Dennis Crow, AICP, received his BA, MS, and PhD in Public Administration and Urban Planning all from UT, Austin. He also did post-doctoral work at Dartmouth in interpretive methods and architecture; University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign in history, social theory, and cultural significance of space and place in philosophy and literature, and UC Irvine in philosophy and literary criticism. At the time of publication, Crow was working at the Department of Housing and Urban Development, and is currently information architect at USDA Farm Service Agency.
This book is a challenge to both architects and planners to reevaluate their positions on the relationship between planning, theory, and the contemporary humanities, as well as provoke humanities scholars to critique their home cities/regions. Space is not a place, but “the relationships among places” (17). The “political implication of philosophical streets is that engagement for use and resistance of street-level bureaucracy is more important than ever to the life of theory and the practice of social change” (21).
Theodor Adorno’s “Culture and Administration” argues when planned and administered, cultural output is hindered; “when it is left to itself, however, everything cultural threatens not only to lose its possibility of effect, but its very existence as well” (28). Culture is not so much in defiance anymore because art’s dependent on institutional support, even as it condemns those institutions — thus, the “neutralization of culture” (37). However, hope lies with the agents who are critically and consciously engaged with those institutions.
In Helen Liggett’s “The Function of Crisis: the Theory/Practice Split in Planning,” Liggett asserts the planning-in-the-world versus planning-in-philosophy split hinges on “appropriate action” versus “adequate representation” (54), and that this break results from conventional planning processes and assumptions. She offers the poststructuralist critique because we’re not static and we need to, through deconstruction, recognize binaries’ totalizing effects, dismantle those antagonisms, and realize those hierarchies are metanarratives.
In “Return of Aesthetics to City Planning,” M. Christine Boyer argues that planners, architects, and government officials all do not ask, “What kind of cities do we want?” She notes that the earliest to call foul on the totally organized leisure spaces were The Situationists. Economic functions have their aesthetic analogs (which is why Adorno fights for an aloof, capably critical art), but the energy of late capitalism makes the aesthetic sphere just another language game (Lyotard, 1984). Indeed, high culture is used by upper/middle classes to differentiate themselves from popular taste (Bourdieu). Therefore, we must look again to the return of the aesthetic for some external view of the market. We want to “experiment with rules of aesthetic production in order to produce new forms not reducible to the codes of the market production” (110).
In Christian Bergum’s “Urban Form and Urban Representation,” people aren’t users, they’re readers of the city; urban form is pure, determinate, and irreferential simulacrum because the cities are redesigned by referenda. Following Baudrillard (1983), “acceptance of the urban simulacrum has arrived” (130).