Patrick Geddes and the Notation of Life

Over the last few decades, there has been renewed interest in the work of biologist, sociologist, and city planner Patrick Geddes [1]. This is due to his efforts for holistic considerations for the entirety of the modes of human life and the facilities appropriate for their function. That is, he asked what makes a city or a town ideal for life, and how can we plan to bring this ideality into being? To this day, cities fail in many important ways.

Geddes embraced the new (at the time) Victorian notion of evolution in his work and thought of how cities could and should evolve to meet their shortcomings as well as provide environments for future developments. For example, common institutions such as schools, churches, and governments (polity) need to cooperate with family dwellings to provide for synergy and functional enrichment.

Geddes often used grids of words to explore relations between concepts, such as place, work, and folk. Placing these words along the diagonal of a square allowed one to consider the paired concepts of place-work, work-place, place-folk, etc. For example, how does the place-work compare with the work-place? His “notation of life” was a complicated schematic for exploring relations between a city’s facilities and the activities that they should promote.

  • Town / Acts : place, work, folk
  • School / Facts : sense, experience, feeling (alt. lore, learn, love)
  • City / Deeds : ethno-polity, synergy, achievement (alt. polity, culture art)
  • Cloister / Dreams (Thoughts) : emotion, ideation, imagery (alt. ideals, ideas, imagery)

Two locales are objective, two are subjective, two are passive, and two are active:

  • In-World (Subjective) : School and Cloister
  • Out-World (Objective) : Town and City
  • Passive : Town and School
  • Active : City and Cloister

And so:

  • Passive & Subjective : School
  • Active & Subjective : Cloister
  • Passive & Objective : Town
  • Active & Objective : City

Any important thinker is inspired and influenced by those that were previous or are contemporary to them and in turn is inspiration to those that follow. James H. Cousins was an important syncronic influence on Geddes, and please see [2] and [3] for information about him. The integral theory of Ken Wilber [4] is also compared to Geddes in [5]. I understand architect Lewis Mumford was a disciple of Geddes and I hope to find out more at a future time, perhaps by reading my copy of [6].

References:

[1] https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Patrick_Geddes

[2] http://hodgers.com/mike/patrickgeddes/feature.html

[3] https://equivalentexchange.blog/2017/07/13/a-study-in-synthesis/

[4] https://equivalentexchange.blog/2010/06/10/ken-wilbers-aqal/

[5] Theodore S. Eisenman, Tom Murray / An Integral Lens on Patrick Geddes, Landscape and Urban Planning,
http://dx.doi.org/10.1016/j.landurbplan.2017.05.011

[6] Donald T. Miller / Lewis Mumford, a Life

Further Reading:

http://architectureandurbanism.blogspot.com/2010/10/volker-m-welter-biopolis-patrick-geddes.html

https://www.dundee.ac.uk/geddesinstitute/projects/citythink/

http ://medium.com/@designforsustainability/design-and-planning-for-people-in-place-sir-patrick-geddes-1854-1932-and-the-emergence-of-2efa4886317e

View at Medium.com

https://quadralectics.wordpress.com/4-representation/4-1-form/4-1-4-cities-in-the-mind/4-1-4-1-the-ideal-city/

Patrick Geddes / Cities in Evolution

https://archive.org/details/citiesinevolutio00gedduoft/page/n10

[*9.12, *9.14, *11.92]

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One Response to “Patrick Geddes and the Notation of Life”

  1. Gilbert Kirk Says:

    Not to butter you up too much, but I enjoy your writing style, Martin. Keep up the good work!

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