You are on page 1of 21

From Le Corbusier to Leon Krier and New Urbanism

Contents 1. Abstract 2. Introduction : Emergent Urbanism & the phenomenon of Wikipedia 3. What is Urbanism : Some critical Terms, Definitions & Ideas 4. Modernism : Le Corbusier & the Villa Contemporaine 5. Chandigarh : A critical evaluation 6. New Urbanism : Leon Krier & other contemporaries 7. Poundbury : A critical evaluation 8. Conclusions & Insights : New Ideas & Paradigms in Urbanism 1. Abstract This short paper seeks to distil the idea of Urban Design as clearly distinct from that of Architectural Design. For this purpose it sets up a dialogue between varied approaches to Urban Design as evidenced in (1) the Modernist approach (represented by Le Corbusier and others like him) on the one hand, and, on the other hand (2) the New Urbanist approach (represented by Leon Krier and various others), to establish how, the two are closer in vision than we might assume at first glance. The paper tests both approaches with the evidence of real towns and habitations based on these two distinct manifestoes to prove that though each approach has its raison d'tre as well as flaws, yet, both share many common ideas which encapsulate the idea of Urbanism, because Urban Design and what Urbanism comprises of, is fundamentally different from the idea of Architectural Design, and therefore although their realized visions in terms of architectural design may be different, their urbanistic ideas are to a large extent convergent. The paper will compare and contrast terms like Traditional Urbanism, New Urbanism, suburban sprawl, dense sprawl, TNDs etc., evaluating and validating their significance in the urban order of the 21st century.

The paper also reflects on the polemic of Planning-Free cities how successful is an urbanism totally free of any framework? Conversely, how relevant is an urbanism which is framed within a rigid manifesto? The argument will converge on the need for a fresh look at Urbanism the need to rethink the creation of urbanity the need for Emergent Urbanism. 2. Introduction : Emergent Urbanism & The phenomenon of Wikipedia

Fig. 01 : An old edition cover of Vers Une Architecture, A 1985 Edition translation Towards a New Architecture by Dover Publications, & the Cover of Architecture Choice or Fate by Leon Krier
Source : ; ;

Iconic and respected architects and urban designers like Leon Krier and Le Corbusier have written manifestoes about how cities should be designed and what a city means. Le Corbusier wrote Towards a New Architecture, in which he defined not only his vision for the architecture of the future, but his vision of urbanism as he envisaged after the advent of the car. Similarly, Leon Krier has written Architecture : Fate or Choice and has lamented the follies of modernist design, and sought to be inspired by towns and cities of the pre-modernist era. Both these manifestoes are deeply thought and profound documents, they elucidate unique approaches to making cities, but their flaw is that they are personal visions of city-making, whereas a city is a vast fabric composed and wrought out of millions of interventions. An individual howsoever perceptive or brilliant cannot draw up the sum total of a perfect and complete city.

Another critical idea emerging from this review is that though architecturally the ideas of Leon Krier and Le Corbusier may be very different, the former favouring low rise pedestrianized architecture, the latter emphasizing tall towers with large green spaces interspersing, in terms of Urban Design, the inner clarity of the ideas seem convergent (not least in their desire for a more habitable city). One specific convergence is about the car and its relationship to the city. Krier hints at the car being a necessary evil, whereas Corbusier praises it as a great technological marvel and boon. However both realize the importance of the car and its drastic impact on urban fabric. Krier wants to keep the car out of the core of the living area, as does Corbusier, though their approaches are very different. Corbusier wants to segregate pedestrian streets from the network of vehicles by placing them at different levels or in different rings. He envisages a pedestrian plaza and street network raised above the vehicular network at the ground level in the Plan Voisin. Krier uses a different method. He proposes a sort of ring of vehicular traffic encircling the city with arms reaching into the pedestrian zones, keeping the core pedestrian area completely car-free. This one example elucidates that urbnim is an amalgam of different socio-economic and technological forces and h significantly diffrnt initiation int frm that of rchitctur. Just like the advent of the car completely changed our cities, and its impact could not be fully designed, it just happened, its utility being gradually realized over a period of time and interventions being made sporadically in cities towards its integration, similarly, th creator/artist is not an omnipotent God who has control over every aspect of urbanism. Myriad aspects of the city hn t nc, vrywhr and at the same time. Attmts t control and direct thi dynamism completely may lead to disarray. The fount of urbnim coincides with the trting int tht th fundr f Wikidi, Jimmy Wl, t fr himlf whn h tblihd th Intrnt nw mt indinbl wbit. (Helie, 2008 [online]) Intd f ublihing the research of xrts and cilit in ncycladic format on the internet and thereby cmting with similar rint editions ( vntur in which Wales

