Triumph of the City

The post takes its title from the book I have just finished reading and which I intend to summarise so that you can either enjoy the synopsis and be inspired to read it for yourself, or simply take away my interpretation of the lessons presented therein. [caveat: I initially started reading this book about three years ago and got most of the way through it, but admittedly found some of the chapters repeating the same ideas, which made me put the book back on the shelf and only pick it up recently to finish it, for my personal satisfaction of completeness.] I have decided to use the concluding chapter as a guide to comment on the ideas presented in the book with subheadings as in the original text, which I quote from liberally.

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Making places better

Urban designers must concern themselves with the making of the physical world so as to not disadvantage first-off and future users. What they can do and must do is ensure, as far as possible, where finite resources are being allocated, that they work through and evaluate the physical implications of that allocation so as to not disadvantage the less powerful and less influential users. What this means in practice is a willingness to engage in open, exploratory and interactive design processes; it means promoting tried and tested solutions so that we are least likely to disadvantage unknown future users; and it also means challenging urban forms which are promoted by the development industry, but which clearly disadvantage particular groups such as ‘the transport poor’. This simple reversal from ‘maximising choice’ to ‘minimising disadvantage’ is an important reorientation of the focus of urban design practice. It moves away from the rather grandiose claims of much urban design rhetoric and leads more strongly towards and evaluative process. It requires the working through of the implications of location and configuration for the widest possible group of users in the making of better places.

– “Reviewing the Rhetoric” by Sue McGlynn, from “Making Better Places: Urban Design Now”, 1993

The article was written nearly 20 years ago, but I don’t believe it to be ‘dated’. On the contrary, I think that if anything, the points raised are even more relevant today.