isolative urbanism: an ecology of control

Image by Will Riley exploring notion of BAE Systems as local authority

Friday 9th October 2009 saw the official book launch of Isolative Urbanism: an ecology of control, co-edited by Richard Brook and Nick Dunn. The book is the first published research output from the [Re_Map] unit and the essays collected together are concerned with the relationship between urban conditions and space, public and private. In particular, the book has a primary focus on how the ownership of space is demarcated, enclosed, implied and enforced. This situation is heightened and accentuated in the context of a town with a singular economic force, particularly when said force is the manufacturer of military hardware. As the essays establish a general view of their focus, they also make explicit the manner in which their area of study may be considered in the context of Barrow in Furness.

Increasingly the design of (public) space is concerned with the control of that space, its visual permeability, its surveillance and the capacity for crowd control. It is the proximity of digital and real space that is testing these realities and challenging the convention of behavioural patterns. The question of what constitutes community, networked and residual space is of concern here as are devices of appropriation, enclosure, severance, fragmentation, and cultural identification of space. With this in mind, the essays gathered here seek to address the various mechanisms of control within contemporary urban conditions in relation to three key areas of discourse: Policy, Utopia and Globalisation.

Reactive policy development, that attempts to define spatial configurations and legislate for functions within designated systems, is instrumental in the negotiation of boundaries between physical and socio-economic territories. The first section of this book therefore concerns itself with the future development of policy, typically establishing a framework within which the extremities of political governance can be tested in relation to various scenarios. The question of what may constitute the future of urbanism is often inseparable from the concept of utopia, against which the radical reorganisations of extant conditions are investigated and evaluated. This builds upon a basis of policy and as such the second section of this book relates to research wherein the focus is to apply idealised regulatory systems to analyse emergent or enhanced strategies for urban space. Beyond these immediate contextual relationships are the connections to a wider environment whether physical, economic or social. It is the identification of potentially lucrative integration with a globalised market, and the corresponding repositioning of Barrow-in-Furness in relation to this, that underpins the third and final section of the book. The generation and adaptation of new and existing industries that may assure the future of the town is developed through a range of research methods and synthesised to address the problems of isolative urbanism.

comparing utopias

The 49 Cities exhibithion at Storefront Gallery for Art and Architecture, New York, seeks to provide a comparitive datascape for unrealised urbanism. The proposal, born out of Work AC‘s research seminar at Princeton University concerned with ‘eco-urbanism’, began as one that considered the contemporary city, but rapidly acknowledged the role of the unbuilt utopian models on modern urban form; the work of Ebeneezer Howard, le Corbusier and Frank Lloyd Wright perhaps most influential in this regard.

Using a standardised method of representation, the exhibition and catalogue convey with great visual acuity and clarity the characteristics of each model city. The built area, density, greenspace and infrastructure are all considered in their component parts and presented in a tabular form alongside the diagrammed plans of the respective cities. The back of the publication holds bar charts wherein the values of these parameters are overtly comparable. An incredibly simple idea, very well controlled and executed with consistency.

The book may be purchased here. There is also a 20 page PDF sample for free at the same address.

Site plan for Noahbabel. Coastal Waters, 1969 (Paolo Soleri). Image from Storefront. Copyright Work AC

Site plan for Tokyo Bay. Tokyo, 1960 (Kenzo Tange). Image from Storefront. Copyright Work AC