they just copy the forms without the structure. no matter what duany says about transit oriented development- he is still building parking lots.

The best predictor of great places is education- more colleges in a city, the better...

Sep 17, 06 9:45 pm  · 
liberty bell

I don't know who jkaliski is - real or otherwise - and I don't really understand the above post but I know this: good cities are made by grocery stores within walking distance of housing.

OK that's oversimplified but I think you can have a good city that springs up arounddespite a major infrastructure mistake, or you can have one that happens without any major infrastructure intervention at all. I guess I would say that the an enormous "prime mean" to making a city succeed is the combined power of countless tiny efforts: as Steven said, an engaged populace who through relatively small acts make a diverse commerce viable which leads to a strong tax base which leads to informed demand for good urban leadership.

There may be little critical resistance to large scale physical urban schemes but how much impact do professional critics really ever make?

Sep 17, 06 9:56 pm  · 
liberty bell

Oops - treekiller beat me to it - tby the "above" post I mean jkaliski's. And agreed, treekiller: the more education, the better. Guess I better educate myself as to who jkaliski is ;-)

Sep 17, 06 9:58 pm  · 

It seems that some of the greatest cities are those where people are continuously involved in the public places... Whether infrastructure or landscape provides the most productive activity is hard to say exactly, because ideally there would be a balance of both. I think LibertyBell says one possibility well with, "it is the combined power of countless tiny efforts..." that makes a city succeed.

And similar to the ideas Steven mentioned (diversity, development, leadership) is something that keeps coming to mind-- It seems that just like any ecosystem, it is the biodiversity and ability to adapt that allow it to thrive. I like to think that cities are vast systems in themeselves that require a similar balance of diversity and public engagement in order to move forward.

Maybe I need to learn more about the original question, but why the strict divide between infrustructure and landscape? Is it more to compare and contrast the natures of each, or a means to delegate a better or worse?

Sep 18, 06 4:19 am  · 

everyday urbanism

, in which the authors (including jkaliski) cover a lot of ground - including those things which have been said here - with little prescriptive advice, making clear that it's not easy or point-a-to-point-b but instead participation-based, messy, and that failing is part of the process.

[this is a great book, by the way, but a bad book for students who want to find a source material for urban design guidance. my students fell in love with it, but then realized that they were hamstrung because it took a lot of the responsibility for the evolution of a successful urban evironment out of the hands of designers. they were looking for instructions...]

Sep 18, 06 7:54 am  · 

nice comments steven.

agree either/or is not enough, and list is anyway too short. i live in a city with an amazing infrastructure that makes life here comfortable, and well...possible. there is not much landscape of the olmstead type, and the legislated urban growth boundary and green ring both were eaten away in the 60's and 7o'S boom...but there is greenery at the small scale and local involvement in community is high...and i can walk or cycle EVERYWHERE. no car necessary at all. green grocer, butcher and even the oden wagon survive alongside two big-ass-ish supermarkets because the density supports it... it is incredibly comfortable and not definable in an easy way at all. not easy to repeat either, i suspect.

my advisor/prof is working on an approach that denies the idea that urbanism can be improved through design of large areas, and instead suggests a twiggy linear model, with infrastructure and landscape and people twining through the city...very japanese. not sure if it is good or bad still, but it is certainly interesting. similar to nan ellin's work, if any of you are familiar with her stuff. if interested he just published a special issue on the idea in this month's JAPAN ARCHITECT, which is bilingual...

actually it could be interesting for your students steven. lots of design ideas, and some of them similar to everyday urbanism type approach.

Sep 18, 06 10:51 am  · 
vado retro

you gotta build parking lots its the code. and its the desire of the develoepers and of their tenants. just went through this recently. the charette schemes were rejected/ altered because the tenants didnt get enough street exposure, or their wasnt enough parking right in front of their stores. etc...

Sep 18, 06 3:31 pm  · 

OK. There are some good ideas here but it seems that all who have commented thus far are vested strongly in incrementalism - including my self. None of us are making a strong ideological case for the XL though some of us admit it might be part of the game. I really liked Liberty Bell's thoughts that, "... an enormous "prime mean" to making a city succeed is the combined power of countless tiny efforts" and zirconpolyestherthylen's follow up that "... cities are vast systems in themeselves that require a similar balance of diversity and public engagement in order to move forward." But notwithstanding all these good iterative intentions, publics, and particularly public's that are given the opportunity to participate in decision-making tend to be conservative, i.e. they know what they have and they don't want what they don't have, and further Olmsteadian type urbanism seems difficult to implement in existing places. Given conservative publics and the difficulty of implementing large-scale infrastructural efforts in given places without doing as much damage as good why is it that there is still the fascination with the big in architectural discourse? Is it because there are certain design and functional needs in the modern city that incrementalism can not meet? Or, perhaps should we be recasting and stretching the definition of incrementalism to more effectively address large scale urban and architectural issues? I take it this is what fiber city refers to. I took a look at the web site and a quick read suggests a type of psycogeographic analytic tool and form supposition that seems very Lynchian at its core, i.e. fibers equal paths and/or edges but are updated to account for the virtuality of contemporary life. One last question, is a city of myriad small gestures an artful city? A corollary: Is Tokyo urbanism artful in a way that would be accepted by typical American communities? Can it be?

Sep 18, 06 3:37 pm  · 
vado retro

don't plan, reveal....

Sep 18, 06 4:49 pm  · 

i don't know about art, but i like it when is see it.

what exactly is an artful city?

the ideas that ohno is working on continue the work of the metabolists to some extent, but maybe more specifically comes from his mentor fumihiko maki (who was a reluctant member of the metabolist group)...maki wrote a book in english on urban form, sometime in the 60's or 70's i think. i can't recall the title, but am sure you can find it if intrested. so, i would say not lynchian, but mostly japanese. and especially the linear typology that is still a big part of japanese settlement. but updated and reconsidered for tokyo.

the main rationale for his approach is probably not psychogeographic and certainly not virtual (maybe; i don't exactly know what you mean by virtual life). it is a response to the very real problems of the frightening close big earthquake, a shrinking population, and a desire to make the city more liveable.

there is also a desire to do big things; but being realistic, ohno believes it is possible to have a larger positive impact for the city by using a long green line than designing a few city blocks (of the same area)...also it is more humanistic, and as suburban properties are expected to empty out randomly as population decreases in the next few decades, some methodology is necessary to respond to the change so tokyo won't end up like philadelphia.

i don't believe tokyo is useful as a model for anywhere except tokyo. same for london, new york. LA.

