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From Sustainability to Transformation: Crafting a Fundamental Shift

We are pleased to present a new Routledge Sustainability blog post written by Aseem Inam, author of Designing Urban Transformation.

With a new entry every fortnight, blog posts written by various Routledge authors will be displayed both on the Routledge website and on our Facebook page. Each post within Facebook will be open to comments so please feel free to voice your thoughts! You can view all of our past blog posts here as well. 

View all Routledge Sustainability Blog articles.

One of my greatest passions for the last few years has been a book project, Designing Urban Transformation. The book reflects my belief as a scholar-practitioner that ideas matter and that how we think matters. It distills lessons from professional practice as a designer for the last 20 years -- experiences which took me from the remote villages of India, to large-scale urban projects in Los Angeles, and on to designing countrywide recovery strategies after the earthquake in Haiti. I have wrestled passionately with the ideas of Designing Urban Transformation for many years. These ideas were formed, challenged, tested, and refined through the writing process and will continue to evolve even after the book is published. Even when I started studying architecture in college at the age of 16, I combined a keen interest in design with a perhaps equally keen skepticism of the overly narrow range of its practice. Further, as a lifelong student of urbanism, I brainstormed and tested my ideas in classes and studios as a student, through formal projects and design strategies as a practitioner, through experimental pedagogies as a professor, through serious theoretical and empirical research as a scholar, and through first-hand experiences as a resident and visitor of cities all over the world. These realms of urban investigation continue to intertwine and enrich each other.

Rather than focusing on how we can make urbanism somewhat better, or cataloging and imitating so-called best practices, or articulating how a singular approach on sustainability and technology will supposedly save our cities, this book makes a seemingly simple yet profound meta-argument: How we think about cities absolutely impacts how we design them. The most fundamental shifts in transforming cities do not happen by tinkering around the edges, but by fundamentally rethinking processes, methods, and outcomes of urbanism. From this perspective, some readers may view this book as largely theoretical or even polemical; rather, I apply the philosophy of Pragmatism to inspire a framework for crafting this fundamental re-thinking. The book’s ten case studies of urban interventions demonstrate the different ways and widely varying contexts in which this new approach can work—all with extremely impressive results.

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  1. Designing Urban Transformation

    By Aseem Inam

    While designers possess the creative capabilities of shaping cities, their often-singular obsession with form and aesthetics actually reduces their effectiveness as they are at the mercy of more powerful generators of urban form. In response to this paradox, Designing Urban Transformation addresses...

    Published November 26th 2013 by Routledge