Thursday, March 27, 2014

The City as a Tangled Bank

The City As A Tangled Bank: Urban Design versus Urban Evolution – AD primer (Architectural Design Primer)

city as a tangled bank cover The City as a Tangled Bank has taken a permanent place in my growing cities-related library! Terry Farrell, principal of Farrells architect- planners (London, Hong Kong, and Shanghai) brings perspective and wisdom of the kind only a long life of experience and observation can provide! The subtitle implies somewhat of a contest between planning imposed from "outside and above," and growth that occurs from "inside and below" urban space and place, but that expresses it too simply. Along with intro and conclusion, throughout the nine chapters, we learn about the truly endless organic process of letting the city (any city―ancient, young, or in-between) itself show and guide you into what needs to happen for its health and growth―similar to Kevin Lynch's legible city: a city you can read.

Tangled Bank in the title, Evolution in the subtitle both refer to Darwin's Origin of Species. Sir Terry celebrates connecting, communicating, time, layering, adaptation, emergence, and conversion in any urban growth and development process. The author is no fan of Big Architecture, not enthusiastic about Mies, Corbu, et al. After all, that's the type of inorganic, imposed-from without style he decries and dislikes, because it does not spring up from within the urban organism, and is a product of human initiative rather than of the city itself as place-maker―at one point he describes "place as client." If the results are visually attractive, why is that so terrible? Because it does not result in a humanly livable habitat or surroundings.

The bibliography truly is brief, listing five books in the Emergence and Evolution category, a dozen in Urban Design and Architecture, although each chapter includes detailed endnotes. With some in black and white, others full-colour, the many many drawings, photographs, sketches, and maps (with a heavy emphasis on London) enhance the book's clarity and usefulness, helping make it a visual delight. However, I wish the basic text had been printed in a larger type size, and that goes double or triple for the microscopic end notes. Also, physical weight and dimensions make it a nice size to heft. This is not a school textbook or a how-to handbook, so please don't assess it in those terms!

my amazon review: helping cities become themselves