building & dwelling

building & dwelling.png

(2018) by Richard Sennett

[interview on book on richard’s page]



1 – intro: crooked, open, modest

ville referred to the overall city, whereas cité designated a particular place – character of a neighborhood.. a kind of consciousness


it might seem that cité and ville should fit together seamlessly: how people want to live should be expressed in how cities are built.. but just here lies a great problem. experience in a city, as in the bedroom or on the battlefield, is rarely seamless, it is much more often full of contradictions and jagged edges..


the urbanist should go against the will of the people, refusing to build gated communities; prejudice should be denied in the name of justice. but there’s no straight forward way to translate justice into physical form

this is the ethical problem in cities today. should urbanism represent society as it is, or seek to change it? if kant is right, ville and cite can never fit together seamlessly. what, then, is to be done


the experimenter in an adaptive clinical trial is more interested in making sense of things that are surprising or intriguing than in confirming what might have been predictable in advance..t

everything as experiment

‘open’ implies a system for fitting together the odd, the curious, the possible. the mathematician melanie mitchell has pithily summarized an open system as one’ in which large networks of components w no central control and simple rules of operation give rise to complex collective behavior, sophisticated info processing, and adaptation via learning or evolution. this means that complexity comes into being in the course of evolution; it emerges thru the feedback and sifting of info rather than existing as in a telos preordained and programmed at the outset

the parts in a non-linear, open system can’t be broken up this way; ‘the whole system has to be examined all at once, as a coherent entity’.. his (steven strogatz) idea is easy to grasp if you think of chemicals interacting to form a compound; it becomes a new substance of its own


such views had a solid grounding at mit. the media lab was built on the intellectual foundations of the electronic system lab which norbert wiener, arguably the greatest systems analyst of the 20th cent, founded at mit in the 1940s

norbert’s human use of human beings

how would the open lab ethos relate to a city? architect robert venturi once declared ‘i like complexity and contradiction in architecture.. i am for richness of meaning rather than clarity of meaning’..t.. though attacking much modern architecture for its stripped down functionalist building his words cut deeper. his is the media lab transposed to a city – the city is a complex place, which means it is full of contradiction as and ambiguities..

complexity enriches experience; clarity thins it..t

my friend william mitchell, an architect who eventually took over the media lab, made the bridge between system and city.. he declared..’the keyboard is my cafe’.. his city of bits was the first book about smart cities published in 1996

aristotle wrote in politics that ‘a city is composed of diff kinds of men; similar people cannot bring a city into existence’


his (benvenuto cellini in the autobiography) life was more open than it would have been if he had remained in a village, because the city set him free from a single, fixed self to become what he wanted to be..

the it is me ness


the role of the planner and architect would be both to encourage complexity and to create an interactive, synergetic ville greater than the sum of its parts, w/in which pockets of order would orient people. ethically, an open city would of course tolerate differences and promote equality, but would more specifically free people from the straitjacket of the fixed and the familiar, creating a terrain in which they could experiment and expand their experience..

idealistic? of course. idealism of an american sort, framed by the pragmatist school of philosophy whose key concept was that..

..all experience should be experimental..

huge.. everything as experiment

(william) james even suspected that the open, experimental mindset – so critical of the world as it is, so minded that things could be different – betrays in fact a fear of commitment; in his words, the eternal experimenter suffers from ‘dread of the irrevocable, which often engenders a type of character incapable of prompt and vigorous resolve’. free of that neurosis, the maker follows a crooked path from the possible to the doable..



the office park, the school campus, the residential tower set in a bit of green are not forms friendly to experiment, because all are self-contained rather than open to outside influences and interactions..t

begs us to all be in the city.. as the day.. [city as school.. for all.. sans work for money.. et al]

my experience in boston, however, cautions against seeing closure as simply big power squashing the people. fear of others or an inability to cope w complexity are aspects of the cité which also close in lives..  the closed cité is therefore a problem of values as well as political economy


18th cent philosophers sought to relieve this tension (god’s power over man’s fate) by focusing on one aspect of making: the impulse to do good quality work.. good work as a sign of service and commitment to something .. beyond selfishness..  homo faber appeared in this guise .. from 1751 to 1771…  in modern times, belief in homo faber has dimmed.. industrialism darkened the picture of the skill-proud labourer as machines took over his or her crafts and factory conditions demeaned the social setting of work.. during the last century, both nazism and stat communism turned man as make into an obscene ideological weapon; arbeit macht frei (work is freedom) was written over the entrance to concentration camps..  today, while these totalitarian *horrors have gone, new forms of short term, episodic labour plus the advance of robotic labour have denied to large numbers of people pride in themselves as worked..

homo farber – human beings able to control their fate and their environment through tools..In older anthropology theories, Homo faber, as the “working man”, is confronted with Homo ludens, the “playing man“, who is concerned with amusements, humor, and leisure…The concept of homo faber is referenced in Umberto Eco’s “Open Work”: he refutes its negative connotation and instead argues that homo faber is a manifestation of man’s innate being in nature.

beyond homo economicus – belief that humans only act on their own narrow self interests

*not gone.. just more subtle.. bs jobs et al.. and for too many.. not even more subtle


to understand homo faber’s role in the city, we have to conceive of dignity of labour differently..

maybe conceive of work differently.. ie: more as art.. that we all need as one body.. as in eudaimoniative surplus.. dignity ness (the state or quality of being worthy of honor or respect) can be a killer

(bernard) rudofsky argued that the making of places had no need of self conscious artiness.. ie: elliptical granaries in central african bush; finely detailed towers in iran built to attract pigeons whose dropping accumulated and so transformed the towers into fertilizer plants.. which is what he meant by architecture w/o architects: the primacy of the cité; making derived from dwelling..t

iwan baan ness

rev of everyday life


the care w which the granaries, towers, and white washed streets are tended show that people have taken ownership of these places.. when we say about a neighborhood that we feel at home there, i think we are asserting this kind of agency – the physical environ seems to emanate from how we dwell and who we are

sounds like interview on richard‘s page.. ie:

You move through a space and you dwell in a place..When people start driving at a certain speed, they lose awareness of where they are. .And when you dwell in a place, you have a slower relationship to it…When you bike or you walk, your cognitive field is much bigger because you’re taking in much more from the sides.

rudofsky and cullen caution the maker against arbitrary innovation ..  a mismatch between ways people currently do things and ways they might do them.. open-ended in time means way an object will evolve.. how its use will change; the process cannot often be predicted in advance.. ie: scalpel handle..


i dwelt in jane jacob’s shadow as a young man. gradually, i have emerged from it.. in part this was because the scene of my own practical activity shifted.. looking back i regret not grasping the pragmatist nettle by practising more and teaching less..


my practice in america was locally based an oriented to strengthening community. in middle age i began consulting at the un.. in south.. large scale design was requires.. slow, cautious and local .. inadequate.. the ethical outlook that shaped me.. needed to be reinterpreted..

another change.. suffered a serious stroke.. recovering .. began to understand building and spatial relations differently.. i now had to make an effort to be in complex spaces… i became attuned on a broader scale to the ambiguous or complex spaces thru which i navigated


both changes have prompted me to explore how homo faber can play a more vigorous role in the city. a more vigorous urbanism has also to be a visceral urbanism, since place and space come alive in the body..  as i’ll try to show.. proactive urbanism can combine w ethical modesty..  if this relation between cité and ville can be forged, then the city can open..

a maker who approaches his/her labours in a spirit of modesty, as cullen or jacobs want, will certainly reduce the tension between making and dwelling.. yet he/she may avoid taking risks. if the immodest, assertive, creative will is full of fire, can a more sensitive, cooperative, self critical urbanism become as energetic?

this book is the last of 3 exploring homo faber’s place in society..

the first volume studied craftmanship, particularly the relationship between head and hand it involves..

the second studied the cooperation good work entails..

this (third) book puts homo faber in the city..

part 1 – how urbanism (practice of city making) has makers in the 19th cent tried to connect the lived and the built; the tissues were fragile and tore easily.. in the 20th cent.. cité and ville turned away from each other.. .. urbanism became, internally a gated community..t

part 2 –  3 big issues affected by fault line between lived and built..

part 3 – what a city could be like were it more open.. .. requires those who live in it to develop the skills to manage complexity..

