To underscore the scope of more than 3.000 download from all over the world of the book “Architecture: How to proceed?" We will publish here six articles related with the concepts embedded in the book, to guide the reading and assist in the understanding, starting with this one that lays the basic guidelines of Global Urbanism.
The Global Urbanism understands and proposes that the city as a unity can be comprehended only if it is integrated as part of a larger system that includes global urban area as a whole.
In order to reach a total interpret clearness we will begin with a definition.
The urban area is the physical structure of human relations system.
For “urban area” can be understood, although it derived from the definition itself, the whole built-up area which contain actual human activity. Its comprehensiveness is not referred to its possible lawful scope -the area defined legally as “urban”- neither its eventual cultural reach –the spatial configuration we recognize as “city”- but the whole built-up area destined to the proper and human activity in present function. Then, e.g. is “urban” a small village far from a big city and is not the Athens’s Acropolis. (1) (2)
At the same time we must agree that exist a “human relations system”. Not to leave for granted we will say that such eventuality is fulfilled when three components get combined. First, a physical structure, where a process is carry out: precisely the urban area. Second, should exist a network configuration, in this case laws, norms, rules, written or unwritten, that regulated the human society. And third, a process should be performed, in this circumstance, economic, commercial, social, politic activities, in other words, the whole activity of human culture.
The systemic vision established entail a countless implications that will be exposed briefly.
1.-If exists an human relations system it is not fixed but changing, therefore its structure neither will be fixed but it will evolve along. It is worth nothing that the possibility of urban area variation, change, modification and/or growth and its spatial shaping is not an urbanistic accepted matter although it seems oddly. The majority of XX Century and even current theorists have been devoted to finding ways to avoid it through invariable determination of spatial configuration or inalterable delimitation of territorial occupation or both at once. Evidently, this action are clearly inscribed in a “static’ vision of the city. (3)
2. - As physical structure of the system it should be, first and foremost, effective to it. Articulate its network relationship, make them possible, efficiently resolved as well as adapted, and foment it. That is determinate, because establish to where should go the urban planning. Consequently, planning is not create city arbitrarily. Neither impede it abusively. Planning is act in function of human relationships and accordingly to it. Therefore implies a thorough knowledge of them and of its future evolution.
3. - The structure is not identical anywhere or nowhere. Since is not the human relationships, although obviously exist similar patterns. Accordingly the cities around the world are not equal despite can be affine behaviors. The human relationships are not equal in Asia or America and the attempt to equalize them is alienating as long as force or destroy singular behaviors.
4. – The urban area is indivisible. If we imagine an arbitrary line of internal division, any place on the entire globe, regardless it be political, regional or even cultural, is not possible to section and isolate both parts forasmuch as the two are inevitably and indefectibly interrelated through, precisely, the indivisibility of human relation system. (4)
5. - It can be comprehended only as a whole. Is not possible decipher the human relation system if not is understood in its totality. And that is really a key. The entire urban theory until now have pretending explain de city by itself and more currently (from the sixties) through its region. (5) From the approach we are talking here, an explanation of that kind is impossible as the system cannot be fathom if it is not comprehended as a whole. (6) And comprehend it as a whole means understand the process embedded in the global urban area.
6. - If it is devoted to the human being should protect its medium. Lacks of sense foment the human relations if the surrounding is not protected because the first is inseparable from the second. Hence, a systemic vision is essentially environmental.
Isolated the main concepts immersed inside the central proposition we can advance with some special features of the human relation system which will have direct effect in its physical structure. In particular, the notion of self-organization (7) implicit in all complex system. In fact, the system is out of equilibrium, it has wide degree of freedom, produce interconnected behavior changes, in nonlinear progressions, it lacks of central authority whom indicate or impose pre-established behaviors through planning, but it arise from its member’s interaction.
As the society is self-organized, inevitably its territorial organization, and specially, the urban area, will be conformed following it. (Irrefutable proof is XX Century urban development which follow separate precepts of the planned urban projects.) Cannot be planned with some degree of success then, if it is not understood the contained interrelationships and their likely future projections. Even further, cannot be planned with some level of fruition if it is not defended its self-organized evolution. Hence, the role of the planning is route the evolution of human relations system to reinforce itself.
