26 April 2022

Moral and Political Implications
of Urbanism

Czech Technical University, Prague

Emma Arnold
University of Oslo

Cities are built environments. As theorist of architecture, Jan Gehl famously stated, “first we shape cities and then they shape us.” The starting point of this research is based on the philosophical work of Jesse Prinz – in his sentimentalist moral theory, human emotions can be shaped and they are the ground for moral and civic judgments. Is it then possible that the built environment, in the theoretical mix of Gehl and Prinz, shape our moral and civic behavior and judgments in everyday life?
If built environments (cities) have the ability to impact and reshape our moral and civic behavior, they have then the ability to change our everyday behavior and experience of the world. An important aspect of urban life is the so-called “right to the city” – a concept popularized by Henri Lefebvre, which calls for all the inhabitants of the city with no exception to have full right to their city (participative democracy). Is this still the case with most cities nowadays, or are there cities planned to take control over its citizens and serve the purposes of its governing bodies? My research analyzes differing definitions of normative behavior and prescriptive emotions and offers critical counterpoints


Vanishing Lines: Exposing, Recording, and Processing Verticality in Los Angeles

ETH Zurich

Shane Reiner-Roth

To this day, urban studies and design practices tend to privilege the use of figure-ground images obtained from a high, perpendicular point of view both as analytical tools and means of representation. Supported by satellite imaging technologies that became ubiquitous in the last few decades, these vertical views neglect the depth and the horizontal perception of space. As a consequence of these technological shifts, the z-axis has increasingly gained relevance while at the same time becoming invisible, with structures flattened to a singular and undefined layer.

Starting from these considerations and questioning contemporary analytical and methodological frameworks applied to the study of urban environments, this project investigates verticality in Los Angeles through the exposure, recording, and processing of the strata composing the city. As a multidisciplinary design-driven research, it explores how the city’s depth is experienced, lived, and designed. Pairing historical analysis with survey drawings, maps, and various imagistic accounts resulting from field work, the thesis repurposes and develops existing technologies and recording tools, pursuing cross-cut visions of the city as points of departure for speculative strategies.
Despite its sprawl and dispersion, Los Angeles is one of the densest cities in the US, where the tension between growth and density translates to peculiar forms of verticality: the layers – either physical, legislative, social, or jurisdictional – as well as the experience of the city are explored through the lens of Reyner Banham’s four ecologies (Coast, Hills, Plains, Infrastructure), with the addition of Downtown. As each of these manifest a different instance of stacking in the city, verticality becomes the magnifying prism through which several phenomena that shape urban environments are observed. Together, these five cases create a composite view of Los Angeles, and their intersection generates a unified set of urban horizons complementary to overhead views and the power relationships the latter imply. The presentation will focus on the case study of Bunker Hill in Downtown LA.
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