Sep 18, 06 8:36 pm  · 
el jeffe

hey john!
i'm joining in a bit late - melissa and i were up in santa fe yesterday. (she says 'hi')

a bit of a side-track perhaps - the law of the indies which worked so well with a king and vacant land, and is such a darling of the New Urbanists....

and the AT & SF railyards which are now treated as a found object of infrastructure...

are slowly growing together quite nicely.

nowhere near the scale of what your original question posed, but i've been watching and considering the effects of neighborhood associations here in ABQ lately. the city is beginning to refuse to hear many zoning cases until the relevant NA has given their official opinion. while on the one hand it is nothng but a lazy proxy poll for the city councilor to protect themselves, more interestingly (and perhaps relevant here) it creates a political overlay that can masquerade as community based while tackling relatively large-scale issues. i say masquerade because many of the more active neighborhood associations have an opacity to their inner workings that are not subject to sunshine laws since they're not governmental organizations.


Sep 19, 06 12:44 pm  · 
vado retro

man i wish i was at 10,000 waves right now.

Sep 19, 06 12:57 pm  · 
el jeffe

we were up in taos this weekend for oktoberfest at the base of the ski valley - really fun but it got down to 28 at night!

Sep 19, 06 2:00 pm  · 
vado retro

oh i miss stayin at the dh lawrence ranch too

Sep 19, 06 2:23 pm  · 

Yikes, all my old buddies. But El Jeffe - if that is in fact still your name - I do not think what you are illustrating is a sideshow. In fact the railyard in Santa Fe may be the best example yet presented in this thread of an infrastructural project that has urban implications - hence infrastructutal urbanism. The reasons from my point of view have to do with the fact that this place is being recycled both as architecture and infrastructure and it is being recyceld in the context of a public discourse - very everyday. Perhaps this is a case of "critical incremental infrastructural urbanism". Can you make a city based upon this type of prcess and what can it look like (Christopher Alexander began to explore this at one point).

The basis of my question is a search for connectivity, indeed place, within the context of infrastructure and at the same time a concern that these types of curlural issues, perhaps dated in their post WWII and post-modern origin, do not inform in any meaningful way the work of a younger more digitally oriented generation. I have been toying with the idea that the global in architecture is increasingly a way of not simply embracing the future, but also a means of ignoring the past with a curious digital formalism that simply repeats in updated clothes the mistakes of urban renewal. But this is still a half formed thought only worthy of a blog.

I also want to respond to jump's challenge as to what constitutes an artful city. This is in some way self-evident; there is a long history of architect's and planners writing about the artful city or artful civic design from Sitte, to Unwin, to Hegmann, to Nolan, to of course last but not least Duaney. All of them are concerned with urban beauty and its ameliorative effects (as well as the function and behavior of people within urban contexts). Perhaps this need on their part, particularly the New Urbanists, for civic artfulness is what gives them a leg up in the neighborhood meetings, planning debates in planning commissions etc. that my ABQ friend refers to; they deal unembarresdly in the langiage of the artful and the beautiful and place and context and many, many people appreciate this.

My sense is (and it is just a sense - or a hypothesis) that if you had the degree of community participation in Europe and Asia (and Dubai) that you have in the US, that many of our most elite architects would not have nearly as many opportunities to ply their wares, and many would neccessarily need to start talking about connections, place-making, and beauty again in the production of the urban environmentt. Just meanderings here but worth putting out there to be shot at if not shot down.

With regard to the Metabolists and Fiber City, I am not sure abouth these connections but I have not had the time to do the research. My sense is that Fiber City is high touch and high place and everyday in a way that Metabolism is not. Also the Metabolists were never about realism, at least in their hypothetical projects. But I will look more into this and if I come up with something - put it out there.

I still wonder about how to put the art in the everyday. Mr. Ward's criticism of Everyday Urbanism, that it is not solution oriented, or can not lead to solutions, has been suggested by others. However, it was not our intent in that book to design the everyday city as much as it was to describe it and layout a framework for thinking it. As an architect, I naturally think that architects make a contribution to the everyday and that contributuion is design based. In a menadering way I am back at a beginning point - what is an artful everyday city and how does one design it?

Sep 20, 06 12:58 am  · 

i should clarify that the connection of fiber city to metabolism is more through the work of maki than anything, and he was never entirely in tune with that movement...the book he wrote was "Investigations in collective form", and it is there that i recall him writing about linear forms of settlement...and ohno is continuing on with that. at least that is how i understand it.

i don't like new urbanism very much, but i am inclined to think that it is not so much about style (not sure if this is what you consider the "art" of the city) as most people want to believe. one of its central ideas is that of "form-based zoning", which says that within certain limits zoning as an idea is wrong and should not happen. and in this way you get something like everyday urbanism in the sense that people can chose for themselves the kinds of land-use that appears in a neighbourhood. it is, surprisingly, an idea of emergence.

which is actually the subject for my phd research. i am studying the japanese context, which has basically the same rule, but without a shred of dogma, and no inerest in form...but the result is i imagine just what duany is hoping for. small shops are all over the suburbs, a house turns into a small clinic (very impt in an aging society, where mobility is a big issue), and back to a house again, while another is converted into a restaurant, and so on...and the local area becomes slightly walkable...most interesting thing about this is that there are no rules mandating that land use gets mixed, it hapens on its own right from the start, even in a brand new suburb. i think there is a great deal to be learned from that kind of process.

but there is no art to it. there is no over-arching design, the houses and stores and all the rest are very ugly in general. but also very liveable and comfortable. for me that is far more important than a nice looking street.

not that a japanese suburb wouldn't benefit from a tree lined row or two, or even some orderly setback limits, but to start a design based on such things leads to contrived, disney-esque places. which are, in the end, less about the well made place, and more the well made product. big difference. places are adaptive, and change. products you throw away when bored.

