Bigness or Vastness?

  • Francesco SpaneddaEmail author
Part of the Urban and Landscape Perspectives book series (URBANLAND, volume 14)


The discussion on architectural design and urban planning focuses mainly on the issues raised by huge urban agglomerations. Rapid development in Eastern and Southern Asia and the awareness that more than half the world population has actually become urban (UN 2007), together with other facts, are drawing the attention of professionals and theorists to the varied facets of high densification. As usual when new fascinating problems arise, the fresh concepts and tools developed to understand and handle the realm of metropolises and megacities are often misused and extended to different, smaller and less involved urban realities. The adjective “metropolitan” is frequently used to describe every urban settlement, though their form and function may not show any of the characters of the metropolis. Some large-scale, sociological and economic problems arising from this polarisation have already been described in some publications (Afshar, Habitat Int 22:375–387, 1998); their basic arguments run parallel to those expressed in this article. However, a great amount of work still needs to be done on the scale of urban design and architecture. This chapter attempts to investigate adequate and effective ideas for the less densely populated areas, mainly focusing on three points:
  1. 1.

    How concepts regarding cities and contemporary urban design are strongly affected by imagery related principally to the idea of metropolis that has slowly evolved since the very beginning of the twentieth century.

  2. 2.

    A “reality check” based on official sources concerning the true importance of the metropolis in world population distribution.

  3. 3.

    A non-exhaustive list of conceptual tools addressing architectural work in less populated areas.



Urban requalification Architectural design Environmental design Low-density settlement Urban design 


  1. Afshar F (1998) Balancing global city with global village. Habitat Int 22:375–387CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  2. Balk D, Pozzi F, Yetman G, Deichmann U, Nelson A (2005) The distribution of people and the dimension of place: methodologies to improve the global estimation of urban extents. International Society for Photogrammetry and Remote Sensing, Proceedings of the urban remote sensing conferenceGoogle Scholar
  3. Bey HTAZ (1991) The temporary autonomous zone, ontological anarchy, poetic terrorism. Autonomedia, New York, viii, 141 pGoogle Scholar
  4. Corboz A (1993) Avete detto spazio? Casabella 597–598:20–23Google Scholar
  5. Davey P (2002) Bigness: bigness is one of the greatest problems of contemporary architecture. While programmes have become larger and larger, architectural imagination has scarcely grown to reply to them (comment). Archit Rev 212(1266):4–5Google Scholar
  6. Deleuze G, Guattari F (1980) Mille plateaux. Editions de Minuit, ParisGoogle Scholar
  7. Frampton K, Cava J (eds) (1995) Studies in tectonic culture. MIT Press, Cambridge, MAGoogle Scholar
  8. Graeme H, Champion A, Lattes A (2003) Toward a new conceptualization of settlements for demography. Popul Dev Rev 29:277–297CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  9. Hepworth B (1978) A pictorial autobiography. Moonraker Press, Bradford-on-AvonGoogle Scholar
  10. Ibelings H (2006) Small town Europe. A10 11:3Google Scholar
  11. Johnston L (2009) Glenn Murcutt – architecture for a place. Area 107:16–25Google Scholar
  12. Koolhaas R (1978) Delirious New York: a retroactive manifesto for Manhattan. Thames and Hudson, LondonGoogle Scholar
  13. Koolhaas R, Mau B, Sigler J, Werlemann H (1998) Small, medium, large, extra-large. Monacelli Press, New YorkGoogle Scholar
  14. Le Corbusier (1935) La ville radieuse: éléments d’une doctrine d’urbanisme pour l’équipement de la civilisation machiniste: Paris, Genéve, Rio de Janeiro. Architecture d’Aujourd’huiGoogle Scholar
  15. Meyer J (2004) No more scale: the experience of size in contemporary sculpture. Artforum 42(10):220–228Google Scholar
  16. Morris R (1966) Notes on sculpture, part 2. Artforum 5(2):20–23Google Scholar
  17. Paterson M (2008) Review essay: charting the return to the senses. Environ Plan D: Soc Sp 26:563–569CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  18. Principe I (1983) Sassari, Alghero, Castelsardo, Porto Torres. Laterza, Le Città nella storia d’Italia Grandi opere, 173 pGoogle Scholar
  19. Prytherch D, McLundie M (2002) So what is haptics anyway? Res Issue Art Des Media 2:1–16Google Scholar
  20. Simmel G (1950) The metropolis and mental life. In: Wolff KH (ed) The sociology of Georg Simmel. Free Press, Glencoe, pp 409–424Google Scholar
  21. Riegl A (1893) Stilfragen: grundlegungen zu einer Geschichte der Ornamentik. G. Siemens, BerlinGoogle Scholar
  22. Rossi A (ed) (1982) The architecture of the city. MIT Press, Cambridge, MAGoogle Scholar
  23. Weizman E (2002) The politics of verticality.

Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media Dordrecht 2013

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Department of Architecture, Design and PlanningUniversity of SassariAlgheroItaly

Personalised recommendations