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Urbanism is the characteristic way of interaction of inhabitants of urban societies, or city planning. Urbanism is also movement of the population to the urban areas (urbanization) or its concentration in them (degree of urbanization).


  • Theory 1
    • Mainstream vs. alternative urbanism 1.1
    • Network Urbanism 1.2
      • Historical Context 1.2.1
      • Network Operators and Territoriality 1.2.2
      • New Approach to Urban Planning 1.2.3
    • Splintering Urbanism 1.3
      • Historical Context 1.3.1
      • Implications to Network Crises or Collapses 1.3.2
      • Splintering Urbanism from Urban Design 1.3.3
  • Concepts of urbanism 2
  • See also 3
  • Endnotes 4
  • External links 5


Urbanism theory writers of the late 20th century

Currently many architects, planners, and sociologists (like Louis Wirth) investigate the way people live in densely populated urban areas from many perspectives including a sociological perspective. To arrive at an adequate conception of 'urbanism as a way of life' Wirth says it is necessary to stop 'identify[ing] urbanism with the physical entity of the city', go 'beyond an arbitrary boundary line' and consider how 'technological developments in transportation and communication have enormously extended the urban mode of living beyond the confines of the city itself.' [1]

In contemporary urbanism, also known as urban planning in many parts of the world, there are as many different ways of framing the practice as there are cities in the world. According to American architect and planner Jonathan Barnett the approach of defining all the different ‘urbanisms’ in the world is an endless one.[2]

Mainstream vs. alternative urbanism

In the book Cities and Design, Paul Knox refers to one of many trends in contemporary urbanism as the "aestheticization of everyday life". [3] Alex Krieger studies urbanism theory in order to provide insight into how urban practitioners work. He identifies ten spheres in which urbanism takes place in practice. The ten are: the bridge connecting planning and architecture, a form-based category of public policy, the architecture of the city, urban design as restorative urbanism, urban design as an art of place- making, urban design as smart growth, the infrastructure of the city, urban design as landscape urbanism, urban design as visionary urbanism, and urban design as community advocacy or doing no harm. Krieger concludes by stating that urban design is less a technical discipline than a mind-set based on a commitment to cities.[4]

In Three Urbanisms and the Public Realm, Douglas Kelbaugh of the University of Michigan writes about three urbanisms on the cutting edge of theoretical and professional activity in Western cities. These three paradigms include New Urbanism, Everyday Urbanism, and Post- Urbanism. He examines their overlaps and oppositions, methodologies and modalities, strengths and weaknesses, in the hope of sketching the outline of a more integrated position.[5]

Network Urbanism

Through the book Urban Networks – Network Urbanism, Gabriel Dupuy attempted to apply network thinking in the field of urbanism as a response to what he perceived as crisis in the arena of urban planning. A conflict is said to exist between urban planning based on segregated conceptions of space (i.e. zones, boundaries and edges) and urban planning on network-based conceptions of space. Network Urbanism emphasizes the need to understand ‘sociation’ not in terms of bounded, small-scale, communities with an intense public realm, but in terms of their decentralized and sprawling character which depend on a myriad of technological, informational, personal and organizational networks that link locations in complex ways.

Network Urbanism is viewed as a new paradigm that confronts spatial planning with a challenge for fundamental change in consideration of a new context. Network thinking has direct implications for the way planning processes are organized by requiring governance styles that include a range of stakeholders that organize themselves in networks. However, Albrechts and Mandelbaum describes physically-oriented thinking, paradigmatic thinking and social network-oriented thinking are sometimes as far removed from each other as zonal and network thinking are in spatial planning. [6]

Historical Context

The ‘urbanist’ decades of the beginning of the twentieth century is associated with the development of centralized manufacturing, mixed use neighborhoods, thick layers of locally ingrained social organizations and networks, and the convergence between political, social and economic citizenship where the elites had their economic interests firmly located in one place. They also contributed to developing the civic landscape through residing within that city. [7]

