Academic journal article British Journal of Canadian Studies

Passages: Explorations of the Contemporary City

Academic journal article British Journal of Canadian Studies

Passages: Explorations of the Contemporary City

Article excerpt

Graham Livesey, Passages: Explorations of the Contemporary City (Calgary: University of Calgary Press, 2004), 146pp. Paper. $22.95. ISBN 1-55238-141-2.

Urban space or the contemporary city has been in the centre of interest for a few decades now: different languages of space such as geography, sociology, architecture and planning have tried to define it, often leading to conflicting interpretations.

In Passages, Graham Livesey, Architecture Program Director and Associate Professor of Environmental Design at the University of Calgary, sets out to investigate the structure and operation of the global urban landscape emerging after World War II. This collection of essays focuses on the role of architecture in the global city, the linguistic and formal structures defining and comprising the latter. A brief history of urban space is followed by notions of representational and social space.

As the title bears witness, Livesey defines the city as a constructed entity, the movement of its inhabitants and a text or narrative. He explores it at the confluence of design and inhabitation. Informed by the work of key writers such as Henri Lefebvre, Robert Venturi, Michel de Certeau and Paul Ricoeur, the essays reach the conclusion that urban environments are complex and continually changing entities, the interpretation of which must be revised from time to time.

Starting from Derrida's concept of différance, the author examines the anomalous condition in the urban environment as a meaning-creating mechanism and the trajectories of the inhabitants as subversive strategies working against the order of cities. …

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