While the human society falls into one system, its environment likewise. Harmonize by itself a highly complex system through the integration of countless systems at different levels of complexity inside whom the human society are only one. This system integration is coupled coherently if thereof cooperate in the common good. Therefore, is indissoluble the one benefit with the good of the whole. The benefit of human relations system is based in the member´s quality of life improvement. Clearly, this quality of life enhancement flow in parallel with a better environmental quality. But not merely. A better quality of life go alongside of higher social interaction, or denser relationships, where the individual acquires more equality, as the connection capacity trends to leveling among the social network´s members, and reach more freedom, as soon as is amplified the links range. Arise then that promote the social interaction is synchronic e immanent with the environmental protection, as both pursue the same aim, improve the quality of life, and are cooperative between them.
What emerges is that a fairer, freer and more egalitarian society, go through a highly interconnected urban society network, whose self-organization flows unimpeded towards environmental integration, that is to say, towards a more systemic interconnection, which is inseparable from their quest for freedom.
It is the task of urban planner collaborate in this regard. (8)
(1) It could be argued that the Acropolis is included as long as it receive a steady stream of tourists. But this activity is merely contemplative and not involves a specific use of the facilities.
(2) Needless to say, the creation of "physical structure" is necessary for the existence of city -or urban area- since human relationships can also develop through non-urban mediums that lack physical structure such as satellite communications.
(3) No such assessment will be already discussed here as is not the aim of the article. Can be consulted extensive urban literature, mainstream or not, to see how the concept is implicit.
(4) It is recalled that politically imposed walls quickly collapsed.
(5) For certain current views of orthodox line see Peter Calthorpe The regional City, Planning for the end of Sprawl, Island Press, 2001. Leading exponent of “New Urbanism”, who seek to explain the city within a regional scale accordingly to different levels. . However, the ecological region does not exist unless it is thought that the forests are independent of deserts, and then, because the environmental surroundings of a city today cannot be established in a limited area, but its effect on the environment is global. We might ask: As far influence the carbon monoxide emitted by New York City? On the other hand the economic region is also indeterminable unless you think in some kind of feudal economy. To conceptions with some openness ideas see Rem Koolhaas which as the last Modern ends up accepting that the city cannot be conceived on the basis of fixed, predetermined and limited models, to the taste and whim of the designer, which is realistic and healthy. But as inevitable result is pessimistic. Like saying: I do not know what to do with it, I cannot control it! A hundred and twenty years cost to Modernism realize that basic question. “Instead, the manifestation of the powers that configure the city has shifted from the outwardly visible to the invisible-that is, the city is not rendered through composition, gravity, form or material, as much as it is through demographics and economic performance.” Koolhaas, Rem; Chung, Chuihua Judy; Inaba, Jeffrey and Leong, Sze Tsung (2002) The Harvard Design School Guide to Shopping. Harvard Design School Project on the City 2, Taschen, New York, (pag. 180) The curious thing about the modernist vision is that the city was never product of “composition, gravity, form or material” but manifest structure of human relations system. As simple as that. And as complex. The inherent subsequent step is: The city does not make sense! It is chaotic! See Michael Batty, Cities and Complexity, Understanding Cities with Cellular Automata, Agent-Based Models and Fractals, The Mit Press, Cambridge Massachusetts, London, England, 2007.
(6) Because you will arrive to the conclusion of the mainstream Urban Theory mentioned in (5)
(7) There is plenty of literature on the self-organization concept. We selected three: Camazine S, Deneuboug JL, Franks N et al., Self-Organization in Biological Systems. Princeton, NJ: Princeton University Press, 2001. Mikhail Prokopenko Advances in Applied Self-organizing Systems, Springer, 2008. Steven Stogatz, Sync: The Emerging Science of Spontaneous Order, Theia, 2004
(8) For a more detailed reading see Chapter 5 and Appendix 3 of the Book ¨Architecture: How to proceed?” Available online at http://www.matiassambarino.com/publications.html