Letter: Complex design

September 14, 2001

Sebastian Loew heaps negativity on Blackwell's A Companion to the City (Books, THES , September 7). He says it is "second best" to articles in refereed journals (Loew's own journal is not refereed) and produced in response to the research assessment exercise rather than to disseminate new work.

Loew complains that the book exhibits "a lack of interest in formal aspects of the city". Much current writing addresses the city as process or event rather than as a collection of buildings and spaces. This is because the efforts at social engineering through design by otherwise progressive planners and architects in the postwar period produced several notoriously depressing estates. Some of these were not badly designed but over-functionalised on the assumption that dwellers could not organise their own spaces (or lives).

Loew asks what use are urban discourses in cities of conflict such as Jerusalem. Does he think such problems can be solved by design rather than through understanding the complexities of globalised and localised urban lives, that is through the fluid taxonomy the book adopts?

Malcolm Miles
University of Plymouth

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