part 4 – the crookedness of the city.. the turbulence and uncertainties .. can ethics shape the design of the city

part 1 – the two cities

2 – unstable foundations


engineering the ville.. reading the cité

friedrich engels (1840 w marx).. pens ‘proletariat’..



the era of these novels was an age in which urban dweller no longer felt at ease speaking spontaneously to stranger in the street. today , we don’t usually do so either, so it’s hard to imagine it was not always thus. but in the mid 18th cent paris or london a stranger felt no hesitation in coming up to you in the street, interrogating you, and gripping your arm (man to man) to hold your attention.. similarly .. in a coffee house.. expecting to spend quality time discussing matters of the day w perfect strangers..


stendhal’s paris marked a turning point when people on the street or at a cafe assumed they had a right to be left alone.. w their own thoughts..  in public people came to want to be protected by silence.. shielded from the intrusion of strangers, which is still true.. in the modern city, strangers relate to one another more visually than verbally..


the big picture is big, black and homogeneous; the mental space of complexity consists of analysing small bits of reality. learning to ‘read ‘ the city in the is way promises to make the newcomer street smart..

the unsettled character of urban life produced perhaps the most resonant defn of modernity itself. this appeared in the communist manifest, written by engels and marx in 1848, a year of revolutionary upheaval across europe..



the idea of modernity they evoke is summed up now in the philosopher zygmunt bauman’s phrase, ‘liquid modernity’..  whereby the character becomes unfixed evoked by a language focused on details and fragments..


buildings are going to be in a place a long time. how can they be reconciled to the swift change of modern life, to its liquid, dissolving flow of old economic, social or religious forms..  how can one relate a solid ville to a liquid cité

city sketchup.. as the day


as a general proposition, people move thru a space and dwell in a place.. the haussmannian city privileged space over place.. the transport networks connected people spatially, but diminished their experience of place.. what made the diff between space and place was the speed at which people could navigate the city.. .. the faster you move, the less aware you are of the particularities of the environ..  people, when walking, take in far more liminal visual info.. one estimate is that  the brain is processing 50-55% more



these are the pleasures of the flaneur.. moving about provides the sort of first person info which taught engles in manchester.. and.. losing their character as one speeds thru space..

a new anxiety equally seems to have afflicted parisians: they weren’t moving as fast as they wanted; reports of widespread roadrage surfaced in paris during the late 1870s and early 1880s.. in times when slow urban movement was the norm, there was much less anxiety about blockage.. now traffic jams signaled something had gone wrong.. the city wasn’t working..

the emphasis on free flow became the guide for big city planners in the 20th cent such as robert moses..  the builder of ny’s highway network.. to whom it seemed self evident that mobility should be the prime concern of city planning..  fast is free, slow is unfree.. wherever/whenever you want.. as fast as you can.. : the formula diminishes the sense of dwelling in a place.. you are just passing thru.. haussmann’s legacy in this is perverse: the networked ville has diminished the cité


tocqueville first came to america in 1831


this consciousness about race turned olmsted towards thinking about parks as places where the races could mix – off the plantation, in a city.. gregarious rather than neighbourly.. inclusion was more possible in an impersonal space of strangers than in the more intimate space of neighbours..  in this, olmsted defined a social ethic for the city. people who differ had better be tied together in impersonal public spaces than in small communities..  so problematic has that ideal fo inclusion in public space proved that we need to understand in detail how olmsted sought to enact it in the design of central park

began in 1858.. finished in 1873

planning commissioners wanted big, ceremonial entrances.. which olmsted contested: more modest gates signaled ‘that all were welcome, regardless of rank/wealth’..


olmsted rejected the fear that a huge park would inevitably be unsafe at night; therefore cp was open and easy access at any time

hrs today: 6am-1am

so familiar has this park become, its natural landscape seeming to have been always there.. that both native ny-ers and visitors have lost any sense of just how artificial it is.. 4000 men worked over the course of its construction to transport 5 mn cubic yards of material to build the hills and open fields.. bandstand set in midst of new planted forest..

as privilege surrounded the park, the people inside it became less mixed..


park began to decay physically..

still, it remained a provoking proposition: social inclusion can be physically designed.. what gives this proposal muscle is, i think, the very artificiality of the place..

artifice pastoral writers since virgil have evoked the peace the natural world could bring to those disgusted w the struggle for power or burdens of life..  in a way relief seems obvious – putting cares out of mind for a while.. dwelling in a world of gardens.. strolls..

omsted (central) park meant to ease the oppressiveness of the city – but his twist was to think that racial tensions in a city could be escaped, or at least diminished in such a pleasure oriented space.. people would mix together sociably for the sake of pleasure there, whereas functional places like factories, or even commercial streets, would not promote ‘gregarious’ impulses..  artifice animated sociability, while reality deadens it..

hmm.. which is more akin to reality..? seems to me the factories and commercial streets are not..  begs rat park.. where pleasure is functionality and vice versa et al..


the great generation of urbanists all sought to shape the ville in order to mobilize the city: haussmann sought to make the city accessible, cerda to make it equal, olmsted to make it sociable. each plan had its limitations..


missing element: its crowds.. how does this dense human substance relate to urban form


le bon to freud .. on the crowd as having (degrading) mob capacity.. simmel saw crowd as making people uptight.. sensory overload.


after them, in the 20th cent, the sting of defeat eased as urbanism became less ambitious about connecting the lived and the built

3 – cité and ville divorce


thomas hobbes (17th cent) – contrast between sociable and political directly influence the 19th cent ferdinand tonnies.. he sorted out the distinction as one between Gemeinschaft and Gesellschaft, and society..  the one embodies f to f personalized encounter the other impersonal and instrumental arrangements..  the term neighbourhood conveys how Gemeinschaft feels – friendly or hostile in daily relations .. in society, Gesellschaft, people don simmel’s mask.. they are cool, blase, a one another..  tonnies shrunk the cité: life is local..

the chicagoans were unhappy about this formulation .. 1\ tonnies put community and work in separate boxes.. tonnies thought work was cold and unfeeling but chicagoans felt more solidarity at work.. so focus on labour org ing rather than community org ing  2\ tonnies put women in gemein and men in gesell – one reason hitler was drawn to him


took issue w tonnies beliefs in large part because the great depression had reoriented people’s attitudes..


though jacobs and mumford were both left leaning politically, mumford leaned towards fabian socialism which emphasized policy making, while jacobs was a maverick w strong anarchist inclinations.. the debate between them concerned the relative balance between the built/ville and the lived/cité..

she (jacobs) was observant, curious about who other people were and what they were doing.. ‘eyes on the street’.. in this she was the direct heir of the chicago school: her aim was to open the city, from the bottom up


much as i dislike mumford personally.. he deserves a hearing today because he sought to open the city thru making the ville according to a particular socialist plan.. his idea was the ‘garden city’..  places where nature and building would coexist.. as would the balance between home, factory, school and shop; garden cities would heal the breach between ville and cité, opening up a good life for all

let’s go w no factory, school, shop.. just home.. in the city.. as the day..

jacobs on slow time.. slow growing.. gradual money.. addressing modest everyday needs..  she celebrate irregular, non linear, open ended paths of development.. slow time dictates in turn a certain kind of urban scale. small is where slow happens..


she seems, like tonnies, to emphasize tha only face to face relations on a street, in a local community, can attach people to the place where they live..

jacobs wasn’t a romantic invoking the warm ‘we’..  she privileged what could be called neighbourliness w/o intimacy..

jacobs echoes the chicago school in not paying too much attention to the quality of the built environ..  she declared that ‘the city is not a work of art’..  to her.. it didn’t really matter: people will nest in, gradually nipping and tucking and adapting these structure according to their ways of living.. form will emerge from the way people dwell..  hers was a version of ‘form follows function’ in which the word function stands for the host of informal, free, loose activities occurring face to face


politically, jacobs thought the local to be the scale best suited to a certain kind of democratic practice, based on the american town hall meeting..  in the ancient world, aristotle thought the idea size of a city should be one in which a shout at one end could be heard at the other.. .. so really the size of a village..

the idea which has survived these antique measures is the primacy of direct democracy, face to face, rather than delegated, representative democracy which can be practised on a large scale..

can it.. can we rep..?

 jacobs believe direct democracy could be built upon a cellular fashion, w each cell being a neighbourhood in which people had, as it were, shouting distance knowledge of one another..

neighborhood govt..

but if we get back to an undisturbed ecosystem.. no need for scale of ie: shouting distance, rep ness, et al..