had previously invested much effort and finances, and failed), he decided to b hi ytm n th thri f the cmlxity cintit nd cnmit Fridrich vn Hyk. Hyk postulates that cific knwldg exists which is possessed nly by individul, nd this knowledge cn b utilizd only with thir cllaboration. Based on this postulation, Wl set about accumulating and structuring thi knwldg int n articulate, systematic and interconnected ytm, which we all know and use daily as Wikipedia. Th Internet or wrld-wid-wb is a giant knwldg ntwrk of hyrlinkd and intermeshed information, tht vryn contributes information to. Before Wikipedia, the world web was an incoherent and confusing smorgashbord of knowledge, most of this knowledge unverifiable and unreferenced. Organizing and cataloguing this knwldg in an orderly manner was deemed impossible. But Wales wanted to do something about this unusable and untested knowledge. A fresh perspective was needed on how hyperlinks and webpages were created. Wikidi, as an information network for end-users became this interface successfully. Within yr of its commencement, Wikidi saw exponential and explosive growth. Mking infrmtin ir t crt nd cc hd md it ibl fr th um ttl f ncycldic knwldg t b ridly cntitutd. (Helie, 2008 [online]) There are however many conformities that have to be followed to let Wikidi be continuously accessible and legible to all its users. Although anyone can upload information to the project, th website strictly defines the frm tht this cntnt will tk n crn. Thi i imperative in rdr t maintain continuity and cohesiveness within the increasing cmlxity f th ytm. Th dign therefore remains constant in Wikidi cr pages, so that one can quickly nvigt thrugh a large sequence of knowledge withut the need t continuously rlrn th rul fr vry page. Nonetheless, clicking n link t Wikidi g, is never without its share of surprises and new discoveries. Th framework for the design, does not cntrin th cntnt, but rather acts as an nblr to th cntnt. A multiplicity of information is

resolved and organized into a cohesive whole yet, each piece of information holds its own magic and uniqueness. The Wikimdi fundtin (which runs Wikipedia) rvids th tructur and design framework essential t th creation of knowledge by its ur, but on the flipside, Wikipedia has to trut its ur, that the information they create and upload is authentic and genuine. While hundreds of thousands of articles cannot be monitored and validated one by one, Wikipedia has instituted the peer-validation system, where other users can report inaccurate content or approve and verify uploaded content. Thus in summation, these are the contours of an Emergent System, which constantly evolves and grows, but within a framework. Th ln Wikidi holds for us, are l in evidence in th rich and varied history of urbn design. In the past, th mt vibrant and outstanding citi were not those th that hd th lt lnning but those that had the mt nbling ln. Th early 1800s Mnhttn Pln for instance, facilitated th xtnin f trt grid in a supple manner withut intrfring in wht culd b built within th blck, thereby nbling an urbnitin of a scale and pace never before seen in hitry. Th negative id f thi model h bn th crtin f unfavourable or harmful city dign tht n n found any joy in living in. No city, can b completely lnning-fr, it has to have some digned components Hutn being a classic example. Thugh the city h n zning bye-laws, it h mode of planning which lays dwn grid f rd tht necessitates a city completely dependent on automobiles. Th rd, by thir vry articulation and structure, mk m ty f urbnitin difficult and others easier. The argument is that, great cities are formed as a coming together of individual buildings in a way where each building is unique and has something to contribute to the city, and a lot of these individual buildings combine together to creater a larger story, but all within a paradigm/framework that encapsulates and promotes a greater dimension/breadth of meaning.

