Archive for the 'theory and method' Category

Geographers on postmodernism [I]: introduction

November 7, 2009

In the last 20 years geographers have taken the lead in drawing up spatially-informed theory (notably Lefebvre) to analyze cities, both contemporary and historical.  They have been at the forefront of what many see as a “spatial turn” in the social sciences.  At the moment I’m reading three books from this “space”; the three are, in chronological order (which is clear and significant):

  • David Harvey, The Condition of Postmodernity: An Enquiry into the Origins of Cultural Change (Oxford [England]: Blackwell, 1989).
  • Edward W Soja, Thirdspace: Journeys to Los Angeles and Other Real-and-Imagined Places (Cambridge, Mass: Blackwell, 1996).
  • Michael J. Dear, The Postmodern Urban Condition (Oxford, UK: Blackwell, 2000).

The three make an excellent set:  all analyze the present city (bearing in mind that Harvey’s book was published 20 years ago) in relation to postmodernism.  None questions that we are now postmodern, that there has been a broad cultural and intellectual shift since the 1970s, rooted in the social upheavals and transformations of the 60s.  However their positions toward that state of affairs are quite distinct.

What interests me most is that in taking on the large and contentious topic of “the postmodern city” these geographers must also at least sketch the modernism that preceded it.  Read the rest of this entry »



November 2, 2009

The LA department has a weekly faculty colloquium this quarter, and in last week’s session Iain Robertson commented that in landscape design, you never quite know what will happen since you can’t entirely control how things will grow.  He saw this as indicating design should be understood as “stewardship” as much as creation.

This strikes me as more than just metaphorically true of architecture and especially urban design and planning.  We can only design the built environment up to a point.  Other than this circumstance being more difficult for a landscape architect to ignore, I’m not sure there’s much difference.  Human social dynamics are different from those of plants, animals, seasons, and weather, but equally prone to not working out as planned.  And at another level there’s no real distinction.  We humans are fauna after all – we, and all the things we build, are as much part of “nature” as anything.


Phenomenology [presentation response]

October 29, 2009

A few weeks ago at the history-theory faculty colloquium Bob Mugerauer presented on Heidegger, and (as usual, it seems) the discussion got cut off right when it became interesting. Ralph Stern, citing Christian Norberg-Shulz as an example of someone using phenomenology as a method to theorize architecture, raised an interesting question.

Read the rest of this entry »