it might seem that slow time growth and daily ritual of neighbourliness should stabilize a community.. not to jacobs.. .. there has to be high diversified density.. ‘if density and diversity give life, the life they bred is disorderly’.. she was thinking in part about commercial relations as did aristotle,,  put a lot of competitors together.. which is the logic today of ‘innovation hubs’.. she as also thinking of politics: it’s most alive when debate is open and fractious and things happen..

what if we need neither commerce or politics..


another way to convey her intentions is to think of the west village.. as a kind of media lab transformed into urban space, the acme of an open environ.. what could possible be said against it..

nothing .. if it’s for everyone .. which we’ve not yet tried.. anywhere.. has to be for everyone in order for it to work..

ie: in the city.. as the day..

mumford countered each of the features of ‘jacobism’.. hoping instead that certain formal ways of building the ville could open up the city..

criticism is unfair to jacobs .. her bottom up protests stopped robert moses  from turning centre of ny into a highway.. still, about jacobs’ celebration of disorder mumford cuts close to the bone..

perhaps not.. we could do that disorder ness today..

in his view, jacobs contradicts herself, because she is obsessed w street crime, particularly muggings..  jacobs’ remedy for mugging is embodied in ‘eyes on the street’.. problem is how much you can’t see..

better solution: gershenfeld something else law

more than this, her celebration of the non-linear, emerging, dynamic city relies on a sustained spontaneity..

again.. we can do this today.. and spontaneity is vital to aliveness.. ie: fromm spontaneous law


via mumford – if cities are to become more just, their foundation have to be put in order thru design. the ville had to lead the cité

no.. just need gershenfeld something else law

on design – garden city : where commerce, leisure, and schools are near to home.. industrial work segregating

this is why jane’s ideas never worked.. we could never give up our made up and coercive ideas like work and school.. in other words.. we never set people free enough.. to get back to an undisturbed ecosystem


(lists tons of places garden city has been realized).. the ‘garden’ in garden cities matters in this regard.. nature was to be put to use, .. nature and the build environ could be brought into harmony.. garden city planners wanted to discipline nature in the manner of the french geometric farmers..  the gardens in a garden city reflected their conviction that, to make a city sustainable, it had to be orderly, ..t.. its farming like its building carefully thought out in advance.. sustainability happens top down..

mumford thought localism was a form of disempowerment.. mumford wanted citizens to assert their own agency by making radical demands..  by saying what the whole ville should look like, rather than withdrawing into local life..  this demand for form is the socialist side of the ideal garden city..  still, citizenship in a garden city does not embody the freedom weber imaged in a city state..  the inhabitants of the sienese commune could shape the form of their city, whereas the citizens of letchworth cannot: the plan is set


mumford is the godfather of one branch of the ‘smart city’ movement in 1934 he published technic and civilization..

mumford knew norbert weiner slightly and admired wieners’ late criticism of cybernetics.. .. in old age, mumford sunk into bleak pessimism on this account believing that high tech could not be coupled to socialist politics..

the human use of human beings

mumford’s tech interest led him to criticize jacob’s concept of local scale.. you can’t build an infra, he asserts, by thinking of a bottom up cellular framework.. you need to think about the system as an integrated whole..


this kind of calculation is jacobs’ achilles heel.. she has no good idea of how to scale up from the local to the urban…  it won’t do to call, as she does, the city a ‘collection of communities’..t

jo freeman ness

infra, like roads, electricity or water, needs to be built by scaling form the whole to part..  of course scaling down traffic flows can and has wrecked much of the modern cit..

the issue of scale in political terms has everything to do w hierarchies of value.. deciding which are the more important things relative to the less important..  how could we ever sort out scarce resources w/o establishing these hierarchies of value..  how could disorder ever sort out what matters in a city..t

only if we let go.. we can’t hold on partially.. and expect it to work.. ie: meadows undisturbed ecosystem


i once remarked to jane.. that she was better on the cité than mumford was while he was better on the ville..

she rounded curtly.. asking me.. ‘so what would you do

let’s do both..

part 2 – the difficulty of dwelling

4 – klee’s angel leaves europe


nehru place in se delhi.. market arisen on top of an underground parking garage.. unforseen rooftop activities added..  ie: entrepreneurs do not lead a bureaucratized existence.. they have escaped india’s legal econ..  goods now traded politely describe as ‘grey goods’.. stolen or diverted from factories/storage, untaxed.. informal because of its transience.. shops and shoppers, offices and workers come and go.. informal time is open ended..


version of nehru place can be found in middle eastern souk or a parking lot in lagos..  they used to appear in the squares of almost any small italian town.. in all fo them, sellers and buyers can haggle about good which have no fixed price..  grey market goods have revived a certain kind of face to face intensity in the city


his situation is a familiar one sociologically, if uncomfortable morally: ethical family values are coupled to shady behaviour. the harsh conditions of survival can put poor people in that position.. taken to a more violent extreme, it is the story told in mario puzo’s the godfather..  where are the forces that seek to push out this admirable con man..?

naked power needs clothing to survive; it needs to legitimize itself..  the promise of growth is one way to do this; growth wraps together economic, political and technical progress..  those heroic figures of the 19th cent , the civil engineers, believed fervently that taking control of cities was a moral achievement..  in india, colonialism resorted to he idea of progress to justify its subjection of indians, who, as is true in all colonial logic, were seen as backward..  in the explosive growth of cities, the idea of progress still lurks, but now in a subtle form: it is expressed by the belief that places such as delhi should become ‘world class cities’


‘catching up’ (to other cities ie: paris) justifies political and economic power in emerging cities..


a megalopolis is not quite describe what saskia sassen calls a ‘global city’.. in global cities, proximity of cities to each other w/in a metropolitan region doesn’t matter much.. instead, there are a set of financial, legal, and other specialized service tasks which the global econ performs.; these ‘global functions’ are parcelled out to diff cities in a network in which each city  plays a particular role, no matter that the cities are far apart..



global cities no longer ‘nest’ they are becoming detached from the nation states which contain them..  the global city represents an international network of money and power, difficult to address locally: rather than face down robert moses, a tangible human being who actually lived in ny, today jane jacobs might have to send emails of protest to an investment committee in qatar

all these forces combine to threaten mr sudhir..  informal local places become inviting targets for global regimes..


today the situation is reversed, planners have become the servants of projects.. a very unequal balance of power


the urbanist liu thai ker point out that this uneven development has become disguised globally in professional jargon by such tropes as the ‘constellation city concept’ or the ‘policentric’ mode of a city – tropes which blot out the collective needs of the whole city

this map is more nuanced than the economist thomas piketty’s correlation of growth and inequality suggests. as in other countries, india’s elite has helped itself to a very large slice of the country’s new wealth pie; piketty’s sights are set on that extra large helping. but this greediness obscures another story. a significant minority are doing better than before.. ie: dwelling in more than the un min of 3 sq metres; possession of a credit card




in china about 300 mn chinese have achieved this status.. in india.. about 9% of its population moved in this direction

why do people do that.. ? how do you compare 300 mn (.3/1.379bn 22%?) to 9% (.09×1.324bn would be 119 mn..?)..?

world bank study shows holding on to above poverty status over time is risky..  this slice pays too much of its income fo r place to live or struggles each month to pay the interest on the credit card debt..  the fortunes of mr sudhir’s class are thus uncertain, rather than doomed. his values hae taken shape around that distinction..

so long as his circumstances remain ambiguous, he can retain a faith in his powers to deal w them..


empty buildings are only part of the problem of building so much so fast.. ie: beautifully built highways to nowhere..  testifying to the danger of a fixed relation between form and function..


joseph schumpeter: ‘creative destruction is the essential fact about capitalism’.. in his view.. the communist party would ironically be the instrument of animating this essential capitalist fact..  less awful if city had decayed earlier..

i gave madame q jacob’s book thinking she’d like it.. she didn’t.. ‘slow growth is only for rich countries..’  t.. and she thought jacobs naive about spontaneity.. mumford made more sense to her.. more formal.. orderly

begs we leap..  for (blank)’s sake

couldn’t try garden city w suggests 60 000.. when cities where 3-4 mn was norm.. you’d need a thousand garden cities threaded together


poverty and oppression bred improvisation in the courtyards.. by the 1990s, though, private ownership by individuals had become the norm and the shared toilets and kitchens disappeared.. a ‘dwelling’ had come to mean an individual apt.. rather than a collective building

n&h property law


here lies a great dilemma more generally for urbanism: how to connect to the past – a past whose passing one might regret – w/o turning the city into a museum

in preservation work.. the problem of authenticity is how far back to go in restoring an object. is the object in its most authentic form when it was first made..? should there be a defining moment at all?