3. What is Urbanism : Some critical Terms, Definitions & Ideas This section discusses and illustrates with examples terms like natural cities and artificial cities as defined by Christopher Alexander, Traditional Urbanism, New Urbanism, suburban sprawl, dense sprawl, Traditional Neighbourhood Developments (TNDs) and various other terms which play a critical role in a discourse on Urbanism. (a) Natural Cities & Artificial Cities Christopher Alexander calls those cities which have arisen more or less spontaneously over many, many years as natural cities. In contrast he calls those cities artificial which have been deliberately created by designers and planners. Thus looked at in this light, both Chandigarh by Le Corbusier, and New British Towns like Poundbury by Leon Krier are artificial cities. (Alexander, 1965) (b) New Urbanism it is an urban design movement, promoting walkable neighborhoods containing diverse and varied housing and job types. It arose in the United States in the early 1980s and continues to reform many aspects of real estate development and urban planning. (Wikipedia, 2010) (c) Suburban Sprawl It involves the spreading outwards of a city and its suburbs to its outskirts endlessly with no clear defining line between urban and rural, with residential developments based on the personal ownership of cars, coversion of arable rural land to housing, and various layout features that increasingly make the city periphery low density and spread out. As a result, sprawl leads to the need for long commutes to places of work, inadequate infrastructue in terms of cultural, health, entertainment, recreational facilities and higher per-person infrastructure costs. (US Bureau of Census data on Urbanized Areas, 2007) (d) Traditional Neighbourhood Developments (TNDs) - the planning of a complete neighborhood or town using traditional town planning principles. TND may be implemented in infill urban settings and involve the adaptive reuse of existing urban fabrics, but often it involves ground up construction on previously undeveloped greenfield sites; a TND includes a diversity of residential developments, a network of connected streets and blocks, humane &

pedestrianized public spaces, and amenities such as stores, schools, and places of worship within walking distance of houses. (The Town Paper, 2008) Although TND is an American coinage the European idea of an Urban village could be loosely implied as a TND. By that coin, Poundbury would be counted as a TND. 4. Modernism : Le Corbusier & the Villa Contemporaine This section describes Le Corbusiers conception of an ideal city, with the Villa Contemporaine or his City of Three Million Inhabitants.

Fig. 02 : City of Three Million Inhabitants, Le Corbusier

Source :

In a vast diorama at the Paris dAutomne in 1922, A Contemporary City for Three Million People was presented. It proposed great blocksof flats opening up on every side to air and light, and looking, not on the puny trees of boulevards today, but upon greensward, sports grounds, and abundant plantations of trees. (pg. 59-61, Le Corbusier, 1927/1985) In the centre of the proposed city was the cit (the business district), with plus- shaped towers blocks of offices, surrounded by lower entertainment and other commercial buildings. Surrounding this central high-rise ensemble, on a diamond plan, would be the apartment blocks on the angled linear redent principle. At the corners were more apartment blocks, enclosing courtyard-like spaces. The city would be bisected by

elevated highways 40 metres wide for fast traffic, where other main roads would cut across the grid. In-between, the ground would be reserved for pedestrians.

Fig. 03 : The City for Three Million Inhabitants (The Villa Contemporaine) plan & perspective ;
Source :

The blocks were proposed to be lifted up on stilts (Corbusier called them piloti), and to be linked by a gridded network of elevated highways and ground level service roads. Corbusier called the modern street a new type of organism, a sort of stretched-out workshopThe various stories of this stretched-out workshop would each have their own specific functions. (pg.167, Le Corbusier, 1929/1971) The four functions oriented about the axis of the street, like housing, recreation, work and traffic would be strictly separated. This would not allow for the enclosure of spaces in the traditional manner of city-making. The street, in a way, would be isolated from the

buildings. At that time, Corbusiers proposal was revolutionary. It was a time when automobiles, by our standards, used to crawl through city streets upto 1923 in Germany, for instance, the legal maximum speed in dense city districts was 9 miles per hour or 15 kilometres per hour. (pg. 233, Kostof, 1992) In A Pattern Language we seem to get both approval and criticism of Corbusiers ideas The net-like pattern of streets is obsolete. Cars can average 60 miles per hour on freeways, but trips across town have an average speed of only 10 to 15 miles per hour. (pg. 127, Alexander, 1971) Cars give people wonderful freedom and increase their opportunities. But they also destroy the [urban] environment, to an extent so drastic that they kill all social life. (pg.64, Alexander et al., 1977) With these contadictory statements, it becomes clear that there can be no single magic solution for urbanism. A hybrid and continuously evolving solution is needed. But before we discuss that paradigm, let us see, how Corbusier sought to implement his ideas of the Villa Contemporaine in Chandigarh.

