“The city expresses, concretely, the prevailing organisation of everyday life. The nightmare of the contemporary metropolis – space and time engineered to isolate, exhaust and abstract us – has driven the lesson home to everybody and its very pitilessness has begun to engender a new utopian consciousness.” – Situationist International

> Revolutionary Urban Transformation
The Situationist International, formed in 1957, developed criticisms of contemporary urbanism and postulated upon possible urban futures. They viewed the city as the principal location for the creation and maintenance of social interactions of domination, as spaces of alienation and control. But, they also viewed the city with hope – recognising the inherent potential of the city as a place of liberty where people could live and satisfy their personal needs and desires free from oppressive urbanism. It was the S.I.’s coupling of urban critique within a wider revolutionary political agenda that separated them from other movements seeking urban transformation at that time. For the S.I., the city was a highly contested territory, both politically and socially. They attempted to investigate the city via radical forms of geographical action and research, in an effort to instigate urban transformation. Terms such as “construction of situations”, “Psychogeography”, and “Unitary Urbanism” were employed to convey their investigations and explorations to the population at large, in the hope of igniting social and spatial revolution.

> Participation vs. Spectacle
“Unitary Urbanism” was not postulated as an urban doctrine, but rather as an urban critique, with its utopianism laying in its vision towards achieving a “Terrain of experience for the social space of the cities of the future.” The S.I. also advocated the city in a permanent state of flux, and was opposed to the notion of urban permanence in both temporal and spatial terms. “Unitary Urbanism” was to be dynamic and evolutionary, preoccupied with the generation of situations, and the outcomes of people’s actions and desires – an urbanism of participation rather than spectacle.

> Unspectacular Spectacular Society
According to Debord, the spectacle was the dominant feature within society and urban space, simultaneously homogenising and fracturing the city and society. Urban participation was being marginalised via the exodus of people and street life from urban centres due to the domineering interests of the state. The S.I. viewed the city as a tool for asserting political oppression and control, and it worked towards the revolutionary aim of realigning urban spectacular society towards a participatory society. The S.I. rejected the remaking of post-war cities by interest groups and “ideal” urban planning schemes [such as by Le Corbusier]. Instead they promoted a new utopianism based upon street activity and everyday life.

+ Visions of the City - the participatory 'urban flaneur' [CTW 2009]
> Social + Spatial Synchronisation
The maps by Debord counter rigidly functional urban plans by suggesting alternate routes and passages through a fluid city. Derives were seen as more significant than the destination, and were seen as an alternative method to immerse oneself in the city and comprehend and synchronise oneself with its flows and rhythms. Debord’s maps “embody a subversive attitude towards representations of the city”. They question notions of temporal and spatial orientation in their quest for future urban potentials. The maps were intended to form the basis for future social utopian spaces within the city, and lead to a revolution in social and spatial interactions. 



In many post-industrial cities, memory is being employed to aestheticise and integrate the past into new urban places. Industrial memory survives as traces, residues and fetishes of historically venerated phenomena. As a result, mills, canals & factory housing have replaced older romantic tropes like the cottage and church as symbols to be celebrated within modern society.

> Post-Industrial Transformation
“The constant dismantling and remaking of the industrial city are seen as essential parts of capitalist industrialisation.” The future development of the remnants of industrial cities is being contested vigorously, as areas undergo transformation via neglect, gentrification and the rediscovery of the past through conservation, as well as retrofitting and regeneration schemes facilitated by the insertion of new functions, programmes and investment.

> Case Study – Ancoats, Manchester
Ancoats, as the world’s first industrial suburb, was seen as the archetypal urban industrial production space created by and for industry, whilst simultaneously being a slum district. Contemporary Ancoats is now viewed as the classic example of a declining post-industrial district, with fragmented streets, dereliction and mass depopulation. Substantial regeneration schemes are underway to redress these issues, but several problematic barriers must be overcome – namely, the large number and polarity of landowners and stakeholders, and the seemingly contradictory objectives of heritage-led conservation groups, and capital-led developers. Regeneration schemes during the past have remained inconsistent and disjointed, to the extent that Ancoats is now more fractured than ever, and its formerly coherent sense of place has all but vanished in the face of disorganised urban planning and policy.

