Sustaining Cities: Urban Policies, Practices, and Perceptions

By Linda Krause | Go to book overview

BEYOND BOUNDARIES

Mo Zell

Andrea Kahn, in “Defining Urban Sites,” contrasts the urban boundary conditions of a sixteenth-century sketch of Milan by Leonardo da Vinci to an historical eighteenth-century plan depicting an ideal Renaissance plan of Palmanuova. The Renaissance plan has a clear edge delineated by a heavy defensive boundary wall, while the Leonardo sketch has no clearly defined boundaries or edges. Although these two images convey different notions of representation (the former image is a plan, the latter an evocative sketch illustrating Leonardo’s imagined Milan), they reveal an important condition regarding the nature of boundaries. Kahn states “in Leonardo’s image no border divides site from situation.”1 There are two key components to this statement: one is the definition of the site by a boundary itself; the second is how that notion of site cannot be divorced from the activity, context, or network defined as the situation. By not limiting a site to a given political, legal (parcel), social, economic, or physical boundary, opportunities for a design’s expanded “spatial extension” can occur at a variety of scales.2

Boundaries are often equated with a “line of separation.” Inherent in Leonardo’s sketch and Kahn’s description is that demarcations of a site limit the intrinsic connections among disparate elements within the public realm. Therefore, the notion that a site is

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