this is vernacular (architecture concerned with domestic and functional rather than monumental buildings) urbanism. it takes the logic of narrative conservation forward in time, looking for the ways new forms can emerge from the old, but still relate to them..  it is true that fixed simulations are far more popular than vernacular unfoldings..  historic preservation can descend in to a melodrama, pitting david, who protects heritage, against goliath, who wants to tear down the past and insert those soulless steel and glass boxes.. david does not demand, ‘build us something better.. innovate’ instead, he triumphs when nothing changes. in this contrast lies a large ethical issue…


angel of history looking to past by walter benjamin ‘.. where we see the appearance of a chain of events, he sees on single catastrophe..  this storm is what we call progress’


benjamin ‘the revolution is a force of nature that is difficult to control’

today, klee’s angel stands for another epochal shift, one in which the world ‘global’ replaces ‘communist’..  in delhi, the ‘rubble’ below the storm of progress is its marginal people who, like mr sudhir, struggle to find a place for themselves in places where they do not belong.. power stands against them, yet they have made something out of their marginality..  in shanghai, the angel buffeted by the storm of progress stands for how certain urbanists and citizens have responded to the city’s transformations; unsatisfied w what shanghai has become, they are turning round and looking backwards, searching the past to give meaning to the present

5 – the weight of others


heidegger uses the word dasein for ‘dwelling’ it means literally ‘being there’.. throughout his career heidegger mused about how difficult it is to dwell.. people must struggle to anchor themselves in order to counter the ‘anxiety’ , the ontological insecurity, which infects human experience as time flows forward, uprooting people’s attachments to places and to one  another..  we humans are ‘thrown to earth’ wandering where we do not belong, struggling to embed ourselves.. ..heidegger had long sought to get away form the city and find a place to dwell deep in the black forest..  here, eventually, he would exclude alien others, particularly jews..



i was privileged to attend.. laevinas (student of heidegger) interpreting the torah, but was puzzled: why did he dwell so much on the difficulties of translating hebrew into french? in time i realized this was exactly the problem addressed by his ethical visions: words turning towards one another, but encountering a limit which cannot be crossed; each language contains irreducible, untranslatable meanings..  so it is in life more broadly..  in levinas’s view, the neighbour is an ethical figure turned towards others, but unable ultimately to fathom them..

beyond words.. perhaps idio-jargon


in time i took from levinas something he did not intend, and would indeed have disliked: a practical application of this ethical view.. the neighbour as a stranger bears on the mundane realm o ft he city. awareness of, encounters with, addressing others unlike oneself – all constitute the ethics which civilized.. indifference to strangers, because they are incomprehensibly strange, degrades the ethical character of the city..  each of us could ‘understand’ the pegida march or appear at the munich train station. what’s harder to do is practise neighbourliness on levinas’s terms


on heidegger’s flight.. prompted by same search solitude which removed thoreau a century earlier.. .. here freed of other distractions.. even so , the place was surprisingly full of visitors.. mostly students, who philosophized w the master while walking in the woods or chatting by the fire.. or around the wooden table deep in convo

however, hiedegger’s flight .. was also from the other.. specifically jewish others.. . became ever more important to him after he became the nazi rector of the uni of freiburg.. he burned his bridges w acolytes like levinas and hans jonas.. a burning and a shaming after the second world war, which only intensified his desire to flee..


away from city could also get away from painful encounters on street w colleagues he had repressed or dismissed at the uni when rector; the most personal of these was edmund husserl, a jew and his own mentor, who was forbidden to use the library..

for this reason, after the war heideggers’ hut became a cursed emblem to others..

for all this, the hut intrigued me because of how the physical object it is relates to its politics.. the philosophic idea of the hut is as expressed in one of heidegger’s most beautiful, short essays, ‘building dwelling thinking’.. the absence of commas indicates that these three concepts form one experience: man should be embedded in nature, in a place he has made for himself w/o much artifice, in a house devoted to thinking..


you don’t need to be a nazi to want a break in the woods. yet there is a connection between place and politics here, which can be expressed in te formula: to exclude, simplify

for urbanists as makers of places, that formula resonates. exclusion isn’t just a matter of keeping out jew or other others, it also involves simplifying the look and construction of a place so that the place fits one kind of person, but not others. mixed forms and uses invite mixed users. whereas in a stripped down environ, the more form becomes simple, clear and distinct, the more it defines who belongs there and who doesn’t .. at the extreme, a hut; at the extreme, aryans only

yuck.. unless everyone gets a place like that.. ie: rp ness

it could be said that in a heideggerian flight, who the other is doesn’t really matter. jew then, muslim now. flight comes from feeling that the presence of the other – even in so placid a place as freiburg – prevents a person from tooting him or herself.. in psychoanalytic terms, the person in flight seeks to build up the ego by eliminating dissonance..  the unremarkable other must be hiding something.. the jew scheming for money, the muslin seething w terrorist rage.. if you are like heidegger, you can’t handle your own fantasy; indeed, the threat you feel grows stronger.. the less tangible evidence you have for it. no jew had ever done him an injury..

in sum.. the hut couples exclusion of people w simplification of form.. in this, it represents a broad danger: in making clear, direct simple forms.. homo faber practises social exclusion.. more, the escape from the city to nature can mask a rejection of others..  hiedegger sought to evade taking responsibility for his actions by fleeing the city and embracing he simple life in the woods; his greatest ethical lapse is his evasiveness.


exclusion becomes more complicated when you need those whom you despise.. t

thurman interconnectedness law

can’t get away from them.. (necessary to functioning.. from cleaning toilets to servicing banks).. their presence game rise to he ghetto in its classic form..what the authorities sought wa sa place in which to isolate this especially degraded group, even while making use of them


ghetto originally meant foundry..

first .. jews completely out of sight at night.. then 1555.. ghetto herded jews together in one place.. so could convert them.. but this was a failure


on jews.. tight packed space of the ghetto.. as ‘peoples’ rather than a people.. strands of differences..  the idea that the oppressed will bond in solidarity is both naive and factually rare.. oppression does not beget integrations.. rather, solidarity is a necessary fiction to be conveyed to the dominant powers; we are strong because united.. .. the oppressed need to learn how to act as though this were true, to act out the fiction, make it believable, otherwise the oppressor will exploit their divisions, divide and rule..



homo faber can turn unintentionally into an oppressor..t

homo faber


paring down to the bare essential in a physical dwelling invites paring down the lives of those w/in..  became prototype of housing projects.. ..the places which concentrate blacks or muslims in a bare and bleak form of dwelling..

class has become personalized and class differences a source of invidious personal comparison, as a result of a new idea of the working self: meritocracy.. unlike inherited privilege, the meritocratic idea is that where you stand in society should depend on how well you have proved yourself at work..

meritocracy  and proving yourself.. at work..


particularly if everyone is given a chance how good you are will justify whatever you win in life’s rat race: meritocracy combines a belief in an equal start w the legitimacy of an unequal outcome

rather .. equity: everyone getting a go everyday.. w nothing to prove

origins of meritocracy appeared as early as mid 17th cent..  w officer in navy

18th cent.. belief that most people were capable of doing good work if they are properly trained and given a fair start..

people capable w/fair start and no train

the belief in individual merit then took an odd turn

odd (inhumane) to begin with.. if thinking it needs validation

did little to equalize starting points.. became a search for talent.. stand outs.. in work and school


what is the ville’s relationship to this personalizing of where one stands in society? the classic ghetto casts light on this modern issue..


gentrification is more fundamentally a process by which the bottom 70-75% of an urban population becomes vulnerable to expulsion by the top quarter of people in a city, either thru raised rents or by poor homeowners being seduced into selling out..

evicted.. how to kill a city.. gentrification

the outcome of this gentrifying strengthens the equation of class diff and physical separation..

urbanists speak of the ‘death of distance’ to describe the effects of informatics via hand held devices; you are always connected/related. class is coming to be experience as a kind of ‘death of distance’ in the cité, even as the ville becomes more composed of class ghettos..

