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Urban design part of the planning mainstream


Urban design is about the primacy of the whole over the part.

The 'look at me!' self-centeredness of some new architecture is in opposition to this, but I cannot agree with Barrie Evans that, therefore, urban design is not in good health (AJ 8.1.04). Instead, I consider it is doing pretty well, with urban design procedures becoming increasingly part of the orthodox mainstream of planning and design. It is ironic that he notes that the headlines go to blobs and other gestures rather than to good urban design. Who but journalists are responsible for this?

Rem Koolhaas' theory and built work is certainly problematic here, with his apparent desire to relive the history of the 1960s disaggregated object building all over again, only this time bigger, faster and louder. For this reason I am not an enthusiast for Koolhaas' urban theory (as my students would tell you). But I think Evans may have picked the wrong building, in the Dutch Embassy in Berlin, to illustrate the issue of gesture versus conventional contextualism.

Eccentric in its internal planning it may be, but from the published material I have seen, the building, while physically separate and with its own distinct identity, appears to sit very comfortably in its context, and to respond intelligently to it. I may have to reconsider my views.

Joe Holyoak, Birmingham

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