Introduction to Contemporary Thought in Urban Studies


City Within a City, Venice 2000









* Given the rise of new environmental paradigm why hasn't more change

occurred within Urban Design and Architecture?

* Is this because architects and urban designers need to focus more on

immaterial human needs? (Max-Neef)

* Posturbanism as described, requires the greater extension of the real

into the virtual.

* Has the environmental movement alienated its audience with doomsday

prophesies (albeit true one), thus rendering the population helpless?


* Consider The Matrix (Warner Brothers 1999) What is the Matrix?


The Matrix is a screenplay about a nightmare world in which humans have

intentionally destroyed their environment (the atmosphere around the

planet) to overcome aggressive solar powered mechanical beings The machines

survive the solar winter through feeding off the energy of humans. Humans

are kept alive in a virtual world, plugged into giant incubators like

hydroponic wombs.


Given the choice of real over virtual, Cypher, the Judas of the story

betrays his human comrades, opting to return to the virtual world of urban

fantasy offered by the machines, rather than exist in the Hobbesian reality

of eating protein rich 'goop' inside a rusted hovercraft/submarine which

circumnavigates the sewers of the lost souls


How does this compare with the choices and opportunities offered by the

environmental movement?


1.Death by starvation resulting from a population explosion.

Ehrlich, P and Ehrlich A. "Why isn't everyone as scared as we are? in The

Population Explosion, a collection of essays by Ehrlich, P and Ehrlich A.,

Hutchinson, London c1990, pp54-67

2.Profound species extinction of forests due to climate change and

unfettered development.

IUCN, (the World Conservation Union), UNEP, (United Nations Environment

Program), and WWF, (World Wide Fund for Nature), Caring for the Earth: A

strategy for sustainable living, IUCN, Gland Switzerland 1991

3. Total displacement of island societies to avoid sea-level rise from

climate change:

IPCC, Climate change 1992. The supplementary report to the IPCC scientific

assessment, Report prepared for IPCC by working group I, Cambridge

University Press, Cambridge 1992&

Ehrlich, P. "Eco-Refugees warning", in New Scientist, June 10 1989.

4. Cancers from ozone depletion, especially in the southern hemisphere.

5. The on-going loss of community ethic, intolerance associated with

fundamentalism and racism, may eventually result in lawlessness, civil

unrest, and the imposition of totalitarian state control.

Daly, H and Cobb, J. For the Common Good, Green Print, London 1989.

6. What can the individual do when faced by multinational, and corporate



We are helpless, are we not, to deal with these global issues?


* Its easier to switch reality off - and as a society we have got used to that.

* Lets change the channel, to Baywatch - where the beach is externally

golden and unpolluted, or the

* Football channel where a handful of supreme physical athletes face off -

forgetting the processed food, its sugars, hormones and GE grains that have

given the western world's blight of heart disease, diabetes and obesity.


Can a green reality be repackaged and be made palatable?


If we check reality against immaterial human needs what are the

implications for architecture and urban space?





What we propose in the first instance is the consideration of the new

environmental paradigm against virtual and actual space.

and culture.



Matrix comparing eco-spatial ideas related to the Dominant Social Paradigm

and New Environmental Paradigm and against Virtual and Actual Realities


Virtual world in terms of the Dominant Social Paradigm:

1. Vicarious Escapism

* Rather than the vicarious escapism offered by negative current mediums

(Television, film computer games)

* - specifically used in an attempt to reclaim lost passion and desire

while maintaining a state of ignorance and/conscious avoidance of the

ecological problem.


Virtual world in terms of the New Environmental Paradigm:

2: Intentional Eco-escapism:

* Create virtual worlds through which desire can be fulfilled while

consciously avoiding actual degradation of the environment or the human


* For example - Virtual 3D Architectural folies and/or urban environments,

'space flight - eg Acadia 1999), virtual communities- chat rooms


Actual world in terms of the Dominant Social Paradigm:

3: Inequitable Materialistic Space:

* This refers to space which diminishes access to public space, the

privatisation of space, and creation of exclusive spaces

* For example "Downtown malls' managements do not like [such] people.

Guards are instructed to keep tabs on how long non-customers have used a

bench and, after a while ask them to move onS In Toronto's Eaton Centre,

police hand out trespass tickets for undesirable behaviour. In 1985 they

forcibly removed about 30,000 people. (Whyte)


Rather than creating urban spaces which foster material consumption, and

the control of people Urban designers must create spaces that meet

immaterial needs beyond subsistence: For example one which satisfy the

needs of, protection, affection, understanding, participation, leisure,

creation, identity and freedom.

Diprose 2000, Max-Neef, 1992.


Actual world in terms of the New Environmental Paradigm:

4: Ecological Post Urban space

* Designers need to Refocus on the formless aspects of urban design -

* recapture actual community spirit and desire, and those places that

reject unbridalled consumption.

* For example Art Spaces and public gardens


5. We also require an Architectural Process to parallel to the "Hacker Ethic"

Plato's Academy inspired The Hacker Ethic: A Radical Approach to the Philosophy of Business. (Himanen, 2001) This theory supports the creative design practice. From Chapter 7, The Seven Values of the Hacker Ethic:

"We have seen that the seven dominant values of the network society and Protestant ethic are money, work, optimality, flexibility, stability, determinancy, and result accountability. Now we can summarize the seven values of the hackehr ethic that have had a significant role in the formation of our new society and that represent a challenging alternative spirit of informationalism.

