Many critics have pointed to the failures of modern urban planning paradigm, especially obliteration of vitality of the neighbourhoods, demarcated and sterile functionalism and production of public realm that are alienating from its traditional qualities addressing quality humane urban form.
Having said that it is also apparent that the focus on articulating or locating the discord within the modernist paradigm is largely remains absent theoretically. The probable reason for such situation partly due to not able to fully capture embodied experience manifested in an overwhelmingly visual spectacle. The visual disposition of place is governed by the modern concept of abstract space. Hence utopianism and functional paradigm dominated the project of modernist planning. There has been several attempts to theorize human aspect of urban form and primary literature by Christopher Alexander emphasizing elementarist approach to comprehensive urban experience, mainly revolved around scientific logic, delight & aesthetics, phenomena and everyday life. The phenomenological critique is an open ended discourse and can lead us to see precisely where earlier paradigm in urban design went wrong; it can also help lead us blur the boundary of the dichotomy that perpetuated in several literature alienating modernism vs orthodox traditionalism.
Having said that, the phenomenology research has cultural connotation, while most of the literature are produced in other part of the globe, the clarity of such relation between phenomenology and cultural specificity or psycho-phenomenology is yet to be explored to make any conclusive remark, however his literature and position remains tirelessly valid.
But the last point is very important of all, is urban design increasingly becoming subservience to urban science and engineering where spatial, experiential and visual qualities are almost suggested to be pushed into margin. In this reference the work of Christopher Alexander remains critical, secular and timeless harbouring nature and existential embodiment that goes beyond architecture and urbanism.
Photo Credit: Manoj Parmar Architects