The evolution, politics and aesthetics of cities have occupied my thinking across the past two decades. After formative work on philosophical system and conceptual space as a graduate student in Continental Philosophy, my interests moved into the physical and the political spaces that make up our world. I then spent a year working on an international architectural project at Stiftung Bauhaus Dessau called Serve City: Interactive Urbanism, looking at design-led approaches to key problems of living and working in the complex C21st urban metropolises that increasingly characterise our world. On returning to Australia, I applied this thinking discursively as well as creatively. The What Makes a City? course that I taught at the CAE invited participants to embark on urban critique while walking through the streets of Melbourne. The Philosophy as Public Art course that I taught at the Melbourne School of Continental Philosophy brought public artists together with students of philosophy, resolving complex philosophical problems as works of public art that would amplify those problems into questions asked anew in the public space. And then, across a decade, I co-curated Architecture+Philosophy, which posed timely questions for the spaces between theory, buildings and the city. Across this time, my work in leading arts organisations was preoccupied with the ways in which art creates public space: how publishing and broadcasting make spaces for public discussion; how writing can occupyperform and transform public space; how festivals make art public.

Ten years ago I wrote a curriculum outline and reading list for a studio at the RMIT School of Architecture & Design called map – system – interface. Events intervened and unfortunately I never taught it; now, in S2 2016, I am co-teaching a studio on the design of new regional cities. And so I’ve had occasion to revisit that work and its thinking.

The map – system – interface studio wasn’t the speculative approach to new cities that characterises this year’s studio. Rather, it was about engaging with the city in practical ways. I posited the city as something active, emergent and incomplete. I proposed map, system and interface as ways of reading, interpreting, forming, programming or playing with the city. And I was interested in the strategies and techniques that students would develop to read, interpret, form, program and play.

As I read through the list, new connections emerge that reframe that thinking.


map – system – interface


Chronological Chart 1765-1916
from Françoise Choay (1969), The Modern City: Planning in the 19th Century, New York: Georger Brazillier; reproduced in George F. McClean and John Kromkowski (eds) “Urbanisation and Values,” Culture and Values 5, Journal of the Council for Research in Values and Philosophy, Series I Vol 5 1991; pp8-12

The Polis: the nature of the political community (Vasiliki P. Papanikolaou)
in “Urbanisation and Values” pp25-49 

Space (Adrian Forty)
in Words and Buildings: A Vocabulary of Modern Architecture, London: Thames and Hudson, 2000; pp256-275

The philosophical notion of the city (Heinz Pætzold)
from Heinz Pætzold (ed) (1997) City Life, Excerpted In Miles, M Et Al (Eds) (2000) The City Cultures Reader, New York: Routledge; pp204-22 

Whatever happened to urbanism? (Rem Koolhaas)
in Jencks, C and Kropf, K (eds) (1997) Theories and manifestoes of contemporary architecture, West Sussex: Academy Editions; pp305-306

Bigness: or the problem of the large (Rem Koolhaas)
in Theories and manifestoes of contemporary architecture pp307-311

The death and life of great American cities (Jane Jacobs)
in Theories and manifestoes of contemporary architecture pp24-26

Team X Primer (Aldo van Eyck) (excerpt)
in Theories and manifestoes of contemporary architecture p26


Introduction: Rhizome (Deleuze and Guattari)
in A Thousand Plateaus: Capitalism and Schizophrenia (1980), trans. B. Massumi, London: the Athlone Press, 1988; pp3-25

Webbing the grid: internet maps and the play of becoming (Meredith Hoy)
reproduced with the permission of the author

Cities as movement economies (Bill Hillier)
in Space is the Machine: A Configurational Theory of Architecture (1996), Cambridge University Press; pp149-182

On exactitude in science (Jorge Luis Borges)
in Collected Fictions (1998) trans. Andrew Hurley, New York: Viking; p325

“The Page” and “The town” (Georges Perec)
in Species of Spaces and Other Pieces (1974), trans. John Sturrock, London: Penguin, 1997; pp9-15 and 60-67

Collage City (Colin Rowe and Fred Koetter)
in Theories and manifestoes of contemporary architecture pp60-64

Non-Plan (Cedric Price)
in Theories and manifestoes of contemporary architecture pp239-240

The dissipation of our bodies into the city (Coop Himmelblau)
in Theories and manifestoes of contemporary architecture pp286-287

Team X Primer (Alison and Peter Smithson)
in Theories and manifestoes of contemporary architecture pp218-219

Art militaire, armes et machines de guerre and Art Militaire, fortification (lithographs, Benard Fecit)
in Diderot, Encyclopædie (1762-1777)

Of other spaces: utopias and heterotopias (Michel Foucault)
in Leach, N (ed) (1997) Rethinking architecture: a reader in cultural theory, London and New York: Routledge; pp350-356



“Centre-city, empty centre” and “No address” (Roland Barthes)
from Empire of Signs (1970); in The City Cultures Reader p195-196

Alternative space (Rosalyn Deutsche)
from B. Wallis (ed) (1991) If you lived here; in The City Cultures Reader pp200-203 

A city is not a tree (Christopher Alexander)
in Theories and manifestoes of contemporary architecture pp30-33

The architecture of the city (Aldo Rossi)
in Theories and manifestoes of contemporary architecture pp36-39

The image of the city (Kevin Lynch)
in Theories and manifestoes of contemporary architecture pp18-21 

Semiology and the urban (Roland Barthes)
in Rethinking architecture pp166-172

Selected texts, Umberto Eco

Selected texts, Georges Bataille


The diagram debate, or the schizoid architect (Bart Lootsma)
in Frédéric Migayrou and Marie-Ange Brayer (eds) (2001) ArchiLab: Radical experiments in global architecture, London: Thames and Hudson 

Six concepts (Bernard Tschumi)
lecture (1991) Columbia University, in Architecture and disjunction, MIT Press, 1996; pp227-261

ADD Studio Project (Mahesh Radhakrishnan and Vivek Shankar)
(Mumbai, India) reproduced with the permission of the author

“The culture industry: enlightenment as mass deception” (Theodor W. Adorno and Max Horkheimer) (excerpt) from Dialectic of Enlightenment (1944); in The City Cultures Reader p95

Out of order: the public art machine (Patricia Phillips)
from Artforum (1988); in The City Cultures Reader pp96-102

Selected texts, Paul Virilio

Selected texts, Hélène Cixous


IMAGE: Point Supreme Architects rethinking Athens.