Introduction to Contemporary Thought in Urban Studies


City Within a City, Venice 2000




San Francisco Institute of Architecture- Berkeley, California, July 4-7, 2002






Robert D. HOTTEN, Dr Peter R. DIPROSE, University of Auckland, New Zealand MMII

ISBN 0-9728097-0-8



What and why is posturbanism? Posturbanism is the synthesis of two principle notions: the city is an analogue of the mind, and the idea of formlessness as it pertains to urban existence. Posturbanism is an exploration into doctrine in urban studies.

What and why is posturbanism? Why are these ideas useful? Because they offer a range of design metaphors which architects, urban designers, and researchers in urban studies can produce cityscapes of relevance to our current socio-cultural paradigm and sustainable eco design urban futures. We identify a paradigm shift in socio-cultural sense rather than the purely scientific realm. Posturbanism began with: 1. The Peoples Park Riots, 1969; 2. Marilyn Monroe's death, 5 August 1962, Los Angeles, California, marking a time after which desire stood still; 3. Netscape Navigator: The substantiating effect of the introduction of the dromological medium, NCSA Mosaic November 1993, Netscape Navigator 1.0B1 December 1994; 4. Antonio Gaudi Sainthood nomination; 5. Tower of Babel. The 28 August 2000 burning and near collapse of the Ostankino Tower; and 6. The September 11, 2001 attack on and destruction of the World Trade Center by asymmetrical warfare.

The contention is that for urban theory to be useful and satisfying it must integrate and extend the real into the virtual. The result is normative and sustainable eco design theory in the posturban age. In the 1990s architecture for a virtual age emerged - an architecture more of the mind than mechanics, "A real and imaginary thirdspace model in the 1990s" (Soja 1998). This new urban model can be both formless, normative, and effective through sustainable eco design.


Robert HOTTEN, B. Arch 1969 (Berkeley), M. Arch 1970 (Berkeley), M. Land Arch 1971 (Berkeley), AIA (former), ANZIA, ANZILA (Chair, Auckland 1998-2000). PO Box 3741, Carmel, CA 93921 (831)229-5976

Dr. Peter R. DIPROSE, B. Arch 1990 (Auckland), M. Arch 1995 (Auckland), PhD Arch 2000 (Auckland), ANZIA.


Sustainability and Posturbanism: EcoDesign from Norm to Formlessness

Robert D. HOTTEN and Dr Peter R. DIPROSE, University of Auckland, New Zealand, MMII



* 1. Sustainable Urban design must be considered within an ecosystems context

* 2. Two parallel paradigm shifts are identified- one being ecological, the second being urban

* 3. Reconciling the two paradigms

* 4. Virtual & Actual Spatial Implications





* Sustainability as it is defined in this paper, not only has biophysical

implications , it also has psycho-cultural implications.

* To understand this we must first consider sustainability in terms of the

'human ecosystem'.

* Boyden and Dovers' conceptual model of the ecosystem, illustrates the

relations between humans, culture, artefacts, and the biosphere.

* Their diagram clearly demonstrates the interaction between abstract human

culture and the biophysical world, describing the flow of impacts between

humans and the biosphere, whether mediated by technology or not.

* This model portrays a relationship between culture and human activity, in

which culture encompasses fact and value.

* Biosphere: All aspects of the biophysical world, including the

atmosphere, hydrosphere, rocks, minerals, soil and organisms.

* Artefacts: All those components of the biophysical environment which are

made by human beings. In other words, the material products of culture

including buildings, roads, clothes, works of art and machines.

* Humans: All biological aspects of human organisms/populations other than

their behaviour or activities.

* Human activities: This refers simply to what people do. "The impacts of

culture on biological systems are all caused by human activities."

* Culture: Including knowledge, beliefs, assumptions, technological

know-how, values, attitudes and world view embraced by a society.

* Cultural arrangements: This refers to the culturally determined

understandings of society, and includes economic arrangements, legislation,

societal institutions and hierarchies. Cultural arrangements clearly

impact on human activities, and hence on humans themselves and the

biophysical world.

* Technometabolism: The flow of materials and energy between human society

and the biosphere, due to activities occurring outside the human body. The

technometabolism of any society is entirely a product of culture.

* The energy component of technometabolism has increased approximately 10,

000 fold since humans made the transition to domestic farming which

followed the hunting-and-gathering period.

* Reducing the extremely high levels of technometabolism associated with

industrialised culture has justifiably been the prime focus of eco design


* The intense interest in the performance of energy efficient technologies

and the environmental impact of materials is a reflection of this.

* However, in contrast, the conceptual model of Boyden and Dovers

highlights an important issue. It illustrates that the indirect influence

of culture on technometabolism, through its bearing on human activities,

cannot be overlooked.

* As Boyden states, "culture has created a social system, especially in

the West, that is characterised by activities, patterns of consumption,

dominant assumptions, expectations and values which are not consistent with

ecological sustainability and therefore with the survival of humankind

* This leads us to recognise an important and challenging paradox: for

while the real threats to humanity are directly due to human culture, the

only hope of overcoming them lies in our aptitude for culture.

* That is, our hope for the future as a species lies in the potential for

cultural adaptation

* Therefore, while technological improvements in architecture will be

necessary, an important focus of environmental architecture is the

modification of the underlying culture (of construction).


The potential to modify the underlying culture of urban design is what this

paper examines





So what Immaterial & Sustainable Posturban strategies and typologies can be identified?

1. Formlessness

2. Memories, Dreams and Desires

3. Hyperfigure


1. Formlessness


Tuileries 1999 Robert Hotten

"Urban design as a theatre of activity"


Kata Tjuta (The Olgas) 1999 Robert Hotten

"Urban design as a theatre of primitive man"


The do nothing scenario:

"places do not constitute the city, the city produces place." (Hillier 1994)




Posturbanism © Robert D Hotten & Dr. Peter R. Diprose, MMIII


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