Becoming Places Urbanism/Architecture/Identity/Power

Book Review

Kim Dovey, the author of the book, is currently working at the University of Melbourne as professor of architecture and urban design.He has written two other books and they all are focused on social issues on urban design and architecture.This book was written mostly in the inner-city suburb of Fitzroy.

Becoming Places is providing extensive information on how to create change positively from space to place and the content of the book brings positive impact on issues and explains how to solve them.The book consists of 11 chapters and every chapter is eye-opening and very informative; discussions are supported with great examples and architectural projects.It is about creating a new use from a place and the theories were supported with very detailed essays on urbanism, architecture, identity and power of a space becoming a place.The author brought his extensive knowledge and practice with this book to the readers who are seeking for a solution to their problems, trying to be more knowledgeable on these areas in the field.His intent is to provide a guideline to others who are facing similar issues such as urban designers, architectures and the students.Even the general public can gain a lot perspective on these subjects by reading the book, although they are not from this field.

In the introduction section, Chapter 1, the author defined meaning of a place.Dovey questions the difference between place and space.The book shows the interest of various ways how places come into being.All the chapters are briefly introduced in this section.The discussions in the book are clarifying the ideas and the theories about places come into being supported with case studies and the co-authors of each subject and also provided photographs, maps and diagrams.In Chapter 2, ‘Place as Assemblage’, is based on Deleuzian perspective integrated with the habitus of Bourdiue.In this chapter, Bourdieu’s habitus concept is used to explain stability of place against to Deleuzian's argument of change is being inevitable and a place of becoming is necessary.The difference of two opinion was discussed.Importance of understanding power and desire, the meaning of "power over" (control of others action) and "power to" (a capacity to success desired result) are explained.It is analyzed how organizing the desires creates assemblages.In this chapter, it is mentioned that the buildings, sidewalks, cars, pedestrians etc. altogether create the street, where the connections between them makes this a place or an assemblage.How public and private spaces are identified and created are determined with examples.

In the third chapter, ‘Silent Complicities’, architecture and urbanism were discussed.Dovey talks of the role of the architecture engaging in an imaginative way with our need of status, sexuality, security and immortality, our fears of violence, death, basically every aspect of life one has.According to the author, architecture is involved with social of arts and it is found the most aesthetic of professions.He talks of the key role of architects and how they design places figuring out the public interest; explains their role is to render the public imagination with a professional vision to create a place.In Chapter 4, ‘Limits of Critical Architecture’, explaining the ways how an architecture facing political, economic, and social aspects of life; how the operation area of critical architecture practices works out was surveyed.In Chapter 5, ‘’Slippery Characters’ (co-authored by Stephen Wood and Ian Woodcock) is about how place identity is being perceived, generated by investigation on in two old and two new Australian suburbs.There are great examples of urban designs in this chapter.

The very next Chapter 6, ‘Becoming Prosperous’ (co-authored with Wiryono Raharjo) includes a vast survey of informal urbanism.The case study analysis on Yogyakarta and Indonesia were given to explain how informal sector based on informal economies and when the formal system cannot accommodate need for shelter, the informal system fills the demand.The concept of how informal urbanism creates a foundation to change ghetto to appropriate housing and sheltered possession is vastly explained in this chapter.Kricak and Sidomulyo's morphology and spatial structure were given as the most constant part example for the urban assemblage.In Chapter 7, ‘Urbanizing Architecture’ explores the work of Rem Koolhaas.It was examined that Koolhaas use interior designs like exterior designs at times.This concept is creating more open and smooth networks of public spaces rather than closed private spaces.It was explained that Koolhaas confronts social reproduction practices, how he is trying to break architectural doctrines through his work.His works are defined as challenging. In this chapter some of the Koolhaas/OMA completed projects, such as school, house and library are given.

In Chapter 8, ‘Open Court’ is the relations between power and place analysis; places like palaces, houses of parliament, courthouses were examined.It was represented in this chapter that certain buildings require certain rules to be followed and show the power of legitimate authority while they are designed.A few courthouses were studied closely to explain the rules of the courthouses such as if they are serving their clients properly; if the general public's perception of fairness, lawfulness, admission and security are provided by design; if the building representing the required power for the usage, reflecting the authority with the design such as how the courtroom is planned, the judge's high authority addressed well etc.The next Chapter 9, ‘Safety Becomes Danger’ (co-authored by John Fitzgerald) focuses on how an inner-city Melbourne shopping strip diversified use as heroin sale and use in public space and disguised with normal street life with car parking area and public toilets.The safety-danger, private-public and their relations through the practices of daily urban life were discussed.

Chapter 10 of the book is ‘New Orders’ (co-authored with Eka Permanasari) is a research on changed meanings and uses of Merdeka Square and the National Monument in Jakarta.These places were enclosed with gates and guards within time to keep away prohibited users, so that usage of the square and the monument changed.How the national identity sense was lost after this change is explained in this chapter.The final Chapter 11, ‘Urban Slippage’ (co-authored with Kasama Polakit) is about an inner-city neighbourhood of Bangkok, how this area is used and understanding the meaning of the area.The difference between private and public, temporary and permanent, secular and sacred, legal and illegal were discussed and explained clearly.New ideas, forms and three-dimensional practices were highlighted.It was stated that the local rules of daily life should be followed to control and use of public space.

The book really served the purpose I was looking for.When I have chosen this book for review, I was hoping to understand urbanism better.There are many factors create the urbanism such as buildings, recreational area, parking spaces, shopping malls, pedestrian walk ways, streets, street connections, trees, traffic lights and it goes on and on. It is not just designing a building, it is a whole concept that needs to be considered. The books intent is also make the reader re-think on cases.I also realized how important to follow certain rules, in order to show the power of legitimate authority.While I was reading this book, I experienced the knowledge on how a place become a being, how the identity of the place can be created with a good plan.I realized better that architecture and urban design work hand in hand.Chapter 7 got my attention since Rem Koolhaas/OMA projects were taught in our class and this chapter clarified better what we studied previously.The content of the book was interesting overall, gave the reader a lot of vision on the subject.The author's language is clear and easy to follow.Supporting case studies making better sense on the subjects that were discussed throughout the book.Although, I have never read an alternative book focused more on urbanism, space is becoming a place; I still found the book very articulate, informative and useful for our study.I would highly recommend my classmates to have a chance reading this through.I am sure they will have great knowledge and would go back to it as a guideline in their career.