> Post-Industrial Temporality
Industrial cities were built around economic or production timescales. Today, however, with production being almost completely relocated out of urban centres, the temporal void left behind has been filled by two seemingly opposing scales – ‘heritage time’ and ‘developer’s time’. In heritage time, the city is seen as a spatialised system for recalling the past, the memorialisation of the urban through the iconic and monumental architecture. Developer’s time is an unremitting pursuit of capital, progression and the future, whilst destroying any and all resistant traditions and memories.

+ Urban Memory: History + Amnesia in the Modern City - the 'Urban Soul' [CTW 2009]
> The Urban Soul
“Memory must be seen to be respected but only providing it presents no contradictory or resistant element to change.” All cities exist in a state of flux, and urban transformational temporality is ubiquitous. The regeneration of post-industrial cities will occur at different and non-synchronous scales, and will result in a disorientating and dislocated sense of place, for so long as the current system of incoherent urban planning and policy persists. The two opposing forces of memory and capital will continue to struggle for the soul of the post-industrial city.


Human conflict inevitably results in the fragmentation and often destruction of architecture and urban centres. The aftermath of such episodes is fraught with uncertainty pertaining to the reintegration of society and the reprocessing of its architectural manifestations. Issues such as commemoration, social amnesia, historical truth and the falsification of monumentality require sensitive architectural responses.

> Rebuilding to Commemorate
Rebuilding destroyed architecture can be as symbolically significant as the original events of its destruction. Building can be used to consolidate and reconnect the violent fragmentation of the city, or to stitch back together the former fabric of a society. Unintentional monuments, such as places of worship, libraries and so on, may be converted into new monuments memorialising their past destruction. “History looks forward while looking over its shoulder; how much to commemorate and remember, how much needs to be forgiven then forgotten in the interests of peace?” Therein lies a real danger that everyday life may become permanently reified in honour of memories of past hardships, suffering and destruction.

> Rebuilding to Forget
Rebuilding can also be employed to conceal the past, to gloss over the less-celebrated aspects of history. In this context, the rebuilding, usually carried out by those in power, masks previous unsavoury episodes and reflects the post-destruction climate. The tensions between memory and forced amnesia are constantly in a struggle for the right to reinterpret the ruinous urban fabric. To force amnesia is hazardous, whilst to carry out no reconstruction is tantamount to conceding defeat. Pragmatic rebuilding is required, mirroring the needs in life to remember, to call to account and to prevent a repeat of history. Critically, there is a need for honesty and truth, rather than a falsification of history through phoney monumental architecture.

“In a world that is increasingly subject to the forces of globalisation & homogenisation, and in a world in which the search for cultural identity is sometimes pursued through aggressive nationalism and the suppression of cultures of minorities, the essential contribution made by the consideration of authenticity in conservation practice is to clarify and illuminate the collective memory of humanity.” – [Nara Document on Authenticity 1994]

> History, Not Heritage
The rebuilding of architecture, in some form or other, is a critical component in societies attempting to interpret and comprehend their post-destruction context. However, although truth within the reconstruction is necessary for this to occur, whose truth shall it be? It has been argued that all-too often, historical truth is being replaced by the prejudiced pride of heritage, a distorted view of history. The outcome of this is either the erection of false ‘Disneyfied’ monuments, or the construction of monuments embodying pride or defiance, and a reassertion of identity and tradition. The label a particular monument receives varies on an individual basis, largely dependent upon the individual’s relationship with the monument, its context and his or her perception of its purpose to either commemorate or forget.

> Past, Present, Future?
“Who controls the past controls the future; who controls the present controls the past.” This quote taken from George Orwell’s classic ‘1984’ carries a particular poignancy here. There is a real danger that urban memory, being interpreted by the ‘victors’ will inevitably become distorted through a slanted view of historical truth. If rebuilding is to be successful in knitting together disjointed communities this must be avoided. Historical truth, not heritage, should be embodied with pragmatic and sensitive architectural responses, to secure the continuity of urban social history, whether it is positive or negative. Urban amnesia prohibits society from coming to terms with its past or comprehending its possible future trajectory. On the flipside, however, urban memory cannot be a burden, restricting the progression of society towards new futures.


The future of Britain’s built environment rests not only with her architects, but with the power structures in place to facilitate the procurement and realisation of quality architecture. It is these weakly directed and largely ineffective political mechanisms, it has been argued, that are currently stifling architectural practice in this country. In order for this situation to be rectified, an understanding of their inner logics is required, with the hope that a new architectural power structure will emerge to lead a new architectural discourse focussed upon the realities of contemporary society and culture.