Figure 04 : Chandigarh Master Plan : Network of Linear Roads

Source : Le Corbusier & Pierre Jeanneret, Bahga & Bahga, Galgotia Publishing Company, New Delhi (2000)

5. Chandigarh : A critical evaluation This section looks at a realised vision of Corbusiers city Chandigarh, in the Indian state of Punjab, developed in the early 1950s. The section highlights the main features of Chandigarh, but also elucidates the primary failures of the city at various levels (Figure 04). On the invitation of the first Prime Minister of free India, Corbusier set forth to design Chandigarh (the citadel of the Goddess Chandi) on the plains of the state of Punjab in north India. Although the city was envisaged to be low-rise in keeping with the existing urban traditions of Indian city-making, the network of roads and circulation was in keeping in Corbusiers ideas of segregation and separation of functions into neat categories. Due to the low rise nature of the city, instead of the vertical segregation of the roads as proposed in his City of Three Million, he chose a horizontal sgregation model based on the 7Vs.

Fig. 05 : Corbusier Sketch of Streets V1-V7, and Drawing of Evolving Road Junctions
Source : Le Corbusier & Pierre Jeanneret, Bahga & Bahga, Galgotia Publishing Company, New Delhi (2000)

Figure 05 shows a sketch by Corbusier, in which he defines roads on a hierarchy from V1 to V7. This was defined as the System of Roads (7Vs) symbolising the structure of a tree, hierarchically and progressively branching out from the stem to the leaf and proportionately reduced in size in accordance with the quantum of life juices to be carried. V1 were regional highways leading into the city from outside. V2 roads


connected to the V1s in the city periphery and form the main axes of the city. The V3 roads surrounded the sectors forming the grid pattern of the city. These were meant for fast moving traffic with least interruptions and no openings on them. The V4 were shopping streets bisecting the sectors. These were meant for mixed traffic. The V5 looproads intersected the V4s at 2 points in each sector. The V5s ensured the distribution of slow traffic inside the sector. The roads V6 gave access to the doors of individual residences. These would not receive transit traffic. Finally, V7s were the pedestrian and cycling streets running through the park belts of the city. Figure 06 shows Sector 22 in the city, with the V roads implemented in a hierarchical manner.

Fig. 06, Sector 22, Chandigarh showing the hierarchy of the V7s
Source : Le Corbusier & Pierre Jeanneret, Bahga & Bahga, Galgotia Publishing Company, New Delhi (2000)

On the negative side, the complete segregation of streets has led to an un-lively city with many dead pockets in the last 50 years. Growth of the city has been skewed and restricted to certain pockets, discouraging inclusive and homogeneous development. The crossfertilization and interactions between different activities and actions in the city, which feed each other and fuel growth of a city, have been actively discouraged in Corbusiers Chandigarh. In the Death and Life of Great American Cities, Jane Jacobs wrote To


understand cities, we have to deal outright with combinations or mixtures of uses, not separate uses, as the essential phenomena. (pg. 144, Jacobs, 1961). In this aspect Chandigarh has struggled to a large extent, due to the planning segregations built into the design. It has failed to generate the buzz of multiple activities happening at the same time on a vibrant city street, that is the want of all great urban centres. 6. New Urbanism : Leon Krier & other contemporaries Many years before Leon Krier of his contemporaries spoke of New Urbanism, urban designers and architect-philosophers like Raymond Unwin (Britain), Camillo Sitte (France) & Daniel Burnham (Chicago, United States) were trying to find ways and means to take the idea of the traditional European city and update it for the Industrial/postIndustrial framework. The proposals thus marrying traditional European Urban design ideals to modern automobile driven city-living resulted in the conception of the the Garden city movement, the proposals of city beautiful schemes. The layouts of Hampstead Garden Suburbs and Letchworth were a direct result of these exertions. This section looks at the theories of revivalists such as Leon Krier, Rob Krier & Quinlan Terry and how they have sought to look to the past for ideas of city making. We discuss this approach in some detail. Leon Krier is best known for the development of Poundbury in Dorset, UK, under the patronage of the Prince of Wales. Krier's message is heroic it calls for us to choose better surroundings and a better life than the widespread car dependent suburban living of our time. He exhorts that we need no longer remain sufferers to botched-up ideologies of suburbia. Krier begins his tirade against the contemporary anti-city or non-place with the description of the tragedy of present day zoning - the systematic ripping apart of civic complexity into more and more fragmented segments. Zoning may have started as a practical reply to the hodgepodge and filth of newly industrialized cities of the 18th