mixing.. the mask of civility



communities like mine (jacobs style) chug along w/o their diversity being a problem until something upsets everyday life..  for us it was a big storage facility for jewellery was robbed.. rumour ruled and tensions rose..

when minor events like the hatton garden burglary are inflated by rumour, they can trigger violent confrontations in mixed communities..  these eruptions rebuke the well meaning belief that knowing your neighbours better will stabilize communal relations.. .. groups which coexit for years.. a small event inflated by rumour may make people suddenly unable to stand the sight of one another..


a swiping solution to these irruptions is the ‘good fences’ argument.. the import.. is to suggest that increasing the geographic distance between diff groups is more likely to make them tolerant than mixing them together..

my neighbours took a diff track.. they made use of light, superficial civilities which smoothed contact between diff groups.. ie: made a point of showing politeness..

the little courtesy embodies jane jacobs’ precept that ‘superficiality is no vice’.. you ask how a neighbour is doing w/o really wanting to know; you are merely sending a signal of recognition..


such small courtesies are also cousins to simmel’s blase mask, in that they are bland and impersonal..  for sake of healing.. people hide how they really feel about one another


so.. i would say it was right of my neighbours to strap on the mask of civility – at least until the burglars were caught. but surely bellhaviour which combines superficiality, deceit and impersonality cannot be right in any ethical sense.. how could we trust someone wearing only the mask of civility?

the philosopher russell hardin notes that trust involves a leap ‘beyond certainty’ about what to expect from another person or group; we take their behaviour , as we say , on trust..  verbal trust as in ‘my word is my bond’ means that things need not be explicitly spelt out.. implicit trust is open ended, even thou it is not blind; we look for clues of what hardin calls ”trustworthiness’ we look for tones of voice or hand gestures which are those of a ‘trustworthy’ person’ .. ‘he seemed the ‘sort of person’ you could trust’

that’s not trust.. we have to let go of that.. and simply .. assume good..

science begets trust… the superficial ritual is a way to reunite a community which has come close to the trigger conditions..


this is huge.. esp on ethics in the city.. and.. why we haven’t yet gotten to global equity (everyone getting a go everyday).. we can’t seem to let go enough to trust


i’ve tried in the ch to get beneath the pieties which seem to trivialize the understanding of difference.. ie: exclusion via hut;  reduce diversity via ghetto; loss of trust via civilized rituals/masks

there is unfortunately a simple perverse way to lighten the weight of others.. (ch 6)

6 – taocqueville in technopolis


one solution to lighten the weight of others is to make life easy for all .. thanks to modern tech

that’s not perverse.. if we focus on what people want to do (their art.. which they’ll toil after and want to give away).. rather than what’s easy.. ie: gershenfeld something else law

technology will solve what sociology cannot, sorting and smoothing the relations between people..

perhaps if we sort right (ie: via listening to 7bn curiosities and connecting locally everyday).. smoothing will become irrelevant..

bill mitchell in media lab was an early believer in this solution.. smart city.. since he wrote city of bits.. the smart city has in fact become two diff kinds of city..

1\ adv tech prescribes how people should use spaces – the ville dictates to the cité

2\ high tech coord’s but does not erase messier activities in the cité..

the prescriptive smart city does mental harm; it dumbs down its citizens.. the coordinating smart city stimulates people mentally by engaging them in complex problems and human differences. this contrast fits w/in our larger frame: the prescriptive smart city is closed; the coord smart city is open

today we can go beyond both.. no?


tocqueville’s book (1835) described how the mob crowd of his parents’ generation had morphed into the ‘tyranny of the majority’ of his own.. like the street mob, the majority, once installed democratically in the offices of state, is not content to rule in a measured way over the minority; it is filled w a passion to universalize its will, so that the 51% pay no heed to the voices of the 49%. this was the political umbilical cord connecting democratic america to revolutionary europe

five yrs later.. in 2nd volume of democracy in america.. 1840..  the crowd as mob gave way to a new image of a mass of individuals.. detached from society at large, comfort driven and inward looking..

this was his crystal ball moment.. so far as the uses of tech today are concerned..  ‘individualism’ is the key term in his insight’ indeed, it is a word which he coined, and which he evokes as follows..

each person, withdrawn into himself, behaves as though he is a stranger to the destiny of all the others. his children and his good friends constitute for him the whole of the human species. as for his transactions w his fellow citizens, he may mix among them, but he sees them not; he touches them, but does not feel them; he exists only in himself and for himself alone. and if on these terms there remains in his mind  sense of family, there no longer remains a sense of society


the inward looking sort of individual wants a cosy easy life (guided tour), in contrast to the rugged individualism of american pioneers (backpacks)

his ideas explain why the hand held device and the screen are individualizing machines, and why the standardized programs running on hand held s create an equality of condition in communications..  why smart cities can become closed.. the devil in all this is what we call ‘user friendly’ tech. it passifies..


in the city but not of it.. the googleplex in ny.. inside is meant to be self contained.. once inside any googleplex, everything is available tha tan employee could desire .. you can get your laundry done.. visit the dr, exercise in a gym, sleep if working late, even watch a movie if you need to chill out –  this is not down to kindliness on the part of the employers; the 24 hr services are the principal means of focusing people on life inside, minimizing noncorp distractions..  all googolplexi.. are gated communities.. designed to extract labour from otherwise unattached 20 somethings.. once people have spouses, partners or children, they will want to spend less time on site..


the googleplex ties a tight time knot between working and dwelling

the googlistas are poster children for the ‘creative classes’..  people who mostly work in advertising, media services and tech start ups outside unis.. more distributor, middlemen and brander than actual homo fabers..  an elite which does not do much for the mass.. as nathan heller has point out.. 2014.. 250 000 people employed by citibank.. whereas fb, w a higher valuation in stock, employed about 6 000.. an icon of privilege (gentrifying)



monopoly capitalism makes an ironic frame for the architecture of googleplexi, for these buildings are meant to stimulate free exchange of ideas inside, even as the firm destroys free markets outside..

what makes the googleplex a tocquevillian environ is its absorbing interior, its intimacy.. the googleplex in the city but not of it..


‘grammar check’.. the menu itself is just the problem: it offers predetermined forms for each function – you can choose only what’s on the menu

like school, voting, et al.. spinach or rock ness


on dissonance..  festinger once observed that ‘we care most about those things we have struggle to understand’..  he believe that humans, like other animals, become more cognitively alert by struggling w complicated realities, rather than walking away from them as in aesops’ fable or among tocqueville’s individuals, or online..  i wondered how exactly festingers’ precept might apply in cities..


two kinds of cities… closed (will dumb us down) .. open (will make us smarter)

prescribe – the closed smart city is a googleplex enlarged.. filled w tocquevillian individuals.. fuelled by user friendly tech w stupefies its citizens..


to them .. as for .. adam greenfield, such a smart city is really driven by the politics of centralized control that prescribes how people should live; this tech nightmare is dramatized in dave eggers’ novel about google, the circle..

adam.. dave.. the circle..


smart cities of the songdo type fear chance..  as one of my assistants put it, the smart city ‘litened’ the experience of place


the obvious planning question is why a country like india – so full of people who have no clean water to drink, no proper sanitation, no local health clinics, etc.. would seek to follow this bankrupting path by planning 100 spanking new smart cities..

the fundamental question about smart cities is why they have a stupefying effect on those who live in them.. in part.. they are so easy to live in.. privileges problem solving over problem finding..


problem solving and problem finding are linked – so long as you are curious.. but the prescriptive model deadens curiosity; in this sort of smart city, you don’t have to be..

you are moving thru space rather than experiencing place.. prescription tells you what is the most efficient route..  people neither have to ponder what if it were diff nor what is the most experience rich route..

norbert wiener foresaw this danger – ‘big data’ wiener coined the term, controlled by ‘big brother’ can reduce people’s lives to digital bits of needs and desires serviced by a few monopolies..  tech as big brother has perhaps become a cliche, but wiener feared something deeper: by using machines, people would stop learning..

using tech to coordinate rather than control makes for a very diff kind of smart city.. tech is cheaper and focuses on people as they are..  rather than how they should be..  includes everyone..t

as it could be..

