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Abstract _ Felix Hoepner

Security and the City.
Defensible Space, Collage City, and the Reconquest of Urbanity

Notions of 'security' and 'the city' are at the center of current debates on the sustainability of society and the environment. In the course of the 20th century, however, threats of crime and terrorism, and the change of values in a rapidly industrializing and globalizing world have challenged the concept of the city itself as a place of security. With regard to the major social upheavals in the 1970s causing uncertainty and a widespread sense of disorientation, the dissertation investigates conditions and consequences surrounding the search for security through new concepts of architecture and urbanism. The thesis focuses on the formation of new concepts of urban architecture around 1970 that triggered a reconsideration of qualities attributed to the model the old European city. A critical and contextual re-reading of 'Defensible Space' (1972) and 'Collage City' (1978), the seminal works by Canadian-American architect Oscar Newman (1935-2004) and British-American architect Colin Rowe (1920-1999) respectively, explores the relationship between changing needs of security and a return to questions of urban form, as well as its effects on contemporary discourse and practice of architecture.

Both these approaches oppose the faith in scientific and technological progress that has characterized the practice of architecture and urbanism in the 1950s and 1960s. Instead they share a belief that architecture and urban design can foster a sense of identity. In the context of crime prevention and neighborhood safety in urban residential areas Newman developed his theory of Defensible Space-design with regard to traditional socio-anthropological mechanisms based on empirical research at New York University. Rowe’s Urban Design Studio at Cornell University explored the potential of physically defined urban spaces with reference to ideal-type qualities attributed to old European cities. In the context of New York City Newman and Rowe acquire knowledge on spatial-contextual qualities and configurations by scrutinizing built structures and different urban textures from a sociological and phenomenological perspective while addressing various notions of security. The study of their work reveals architectural formations that combine qualities from different urban models, namely from the 'traditional city' and the 'city in the park', such as 'hybrid ensembles' made of high-rise and block structures. The thesis suggests that it is in their aspiration to overcome the antagonism of 'the traditional' and 'the progressive', 'Defensible Space' and 'Collage City' can contribute to and critique the discourse on contemporary urban architecture in local and global contexts.


Felix Hoepner, Stadt und Sicherheit. Architektonische Leitbilder und die Wiedereroberung des Urbanen: 'Defensible Space' und 'Collage City', Bielefeld: transcript 2015