THE NON-CITY PROJECT: Or, Architecture Without an Outside

Mariano Gomez Luque

If Planetary Urbanization —that is, the production of space at the scale of the world— implies a complete reformulation of the concept of the urban, consequently undermining the cartesian dualisms city/countryside, and society/nature, it follows, almost as a logical proposition, that architecture —that is, a discipline involved in the production of urban space— has to re-calibrate, if not extend what is simultaneously both its field and object of study. Indeed, in our current vocabulary, architecture means —exclusively— building, and more precisely, building the city, and nothing but the city as we used to know it. Such ontological and methodological fixation with the city as the sole embodiment of the urban renders architecture immune to the pressing complexity of the unevenly woven fabric of contemporary urbanization and its associated spatial logics, formulas, and configurations. Amalgamated within fluctuating landscapes of increasing spatial entropy, where all boundaries are exploded, imploded, and constantly reconfigured as to make any distinctive formal-organizational pattern undecipherable, the complex and ubiquitous territorial formations of capitalist uneven development remain largely 'unseen', and therefore, beyond the scope of political awareness, collective action, and design. As the bounded, recognizable, discrete form of agglomeration we still call the city gets inevitably entangled and disappears within the sea of planetary urbanization, a new conceptual domain of architecture theorization is turned apparent —namely, the Non-City realm.

This dissertation is structured as a multilayered research, a series of systematic (retroactive and projective) architecture excursions into the thick, textured surface of ‘the constitutive outside’, critically assessing abstract conceptshistorical precedents, and contemporary cases in order to identify and propose —respectively— operative theoretical formulationsdisciplinary genealogies, and generic models through which alternative futures for the (non) city can be imagined. Methodologically, the thesis is conceived as a dialectic construct through which different analytic frameworks are advanced in order to critically enquire about the possibility of delineating a Non-City Project. In other words, the investigation entails an interplay between what the city not any longer is, and that into which it could evolve. In that light, the research attempts to contribute to the formulation of an architecture theory of the urban by which the political, spatial, and socio-material dimensions of the entity formerly known as the city can be extended into the variegated, ubiquitous and pervasive landscapes of contemporary planetary urbanization.

Planned outcome:  doctoral dissertation, Harvard GSD

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