2 convers.. as infra


an early ie of open urban network occurred in porto alegre, in brazil.. home to participatory budgeting.. began in loose neighbour assemblies which debated how to spend money on schools, health clinics and local infra..

have to go more open than that

the data never perfect was org’d so that it could be debated.. conflicts dealt w by elected reps’.. who reported back to neighborhoods

how about we just collect/listen to self-talk as data.. no need to debate..  to rep.. et al..

the system flourished for about 20 yrs until becoming somewhat squashed by top down power.. but even more by the sheer scale of people who wanted to be included in the process as city grew in size

why we need a means for 7bn from the get go

enter smart city via smartphone ..rather than prescribing, big data now makes it possible to coordinate participation at a megacity scale..t

matters little if wrong data.. ie: if people aren’t awake/alive .. then it’s like data from whales at sea world

what we need most is the energy of 7bn alive people


the diff between this procedure and pre computer modeling presented to a community meeting is that previously whenever people wanted a specific aspect of a plan change, the planners would have  to leave the room, recalculate and redraw their plans, then convene another meeting. now they can stay in the room, ..t

actually.. the big diff is that now we can listen to every voice.. everyday..

imagine not even going to the room.. but 7bn being a part.. everyday.. ie: city sketchup ness

in both these cases, the use of tech helps people choose.. more open urban design seeks to prep data so that the users can themselves see alts and make decisions..

let’s just let go of all that and trust cure ios city..


songdo’s algo’s are self correcting, but not self critical

what if we don’t even need that.. what if we just need to listen to 7bn everyday..

whereas in the coord smart city, people have to get engaged in the data, interpreting it.. and acting on it..

i think that’s the wrong angle.. still disabling/stupefying us.. we need to start in each person.. every day.. w..self-talk as data.. rather than w some data on whales in sea world..


more engaged in life.. they have ‘hesitate’ or ‘reflected too long’.. their understanding of life is deep just because it has not been happy or smooth..

convo just today w ab

how then can the city be opened up, so that experience becomes denser..

in the city.. as the day.. trusting gershenfeld something else law

part 3 – opening the city

7 – the competent urbanite


as will appear, my answers to the question (from jane) ‘so what would you do’ are guided by treating the healthy city as an open system..t

aka: meadows undisturbed ecosystem


thinking feeling or dwelling is never static, (william) james criticized psychologists before him for speaking of mental ‘conditions’ and ‘states’ as though these were solid lumps or fixed images of being…

a stream of consciousness implies awareness of context.. where you are, who is w you, what you or they are doing when you have a particular thought, feeling, sensation..

only when these circumstances change dos consciousness begin to stream;  it does not flow, as in descartes, independently, of its own accord…

in their separate ways, james and bergson are philosophers of street smarts.. both pose the same problem: what jots our consciousness.. that happens when tacit knowledge becomes insufficient to cope w reality..a second phase begins…


i have tried t think in a more general way about how local knowledge might be broadened, as people move around a city

ie: hlb via 2 convos that io dance.. as the day..

petrach agreed in the abstract, that the physical exertion of walking in itself had no spiritual value. still, the walk was not wasted time, he thought; the physical effort involved took his mind off the demands/pressures on him down below.. and this suspension of ‘valley cares’ provoked in turn reflection on how he lived..  the walk put him in touch w himself


modernity made this connection between walking and introspection even more perplexing.. rousseau’s reveries of a solitary walking 1782 portrays walking as a spur to contemplation..

the figure of the flaneur is born of this perplexity: walking the city to know oneself, somehow.. this figure contrast to that of ethnographer – as embodied by the researchers of the chicago school.. a ethnographer studies others; a flaneur searches for self in others

the stimulations of walking have appeared quite differently to a more prosaic figure.. the planner who seeks to org movement..

william harvey’s analysis of blood circulation, which became the model for laying out streets as arteries and veins, and free flowing traffic as analogous to a healthy circulation in the body..

walking lost its value in this scheme.. the sidewalk became less important.. because freedom of moment was equated w speed of movement..


what exactly is he/she (flaneur) learning.. this is a practical question for people like the youngsters in medellin who are now able to wander the city: how can they break out of the limits of the local, as just described, by walking the city – rather than googling or watching youtube?


i have first hand experience after stroke.. moving around first helped lift me out of the fog of fatigue.. lateral accounting.. see objects to the side afresh..

peripheral vision is natural to most animals.. in humans the cone of vision is 60 degrees.. whereas the depth of field is shorter in range.. so we are alway s takin gin more info that is in focus..  also trouble w more than 7 objects simultaneously..  at a walking pace.. brain therefore tends to narrow to 3-4 objects.. by contrast, traveling gin a car at 50 mph narrows consciousness to a single object.. at walking appear round.. at driving appear flat


establishes the basic cognitive claim for privileging cyclists over motorists – the cyclist know more, neurologically, about the city then the motorist

indeed.. rp ness

coaches and trains.. say more of city but noticed less about particular places when traveling at speed..

in failing to provide these – sidewalks – they will have dumbed down the city.. 

walk able ness


because people are not carbon copies of one another, speech is full of misunderstandings, ambiguities, unmeant suggestions and unspoken desires; in kant’s terms, language is crooked, particularly among strangers who do not share the same local references, the same local knowledge..

the official idea of langue in society was that via the play between theses and antitheses you arrived at syntheses which unified thoughts and feelings;everyone is on the same page – a page that can be policed.. whereas the dialogical techniques of displacement, disruption or inclusiveness establish a diff kind of speech community – one in which people speak as neighbours in levinas’ sense, never quite on the same page.. this speech community cannot be policed..

language and our need to let go.. and allow for idio-jargon

four dialogical tools which serve urbanites:

1\ hearing the unsaid – people often do not say what they mean because they talk badly..  the other side of this coin is that words can’t capture wha ta person thinks/feels..

2\ the declarative and the subjunctive voice – speaking rather than listening.. declarative privileges clarity of expression while subjunctive privileges ambiguity.. subjunctive more sociable way to speak.. ambiguity invites collab.. clarity invites competitive

3\ the it voice – preserve distance between ie: strangers.. more evaluative and critical.. beyond personal.. to think about actions can take

4\ informality – chat w/o an agenda..  move between topics/feelings/levels-of-meaning..  a significant fact will suddenly be spotlit in the midst of the seemingly aimless meandering.. these exploratory skills keep a discussion going


after years of wandering, herzen comes to conclude that ‘home’ is a mobile need. that is, the migrant or exile packs the desire for home in his/her suitcase – ever gnawing it should still not prevent him /her from traveling..


a matter of living here but not here, of being both absent and present..

the migrant’s strength lies in coming to terms w displacement. how might this work as a model for the urbanites..?


unlike heidegger in his hut, bachelard knew that one cannot hide from sucking life; eventually everyone has to leave his or her inner hut, forced to deal w people one does not know, understand or sympathize with..

like the physicist,, or the media lab researcher – the ego is actively engaged in making epistemic breaks, in thinking outside the box..


migrant knowledge is the knowledge all urbanites need, once they leave the security of the familiar and the local..


i am not describing an ideal cité. but a cité already inside us, waiting..t

already inside each one of us

that’s why it’s not ridiculous that 7bn could leap/sustain .. but it matters huge that we get what the thing inside is..

ie: 2 needs

8 – five open forms


synchronous, punctuated, porous, incomplete and multiple forms do not exhaust all the possibilities..  but enough to turn experiences into built form


synchronic spaces, as i found out in my own planing practice, are harder to design than one might expect, because diff things happening at the same time need a principle of coordination

let’s try this: 2 convers.. as infra.. cure ios city as principle of coord

in the agora (city’s main square) event unfolded synchronically; in the pnyx (bowl shaped amphitheatre) sequentially

betting on sync


plato feared the mind numbing power of rhetoric in the pnyx; the passive, seated crowds could become victims of words, paralysed and dishonoured by their unrelenting flow.. whereas the agora was mind numbing in a cognitive rather than a rhetorical way.. since there was a pile up of disconnected impressions..the danger in sequential space was emotional domination while in a synchronous space it was intellectual fragmentation..

street smarts we observe in the small boys in medellin are ‘agora smarts’ .. whereas the crowd shipped up by a speaker’s rhetoric – revolutionary mob or nazi rally – is unthinking


a third aspect of designing synchronicity.. has to issue an invitation to mix, rather than impose mixing.. need strategies to draw people in

begs we get to a problem deep enough.. that 7bn people would resonate with today/already.

we failed because we did not know how to design invitation..t

self-talk as data .. in spaces of permission w/nothing to prove..

