Turn of the century urbanism finds itself in a sudden, complicated impasse. Old rules and regulations whose usefulness and functionality are updated conflict with the urgency for new solutions and bases to render them serviceable in an advancing society.
The modern day urbanist should encourage a fluid dialogue by which administrations may have direct access to the needs of a dynamic society in order to incorporate them into the design process, to ensure maximum results and the ideal functionality of a metropolitan design.
This neo/urbanistic process must derive itself methodically from the following bases to ensure the future strategies of metropolitan reconstruction:
On the one hand, it is clear where the reunifying weight of the future polis rests: not on the technical aspects ensuring the functional and morphological changes, but on the client. These consumers/users should be afforded the opportunity to see a final design which ensures its practicality by addressing their specific needs.
Since the dawn of civilized man, the need for shelters, nomadic settlements or even the first structures of citizen interaction is rooted in functionality. A concentration of people is not only predominately defines a city but the base of its fundamental idea. Stripping a city of all its accessaries and embellishments should expose us to:
A crowd of people more or less considerable, dense and permanent, with a high degree of social organization, usually independent of food indigenous to the territory over which it develops, existing in a systemic civilization that supports a life of active relations, necessary for the health of its industry, of its commerce and of its functions (1).
These principles have been diluted, in countless cases, affording both technicians and administrations to wield such powers that have been misinterpreted leading them to champion minor causes, urban development for minorities', «political debt payments», «power payments», wasteful consumption, and more.
On the other hand, there’s the flip side of the coin: the technician working for a social customer, who is not tied to any strings, capitalizing on a global renaissance knowledge. That is, the technician, or technical group, should utilize a multidisciplinary approach that covers all related possible viewpoints with respect to the problems of survival that apply to the city today.
Gone are the early stages of modern urban planning in which civil engineers played a central and critical role (in the periods, for example, of large population growth) subsequently giving way later to a golden era leaving the treatment of urban and territorial phenomena in the hands of architects.
Both sets of professionals started to lose interest gradually; the engineers «fascinated by the technological possibilities in building spectacular infrastructures», and the architects «fascinated by the beauty, and by their personal success in the media and the social impact of buildings called iconic or symbolic» (2).
As a result, urbanism infiltrated by those closer to the social sciences. The geographer Sir Peter Hall observed, for example, «it is becoming increasingly clear that, beyond the necessary and effective infrastructures that provide accessibility, habitability and connectivity to the space and beyond architecture that shapes the final forms of that space, there is a need for strategic and organizer thinking, with a comprehensive view of the city and the territory».
The richest, most complex visions that contemporary urbanism has witnessed comes from the addition of disciplines including, but not limited to geography, agronomy, ecology, economics, anthropology, and information technology to mention a few.
This isn’t to say that the golden age of architects did not have their impact in the organization of urban space but many of its schemes «ended in chaotic proposals, such as designing the plan as a sum of projects», an idea that has been given from schools iteratively; or that the engineers’ ideas «not often go beyond the projected excellence of the case [...] but with little overall conceptual references».
An arguable downfall of social sciences contributions is their underutilization in purposeful discussion. These sciences are an inexhaustible resource with respect to the suitability and/or profitability in analyzing of the advantages and risks involved in a proposal, as well as in the accumulation of basic knowledge necessary for the final formulation of the data gathered. This informational gap also makes it difficult for the geographers, agronomists, ecologists et al, to grasp the urban future of cities despite this group’s indispensability in its transformation.
The macro group responsible for urban function of new cities is an assemblage that include s engineers, architects, sociologists, and economists, for starters. Above all the participation of the governing administration has incalculable influence as regards avoiding any divergent or obstructive activity in the proposals’ process and, more importantly, to plays a pivotal and ahopefully supportive, helpful role in its completion, ensuring its social demand.
1. Max SORRE «Les fondements de la Géographie humaine», Vol. III: L'Habitat, A. Colin, París, 1952, p 180.
2. Fernando de TERÁN «El Pasado Activo», Ediciones Akal, Madrid, 2009, p. 296 ss.