Amid the cultural and political ferment of 1960s France, a group of avant-garde architects, artists, writers, theorists, and critics known as "spatial urbanists" envisioned a series of urban utopias, phantom cities of a possible future. The utopian "spatial" city most often took the form of a massive grid or mesh suspended above the ground, all of its parts (and inhabitants) circulating in a smooth, synchronous rhythm, its streets and buildings constituting a gigantic work of plastic art or interactive machine.
In her thoughtful collection of essays on the relationship of architecture and the arts, Giuliana Bruno addresses the crucial role that architecture plays in the production of art and the making of public intimacy. As art melts into spatial construction and architecture mobilizes artistic vision, Bruno argues, a new moving space—a screen of vital cultural memory—has come to shape our visual culture.
In the 1990s, MIT began a billion-dollar building program that transformed its outdated, run-down campus into an architectural showplace. Funded by the high-tech boom of the 1990s and and driven by a pent-up demand for new space, MIT’s ambitious rebuilding produced five major works of architecture: Kevin Roche’s Zesiger Sports and Fitness Center, Steven Holl’s Simmons Hall, Frank Gehry’s Stata Center, Charles Correa’s Brain and Cognitive Science Complex, and Fumihiko Maki’s still-unrealized project for the Media Laboratory.
Racial minority and low-income communities often suffer disproportionate effects of urban environmental problems. Environmental justice advocates argue that these communities are on the front lines of environmental and health risks. In Noxious New York, Julie Sze analyzes the culture, politics, and history of environmental justice activism in New York City within the larger context of privatization, deregulation, and globalization.
We experience spaces not only by seeing but also by listening. We can navigate a room in the dark, and "hear" the emptiness of a house without furniture. Our experience of music in a concert hall depends on whether we sit in the front row or under the balcony. The unique acoustics of religious spaces acquire symbolic meaning. Social relationships are strongly influenced by the way that space changes sound. In Spaces Speak, Are You Listening?, Barry Blesser and Linda-Ruth Salter examine auditory spatial awareness: experiencing space by attentive listening.
The story of the Adam Joseph Lewis Center at Oberlin College—the first substantially green building to be built on a college campus—encompasses more than the particulars of one building. In Design on the Edge, David Orr writes about the planning and design of Oberlin's environmental studies building as part of a larger story about the art and science of ecological design and the ability of institutions of higher learning themselves to learn.
Le Corbusier's Hands offers a poetic and personal portrait of Le Corbusier—a nuanced portrayal that is in contrast to the popular image of Le Corbusier the aloof modernist. The author knew Le Corbusier intimately for thirty years, first as his draftsman and main assistant, later as his colleague and personal friend. In this book, written in the mid-1980s, Wogenscky remembers his mentor in a series of revealing personal statements and evocative reflections unlike anything that exists in the vast literature on Le Corbusier.
Standards and codes dictate virtually all aspects of urban development. The same standards for subdividing land, grading, laying streets and utilities, and configuring rights-of-way and street widths to accommodate cars (rather than pedestrians) have been adopted in many areas of the world regardless of variations in local environments. In The Code of the City, Eran Ben-Joseph examines the relationship between standards and place making.
As urban planning moves from a centralized, top-down approach to a decentralized, bottom-up perspective, our conception of urban systems is changing. In Cities and Complexity, Michael Batty offers a comprehensive view of urban dynamics in the context of complexity theory, presenting models that demonstrate how complexity theory can embrace a myriad of processes and elements that combine into organic wholes.
The meaning of a message, says William Mitchell, depends on the context of its reception. "Shouting 'fire' in a crowded theater produces a dramatically different effect from barking the same word to a squad of soldiers with guns," he observes. In Placing Words, Mitchell looks at the ways in which urban spaces and places provide settings for communication and at how they conduct complex flows of information through the twenty-first century city.