Urbanity of Things

Urbanity of Things, by Simon Kretz and Christian Salewski, is a chapter from the forthcoming book The City as Resource: Texts and Projects 2005—2014, edited by Professor Kees Christiaanse, with Tim Rieniets, Nicolas Kretschmann and Myriam Perret (ETH Zürich). The book centres on the idea of the city as a valuable resource that everybody can use in deciding how to live, and that society can draw from in making cultural and economic progress.

Madrid Rio – West 8. Photo© Jeroen Musch

The city as a resource is not an alternative to currently established models of sustainability concerning natural resources, but adds a new and important focus to the relation between humans and their built environment. As resource, the city is a promise: its inhabitants can choose how to act, and can — to some extent — take their future into their own hands.

However, this resource is not inexhaustible. In order to meet the needs of future generations, the city as a resource should be handled carefully and with an eye for the long-term public interest. The subject of the book is the manifold ways in which the city can be understood as a resource, how urban designers, architects and landscape architects can help cities to become resources, and how they might avoid its depletion.

In their chapter, The Urbanity of Things, Christian Salewski and Simon Kretz discuss the central issue of urbanity. Drawing on previous works by the Spanish urbanist Manuel de Solà-Morales, they argue that relationship wealth and relationship potential are the core qualities of urbanity. Together, they provide opportunities for residents and users of the city to take action and experience meaningful episodes. Yet this urbanity can only emerge if multiple uses also lead to relationships, and thus interaction, between the different users. It is only when urban space comes from relationships and activities, while also shaping these relationships and activities in turn, that the city can be considered a resource, claim Kretz and Salewski.

The precise design of urban space, they argue, is fundamental for urbanity. Salewski and Kretz explore three fundamental urban design connection techniques that can be used to shape physical space in such a way that relationship wealth and relationship potential, bringing together people, animals, plants and things, are exploited and urbanity is made possible. Essentially, it is the urban project that can enable an open society and a freedom of choice.

Click here to read Urbanity of Things: Relationship Potential and Wealth of Relations as Urban Resource. (PDF)