4.241J | Spring 2013 | Graduate

Theory of City Form

Lecture Notes

Lec 16: Spatial & Social Structure I: Theory

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Lecture Summary

A brief survey of some important theoretical positions about the subject is followed by a structure, developed around the concept of “bipolarity”, which is then applied to five case studies: religion (Jerusalem), apartheid (Johannesburg), bi-nationality (San Diego/Tijuana), colonialism (Delhi), and spatial integration (Havana).

The position that spatial and social structure are loosely coupled in both directions, an argument of Lynch, is tested through reference to historic examples: “It is usually more difficult to arrange a spatial change without unwarranted spatial effects than vice versa, since the spatial experiment is the more adaptable of the two, less independent and less self-willed.” Other notions follow the premise that space is an active agent, is inherently unequal, independent of political ideology, distributed as a function of who allocates resources, and is therefore subject to conflict (Pahl). Among ideas examined are those now-classic of Lefebvre (space/everyday life/social relations, “the right to the town”), Castells (“collective consumption units,” the “wild city”), Harvey (space and capital flow, territorial justice), and more recent notions of space and differentness, the coalition of multiple identities across space, and the potential of an essential diversity in the contemporary city irrespective of spatially separated categories of race, class, sexuality and ethnicity.

To serve as a lens with which to analyze the case studies of five cities, a concept of “bipolarity” is introduced. Its premises are: clear and conflicted social relations phrased as opposites (e.g., black/white), distinct spatial patterns kept apart (the green line, no-man’s land), space as mediating issues (sovereignty, security), new spatial/social items (the township, the maidan), new language, both verbal and visual (the vernacular, the bungalow), and various dynamics of change (war, revolution, reform).

The construction of religious buildings and their location in the 3,000-year history of Jerusalem is the focus of the first case study. Jerusalem is the most destroyed and rebuilt city in history, each annihilation and resurrection producing symbols of a new order. The first of the great monotheistic religions, Judaism, is reflected in the three temples built up to 70 A.D., in the end all destroyed and never rebuilt. In their Diaspora, Jews replace building by book and a religious practice unrelated to a specific architecture. For the Christians, the Church of the Holy Sepulchre, despite many destructions and fraternal frictions, remains the center of its religion anchored above mythological interpretations about the passion of Christ. The most recent of religious immigrants to Jerusalem, Islam, chooses the site of the Jewish temples, destroyed over 500 years before and since kept abandoned by Christians, to build their religious complex, the Haram-al-Sharif that has never been destroyed and remains undisturbed today. Over three thousand years, Jerusalem’s form has been determined by polarized religious ideologies, often overlapping with political ambitions, making the goal of sharing the recent city formidable. How this may be achieved is reviewed together with how Jerusalem, a capital city only during the first Jewish occupation and under the Crusaders, may become the capital of two nations.


Handout for Lecture 16 (PDF)

  • Page 1: Notes on the outcomes of bi-polarity
  • Page 2: Matrix of case studies for Johannesburg/Soweto, US/Mexico, Delhi/New Delhi and Havana/Cuba
  • Page 3: Chronology of Jerusalem
  • Page 4: Response to “Common ground” in The New Republic

Examples, Precedents, and Works

Solomon’s Temple, Holy of Holies, Herod’s Temple, Ezekiel’s Temple, Temple of Aphrodite, Church of the Holy Sepulchre, Dome of the Rock, Al-Aqsa Mosque, Dormition Abbey, Wilson’s Arch (Jerusalem, Israel); God as the Architect (The Frontispiece of Bible Moralisee); manuscript from De Civitate Dei (St. Augustine); Madaba Map (Jordan); plan for Jerusalem after British occupation (William McLean); plan for Jerusalem (Louis Kahn)

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Spring 2013
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