Sep 20, 06 2:12 am  · 


I think you may be stretching the Tokyo Zoning Code into something that it isn't. and while it certainly is a valuable example to learn from, it is as you note hardly the form-based codes that the New Urbanists have propagated. While it may allow in some areas for mixes of uses such as residential over commercial like a new urbanist code, it most certainly does discuss land use and separation of land uses, which the more rabid New urbanists would say is not neccessary It is additionally regulated by FAR, shadow angles, heights, etc. I have yet to read a form-based American code that is not fundamentally based upon form precedent or idealized form precedent. Many of them also extend their reach into style issues.

Please understand that I am not neccessarily opposed to this but it is different I believe than the organic everydayness that you (and I) are talking about. I have learned that it is not enough to just set up the rules and leave it alone. Good place making seems to demand a bit more, perhaps even an extra tree or two consciously placed. Plus, I do not think that a discussion of urban and civic beauty by definition leads to contrivance, nor has to contradict everydayness.

Sep 20, 06 2:47 am  · 

yeah you are right. i shouldn't write when running on coffee and no sleep (which is too often, lately). i was over-reacting to the "art" aspect. that comes a lot from new urbanism actually. On paper, and in the essays duany writes, it sounds incredibly open. but then they get to the "ART", and the form-based coding gets very binding, and it falls apart. for me it does, anyway. for just the reasons you have laid out. on the other hand, there is something quite interesting there that shouldn't be chucked away just because they otherwise act like fascists... ;-). most everyone i talk to chucks baby and bathwater out together.

funny of my case study areas is in a second tier city (i didn't want to have to deal with the special conditions that are tokyo; at least not to start with) and yet even in this smaller city, with just a small rail line heading to the suburbs (mostly used by students), and a decidedly car based culture, there are all those things i wrote above. also sprawl and big boxes and all the detritus familiar to north american suburbanism. but a recent subdivision now under construction already has 2 cafes, a small home-business of some sort (with parking instead of front yard), and 2 beauty salons. not on the feeder roads, where you might expect, but more or less randomly distributed in the midst of everything. i am not sure why this is happening, but am trying to uncover the reasons...some combination of formal and informal rules i suppose. but it could simply be that it is mostly bored housewives setting up shop to pass the time. still, they are allowed to, which is an interesting thing in itself.

you are right that there is no reason that thinking about civic beauty should lead to contrived spaces. starting with an ideal image in mind is certainly alright, but what happens when someone wants to modify it? should untrained people be allowed to mess with the master plan? i believe they should. so the goal of the designer needs to be to make a place that can accept all of the willful re-interpretation and still remain civically beautiful...the flaw of new urbanism for me is that they seem to be saying only the qualified should be allowed to do that...

however none of this is really answering the orginal question.

i was trained to believe the grand gestures are the best ones, but over the years have leaned towards incrementalism. still, this is not to say that big and incremental cant go together. bruce mau, when asked about downsview said:

"In order to produce a place or a cultural entity in the past, it was about fixing it and making it solid and defining it for all time. Our project is really the opposite: it's about designing it to be changed, designing it to be evolving, but to make the design so robust that it sustains itself through that evolution--like any other living thing."

maybe impossible, but a nice ambition.

a question for you though, do you not see landscape or infrastructure urbanism as sartorial? is ingenhoven's stuttgart station not both? or west 8's new project for toronto waterfront?

Sep 20, 06 7:53 am  · 

jkaliski (it IS you!)

stepping back a few entries:

Given conservative publics and the difficulty of implementing large-scale infrastructural efforts in given places without doing as much damage as good why is it that there is still the fascination with the big in architectural discourse?

for whom? architects? i think architects still tend to be enamored with the big projects because they exhibit a way to control the implementation of a vision. i also think this is the way duany et al have been understood. their projects are often like urban renewal in 19thc dress. (e.g., uda's hope vi projects here in louisville.) they're big and all-encompassing and can be understood as 'the project', whereas real urban growth would be much less clear and much less under anyone's control. i think this makes most architects who came up under the influence of the plan voisin and broadacre city uneasy.

i don't agree that a larger public is interested in big projects, unless we're talking about sports arenas, and maybe not even then. there is a general feeling that something is being foisted upon the public when a project is very large and very invasive, modifying the existing cityscape significantly. some of this may be fear of what architects did in the past and with the huge damage wrought by the federal urban renewal program in the name of positive change. some of it is fear that some powerful others are deciding things that everyman isn't in on.

and the general public also loses interest in the big unless it can be accomplished quickly. short attention span, blah blah. for over a decade here there has been an argument about river bridge alignments and the reworking of expressways. to me this would be an admirable length of time for such a public discussion to have matured, but, in fact, the discussion changes so completely from year to year that where we are now is not much better or worse or more understood than where we were a decade ago. except that we may be about to build the worst-case scenario because the congress-people responsible for getting the $$$ are tired of dialogue and need results before elections.

i think your comment about the stars' methods in asia etc having to change if under the influence of a more open public process is a brilliant one. how could it be turned on its head? tested?

gotcha on my critique of 'everyday', but it was less a critique of the book than of how my students tried to use it.

this discussion has the potential to be fascinating for me, but i'm not sure i'll be able to give it the time it deserves. erk.

Sep 20, 06 8:01 am  · 

i think i understand the original questions now. i wonder if we can talk about infrastructural urbanism in such a blanket way, however.
-there are projects in which whole sections of cities are reconsidered or designed from scratch (dubai examples and new urban examples, as well as large-scope redevelopment)
-there are very large individual projects (cctv)
-there are single-site multi-project redevelopment schemes (ground zero)
-there are infrastructure-only setups, waiting for build-out.

are all of these to be treated the same?

while i think we're all clear that a whole homogeneous swath of matching development is not something any of us would champion, this doesn't represent all of infrastructural urbanism, imo. and i don't think infrastructural urbanism, in a broader definition including all of the above, excludes incrementalism.

i tried to dig into this a little with my masters project, looking at a large underutilized (practically abandoned) area of our city and strategizing how it could be spurred into action and into the mental maps of the populace of the city. what i came up with was a mapping of areas nearby which were working successfully, analysis of what magnet locations occurred in those areas (museums, galleries, etc) which would/could create pedestrian activity, and determining how often that kind of magnet location occurred to keep the pedestrian environment feeling 'continuous'.

the strategy of the project then became a proposal for the specific insertion of new catalyst projects that could act similarly as magnets in similarly arrayed locations in the subject area so that they could be the seeds for other complementary development. idea being that the subsequent development between projects could grow together. project titled 'developing a field of encounter'; projects included things that were already being planned for the city: downtown farmers market, arena, visitors center, metro archives. (some of these projects are now occurring, but independently and not part of any larger planning idea.)

not proposing that this is a new approach but, in the context of this discussion, that a city body taking a planned approach to the location of new public development - thinking of each as a potential seed for more development - is potentially a kind of infrastructural urbanism that encourages incrementalism. tries to get the most urban/public good out of the least public $$$ investment, making use of real estate market's tendency to follow and accrue to places activated by a public presence.

