The city that never was: Agility

Considering a more agile urbanism that anticipates a multiplicity of potential outcomes—including failure.

May 22, 2013

Recorded on February 22, 2013.

In order to solve economic or social woes, more and more cities tend to deploy replicable formats of urbanization (SEZs, casinos, high-speed rail, expos, airports, supertalls, waterfront development, signature parks, etc.). Very often, both politicians and the public demand immediate solutions that have been demonstrated to work elsewhere. In this context, New York’s High Line, which has been radically successful, is seemingly being exported to every city in North America. Can this demand for the instant be negotiated with more agile formats of urbanization? This panel contrasts these commoditized spatial products with the possibility of a more agile urbanism that anticipates the multiplicity of potential outcomes ⎯ including failure ⎯ in conceiving new urban form.

⎯ Christopher Marcinkoski and Javier Arpa, from their introduction to the panel


In the keynote presentation for The City That Never Was, a February 2013 symposium that took the current economic crisis in Spain as a point of departure for rethinking global patterns of urbanization and settlement, Llàtzer Moix describes some of Spain’s over-built, under-utilized cities as “monster[s] with two faces;” not only the ugly result of bad planning, construction, and neglect, but often hidden behind the “beautiful face” of a star architect’s design. In tracing the economic and political roots of Spain’s crisis, Moix reveals the design profession’s complicity in the formation of failed urbanism.

In a subsequent discussion, Richard Weller and Jamie von Klemperer respond to Llàtzer Moix’s presentation, looking to the future of citymaking from the perspective of design and development. Both raise the issue of scale, suggesting that large developments must become more agile and more responsive to principals of ecology and social justice to accommodate the global population growth predicted by demographers.