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Posted on March 11th, 2013, by

Reading 1. The Death and Life of Great American Cities.
Often city planning is performed according to theoretical perceptions about the functioning of the city. However, as it is described in The Death and Life of Great American Cities, many innovative projects fail because they are implementing without really understanding the mutual support of the city areas and their core functions. The author states that the way things work and look are interrelated, and thus city planning should be based on understanding economic and social order which is the background for the seeming disorder of modern cities (e.g. the analysis of East Harlem and other neighborhoods). I also believe that every area and city carries an own message, and this message should also be considered by planners and implemented into architectural details.

Reading 2. Modern visions of the medieval city: competing conceptions of urbanism in European civic design.
Modern urban landscape is to a large extent shaped by the medievalism, which can be witnessed on the example of architectural followers of Sitte and Le Corbusier. According to Sitte, organic development of medieval cities and their consequent irregularity create a natural beauty which cannot be imitated by structural city planning. Le Corbusier strongly opposed these views and believed that medieval ages were the époque of barbarism in architecture. Symmetric and straight planning and use of artificial materials were favored by the Futurists. In my opinion, none of this points of view is inherently right. Everything depends on the mission of the area and its relationship with other areas: e.g. for business centers futurist architecture might be appropriate, while for dormitory areas and decorative places medieval organic style is better.

Reading 3. Geography of Thought (Introduction).
The Geography of Thought was a whole discovery to me, and it coincides with several suggestions I had about the differences of Eastern and Western cultures. Indeed, these cultures are two different homeostatic systems, based on the tools used to learn the world. As a result, Eastern and Western people live in two different realities, shaped by certain metaphysical axioms and preferred ways of thinking. Asians tend to see the world in its complexity, while Western people tend to categorize phenomena. This approach also affects modern Western architecture: big cities which are planned tend to grow into slums, and I believe that it is the right time to adopt the part-whole perception of the Eastern people in order to build beautifully designed and functional cities.

Reading 4. Geography of Thought (Is the World Made up of Nouns or Verbs?)
Research of differences of thinking patterns between Eastern and Western cultures shows that Western people tend to use classifications and rules, while Eastern people use the part-whole dichotomy. The latter analysis is more natural than categorization, and proved to be better for flexible environments. Rule-based classifications work better in a stable world. Analysis of city dynamics and city planning is a complex process dealing with rapidly changing structure (especially in New York). Thus, I believe that for all Western people, and for architects in particular, it will be useful to master both approaches, and to be able to switch between them. Perceiving the city as a whole and analyzing all relations between its parts will enable architects to implement new successful projects without affecting existing structures.

 

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