Thomas Thiis-Evensen’s Archetypes of Urbanism: a method for the esthetic design of cities (1996) describes general principles for the design of streets and squares. These principles are derived by developing a typology based on the composition of facade and pavement surfaces in traditional – mainly European – cities. In taking this approach, the book has much in common with Kevin Lynch’s The Image of the City (1960) and Rob Krier’s Urban Space (1979), both of which are frequently referenced. Interestingly, a less explicit attempt is made to incorporate the phenomenological concerns of theorists such as Christian Norberg-Schulz about ‘the sense of place’ in discussing the usefulness of ‘types’ to designers. At its best, the book sketches out examples of how the composition of facades, detailing of pavements, and varying street widths can be deployed to either accentuate or retard the ‘directionality’ of movement in street spaces. In discussing the design of urban squares, the argument is less convincing and the author merely repeats the call for ‘good enclosure’. It seems likely the author is aware of this as only one chapter is devoted to the design of squares whereas the rest of the book focuses on the urban space of street networks, about which the author’s ideas seem to be more developed. Sadly, Thiis-Evensen’s argument is often undermined by diagrams appearing six or seven pages after they have been referred to in the text; the blame for which clearly resides with the publishers. Archetypes of Urbanism: a method for the esthetic design of cities is most valuable to students in helping them to develop their own ideas about the design of our cities.
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From the Vault is a new series from the Outlaw Urbanist in which we review architectural and urban design texts, with an emphasis on the obscure and forgotten, found in the second-hand bookstore.