Against Hybridity

A Return to Separation

Rob Meyerson (MAUD '18)


Image by John Gollings. Phillip Island House, by Denton Corker Marshall

The idea of limits is crucial to contemporary life. Limits bring order and understanding to space, they provide a frame for which to enter and exit. How else do we feel the excitement of moving through the chaos of one environment and into the sanctuary of our private rooms? Thresholds, portals and entrances provide the rhythm for our experiences and encounters on a daily basis.

It is within this ideology I would argue that an urban-architectural project could exist. There is a tendency to celebrate the generic nature of the expansions of many contemporary cities. Sprawl and urbanization have been a result of many factors and forces, and the outcome a new form of territory. This new form of territory has blurred the boundary between the traditional center and the periphery, to a state where we really have no definition of the city anymore.

In defining the city, or at least the idea of a city, we may be able to argue for the return of true urban design projects. These are projects which have value in either being part of, or against the city. The projects that sit on the fence are precisely that – they give up something to be a part of something else. Projects that stand for something take on a ratbag attitude, somewhat naively but at least they stand strongly in favor of something. To be clear, this is not an argument against the explosion of urbanization, but simply an approach to claim one side or the other.

What would a project look like that argued for the return of the definition of the city? One answer could be that of limits. In other words, the new project could have no real interest in style or facade, but be purely concerned in defining itself against what it is not. It is a project that sets up boundaries between itself and the rest, which states clearly its political intention without blending in to the rest of the city. The urge to blend, to mix or to become hybrid has diluted the power of the urban-architectural project to make a statement. Once the ability for urban projects to comment on their position in the city is lost, they may no longer be urban at all.


  1. Rowe, Peter G and Kan, Har Ye, Macau and Its Borders, in Common Frameworks: Rethinking the Developmental City in China, Harvard Design Studies, 2016 pp 132-145