Technological, economic and social processes have changed urbanism through decentralizing energies towards peripheral locations. Stephen Graham and Simon Marvin argue that we are witnessing a post-urban environment where the core organizing role of urban public spaces is eclipsed through the rise of the decentralized neighborhoods and zones of activity that’s loosely connected to each other through road, telecommunication and organizational circuits that have no clear centers. Gabriel Dupuy suggests that the single dominant characteristic of modern urbanism is its networked character. [6]

Network Operators and Territoriality

Urban planning can intervene in the area of networks through a concept Gabriel Dupuy developed known as ‘network operators’. These operate at three levels: physical networks (roads, public transport), production networks (manufacturing, services) and urban household networks (friends, family). Necessary connections must exist between these three levels in urban policy to enable the realization of a given actor’s virtual network. In addition, networks have introduced a ‘new territoriality that urban planning has failed to acknowledge’. Networks are described as means of territorialisation. They have a social significance in creating a unique form territoriality. [6]

New Approach to Urban Planning

Gabriel Dupuy insists on the need to reevaluate the relationships between cities and networks. Urban planning is situated in an evolving context with new challenges that requires adaptation: changes of geographical scale, development of technologies at ever faster speeds and liberalization of network utilities. It is necessary to overcome the old-fashioned network urbanism for an ‘urban planning that embraces public networks as a basic requirement’

New concepts are proposed that can revitalize network urbanism: adhesion, preferential, the fractal approach and network time. These different concepts aim to foster the emergence of new tools and to enable urban planners to come to terms with the true nature of networks. This could place them in a better position to capitalize on the influence provided by their development and paving the way for positive change in future urban planning. [6]

Splintering Urbanism

Stephen Graham and Simon Marvin applies network thinking to urbanism in Splintering Urbanism: Networked Infrastructures, Technological Mobilities and the Urban Condition, where they state that the modern integrated infrastructure ideal is collapsing with a drive to 'construct ubiquitous, normalized and standardized infrastructure networks,' and that 'infrastructure networks are being "unbundled" in ways that help sustain the fragmentation of the social and material fabric of cities.' Much of the material and technological fabric of cities is networked infrastructure. Most of the infrastructural fabric is also a part of the urban landscape such as roads, rail and power lines. Almost every aspect of the functioning of infrastructure, the retrofitting of new networks and the renewal of older networks is focused on the needs of serving expanding urban areas and the demands for the communication of people, goods, raw materials, services, information, energy and waste within and between cities.

Splintering Urbanism demonstrates that electronics-based networks segregate as much as they connect and that they do so selectively. Stephen Graham and Simon Marvin indicate how cities are increasingly fragmenting into cellular clusters of globally connected high-service enclaves and network ghettos. Increasingly, Manuel Castells suggests these processes are directly supporting the emergence of an internationally integrated and increasingly urbanized, and yet highly fragmented network society. New and highly polarized urban landscapes are emerging where ‘premium’ infrastructure networks (high-speed telecommunications, ‘smart’ highways, global airline networks) selectively connect together the most favored users and places, both within and between cities. Valued spaces are increasingly defined by their fast, priority connections to elsewhere. At the same time, premium and high-capability networked infrastructures often effectively bypass less favored places which Castells calls ‘redundant’ users. Such bypassing and disconnection are directly embedded into the design of networks, both in terms of the geographies of the points they do and do not connect and in terms of the control placed on who or what can flow over the networks. [8]

Historical Context

Dominique Lorrain argues that the process of Splintering Urbanism began towards the end of the 20th century with the emergency of the gigacity, a new distance form of a networked city differing from its nineteenth century ancestor by its unprecedented size, its vertical extension above and below ground, its network density and its blurring of city boundaries made possible by fast transportation and broadband telecommunication systems. [8]

Implications to Network Crises or Collapses

Stephen Graham and Simon Marvin argues that the disciplinary failings and the neglect of networked infrastructures, their hidden and taken-for-granted nature, assumptions of technological determinism, and the panic effects of networked collapses means that attention to infrastructure networks tends to be reactive to crises or collapse, rather than sustained and systematic. They note a remaining failure to systematically analyze the complex linkages between urban life and urban infrastructure networks. [8]

