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— urbantick

Book – Multiple City – Theories Revisited

The different manifestations of the city and cities are something that slowly is gaining ground. Today planners and project managers have started to think of the subject they are working with as being fluid and to some extend ephemeral in nature. There is no one solution, thats already hard, but everything keeps changing.

This understanding is the basis for the Jovis ‘Multiple City: Urban Concepts 1908-2008‘ publication by Sophie Wolfrum and Winfried Nerdinger. They argue that “the complex and multi faced city becomes the multiple city”. This is also based on the observation that there is no sovereignty of interpretation of individual position.

This leads to a very interesting position of multiplicity which is present through out the book. The argumentation is constructed in sixteen chapters all addressing different aspects. Usually for urban concepts, they are simple and aggregated. You get to read about the three point plan or as Kevin Lynch divides the elements into five groups, but having so many is unusual.

However, all of the proposed aspects today are well known concept, both theoretically and practically. Take for example the ‘Netzstadt – Network City‘ coined also by Franz Oswald and Peter Baccini at ETH in Zuerich in the 1990s or the ‘Patchwork City’ concepts as well as ‘Urban Icon’
and ‘Telepoli’ which recently with availability of new data and technologies has a sort of revival (eg see John Reades) are all very familiar key words.

This is however the point. Multiple City reflects on current urban development against the background of urban concepts over the past 100 years. It is possible to trace the history of multiple manifestations, parallel strategies and diametrical developments.

For example the chapter Situational Urbanism, Performative Urbanism discusses theories such as ‘la derive’ developed by the Situationists with Guy Debord and continues the though process with a contribution by Ian Borden ‘Performance, Risk and the Public Realm’ of course on skateboarders.

L'architettura della città
Image taken from Library ETHZ / Aldo Rossi, L’architettura della città, 1968, Kat. Nr. 7.10

Another chapter “‘Tessuto Urbano, the city s collective memory’ Sophie Wolfrum combines three concepts into one that beautifully works in this context. Those are Maurice Halbwachs ‘The Collective Memory’, Also Rossi’s ‘L’Architectura della Citta‘ and Karl Schloegel‘s ‘Im Raum lesen wir die Zeit (In Space we Read Time)’.

The book is set in the context of the hundredth anniversary of the Department of City Planning at the TU Munich in 2008. The department was founded by Theodor Fischer in 1908. He was a visionary city planner and contributed extensively to the expansion projects of the Munch urban Area.

Palm Jumeirah
Image taken from eikongraphia / THe Palm Jumeirah in Dubai features in the book Venturi, Rauch and Scott Brown in the chapter ‘City as Image, Urban Icon’.

This is picked as the starting point for the book. Instead of just looking back, the editors let the authors developed the sixteen key concepts taken from the past 100 years into virulent topics of todays cities. This approach goes beyond the normally dominating topics of sustainability and mobility, which are of corse part of many of the discussed topics. But the book manages to introduce new perspectives and especially establish links between them. With this the ‘Multiple City’ really comes to live and a picture of many possible multiplicities emerges showing the complexity urbanity can be thought of today.

The publication is in German and English, some preview pages can be found HERE.


Wolfrum, S. & Nerdinger, W., 2009. Multiple City: Urban Concepts 1908-2008: Stadtkonzepte 1908-2008 Bilingual., Jovis.