(Presented as part of the Summer Design Institute at University of Virginia’s School of Architecture 22 July, 2015)
Urban design, as it appears today, lacks vision, both toward imagining new spatial and socio-political organizations, but also toward its own self-constitution: the overtly ‘pragmatic’ nature of contemporary urban design practice reflects a lack of knowledge about the very object of design itself—the urban. This lecture is part of a larger research project which attempts to construct a theoretical framework necessary to address urban design. Central to this work is the following hypothesis: the urban flourishes today as a spatial order because it has no scale. Rather, it operates by coordinating and organizing materialities and circulations, freedoms and securities, access and prohibition, technologies and natures, wealth and bodies, inclusions and exclusions, barriers and penetrations at all scales. In this lecture, I will explore a form of urban design that has emerged in the latter half of the 20th century by privileging the scalar referent of ‘the unit’—a scale of design that proliferated in the work of architects around the world as a critique against the high modernism of CIAM and its proponents. Technology and humanism meet in an architecture that reproduces the boundless connectivity and expansion of the urban at the scale of the individual domestic unit.