Lost in theories: a comparative approach of evolution and criticism in urban theories.

Posted on September 14, 2011 by


Travelling across urban theories and their appliances to nowadays situation in a World 2.0, answering the “what is right?” and “what is wrong?” question is an unsolvable task. All theories appear in reaction the ones to the others, sometimes in parallel, towards time and history.
Although the critics toward the modern movement are well known and the tabula rasa precepts couldn’t be implemented anymore, the urbanism of a Chandigarh seems to not be as bad as we need to go totally against it. Urban theories are more relevant to alternative utopias, all based on engaged thought on personal or trendy beliefs. For David Harvey, alternatives affirm their moral objectives by being implemented in a specific spatial order and the multiplicity of the proposals is only a way to demonstrate the human ability to explore the spectrum of possibilities.
When Jane Jacobs accuses the Modern Movement through its urban renewal principles applied to the post war condition in real spaces,  she in fact presents her own principles based first on contradicting the urban theoretical background: never graduated as a urban planner, by observing the world she lived in – and probably by being married to an architect, increasing her interest for the building space environment – she came to the field and became an important urban activist and theorist. But for some, her visions concerning the need for intimate and diversified relations in the social space, leading to a community-scale based urban planning would have lead to what we know nowadays of the gated communities. Position deeply criticized, even if by looking deeper, the sensitive background described along her writings, considering cities as ecosystems in which every element interacts with the other synergistically and transform the entity or insisting on the necessity of a mixed-use development cannot just be wrong.

Also, the “new urbanism” of the couple Duany / Plater-Zyberk displace the debate into the streets and the public spaces as the real space for social exchange defining the city as a network of “urban villages” interconnected in which we can think that proximity is a favorable factor for encouraging civic behavior.

One of the new tendency of urban planning seems to lie on those theoretical backgrounds associated to the observation of the growing interest for sharing: the P2P urbanism inspired by the broader approach of the P2P foundation proposes to develop technological tools able to – under a common open source license – transfer the knowledge from architects and urbanists to communities and to involve them on their own making space process. But… hum… I am not a dentist and I am not sure to be able to be one by reading on internet how to become one.

Independently, some initiatives use the Web 2.0 to restore a public involvment in the making-places process without negating the professionalism of the urban actors: the Urban Design Week 2011 happening from the 15th of September to the 20th of September in New York City proposes inhabitants via a 2.0 platform By the City / To the City to express their needs and their ideas in specific places around New York City and to give those opinions to designers as an inspired data basis for developing projects. Interesting.






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