This book is an interesting exercise in blending theory and practice and in particular can be seen as a continuation of Richard Sennett’s 1970 work, Uses of Disorder, personal Identity and City Life. Like that book, Designing Disorder explores the paradox of a flexible open-ended world with the constraints imposed by rigid single-minded designs.
The book is divided into three parts. The first is a revisitation and reconsideration, by Sennett of his earlier work. The second part looks at Sendra’s practical interpretation of Sennett’s thinking in the implementation of work in London. The third and final part is a conversation between Sennett and Sandra mediated by Leo Hollis.
Sennett’s role as a writer and thinker about cities is well known. What is less well known is his practical exploration of the means of creating porosity and democracy through the development process and the way in which this can become an inspiration to those who wish to defend and enhance their communities. The first part of the book describes this and Sennett’s exploration of his ideas. It also reflects on those of Jane Jacobs and others and they are extended in this book to include a critical examination of work that has been carried out in at Hudson Yards in New York.
In the second part, Sendra, who is a lecturer at UCL’s Bartlett School of Planning and a practitioner with the consultancy Lugadero, uses the work with the local community that he has undertaken at Gillett Square, Dalston, London to explore approaches to non-deterministic design. Sendra also looks at a possible approach to service infrastructure provision that he sees as enabling spontaneous creativity in urban locations.
The final conversational part allows this blend of theory and practice to be explored further. This section is mediated by the publisher, Leo Hollis.
The feel of the book is perhaps more philosophical than practical and should be seen as a stimulation to thought rather than a simple guide to practice. At a presentational level, some of the jury members thought that cost constraints appear to have impacted the quality of reproduction of some illustrations and that this has, to some degree, diminished the impact of the thought provoking ideas that have stimulated the authors. This apparent short coming may limit the appeal of the book to the busy practitioner rather than a wider audience.
Book Award Judging Panel 2021
Dick Cole (Chair) Book editor URBAN DESIGN journal