by Christopher de Vries
Article for MONU Magazine “Geographical Urbanism”
Physical geography is a synthesis of two of humanities highest held deities; science and nature. The apparent objectivity of exact measurement combined with the sublime qualities of geophysical processes allow humanity to feel heroic and humbled at once. The marriage of urbanism and geography therefore sounds profoundly meaningful and promising. This essay, however, will argue that exactly because a geographic urbanism appears so self-evident it often mystifies ulterior socio-political agendas guiding urban development and architecture. Geography, just like any other science, religion, technology, or tool is ultimately operative, in the Tafurian sense, that is, ideologically instrumental. This essay will juxtapose localist and cosmopolitan applications of geographic approaches to urbanism through various case studies and seeks to reveal how normative political agenda’s seek legitimisation through a geo-scientific rationale. Out of these seemingly antithetical uses of geography in urbanism an alternative use is proposed. Geography in urbanism could be a reflective practice, a polemical approach that could underpin a self-conscious urbanism that reveals the tension between ideological aspirations and the geophysical constraints of our planet.
“Earths proud empires are constantly passing away. But the plains and the mountains, the seas, peninsulas and islands, apparently go on forever”. – Norman Davies, Europe : A History
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