century, but it ultimately degenerated into a theoretical framework which had no resonance with the real needs of the city or daily life, making car enslavement, compulsory. Due to the inflexible logic of zoning, vibrant activities like shopping are given the same handling as assembly line manufacture, disconnected from the places where people live, with the result that many cities (especially in the United States) have degenerated into large parking lots.

Krier recognizes, with due-diligence, that an appraisal of this chaos is unproductive without a feasible counter-vision, and he presents a powerful set of ideas, beginning with drawings of master plans for the restitution of numerous City Centers in Europe and the United States, a striking design for the capping of Washington, D.C., touching finally upon the actual project of Poundbury which has been under construction for quite a years now, beginning to be inhabited to an extent in recent years. Where Corbusiers idiom was a direct challenge to Traditionalism, Kriers oeuvre is a direct challenge to Modernism. Thus the clock has come a full circle.


7. Poundbury : A critical evaluation The town of Poundbury, on the outskirts of Dorchester, in Dorset, funded by Prince Charles, the Duchy of Cornwall, and designed by Leon Krier forms the crux of the debate in this section. Issues of relevance and effectiveness of such an urban model as Poundbury (and other such new towns in England) is discussed in detail.

Fig 07: The Development Extents of Poundbury

Source :

Poundbury is actually a western extension of the medieval town of Dorchester. It grew from the area outlined by the red line. There is a sharp demarcation on this map (figure 07 above) between town and country. Leon Krier wanted to keep this abrupt boundary in his design by leaving out the suburban sprawl that banishes the countryside to a remote distance accessible only by car. Thus the enlargement of Dorchester was envisaged here shown by a heavy black outline. The core of Poundbury (the first phase) has been built and is shown in red. It is a swathe of land of 35 acres, less than the dimension of many a suburban shopping malls parking lot.


Fig. 08 : Sketch of Poundbury by Leon Krier & Layout of Phase One

Source :

The phase one development (at least) was envisaged to be a traditional high-density urban pattern (see figure 08), not a suburban one (which is less dense), focussing on harbouring a mixed use community of shops, private and social housing and businesses, with no zoning. The planners wanted to design the development around people rather than cars, and they aimed to provide a quality environment, from the selection of materials to the architecture, and the landscaping. To some degree, the project exhibits similarities to the contemporary New Urbanism movement in the USA, except that the design paradigms are European. The design of the houses are in traditional architectural styles, with various period features. The masterplan was developed towards the end of the 1980s and implementation / construction began in 1993. Krier's plans were criticised for mixing too many architectural styles and for the use of building materials brought from outside Dorset, which was not consistent with the building traditions of Dorchester. It was anticipated that the four plan phases would be implemented over 25 years with a total of 2,500 residential units and a populace of 6,000 or thereabouts.