Sep 20, 06 9:02 am  · 

great topic... incremental urbanism would be in line with the tenets of Collage City, or am I mis-understanding?

Barcelona would be an interesting city to address with these questions...

There is a great deal of critical discourse on the urban condition of the city, both within the allied professions and amongst the everyday citizen. Barcelona has been having this internal dialogue for years - Grupo R, GATCPAC, Metapolis...
They had an olympic village created (housing, transit infrastructure, public space infrastructure etc) that still functions as a viable portion of their city.
As the "compact metropolis" grows, they are able to do so in a way that responds, one way or another, to the existing infrastructural systems while still being XL in their scope and ambition...ex: the Forum area (both the event spaces/architectures near the water and the surrounding residential areas)...


Sep 20, 06 2:45 pm  · 

to clarify on santa fe, industrial is not infrastructural.

Post-industrial adaptive reuse into new urban forms and places deserves a seperate thread. From gasworks park, to duesburg nord, to freshkills and the highline, post-industrial parks are where the action is. Few new urban parks are being created on green field sites, so the new opportunities are with the brown field and post-industrial. Just look at the Great Park or Cornfields in SoCal.

Infrastructural or landscape urbanism is an attempt to establish emergant urban conditions with generation of systemic framework for the urban fabric to infill- where their were sub-urban or exurban conditions. At the worst extreme is the building a new highway into a rural area the precipitates subdivisions is a case of infrastructural suburbanism- if we can then amp up the density and preserve the openspace through good zoning and planning into an urban condition, we'd have infrastructural urbanism. Another out of control example is the dredging of the florida coastlines/everglades into canals to produce waterfront lots- these canals are the infrastructure that produces value for the developers.

To go deluzian- when a system is fully distributed across a landscape (generating smooth conditions) we get suburban sprawl - where there are striations in the systems/infrastructure's density we have the potential for emergant urban places.

So is infrastuctural urbanism a deconstructive idea from the early 90s that has lingered on into the new millenium? (more of the tschumi idea of follies, then eisenmanian fold or rem's stripes).

I'm waiting for Heather Ring to join in the conversation with a discussion about urban triggers ;-)

Sep 20, 06 3:14 pm  · 

, Valencia, Spain.


Sep 20, 06 3:25 pm  · 

ah, urban triggers is a much better description for what i was calling catalysts. i like dat.

tschumi's parc was definitely a precedent for my project, at least at the diagram level. he wasn't really expecting a whole lot of fill-in of other development, but the dispersed array of episodic projects - sure. same diagram, if not too much of a stretch to change scales, at holl's simmons hall and koolhaas' grande bibliotecque proposal. but i digress...

Sep 20, 06 6:10 pm  · 

Hmmm- Tschumi erased most of the La Villette site to the point that I'd be hard pressed to call it post-industrial. Even Parc Andre Citroen has a high level of tableau rasa with it's design.

Diller + Scofidio have created some great urban triggers.

Sep 21, 06 11:37 am  · 
Sep 21, 06 11:54 am  · 

airports are one of the more common infrastructural triggers for banal urbanism- every major airport is surrounded by high density of hotels, office buildings, warehouses, and car rental lots that would never exist in that place if it wasn't for the airport.

then there are the Railroad towns- some built and planned by the RR company for logistical purposes, some built to serve the local farmers or miners. With out the rail road station, there would be no town.

The interstate system has spawned a similar constillation of urban banality - the greatest density and only growth in much of the middle part of the US is adjacent to the highways. no highway = no town. but are gas stations, minimarts, and motels the future of our countryside or is there an alternative that isn't aligned with the logistics/shipping industry?

Sep 21, 06 1:08 pm  · 

First, thank you all for the tremendous response to the post. If you recall, the original question regarded infrastructural urbanism and architecture's curent fascination with it, an interest that has puzzled me as it seems to repeat, perhaps, unintentionally, the mistakes of the recent past - urban renewal. Perhaps as an aside, but for your enjoyment in case you did not see it, I enjoyed a recent article by Karrie Jacobs lambasting Nicholai Ourouroff for his, I hate to say it, untimely, churlish,if not completely wrong headed (outright wrong?), obituary of Jane Jacobs ( Bravo Karrie. I am glad someone took him on.

But back to landscape urbanism - and whether or not it is sartorial urban renewal in ecological guise. For sure there are some projects that would transcend this rude assessment but at the same time the combination of the big, the green, the means of representation on the part of some of its practitioners, but most of all the authoritatrive point of view of many of the projects, even though they purport to be more populist in conception - leaves me wondering. Your examples have helped me clarify my own thoughts, though I admit they are still unformed - or at least not finally formed.

I really appreciate "bigness" presenting the Landscape Urbanism Bullshit Generator. While I would never dismiss language as a conveyor of ideas and concepts, at the same time this simple web site points out how obfuscating language in essence clothes form in a mystique that enhances its value, at least amongst an elite that seek to separate themselves from the very masses they purport to serve.

"treekiller" brought forth a number of points that intrigued me. Of course pointing out the fact that airports and intertstates and large projects continue to be bult around the world is reason enough to continue to wrestle with this subject. It also suggests an observation on my part. New Urbanists seem to have very little to say or offer with regard to these types of programs, evidence in my book at least of their retrogarde position - despite their protestations.

One aspect that seems to separate good infrastructural urbanism from bad is its ability to be catalytic. Stephen Ward brought this point out with regard to some of his own research but I was equally fascinated by treekillers suggestion of the "urban trigger". I am not completely sure that this term, or its brother, catalyzer, is proper for the type of practice I am most interested in. For sure, in the right circumsatnces, these two words can convey a sense of action, vitality, and projection, that incremetalism at its best should be able to achieve. However, after some reflection, that I would choose a more domesticated term; nurtural urbanism, to describe the type of activity that I am interested in with regard to the practice of urban design. For me this better conveys the broad swath of territory that infrastructural urbanism should cover and it has the benefit of suggesting something that grows upon something else, regardless of whether it is suburban, urban, brownfield or greenfield.

