proposal for course, August 2005

Systems everywhere – Overcoming the urban collapse since post-war
Goncalo Furtado
Gonçalo Furtado graduated from FAUP-Portugal, ... . He also frequented the Institut of Advanced Architectural Studies in Venice and researched at the Architectural Association with a FLB grant. He teaches at FAUP-Portugal and often at the ESAD-Portugal and Elysava-Spain; gave lectures-critiques in England, Portugal, Spain, USA, Mexico, Brazil, Columbia, etc. He was a curator for such events as “MS Plug-in” at the EXD European Biennale of Design, “Off forum-Post global city…” at MetRoom-Barcelona, “Tracing Portugal” A.A., etc. He is the author of books such as “Notes on the space of the digital technique” (2001), “Marcos Cruz – unpredictable body” (2004), "Off forum, Post global city …" (2004), “The Construction of the critical project” (2005), etc.

This seminar reflects a current worldwide research interest, which approaches cities and planning culture with the lens provided by the new sciences of complexity.
One will debate how those quasi-philosophical systems challenge the culture of urban design by conceiving non-linear paradigms of emergence and self-organization; i.e., far-from equilibrium systems where provisional stable forms of organization continually and unpredictably emerged from a complexity of interacting components, fluctuations and inputs.
It also analyses the post-war emergence of a new epistemological condition in the culture of urban design and experience.

Throughout three sessions, we will expose how the new scientific domains, that began to emerge with the war effort, infiltrated urban discourse and have since then been associated with the course of urban practice and understanding of cities.
First, one will discuss the influence that the “control” and “feed-back” notions, originated in WW II Cybernetics, had on the understanding of the post-war metropolis. That is to say, to conceive complex identities, based on the knowledge of the role of time - uncertainty, which challenged the master Plan with new flexible regulatory styles of planning.
Second, one will discuss the reflexes that Cold war research had on the new urban conceptualization of the system’s dynamics as self-organizational. On the one hand by focusing cities as complexities of interconnected interactive components, and on the other hand by seeing Planning itself as an “observing system” that includes the observer-planner.
Finally, one outline the more contemporary urban research trends that took shape- from equilibrium systems theories of Caos, Fractals and Catastrophes, as a source of knowledge and inspiration, to the understanding of the post-metropolis global condition.

In summary, one will propose a critical historical reflection that could prove productive for today’s theoretical and design practice. One that points out that, in parallel to the more well-know structuralist and later post-structuralist architectural influences, the vocabulary raised on the new scientific discourse, has, since the post-war, played a significant role for today’s Urban discourse. In fact, after the seminal events of war, the Urban community continued to have an intimate relationship with science and technology, although no longer insinuating an idea of progress conducted by technology, but advancing precisely what would become to be known as a post-modern epistemological condition
Today, in face of the on-going dramatic urban events, the post-modern crisis and the post -structural philosophical impasses, the anti-hierarchical logic of the new sciences seems to be able to contribute to the contemporary urban debate with its endless process of continual auto-organization. A debate on the urban condition that should never be stuck.

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