> Complex Power
The relationship between institutional power and architectural practice in Britain is a complicated affair. To comprehend the complex interactions between them, one must possess a full understanding of procurement policies, political structures, and the objectives & methodologies of government, along with the impact of our rapidly changing social, cultural and demographic patterns nationwide. Due to the increasing heterogeneity of society, architectural power in Britain has become increasingly dislocated from the real issues affecting society and architectural discourse.

+ State as Client to the Client State: UK architectural power diagram [image courtesy of James K. Thorp 2009]
> Power Complex
Changes in social structures demand corresponding changes in the architectural power structure in Britain. Absolute power in British architectural practice resides with a select few individuals, namely the deputy prime minister, royal family, city mayors and the political elite. This has traditionally always been the case, but modern society’s many facets and complexities require a much more pragmatic, strong and coherent power structure within architecture to effectively pursue a prosperous post-industrialised future for Britain. The power of these individuals is granted to them via social and political position, and is ultimately maintained through a combination of strategy and positive media relations. British architectural power is driven by entrepreneurial interests and economic incentives rather than the more pressing issues of cultural significance, ecological sustainability and social equality. In the end, government responsibility in architectural practice is subservient to the whims of the market, to the extent that the vast majority of British architects have been alienated from meaningful participation and debate within architecture.

+ State as Client to the Client State: architect as mediator diagram [CTW 2009]
> Architect as Mediator
In contemporary practice, the role of the architect has become one of mediation – a point of exchange and synchronisation between the numerous stakeholders within society. As active professionals, architects are uniquely positioned to feed back issues from the ground to policy makers, and vice versa, to create architecture that is simultaneously meaningful and socially responsible. Bottom-up power is not to be feared, however. It is not as slow or messy as the current system of ineffective interaction between market forces and hopeless governmental mechanisms of political power. However, due to the minefield that is the current legislation and policies governing architectural practice, architects are increasingly unable to deliver. Policy and legislation are over-due an overhaul. A more proactive and pragmatic power structure is required, with vigorous leadership and direction, to enable architectural practice to steer a course towards a more responsible and coherent built environment.


Many of the world’s cities contain hollow cores. This is often a result of an over-successful urban renewal policy. These “comatose commercial centres” drain a city of its wealth, population, cultural significance, social equity, and political stability. Urban renewal is a constant condition within all modern cities to a greater or lesser extent, but clearly limits are required to avoid de-densification.

> The City That Fell Asleep?
New York’s core has been fixed by history and geography. During the 1970s the city existed as a core within a core, with the centres of activity 5th Avenue, 57th Street and Wall Street. The city was on the brink of desertion as a result of urban decay caused by ineffective urban renewal policies in the face of predictable economic patterns. New York was a “scavenger’s paradise” in which urban elements of previous incarnations of the city were recycled for creative new programmes. Large-scale de-densification, depopulation and dereliction – was the city de-evolving back to a state closer to nature? The inseparable union of urban growth and economic growth does not permit New York to shrink back to a more effective sustainable entity – the volatile economy conspires to drag the city in its entirety through the minefield of financial fluctuations without hope of respite.

> New York, Where Nightmares Are Made Of?
Where once as active commerce and a bustling street scene, in which the majority of the population were housed, has now been replaced by disused markets, abandoned streets and mass homelessness. New social entities arose from the ashes of the ruins of the derelict city – organised meetings, parties and even criminal activities blossomed. This increase in crime and decrease in personal safety resulted in all-time low tourism, and a rise in social discrimination through association with the city. Simply, the economic infrastructure was ill-prepared for the decline of the city’s urban fabric, and was initially impotent to stem the decay [due to its relationship with the national economy].

> The City That Awoke?
New wealth was injected into New York in the 1980s following a national political shift [Reagan era began]. Suddenly, new public spaces were inserted into the city. Galleries, boutiques and restaurants were followed by a massive increase in residential speculation. The reinvigorated city attracted new ‘Hollywood’ and ‘dot.com’ money, which could afford the hiked rents. This resulted in a dramatic housing shortage, a complete reversal due entirely to indiscriminate property speculation.

> New York! New York!
New York, Manhattan in particular, is a “phenomenon”. It possesses a certain mystique, not as a port and financial centre, but due to its concentration and stark delimited urban fabric. This delimitation is its major weakness however. Due to its geography, the city cannot reposition its core as other cities would. As a result it exists in a constant state of flux, a “permanent quality of impermanence”. The population are convinced of their own permanence, even when surrounded by such blatant cycles of change. This, coupled with an almost imperialistic posturing, the city is socially dynamic and authoritarian in nature. Social ‘tunnelling’ as an urgent issue is not part of mainstream social debate. Maybe it is not even be noticed within the city’s frenetic pursuit of wealth?

