Introduction to Contemporary Thought in Urban Studies


City Within a City, Venice 2000










Ecological interdependence between humans and non-human nature can be

identified as one of the fundamental ideals expressed within what

environmental sociologists have called the 'new environmental paradigm'


Milbrath, L. (1989) Envisioning a sustainable society: learning our way

out, New York, State University of New York Press


* Accepting that the continued long term maintenance of human life is

threatened by a range of biophysical factors , our present culture must

seek ways of adapting to environmental conditions.

* Ultimately a societal paradigm shift is required for adaptation to be

successful and the level of ecological risk to be reduced.

* So what ideas are apparent in the new environmental paradigm?


The New Environmental Paradigm the (NEP)

Eg. As Competing Social Paradigms - Blake,1991


* Architects and Architectural Theorists have also developed their

versions of environmental paradigms:

* Pearson, 'Old and New Paradigms', & The Gaia Earth Charter

* Robertson, 'Changes for a sustainable Future'

* McDonough, 'The Hannover Principles'

* The UIA 1993, Declaration of Interdependence for a sustainable Future


These ideas can be summarized as follows:





* Design balancing all sensory needs

* Healthy and healing design. Caring for the environment

* Respect for the notion of 'craft'



* An integral part of the 'total' environment

* Recognise the interdependence of artifice and ecosystems



* Regional/local style related to vernacular

* Objects and systems of long-term value

* Elimination of the concept of waste



* Community/self build projects for local social needs

* Interdependence' implies partnership, equity, and balance among all parties



* Comfortable humanising and supportive

* Restore, preserves, and enhance nature and culture for the benefit of all life, present and future



* Human scale design

* Soft-edged, curves and variety of angles

* Diverse, unpredictable, surprising

* Retrofit existing and future elements of the built environment



* Low-energy materials/systems - durable, conservable and recyclable.

* Holistic considerations throughout

* Knowledge-sharing/open communication


* In a positive sense- as our constellation of beliefs and values change so

too is Urban Space likely to change, being an artefact of that culture.


* Given greater emphasis on ecological factors, public space may exhibit a

strengthened relationship between humans and non-human nature and a greater

equitability of human-to human-relations.




* However, given that the new environmental paradigm was first identified

by sociologists in the 1970s, and came to the fore around the time of the

Rio Earth Summit in 1992, why hasn't more change occurred within Urban

Design and Architecture?

* Maybe architects and urban designers as a profession have been focusing

too much on the material rather than the immaterial?




* 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.


* Why are these ideas useful? Because they offer a range of design

metaphors which architects and urban designers can produce cityscapes of

relevance to our current socio-cultural paradigm.

* Posturbanism is a response to a paradigm shift

* We identify a paradigm shift in socio-cultural sense rather than the

purely scientific realm. Capra, F. (1986) "Paradigm Definition" in ReVISION 9, 1: 14, cited in

Milbrath (1989), 116


* After pre-urbanism, urbanism, postmodern urbanism, follows posturbanism.

Posturbanism began with:


* 1. Peoples Park. the social uprising from 1964 through 1968, and

culminating Peoples Park Anti-War Riots Spring 1969, Berkeley, California;

* 2. Marilyn Monroes death, 5 August 1962, Los Angeles, California,

marking a time after which desire stood still;

* Marilyn Monroes death, marking a time after which desire stood still;

* In the early 1990s * 3. Netscape Navigator: The substantiating effect of the introduction of

the dromological medium, NCSA Mosiac November 1993, Netscape Navigator 1.0B1 December 1994.

* Curious recent twists of history include: * 4. Gaudi Sainthood The extraordinary development in July 2000 when

architect Antonio Gaudi, of Barcelona, is nominated for the test of sainthood; and

* 5. Tower of Babel times 3. (Moscow and the twin towers) the 28 August 2000 burning and near collapse of the Ostankino, at 540

meters the second tallest free-standing structure in the world, now a relic to face the disintegration and Tower of Babel consequence of demolition.

* 6. The 9-11 destruction of the World Trade Center towers by asymmetrical

wildcard warfare, resulting in a disproportionate effect.)


* Berkeley 1960s -

McCarthyism, Labour Unions, Racial De-segregation, Free Speech, Vietnam War, Feminism, Political Correctness and Peoples Park



* Posturban theory is drawn from the socio-cultural paradigm shift which

has created the possibility of invention and synthesis of new urban place

and realm theory.

* The contention is that for urban theory to be useful and satisfying it

must integrate and extend the real into the virtual.

* In the 1990s architecture for a virtual age emerged - and architecture

more of the mind than mechanics

* Soja: A real and imaginary 'thirdspace' model in the 1990s. This new

urban model can be both formless and normative.

* Cybrids: Real and virtual together (Washington State University)


The concept of Posturbanism is based on the observation that the city is an

analogue of the mind, and that the mind map equals the city.


Given this model, what are the potential outcomes?

What are new theories that pertain to posturbanism?

A. The city as mind

B. Formlessness


The possibility in posturbanism is the synthesis of the city as mind

conjoined to the ideas of formlessness.


A. The city as mind

* Everything in arrangement of space will be a matter of images and

information. (Virilio, 2000)

* The urbanization of consciousness.... Lefebvres creative spatial

consciousness.... (Soja, 1996)


B. Formlessness

A new model of urban place and realm can be derived from formlessness.


The Social life of the Street:

Lovers are another example, fervently embracing in the most heavily

trafficked spots, oblivious of the crowd. But are they so oblivious? I

doubt it. Their display of affection may be quite genuine, but it is a

display. And the enjoy it very much. (Whyte 1988)


Formlessness - activity based scene


Social life of the Architecture:

Only at the occasion of festivals, parties and rituals in which we mark

major events in time and space does the dramatic nature of architecture

make itself felt. In fairs, parades, balls, dances and raves, the sense of

architecture as a celebration of a collective self returns. All architects

can try and do is capture this ephemeral world. (Betsky, 2000)


Meaning and are culture gaining an ever greater independence from the

spatial system. (Rapoport 1981, 1992)





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

1. Formlessness

2. Memories, Dreams and Desires

3. Hyperfigure


2. Memories, Dreams and Desires


Venice as a rejuvenator of memories, dreams, and desires.


Irwin Garden, Getty Center 1998 Robert Hotten

Irwin Garden Pan-O-Rama 2001 Katy Hotten


"Urban design as an Arcadian dream of a "return to Eden"


Canal Siren 2000 Robert Hotten


See Fronticepiece:

City Within a City 2000 Robert Hotten



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


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