Regardless of whether we are splitting hairs over catalysts, triggers, or nurturals (I made this word up) several projects were mentioned and helped clarify my thoughts. I would like to cover a few of them. From my perspective, I have trouble seeing how Holl's Simmons Hall triggers or nurtures anything at all, economically or architecturally. Perhaps there are some social spaces that encourage mixing but I have heard that there are as many negative social factors regarding this structure (poor rooms) as positive ones (some of the common spaces). The jury is way out on this one. The Spanish examples are all fascinating to me and I am glad that "AP" mentioned these. I am going to rush right out and buy the MOMA catalogue ( and do some more exploring here. The Barcelona example seems very apt to our discussion and Sociopolis (AP) seems very sophisticated in its conception and design compared to some of the sophmoric design that I am familiar with and that raised my questions in the first place.

In this last regard I have to disagree with treekiller about the irrelavance of
post-industrial adaptive reuse and in particular Freshkills. I was on one of the Freshkills teams and was struck by the abstractness of both the winning scheme by Jim Corner as well as several of the other entries. I kept feeling during the course of the competition that for many of us who participated the objective was more about generating a dialogue amongst ourselves than with the community and in the process many community hopes were just ignored. At the same time given the scale of this brownfield as well as some of the others mentioned, it seems incorrect to not include them in the discussion of landscape/infrastructural urbansism and to insist that the infrastructural only occurs at the edges. Besides, treekiller, I think to describe the suburbs as smooth and the urban condition as rough, is too easy. Even sprawl is a complicated beast with many systems operating and competing to produce and reproduce the space.

Stephan Ward's notion of leverage is a worthy one in my opinion. Combined with the nurtural it seems to suggest a prime means of framing the questions of urbanization if not quite yet designing the city. Stephen, I do however disagree with you that people are not interested I would argue that more people are interested and participating in the design of the city than ever before and in this sense I would add democratization to leverage and nurturing as key charcteristics that could inform a deep practice of urban design as opposed to a sartorial practice of urban fashion.

One final set of thoughts. I think it is fascinating that Toronto has turned to two Dutch designers plus Bruce Mao to design two of their most important urban places, Downsview Park (Koolhaus) and the waterfront (West 8). In some ways these choices reflect all that is possible and all that isn't in the practice of landscape/infrastructural urbanism. I would argue that at best both of these projects are good planning that eschew design. It is this eschewing of the design act, the propensity to photshop pattern making that both of these projects utilize, that causes me to ask the question that started this thread in the first place. For sure good planning is valuable and a good planners work is never done (I wasn't always so on board in terms of this idea), but if urbanists keep thinking that the act of design is something that happens later as both of these projects seem to do, they also seem to suggest that design intelligence, as opposed to planning intelligence, is marginal in the making of the city. I think this is a hopeless position for architects and designers and one that publics will not tolerate for long. Designers should design and while this may seem vague, I have no doubt that it contains an element of truth that separates our activity from others that make contributions to the production of the City.

To sum up my thoughts with regard to this post (no doubt they can be challenged), nurturing, leverage, and democratization should mark the best urban infrastructural designs, the plans that are more than clothing for the latest design season. My fear is that architects who are fascinated with bigness for bigness's sake and eagerly equate it to infrastructure as a positive value unto itself too quickly find themselves, perhaps unconsciously, creating spaces and places that repulse rather than gather urban life. I believe there are already numerous examples of this phenonenon realized but I will leave it to others to further collect and catologue recent examples of XL urban futility.

Sep 23, 06 10:56 am  · 


I like your ideas!

To clarify my remarks on the Deluzian smooth versus striated nature of the suburbs. There seems to be a universal and homogenious sameness of the suburban condition that is interchangable. (so are the airports). this 'smooth' space covers america and is starting to circle the globe. The stripmalls and housing tracts of the suburbs tell me nothing about where I am (except if I find a remnants of the native landscape). Yes there are subtle variations and local nuances that seperate King of Prussia from Anaheim; but compared to the urban core, these differences are minor and insignificant in autotopia.

The inner metropolitan zone (covering the post-industrial 19th century factories, to the 21st century service hubs) tends to greater and more blatent identity, that can tell me I'm in Cleveland or Topika - a striated place...

The nurtural quality of landscape urbanism is the key- is there a generative effect on the greater district? if the effects are contained within the site (no matter how large), then urbanism aspect fails. So how does Fresh Kills (any of the final schemes) drive Staten Islands growth and impact the adjacent neighbors? fO's scheme doesn't reach out very far... The Anacostia River Plan (as an act of 'smart' planning) seeks to be the catalyst for change in the greater DC region - so the implimentation of recreation infrastructure (trails/parks) and transit lines does function in a nurtural manor. So most post-industrial redevelopment schemes don't (intend to) trigger greater urban changes beyond raising property values in the surrounding area.

Sep 23, 06 1:01 pm  · 

interesting jkaliski.

i am not sure the openness in downsview is a denial of design, but acceptance that design of a public space must necessarily be a process; that place and place-making is always incomplete. the broad strokes are strong and (maybe) durable but the details are allowed to mutate as needs do the same. i admit to being a bit doubtful of the approach, but it is interesting.

buy contrast what do you think of ingenhoven's station?

it looks like a positive thing to me, xl, urban, ecological, and infrastructural. but not democratic. the opposite of emergent. and yet it ties the area together and makes a new place that did not exist before.

my own view of urbanism is that designers design very little, not because they do not want to, but because people are not easy to control (thank the gods)...the extreme example is brasilia, where a modernist hell-of-boxes exists alongside an unofficial community that emerged on its own.

there was a time when that unnoficial city making was viewed with some scorn, but now we are aware of it as a positive thing we can take advantage of it, which is i suppose the reason we have designs like downsview and books on everyday urbanism. in this sense, there is room for both the democratic mutable places, and the uber-places, designed by masters lik eingenhoven. there is room as long as both are allowed to change, or to be inhabited in unplanned ways...when eithr one is treated as an ending rather than a beginning things get weird.

not sure how to express this idea except by example of two of my favorite urban places on this earth so far; one, the roof of the duomo in milan, which is always teeming with sunbathing kids, lunching students and tourists, and others. completely unplanned and for me so unexpected and charming. the church itself was nice, but that place on the roof blew me away. second favorite place is in seoul, a sort of shopping district where an endless series of streets are filled with people selling everything under the sun in a huge messy and vital way. an asian 'Souk' ...incredibly vibrant and uncontrolled. both of these examples exist alongside very formal places, not as a challenge to them or as an alternative to them, but in partnership of a sort...and i think they are important not as urban generators or instigators but as places where a bit of anarchy is allowed. that is for me the real power of urban life. all the rest is just a variation of graphic design...or maybe not. urbanism as philosophy is still new to me.