Splintering Urbanism from Urban Design

According to Stephen Graham and Simon Marvin, urban design based solutions tend to enforce the time–space requirements of dominant interests within the built form. Laurence King elaborates on how the dominate interests are given the ability ‘to appropriate all architectural forms, (where) there can be no such thing as an “emancipating design”; only the activity of design has any such potential’. Rem Koolhaas argues that any progress towards a genuinely ‘new urbanism’ movement must be centered on process rather than form, on openness rather than closure and on flexibility rather than order. [8]

Concepts of urbanism

The pragmatic approach to urbanism promotes action above reflection. Pragmatism emphasizes a culture of inclusion within cities where contradiction and disagreement work to build stronger truths. The essence of pragmatism remains in contemporary daily life in urban area as main philosophical ingredient. Although the expression has been used for over a century, it is not a fixed concept. While the world that the movement is rooted in has had many changes, as a frame to perceive the world, pragmatism also has experienced different levels of modifications. Those changes are very relevant to the development of cities and basic themes of pragmatism can be applied to the urbanism even more strongly.

Anti-foundationalism and fallibilism closely connect to each other. In the same context of these two, the concept of cities is provisional and never absolute or certain, and pragmatists argue that the idea of space needs to be pliable and adaptable and able to cope with unpredictability and change. The notion of a community as inquirers is a continuing process of self-correction and spatial legitimacy is determined from the larger community in which they are presented, in this sense the idea of place will be sustained only as long as there is a community to support it. William James’s engaged pluralism encourages people to actively reach out to the points of intersection where people can critically engage with others. Under pragmatism there cannot be a platonic ideal of placeless or an essential definition of place because the place is defined throughout continuous interactions with its dwellers.

John Dewey believed that the personification of knowledge in everyday practices was essential and the proactive question about the relationship between theory and practice connects to the idea of social responsibility. The theme of democracy was central to Dewey's version of pragmatism. He believed that in a democratic society, every sovereign citizen is capable of achieving personality. He argued that the concept of place should be open to experimentation for the hope of realizing a better world.[9]

According to Bernstein, "these themes are also basic applications of urbanism." As pragmatism shares a history of development with modern cities, both pragmatists and urban practitioners have influenced each other. Dewey said that the interaction is human experience: "For life is no uniform uninterrupted march or flow. It is a thing of histories, each with its own plot, its own inception and movement toward its close, each having its own particular rhythmic movement; each with its own unrepeated quality pervading it throughout." [10]

See also


  1. ^ Wirth, Louis. 1938. Urbanism as a Way of Life. The American Journal of Sociology, volume 44, number 1: pages 1-24. July.
  2. ^ Jonathan Barnett, “A Short Guide to 60 of the Newest Urbanisms,” Planning volume 77 (2011-4) 19-21
  3. ^ Knox, Paul, 2010, Cities and Design, page 10.
  4. ^ Krieger, Alex, 2009, Urban Design, page 113.
  5. ^ Kelbaugh, Douglas, 2009, Three Urbanisms and the Public Realm
  6. ^ a b c d Dupuy, Gabriel. (2008). Urban Networks – Network Urbanism. Amsterdam: Techne Press.
  7. ^ Blokland-Potters, Talja, and Savage, Mike. (2008). Networked Urbanism: Social Capital in the City. Ashgate Publishing.
  8. ^ a b c d Graham, Stephen, and Marvin, Simon. (2001). Splintering Urbanism : Networked Infrastructures, Technological Mobilities and the Urban Condition. London, UK: Routledge.
  9. ^ Bernstein, Richard J. The pragmatic turn. Cambridge: Polity, 2010. ISBN 978-0745649085
  10. ^ Dewey, John, and John J. McDermott. The philosophy of John Dewey. New York: Putnam Sons, 1973. ISBN 978-0226144016

External links

  • International Forum on Urbanism
  • New York and London: Routledge, 2013. ISBN 978-0415837705Designing Urban TransformationAseem Inam, .
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