The City Within the City

The City Within the City

A + U, Tokyo, Special Issue, November 1977, pages 69-152. Reprinted in: Architectural Design, volume 54 (1984), Jul/Aug pages 70-105. Also in: Léon Krier: Houses, Palaces, Cities, Demetri Porphyrios, editor, Academy Publications, London, 1984. With added sections from “The Cities Within the City II”, Architectural Design, volume 49 (1979), Jan pages 18-32; and “The Reconstruction of the European City”, Architectural Design, volume 54 (1984), Nov/Dec pages 16-22.


A city can only be reconstructed in the form of urban quarters. A large or a small city can only be reorganized as a large or a small number of urban quarters; as a federation of autonomous quarters. Each quarter must have its own center, periphery and limit. Each quarter must be A CITY WITHIN A CITY. The quarter must integrate all daily functions of urban life (dwelling, working, leisure) within a territory dimensioned on the basis of the comfort of a walking person; not exceeding 35 hectares (80 acres) in surface and 15,000 inhabitants. Tiredness sets a natural limit to what a human being is prepared to walk daily and this limit has taught mankind all through history the size of rural or urban communities.

There seems, on the contrary, to be no natural limit to the size of a functional zone; the boredom which befalls man while driving a car has made him forget any sense of physical limit.

The form of the city and of its public spaces cannot be a matter of personal experiment. The city and its public spaces can only be built in the form of streets, squares, and quarters of familiar dimensions and character, based on the local tradition. Whether of grand metropolitan or intimate local quality, the streets and squares must present a permanent and familiar character. Their dimensions and proportions must be those of the best and most beautiful pre-industrial cities, obtained from and verified by a millennia-old culture.

After the crimes committed against the cities and landscapes of Europe over the last few decades in the name of progress and efficiency, the professions of architecture and engineering deserve nothing but the contempt of the population. The function of architecture is not, and never has been, to take one’s breath away: it exists to create a built environment which is habitable, agreeable, beautiful, elegant and solid.

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The City Within the City


If you ask the question: Have Computers made us more efficient? you have set the bar rather low. Instead ask: Have computers made us as efficient as they possibly can? When you ask that question, you will start to use computers differently. Brad DeLong, deputy assist to the Treasury in the Clinton administration, notes in this article in Wired that they can be a distraction, and this is so true.

Paul Virilio also talks a lot about the unintended effects of technology, but he has been doing that for a long time now.

And of course, remember the Mennonites!

Here’s the article:

The High Cost of Efficiency
Computers make us more productive. Do they also slow us down?
July 2003 Wired Magazine

By J. Bradford DeLong

In the spring of 1994, I wiped the game Civilization off my office computer. I wiped it off my home PC. I wiped it off my laptop. I threw away the original disks on which it had come. It was clear to me that I had a choice: I could either have Civilization on my computers, or I could be a deputy assistant secretary of the US Treasury. [emph bye_f] I could not do both. It wasn’t that my boss ordered me to – she herself played a mean game of computer solitaire. In this, I was the boss, and I had decided that with Civilization on DeLong’s hard disk, DeLong’s productivity would be unacceptably low.

Computers are tremendous labor-saving devices. They give us power to accomplish extraordinary amounts of work in extraordinarily short intervals of time: financial analysis, data mining, design automation. But they also give us the capability to do things like play solitaire. Or send instant messages. Fiddle with fonts. Futz with PowerPoint. Twiddle with images. Reconfigure link rollovers.

But he really gets going when talking about the needless use of powerpoint (Full Disclosure: I really really dislike Powerpoint)

At the organizational level, however, the uses of high tech that might be valuable for an individual can be pointless or counterproductive. Consider a meeting to decide between two courses of action. Often, the same decision would be made whether weeks were spent preparing overheads or no overheads were prepared at all. It’s easy to see that, from the company’s point of view, all the hours spent on PowerPoint slides are dissipated waste.

