Architecture of the City: Urban Design

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Architecture of the City

“Architecture of the City” is a prominent book on urban design theory where Rossi puts forth the notion that designs of the city should not only be rooted in the city’s built, social, and cultural past, but to also take these examples from the past and use them to inform the development of the present and the future. While doing so, Rossi speaks on various elements that include monuments, ‘locus’, and ‘the collective memory’. Although this ‘treatise’ on urban design remains relevant in today’s culture of design, I would argue that in places with less expansive histories (i.e. North American cities) these guidelines can only go so far. Places such as Regina, Saskatchewan might not have the cultural past that is needed to properly address the issues of the present, or at least to the extent that Rossi suggests in this reading. This writing will attempt to take each of Rossi’s chapters and try to apply them to a younger city and see if they still manage to come through with results akin to Rossi.

In the first chapter, Rossi argues that the form of a city is concise with the architecture. According to Rossi, the architecture of the city is a huge artificial object that grows over time as well as an urban artifact that is purely characterized by specific form and history. Regardless of the fact that these aspects as described by Rossi perfectly relates to the uniqueness and quality of urban artifact, it would be difficult for their application to younger cities to yield the same results. The fact that the aspect of art is narrowly linked to their uniqueness implies that it is also linked to their analysis, a phenomenon that presents considerable complexities beyond inner aspects. If for instance one takes a particular urban artifact and attempts to describe it, it is evident that the some difficulties will arise some of which are derived from the ambiguity of language. Although they can be overcome, there will always be a type of experience that is familiar to only “cities” who had the privilege of walking through the specific building, or street. It is thus important for younger cities to concern themselves with various disciplines including urban topography, urban geography and architecture. According to Jordan (280), architecture is interlinked with the social context in that it does not only form the background of the daily lives of the individuals but also shaped by the surroundings both professionally and physically. Thus, once this dichotomy between the culture and function of the urban reflects a deeper divergence, sensitivity to art is sorely appreciated essentially and allegedly for own intrinsic qualities.
Rossi in her second chapter names the second of the two main city topologies as primary elements that are capable of accelerating the entire process of urbanization into a city. Rossi argues that proper understanding of parts of cities can be easily derived from various aspects including linguistics, history, psychology as well as geology. In applying this aspect however, young cities should recognize that the ability of an architectural piece to satiate its role in the urban form is very important due to the fact that it stimulates ultimate development of a dependable neighborhood. One of the notable strengths of Rossi’s language is that while dichotomizing the different parts of the city into the components, the concrete application of the typologies is within an open-ended system. While the problem of typology is never treated in a logical way and with the basic breadth, its study in the modern society is not only emerging but also seems quite promising; a phenomenon that reveals that modern architects ought to be concerned with arguments that concerns this nature. Basically, typology is an element that has a very distinct role in constitution form in that it is a constant. However, the problem arises on discerning the modalities in which it operates within as well as its effective value. Additionally, the fact that the value of the city is established by the language as well as the dwellings arising out of the need to summarize the image of the city implies that there is an embodiment of the values of the culture housed. This is revealed in the sub-urban dwellings that exploit the privacy and mobility to create a “detachment” between the people. To embrace Rossi’s philosophy, young cities should realize that the dwelling is reliant on the whole and is a constructed image that fills the space along the street. One can perceive it as a created insight of what is deemed normal to the city (Kelbaugh and McCullough 198).
In chapter 3, Rossi affirms that the locus is the relationship between the building and the location where he reveals that the urban artifact obtains its distinctiveness from the locus. He further references history as the real formation as well as the structure for urban artifacts relating it to shared thoughts and the endurance of the urban structure. From this point of view, it is evident that the city is the soul of the city and the collective memory of its inhabitants as well as the comparable memory that triggers the association with places and objects which in turn turns out to be the locus of the people. In younger cities however, it would be in one way or another difficult to study the urban structure in reference to urban history. Hietala (1) argues that competitiveness is among the strategic objectives of cities in the globalized world. In the modern society, urban history is facing various challenges including the need for comparative aspects and interdisciplinary for the development of cooperation between various disciplines as well as the maintenance of the professional status of the hypothetical urban history. Additionally, new amalgamations of threats are created in urban areas with overlapping biological, natural, social and technological risks call for more security. As Haddad, Rifkind and Laurence (n.p) reveals, it is not only difficult to take anti-historical position in the contemporary architecture but also a dangerous precedent. Building in a preconceived modern style is absurd due to the fact that the modernist abandonment of architectural history as well as the fact that modern urban proposals often results in schemes that are antagonistic to cities and the ways of life. It is thus important for architectural and urban plans to respond to the local climates and environment, the existing urban and architectural conditions as well as the immense patrimony of inherited experience embodies in the city.
In his last chapter, Rossi emphasizes on the process of the city evolution as well as the manner through which the various forces are applied and the way through which their application causes dissimilar changes. Rossi argues that industrial revolution and modern cities are not in any way linked to the qualitative differences of the problems of the urban affirming that these problems have always existed and thus purely related to the city itself. Thus, according to Rossi, land sub-division and expropriation are the archetypal spectacles for urban evolution due to the fact that they can promote both immediate and radical transformation (Rossi 139). In contemporary terms however, the struggles of urban governance does not only relate to the nature of the interests of the people living in the cities but also the complexities presented by the modern urban societies as well as urban areas. According to Nel-lo and Mele (261), this complexity is directly dependent on the complexities of urban artifacts which often require cultured technical capabilities as well as financial resources which may not be available to younger cities. Additionally, it is apparent that the expansion of urban areas with the core objective of including larger administrative bodies such as provinces, counties and municipalities may make the cities administratively complex and fragmented thereby posing governing problems.
In conclusion, the approach of grasping the city with “naïve” concepts is incongruous in the domain of architecture owing to the fact that the establishment of cities as well as its evolution not only relates to one but many factors. From the above analysis, it is evident that Rossi’s arguments concerning the cities can be smeared in younger cities. Regardless of the fact that there will be considerable challenges, the younger cities can still manage to come through with similar results. For instance, Rossi’s theory on the city regarding his various arguments including history, locus, monuments, spatial system, work of art and collective memory can be very useful in understanding and analyzing younger cities in that they can be reproached in accordance to Rossi’s approaches in devising effective ways of construction towards an all-inclusive as well as a user- oriented perspective. Some parts of young cities can be approached in the same way Rossi comprehended the city as an archaeological artifact thereby allowing him to effectively analyze it as a complete construct set in the realm of the architecture. Additionally, the theory of permanence is critical in understanding cities owing to the fact that their past is partially being practiced now. This is without doubt a means through which the cities can be accorded longevity.

Work cited

Haddad, Elie, David Rifkind, and Peter L. Laurence. A Critical History of Contemporary Architecture: 1960-2010. , 2014. Print.

Hietala, Marjatta. “New Challenges For Urban History: Culture, Networks, Globalization”. Cult. Hist. Digit. J. 1, no. 2 (2012): e008.

Jordan, Peter D. Material Culture and Sacred Landscape: The Anthropology of the Siberian Khanty. Walnut Creek, CA: AltaMira Press, 2003. Print.

Kelbaugh, Douglas, and Kit McCullough. Writing Urbanism. Taylor & Francis, 2008. Print.

Nel-lo, Oriol, Renata Mele. Cities in the 21st Century. Routledge. 2016. Print
Rossi, Aldo. The Architecture of the City. Cambridge, Mass u.a.: MIT Press, 2002. Print

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