K is for Kinetic Urbanism

Posted: February 21, 2011 in ABC's
Tags: , , ,

Activity over Architecture

Closely related to informal urbanism, kinetic urbanism views the urban condition as flexible; less a grand vision than a series of small adjustments occurring over time. Often times, the frenetic quality of city life does not allow most formal planning or political systems to keep pace. Kinetic urbanism bridges the resulting gap by focusing on activity, not architecture. It views events and changes in time as more important than buildings and places in space.

Rahul Mehrotra, Associate Professor of Architectural Design at the MIT School of Architecture + Planningdeveloped the idea of the kinetic city. According to Mehrtra, the static city is “the buildings and structures that architecture deals with.” On the other hand, the kinetic city is the part that is “making and remaking” urban spaces and is “in opposition to the static city.” He also states that in a kinetic city, “events and changes in time are more important than monuments and places in space.” While Mehotra was specially focusing on the informal urbanism taking shape in Mumbai, the concept are applicable to almost an urban area.

When urban leaders look at activities such as busking or street vendors on their city streets, they should not automatically seek to control it through zoning or permits. This activity is often times not evidence of lack of regulation but rather an unmet need being fulfilled in a innovative way. Indeed it is what makes urban living so vibrant and exciting. Rather than seek to remove or regulate these activities, Urban leaders can embrace this entrepreneurism by looking, not at what ‘should work’, but at what is actually occurring day to day and season to season. They should include these patterns of activities in their plans so they can thrive in greater comfort and safety for all residents.

Check out the full ABC’s of Urbanism in this handy e-book!


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