But of course the best attack on powerpoint comes from Ed Tufte, who takes his criticism a step further, and notes how powerpoint interferes with thinking, hides information, and leads to wrong decision making. Yes, choice of tools is important!



Here’s an example of the internet making the older (even maybe the pre-industrial) work better. It’s a calculator that determines how walking friendly a neighborhood around any particular address is. The form of neighborhoods originated from basic ergonomic realities, so as we return to a more nature based urban structure (thanks to the sustainability imperative) it makes sense that measuring how human friendly these neighborhoods are, and making that measurement available, will accelerate demand for housing in these areas. Of course, these neighborhoods don’t really need that help-they are attractive for other reasons as well, as you can see on this website from my neighborhood.

Another example of the internet making older forms work better is here.

Oh, the website that measures how walk-able a neighborhood is is right here:

To-do: correlate a location’s walkscore with it’s real estate value. Anybody know G.I.S. out there? It also fits in with the new topology of globalization, where the only necessary flows are expertise and information, with commodities becoming more difficult to move around the world and industrial goods becoming lighter and lighter, due to the cost of transporting them and the consequent ability for smart companies to intelligently re-localize the labor inputs so as to reap a decisive cost advantage vs. their competitors.


The Future CIA: You

From an old, old draft I’d started here is Eblen Moglen is giving a talk at Google and he mentions, as almost an aside, the implications of free and open source methodologies for national security, and it’s not a random or an insignificant point. (This point is made near the end of the show…but it’s a good show anyway.)

All Dressed Up and No Place to Go By Eben Moglen 27 March 2007

What does he mean? Is he crazy? No, he understands some essential processes. And now I’ve got two links that explain this further, so I don’t have to finish the post I’d started. The benefits of procrastination!

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The Future CIA: You

Old Buildings, Healthy Buildings, Sustainable Buildings

An interesting paper confirms what many concerned with building design have long suspected, but which had lacked (to some degree) empirical support: that older buildings, built according to traditional building practices are healthier than modern buildings built to ‘state of the art’ newer standards. In other words, those old foggies that used drafting boards, and were deeply suspicious of computers actually did know what they were doing. Article published in the Public Library of Science Medicine Journal:

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Old Buildings, Healthy Buildings, Sustainable Buildings

Live Locally, Sell Globally

I was reminded the other day of an interesting passage in Fritjof Capra’s book Hidden Connections:

Although mycoplasm are minimal cells in terms of their internal simplicity, they can only survive in a precise and rather complex chemical environment. As biologist Harold Morowitz points out, this means that that we need to distinguish between two kinds of cellular simiplicity. Internal simplicity means that the biochemistry of the organism’s internal environment is simple, while ecological simplicity means that the organism makes few chemical demands upon its internal environment.

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Live Locally, Sell Globally

Bjørn Lomborg’s mixed up short term logic

Another in a series brought to you by the military-installed & amazingly free sideways adjectives…

Bjørn Lomborg backtracks so quickly, he falls down quite a bit, in a mis-titled piece over at Project Syndicate. I say mis-titled because the secret in the title: Global Warming’s Dirty Secret turns out not to be Global Warming’s secret but the Kyoto agreement’s secret:

But nobody sees fit to reveal the agreement’s dirty little secret: it will do next to no good, and again at very high cost. According to one well-established and peer-reviewed model, the effect of the EU cutting emissions by 20% will postpone warming in 2100 by just two years, yet the cost will be about $90 billion annually. It will be costly, because Europe is a costly place to cut CO2, and it will be inconsequential, because the EU will account for only about 6% of all emissions in the twenty-first century. So the new treaty will be an even less efficient use of our resources than the old Kyoto Protocol.

So, if Mr. Lomborg wants to write a piece about Kyoto’s dirty little secret, great, perhaps he should. But if someone lies right in the title of a piece, why does he deserve any credibility at all?  But, his piece gets even worse as we dive a little deeper.

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Bjørn Lomborg’s mixed up short term logic