Regional and Urban Design Committee

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The Regional and Urban Design Committee (RUDC) aims to improve the quality of the regional and urban environment by promoting excellence in design, planning, and public policy in the built environment. This will be achieved through its member and public education, in concert with allied community and professional groups. Join us!

  • 1.  Good Bye Smart City?

    Posted 04-09-2019 11:56

     

    This is the first of two essays investigating the current global decline of enlightenment and its impacts on the built environment. First the "smart city".

    Revolutions are followed by phases of reaction and revisionism. That was so after the French Revolution, after the Civil War, and the Industrial Revolution. The last even brought two tectonic reactions, WWI and II. This pattern seems to apply to the information revolution as well. It took full flight at the turn of this century but is already giving way to skepticism, if not outright hostility. The information heroes of yesterday have become the villains of today.
    Tatlin 1920: Monument to commemorate the
    Third International (model)

    This shift of the attitude towards technology fits inside the larger political trajectory like a smaller Russian doll inside a larger one. The long phase of relatively steady peace and progress, which culminated in the fall of communism and the end of the Iron Curtain, allowed ideology to take a backseat to science and technology as the foundations of thought, a seemingly rational process. This longer phase itself is just a cycle in history. It had lot of similarity with the earlier but much shorter phase of optimism fueled by the industrial revolution, which upended the old world order of politics, arts and science a 100 years earlier. The world fairs of Paris and Chicago celebrated science, architecture and engineering. But the ideologies of the old order didn't give up without a fight. Joy and optimisms were smothered  under the rubble and destruction of two world wars. The Renaissance preceded the industrial revolution that had ended the "dark ages", which had lasted for hundreds of years, and transitioned into enlightenment and the French and American revolutions.

    Today enlightenment (defined as  "human beings should be free to use their reason to create self-authored, valuable lives") is under siege once again. This is an unexpected turn of events. At the end of the cold war enlightenment appeared to be on the rise, given further lift through the information revolution and the internet,  enabling the cheap and quick spread of knowledge, democracy and progress all around the globe. Never before were so many people empowered to leverage resources. That nobody would have to starve, live in poverty or be left out appeared to be within reach. This utopia, deeply steeped in technology, assumed that science and knowledge will be....

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    [Klaus] Philipsen FAIA
    Archplan Inc. Philipsen Architects
    Baltimore MD
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