Sep 23, 06 11:30 pm  · 
vado retro

the sanity of sameness. the increased travelling distances of the american populace that has occured over the last fifty years has contributed greatly to the de-uniquing of the american landscape. as families disperse in wider and wider rings, business travel increases, relocation of families for employment increases the value of sameness in different regions of the country becomes magnified.

unlike days gone by, when families loaded up the station wagon for that predawn start to their summer vacation, travel and movement has become a necessity rather than a special event. therefore, the dislocation of the american populace and the consequent anxiety caused by this moving is countered by a flattening of spatial and geographic experience.

i made this up but it could be true.

Sep 24, 06 6:30 am  · 

I was in delhi a month ago. My first time in india, really my first time in the 3rd world. My second day there I decided to take a walk through old Dehli to the Jama Masjid and the Red Fort. I was trying to cross the tracks, walking north, looking west. I noticed a pack of people crossing into an alley headed in my direction, figured they must know something I didnt, and followed. It wasnt until I crested the bank above the tracks that I realized they were all men, all muslim, and that they were rushing to afternoon prayer. The only place apearenly left in this neighborhood for a mosque was this old brick warehouse in the middle of the tracks, painted brilliant blue, its rooftop scaled with the undulating white robed backs of praying men. Below me decending the bank, hundreds of them were crossing the tracks, and to my horror, wonder, they were crawling beneath a moving frieght train to get to prayer. Hundreds of those white forms pouring through, carefully timing thier crouching swoop between wheels.

I was numb slightly. From the terror of it, from the beauty of it. The train past, I climbed down the bank, passed the mosque. I had not walked 200 yards, still buzzing a bit from the experience, and there, lying in a pile of garbage, was a young girl, covered in flies. She was just bones, completely still in the sun. I'll admit, confronted with this reality, so freshly from my western cocoon, I freaked. At first I was convinced she was dead, but as I got closer, her eyes opened, those horrible terrified eyes looking out through the flies. They were clustered around her mouth and nose. I bent down, tried to give her water, but she just rolled over and away from me. I put my hand on her shoulder and she just recoiled in a way I cant describe. I was mortified. Terrorised by the utter helplessness. I left my water, climbed over a brick wall and tried to find someone to help but no one seemed to understand what I was going on about. I bought some rice and dumpling things from a vendor, carried them back to her. But still, no matter what I did she just burried herself in that filth. I left the food, the water, what money I had in my wallet. I went to the train station, found one of the police there, tried to explain there was a girl who needed help, that she was sick, maybe dying. He just looked at me, and in the hollow vacant way, he said only "I see sir, we will send someone."

I was dumbfounded. Just desolated inside. Numbly I walked to my hotel, found some westerners, people I thought could help or would know what to do. When we got back to the place where the girl was she was gone. The food was gone, and the money. I can only hope someone came for her, someone who could help.

I mean, I had always known, we all know, that this happens all the time. Thousands of kids, millions of people, living in conditions of unfathomable suffering. I knew it happened, but until you confront it, until you see it with your own eyes, touch someone who lives it, it isnt real to you. It remains distant and abstract.

I had not in my life concieved of a hell worse than what this girl felt. Utter, unfathomable unhuman suffering, and abandonment. Her family, her city, 6 billion people on this planet, and every one had abandoned her. Even the flies could not offer her the dignity of her own death before starting thier work. I couldnt sleep for days, for weeks I was plagued by my memory of those eyes, that look of utter resignation.

I traveled north and things became easier. In rural areas, in the mountains, the suffering seemed so much less. There was poverty, of course, terrible poverty, but with land to cultivate, fresh air, water to drink, it seemed there was at least a dignified if arduous existence. Maybe it was only that the sick were hidden, more spread out, but it really seemed to me that in those places there was a sense of community and humanity that could not allow what I had seen in Delhi. At the very least it could never occur at that scale, just the inconcievable scale of misery that can occur in cities.

I dont understand how we in the west can be so intoxicated by the absurd romantic luxuries we wrap around ourselves. There are so many serious, deadly serious issues for human beings on this planet.

Sep 24, 06 12:47 pm  · 

Thank you all for helping me further clarify my thoughts. Just as this is an open forum where one has to trust that a larger idea will emerge from increments of knowledge that add up to a greater whole, so one would hope that a design idea, as opposed to planning methodology, could be similarly developed in an open manner.

I will be looking again at Deleuze, and certainly there is a lot more homogeneity in the world today than in the past, but I still think the globe is a pretty rough place from continent to continent and region to region. Having worked in Anaheim (on mini-malls, boulevards and suburban design guidelines) and grown up outside of Philadelphia and spent time in the suburbs of Pennsylvania this last summer, I would still argue they are phenomenally different in character, attitude, and design futures - even though you can enjoy a meal at Baja Fresh in both places. In the sameness difference, and dfferences to exploit - incrementally.

It seems that most of us are in agreement on this thread that incrementalism has an important role to play in the production of the City. At ther same time I would be a fool to deny the importance, in its place, of the masterful design gesture, or the need for the XL in the contemporary world. Still I feel that this conversation suggests that there is a type of everyday design act and design process that has yet to be fully developed in a powerful way.

Christopher Alexander has developed in this regard some interesting models but for the most part, perhaps because of his insistence on historic precedence, they have not taken hold. Koolhaus and others have utilized a type of planning discourse mixed with urban design diagramming in some of their projects but I am not sure they are really willing to wrestle with the full implications of the ups and downs of the democratic design processes that they let loose. Perhaps Ingenhoven's station is the real deal; I am not sure soince I do not know enough about it.

