Categories to facilitate focus

February 13, 2011 § Leave a comment

In thinking about how we can refine our project further and also add interest and context, we started to look at theory that focussed specifically on urban planning and architecture. Through this we found the potential for developing categories that offered a series of interesting lenses through which to see a city. These categories as well as lenses could equally be considered categories of measure. Meaning that the city is measured for example through notions of flow and counter flow or fractioning. These categories were not created by us but discovered through our research and are based on theorists like Virilio, Sorkin and Rem Koolhaas.


The Generic City is a fractal, repeating its shape from laptops up to skyscrapers. Buildings are torn down as they cease to fulfil its purpose. There’s no architecture in the traditional sense: everybody can be an architect. The city has no history, save for one or a few districts where all history has been concentrated. Therefore, in the Generic City everybody is a tourist. Hotels have everything you need – there’s no reason to leave. […] The Generic City is fractal, an endless repetition of the same simple structural module: it is possible to reconstruct it from its smallest entity, a desktop computer, maybe even a diskette…

Rem Kollhaas in Generic City

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Flow seeks to increase speed (and save time) by prioritizing the faster means of movement. Safety is often foregrounded as the reason for this system of preferences; the potential for danger, confusion and slowdown resulting from the undisciplined mix gives rise to elaborated structures for vetting what traffic engineers call ‘conflict’ between modes. […] Modern city planning is structured around an armature of such conflict avoidance.” “Conflict and danger arise when flows intersect in unexpected, unwanted ways; flows are ‘purposeful, repititive, programmemable sequences of exchange and interaction between physically disjointed positions’ (Castells 1996).”

Sorkin in The Culture of Exception

We have not yet decided whether these categories will be visible in the end or only be used as a mechanism to guide the development of the project.

Here are the other potential categories:

Serendipity-propensity for making fortunate discoveries while looking for something unrelated.

Pace– discuss idea of happiness and walking, pauses, rewinds, rhythm

Absence and Presence – Power_ Omnipresence, memory, Virilio /Baudrillard

Spectacle- the spectacle as dominant modern paradigm; as Debord suggests, a self-justifying economic model; celebrity as figurehead of spectacle, economic paradigm embodied; spectacle as simultaneous unifier and divider (participants vs observers)



…[T]he sign is not a movie ad. Nor part of a clever labeling scheme for city districts. Nor is it a joke. Provocative and whimsical, it’s a prompt meant to take the mind down a side road that’s often as invisible as the traffic island itself. It’s an invitation: ”

artist and activist Kletzky,


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