ABSTRACT

Ill-served as it is by either the physical and visual restraints of New Urbanism or the

ecstatic elitism of Neo-Modernism, the situation of the contemporary city requires a

proposal that is in effect a recovery position for the urban body (Canniffe 1999). Its

motive is the belief in the city’s capacity to articulate a common ethos, to accom-

modate coexisting rival expressions, but also to reflect individual concerns. The ethic

of the city which I will propose has the broad purpose of exploring elements of urban

design which the twentieth century had difficulty in emulating despite the knowledge

of successful historic urban environments. The shared purpose of such an attitude

stands in contrast to the socially and economically exclusive practices of contemporary

urban design, and in their place welcomes a participatory approach with a positive

attitude to different expressions. The sustainability of such an ethic has two sources

in the social and environmental fields respectively. The evolutionary character of

its approach to the physical form of the city ensures transitions through which com-

munities can participate and adapt, while its preference for reuse and small-scale

intervention makes only modest demands on resources. It generally suggests com-

pact city form, discourages car use and encourages travel on foot, an environmental

discipline which has its own beneficial effects in the sociability of urban centres, bound

as it is to a general desire for ethical cohesion (Jenks et al. 1996).