Abstract

In this paper, I highlight a number of different ways of defining and describing the field conventionally known as urban design, which I problematize by broadening, deepening, and calling urbanism and which I re-define as city-design-and-building processes and their spatial products. These ways include morphological definitions, as a default focus, as the keeper of the public realm, through lists of categories, as a map of bodies of knowledge, as a field of research, as different modes of practice, via models for understanding and making cities, and practical “how-to” approaches such as best practices. I describe and critique each of these nine ways briefly by drawing from a wide range of relatively recent literature on urbanism, and conclude with thoughts on the status of the field of urbanism. I argue that the full potential of the practice of urbanism in fact lies in theory, because the most powerful means we have for the design of cities is our imagination. The potency of theory is further based on the premise is that ideas are powerful agents of change. Furthermore, at its best urbanism can embody a unification of deep theory and design practice in a way that is critical, creative, and ultimately, transformative.

Keywords:

Design of cities, urban design, urbanism, design theory.

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COinS
 
Jun 16th, 12:00 AM

What Can Urbanism Be? Problematizing the Design of Cities

In this paper, I highlight a number of different ways of defining and describing the field conventionally known as urban design, which I problematize by broadening, deepening, and calling urbanism and which I re-define as city-design-and-building processes and their spatial products. These ways include morphological definitions, as a default focus, as the keeper of the public realm, through lists of categories, as a map of bodies of knowledge, as a field of research, as different modes of practice, via models for understanding and making cities, and practical “how-to” approaches such as best practices. I describe and critique each of these nine ways briefly by drawing from a wide range of relatively recent literature on urbanism, and conclude with thoughts on the status of the field of urbanism. I argue that the full potential of the practice of urbanism in fact lies in theory, because the most powerful means we have for the design of cities is our imagination. The potency of theory is further based on the premise is that ideas are powerful agents of change. Furthermore, at its best urbanism can embody a unification of deep theory and design practice in a way that is critical, creative, and ultimately, transformative.

 

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