«CSAAR (7: 2010: Amman) Sustainable Architecture and Urban Development \ Edited by Steffen Lehmann, Husam Al Waer, Jamal AI-Qawasmi. Amman: The Center ...»
For Geddes, you became a citizen when you glimpse the future and humanize it Mindful of Geddes - and wedged between a data space and a hard place - this paper will explore how place makers can begin to rethink the neighbourhood enc1ave and reprogram them as precincts for knowledge creation and creative action. This paper uses Geddes' work on the city to rethink the implications of the digital environment for the space we call Civic. It recalls projects in the UK context, that address this space as an archive of knowledge and identity. The Cartographers Dilemma is relevant for the re-cabled megalopolis that will need strategies for capitalising on this status. It will argue for a new definition of the sustainable city, by projecting the urban planning theories of Patrick Geddes onto the evolving 21 st century media environment.
Paul Guzzardo If you listen closely you can hear a sucking sound. I'lI start this with a call for an epistemological beachhead and rant against the shrink-wrapped city.
The city is quickening. We hover between built spaces and media places. Placemaking is no longer sustainable because it takes no heed of the knowledge environment. In the era of pervasive computing we need better maps to manage the built environment. The Cartographer's Dilemma proposes a new spatial practice, a muscular cartographic practice for a withered public sphere. We need to develop new epistemic assemblages street probes - for navigating alandscape of space and information. The city as site and form of knowledge begins with Patrick Geddes, the evolutionistlplanner who celebrated the Greek polis, who was a pivotal link in an intellectuallineage that extends from Darwin to conternporary media theorists. With projects like the Outlook Tower and the Citles Exhibition, Geddes left behind a tool kit on synthesis, gear to map sites and record knowledge, and assemble places where rnapping persists. He saw the city as an evolving search engine, a tableau you drifted through, synthesizing as you move. For Geddes, you became a citizen when you could glimpse the future and humanize it.
Mindful of Geddes and wedged between a data space and a hard place this conversation will explore how place makers can begin to rethink the neighbourhood enclave and reprogram thern as precincts for knowledge creation and creative action.
PG I want the spotlight off of Larry Page and Sergey Brin _ those Google titans _ and flash it on Geddes and the City. So here's a Geddes quote.
Sustainable Architecture and Urban Development The general principle is the synoptie one, ofseeking as far as may be to reeognise and utilise alt points of view and so to be preparing for the Eneyclopaedia Civiea ofthefuture. 1 LH And another.
Town plans are thus no mere diagrams, they are a system of hieroglyphies in whieh man has written the history of civilisation, and the more tangled their afparent eonfusion, the more we may be rewarded in deciphering it.
PG The dilemma in the tera-perabyte world is getting deciphering gear on tbe street.
Without that techne the city is less and less a stage for knowledge creation and synthesis. We need new place making action plans. We need new interfaces on the ground linking the city space and data-Iandscapes. Place making that takes no heed of the evolving knowledge environment is no longer sustainable. If the end game is a sustainable city, the city has to be a knowledge generator. And without a streetidataJscape interface - new crossover nodes - it's neither. Time is short. This brief should have been started twenty years ago. That's when the info-age began slamming uso But it never got written. Now the digital buckshot is coming at hyper-speed. And we've got a gaping hole in the city. We're wedged between a data space and a hard place, and left with a shrink-wrapped something or other.
LH The city al ready functions as an archive and leaming environment. If this were not the case, it would not be possible to follow a guidebook. We see it in street names and in blue plaques on buildings; in the way that bus shelters mark the city as a flow of people, or manhole covers mark the city as a flow of sewage (think of the great Victorian sewage works, those monuments to hygiene and civic pride). For Geddes the evolutionist (student of Huxley), the city was an artifact in the continual evolution of intellect. For this reason he was conservative in his approach to the renovation of the city. He advocated 'surgical' interventions to destroy as little fabric as possible. Tabula rasa planning was intellectual suicide, tantamount to the loss to civilisation of the library of Alexandria. We need to invent the spatial notation to mark the city as a flow of data and discourse.
I Patrick Geddes, eWes in Evolution: An lntroduction To The Town Planning Movement And To The Study OfCivics (London: William & Norgate, 1915) p320
LH We need to develop a spatial system of form-types and grammar, and a strategy for location. In another register, it is not mHes away from the question of the coherence of the city addressed by Aldo Rossi in his theory of types, or of Palladio in his pages of villa plan forms. What are the abstract principles, and what elements refeat endlessly in different circumstances. What are fixed and what contingent? How do we represent the city to ourselves as a flow of ideas, knowledge, love, money, political affiliations. We are looking for nothing less than a new vision of coherence and cohesion on a par with Nolli's vision of Rome. Nolli showed us that the city was an infrastructure of surfaces, continuous, plastic, inside-outside. The cartography that allows us to map the knowledge of the city back onto the city will not be a new map that replaces
Nolli's (what Venturi sought to do), but a process, a recursive mapping process:
continuous and without end - a Recursive Urbanism. Imagine an urbanism where a continually updating cartography replaces the static map. lt is a.5 We have this fonnula - fixed and contingent - from my colleague Graeme Hutton. It was the framework for the Urban Design Studio, Dundee School of Architecture.