The positives were there for everyone to see there was a sense of community, and large areas were pedestrianized leading to a more humane and walkable neighbourhood concept. Since there was no zoning, many businesses, places of work and places of living exist side by side, engendering a vibrant and dynamic town fabric. The negatives were often not in keeping with expectations. For instance, in keeping with the New Urbanism principle, Poundbury was envisioned to dramatically reduce dependency on the car and encourage public transport, walking & cycling. However, a study conducted after the completion of phase one indicated that automobile use was significantly higher in Poundbury than in the neighbouring district of West Dorset. (Watson, 2004). Reasons for this needed to be researched. Also, the average speed of vehicles in Poundbury was noted to be around 10 kilometres per hour. Although the distances within the town of Poundbury were not great, these vehicular velocities were akin to the crawling speeds in German towns in the pre-first World War era. (See argument on page 9 of this paper). Also, although the layout was commendable and fostered a healthy living community, the architectural styles harked back to a vernacular and pre-industrial age. The development of Poundbury however failed to demonstrate that it was possible to design a traditional settlement, with a time honoured town layout, yet be of this present time by embracing contemporary architectural styles, construction methods and materials. 8. Conclusions & Insights : New Ideas & Paradigms in Urbanism This section brings to a grand table all the ideas put together in the earlier sections and strings it together into a cohesive argument for a new approach to Urban Design, Planning and Urbanism, indicating the commonalities and divergences in the visions of Leon Krier and Le Corbusier. Both these luminaries strived to create a paradigm that sought to solve the prevalent problems of Urbanity of their time and space. Corbusier was militating against the chaos and squalor of Industrial London and Paris, where narrow streets and lack of light and air were making living conditions in cities progressively unbearable and unhygienic. Also he knew that the automobile would soon become a powerful and necessary mode of personal


and private transport in the city, where-in at that time, the urban layouts were ill-equipped to deal with the advent of automobile. Thus Corbusiers solution was the Plan Voisin or City of Three million inhabitants wide roads and high-rises, with large green areas and everyone receiving light and ventilation in full measure, where the car was no longer trapped to crawl and slither through the narrow alleyways of a city, but would zoom on the linear motorways specifically created for it. Corbusier had solved many problems of his day and age with his grand vision, but what he did not realise was that he had created many problems for the future. The large and wide roads of his scheme would cut-off parts of the city from each other in the future. People living in tall towers would have splendid views of greens, and enough light and sunshine, but they would be living in ivory towers, isolated from their communities and in small glass house tenements in the air. They would lose touch with the ground and with acitivities which can and only happen best at ground level. The strict segregation of activities would rob the city of those precious cross-exchanges between different activities and trades and multi-tasking, which is the life-blood of a vibrant urbanity. The impulse motives of street flaneuring would all melt into nothingness. People would go about their work and lives as though they were automatons or machines, just like the cars they were driving. The increased mobility afforded by the car would allow the city to become sparse, and more and more spread out, leading to the phenomena of present day urban-sprawl and Suburbia. Everything would be further and further away, and walking was no longer a viable alternative to go from point A to point B. The great pleasures of walking would die a slow death. The countryside would no longer remain a country-side, the city would no longer remain a city, it would all become one vast extended low density suburbia. Leon Krier stepped into this paradigm and sought to arrest this trend. He wanted to revive the traditional city model of the medieval and ancient past, where distances were walkable, different trades and activities interacted with each other in the city, people actually met each other accidentally in the market and cinema hall while sauntering, rather than just driving to these places at pre-ordained times. He knew that Suburbia had


killed the city, and he wanted to redensify the cores of cities which were slowly dying. He too, like Corbusier, was grappling with urban issues of his time and age and trying to find a suitable paradigm that would solve all problems in one fell swoop. But his ideas, although they led to many solutions, also created various problems in their wake. In emulating the models of ancient and medieval cities, it cannot be emphasized enough that these old cities were for thousands, whereas present day megapolises are populated by millions. How can a model which fitted a community of thousands answer the requirements of tens of millions of inhabitants? Clearly there is a mis-match. Also, although at micro-scopic levels, New Urbanism probably works well, quite beautifully in fact, as the experiment at Poundbury proves quite substantially, yet such ideas will be extremely difficult (if not entirely) impossible to implement at the scale of cities like Tokyo, Shanghai, Kuala Lumpur or Mumbai, which are the densest and some of the largest and most dynamically growing urban agglomerations of the twenty-first century. What is the most significantly flawed aspect in the approach of both Krier and Corbusier is that like master artists, they wish to paint a canvas in one go, filling in all the details and making a master-piece. But as already discussed in the opening section of this essay (page 3), such individuals seek to think about the planning process as an orchestra, where each piece is fine tuned and fitted into position. But such careful calibration and orchestration is not the reality of present day urbanism. It is ever changing and fluid nad therefore planning principles and approaches must constantly adapt and transmogrify themselves to meet the challenges of a specific place, time and problem. This brings us back to the discussion about Wikipedia. Wikipedia proves that we do need some sort of over-arching framework for the growth of a system, yet the system must have enough flexibility and scope for dynamism and change, such that individuals and entities (various stake-holders in the urbanity process) can contribute to the growth and development of the system. This idea find a strong advocate in the voice of Christopher Alexander. Although the term Emergent Urbanism has been recently coined and Alexander has been a voice we


have been familiar with for atleast two score years now, he was an advocate of this idea, long before it became fashionable to talk about Emergence.