> I Heart NY :o)
Eventually, future economic and financial collapses will impact upon and reshape the social and urban fabric. Class conflict and mass exodus will occur again as a result of the inherent characteristics of the current ‘boom and bust’ global capitalist economy. The city will be in ruins again -  can rebirth continue indefinitely? Can urban regeneration ever be shielded from economic volatility? Even following the massive social and economic repercussions of terrorism New York has returned to functioning as it always has, ruled by fear and the pursuit of wealth [not happiness], a dangerous combination for the rest of the world, considering its global influence as the world’s top city.


Today, technological networks are more accessible, more ubiquitous, and more mobile everyday. The always-on, always-accessible network produces a broad set of changes to our concept of place. These changes are not simply produced by technology; on the contrary, the development and practices of technology are thoroughly imbricated in culture, society and politics.  This particular image depicts a network mapping of the world’s global internet connections. However, with connection there is also disconnection. 

> Simultaneous Place
+ Connection = Disconnection [CTW 2010]
In the context of familiar public spaces, if individuals do not interact with one another verbally, they are engaged in a calculated co-presence. They are - via some form of network connection – in another place. Over time, our mobility has been augmented by machines of transport – spaces of transition absent of identity, human relationships, or traces of history. The only way humans can navigate the overwhelming condition of the metropolis is by disconnecting, by shutting off our connections to this multitude of others. It has been suggested that our sense of place is coming to an end.

>Mobile Place: The Rise of the Telecocoon
The city is itself a communication device having been shaped by the telephone and television. Until recently, the two primary means of browsing the city have been by foot – the flaneur’s method – and by car.  Public events now occur simultaneously, in two different places: the place of the event itself and that in which it is watched and heard. Mobile phones can be used as ‘territory machines’, redefining public space by transforming a seat, a pavement, a bus stop, into the user’s own personal paradise; using mobiles to create a private virtual world through which we maintain constant interpersonal contact.

> The Network + its Socio-spatial Consequences
Society is moving toward more networked forms of organisation. Far from the mythical distribution ideal that ideologists of technology claim it to be, the network has its own physicality and material presence. Areas and populations outside of this logic are subject to the tunnel effect: they virtually don’t exist as far as the network and the dominant world economy is concerned.  Does virtual existence impact upon actual existence? It’s been suggested that the network has to be seen as part of an opposition between “the Net and the self”, in which individuals relentlessly try to affirm their identities in a rapidly changing world. This identity formation increasingly happens within networks that are both physical and virtual, filled with individuals who both produce and consume, taking advantage of new kinds of online cultural production.

+ Networked Publics - the 'Networked Human' [CTW 2010]
> Geospatial Web + Locative Media
Despite the inescapable truth that global network connectivity equates to local disconnectivity, two emerging technologies are poised to bridge the gap between the network and the local – the geospatial web and ubiquitous computing. This meshing of the virtual and physical is intended to reduce local disconnectivity whilst maintaining global/virtual connectivity, with the model of non-place being turned on its head in the creation of social connections via mobile networking technology. The convergence of the geospatial web with locative media and mobile networking technology will enable society to read, and leave behind virtual traces on the world, re-creating physical place as a digital map – the virtual has become grounded in the real. This overlay of virtual data over place will enable society to have access to a whole web of locally applicable information, thus enhancing local connectivity and the social significance of place. However, it could also render place a prisoner of memory and ‘someone else’s’ experiences. It may also exacerbate the issue of ‘tunnelling’ for those without network access, leading to an increase in social exclusion. And, of course, the rise in locative media will undoubtedly result in an ever-expanding surveillance culture within a ‘virtual police state’ society.


New towns in Eastern Europe that were built for specific purposes, such as heavy industry, are now empting at an ever-increasing rate due to the industries becoming redundant. In response to this a u-turn in our cultural preoccupation with the concept ‘more is best’ has occurred. The author examines the towns of Marzahn [East Berlin] and Drumul Taberei [Bucharest] to identify two differing responses to the issue of depopulating towns and deserted public space.

