Tag Archives: Beingness

On Space | The Urban Trinity

On Space | The Urban Trinity
by Dr. Mark David Major, AICP, CNU-A, The Outlaw Urbanist contributor

The spatial averts everything from a congruent state of existence, a simultaneous state of being, in a single place. The syntactic averts everything from bearing the same significance, a paradox of identical meanings denoting nothing. The functioning of the urban object embeds and bears its spatial logic. The spatial logic of the urban object has an explicit and expressive function. It is one and the same, in which we join with space and function in forming a Trinity of the Urbane. It is not holy nor unholy, neither sanctified not glorified; it merely is… However, its beingness can be made soiled, colored scarlet, in the guises of human arrogance, hiding behind a mask of intellectual wisdom that bears no fruit, only thorns for the human condition. In our pursuit to grasp the fruit of the Tree of Knowledge, too often we forget to bask in the masonry garden surrounding us. In failing to observe and acknowledge the state of being in the here and now, we betray the elemental beingness of the city, the place, of the street and the hearth. The urban object is made of parts and a whole; the parts amalgamate to compose, and configure, to convey and reflect meaning, in the body of the whole. We cannot understand one without knowing the other. To attempt to do so is a fool’s errand. Humanity has never lacked for an insufficient sum of jesters, offering cruel jokes in place of genuine wit, embodied within a wisdom that is nurtured and earned well. We are fools but we must arise above our nature. We are angels but we must inevitably fall to Earth. We exist in a linear state, from birth to death. We move in a linear state, from here to there and back again. We construct the world in our image and find that it, too, is linear, from where we have been to where we are going, from the needs of the present to the desires for tomorrow, better than it was, yet always lacking in what is to come. The stage is set and three actors stroll onto the stage, spouting dichotomies to an unsuspecting audience, seeking acceptance and, perhaps, even forgiveness. One proclaims, “The space of the city is neutral, without meaning nor consequence!” Another steps forward and shouts loudly, “The spatial experience of the city is only ever reflective of ourselves, so look within for real answers!” The last holds back and merely whispers, “The city is a machine for seeing, going, and being; knowable, understandable, and capable of qualification and quantification. Remember who you are, imagine what you might become, and quality shall emerge from quantity of the thing itself.” The operation of the city has a spatial reasoning. The spatial reasoning of the city has a purpose. It is one and the same. We must pursue it. We must achieve it. We must nurture it. It is our city.

On Space is a regular series of philosophical posts from The Outlaw Urbanist. These short articles (about 500 words) are in draft form so ideas, suggestions, thoughts and constructive criticism are welcome.

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On Space | The Synthetic City

On Space | The Synthetic City
by Dr. Mark David Major, AICP, CNU-A, The Outlaw Urbanist contributor

The city is not mere reflection but indefinite inflection and precise infection, where we are the cancer and panacea, the never-ending path to its restoration. Its genesis resides in synthesis, its understanding lives in analysis, and meaning colonizes momentary paralysis into timeless actions and reactions, both great and small, high and low, within and outside of ourselves. The city expands and we grow. The city extends and we go. The city deforms and we change with it. The urban object is a linear extension of ourselves where we might, at last, arrive. The urban object is a horizontal expansion of ourselves, where we might become aware of the infinite possibilities of this life and the next. The elements of the urban object exponentially multiply, two times two equals four, four times four equals sixteen, sixteen times sixteen… and the equation is translated into answer that always spells infinity. The urban object offsets and we become inflected within the new, seemingly discordant note, which nonetheless strikes into an innovative harmony that is, at once, frightening in its beauty and comfortable in its unfamiliarity. In that moment, we – defaultingly – privilege the centrality of a place over the oppressive beingness discovered, always renewed in the linearity of the thing itself. We draw an edge where none has a right to exist and, in the process, achieve an unknown quality and quantity of placeness, of definitively being here and not there, of arriving and joining (seemingly) irrevocably with our neighbors. As a result, we unintentionally but – with hopeful care – consolidate the core of its being, adding mass to the heart, fiver to the muscle, which propels stronger and gives new life to the city. However, with arrogant presumption, we detract from it, and weaker still grows that instrument without which we cannot long endure, robbing the object and its populace of strength. We compensate with a superordinate construct born of artificial assumptions and (sometimes) mistaken imaginations. We impose a hierarchy rather than allow for a structure to naturally emerge, synthesized from the harmony found in the song. False hierarchies arise and confound us, mock us, and dare us with impunity to tear them down. The urban object becomes lost in material things of little substance, of subversive meanings, and we become lost in the process. Where is the Hippocrates of our dreams? Where is the Hippodamus of our desires? Misplaced in time, disoriented in space… and significance. The mistaken dichotomy of our subversive dreaming lacks shape, escapes notice until it is too late, and everyday whispers fetching lies in our ears, offering us comfort where none is ever to be found. The city becomes lost and us with it. We are lost. We vanish into our own reflection, gazing upon the empty space opposite of the mirrored face and wonder, what happened? But the answer to this question is so simple, so elemental: we forgot who we were, who we are and who we could be. We are shamed and it is insufficient. We must demand more of the urban object and ourselves.

