City Catalyst: Architecture in the Age of Exterme Urbanisation
The city has become an important new starting point in the quest for architecture. At a time of extreme urbanisation, unharnessed urban growth has led many architects to rethink the way that buildings are designed for the global metropolis. It is no longer practical or desirable to impose the standardised, idealized planning of the 20th century. Rather than viewing the city as a fixed entity, architects are now seeking direct inspiration from the existing urban environment and learning from its ever-changing state that resists predetermination. The city, in all its complexity, has become a realm of invention and a space for possibilities where new designs can be tested. This is as apparent in the work that architects are undertaking in the informal settlements, or favelas, of Latin America, as in the more regulated spaces of Chicago, London or Tokyo. Favouring an inclusive way of viewing the city, no aspect of the urban world is any longer rejected outright, and architects and urban designers instead find potential and learn from the underlying dynamics of the contemporary city. This attitude highlights the generative capacities of the city and finds new ways of engaging it. At the very least, it advances an architectural thinking that engages the city on its own ground, abets its potential and seeks opportunities in the existing condition.
• Featured architects: Kunlé Adeyemi/NLE, Atelier Bow-Wow, Jürgen Mayer H, Normal Architecture Office (NAO), Adriaan Geuze/West 8, Ron Witte/WW, UrbanLab, Sean Lally/Weathers, and OMA.
• Key contributors: Keller Easterling, Jiang Jun, Albert Pope, Michelle Provoost/Crimson, Robert Somol, Kyong Park, Jesse LeCavalier, Daniela Fabricius and Bernard Tschumi (interview).
Argument: Argument by Alexander Eisenschmidt
In our age of extreme urbanisation, failure to productively engage the city will have devastating consequences. What is needed today is a new attitude towards urbanisation: neither the romanticisation of the everyday nor the aestheticisation of the informal, but...
In our age of extreme urbanisation, failure to productively engage the city will have devastating consequences. What is needed today is a new attitude towards urbanisation: neither the romanticisation of the everyday nor the aestheticisation of the informal, but an openness to an increasingly urban world. This issue, therefore, proposes a new architecture–city relationship beyond outright resistance or unconditional embrace. It suggests to rethink the city as a catalytic realm of invention and a space of possibilities. Accepting today’s urban environment is here as important as the development of new forms of engagement to enter and influence the city. On the one hand, an openness towards the city is needed that enables us to see latent possibilities in the most unlikely environments. On the other, we must invent new operations that incorporate the intelligences of the city so that architecture can effectively work within it.
Counterargument: counter-argument by Caroline Bos
This Counterpoint essay proposes to try to understand the megacity first and foremost through the way in which it is experienced, and only secondarily attempts to uncover where the architectural challenge or potential might be located...
This Counterpoint essay proposes to try to understand the megacity first and foremost through the way in which it is experienced, and only secondarily attempts to uncover where the architectural challenge or potential might be located.
Less about social expectations and sociability and more about visibility, the proposed contemporary phenomenological approach speaks to the spatial and visual relations between people but also between people and their environment in what can be described as a phenomenological topography.
In contrast to the mutual strangeness often depicted in the modernist metropolitan image characterized by linear, horizontal visual field the examination of the phenomenological topography of public life in the mega city allows for an active, visually ambulatory understanding of perceptions produced by street life.
The challenge now is to instrumentalize this expanded perceptual understanding and make it resonate with an equally expanded urban topography. Architecture can play a vital role in this.