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The Handbook of Urban Morphology

Karl Kropf

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To Emma      


This book is the result of a long process of fermentation involving research and practice that has built on the work of many people. It started with the perception of a resemblance between the work of MRG Conzen on the one hand, and Gianfranco Caniggia and Gian Luigi Maffei on the other. The aim and hope has been to work through that resemblance and show that both were early expressions of a larger, coherent body of ideas, principles and logic. Any such body of knowledge is the product of a large group of people and there are many to whom this book owes a significant debt of both substance and gratitude. People on whose work I have drawn and whom I have also had the privilege and good fortune to meet and discuss their ideas include: MRG Conzen, Gianfranco Caniggia, Gian Luigi Maffei, Jeremy Whitehand, Anne Vernez Moudon, Sylvain Malfroy, Terry Slater, Jean Castex, Attilio Petruccioli, Giuseppe Strappa, Michael Conzen, Brenda Case Scheer, Nicola Marzot, Marco Maretto, Stephen Marshall, Philip Steadman and Alan Wilson. To these people the book owes its strengths, while I must take responsibility for any weaknesses.

If any book is the product of wider learning and experience I would also like to acknowledge and thank a number of people who have provided support and direction along the way. These include: Randy Hester and Paul Groth from the University of California at Berkeley for early inspiration, thoughtful discussions and promoting an open-minded and inquiring view of our surroundings; Mario Violich for stretching and expansive conversations, work and java; Joe Geller of Geller Associates and Josefina Yanguas Perez of Café Pamplona for support and insights into the balance between the practical and the aesthetic; the Joint Centre for Urban Design at Oxford Polytechnic (now Brookes University), in particular Ivor Samuels and Brian Goodey for their introduction to urban morphology and early advice, and Richard Hayward for instilling an intelligent political consciousness; John Kriken, Kathrin Moore and Steve Townsend and the rest of the Urban Design Team at Skidmore, Owings & Merrill, San Francisco, for an understanding of design quality and professionalism as well as a positive sense of teamwork; Ann and Alan Gore for unswerving loyalty, deep knowledge and aesthetic sense; Jeremy Whitehand for innumerable forms of support and encouragement combined with learning, experience and standards of scholarship; Mark Griffiths for countless discussions and fertile analogical thinking; Sylvain Malfroy for encouraging conceptual breadth and rigour as well as intellectual and linguistic nuance; Anne Vernez Moudon for bringing people together, supporting exchange and synthesis, and agreeing to disagree and carry on a very fruitful debate about plots and lots; Attilio Petruccioli for providing opportunities to air and explore ideas and for imparting diverse knowledge and pragmatic grace; John Marshall for his standards, learning and generosity of spirit; Brenda Case Scheer for vigorous, intelligent debate and getting things done; Michael Conzen for consistent encouragement and thoroughgoing, substantive discussions.

Particular recognition and thanks must go to Jeremy Whitehand, who supervised the PhD thesis that took forward the initial perception of similarity between the works of Conzen, Caniggia and Maffei. Over many years he has continued to show infinite patience while providing encouraging questions, input and advice.

Similarly, thanks to Ivor Samuels, who supervised the Master's dissertation that was the germ of this book and who also provided constructive critiques and irreplaceable opportunities for testing ideas and putting them into practice – along with Paul Lassus and the Asnières team.

I would also like to thank Michelle Thomas and Georgia Butina Watson of Oxford Brookes University for providing an environment that has allowed the ideas in the book to mature – fostering the fermentation process.

I am extremely grateful to Stephen George of Bath and North East Somerset Council for his enlightened approach and focused determination in commissioning the City of Bath Morphological Study. Needless to say, the study has made a significant contribution to the book both in terms of illustrations and testing.

Thanks are also due to Elin Børrud and Marius Grønning along with Gordana Marjanovic of the Department of Landscape Architecture and Spatial Planning at the Norwegian University of Life Sciences, for helping to further test the ideas in the book by providing the opportunity to present them to PhD students.

The book clearly benefits from the inclusion of the case studies and the significant thought, energy and expertise that went into them. I am therefore very grateful to the authors of the work for their kind permission to include the material and their cooperation and efforts in providing it.

I owe an enormous debt of gratitude to Helen Castle of John Wiley for her efforts, perseverance and patience in commissioning the book and to Calver Lezama, Paul Sayer, Kirsten Nasdeo,

David Sassian and rest of the Hoboken team for seeing it through.

Lastly, many, many thanks to my wife Emma and two daughters Imogen and Flavia for infinite patience and support.