Figure and Background in Urban Design
Ein Vortrag für die HfbK Hamburg, November 2003 (Englisch)
The question of creation and invention in urban design has been little problematised in the historiography of architecture and urbanism. In architectural history, creation and invention are mostly considered as the result of the conceptual work of architects and urban designers, or in other words, as the outcome of a projected intention to produce new artefacts. Architectural history, close to traditional art history, is preoccupied with retracing the creation of the work as part of a generative process of one person whose work is then in turn seen as part of a process over several generations. In this vision, the intention of the author (or architect) and his conceptual work coincide in an almost perfect way as both sides of the same coin. This assumes that the work is a conscious production of the author and sees it as being the immediate reflection of the author’s ideas, and therefore a transparent and readable text composed of aesthetic conceptions, ideological visions, citations, and most of all, of conscious design choices. In its epistemological approach, this historiography usually pays attention to facts that can be easily (and positively) retraced, like styles, formal rules, schools and education, building techniques, affiliations to associations and movements, trends, manifestos, etc., though the question of the creative work of architects and urban designers becomes more complex if we take into account the representational aspect. Representation by drawings, photographs, maps, etc. accompanies the activity of conceiving ...