Urbanism

This article is about the character of urban life. For other
uses, see Urbanism (disambiguation).
Urbanism is the study of the characteristic ways of in-

Urbanism theory writers of the late 20th century
A modern large-scale urban development in Kazan, Russia.

banism and suggests that the single dominant characteristic of modern urbanism is its networked character, as
teraction of inhabitants of towns and cities (urban areas) opposed to segregated conceptions of space (i.e. zones,
with the built environment. It is a direct component of boundaries and edges).[4]
disciplines such as urban planning (the physical design
Stephen Graham and Simon Marvin argue that we are
and management of urban structures) and urban sociolwitnessing a post-urban environment where decentralogy (the study of urban life and culture). However, in
ized, loosely connected neighborhoods and zones of acsome contexts internationally Urbanism is synonymous
tivity assume the former organizing role played by urban
with Urban Planning, and the Urbanist refers to a Urban
spaces. Their theory of splintering urbanism involves the
Planner.
“fragmentation of the social and material fabric of cities”
Many architects, planners, and sociologists investigate the into “cellular clusters of globally connected high-service
way people live in densely populated urban areas. There enclaves and network ghettos" driven by electronic netis a huge variety of approaches within urbanism.[1]
works that segregate as much as they connect. Dominique
Urbanism’s emergence in the early 20th century was asso- Lorrain argues that the process of splintering urbanism
ciated with the rise of centralized manufacturing, mixed- began towards the end of the 20th century with the emeruse neighborhoods, social organizations and networks, gence of the gigacity, a new form of a networked city
size, network density
and what has been described as “the convergence between characterised by three-dimensional [5]
[2]
and
the
blurring
of
city
boundaries.
political, social and economic citizenship".
Manuel Castells suggested that within a network society, “premium” infrastructure networks (high-speed
telecommunications, ‘smart’ highways, global airline networks) selectively connect together the most favored
users and places and bypass the less favored.[5] Graham
and Marvin argue that attention to infrastructure networks is reactive to crises or collapse, rather than sustained and systematic, because of a failure to understand
the links between urban life and urban infrastructure networks.

Urbanism can be understood as placemaking and the creation of place identity at a city-wide level, however as
early as 1938 Louis Wirth wrote that it is necessary to
stop 'identify[ing] urbanism with the physical entity of
the city', go 'beyond an arbitrary boundary line' and consider how 'technological developments in transportation
and communication have enormously extended the urban
mode of living beyond the confines of the city itself.' [3]

1

Concepts
1.2 Pragmatism

1.1

Network-based theories
The philosophical movement called pragmatism, which
asserts that most philosophical topics are best viewed in

Gabriel Dupuy applied network theory to the field of ur1

2

4

terms of their practical uses and successes, emerged at
roughly the same time as urbanism and pragmatists and
urban practitioners have influenced each other.

• Urban geography

Part of the philosophy of William James, one of the
founding fathers of pragmatism, was to encourage people
to actively reach out to the points where they can critically
engage with others. The theme of democracy was also
central to John Dewey's version of pragmatism. He believed that in a democratic society, every sovereign citizen
is capable of achieving personality. He argued that the
concept of place should be open to experimentation for
the hope of realising a better world.[6]

• Urban planning

According to Richard J. Bernstein, “these themes are
also basic applications of urbanism”. Under pragmatism,
place is defined throughout continuous interactions with
its dwellers, therefore there cannot be a platonic ideal of
placeless or an essential definition of place. This approach can be seen in the theory of placemaking that
emerged in the 1960s, epitomised by Jan Gehl's quote
“First life, then spaces, then buildings – the other way
around never works”.[7]
Anti-foundationalism and fallibilism are related to pragmatism. In the context of those, pragmatists argue that
the idea of space needs to be able to cope with unpredictability and change. The notion of a community as inquirers emphasises that the idea of place will be sustained
only as long as there is a community to support it.

1.3

Other modern theorists

Douglas Kelbaugh identifies three paradigms within urbanism: New Urbanism, Everyday Urbanism, and PostUrbanism.[8]
Paul Knox refers to one of many trends in contemporary
urbanism as the "aestheticization of everyday life".[9]
Alex Krieger states that urban design is less a technical discipline than a mind-set based on a commitment to
cities.[10]

EXTERNAL LINKS

• Urban design

• Principles of Intelligent Urbanism
• Urbanate, a living environment envisioned by the
Technocracy movement
• World Urbanism Day
• MONU - magazine on urbanism

3 Endnotes
[1] Jonathan Barnett, “A Short Guide to 60 of the Newest Urbanisms,” Planning volume 77 (2011-4) 19-21
[2] Blokland-Potters, Talja, and Savage, Mike. (2008). Networked Urbanism: Social Capital in the City. Ashgate
Publishing.
[3] Wirth, Louis. 1938. Urbanism as a Way of Life. The
American Journal of Sociology, volume 44, number 1:
pages 1-24. July.
[4] Dupuy, Gabriel. (2008). Urban Networks – Network Urbanism. Amsterdam: Techne Press.
[5] Graham, Stephen, and Marvin, Simon. (2001). Splintering Urbanism : Networked Infrastructures, Technological
Mobilities and the Urban Condition. London, UK: Routledge.
[6] Bernstein, Richard J. The pragmatic turn. Cambridge:
Polity, 2010. ISBN 978-0745649085
[7] “Jan Gehl - Project for Public Spaces”. Project for Public
Spaces. Retrieved 2016-06-16.
[8] Kelbaugh, Douglas, 2009, Three Urbanisms and the Public Realm
[9] Knox, Paul, 2010, Cities and Design, page 10.
[10] Krieger, Alex, 2009, Urban Design, page 113.

2

See also
• Ecological urbanism

4 External links

• Green urbanism

• International Forum on Urbanism

• Landscape urbanism, an urbanism modeled on the
disciplines of landscape architecture and ecology

• Aseem Inam, Designing Urban Transformation
New York and London: Routledge, 2013. ISBN
978-0415837705.

• New urbanism, a response to contemporary problems such as urban sprawl and traffic congestion
• Unitary urbanism, a critique of urbanism as a technology of power by the situationists
• Sustainable Urbanism

3

5

Text and image sources, contributors, and licenses

5.1

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5.2

Images

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5.3

Content license

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