Again, it is important to remember that only few computer hackers share them all, but they must be seen collectively because of their societal and logical relation to one another.

...The first guiding value in hacker life is passion, that is, some intrinsically interesting pursuit that energizes the hacker and contains joy in its realization. In Chapter 2 we discussed freedom. Hackers do not organize their lives in terms of a routinized and continuously optimized workday but in terms of a dynamic flow between creative work and life's other passions, withnin which rhythm there is also room for play. The hacker work ethic consists of melding passion wlith freedom. This part of the hacker ethic has been the most widely influential.

In the hacker money ethic, discussed in Chapters 3 and 4, the striking element is that many hackers still follow the original hackerism in that they do not see money as a value in itself but motivate their activity with the goals of a social worth and openess. These hackers want to realize their passion together with others, and they want to create something valuable to the community and be recognized for that by their peers. And they allow the results of their creativity to be used, developed, and tested by anyone so thaqt everyone acan learn from one another. Even though much of the technological development of our information age has been done within traditional capitalism and governmental projects, a significant part of it- including the symbols of our time, the Net and the personal computer- would not exist without hackers who just gave their creation to others.

As we've seen, a third crucial aspect of the hacker ethic is hacker's attitude toward networks, or their nethic, which is defined by the values of activity and caring. Activity in this context involves complete freedom of expression in action, privacy to protect the creation of an individual lifestyle, and a rejectin of passive receptiveness in favor of active pursuit of one's passion. Caring here means concern for others as an end in itself and a desire to rid the network society of the survival mentality that so easily results from its logic. This includes the goal of getting evereybody to participate in the network and to benefit from it, to feel responsible for longer-term consequences of the network society, and to directly help those who have been lelft on the margins of survival. These are still very open challenges, and it remains to be seen if hackers can have an influence here on the same scale as they have had on the other two levels.

A hacker who lives according to hacker ethic on all three of these levels- work, money, nethic- gains the community's highest respect. This hacker becomes a true hero when she or he manages to honor the seventh and final value. It has appeared in this book all along, and now, in the seventh chapter, it can vbe explicated: it is creativity- that is, the imaginative use of one's own abilities, the surprising continuous surpassing of oneself, and the giving to the world of a genuinely veluable new contribution."


"If the great wall of China is a metaphor for a modernist Babel structure, its fragmented and piecemeal character anticipating the discontinuities later to be celebrated in deconstructivism, the walls of Morphosis refuses even this stability of meaning. As if following the visual laws of Kafkanian space, they literally enact the forced perspective of the paranoid subject, always sloped and canted, fractured and broken. And while this has become a common signature for a certain school of post-postmodern form, in Morphosis that canted wall takes on a polemical quality, self-consciously posed against the right-angle of modernity, the horizontality an verticality announced by the Domino House prototype." (Vidler 1999)




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

1. Formlessness

2. Memories, Dreams and Desires

3. Hyperfigure


3. Hyperfigure


Regional influence, Bilbao, Axe Majeur


Guggenheim Museum, Bilbao 1998 Robert Hotten


"Architecture as the Embodiment of Desire"

"Architecture as Topography = landscape = (the) body"

"Marilyn Monroe"




Capra, F. (1986) "Paradigm Definition" in ReVISION 9, 1: 14, cited in Milbrath (1989), 116.

Choay, Francois 1997 The Rule and the Model: On the Theory of Architecture and Urbanism,

Cambridge: MIT Press

Chambers, Ian 1986 Popular Culture: The Metropolitan Experience. London: Routledge.

Hawking, Stephen 1990 A Brief History of Time. London: Bantam Press.

Hillier, Bill 1996 Space is the machine: A configurational theory of architecture. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.

Himanen, P. (2001) The Hacker Ethic: A radical approach to the philosophy of business. New York: Random.

Johnson, S. (2001) Emergence: The connected lives of ants, brains, cities, and software. New York: Scribner.

Pawley, Martin 1998 Terminal Architecture. Reaktion Books: London.

Perlman, David Images Back New Theory of Flat Universe, San Francisco Chronicle, April 27, 2000

Putnam, R. (2000) Bowling Alone: The Collapse and Revival of American Community. New York: Simon & Schuster.

Ross, D., translator (1925) The Nicomachean Ethics of Aristotle. London: Oxford University Press.

Soja, Edward W. 1996 Thirdspace: Journeys to Los Angeles and Other Real-and-Imagined Places. Oxford: Blackwell.

Virilio, Paul 2000 The Information Bomb. London: Verso.

Virilio, Paul 2000 Polar Inertia. London: Sage

Whyte, William 1988 City. New York: Doubleday.




Attali, J. (1991) Millennium: Winners and losers in the coming world order. New York: Random.

Borsodi, R. (1933) Flight from the City: An Experiment in Creative Living on the Land. New York: Harper

Brown, E., editor (2000) Sustainable Architecture: White Papers. New York: Earth Pledge Foundation.

Flournoy, M. (2001) QDR 2001: Strategy-driven choices for america's security. Washington: GPO.

Kane, H. (2001) Triumph of the Mundane: The unseen trends that shape our lives and environment. Washington: Island Press.

Tajbaksh, K. (2001) The Promise of the City: Space, identity, and politics in contemporary social thought. Berkeley: UC Press.



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