I have always believed based upon experience that good planning process does not ensure the design of good places or buildings. I do not think there is an escape from the important role, if not primacy, of the design act in the production of a thing or place. In a sense, this has been my answer to those who doubt the possibility of everyday design -i.e. everyday designers design - and at the same time I fully admit that the ideas and the proof in the form of projects are still nascent.

Sep 24, 06 1:13 pm  · 


In south american barrios/informal settlements, the insertion of public infrastructure is key to increasing the civic quality of life and providing greating economic activities (provide streets, sanitation, water and power) and the residents lives improve.

But you can't just buldoze through tightly packed houses/shanties- it takes a very involved public process and years of negociations to retroactively provide these parts of urban fabric that we take for granted.

As designers/planners, our work is often out of reach to the poorest and most desperate people- that's what is so great about Cameron's AFH work. In a seminar long time ago, Kipnis asked us how we could make a profit designing at the lowest end (vs. high end custom architecture). Mass reproduction was the answer then. Now it seems that we can facilitate the construction on infrastructure as either consultants or beaurocrats and make a living helping the greatest good- a salary (or pro bono) is suffient...

The again, dealing with global warming in our comfortable and isolated developed world cities will have a great positive impact on the teaming masses of humanity living in other places. If we reduce our energy consuption or develop alternative sources, then there is a trickle down opportunity to improve the off the grid places. Also if we can prevent the oceans from rising and stabilize the climate - more food can be produces locally and people won't drown.

If we find high tech methods of purifying water for our cities, then we can provide these tools to the poorer regions...

Sep 24, 06 1:27 pm  · 
o d b

This is a great thread--I've enjoyed all of the comments thus far...

I don't have much to add, except to ask why there is so much bickering between the -isms in the field of urban design. I come from an architecture background, but I am very interested in strategies being developed by 'landscape' and 'infrastructural' urbansim. I think there is place in urbanism for incremental, landscape, infrastructural, and xl urbansim. Atelier Bow-Wow's research in the the micro-urban structures of Tokyo intrigue me as much as corner and waldheim's research on landscape as much as busquets' work on infrastructure as much as koolhaas' strategies for bigness, etc.

What frustrates me is that the discussion around these tend to devolve into a turf war--subscribers of LU claim that urban design is the territory of landscape arch., others claim it is the territory of architects, etc (see the inside cover of waldheim's "landscape urbanism reader" or the roundtable discussion in the most recent Harvard Design Mag).

I would argue for a form of 'integrated urbanism' that demands a knowledge of the strategies developed by all of these various strands of urban form generation, and a research focused approach to urban design that requires a sensitive understanding of a place to know which strategy to deploy in a given situation. Joan Busquets and Felipe Correa, part of the UD faculty at the GSD, have recently curated an exhibition, now touring Europe, demonstrating 10 approaches to urban design, they call them "10 lines", that might form the strategic knowledge base of the ealry 21st century urbanist.

to me, the problem with subscribing to one form or urbanism over all others (i.e congress of new urbanism) has the potential of becoming overly formulaic, and not conducive to creating 'the good city', something that is contingent upon the particular conditions of a place. An understanding of a particular site's ecological, historical, sociological, morphological, geographical, meteorological (...) context will demand a particular solution, not a 'one-size fits all' solution.

so...yeah...i wrote a lot more than i intended to...hope it makes sense

Sep 25, 06 1:18 pm  · 

the danger of any style or -ism is being reduced to a formula. this goes beyond urban design/planning to all design fields. Contextualism (not the didactic historical strain) is the trick to figuring out what will work best for any one place.

Sep 25, 06 1:38 pm  · 

Our problem is that we arent dealing with these things on real terms. We spend all this time breaking things down on a purely spatial or economic basis with no actual idea of what these places actually mean. Of course its difficult to really absorb the total meaning and dynamics of a street or neighborhood, let alone a whole city or region, but if the abstractions we are using are so exclusive as to almost universally fail then what good are they?

I mean I guess obviously selling psychogeography to city planning committees probably just ends in scratched heads. But real is real. As soon as you start thinking of landscape and infrastructure as different things you end up with blazing empty brazilia plazas or boston-artery urban tourniquets. Looking at lines on paper or models of purely figure-ground patterning tells you nothing about what is actually there or what effect youre going to have. At a certain level these things are irreducible and intuition is the only guide.

But the imperative is absolutely there. If state governments werent so absurdly inefficient Id suggest whole regions be broken down and analyzed. You can overlay ecosystems, watersheds and wildlife habitats and migrations to mandate landuse ideals; measure that against circulatory and industrial concerns to focus and concentrate them in the best possible way. Go door to door, find out how many people are planning to move, what they are looking for and what they need. Dont just draw a line and say "residential happens here" or "put a street there", offer tax incentives or make infrastructure changes that encourage or discourage in some concrete reflexive way. I mean Im sure all these things are done on some impotent basis, probably most often practically arbitrarily in town zoning offices, but complacency over this just isnt going to be a luxury we can afford for much longer.

I would love to see these things awarded out by competition.

As far as incrimentalism vs XL overhauls, I guess I agree the two arent mutually exclusive. I see it mostly as a practical issue rather than philosophical. What do you have the money and people to execute and enforce? What margin of error are you willing to accept? In general the whole mindset and energy level aught to be like a military operation. We should be thinking like urban guerillas; no tactic is off the table, no resource squandered.

Sep 26, 06 9:22 am  · 

well said oe! is there ever a tableau rasa where abstraction can be imposed without interupting the existing system?

Sep 26, 06 9:32 am  · 

I thoght this post was exhausted (perhaps only I am) and welcome the latest participants.

A couple of thoughts. O D B; you eschew urban "ism" conflict and from a planning point of view that is ecumenical. However, I do think good designers have almost a practical need to learn a few things very well - the "delight" thing if you will - and execute it with great aplomb - even as they shift or better yet tweak their design approach to meet individual circumstance. In this sense perhaps it as important for communities and planners to choose the right architect/designer, as it is for designers to assume they are the right fit for every situation. Another way of saying it, the design of the city is promulgated within a political atmosphere and discourse - more now than ever in the USA.

