Urban constants and variables

The urban environment is a container of information. Anything can be treated as information, in as far as it is quantifiable.

As Aldo Rossi points out in The Architecture of the City, the city consists of Urban Artifacts, the constants in the changing urban fabric. As an adaptive construct, the city contains both constants and variables. The constants, however large or small, tangible or intangible, provide a parametric framework through which the city defines itself.
This observation applies fundamentally to any adaptive system. There are those elements which define a framework, between which other elements fluctuate. These variables, defined by behavioral inputs, create new forms within existing parameters.

Constants and variables define themselves relative to eachother. A case in point is sheering layers, a concept mentioned by Stuart Brand in How Building Learn. Sheering layers are essentially components of a building that evolve in different timescales. In order of longevity, the layers are: site, structure, skin, services, space plan, and stuff (furniture and appliances). The adaptability of a building, according to Brand, is determined by the degree to which faster layers are not obstructed by slower layers.

The relationship between constants and variables in an urban setting is something which continues to interest me and inform my work.

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