If the disciplines of urban planning and civil engineering respectively form the impervious architecture and fixed framework of cities of Western industrial society today, then planners and engineers are thefoot soldiers in the maintenance and management of the myth of instrumental reason. Perpetuated by State-driven policy, the over-emphasis on “legibility” in strategies of abstraction (land use keys) and data aggregation (demographics) have simplified complex information, and where “predictions have often been wildly wrong.” The risk of reason is personified in the positivist role of technocratic engineer “the best exemplar of the power of expertise… reinforcing directly and indirectly the rule of instrumentalism and unending economic growth. Over time, the implementation of legal limits, and categories of accountability-institutionalized through standardization and systematization, have gradually contributed to the rigid and segregated space of cities today. “The modern engineering enterprise is primarily a colonizing project, ” both self-aggrandizing and totalizing. Removed more and more from regional resources and dynamic biophysical processes, the neutralization and normalization of process is heightened by the security found in quantitative logic and numerical precision. Anthropocentric economies of expediency and exactitude simply externalized ecologies of race, class, and gender. The assumed neutrality of infrastructure is perhaps its most dangerous weapon.
Header: Pierre Bélanger + OPSYS, Waste Flows, Backflows, and Reflows, Maas-Rhine River Delta, Rotterdam, The Netherlands, (2009)
Without much fanfare, The Landscape Urbanism Reader, takes leave of living as the designer’s primary point of departure. The task of designing the city’s metabolism in the form of distribution centers, water-purification installations, high-tension lines, waste-disposal locations, and infrastructure bundles is at least of equal importance. In precise analyses supported by diagrams and aerial photos, Alan Berger y Pierre Bélanger, among others, sketch these components of the new programme. The book also denounces both the suburban city’s spectacularity wasteful use of space and its failure to reuse such things as disused industrial estates and abandoned agricultural land, whose reanimation and completion/revitalization must be made, with the help of environmental know-how, into primary tasks.
That’s the point: things that must be made: a group claim for commissions that seeks the support of the whole group of the discipline appealing to the common interest. It’s true that is necessary to think about new programmes for the contemporary city but, one can say too that this is not the only possible analysis, especially if you think about all the cities of the world or that, claiming for work too often mean to renounce to have a critical point of view on urban policies as disciplines used to do in the past. You can say indeed, as Leanne Muir and other do (check this), that all that is just marketing bullshit. And all this can be true, sometimes, we need to understand when a project is pure self-marketing and when is not. And maybe we should recover some discursive devices for the critic of urban policies and support the brave authors that openly make those critiques. That’s not bad for enthusiasm.