Recombinant Urbanism: Conceptual Modeling in Architecture, Urban Design and City Theory by David Grahame ShaneRecombinant Urbanism: Conceptual Modeling in Architecture, Urban Design and City Theory by David Grahame Shane

Recombinant Urbanism: Conceptual Modeling in Architecture, Urban Design and City Theory

byDavid Grahame Shane

Paperback | June 17, 2005

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This book provides a simple but comprehensive framework for the emerging academic discipline of urban design, from its origins in Europe and America, to contemporary issues of imagery, finance and marketing in an age of globalisation

There is currently no contemporary textbook for urban design that includes a general history and theory of the subject.

Internationally, urban design is more and more becoming a core subject taught in architecture schools. The AIA (US) and the RIBA (UK) both require undergraduates and graduates to study the urban dimension of architectural design. On a wider scale, in Europe, the EU is developing a common architectural curriculum, which includes an urban component for under-graduates. The situation is similar in schools across Asia and Australia.

Aimed at both students and teachers, this book provides a simple and accessible framework, from the origins of urban design and the main techniques developed to deal with the design of fragments of cities, to participatory planning processes, codes, imagery, finance and marketing. Finally, it proposes an innovative vision of contemporary practice based on the work of leading actors and projects in the field.

  • This book is set to become the key textbook at undergraduate and graduate levels
  • It is written in an accessible and direct tone, and highly illustrated with many colour and black and white diagrams
  • It includes a general history and theory of urban design and provides an up-to-date account of contemporary urban conditions

Praise for Recombinant Urbanism:

"Documents a major intellectual advance…eagerly awaited by academics and practitioners all around the world… should become a standard text for schools of architecture and urbanism." Leon Van Schaik, Innovation Professor of Architecture, RMIT, Australia 

" …both unique and instrumentally positive.  The book is the result of many years of research and writing, and is a small masterpiece in urban studies.  It has already proved its worth in the teaching of urban studies, at Columbia, the AA, the Bartlett School, and Cooper Union, to mention only a few of the universities where Dr Shane has had a powerful influence...It is, indeed, one of the very best manuscripts I have read in the field in the last few years."  Anthony Vidler, Professor and Dean, Irwin S Chanin School of Architecture, Cooper Union, New York, USA

"I can say without hesitation that I fully endorse Grahame’s work…the issues it covers are highly topical and such a book would indeed be widely read by architecture students, urban designers and planners." Colin Fournier, Professor of Architecture &Urbanism, Bartlett School of Architecture, UCL, UK

"Of great necessity for undergraduate and postgraduate students, scientists and professionals in urban planning and design [This] publication will certainly inspire work with city models in a wide range of practice." Henrik W Jensen, Associate Professor in Town Planning, Aarhus School of Architecture, The Netherlands

"A very important book.  Shane … has made legible and sensible the reams of recent urban discourse for a general college reader. Because of this labor-intensive effort, this book will be accessible by undergrad architecture programs as well as graduate seminars in urban design and planning. Additionally there is a big interest in UD and UP theory in ecology and social science now, and because of Grahame’s generous writing style the book will cross over to these other disciplines. … I can also speak to the international interest in this book; … again Shane has made important urban theories and thinking more widely available to an international student audience. … The legacy the book will have (will be in) convincing people that the design of cities matters, not in the overbearing and over-controlling sense of new urbanism, but in reinforcing the multiple possibilities of contemporary life.   Brian McGrath, Adjunct Associate Professor of Architecture, Columbia University, USA

David Grahame Shane trained at the Architectural Association School of Architecture in London in the 1960s during the Archigram years. He completed an M.Arch in Urban Design and a Ph.D in Architectural and Urban History at Cornell University with Colin Rowe. He taught at the A.A. School under Alvin Boyarsky, before joining Columbia  Un...
Title:Recombinant Urbanism: Conceptual Modeling in Architecture, Urban Design and City TheoryFormat:PaperbackDimensions:344 pages, 8.7 × 6.8 × 0.78 inPublished:June 17, 2005Publisher:WileyLanguage:English

The following ISBNs are associated with this title:

ISBN - 10:0470093315

ISBN - 13:9780470093313

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Rated 5 out of 5 by from RJI I have a plan. My plan is to fill myself with information about Cities to the extent that I have a workable theoretical knowledge that I can put into practice to improve the quality of our urban environment. This may seem like a lofty goal and might be better done with direct hands-on approach. But the problem is such a huge one that a fuller knowledge of the history and substance of city development, along with the theories that have been expounded are necessary to better identify why and how we have arrived at the point we have. David Grahame Shane’s book is my first headlong dive into the theory of urban and city design and I must admit that at first I found the waters somewhat murky. However by working hard and concentrating I think I gleaned at least a little bit more understanding. But after reading the book to the end there was not a whole lot of practical information that I was able to grasp hold of. (I suppose that is not surprising considering that it is a theoretical treatise. But the back-cover “blurb” suggested that the book “Provides a sophisticated and potent set of tools for urban designers….”) Be that as it may, what is interesting is the discussion of how various city design theorists have dissected and studied the urban situation and how Shane uses Crick and Watson’s DNA structural analysis “…a coded, heritable, alterable sequence of amino acids. If you change the sequence, you change the structure of the organism. I was haunted by the idea that there might be an urban sequencing apparatus analogous to biology’s DNA spiral code.”: thus the “recombinant” in the title of the book. It is fascinating (if like me you have not been much exposed to City Theory) to read a narrative of analysis of the urban situation undertaken by a variety of people such as Kevin Lynch, Colin Rowe and Alvin Boyarsky. And to see how each of them had a three-part description of how cities developed, each with a different name (and always three-parted). Shane describes the three Urban Elements as “the Armature” (i.e. streets) “the Enclaves” (simplistically seen as static elements such as city squares amongst others) and the most difficult to understand (at least for me) “the Heterotopia” (translated to mean “a place that mixes the stasis of the enclave with the flow of the armature, and in which the balance between these two systems is constantly changing”). I particularly liked, for it’s graphic representation, the reference to various types of eggs, as proposed by Cedric Price in 1982: the boiled, the fried and the scrambled eggs. “Each style of egg…..aptly describes a different pattern of relationships, a different organization of the city, a different distribution of control and power”. Put on our theoretical hat and sit down and read this book. Once past the shock of it’s theoretical premise you will find it enthralling and engrossing. I am keen to hear how others interpret this book’s analysis.
Date published: 2005-09-18

Table of Contents



Chapter 1.

What is City Theory?

Chapter 2.

What is Urban Design?

Chapter 3.

Three Urban Elelments.

Chapter 4.

Heterotopias in City Medleing and Urban Design.


Heterotopias, the Net City, and Recombinant Urbanism.







Editorial Reviews

..."will become the first 'cult' book in the field...a dazzling and positive interpretation..." (, Jan 06)

..."an excellent book..." ("Architects Journal," April 2006)

"This book offers a very useful history of ideas of urban design" ("Urban Design," May 2006)

“ … the first serious attempt to understand contemporary cities… ” ("Architectural Review," August 2006)