The dimensions of space in the urban environment : three methodological approaches for designers that encompass the dynamics of urban space

15 Apr 2009

This paper aims to broaden the debate on dynamics that influence urban space formation, as a means to a better understanding and as a reference for the South African context. The dynamics that determine the formation of space in the urban environment in recent western debates are investigated. Post modern approaches that engage with these dynamics are reviewed and analyzed to discover components that remain difficult to capture and resolve, thus causing possible epistemological conflicts and contradictions in the urban environment. Three post modern approaches are reviewed: First, the idea of the urban project will be discussed as being primarily occupied with power and political determination. Secondly, the theme of the representation of space versus that which is represented by it will be explored, engaging mainly with image, meaning and interpretation (or symbolic space). Thirdly, the theme of the socio-spatial dialectic will be taken up as an encompassing process of the socio-cultural uses and practices versus the influences and restrictions of space on them. The paper aims to explore the role and opportunity of designers to influence the public realm through the design and construction of space in the urban environment. It argues that the lack of understanding of and exposure to the dynamics involved in urban space formation have lead to much frustration and many examples of inappropriate public space. It suggests that the different dimensions of space should be explored in greater depth by designers during their training and also during the actual implementation of projects in practice.