Monday, April 11, 2005

Book Review: Urban Space

Urban Space by Rob Krier
Rizzoli, 1993
Hardcover, 174 pages



Visiting Stuttgart, Germany for about a half day ten years ago, I was impressed by the pedestrian nature of the city, probably the most suited to walking of any European city I visited at that time. One could walk across across parts of the city without ever encountering automobile traffic, achieved via bridges and viaducts. The pedestrian malls along the way reinforced this apparent importance on walking.

The urban condition of Stuttgart, Rob Krier's hometown, is very important to the architect/planner. One of the four chapters of Urban Space is devoted to the reconstruction of devastated parts of the city center. Although I can't say for sure how much of Krier's exhaustive plan influenced the city's efforts, his plan is intended more as a critique of Modern planning than as a realistically realizable scheme. The first two chapters set up the extreme dialectic between traditional, shaped urban space and the leftover space created by Modern planning and its object-centric approach to architecture. Abundant illustrations - primarily plans and perspective views - are used to get across this message, one that is undeniable while regrettably ignoring the political mechanisms that have allowed Modern planning to take precedence over traditional forms of planning. Now thirty years old, this book no less relevant today, though the author's plans seem just as dated as the ones he feverishly rallied against.


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