Tuesday, October 18, 2011

The Hidden Order of Urban Organization

I came across this excellent excerpt (p. 157 ff) from F. Donato and L.L. Basili's excellent 1996 text L'ordine nascosto dell'organizzazione urbana (see title), translated ad hoc by my professor, Chuck Dyke:
The urban organism auto-regulates*, in this way, its own development, tapping into a repertoire of solutions already experimented with that become adapted, when necessary, to new exigences. The role of the planner revolves, therefore, around the "collective memory"**, historical and cultural[,] of urban civilization that while renewing itself and evolving always maintains a strong relation of continuity with the past. In contrast to the planner, who checks the validity of the projected idea on the basis of rational analysis of how it responds to the context and to its impact on the future development of the urban organism, the organizing solutions of the collective memory are legitimated by their proven historical efficacy: they are the result of a selection protracted in time. This characteristic situation is at the same time a measure of the power and the limits of the organic city: if on one side it is capable of adapting itself with great flexibility to changing circumstances, on the other side its effective capacity to adapt depends essentially on one factor: the absence of traumatic discontinuity within the external conditions. ...In the presence of a context radically altered, and therefore with exigencies and problematics thoroughly new, which require a creative radical effort and therefore the search for organizing solutions entirely original, the capacity for self-organization of an organic city goes into crisis, and the danger of chaotic degeneration becomes concrete (emphasis mine).
I suggest any of you who can read Italian get this book: it deals expressly with a subject that urban theory has only implicitly dealt with in the Anglosphere.
* He suggests replacing this translation with self-regulates.
** Cf. Carl Jung.


  1. This one looks tough to find, which is too bad. Speaking of Italian authors, have you come across anything by Ettore Mazzola? He has a fairly new book out, with an English translation, which makes an economic case for traditional urbanism ("La Citta Sostenible e Possible").

  2. Capisco molto poco italiano (I understand very little Italian). My professor alerted me to this book, so I'll have to ask him if he's heard about yours.