> More is Less?
More has suddenly become, not only worthless, but also harmful in some cities. Clearly a new approach to urban design is required in these areas. In place of cultivating, appropriating, extending, enlarging, colonising and building we will have retreating, demolishing, abandoning and mass returning to nature. Shrinking the city in a pragmatic fashion could potentially enable more effective and efficient urbanism to emerge – a sort of urban defence mechanism is response to growth for growth’s sake.

> Less Equals Opportunity!
This new approach to urban design provides an opportunity to re-evaluate and re-programme newly acquired swathes of public space. “No” to buildings, settlement, infrastructure, production, profit, architecture, ownership and political interference. In this sense, saying “No” is not a negative response to urban dilemmas. “No” is a possibility, an open invitation to realise untapped urban potentials. “No” is hope for the future of cities.

> ’Terrain Vague’
“The terrain vague is an empty space without cultivation or construction…an indeterminate space without precise boundaries…an internal, uninhabited, unproductive often dangerous island, simultaneously on the margins of the urban system and a fundamental part of the system.”

> To Plan Or Not To Plan?
The relationship between absence of programme and public freedom is critical. Ownership of public space should be less regimented, to permit social and economic dynamicism, and private initiatives. A system of total state planning in a rigid top-down system results in a stifled urbanism, with an absence of social and economic activities. Conversely, a complete lack of planning, a system of bottom-up planning, may generate a much more proactive urbanity but also results in discontinuous and fragmented public spaces.

+ Ideals in Concrete - pragmatic planning strategy diagram [CTW 2010]
> Planning For The Unplanned?
Perhaps an intermediate level of planning somewhere between rigid top-down and loose bottom-up planning is required; a more pragmatic, proactive and flexible form of urban design This could result in improvements in social and economic dynamicism, and private enterprise, whilst simultaneously providing coherent and connected public spaces.


Monuments refer to memorable events, usually either heroic or tragic, in a city’s or nation’s history. They become deeply embedded within a city’s fabric, to the extent that for the most part they are simply bypassed on a daily basis. However, their influence comes to the fore when they are populated. Upon this the monument expresses the virtues of the event it symbolises, or the virtues of commemoration itself. This varying popularity and influence is a reflection of social and culture evolution within the host city.

> Monumentality Hijacked?
Monuments polarise populations, and depending on circumstances, their imposition within public space can result in social and cultural grievances. These grievances, if allowed to bubble-over, can result in full-scale anarchy and revolution. Monuments within highly authoritarian political regimes are often hijacked within urban design. Statues, murals and iconography of particular ideologies are utilised as tools of fear, reminders of power and symbols of oppression.

> Urban Occupation – Lviv, Ukraine
Soviet occupation radically altered Lviv’s long-standing western orientation. The new soviet urban plan for the city involved mass demolition of the historic town centre, to be replaced by the construction of a massive new public square, and a new central axis culminating in an imposing statue of Lenin. The primary purpose of the plan was to impose order and control through an organised street hierarchy, spaces for political exposure and indoctrination, and symbols of fear. Public and cultural events were centred around political activities until 1990 when the population took possession back of its city from Moscow. The soviet era symbols of fear, control, occupation and oppression were replaced by symbols of freedom, hope, identity & independence.

> Oppressive Urbanism – Baghdad, Iraq
A modern-day example of this is the city of Baghdad. Its citizens, when presented with the opportunity, tore down all symbols of and monuments to an oppressive era. Statues and murals depicting Saddam Hussein as leader were destroyed, and the world awaits a time when they will be replaced by symbols of a new Iraq. In the meantime, interim mobile monuments are paraded around the streets in the form of foreign soldiers and flags.

> Monumentality Monumental?
The city can be interpreted on many levels through the close study of its monuments. Cultural, social, economic and political orientation can be elucidated through a city’s use of symbols and icons. Monuments within cities possess the ability to mobilise the masses. Whether they represent cultural values, political agendas or historic traditions, they are a vital element of a city’s psyche - urban design should recognise this. Harnessing the potential of monumentality in the moulding of cities means not only being sensitive to cultural icons, but also understanding the positive and negative effects upon urban life as a result of the existence of such artefacts.

+ Happy: Cities + Public Happiness in Post-war Europe - population mobilisation via use of monumentality? [CTW 2010]
In an increasingly networked world, the monument is becoming difficult to materialise, rapidly existing in a permanent state of flux. In the future, more mobile and flexible monuments may be required to maintain a city’s links with its traditions, culture, and political and economic trajectories.


