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David Rudlin: Climax City

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The New School House Gallery

Peasholme Green

York

YO1 7PW

United Kingdom

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How does spontaneous urban growth interact with the process of masterplanning? Join URBED’s David Rudlin to explore the his new book.

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David Rudlin is a masterplanner and director of URBED, known for innovative projects which get to the heart of the challenges facing cities. David has been an interlocutor with York and its distinctive qualities and issues for many years. David’s understanding of York informed Uxcester Garden City, his Wolfson Economic Prize winning proposal co-authored with Nicholas Falk, which used York (disguised by being rotated) to show how cities of similar scale could double in size in ways which were both ‘economically viable and popular’. David will be joining us on this occasion to talk about his new book Climax City: Masterplanning and the Complexity of Urban Growth which uses intricate and compelling maps to raise big questions for planning and urban development. We will then open the discussion up to explore what some of these ideas might mean both for York and for the world today.

David Rudlin will be in conversation with Charlotte Harrison who is a Partner at York's Mass Architecture.

Climax City in more detail

In Climax City David Rudlin and Shruti Hemani have spent the last five years collaborating on a series of large scale, some might say obsessive, hand drawn plans of cities across the world. Initially the idea was to produce an atlas of these maps. However as the discussions progressed they became interested in what they were learning from the process of drawing the maps. The book explores the way that ‘natural’ urban growth interacts with the process of masterplanning. The starting point was the idea that, just as each part of the world has a Climax Vegetation, so every human society has a Climax Urbanism. A process of spontaneous urban growth has given us some of our most beautiful towns and cities, built largely without planners or architects. However today the same process is likely to give us the slums of India or the favelas of South America.

Complexity theory suggests that this form of self-organising development is the human equivalent of the termite mound – an emergent pattern that has been optimised over the centuries but never actually designed. However the Climax City project argues that this is too simplistic. Unlike termites, humans, from the earliest civilisations, have sought to plan and regulate their cities. Human kings, unlike termite queens, are able to exert control over their people and together with dukes and bishops, bureaucrats and eventually even planners they have sought, not always successfully, to shape the way that cities grow.

This can all be read in the maps, the unplanned urban fabric giving way to rigidly master-planned area, but also the fragments of plans never fully realised or swept away over time. The maps also show other things, the effects of modernist town planning, the fragmentation of inner city decline, the damage wrought by highway engineering and the sprawl of suburbia. The Climax City book charts the history of cities through these maps and the process by which planners have struggled to come to terms with cities shaped by forces beyond their control.

The book includes cities from across the world, from Tokyo to Detroit, Brasilia to Delhi. It has a particular focus on India and demonstrates that the forces shaping the rapid growth of Indian cities are essentially the same as those that built the cities of the west. The Climax City is a combination of the natural process of urban growth (or decline) and the efforts of society to intervene and plan their cities. The results in different parts are remarkably similar and the process is essentially the same. It is all much more complicated than most city planners recognise and something that we need to understand if we are to plan our cities effectively.

Part of York Design Week and the York Collaborative Future series.

There will be a cash bar provided by the New School House Gallery.

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Date and Time

Location

The New School House Gallery

Peasholme Green

York

YO1 7PW

United Kingdom

View Map

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