MONU #14: Editing Urbanism

The latest issue of MONU Magazine — an independent biannual publication devoted to writings on urbanism — has hit newsstands. Always theme-based, this particular issue centres on the idea of ‘Editing Urbanism’.

When the term was first raised in MONU’s call for proposals, I immediately thought of the kind of editing that involved addition — small-scale, clandestine changes to the urban environment that often get reported about on Pop-Up City. Instead much of the focus on ‘Urban Editing’ is not about addition but about what not to delete — or in more familiar terms, preservation, renovation and adaptive re-use.

Along these lines, the issue features an interview with UNION3 — a collective of architects devoted to preservation projects in Rotterdam (perhaps the least preservation-oriented city in Europe), a look at OMA’s UNESCO-busting exhibit CRONOCAOS, and STAR’s own manifesto against the preservation crusade that is increasingly occupying a significant portion of  the world’s territory. A recurring theme in these articles is the limitation that our current preservation practice places on architecture and urbanism. A finite amount of space is increasingly frozen in time and blocked from development, in order to preserve the look and feel of what is in reality a subjectively chosen historical reference point. Why should we preserve the qualities of an 18th skyline as opposed to a 15th century skyline?

The issue also features articles more in line with my original interpretation of the ‘editing urbanism’ term. Sara Hendren subverts the traditional iconography of the handicap sign, by overlaying these signs with a more active version of the handicapped figure. Jan Bovelet and Miodrag Kuc critically respond to the destruction and replacement mechanics of urban planning — especially prevalent in Berlin where they live — through, in one particular instance, the use of an ‘urban prop’ ‘The Wrecking Pendulum’  — a spherical object composed of 286 triangles that was deliberately crashed against a wall to produce an equally sculptural pile of debris.

On a more general note, I feel it necessary to stress the valuable role that MONU has played in the past few years, specifically for the architecture and urbanism community. As the biggest (to my knowledge) indie publication focused explicitly on urbanism, MONU has provided a voice for many emerging young professionals — a chance to be published and have their ideas heard in print format.  This has included not only fellow Pop-Up City contributors Samo Pedersen and Joop De Boer, and my own studio Department of Unusual Certainties, but also many other collectives, such as What About It, Lateral Office, paraartformations, and Tomorrow’s Thoughts Today — who will all surely continue to contribute and have a lasting impact on the contemporary debate on urbanism.

With Editing Urbanism, MONU continues to hit the mark in curating a lively discussion on one of the more pressing issues in urbanism — that of opposing forces of preservation and change in the urban landscape. To purchase a copy of the latest issue, or back issues, you can go to MONU’s website here. Also for interested writers, you can see the latest open call for submissions here.