Complex Urbanism

The following are a series of notes. They are neither sequential in presentation nor didactic in tone. (Numbering allows for identification not prescription.) They can be ordered and reordered. They provide a setting in which mapping and development – traditionally understood as the present and the future – can be rethought thus allowing the urban another expression.

  1. Scale shifts. And yet, in the move from the city, to the block and then to the building (the latter as both an exterior and well as an interior) there are lines at work.
  2. Despite the shifts in scale what has to be created are sites of development, loci of addition. Moving the city ahead necessitates remapping across shifting scales.
  3. Mapping must creates sites of development. The transformation of the given means that the given has to be transformed through a process of remapping. Static lines and fixed points ceding the place to lines that work
  4. Sitesof development – from one scale to another – have to have developed. Additions are not just elements to be added on or incorporated into an already determined site.
  5. Drawing, mapping and allowing lines to work means removing sites from already determined meanings, settings, etc,.
  6. Making this possible is another conception of city, block and building. All are sites of movement. Fixed points are the after effect of movement. Points and lines mark movement.
  7. At three levels – city, block and building -lines draw points of intensity together while holding them apart. Connection and disconnection are simultaneously present.
  8. Intensity, connection and disconnection are differing forms of movement. Movement does not have an essential quality. Points and lines can be opened up, reworked. They become sites of addition equally sites of subtraction as the result of the registration of the introduction of differential processes within movement. (That ‘introduction’ and thus the work of ‘differentials’ are guided. Guiding is programme within lines as sites of work.)
  9. Movement is neither public nor private. Differing modes of movement produce different spaces. Private and public are modes of spacing. Meaning, understood as a form of fixity, is itself an after effect of movement.
  10. Lines both separate and join. And yet precisely because lines also fray and knot they allow for other modes of development. Lines thus conceived contain within them possibilities for development. Addition becomes the release of potentialities that are already there within lines. Equally it is a potentiality already there within urban once the given is transformed through a process of remapping.
  11. Remapping -be it of the city, block or building – identifies potentialities. They occur when lines knot or fray and thus where interstitial spaces become result of the regist productive. Within a logic of fraying and mapping, buildings, even if they are original, will need to be parasites.
  12. Parasites survive if their host survives. The parasite as that which lives on, though equally as that which lives along side, reworks the city, the block and building by incorporating them within an ecology of relations. Relations and connections allow for the release of potentialities.


Andrew Benjamin is Professor of Critical Theory and Philosophical Aesthetics in the Centre for Comparative Literature and Cultural Studies in Monash University. He was previously Professor of Philosophy and Director of the Centre for Research in Philosophy and Literature at Warwick University. An internationally recognised authority on contemporary French and German critical theory, he has been Visiting Professor at Columbia University in New York and Visiting Critic at the Architectural Association in London. His many books include: What is Deconstruction? (1988), Art, Mimesis and the Avant-Garde (1991), Present Hope: Philosophy, Architecture, Judaism (1997), Philosophy’s Literature (2001) and Disclosing Spaces: On Painting (2004). He also edited The Lyotard Reader(1989), Abjection, Melancholia and Love: the Work of Julia Kristeva(1990) and Walter Benjamin’s Philosophy: Destruction and Experience (1993) and Walter Benjamin and Romanticism (2002).