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Tuesday, July 5, 2011

The Symbiotic City

***Please see my latest book, The Science of City Design: Architectural Algorithms for City Planning and Design Leadership, on in both e-book and paperback versions.***        


The elements of a city fall into four divisions: Shelter, Movement, Open Space and Life Support. Shelter is served by the other three, and the construction of shelter currently follows a speculative strategy of sprawl. This is because the perception of land as an infinite commodity continues to discourage the formation of city design strategy for a symbiotic future.  

          Symbiotic buildings are tactical achievements. They will continue to sprawl until a city design plan for open space and intensity defines shelter options for growing populations within a limited Built Domain. The goal is to protect its source of life – the Natural Domain. If architecture continues to focus on buildings without a symbiotic city design strategy, it will quickly fail as speculative sprawl consumes its source of survival. In my opinion, this is simply common sense based on instinct and intuition; and this is the gift of adaptation we have all been given. It is there to use before it is imposed, but it means we must respect all of the gifts we have been given.

          The relationship between buildings, pavement and open space within the Built Domain sets the stage for our quality of life. I’ve called these relationships “intensity”. At the project level I’ve explained the forecast models and design specification variables that can be used to predict intensity options for evaluation in previous essays; more extensively in my blog; and comprehensively within my book and software. I’ve also explained context evaluation that compares predictions to accumulated context research. The process is similar to blood pressure evaluation, since blood pressure measurements and predictions depend on research to place them in context.  

Architects who focus on shelter construction to serve special interests will remain at the tactical level of effort serving speculation and investment. Architects who look beyond to study the relationship of architecture to city design intensity within a limited Built Domain will have stepped to the strategic level of architectural effort. I’ve called this the architecture of city design (or the city design of urban form) based on context measurement, evaluation and prediction. The name is irrelevant as long as the emphasis is on intensity options and their physical, social, psychological and economic implications. The result will be architecture that shelters the activities of growing populations within the symbiotic limits of a sustainable Built Domain. The fine art of exceptional buildings can then be debated within a more stable built environment to bookmark our progress.

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