Sustainable Architecture and Urban Development technical process, what Mumford called technics (he posed man's technic outside against his Freudian inside).4 PG The question is: where are we going to get the crew to move towards this coherent vision? To get that Nolli update, place-makers have to rethink cultural precincts and creative practices. The remix digerati have to be on the street. We don't want a generation of creatives secreted in clandestine places, shackled to screens and virtual sites. Or shunted to mutating gaming consoles, where buttons and a directional joystick rein the drift. They have to be on the ground navigating through the digital fog. That's the place to double, layer and go off in several directions. But they need gear to cut a path in the data maelstrom. They need way stations; places to map, to plot a course, and platforms from which to peer into the city. But they don't have it. As technologies quicken and the public realm shrivels it is time to act. Place making and makers have yet to respond to the sucking sound.
LH This is not a question of re-equipping the digerati or new cultural precincts, but of imagining new forms of public space, and new notations for marking it. We are losing the space of public discourse that was represented, if not wholly instantiated, by Aristotle's polis. The role of space as the platform for the collective expression of public opinion is slipping away. Civil disobedience is scarcely conceivable today. Most public space is now simply amusement space.
And that doesn't leave much room for the city as a repository ofknowledge. We need mapping stations for collating the knowledges and identities embedded in AND OUT OF the city, for writing new narratives and counter narratives; we need "doctors' surgeries" for surgery upon the city.5 It poses problems for strategies of location. Geddes proposed the Cities Exhibition as the place to collate local knowledge and put it into circulation. Each city was to have an Exhibition as a permanent civic institution along with the courthouse, museum, etc. He argued that it was a necessary condition for participatory democracy, because you could not make informed decisions if you did not know about the place you lived, and its relation to the city, the region, the country, the world....
PG... and its relation to the virtual place, the blended space. The surgical insertion is the way to go. Slide the scope in. Its how I positioned my digital street praxis.
Think of them as mapping nodes that slip into what's already there. When it works you end up with ocular devices that peer through the digital fog, and that's Lewis Mumford, Art and Technics (London: Oxford University Press, 1952). This gern ofa book.
The idea of the doctor' s surgery or 'EnvironmentaI Health Clinic', where residents of a place could go to consult about the repair oftheir place, is floated in Benjamin H. Bratton & Natalie Jeremijenko, Suspicious Images. Latent Interfaces (The ArchitecturaI League ofNew YOlk., 2008), pp. 22ff. Situated Technologies Pamphlets J.
Paul Guzzardo & Lorens Holm not far from Geddes. Geddes's place making emerges out ofthe liminal world of Greek philosophers who played with comings and goings, ins and outs from caves. Geddes understood the city as a blended site. He was more than a student of DarwinlHuxley. He was an apprentice of those classical Greeks. The Geddesian playbook opens on the Greek polis. The polis is where the first citizens - creatives - drifted and mixed things up. Good things happened there, like knowledge and synthesis. It was a platform for problem solving. It was a change agent. Today, our media environments have taken us _ and our blended selves _ back to these liminal places. We still mix and drift, but we don't do much on the street. ICs in a soft space, the virtual realm, where we tell our stories and leam. But ifwe could get back on the street, maybe some good things would happen in this here and now.
LH l'm all for delaminating people from their bedrooms and getting them back on the street, but this is not about creatives, because to segregate a special form of cartography for a special form of people is just another version of the cultural Acropolis and what we are looking for is a cultural infrastructure for scoping the city. I call it infrastructure because - unlike Geddes Cities Exhibition - we need a cultural institution as ubiquitous and dispersed as phone booths, post boxes, public toilets, manholes, which creates a network of stations for reflecting upon the city and mapping that new knowledge back onto the city. lfwe take Geddes seriously, the knowledge is already there, and it is about creating the moments for accessing it, reflecting upon it, and transmitting it to others. Instead of the media environment shadowing the city like an Other scene that mimics it in complexity draws off its energy, its civics, its intellectuallife, can we not engage it to create a hybrid. Imagine local gallery + QuestionTime + webscape congestion (thanks Koolhaas) with link to local authority website (except that it might replace the local authority at least at the community level). It will be a hybrid media platform and public space showcase.
6 For Freud, the Other scene was the dream, that landscape of unconscious desire, that was marked by an other spatial and temporallogic than the logic ofthe city. Ifwe succeed in drawing the media environment into dialogue with the built environment, it will doubtless not domesticate its Othemess.