On Space is a regular series of philosophical posts from The Outlaw Urbanist. These short articles (about 500 words) are in draft form so ideas, suggestions, thoughts and constructive criticism are welcome.

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On Space | The Structural City

On Space | The Structural City
by Dr. Mark David Major, AICP, CNU-A, The Outlaw Urbanist contributor

The spatial experience of the city is a child’s playground of structures, of a faraway multitude and its near-invariants, a beingness trivial and noble, earthly in its dimensions but astral in meaning. The foreground is composed as the background is configured, imposed by the actions of local actors but emerging on a global stage of meaning and consequence. We are its actors and the playwright, telling the story and bringing it to life for an audience that is ourselves, as if performance could thrive across a mirror of timeless depth and perception, an infinite recursion writ large and whispered softly. The city is a presentation – and representation – of our best and worst selves, of our past and our future, denoting significance in the moment of the present, the here and now of our lives, of the everyday errands of individual importance but (seemingly) societal inconsequentiality. We think, therefore we are but also we move, hereto we were and will be. These abstract and material constructions of the city reach for the horizon and to the sky, never attaining either but embedding the object with a purpose, with a meaning, and with a question that simultaneously transcends and surrenders to the entities populating the streets, spaces, and buildings of the city. It is transcendence and capitulation to the physical and the spatial, to the kinetic energy of movement and the static inertia of place, to the functioning of the urban object, that at once determines and allows its formation and articulation. It is an entity that births and devours itself, this Urban Ouroboros, forming protective walls against unseen intruders and unknown dangers. We are the beginning of our story, its past prologue. We are at the center of our story, its extant climax. We are the edge of our story, its future denouement. But it is not the genesis, neither the center, nor even the edge that carries the value of our actions. It is the path lying in-between, from where to here to there, from the mere act of marking a path in the landscape to the volatile core of our beingness in the city, and further to the tranquil border that defines the state of being within or without. The grid is the thing. The grid is its genesis, it generates and swathes, offering a translucent skin, which reveals the heart and muscle, pulse and rhythm of the city. Its skin is spelled out in the superordination of geometries both great and small, widths of mysteriously known paths, lengths of promising unspoken journeys, and rigid alignments of mass and light. Hierarchies are simply defined, and structures are mystically revealed in the body of the city; a city of collective memory, of shared purpose, and of forgotten desires that we carry along with us on the path. It is achieved with frightening efficiency, which we consciously retreat from, to our own detriment, yet cannot deny, to our own blessing. The dynamics of the city rise and fall with our intentions, with our mistakes, and with our unending beauty in the body of the collective. Its effects are systematic across and embedded within body and mind, perpetuating the rapid spread of malignancies and their antidote. The city is an object of cosmic imagination grounded in a foundation of our earthly desires and guttural sins. It all these things, and more… much more.

On Space is a regular series of philosophical posts from The Outlaw Urbanist. These short articles (about 500 words) are in draft form so ideas, suggestions, thoughts and constructive criticism are welcome.

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On Space | The Phenomena of Space

On Space | The Phenomena of Space
by Dr. Mark David Major, AICP, CNU-A, The Outlaw Urbanist contributor

