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* Chris Abel *
"Abel writes in a brisk, no-nonsense manner and steers
clear of glib acceptance of received wisdom"
Andrew Ballantyne, Times Literary Supplement
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* PUBLICATIONS EXTRACTS
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On Self-Organizing Systems
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On Customized Automation
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On Critical Theory
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On Cultural Identity
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On Rational Design
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On Empathy
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On Innovation and Metaphor
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On Globalization
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On History
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On Henning Larsen
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On Norman Foster
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On Richard England
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On Postmodernism
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On Sustainability
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On Deconstructivism
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On Biotech Architecture
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On Vertical Architecture
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On Harry Seidler
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On Foster and Gehry
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On Cyberspace
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On Writing
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On Australian Architecture
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On Virtual Evolution
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On The Vertical Garden City
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On The Extended Self
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* ON SUSTAINABILITY *
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Ecodevelopment, appropriate technology, and regional architecture all represent significant movements toward cultural emancipation and social devolution, away from Western domination, toward relatively autonomous regional cultures. Each, however, is dependant on the others for wider implementation and success. Ecodevelopment, for example, requires both appropriate technology and built solutions in order to translate principles into environmental results. From the other end of the scale, regional architecture requires both ecologically sensitive development policies and appropriate technologies in order to turn an exemplary movement into a normative building pattern. Taken together, these movements comprise the core elements of a new, decentralized global culture in the making, which, though incomplete, may be set against present Western ethnocentric cultural forms as a positive alternative.

I shall group these emergent alternative forms of development under what I shall call 'eco-culture', in contrast to the 'consumer culture' represented by the Western dominated, corporate-run society which presently holds sway. Both these contemporary culture-forms may in turn be set within a wider historical perspective by the addition of two further categories: 'traditional culture', and 'colonial culture'...It will be seen that homogeneity is a defining characteristic mainly of both the first and third cultural types, though it may also exist at a local level for the last type. However, the internal homogeneity characteristic of traditional cultures, which may otherwise vary greatly, represents a vastly different form of integration from the global homogeneity characteristic of consumer culture. From this point of view, consumer culture represents a regressive trend, which may be useful for the purposes of centralized control of international commerce, but depletes regional populations, and the world at large, of diverse and irreplaceable cultural resources. To adopt an ecological metaphor: orthodox development presents just as much of a danger to the store of human knowledge contained within these cultural 'gene-banks', as it does to nature's own gene-banks.

Paradoxically, by comparison with present development patterns, colonial culture represents a relatively complex global evolution, in which different cultures co-existed without severe loss of character, albeit still under conditions of domination from the centre. The last type, eco-culture, suggests a further and more positive evolution toward global complexity, based on complementary regional and international cultures free from domination. It shares ecological values similar to those of traditional cultures, and while the same degree of self-sufficiency may not be achievable, it marks a significant movement in the direction of cultural diversity and equity.

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* From: 'Ecodevelopment: toward a development paradigm for regional architecture'. Traditional Dwellings and Settlements Working Papers Series, Vol. 44, December 1992, pp. 17-21. *
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While the complete development city has yet to be built in its entirety, most of the above features have already been or are in the process of being implemented in one form or another, either in New Bombay or in Singapore if not elsewhere. Though the more extreme versions of laisse-faire are rejected, neither does the model represent any kind of return to old style, rigid physical masterplanning. The development city's heterarchical structure of well connected and evenly distributed nodes and functions comprises an essentially flexible strategy for growth and change, encouraging individual and entrepreneurial initiatives and allowing for the unexpected but inevitable problems in the distribution of resources and functions. Similarly, the incremental design policies and guidelines which underpin much of the physical fabric of the city allow considerable room for participation and interpretation by both professionals and non-professionals. Most important of all, the strong focus on economic and social development suggests a radical and overdue break with the geometric and formal models which have diverted architect-planners in the past, offering lessons for megacities in other parts of the developing world as well as Asia. Having been on the receiving end of Western influence for so long, it would not be surprising if the innovative works and ideas of the four Asian urbanists discussed here were eventually seen to represent the beginnings of a genuine non-Western school of urbanism, joining well-established architectural initiatives.

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* From: Architecture and Identity (2nd ed). Architectural Press, 2000, pp. 233-234. *
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