no prep/training

to benefit from the stimulation of an agora while diminishing its confusions, the space needs to be marked in some way which provides orientation..t

listening as orientation..

as it could be

an undisturbed ecosystem begs orientation from each person listening to their heart.. everyday.. orientation is 7bn daily true norths..


how can you make places distinctive in a big city, instead of impossibly unique..? .. what physical forms would work like quote marks, inviting people to pause and reflect

have people pause and reflect each new day .. have that be their anchor/north.. then they won’t be able to not pause and reflect throughout the day


borders are porous edges, boundaries are not..

the boundary marks a low intensity edge.. at the borderline.. the work of natural selection is the most intense

the closed boundary dominates the modern city.. so too.. gated communities


even a thick wall can be an invitation to dwell..


when people imagine where the life of a community is to be found, they usually look for it in the centre, where planners try to intensify community life. this means neglecting the edge: the community turns inward as a rule


our imagining of the importance of te centre proved isolating;  their understanding of the value of the edge and border aim so create neighbours who mix causally

(on amsterdam being a  grim place after the war).. aldo van eyck determined to do something about this by seizing on found spaces in the city and transforming hundreds if disused indifferent spaces into urban parks.. van eyck’s idea was that kids should learn the diff between traffic and turf.. no spatial divide (from traffic or adults) for play

spaces that already are


van eyck created liminal edges.. ‘liminal’ meaning the experience of a transition even if there is no clear barrier between two states.. the liminal passage forms a kind of ‘transitional consciousness’..


to understand how to play, children experience it limits in relation to moving cars or sleeping grandparents.. rather than an abrupt either/or, they make a liminal – a membraneous – ‘transition.. so too in the larger geography of a city, liminal edges can mark the passage from rich to poor places.. w/o branding it as such..

the sounds of a city can seem porous in a bad way.. ie: noise..  but absence would be equally disquieting.. ie: for safety’s sake.. as jane’s ‘eyes on street’.. ‘ears on street’.. particularly at night..


the experience of sound in a city is shaped by two factors: intensity (loudness and frequency) and intelligibility (distinct, recognizable) ..  we want a noise that gets thru to us but is not shattering..


the materials that build silence involve crinkling and deflecting.. making. complex filters

the optimal reverb in a concert hall.. is just under two seconds.. in an apt building we don’t want anything like this resonance..  so that echo becomes weaker


in almost every settlement in which migrants have squatted or settled, something similar occurs: poor people become their own architects..


at one moment.. the self built project is an incomplete form.. urbanism has much to learn from the ways very poor people are obliged to work w incomplete forms.. can a form be made incomplete on purpose.. by design.. rather than by necessity.. what would be gained..?..t

iwan baan ness

one answer in iquique, chile.. (the shell) where about 100 families had originally squatted a site called the quinta monroy.. out of small places like this, immense settlements of tens or hundreds of thousands of people are mushrooming in latin america

the chilean architect alejandro aravena launched a project to build incomplete forms..  his idea was to design half a good house which the inhabitants could fill in w their own labour, rather that provide a finished dwelling built to a lower standard.. he treated quinta monroy as a test bed for social housing..  unlike jane jacobs.. he has no fear of scaling up.. the appalling condition of the poor in his country demand a large scale solution..t


deep enough

.. unlike mumford’s pre made garden city, this solution should involve the poor themselves as makers of their own environ.. this is the social logic behind this incomplete form..


in principle, today should be the age of the shell triumphant.. thanks to poured concrete and mass manufactured steel i beams.. we can construct building s w huge floor plates only minimally cluttered by posts or other structural obstructions..


vladimir shukhov.. made a self supporting curved roof shed (floating shell) in vyska in 1897.. the geodesic dome is vyksa’s heir .. constructed by a lattice of interlocking triangles covered by a protective skin.. buckminster fuller though such a dome both super light and super strong.. could be magnified almost to infinity.. he hope to cover entire cities  w them..


shells create forms who possibilities are not exhausted in any particular configuration imposed as the start.. the shell also creates porosity w/in a building.. since structurally there are few fixed barriers..  its making invites more making.. as in building, so in communication, words are shells of meaning.. words incompletely express what people mean to say

shaw communication law

people need the freedom and the means to alter static form...t

bravery to change mind everyday..

equity: everyone getting a go everyday.. a new

in fine arts, this dilemma appears in those fatal words, ‘it’s done’.. fatal because ‘done’ can equate w ‘dead’..


a performer wants to keep laying, to hear the hammerklavier always a new and so keep the music (and the musician) alive. in this sense, performance is an unfinishable art… urbanism of the ope sort tries to resolve this problem thru the creat of type forms  (a piece of urban dna which takes on diff shapes in diff circumstances).. likened to theme/variations in music


type forms can be verbal as well as physical.. gaston bachelard: ‘the poetic image is essentially variational’ which means th the tropes of metaphor, metonymy and rhyme are variation on a structural theme.. .. the work of improvising and ringing changes on a foundational image is for him (roland barthes) more demanding work for the poet than creating an entirely new image



overloaded infrastructure.. serves to loosen up use, whereas building only what is needed originally can render the building technologically obsolete in short order..

great for city sketchup ness

the shell is empty; the type form is, as it were, the snail inside..  there is a content w/in which both limits and encourages change.. a type form differs also from a prototype..  prototype.. already exists in built form as a specific demo of what can be done..

part of the problem w bill mitchell’s media lab experiment s for driverless cars was that he thought in terms fo type forms rath than prototypes.. he could explain – sort of – the relationship of the hardware to the human body, but he couldn’t show an actual ie of what he meant..  still, thinking in terms of type form rather than prototype loosened up his imagination.. the prototype represents a turning point in winnowing these possibilities, closing down alts..

why.. next experiment begs to lean more toward the type form side.. while still serving as a prototype..

much urban development is flogged to the public as improvement of an existing state of affairs, but the type form cautions against thinking that variations are quality driven..the variations on a theme do not necessarily improve the theme itself.. no better.. just diff

in the everyday world, variation is more often driven by the need to sell new products than by homo faber’s desire for quality..  ie: computer updates.. actually degrade in successive iteration..  it’s mindless change in this commercial form which the urbanist gordon cullen fought against.. and why he chose *long term uses of space as establishing guidelines for design..

like Ed

let’s go *long/deep term.. ie: deep enough for 7bn now and ongoingly

but this reasonable critique of type forming runs up against the conservatism familiar to anyone in academia.. the fear of doing something diff swathed in bilge about lack of precedents.. let well enough alone, etc.. t

exactly.. supposed to’s are killing us.. in all the ways


barcelona type forms its grid.. taking back the streets.. has an econ undertow.. due to threat posed by mass tourism.. tourist economies in general do not generate much in the way of non tourist spin offs..  from the mayor to ordinary barcelonan there has thus arisen a strong desire to use public space differently..  treating the cerdian block as a type form rather than a fixed form can enable this.. .. sometimes sold as jane jacobs comes to barcelona – but misleadingly.. there’s nothing bottom up about his plane..  in order for the superblocks to work.. they have to be coordinated on a large scale.. ie: in order to make the transport system work.. the hope is that over time, by scaling up, the superilles will recover greens pace; though not spoken aloud, the plans aim at creating new barcelonan public space separated form the tourist maelstrom around public monuments..


in the built up environ, scaling up runs contrary to the belief tha small places have more character than big ones.. a belief grounded on fact that crude sameness sand neutral character mark most large scale building today.. in some cases, as in the barcelona superilles, bigger is better quality..


on the verge of creating the open city.. can’t do this if use word ‘the’ .. there is no one model for an open city.. this sensible proposition is the key to scaling up in an open way..

exactly.. a nother way


this technique i will baptise as ‘seed-planing’.. the same seed sown in diff circumstances of water, wind, and soil produces diff colonies of plants..

cities aren’t farmed today. instead they are master planned..  the fully grown plant is treated as the plan.. pruning comes too late.. only an initially unrealized, incomplete form – a seed – will have the time to grow into its surroundings..

and ongoingly..

the master plan divides a city up in to a closed system where each place and function relates logically to other places.. a farm has a dynamic rather than a static ecology..


in urban planning.. when things do what they are not supposed to do.. ie: people neglect one bus stop and overcrowd a nother.. the master planner, .. may think the master plan has failed.. whereas if he thought like a farmer he would know that this is how colonization works: like the weather, there is something unforeseen and not entirely controllable at work..

