Emily Badger surveys the 10 highly influential diagrams - from Ebenezer Howard's Garden City to Le Corbusier's Radiant City to the Transect - that comprise SPUR's new exhibition, "Grand Reductions: Ten diagrams that changed urban planning." She also examines the possibilities, both positive and negative, inherent in a "simple illustration's power to encapsulate complex ideas."
"In the urban context, diagrams can be powerful precisely because they make weighty questions of land use and design digestible in a single sweep of the eye," notes Badger. "But as Le Corbusier's plan illustrates, they can also seductively oversimplify the problems of cities."
"The diagram can cut both ways: It can either be a distillation in the best sense of really taking a very complex set of issues and providing us with a very elegant communication of the solution," says Benjamin Grant, the public realm and urban design program manager for SPUR. "Or it can artificially simplify something that actually needs to be complex."
The exhibit is on show until February 15, 2013 at the SPUR Urban Center Gallery, 654 Mission Street, San Francisco.