Urban Indeterminacy


As we all struggle to adapt to the growing impacts of the coronavirus, it is increasingly apparent that volatility (in more than just public health) is the new normal; climate conditions, financial markets, political landscapes, and more will continue to shift in dramatic, quick, and unpredictable ways. The built environment as we know it is in many ways resistant to the changes brought on by this kind of environmental, economic, and social context—buildings are costly to adapt, infrastructure can be notoriously vulnerable to shock, and most urban systems are not designed to be flexible and responsive.


If you, like many of us, have suddenly found yourself with a lot of alone time for reading and an increasing sense of urgency about how indeterminacy impacts our cities, we’d like to recommend ‘Under the Brownstones, the Beach,’ an article by Ivy Pan & Foad Vahidi featured in our latest edition of Urban Infill, FUTURECITY. The authors imagine a social realm that thrives in unpredictable times, particularly in relation to market volatility, through a network of impermanent, small-scale public spaces. They envision a flexible, reactive system that enables the appropriation of temporarily disused spaces within the city, like “a construction site halted in winter, a foundation pit vacated during an economic downturn, and a mound of rubble after demolition.” The spaces are intimate, as a reaction to more common (and more market-supported) production of large-scale public spaces, and the system is persistent, even if none of their proposed individual social spaces is.


Pan & Vahidi’s work can be found in the Adaptations section of FUTURECITY, along with other essays and research on how cities can be responsive to our changing world. The publication as a whole interrogates many aspects of current and future urban challenges, also including pieces on data / privacy, automation, de-growth, and more. Order a copy of the book here, delivered right to the door of your temporarily socially isolated location.

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