For as long as people have been gathering in cities, planners have been shaping the urban landscape with the aim of bettering people’s quality of life. In Le Corbusier’s unrealized Ville Radieuse (Radiant City)—a 1924 masterplan for a new city designed on a strict, near-symmetrical grid—the perfect geometric form was seen as the key to a better society. The Congress for the New Urbanism, which was originally founded by a group of six architects in 1993 and now has chapters across North America, views coherent urban communities and the built form as necessary aspects of “economic vitality, community stability, and environmental health.”
The pragmatic principals of planning shape the urban landscape on the one hand—and it has long been established that the blueprints for our cities and neighbourhoods can improve our quality of life and physical health—but what is on the other? What about that intangible frenetic quality that defines the truly urban city—can, and should, we plan for that?
In the Concrete Tangle, Will Wiles refers to the patchwork layers of London as the “tangle.” It is comprised of the jumble of parts incoherently strewn together across the urban landscape—from the mishmash of roads, bridges, tracks, and tunnels to broken, forgotten infrastructure. This tangle, writes Wiles, is a fundamental part of the urban experience, a “bracing shock that places the world in perspective and informs us, without either warmth or rancour, that our lives are enmeshed in a vital mechanism.”
In addition to firmly rooting us in the reality of the multifaceted city, the entropic nature of the tangle may invite people to use and interact with the built form in creative ways. Speaking about disorder in relation to the city, Jürgen Krusche of the Institute for Contemporary Art Research in Zurich said: “Decay leaves gaps that allow for life to spread.” In cities all over the world, underused inner-city spaces are being reclaimed and revived—from New York City’s High Line to community art projects.
Is there room for the “tangle” within the master planned landscape?
[Top Image: Lee Jang Sub - "ComplexCity" Vector Map of Moscow]