instead of masterminding the whole, seed planning seeks to create ‘pocket of order’ in open system s terms.. the essence of seed planning is minimum specification of how form relates to function; this leave room for max variation and innovation

ie: 2 convers.. as infra to get at graeber max/min ness.. aka: eudaimoniative surplusundisturbed ecosystem


baron haussmann.. albert speer.. robert moses.. made wilful master plans.. disregarding people’s desires and needs.. the vice of top down master planning is not the same as trying to see the city on a big scale.. another kind of big scale thinking arose as a reaction against the place wrecking power of the free market.. it is how mumford and other fabians thought about countervailing master plans: as in the garden city.. these wer mean tot provide everyone w access to good housing, jobs, and public services.. in time.. as the urban law scholar gerald frug has pointed out, such aspiration have faded from conscious debate and deliberation.. the reason for this fading..  is partly a matter of how ‘big’ relates to ‘good’..  master planning of mumford’s well intentioned sort assumed people want to live a stable, balanced life. the simplification of the city follows from making this assumption, and the result is not good. a stable, balanced  life is a life losing energy, and so is a stable, balanced city.. 


a specific barrier to flexibility seeking, complexifying seed planning is the conviction that places should have a clear visual identity. in planing circles, this belief is owned in large part to kevin lynch, the resident intellectual among urbanists at mit a generation before the media lab came into being.. lynch argues for the value of assembling the forms of the city in fixed clear imagines.. his approach stressed legibility as a positive social value: the more defined a place is, the more people can feel ‘this is my neighbourhood’ or ‘i belong her’..


marsh label law et al

lynch came to believe that the human habitats are built from four basic geometric shapes: the line, the circle, the fractal and the orthogonal.. how people in habit these forms became less important than how the elements are arranged in 5 primal sites in the city: paths, districts, edges, nodes, and landmarks..  he clung to conviction.. that urban design should aim at achieving a clear pattern, a legible image, an id using these geometries..  just the opposite of entertaining the ‘difficulties, ambiguities, and complexities’ that robert venturi value…

legible ness and antifragility and naked streets


clarifying images of a community’s id will render the presence of these minority groups invisible..t..  what is a danger in the ville is also a danger psychologically: the conviction that one has a mast self image, a dominant id, as black, latino, gay or british, shrinks the multi layered richness fo the self..

marsh label law


the collage principle here is of adjacency rather than layering, as in the flip chart.. because it emphasized edges and highlights contrasts , this kind of art ‘reads’ – we can discern something distinctive going on , just as is possible in well made porous sound.. the 3d collages made by jospeh cornell take this a further step, representing ambiguity clearly.. haunting.. because these adjacencies could mean something .. or nothing..

philosophically, the contrast between collage forms and the razor sharp image appeared in a friendly exchange of letters a century ago between john dewey and benedetoo croce.. a believer in ideal forms..  for dewey.. people exchanging and interacting produces forms of the collage sort, marking verbal edges and adjacencies, misunderstanding and shared understandings..  this complexity is why it’s so important to dewey tha people work w resistance, learning from it rather than repressing it..  to croce.. adjacency is interesting but not important..  he thinks collage to be ‘a fear of form’..

in sum.. an open ville is marked by.. finally, thru seed planing the themes themselves – where to place schools, housing, shops or parks.. are allow ed to develop independently throughout the city.. and open ville will avoid committing the sins of repetition and static form.. .. it will create the material conditions in which people might thicken and deepen their experience of collective life..

let go of irrelevants.. ie: schools and shops..  sins of repetition and static form..

9 – the bond of making


the asymmetry between making a project of good design quality and inhabitants’ desire has to be resolved in some way

ie: gershenfeld something else law .. aka: let go


james scott studied, how racially enslaved groups in the american south developed a communicative language among themselves which seemed to their master gibberish; in speaking to each other in ways the masters could not understand, they were no longer mentally enslaved..t



the public is trusted rather than treated..

part 4 – ethics for the city

[name of book.. and only 1 little chapter]

10 – time’s shadow


(amsterdam et al).. managing water was just the utilitarian subject of the city

daniel burnham on chicago’s lake front: ‘the viewing of water is a solitary act, the regard of nothingness; in viewing water man turns his back, literally, on the conditions which support his life’


watery aesthetics have had a practical knock-on effect by creating a source of unequal value in cities.. new water edge projects in mumbai propose, for instance, to evict a mass of small scale businesses and pavement dweller from the water front; the justification offered by the developers is in part visual, that of ‘cleaning up’ the view by reducing he density of people and complexity of uses.. similar in buenos aires and london.. all leading to social exclusion in the name of visual pleasure..

in the era of climate change, there is another shift of the kaleidoscope: water has become a destructive as well as a functional and a scenic material..


the challenge is how to create a modest but unprivileged relation to nature..

the environ has to be built differently..  the ethical way to build in cities accepts the primacy of adaptation..


the sheer size of the modern megacity suggests the need for radical new big urban forms.. ie: mexico city 25 mn spread out over huge terrain.. most are poor and can’t find work locally; they have commutes of 2-3 hrs…. need something big to change in the city

let go of work.. 2 convers.. as infra.. in the city.. as the day..


restoration is a closed kind of repair; in remediation, the materials are set free but there is still a tight tie between form and function; in reconfiguration, that tie is loosened, even though the materials remain those of the original..


revolution is one political version of reconfiguration.. the vase of state is broken, so make something different


the most valuable among them is the craft of reconfiguration

conclusion: one among many


kant imagines cosmopolitanism as the response to a basic human tension: ‘man has an inclination to associate w others.. but he also has a strong propensity to isolate himself from others”.. kant calls this tension ‘unsocial sociability’.. people need both to gt and fear getting involved w others..

batra hide in public law


this sacred cosmopolitanism transcends the local .. all four gospels describe jesus as a wanderer .. a man belonging nowhere, his truth valid everywhere..

as appeared in grenfell tower, impersonality can disarm justice, but still the stranger constitutes the dominant figure of the city, his or her indifference both a behavioural fact and an ethical conundrum



in sweden i thought about ho identification w the other based on uprooting might apply to refugees..

i know you ness


cosmopolitan pain – i saw this counsel up close in the life of hannah arendt, who taught me. in her book, the human condition, conceived in the 1950s. she imagines the public sphere as a place where people can discuss and debate freely and equally because they are cut loose form their particular, private circumstances… in her later writing she argued against id based politics,, particularly those based on race

marsh label law

but her vision of the public realm, unlike kant’s, depends on place: an agora.. a piazza.. a coffee shop.. any site where diff groups can talk face to face


what she (hannah) called ‘natality’ was an effort of remaking life w others, of rebirthing if you follow her word, as a never ending process of communication and interactions.. life continually to be remade..t

revolution of everyday life.. via 2 convers.. as infra – everyday anew


all this theory came at an immense cost to her (arendt). that appears in the contrast between arendt and jacobs, who lived in ny at the same time but so far as i know had no contact w one another. jacobs, so committed in her defence of local community in ny, was none the less willing to leave it during the vietnam war out of revulsion and the national polity and for the sake of her family. as a person forced into immigration rather than choosing it, arendt faced a diff dilemma: she felt contempt for america in many ways, but was determined to stick it out; ‘you can’t walk backwards’ .. she once said to me..

met both jacobs and arendt.. wow

yet.. jacobs made a good new life in canada.. certain signs of being absent, perhaps distressed, sometimes escaped arendt. these appeared at moments when she caught herself up short, withdrawing into silence after lapsing back into german…

her belief that life has continually to be remade echoes bachelard’s figure of quitting the security of teh hut – whose dasein is like a child’s cradle – for the difficulties of the city. so too the work of building a cit entails ruptures and breaks.. ..this is the realm of doing – of reconfiguration


the ethical connection between urbanist and urbanite lies in practicing a certain kind of modesty: living one among many engaged by a world which does not mirror oneself. living one among many enabled in robert ventruis’s words, ‘richness of meaning rather than clarity of meaning‘.. that is the ethics of an open city


as it could be..

2 convers.. as infra

ie: hlb via 2 convos that io dance.. as the day..[aka: not part\ial.. for (blank)’s sake…]..  a nother way

the energy of 7bn alive people

undisturbed ecosystem

in the city.. as the day..

gershenfeld something else law