We exist today as slaves to the dominion of global consumerism, largely due to the effectiveness of product branding. Recently the transition towards the knowledge based economy has witnessed a surge in urban branding. Branding in this sense is occupied with ‘selling the city’, through burning a master urban narrative into the mind of consumers. It is a process of creating an evocative urban imagery, with a spatial logic, by means of selective storytelling. What remains to be seen is whether a city can be represented in this manner, with social & spatial justice for all?

> Urban Mind Control
Urban branding is a form of collective impression management, whereby selective storytelling attempts to re-imagine the city. In essence, urban branding is concerned with coercing potential visitors and inhabitants alike to view and understand the city in a predefined manner – it is a form of urban control – but who has the right to represent the city? The political authorities? The commuters? The workers? The inhabitants? Clearly the process of branding must involve a bottom-up approach in order to avoid issues of social injustice, and also to promote opportunities for private enterprise within a city’s economy. The generic population does not exist, and this should be viewed as the city’s greatest commodity – its diversity.

> Inside-out Urban Narratives
Traditional place marketing takes the point of departure from consumer needs and desires; in effect working outside-in. Urban branding, however, works inside-out, starting instead at the level of identities and a common value base of a place. Branding does present some difficulties not present in marketing or advertising. Firstly, the sheer numbers and diversity of potential stakeholders in the brand is staggering within a city. Secondly, to negotiate a common value base within this diversity of consumers is problematic at best. And to this volatile mixture add the sensitive issue of historical and traditional continuity. Urban branding is a complex undertaking, and once begun carries the future success of the city on its shoulders, or the burden of future failures.

> Brand Terrorism?
In urban branding, locations are conceptualised as attributes within the urban narrative. It is important to note that urban branding is not a single-minded tool for capital gain. There is also the crucial issue of population demographics, meaning who will live the brand? Who is the brand aiming for? On the flip side, who is it not aiming to attract? Social exclusivity is an important factor when assessing the success of any branding initiative. In extreme cases of social exclusion, brand resistance can occur. This can take the form of popular public protests, or even rival brands being articulated within the city.

> Brand Logic?
Urban branding is to be seen as part of a wider objective of urban governments. Their aim is a re-orientation towards more flexible forms of market principles within public policy. In this sense, the contemporary city is re-conceptualised as the resultant entity from the appropriation of public space by social agents, through socio-spatial practices and identification process, such as the creation of ‘place images’. It can be seen that urban branding imposes spatial logic over the city via both the virtual and physical manipulation of public space – through the use of logos, slogans, landmarks and architecture.

> Brand Wars?
Urban branding is also utilised as a tool for inter-city competition. Industrial contracts, infrastructural projects and cultural events are all contested in the new globalised world. The urban brand is a crucial component in not only the image projection of a city, but also in mobilising the population towards achieving the particular objective. In the same way that companies compete for a slice of the market, cities do likewise; this results in some cities achieving great success and others being discarded, thereby creating an urban hierarchy. The outcome of these ‘city wars’ is highly dependent upon the success of its urban branding policies, both at the local and global scales.


Today there exists a prevalent trend within urban design and planning debate – it concerns the thorny issue of the integration of large-scale infrastructure within the urban fabric. Large-scale infrastructure is often viewed as a necessary evil. Highways, railroads, docks and airports are usually seen as an inconvenience for planners within cities, due to their physical, social and economic barriers – but they provide vital mobility for cultural, political, social and economic activities. This infrastructural duality results in an organisational nightmare. Duties and responsibilities concerning infrastructure and the city are regulated by two opposing institutional camps – port authorities and city planning departments.

> Who Owns The Infrastructure?
Large-scale infrastructure is no longer remembered as being part of the public domain, even though they are massively funded by public authorities. An urgent re-conceptualisation of infrastructure as public space is required to secure the future integration of infrastructure with other urban elements. Infrastructural systems should be designed with both uncertainty and stability. Uncertainty concerning potential future programmes for the infrastructure’s architectural elements and stability in terms of providing enduring benefits for the city.

+ Cities in Transition - fragmented urban domain [CTW 2010]
> An Uneasy Integration
Infrastructural elements may possess one of three differing relationships with its host city. It may embody a city’s sense of independence or be a symbol of identity. It may conversely represent a symbol of doom, an abomination upon the urban landscape. Alternatively, infrastructure may exist a neutral component in everyday life; neither threatening nor comforting, just utilitarian. Infrastructural system’s success is all-too often measured purely in economic terms. This fails to take into account the massive urban transformation that may result from the insertion of new infrastructural elements. Ultimately, these transformations may emerge as wholly new spatial and architectural qualities within the city.


