Volume magazine #32: Centers Adrift

ARCHIS just published a new issue of their magazine 'Volume': dedicated to Centers Adrift. This connects very well to CITIES' research on polycentric cities. Emerging centers are a development taking place all over the world and several institutions recognize its importance.
by Barbara Koole

Review of Volume 32 Centers Adrift / summer 2012


The Volume Magazine is divided up into different sections, each focussing on another aspect. After a few articles within the theme Cities there are sections on Production, Data, Finance, Culture and Resource. Each section approaches the theme of emerging centers from a different angle.

After reading the first articles, focused on urban planning, it becomes clear that as urban environments are developing, professional planners should adapt. Brendan Cormier gives an historical overview of urban theory and planning and states that a next generation of urban planners with a more nuanced and comprehensive view of the city is needed. Cormier describes a ‘cult of the center’ that exists amongst urban planners. Most planners focus too much on the traditional city centers and ignore developments outside.

With this statement on your mind the following articles are especially relevant. They offer examples of changing centers around the world, from Mexico City – where the periphery is seen as a way of life and might offer alternatives to the established center – to the Nile Valley and from Almere in the Netherlands to the Great Lakes Megaregion on the border between Canada and the USA.

The last two articles in the “Cities” section take you back to Cormier’s statement about the profession of urban planners. Luuk Boelens emphasises that the role of the planner has changed, according to him planners should no longer just draw plans but instead try to bring actors together and focus on facilitating human capital. In ‘Re-centering the Periphery’ RVTR takes a similar position, they argue that studies of physical structures – infrastructure for example – should be combined with studies of cultural, economic and legal practices and frameworks. They compare the physical structures with the hardware and these other practices with the software of a city. Both are needed for a comprehensive view on how a city functions.

The bottomline of these articles is that to make cities ready for the future and to actually get things done, people and disciplines need to be brought together. An important task for the next generation of urban planners!

About the author

Barbara Koole


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