The character of space is innately capable of diagnostic exploration. Its mystery only derives from our own inexperience of life, obscuring phenomena otherwise naked to the human eye. Space is simultaneously independent of our actions and dependent on the reaction, Irresistible and immovable is its nature. These characteristics are composed of both semantic qualities of the eye and syntactic quantities of the mind, given purpose in deed and meaning in effect. It can be partially measured in Cartesian terms, partially valued within the constrictive boundaries of a narrow class of types, but only fully contemplated in mathematical scales of size and shape. Only in this manner can we ‘unhole’ understanding of space. We must stop digging. We must stop coloring within the lines of mistaken conceptions about space. We must embrace the knowable unknowns; bring the disposition of space closer to our hearts to receive the epiphany that will shake the foundations of the building professions. Space is a material thing, a thing of substance, of quantity and quality that begs for our description, for our understanding, and for our reasoned implementations. We must reduct to deduct but deduction in the absence of product is a shadow, without meaning or substance. It becomes an empty vessel waiting to be filled. If we leave an empty receptacle for the citizenry, detached from the meaning of built space, to connote and denote, then it shall be filled for us, often with dire unintended consequences for our spatial experience. We cannot skate our way to spatial freedom but only walk the path of its responsibilities. These characteristics are of the mind and the hand, working in concert in the creation and evolution of society. We must become more aware of these consequences, of size and shape, of elongating or compacting, or dispersal or density. Size does matter not only in its measurement but also and mainly in the reaction as a contextual consequence. The line of the street in its horizontal and vertical dimension is worthy of examination as a discrete entity. However, absent of the network, its nature holds the absence of repercussion. It becomes a discordant beat, empty of its counterpoint, to generate a rhythm to the movements of life. We prescribe the false illusion of a static energy that cannot bear the weight of all the potential energy pervading the life force of the city, a place, a dwelling, or a people. We lose the connection between our constructions and ourselves; between each other; between them and us; and, between the invisible entity within which we reside and the Other within all of us. It is only when we liberate ourselves from our preconceptions and misconceptions that a true portrait of our spatial being can emerge from a multitude of brushstrokes. Then the generation and evolution of space will become a knowable known, spoken of in clarity, and not merely unconsciously practiced by rote. The spatial phenomena will be unveiled, unmasked, unhidden from our consciousness and its true beauty can be exalted and celebrated.

On Space is a regular series of philosophical posts from The Outlaw Urbanist. These short articles (about 500 words) are in draft form so ideas, suggestions, thoughts and constructive criticism are welcome.

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On Space | The Emergent City

On Space: The Emergent City
by Dr. Mark David Major, AICP, CNU-A, The Outlaw Urbanist contributor

Urban space possesses both geometric regularity and probabilistic structure. This embeds the space of the city with variables of formal determinism and informal postdestination. The word ‘city’ is insufficient to express its true nature, requiring both prefix and suffix to signify its didactic beingness in the world as a thing. It is heart and soul united in one body, an urban Trinity possessive of the past, present and future. It is a holy act when we build a city. As a living organism, the city does not require legal interpretation but scientific diagnosis. It needs to be understood in terms of the probabilistic object instead of as a container of dogmatic theory. Only then can we forecast and intervene in the object with confidence and purpose. It needs to be studied, more so understood, even engendering an empathic response from the observer of the observed. When we say a city has a spatial layout, we mean it is composed of physical certainties such as buildings and blocks in plan, and configured of spatial probabilities embedded within the plan of the city (its streets, its square, its parks). One tends to be imposed whilst the other tends to emerge. We can describe these physical certitudes and spatial probabilities in Cartesian dimensions – length, width, and breadth – and even across time. We can also describe them in configurational dimensions: depth, connectedness, and control. What emerges is the ubiquity of centrality and linearity in the urban object, the nature of being in closeness to the other and being is movement towards to/away from the Other. It is everywhere at once, exhibited in the past of the city and speeding the urban object towards its future even as constantly manifested in the present tense: been, being and becoming always.

What is also revealed in this emergence is the importance of magnitude, a multitude of scales at which the space of the city is used, read, and interpreted by all in movement and occupation of the urban object. Size is seemingly an easy thing to understand, having a quantifiable Cartesian measure. However, it is poorly understood, or worse purposefully ignored. The size of thing matters in the blending of streets and blocks, in either compacting or elongating the structure across space and time. It is a key attribute of the city that embeds the object with certain significations, of time or money, of interaction or seclusion, of the wants of Self or the collective being of the whole. We are revealed in the urban object, our wants and desires, our fears and trepidations, our dogmas and ignorance, of our wondrous beauty and horrific ugliness. The nature of the city is human nature. We build, therefore we were. We arrange, therefore are. We intervene, therefore we will be. The tapestry that emerges denotes of the fabric of human life, characterized by lines of communication, meshes of networks, and patches of community. Only then will we discover that we all dwell in the same neighborhood, we are irrevocably connected, and conflict only emerges from the denial of these basic tenets of existence in the city. We are the tenants and we are the landowners. The portrait painted tells the same story: the city and we are One.

On Space is a regular series of philosophical posts from The Outlaw Urbanist. These short articles (about 500 words) are in draft form so ideas, suggestions, thoughts and constructive criticism are welcome.

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