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.

Continue reading “The City Within the City”

The City Within the City

The world’s tallest skyscraper a white elephant?

At a certain point, long ago reached, very tall towers are no longer economical, even if they are technically possible.  So I am not surprised:

World’s tallest tower in UAE closes

The world’s tallest skyscraper in Dubai has unexpectedly closed to the public a month after its lavish opening, the tower’s owner said.

The Burj Khalifa [known as the Burj Dubai during construction]was closed due to “unexpected high traffic,” and “technical issues with the power supply”, Emaar Properties said on Monday.

By the numbers:

828m – height
57 – number of lifts
169 – number of floors
1,044 – number of apartments
31,400 – tonnes of steel used
330,000 – cubic metres of concrete used
$1.5bn – estimated cost
95 km – the distance it can be seen from
10C – cooler at the top than the bottom
158 – floor where “highest” mosque is planned
76 – floor of “highest” swimming pool
12,000 – number of labourers who toiled
$5 – daily wage of a labourer

The world’s tallest skyscraper a white elephant?

Responding to “intelligent libertarianism”

a post in which eee_eff will not let certain oxymorons slide on by without notice…

Anytime I see the word “intelligent” close to the word “libertarian” in a recent (since 1993 or so) context, alarm bells start ringing.  So when I see this piece by Tyler Cowen (covering another piece by Matt Yglesias), I have to respond:

Matt Yglesias outlines an intelligent version of libertarianism

Picking up my previous request, Matt responds:

I think libertarianism is best understood as a kind of esoteric doctrine. There’s strong evidence to believe that people who overestimate their own efficacy in life wind up doing better than those with more accurate perceptions. It follows that it’s strongly desirable for society to be organized so as to bolster myths of meritocracy. This will lead to individual instances of injustice and to a lot of apparently preventable suffering, but over the long-term the aggregate impact of growth (which, of course, compounds) on human welfare will swamp this as long as we can maintain the spirit of capitalism.

A separate issue is the welfare of the world’s poorest. Progressive internationalists have this kind of dopey vision of trying to make trade and immigration policy win-win-win for everyone by using redistributive taxation to ensure that everyone shares in the benefits. That sounds nice, but it means that in addition to trying to conquer people’s racist and nationalistic instincts you’re also engaged in a fight to pry wealth out of the hands of the wealthy and powerful. As a political strategy, it doesn’t really make much sense. Why not simply join forces with the wealthy and powerful so as to create a political coalition that’s plausibly capable of overwhelming xenophobia and creating borders that are relatively open to the flow of goods and labor?

That is exactly the kind of response I was hoping for and both points make sense to me.  Here is a related Matt post on progressivism and America.

I would add that Matt’s description is consistent with my belief that the United States should be less progressive than the polities of north and western Europe.  For better or worse, most Europeans are more skeptical of claims of capitalist meritocracy and thus it is harder for them to realize gains by internalizing such an ethic.  Furthermore the non-progressive nature of many aspects of America — by encouraging economic dynamism — helps Europe to be as progressive as it is.  That’s an argument for American capitalism that both libertarians and progressives ought to feel slightly uncomfortable with, yet in my view it is compelling.

First, full disclosure:  I am an unrepentant Europhile, for which I will make no apologies.   Further, as an architect and an urbanist, my perspective is that we are uprooting our society from its traditional spatial and organizational roots, and this grand experiment needs to be called what it is: an experiment, with unknown results.  Libertarian proposals, were they enacted, would only speed this ongoing demolition of the public space.

I am also concerned that the libertarian/capitalist triumphalism stream of thought (cf Thomas Friedman) seems to distill everything down to a purely economic measure, which is exactly what those whom the libertarians worship but apparently very rarely ever read (e.g. Adam Smith, Schumpeter, von Hayek) warn against doing (here’s a post which includes a relevant quote of Schumpeter).   Of course, neither Tyler nor Yglesias stop to actually discuss the criteria or metrics they believe are important, so I’d invite them to clarify that point.

With the disclosure out of the way this is my reply:

Continue reading “Responding to “intelligent libertarianism””

Responding to “intelligent libertarianism”

Walmart, growth visualization

From Flowing Data, an interesting use of Modest Maps:

Hat Tip: Chris Blattman’s wonderful, smart as hell blog about development which I had browsed before but am taking a second look at it since Dani Rodrik from Harvard made some interesting comments about Chris’s blog.

Watching the growth of Walmart across America – Interactive Edition
In the spirit of Toby’s Walmart growth video, using data from Freebase, I mapped the spread of Walmart using Modest Maps. It starts slow and then spreads like wildfire.

Walmart, growth visualization


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.


Yes, and no

John Robb notes that the US has given up on Nation building in Iraq, has set its sights much lower, and is concentrating on letting militas that sprout up flourish.

This is sensible, but it hardly constitutes the U.S. military embracing open source war, what’s happening is they they are just standing out of the way, and not getting involved in local issues.  Of course that would have been a wise course of action in the first place, and never invade Iraq at all:

Continue reading “Yes, and no”

Yes, and no

Now we know the Mall owners are scared, really scared, of new competition (revised 15 November 2007)

Here’s an interesting and important legal decision that will have some very real urban design/architectural implications. It’s yet another example of small, local and very particularized developments eclipsing centralized, consolidated, and homogenized ones.

It’s also interesting from another point of view: what information we get from this lawsuit. Lawsuits are actually very efficient ways of distributing information, as each lawsuit reveals things through the adversarial process that wouldn’t always come out. In this case the information is clear: Caruso’s development model is such a threat that his competition thought the legal risk they placed themselves in was worth it. That gives an insight as to how dangerous they thought this competition is, and what means they have to counter it. They think this competition is dangerous, and they don’t have a clear way of adapting to this threat.

And we see the theme of competition between things of different scales that was discussed here. The quote from Schumpeter (I’ll get to it in just a bit) that I just love also talks about changing scales. (I hadn’t noticed that before! How could I miss that?)

Continue reading “Now we know the Mall owners are scared, really scared, of new competition (revised 15 November 2007)”

Now we know the Mall owners are scared, really scared, of new competition (revised 15 November 2007)