Utopia is envisioned to be an ideal place, where love and joy is felt by all its citizens, and a sense of community and a shared goal dominate the social structure. Utopia can be understood as an expression of a desire for a better way of being and living, the ideal condition or blueprint for a perfect future. The word utopia refers simultaneously to ‘somewhere good’ and to ‘nowhere’; the double meaning is found in the Greek compounds eu-topos [a happy or fortunate place] and ou-topos [no place]. Interestingly, all visions of utopia focus upon the city, so much so that it can be argued that utopia and the image of the city are inseparable. Utopian ideas vary depending on the ideological basis upon which they were formed. There are those who argue both that utopia is a fantasy which should be left to the pages of history, and others who believe it is a necessary element to the creative process of design. The main characteristic of the visions discussed in this book is that, for the most part, the instigators of the utopian plans insisted that they were not utopian in an unrealistic or impractical, belonging to a distant future or to the realm of fantasy, but rather they asserted that the transformation they imagined could be realised if certain changes to society and space were set in motion.

> The Demise of Utopia
During the 20th Century, utopia has played a vital role in social and political thought and activism across the spectrum. For the S.I. and their avant-garde associates, a key task for radical political action lay in changing cities and social space.  Urbanism was not reducible to planning, but incorporated political questions about everyday life and urban culture.  They critiqued the alienating and image-saturated conditions of the post war era, the ‘society of the spectacle’ and advocated autonomous struggles against hierarchical power in all its manifestations. Many urban commentators have pointed out the numerous catastrophes and horrors to which utopian plans have lead arguing that utopian ideals have been too often driven by authoritarian principles, and too closely associated with totalitarianism, and that its demise should be welcomed. Perhaps, as urban designers, we should be looking upon the recent collapse of utopia as a reflective and long-term crisis of the city and of urbanity generally.  After all, utopia was the collective dream that drove the modernisation process in, by its capitalist and socialist forms.

> Utopia = Dystopia
In Thomas More’s so-called Utopia, and later in George Orwell’s 1984, harmonious social and moral order are maintained via surveillance; overriding traditional utopian values and confronting disordered spaces thus establishing a new order.  Has today’s surveillance society’ fallen victim to these dystopian characteristics? Also the question arises as to the validity of utopian principles when one man’s dream-world is another man’s nightmare. Due to the diversity of opinion about what is a desirable state, utopia can be rendered completely worthless at best or deeply oppressive at worst. Chtcheglov believes utopia has been suppressed by dominant social relations and ideological apparatuses.  He argues that the realm of production and conveniences has overstepped an initial aim of alleviating material cares, and the urban landscape, a once charged and poetic realm, has become drained of mystery and passion, in what he describes as the “banalisation of city space”.

> Post-Utopia?
Our imaginations, haunted by the old archetypes, have remained far behind the sophistication of machines in the information age. With the rise of relativity in all spheres of life, and with the establishment of an increasingly mobile and machine-based society, architecture represents the means of experimenting with a myriad ways of transforming life, with a view to a secure synthesis of inhabitant and environment. There is a sense that any discussion of utopianism today is occurring ‘after utopia’.  There is a widespread feeling that utopian urban projects belong to a previous age, as remnants of hopeful but na├»ve thought, as depleted husks unable to respond to current social demands. The central paradox inherent in utopian thought for the would-be urban designer is just how to we set about attempting to reconcile the fact that utopia equates to dystopia, whilst simultaneously a lack of utopia amounts to the same?

> A Brave New World?
Utopia is a transformation of our urban consciousness. Fredric Jameson, the political theorist, argued that the question of utopia would seem to be a crucial test of our collective capacity to imagine change at all. Renowned sociologist Karl Mannheim once pointed out that the representatives of a given order will label utopian all conceptions of existence, which from their ideological/social/political point of view, can in principal never be realised.  If this is the case then surely utopia is completely inconceivable.  However, pursuing the inconceivable can still bring about positive change, and as the S.I. succinctly put it, “the transformation of everyday life requires the transformation of everyday space and vice versa”. So, what has become of the ‘utopian search’?  Whether such a thing exists is entirely down to an interpretation of what is utopia, and as Lefebvre argues, “Although utopia might be discredited, it should not be abandoned.” It is our responsibility as architects and urban designers to strive beyond the banal.  Utopian or not, we must plan the ideal city instead of settling upon the ‘good enough’ city, if the banalisation of the city is to cease its cancerous conquest of the urban domain.


