It is with amused shock that I read Liz Bailey's review of my book Quantum City (AJ 13.2.03). Actually, I believe she did judge it by its cover - or as she admits - by its typesetting. It is clear to me she did not in fact read it at all. I always use the reaction to the typesetting to sieve out who has followed the thread of the book and who has merely flicked through it.
Self-conscious and personal it definitely is, and I do not expect everyone to sympathise with my personality. But the point of the book is that the city is a subjective matter, yet our formal education would not allow for that subjectivity;
instead, we keep thinking of, say, urban design, as that 'blob that sits squarely in the [insert position here] quadrant'.
Ironically, the diagram she refers to in illustrating me 'not having a clue' is the very one I use to show that few people seem to have any clue as to what urban design really is. If she had read the body of the text, this would have been clear to her.
The diagram, by the way, does not show one blob, but closer to a dozen blobs spread about, signifying the variety of random definitions different people give urban design.
Quantum City was written with people such as Ms Bailey in mind: overly technical and seriously missing the point of what a city is about. One of the ideas behind the book is not to relate urban design to quantum physics directly, as she mistakenly assumes, but to show that the change in world view, affected by the 'new sciences' (the paradigm shift due to popular interpretations of quantum physics among others), is long overdue in the disciplines that relate to the city.
The truisms that offended her are the very ones that shape the popular world view, and that is what I am interested in:
popular perception, including architects' and urbanists' perceptions, will always be more effective than fact.
Quantum theory is but an excuse to show that even the 'hard sciences' have accepted the role the subjective human has in the creation of his or her reality.
Hence my proposed redefinition of the urban designer as citizen.
Had she read it, she would have perhaps understood the differences between 'factual, metaphorical and interpretive', which set this book apart from other attempts, such as Bill Mitchell's, Charles Jencks' or even Christopher Alexander's work.
Admittedly, Quantum City was begun at a time when the whole world seemed far more optimistic than today, and I do understand that the rather jubilant tone I sometimes affected could sound out of sync with the gloom that is in the air.
Too bad this obscured for Ms Bailey an enjoyable and eyeopening book. Otherwise she might even have found I share her scepticism towards the artificial over-use of the subject.
Finally, having written this response in immediate reaction to my initial shock, I now feel glad Quantum City did hit that nerve with Ms Bailey. It proves my point; there still is far too little humour in urbanism.
Ayssar Arida, via email