Transcript of RECOMBINANT URBANISM
David Grahame Shane
B O O K R E V I E W
Submitted by: Nileena.s #25
I N T R O D U C T I O N….
Recombinant Urbanism by David Graham Shane, who teaches urban design atColumbia University, is a book of wide-ranging erudition. This book mainly focuseson the history and theory of city design. There is a particularly strong analysis of KevinLynch showing his many moral and political commitments and the multifacetedcharacter of his work — ranging from the nature of his studies, particularly those onwhich his classic book, The Image of the City (1960) was based.
His program for those who would design new cities or intervene in existing cities isfounded on three concepts he calls armature, enclave, and heterotopia. Cities are acombination of armatures, or communication and transportation networks usuallystreets. These streets connect enclaves which he defines as public squares or othercentral but single-purpose assemblage spaces. Shane offers a rich catalogue ofpossibilities for thinking about these elements.
The third element heterotopia, which for him is any large and complex monument orpublic institution “standing out” from the urban fabric. He gives as examples ahospital or a “monumental church”. Shane comments that “over the years, manystudents have asked me why I place so much emphasis on heterotopias”.
“Top down” planning is excoriated by Shane, and he criticizes the Modernisttendency towards such planning. He believes that that Kevin Lynch, who is celebratedin this book, had a compelling vision of participation. . In fact, one of the strengths ofthe book is that it shows how deeply Lynch believed in the capacity of ordinary peopleto shape their environment.
This book re-examines the way in which urban actors recombine elementsin order to create conceptual models of the city at various scales. Urbanactors work as catalysts in the city and depend on conceptual models toguide them, whether they act as architect, urban designer, or landscape orcity designer. A city model enables a designer to construct anunderstanding of the city and its component elements; facilitating designdecisions. It orients urban actors in complex situations and at multiplescales.
Urban theorists have identified various normative city models that act asstabilizing patterns for large urban systems over time. The advantage ofthese models is that they combine a system of normative ideals of what thecity should be like with simple organizational structures and clear methodsof implementation. Further, each model tends to represent a stage of urbandevelopment. The three stages associated with the three models are oftentermed as the pre –industrial, industrial and post industrial.
In ‘A Theory of Good City Form’ (1981), Kevin Lynch described his owninfluential triad of models, the City of Faith, the City as a Machine, andthe City as an Organism. Standard urban history texts such as SpiroKostof’s ‘The City Shaped” (1991) site these three models.
Focuses on the ‘City Theory’ of Kevin Lynch, outlining his attempt toprovide a trio of city models that would take into account not only thestatic structure of the city but also its transient and utopian aspects. Lynchcriticized his contemporaries for their short sited attention to cityfragments, total control, and the urban design of local settings based onfunctional and economic considerations. The chapter concludes by tracingLynch’s influence on various contemporary designers who emphasize ‘citydesign’ as a large scale, systemic process, such as the Landscape UrbanistMovement.
Outline the object of Lynch’s unflattering remarks, the theory of urbandesign. This theory was linked to the design of shopping malls. He studiedmalls and participated in major changes that were taking place in theadaptive reuse of traditional city centres. It describes His ‘Image of theCity’ (1960) and work on downtown Boston (1958-1959) contributed tothese changes. Shows how m the Deconstructivist designers of the 1980sand 1990s altered city design codes to produce their novel recombination.Shane emphasizes the armature’s as a linear organizing device in urbandesign (organizing the vertical section of the city or sky scraper) and therole of the heterotopias in enabling experimentation.
CENTRAL BOSTON URBAN DESIGN
ENCLAVES AND ARMATURES
This chapter examines the armature and enclave in detail, describing theircombinatorial operation in different city models and urban designfragments. The chapter concludes with the examples of variouscombinations of armatures and enclaves, ancient, modern andcontemporary.
This chapter examines heterotopias as places of change in more detail,looking at different strategies for combining and recombining urbanelements in plan or section at various scales. Shane stresses on the alteredsituation of the post-modern city and the role of heterotopias in stabilizingthe three great normative city models that constitute Lynch’s great gift tocity designers and urban designers.
It is the argument of this book that cities are necessarily built around avariety of patches or enclaves that are interconnected by ecology ofarmatures, transportation and communication networks set in thelandscape and crucially complicated by a wide variety of embeddedheterotopias.
Heterotopias are primarily places of urban change, accommodatingexceptional activities and persons. The first type, the heterotopias of crisis,hides agents of change within the standard building types of the city,masking their catalytic activity. The second, Foucault’s heterotopias ofdeviance, comprises institutions that foster change in highly controlledenvironments. In these small packets of highly disciplined order,relationships between members of society are organizationally restructuredto facilitate the emergence of a new order that may transform society.Examples include universities, clinics, hospitals, courthouses, prisons,barracks, boarding schools, colonial towns, and factories. Here people aregathered, sorted and manipulated and eventually exported by stable publicorganizations that provide institutional and cultural continuity.
The third category heteroptopic change fostering place comprises realms ofapparent chaos and creative, imaginative freedom. In heterotopias ofillusion change is concentrated and accelerated. Such places include formaland informal institutional markets, bazaars, shopping arcades, departmentstores, malls, stock exchanges, hotels, casinos, cinemas, spa, gym, etc.
This book’s view of the urbanization process is that the novel, unstable,shifting processes developed in heterotopic places of change can transformeach of the three dominant, normative city models from one to another.Such transformations have occurred throughout history and continue tooccur all around us.