Fig. 09 : An evolving semi-lattice & A rigid linear tree &

In the Article titled A City is not a Tree, Alexander outlines the fact that all the cities of the present modern and post modern age have been designed as though there are linear relationships between different components of cities. In truth , he says, the relationships are overlapping circles, and these circles are constantly morphing and changing so that one circles overlaps with another or becomes the subset of a larger circle. This phenomenon he calls a semi-lattice. Thus Emergence creates semi-lattices, not trees. A tree can be designed, but a semi-lattice can only be provided for with a framework. (Alexander, 1965) Emergence is a process dictated by morphology, in that it is the exact reverse of design, where actions lead to form, instead of actions being orchestrated to bring a form to fruition. In the first half of the 21st century, complexity science is finally reaching some maturity with two scientific tomes on the subject, Stephen Wolframs A New Kind of Science and Christopher Alexanders The Nature of Order. Jane Jacobs first hinted at the fact that Urbanism was a sort of Emergent system, but it is only now that we are beginning to realise this to a greater extent. In emergent cities, economic & social networks grow more complex with greater scales and more density. A fully-realized city, as a result of its complexity, can only come to pass through emergence. Modern urban planning and design has successfully eliminated complexity, leaving an unfulfilling and linear cityscape for us to deal with. Urbanism and urban design are different not in shape


but in dimension. While urban design necessitates the control of a designer or single developer to achieve its desired effect, urbanism connects a multitude of actors into a shared marketplace. This is complexity science, Urbanism cannot be designed, it can be provided for, that is the stark reality of the 21st century. Thus we need a hybrid of a Planning Free approach with a Structured approach, a system which points towards Emergence an Emergent Urbanism, which constantly evolves and assimilates, and does not stick to a single dogma or idea. The days of rigid manifestoes are long over.

9. References Alexander, Christopher (1997), A Pattern Language, Oxford University Press, New York Alexander, Christopher (1965), A City is not a Tree, in Architectural Forum, Vol 122, No 1, April 1965, pp 58-62 (Part I) & Vol 122, No 2, May 1965, pp 58-62 (Part II) Helie, Mathieu (2008) Emergent Urbanism [online], Available at : , (accessed on 08-12-2009) Jacobs, Jane (1961/1992 revised) The Death and Life of Great American Cities , Vintage Books, Random House Inc., New York Jencks, Charles & Kropf, Karl (ed.)(1997) Theories and Manifestoes of Contemporary Architecture, Academy Editions, john Wiley & Sons, Chichester, West Sussex Krier, Leon (1998), Architecture : Choice or Fate , Andreas Papadakis Publishers, Berkshire, UK


Kostof, Spiro (1992), The City Assembled :The Elements of Urban Form through History, Little Brown & Company (Thames & Hudson Imprint), London Le Corbusier (1927) (1985 translated into english by Frederick Etchells). Towards a New Architecture or (Vers une Architecture), Dover Publications, New York Le Corbusier (1929) (1971 translated into english by Frederick Etchells). The City of To-morrow& Its Planning, Dover Publications, New York North Carolina Department of Transportation (2000) Traditional Neighbourhood Development Guidelines [online], Available at : , (accessed on 07-12-2009) The Town Paper (2008) What is a TND? Available at : , (accessed on 25.01.2010) US Bureau of Census data on Urbanized Areas (2007) What is Sprawl? [online], Available at : , (accessed on 25-01-2010)
Watson, G., Bentley, I., Roaf, S. and Smith, P., (2004) Learning from Poundbury, Research for the West Dorset District Council and the Duchy of Cornwall , Oxford Brookes University







at , (accessed on 25-01-2010)