Narrating an Analogical Urbanism: Rooms+Cities

McEwan, Cameron orcid iconORCID: 0000-0002-0683-1708 and Holm, Lorens (2018) Narrating an Analogical Urbanism: Rooms+Cities. MONU (29). pp. 38-43. ISSN 1860-3211

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For a generation, economic dogma, market-oriented urbanism and the continued anti-theory narrative has shaped the form of cities and the collective urban imaginary. From Michael Speaks’ “theory is an impediment” proclamation to Patrik Schumacher’s “free market urbanism,” there is sharp division between those who argue for the formal knowledge of architecture based on close-reading, historical process, deep analysis and speculative thought on one side, and those who urge a technical and application based approach tied to instrumentality and economic rationality leading to architecture that is all too often highly utilitarian at one extreme or no more than a narcissistic aesthetic object at the other. Monetary value has superseded any other value. Green land and the public realm are everywhere under threat by squanderous development practices that favour suburban typologies and consumerist mentalities. We need to push back.
Architecture has the capacity to imagine new possibilities for dense city-making, new possibilities for inhabitation, new possibilities for private and public life, and new relations of cities to the land. There is a continuous line of architectural thinking from the Enlightenment to the contemporary avant-garde that recognises the power of architecture to imagine new forms of city and social life and which have proposed critical projects and counter narratives.
We propose analogical urbanism as a critical project of close-reading the city and a counter narrative to the dominant tendency of neoliberal thought and its architecture, which has instrumentalised the imagination. This paper will circumstantiate the idea of analogical urbanism by drawing on three critical projects: Aldo Rossi’s project of the analogical city as “logical-formal principle” of close-reading; Oswald Mathias Ungers’ typological and morphological reading exemplified in the Archipelago City project, which condensed the structure of the city and its conceptual associations into singular analogical islands; and Mario Gandelsonas’ linguistic readings of the city which bring subjectivity and urban form into close relation, termed here analogical figures. Against the ethos of individuality, instrumentality and economic technocracy, projects such as these assert a counter narrative of collective, speculative and critical thought toward a renewed discourse on architectural imagination and the urban imaginary.
We organise the paper as two narratives in dialogue: a theoretical narrative that argues the possibility of an analogical urbanism elucidated by a reading of the projects by Rossi, Ungers and Gandelsonas; and a visual narrative using a selection of work from our Masters level architectural design research unit entitled Rooms+Cities.

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