Sunday, February 17, 2008

My Principles for Urbanism

Yesterday, walking around Davidson, a friend asked me what I meant by "Urbanism", and why a college campus like Davidson College can be distinguished by its "urbanism". At first, I gave a very formal description, explaining urbanism in physical qualities - the way a building relates to the public realm, etc., and explaining a short history, from the early modernist notion of Urbanism to Jane Jacobs's notion of urbanism. Then I realized, "urbanism", if you think about it, really is broader concept...affecting all facets of design today, which can be evinced in David Adjaye's references to African "sensibility" in architecture and city planning to Malcolm Gladwell's essay (and apt references to Jacobs) on the "third space" rehaul of cubicle office design.
Here is my first stab at my principles for "true urbanism" (to be refined):
1) Urbanism seeks to mix forms, to hybridize.
2) Urbanism values the ad hoc, the "messiness" of colliding experiences, tastes, values.
3) Urbanism brings high-brow sensibility to low-brow tastes, and low-brow sensibility to high-brow tastes ("camp"...sometimes this is called "queer").
4) Urbanism values the ambiguous and synergistic relationships, in other words - multi-faceted, cross-pollinating, innovative and collaborative relationships over those that are purely pragmatic, optimized and functionally delimited. In short: urbanism is engaging. An ambiguous subject/condition forces you to engage it.
5) Urbanism seeks egalitarian, liminal space...It aims to remove hierarchical space and replace it with civic-dialogical, democratic space.

No comments: