社科essay/report/assignment/paper代写-Whatever Happened to Urbanism?


  • Whatever Happened to Urbanism?

  • Author(s): Rem Koolhaas

  • Source: Design Quarterly, No. 164, Sprawl (Spring, 1995), pp. 28-31

  • Published by: Walker Art Center

  • Stable URL: http://www.jstor.org/stable/4091351 .

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  • Whatever

  • by Rem Koolhaas




  • This essay is excerpted from

  • S, M, L, XL published by

  • Monacelli Press. Reprinted

  • with permission.

  • This century has been a

  • losing battle with the issue

  • of quantity.

  • In spite of its early

  • promise, its frequent brav-

  • ery, urbanism has been

  • unable to invent and

  • implement at the scale

  • demanded by its apocalyp-

  • tic demographics. In 20

  • years, Lagos has grown

  • from 2to7to 12to 15

  • million; Istanbul has dou-

  • bled from 6 to 12. China

  • prepares for even more

  • staggering multiplications.

  • How to explain the para-

  • dox that urbanism, as a

  • profession, has disappear-

  • ed at the moment when

  • urbanization everywhere

  • -after decades of con-

  • stant acceleration-is on

  • its way to establishing a

  • definitive, global “triumph”

  • of the urban condition?

  • Modernism’s alchemistic

  • promise-to transform

  • quantity into quality

  • through abstraction and

  • repetition-has been a

  • failure, a hoax; magic that

  • didn’t work. Its ideas,

  • aesthetics, strategies are

  • finished.Together, all

  • attempts to make a new

beginning have only discredited the idea of a new

beginning. A collective shame in the wake of this fias-

co has left a massive crater in our understanding of

modernity and modernization.

What makes this experience disconcerting and (for

architects) humiliating is the city’s defiant persistence

and apparent vigor, in spite of the collective failure of

all agencies that act on it or try to influence it-

creatively, logistically, politically.The professionals of

the city are like chess players who lose to computers.

A perverse automatic pilot constantly outwits all

attempts at capturing the city, exhausts all ambitions

of its definition, ridicules the most passionate asser-

tions of its present failure and future impossibility,

steers it implacably further on its flight forward. Each

disaster foretold is somehow absorbed under the

infinite blanketing of the urban.

Even as the apotheosis of urbanization is glaringly

obvious and mathematically inevitable, a chain of

rearguard, escapist actions and positions postpones

the final moment of reckoning for the two profes-

sions formerly most implicated in making cities-

architecture and urbanism. Pervasive urbanization has

modified the urban condition itself beyond recogni-

tion.”The” city no longer exists. As the concept of

city is distorted and stretched beyond precedent,

each insistence on its primordial condition-in terms

of images, rules, fabrication-irrevocably leads via

nostalgia to irrelevance. For urbanists, the belated

rediscovery of the virtues of the classical city at the

moment of their definitive impossibility may have

been the point of no return, fatal moment of discon-

nection, disqualification. They are now specialists in

phantom pain; doctors discussing the medical intrica-

cies of an amputated limb.

The transition from a for-mer position of power to areduced station of relativehumility is hard to perform.Dissatisfaction with thecontemporary city has notled to the development of acredible alternative; it has,on the contrary, inspiredonly more refined ways ofarticulating dissatisfaction.A profession persists in itsfantasies, its ideology, itspretension, its illusions ofinvolvement and control,and is therefore incapableof conceiving new mod-esties, partial interventions,strategic realignments, com-promised positions thatmight influence, redirect,succeed in limited terms,regroup, begin from scratcheven, but never will reestab-lish control. Because thegeneration of May ’68-thelargest generation ever,caught in the “collectivenarcissism of a demographicbubble”-is now finally inpower, it is tempting tothink that it is responsiblefor the demise ofurbanism-the state ofaffairs in which cities can nolonger be made-paradoxi-cally because it rediscoveredand reinvented the city.Sous le pave, la plage (underthe pavement, beach): initial-ly, May ’68 launched the ideaof a new beginning for thecity. Since then, we havebeen engaged in two paral-lel operations: documentingour overwhelming awe forthe existing city, developingphilosophies, projects, pro-totypes for a preserved andreconstituted city and, atthe same time, laughing theprofessional field of urban-ism out of existence, dis-mantling it in our contemptfor those who planned (andmade huge mistakes in plan-ning) airports, New Towns,satellite cities, highways,This content downloaded from on Wed, 10 Sep 2014 15:49:58 PM

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  • highrise buildings, infrastructures, and all the other fallout

  • from modernization.After sabotaging urbanism, we have

  • ridiculed it to the point where entire university depart-

  • ments are closed, offices bankrupted, bureaucracies fired

  • or privatized.

  • Our “sophistication” hides major symptoms of cow-

  • ardice centered on the simple question of taking

  • positions-maybe the most basic action in making the

  • city.We are simultaneously dogmatic and evasive. Our

  • amalgamated wisdom can be easily caricatured: accord-

  • ing to Derrida, we cannot be Whole, according to

  • Baudrillard, we cannot be Real, according toVirilio, we

  • cannot be There-exiled to the virtual world: plot for a

  • horror movie.

  • Our present relationship with the “crisis” of the city is

  • deeply ambiguous: we still blame others for a situation

  • for which both our incurable utopianism and our con-

  • tempt are responsible.Through our hypocritical relation-

  • ship with power-contemptuous yet covetous-we dis-

  • mantled an entire discipline, cut ourselves off from the

  • operational, and condemned whole populations to the

  • impossibility of encoding civilizations on their

  • territory-the subject of urbanism.

  • Now we are left with a world without urbanism, only

  • architecture, ever more architecture.The neatness of

  • architecture is its seduction; it defines, excludes, limits,

  • separates from the “rest”-but it also consumes. It

  • exploits and exhausts the potentials that can be generat-

  • ed finally only by urbanism, and that only the specific

  • imagination of urbanism can invent and renew.The death

  • of urbanism-our refuge in the parasitic security of

  • architecture-creates an immanent disaster: more and

  • more substance is grafted on starving roots.

  • In our more permissive moments, we have surrendered

  • to the aesthetics of chaos-“our” chaos. But in the tech-

  • nical sense chaos is what happens when nothing happens,

  • not something that can be engineered or embraced; it is

  • something that infiltrates; it cannot be fabricated.The

  • only legitimate relationship that architects can have with

  • the subject of chaos is to take their rightful place in the

  • army of those devoted to resist it, and fail.

  • If there is to be a “new urbanism” it will not be based on

  • the twin fantasies of order and omnipotence; it will be

  • the staging of uncertainty; it will no longer be concerned

  • with the arrangement of more or less permanent objects

  • but with the irrigation of territories with potential; it

  • will no longer aim for stable configurations but for the

creation of enabling fields that

accommodate processes that

refuse to be crystallized into

definitive form; it will no

longer be about meticulous

definition, the imposition of

limits, but about expanding

notions, denying boundaries,

not about separating and

identifying entities, but about

discovering unnamable

hybrids; it will no longer be

obsessed with the city but

with the manipulation of

infra-structure for endless

intensifications and diversifi-

cations, shortcuts and redis-


reinvention of

psychological space. Since the

urban is now pervasive,

urbanism will never again be

about the “new,” only about

the “more” and the “modi-

fied.” It will not be about the

civilized, but about underde-


Since it is out of control, the

urban is about to become a

major vector of the imagina-

tion. Redefined, urbanism will

not only, or mostly, be a pro-

fession, but a way of thinking,

an ideology: to accept what

exists.We were making sand

castles. Now we swim in the

sea that swept them away.

To survive, urbanism will have

to imagine a new newness.

Liberated from its atavistic

duties, urbanism redefined as

a way of operating on the

inevitable will attack architec-

ture, invade its trenches, drive

it from its bastions, under-

mine its certainties, explode

its limits, ridicule its preoccu-

pations with matter and sub-

stance, destroy its traditions,

smoke out its practitioners.

The seeming failure of the

urban offers an exceptional

opportunity, a pretext for

Nietzchean frivolity. We have

to imagine I1,0I other con-

cepts of city; we have to take

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insane risks; we have todare to be utterly uncritical;we have to swallow deeplyand bestow forgiveness leftand right.The certaintyof failure has to be ourlaughing gas/oxygen; mod-ernization our most potentdrug. Since we are notresponsible, we have tobecome irresponsible. In alandscape of increasingexpediency and imperma-nence, urbanism no longeris or has to be the mostsolemn of our decisions;urbanism can lighten up,become a Gay Science-Lite Urbanism.What if we simply declarethat there is no crisis-redefine our relationshipwith the city not as itsmakers but as its meresubjects, as its supporters?More than ever, the city isall we have.

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–=East Parking Ramp at

Mall of America

Bloomington, Minnesota

Christopher Faust,

Suburban Documentation

Project, I99

The 4.n million square footMall of America is thenation’s largest shoppingmall. Airlines sponsor shop-ping junkets to the Mall fromplaces as distant as Japan.Most shoppers arrive by car.The parking ramps on theeast and west ends of the Mallexpress not only its massive-ness but the huge investmentsneeded to keep cars on theroad and walking from car tostore at a minimum.This content downloaded from on Wed, 10 Sep 2014 15:49:58 PM

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