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ALLAN IRVING The Mode"rn/Postmodern Divide and Urban Planning One way of trying to establish connections between the humanities and urban planning is to explore some of the meanings of planning within the philosophical and cultural contexts of modernity and postmodernity. Modernists call it urban planning; postmodernists call it urban design. The difference signifies a transition, from the twentieth-century modernist ideal of large-scale, technical, and efficient city plans, and the International Style of functionalist, no-frills architecture, guided by the 'less-is-more' and 'form follows function' aesthetic of Le Corbusier, Frank Lloyd Wright, and Ludwig Mies van der Rohe, to a late twentieth-century postmodernist conception of urban life as being highly resistant to this approach. Urban design is preoccupied instead with a collage or pastiche of past styles within a fragmented, ephemeral, diverse environment. Derrida, for example, sees collage/montage as the essential form of postmodern discourse.l Appearing on the border of the modern/postmodern divide was Douglas Lee's 1973 article, 'Requiem for Large-Scale Planning Models,' in the Journal of the American Institute of Planners. Lee anticipated the imminent death of the hegemony of rational comprehensive urban planning that had been the grand governing idea in the post-Second World War years as the appropriate way to organize urban experience. Over the past twenty years, planners have been much less inclined to lay firm or steady claim to there being one 'right way' to engage in urban planning and have been increasingly open to a diversity and plurality of styles and ideas. Many planners now promote the notion of 'Collage City' and, as well, have replaced the postwar phrase 'urban renewal' with the more spacious postmodernist 'urban revitalization.' Roland Barthes has suggested that 'the city is a discourse and this discourse is truly a language.' This essay briefly examines the possibilities for discourse about urban planning within modernity and now within postmodemity.2 It is important to keep in mind that both sets of discourses have taken shape within a capitalist culture: in modernity, a capitalist ethic shaped by a Fordist-Keynesian paradigm of mass, standardized production and consumption , and in postmodernity, an ethic created out of much more flexible forms of capital accumulation, labour market organization, and consumption patterns. UNIVERSITY OF TORONTO QUARTERLY, VOLUME 62, NUMBER 4, SUMMER 1993 THE MODERNIPOS1MODERN DIVIDE 475 'The project of modernity/ as Jurgen Habermas calls it, stems largely from the vision of eighteenth-century Enlightenment philosophers of 'objective science, universal morality and law, and autonomous art according to their inner logic'; in short, the establishment of a tradition of 'subjectcentred ' reason. The rnetanarrative has been one of unending progress through technical rationality towards individual and social emancipation. The new culfure of modernism embodied a vastly different conception of the good life than had prescientific societies; in a post-Enlightenment world, scientific morals, politics, aesthetics, philosophy and religion held sway. In his analysis of modernity as a particular historical period, Marshall Berman suggests that to be modern means to live a life of paradox and contradiction. Modernity, he argues, 'pours us all into a maelstrom of perpetual disintegration and renewal, of struggle and contradiction , of ambiguity and anguish.' Throughout the eighteenth century, modems articulated a disentangling of the present age from the universal.. timeless aesthetic norms of the ancients. A critical turning point in fully comprehending the experience of modernity and beginning the aesthetic process of bringing it to full consciousness is the work of Baudelaire, who pronounced in 1863 that 'modernity is the transient.. the fleeting, the contingent; it is the one half of art, the other being the eternal and the immutable.,3 Urban planning represented one twentieth-century thrust to establish something stable.. structured, and rationalized within a modernist world of chaos, flux, and incessant change. It has been one dear response in attempting to modulate the tensions of modernity depicted by Baudelaire. Modernism could only lasso the eternal by arresting time, and modem architecture.. with its focus on comparatively permanent forms of spatial structure, found this relatively easy to bring into existence in a cemcrete way. Architecture, Mies van der Rohe suggested in the 19205, 'is the will of the age conceived...

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Additional Information

ISSN
1712-5278
Print ISSN
0042-0247
Pages
pp. 474-487
Launched on MUSE
2014-07-02
Open Access
No
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