Emerging Concepts in Urban Space Design

Emerging Concepts in Urban Space Design

Emerging Concepts in Urban Space Design

Emerging Concepts in Urban Space Design


This important work, now available in paperback, from Professor Geoffrey Broadbent, provides a clear analysis of the nature of many of today's design problems, identifying their causes in history and suggesting a basis for co-ordinated solutions. The author discusses 'picturesque' and 'formal' tendencies in modern architecture, relating them to parallels between philosophic thought and design theory through the ages. Using a wealth of international examples from around the world including America, UK, Italy, Germany and France and with over 250 photographs and illustrations, Emerging Concepts in Space Design offers a fascinating insight into the history and likely future directions of urban design.


If we are to understand the nature of the city it is useful to remember that the word itself derives from the Latin civilis which means 'befitting a citizen'. We should remember also that the same root underlies our word civilization. Civilization is that which takes place in great cities!

Kenneth Clark (1959) opened his television series on 'Civilization' and the associated book by looking at the centre of Paris; at Nôtre Dame, the Louvre, the Institute de France, the town houses and the bookstalls lining the quais of the Seine. Here, he suggested, are all the things which civilization means to us.

As he said, civilization is possible when humankind has reached beyond the level of scratching a bare subsistence and freed from 'the day-to-day struggle for existence and the night-to-night struggle with fear', develops in equilibrium qualities of thought and feeling, ideals of perfection in reasoning, in justice, in physical beauty, and so on.

It's a matter of stability too, or as Clark puts, 'permanence'. The good, solid walls of stone he saw in Paris gave him such permanence, so did the ideas enshrined in the books. Civilization for him was evidence that humankind had extended itself to the utmost, mentally and spiritually.

Some of course will recoil in horror at such elitism. Clark would simply have called them 'uncivilized' but they would do well to read what Frederick Engels said in his funeral oration at the grave-side of Karl Marx (1883).

'Marx' he said, 'discovered the law of human history…that mankind first of all must eat, drink, have shelter and clothing, before it can pursue politics, science, art, religion etc'.

The latter Marx called the 'superstructure', built onto the economic 'base'. But once society has passed beyond the primitive struggle for existence economic activity itself, of course, becomes part of the 'superstructure'. Which puts into context the origin of the city.

The first cities obviously were built when humankind had got beyond the struggle for mere existence. The earliest known city, Jericho (c. 7000 BC) was an oasis near the River Jordan and it has extensive defences whilst Catal Huyuk in Central Anatolia (Asian Turkey c. 6500 BC) seems to have flourished on trade (Mellaart, 1967). Both depended on sophisticated agriculture, including the rearing of livestock.

But city-sized populations in general could not be brought together until ways had been found of producing food nearby, in sufficient quantities and transporting it into the city. So it is hardly surprising

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