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From dichotomy to dialectic: Practicing theory in urban design

Inam, Aseem ORCID: 2011. From dichotomy to dialectic: Practicing theory in urban design. Journal of Urban Design 16 10.1080/13574809.2011.552835

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A conventional assumption about theory and practice is that they represent a dichotomy in which theory represents abstract thinking to explain observations, while practice depends on a more instrumental conception of knowledge to help accomplish tasks. The paper examines this dichotomy under the premise that urban design is primarily an intellectual activity, and that the theory/practice relationship can take a number of mutually beneficial forms, especially dialectical ones. Furthermore, the paper suggests that since urban design is a complex and multifaceted field, the most useful theories are ones that are integrative (i.e. that incorporate function, form and process) rather than singular (e.g. based almost exclusively on ideas of green design, technology or historicism). These ideas were tested in an experimental urban design studio for graduate students at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology in 2009. The paper introduces the theory being applied, Kevin Lynch's book Good City Form, describes the pedagogical process as an investigation of the theory/practice relationship, and concludes with insights for professional practice.

Item Type: Article
Date Type: Published Online
Status: Published
Schools: Architecture
Publisher: Taylor & Francis
Date of First Compliant Deposit: 12 March 2019
Last Modified: 25 Oct 2022 13:43

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