Buildings and infrastructure, as shapers of the urban milieu, have been superseded by a state of so-called ‘pandemonia’ - the superimposition of cybernetic principles upon the organisation, regulation and control of urban space. For those who cling to the ordered variations of the city plans of the recent past, today’s metropolis is utterly chaotic. Bandwidth has replaced the boulevard, and commuting has given way to the mouse click. After thousands of years of blocks held by mortar, the contemporary city is now stitched together by new modes of communication and control.

> The Three Ages of the Machine
Following the Industrial Revolution, society has advanced through the First and Second machine ages [mechanical and electrical respectively]. During these phases, machines developed from simple mechanical tools to fully electrified tools, and the human-machine relationship remained primarily recurrent and linear in nature, and was based rigidly upon processes of usage and action. 

+ Pandemonium - the three ages of the machine [CTW 2010]
According to Deleuze and Guattari, society has recently entered a third phase in its industrialisation trajectory, their so-called ‘Third Age of the Machine’, in which human-machine systems have now become non-linear [or cybernetic] in nature, replacing the previous non-reversible relation during the First and Second ages. The connection between the human and the machine is now based upon internal, mutual communication, and is no longer driven by processes of usage and action. The ‘Third Age’ has come to dominate all industrial landscapes, particularly in the continuous-process manufacturing and information technology industries.

> The Human + The Industrial Machine
The liberation of information-processing techniques from the human worker began in industry in the 1970s, via the adoption of ‘flexible specialisation’. Previously, Fordist semi-automated assembly lines operated through the resonance of the rhythms of labour and production processes, in such a manner as to enable production routines to be easily quantified and repeated. The advent of cybernetic machines severed this labour-production / human-machine interface – now, the worker has been entirely assimilated into a cybernetically-directed and controlled matrix of production. The human and the machine have been spliced together, and both now function as reciprocal agents within contemporary production environments. As production has become increasingly automated, a deep divide has been created within the workforce. On the one hand, there are the highly skilled engineers and systems analysts who direct, control and maintain complex industrial machinery. However, on the other hand, there are the masses of unskilled workers, whose sole economic asset is their geographic mobility. As a result, a major issue has arisen from the arrival of cybernetic production:  is the worker now forever destined to be either a controller of flux, or to merely become a controlled element of flux?

> The Human + The Information Machine
The organisational and bureaucratic criteria of information environments were subjected to reconsideration in an abstract form in order to free flows of information, which resulted in corresponding transformation to their spatial manifestation. The resulting environment was then recast as a dynamic processing machine, in which variations in the physical environment were shaped by communication flows, and the hierarchical organisation of control began to evolve. The decentralisation of control is seen as a more sophisticated organisational paradigm to a centralised system. With the information age came a new type of office collective, the Burolandschaft, which accommodated the fresh need for greater fluidity in information processing, and a desire to free production from top-down control. Yet a strict level of control is nevertheless implemented, via the creation of an environment of peer-surveillance, in which the work environment has become all-encompassing and relentless. Burolandschaft attempted to embed workers within the process, to act like the parts of a machine as nodes for communication flow. Hierarchy within the information production environment is no longer linear but can now be defined by non-linear networks – the office has become performative.

+ Pandemonium - cybernetic systems [image courtesy of Tim Marjot 2010]
> A Cybernetic Urbanism?
The city, as a complex entity in a perpetual state of flux, has been transformed as a result of the assimilation of cybernetic principles into all aspects of the urban network. Non-linear control organisation, responsive environments in industry and information technologies, and the mergence of the human and the machine; these relatively new concepts are still evolving, and as such will serve to further transform the city, and the architectural theory and practice that creates it. Perhaps, the main task facing architecture in the ‘cybernetic age’ is to accommodate this doctrine through the adaptation of existing urban infrastructures, whilst simultaneously limiting the negative by-products of societal fragmentation and cultural triviality. The traditional dynamics of the city have been irreversibly altered by the integration of cybernetic principles into the fields of design, production and information, particularly when coupled with the increasingly pervasive new digitised ‘global network culture’ we are witnessing. The future prospect of a widespread new ‘cybernetic urbanism’ is a realistic possibility indeed.