Rumble in the Urban Jungle – Michael Sorkin vs. “New” Urban-ists & “Landscape Urban”-isms

Heated debate in the riposte’s & the  responses ( read the comments in the original- see link below) from the Architectural Record – Like Michael Sorkin says here – it seems  a pointless debate – one that is particularly irrelevant here in the global South – we can’t really see whats the “new” in New Urbanism or what is really different in the Landscape Urbanism from what Landscape Architects here have always done – stewarded the environment on which we all depend – and try to get their clients to do what’s best for all the actor-networks involved in the city, human & non-humann – wealthy as well as the disenfranchised- not just themselves .

August 2013

A recent book by New Urbanist authors revives an old battle with Landscape Urbanism.

By Michael Sorkin

The High Line in New York, designed by James Corner Field Operations with Diller Scofidio + Renfro, is criticized by Andres Duany for being too expensive and over-designed.
Photo © Iwan Baan
The High Line in New York, designed by James Corner Field Operations with Diller Scofidio + Renfro, is criticized by Andres Duany for being too expensive and over-designed.

It’s hard to keep up with the musical deck chairs in the disciplines these days. The boundaries of architecture, city planning, urban design, landscape architecture, sustainability, computation, and other fields are shifting like crazy, and one result is endless hybridization–green urbanism begets landscape urbanism, which begets ecological urbanism, which begets agrarian urbanism–each “ism” claiming to have gotten things in just the right balance. While this discussion of the possible weighting and bounding of design’s expanded field does keep the juices flowing, it also maintains the fiction that there are still three fixed territories–buildings, cities, and landscapes–that must constantly negotiate their alignment.

Duany Plater-Zyberk & Company, one of the leading firms in the New Urbanism movement, designed a master plan in 2012 for Costa Verbena in Brazil. The designers say the plan respects the site's topography and its sensitive ecosystems, while applying a traditional street grid.
Image courtesy DPZ & Company
Duany Plater-Zyberk & Company, one of the leading firms in the New Urbanism movement, designed a master plan in 2012 for Costa Verbena in Brazil. The designers say the plan respects the site’s topography and its sensitive ecosystems, while applying a traditional street grid.

The Urban Project of Plurality -Politics and Urbanism via Domus

This discussion sets out to reawaken the political in urban design – from my perspective the arrogance of architects shows through – the idea that “professions” are the experts and are the only ones responsible or able to achieve anything within cities is a legacy  from enlightenment thinking and is acknowledged as obsolete. The very idea of political engagement is crucial to any intervention in the city – yet the need to engage professions (all of them) in the discourse and to take responsibility for our limited view, to open ourselves to criticism and contribution from the base of the public  pyramid- i.e. true politcal engagement is long overdue.

An op-ed from Houston by Neeraj Bhatia from Domus

The director of InfraNet Lab observes that architects are once again taking on the urban project, and asks whether they will reawaken the political project too

“Can architects meet society’s plural demand? … If society has no form—how can architects build the counterform?”
–Aldo Van Eyck, in Alison Smithson (ed), ‘Team 10 Primer 1953–62’, Architectural Design (December 1962), 564

The recent political demonstrations transpiring in Tunisia, Egypt, Syria and Libya have been inspiring in their ability to gather a collective political force through the grouping of individuals. I find it inspiring because of the dialectical nature between the individual and collective, which are the essential components in the political concept of pluralism. Simultaneously, I was reminded that such a discussion of the politics of pluralism has not occurred in design since late modernism. Not only does this particular political project remain unresolved today, I believe it is also one of the most critical investigations in contemporary urbanism.

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