Urban Form: Städtebau in der postfordistischen Gesellschaft

urban formThis book is the product of a workshop, “Conceiving Urban Form in the Post-Fordist Economy,” organized by Eve Blau and Renate Banik-Schweitzer, Urban Historian and Director, Historical Atlas of Vienna Project of the City of Vienna, at the IFK-International Institute for Cultural Studies in Vienna in May 2002.

The purpose of the workshop was to examine the urban spatial consequences and possibilities of the Post-Fordist economy for the existing city.

Spatially, the small independent enterprises of the new Post-Fordist information economy operate much as they did in the Pre-Fordist economy, according to economies of urbanization and agglomeration: locating in cities, where they can use existing infrastructures and services; sometimes “clustering” together to share skills and costs. At the same time, the new demand for multifunctional urban density has not favored this kind of flexible “open” city but has instead fostered the construction of developer-controlled, inward-oriented, often socially exclusive “implantations” or “islands” disconnected from the existing urban tissue.

The objective of the essays in the volume—on Vienna, Paris, Barcelona, Johannesburg, Silicon Valley, and the proliferation of “industrial districts” in American and European cities—is to examine these conditions in terms of the physical fabric of the city. The conception of urban form, which resonates throughout the essays, is both historical and programmatic. It is informed by theoretical conceptions of the ideology and production of space that understand spatial structures as the concrete manifestations of social structures and relations, and space itself (in Henri Lefebvre’s words) “as neither a ‘subject’ nor an ‘object’ but rather a social reality. . . a set of relations and forms” both dynamic and mutable. It is at the level of urban typological form, therefore, that social and spatial practices most clearly intersect with each other and the dynamics of history and that the social and cultural contents of urban society are inscribed in the physical form and daily life of the city itself.
The concern in this volume and the workshop from which it originated is to conceptualize “urban form,” both in the context of the Post-Fordist economy and as adequate to that economy, to engage the possibility of new urban morphologies that might foster the development of open civil society at the same time as examining the adaptability of existing typologies to the demands of advanced societies in a globalized world.

Both the workshop and the book focus on research but are directed toward practice. They represent a first step toward understanding both how the social and economic forces that are shaping Post-Fordist society at the cusp of the 21st century impact on traditional urban structures and organizations and—perhaps more importantly—what potentialities the new phase of capitalist development might hold for cities as sites not only for new economic life but also for cultural and political life.
This book includes essays in German by GSD faculty Eve Blau, Adjunct Professor in Architectural History (“The Polycentric Metropolis: Otto Wagner’s ‘Grossstadt’ Revisited”); Joan Busquets, Martin Bucksbaum Professor in Practice of Urban Planning and Design (“Barcelona: Generating New Urban Technologies”); Marco Cenzatti, Lecturer in Urban Planning (“Industrial Districts and Urban Restructuring”), and Margaret Crawford, Professor of Urban Design and Planning Theory (“Post-Fordist Landscapes in the San Francisco Bay Region: Silicon Valley, Multimedia Gulch and Little Kabul”), as well as by Jean-Louis Cohen, Institute of Fine Arts, NYU; Renate Banik-Schweitzer, Vienna; Johannes Fiedler, Vienna and Johannesburg.

Löcker Verlag, Vienna