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The Mythical Search for 'Congruity' in the City

In the eighth installment of the Urban Juxtapositions series profiled in Planetizen on January 16, Chuck Wolfe asks if we are using the right language when it comes to densifying urban spaces.
February 1, 2014, 9am PST | Charles R. Wolfe | @crwolfelaw
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In an illustrated essay that travels from Chicago's Millennium Park to the scaled settlements of Western Iceland, Chuck Wolfe follows up on questions posed early-on in his Urban Juxtapositions series about conceptual approaches to the overlaps, overlays and crossroads of today's city.  

The focus?  Expectations of "congruity" in urban development:

For many, a dramatic contrast in height, bulk and density is the recipe for “incongruity”. But, in a larger sense, don’t today’s urban centerpieces by definition show the latent “incongruities” of city life?

Wolfe casts "urban blending" and any associated quest for balance as a search for harmony and agreement far more complex than physical appearance, in a comprehensive fashion not limited by ambiguous words:

In other words, the “incongruity” that some would malign as an uneven landscape of height and imbalance, becomes a treasure-trove of irregular, provocative architecture and investment.  This investment generates aesthetic and monetary capital to enhance, and not detract from, the public realm nearby.

Offering contrasting examples of classic Icelandic landscapes as instances of "authentic harmony and agreement", Wolfe urges distinction between the balance humans still carry out in the raw landscapes of simpler places and the the vocabulary of balance often sought in in the urban context.

He concludes:

If we remember these nuances in urban setting today, we will better understand that balance and “congruity” are not absolutes, but end-games with multiple meanings, dependent on context, and careful reflection.

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Published on Tuesday, January 28, 2014 in myurbanist
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