I would also argue that in a crude sense XL is less responsive to community frameworks and discourses than incrementalism, that democracy reifies community values (whether we like them as indiviuals or not) and as a corollary incremental production and design of cities has a higher value than some of the other "lines" out there at this time. If this is true, I would further argue that the traditional position and place of the architect/designer of urbanism shifts as the patronage model shifts. Perhaps as a consequence OE, innefficiency is a purposeful tactic of government to ensure that most urban production is first a response to the people and second neccessarily incremental, All of this is subject to debate, but if I am even partially correct, it would suggest that architects, landscape architects, and urban designers in general (what are urban designers? do they design anything at all?), need to be inculcated in alternative way of seeing and producing the city that is likely different than the typical architect interested in the XL assumes.

Sep 27, 06 1:21 am  · 

the difficulty i see in reading your last paragraph, jk, is one of expectations for what the designer will do. (understand that i'm coming from the context of a small post-industrial midwest city.)

if a project is of a local agenda, the client is often disinterested in the larger public realm and how the project will affect it. these projects become 'increments', but ignorant of their impact on the larger environment. the designers of these incremental projects are typically local professionals with a very short leash.

if a project has a greater agenda and the goal is to have an impact on the larger urban environment, it also typically comes with the territory that this project will have a noted designer (i.e., one from somewhere else) involved. the pressure on the project is then that it must have flash and spark and not just be a good urban solution - and probably more of an 'XL' scope.

what we don't see - and i think this is true in indy, st louis, nashville, memphis, cincinnati, etc beyond louisville - is the anonymous workings of smaller projects which consciously, as opposed to ignorantly, fit into a larger infrastructural picture.

where the premodern city was a bunch of pieces that added up to something, because there was a sort of understood model for development (fabric/object), we now have something other in which each project stands on its own terms.

i'll admit to being a newbie in thinking about these issues. after 12 yrs of working as an architect and having it slowly dawn on me that a bunch of projects lined up along a street add up to something, i went back for graduate study to focus on urban design issues. still have major questions about how to get the public good - the commonwealth - back into the programs of individual projects.

so...per your last questions: "the typical architect interested in the XL" is most likely the one brought in from out of town to make something zippy and therefore must not only design but design-for-show. if the rest of us are doing our clients' one-offs with no bigger agendas beyond our property lines, who are the quiet-design urban designers going to work for? who is their client?

Sep 27, 06 7:42 am  · 
vado retro

more thoughts on the sanity of sameness. due to the desire and perceived necessity of the automotive lifestyle coupled with the desire/necessity of talking on cellphones while we drive, the public requires a background of banality/consistency/mediocrity to allow the actions previously noted.

Sep 27, 06 7:55 am  · 

so vado, unique-ness is distracting?

XL is less responsive to community frameworks and discourses than incrementalism. clearly. incrementalism is by definition responding to something greater, whereas XL is trying to be the greater something. this may be an over-generalization, but the XL typically has the power and presence to re-set some rules, or at least negotiate things on its' own terms.

Sep 27, 06 1:50 pm  · 

Public measures the quality of the cities based on their ability to provide capitalist survival and increased value.
Safety, sanitation, ability to hide poverty, provide more and more better services to higher income groups, more better jobs, housing, entertainment, civic activities, media distribution, ease of transportation and growth, as I can quickly think of. These elements, in the hands of the special interests and private investments, are also the elements of control, instruments for political gain, favoritism and mass punishment and isolation if necessary.
This is inevidable.
Distribution of 'infra' is valved. The parts are not designed interchangably and what works in A zone doesn't work in B.
Many times fast track developer funded urban elements looses its willpower two blocks later. (based on my observations)
"we've created for you", is a commercial enterprise.

Sep 27, 06 2:26 pm  · 
vado retro

not only is uniqueness distracting, it causes a additional anxiety to our already emotionally/psychologically distressed collective consciousness. save america, go beige.

Sep 27, 06 4:25 pm  · 

vote vado 2008!

Sep 27, 06 4:33 pm  · 

Vote Vado 2006!

Sep 27, 06 5:16 pm  · 

Steven - re: "...if a project is of a local agenda, the client is often disinterested in the larger public realm and how the project will affect it...." I have no doubt that this is true in many cases. However, what I am trying to get at is that in North American cities, as their forms of planning governance become more transparent, and I belive that they are, that this is less likely to be true. Whether a project is large or small I think that planning transparency will force more and more incremental solutions, and this regardless of whether the architect is good or bad, local or from afar. I also feel that the tendency for things to stand on their own, while a product of consumerism run rampant, is ultimately balanced by the "checks" that transparent forces place in the development process, no doubt to the frustraton of architects and developers. I know it sounds simplistic, but the easiest way to get the public back into projects is to invite them to participate and to bring all your knowledge and skill to the table in a responsive way. If you do not do it, others eventually will. As for the issue of who the client is for urban design, I think ultimately its both the public that seeks design understanding as well as the developer who seeks to understand and work with the public.

AP please note that I stated that in a "crude sense the XL is less responsive" and I would stand by this. In fact even as I believe this is true most of the time, I remain a believer in XL exceptionalism - in exceptional cases. They are few and fortunately far between even though we concentrate a tremendous amount of energy discussing them such that they feel ever present.

Vado, you make some poetic points about banality and Orhan you are concerned about market urbanism. In my younger days I might have made those points too just as vociferously but they do not really get you too far if you want to make anything, s,m, l or xl. My own sense is that there is a lot of uniqueness in most banality. And, even if you want to solve the problems of the poor and environmental degradation, etc. as an earlier post urged, I think you must find some grain of optimism that propels you forward to solve and reform the problems, architectural or otherise, of the world. In the end, it's all about passion, and maintaining your passion for ideas, inquiry, and making. Sorry for the preachiness.

Sep 28, 06 12:08 am  · 

well now john, that was passionate and no need to feel sorry.
in your matured years, did you too figured out to get things 'done' the way it works for all sizes and all sides? in a win win way?
i am subject to a lot of market urbanism and i don't like the public art-ly light fixtures they are putting up on the sidewalks where very few people walk. i find them evil and unjust. in the name of beautification and whats good. so i react.
but on the other hand, i am optimistic for chaos to arrive sometime before i am dead. to make way for survival propelled open fieldism where infrastructures are secondary to pulsatory movements in poor dense populations that are so feared today by the market people.

Sep 28, 06 1:24 am  · 

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