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Third Way Interventions in Public Space and Urban Design


As epitomized by the famous rivalry between Jane Jacobs and Robert Moses in the '60s New York, city planning and the understanding of public space has mainly oscillated between two opposing poles: the tidy and organized city planned with a top-down approach by architects using geometry to shape it, on one hand; and the messy and disorganized city, shaped with a bottom-up spirit, lacking planning, and allowing the traces of its inhabitants to take place, on the other. This article makes an analysis of the origin and nature of that opposition, putting in context different endeavors undertaken to tear it down. Going back to its Greek origin in the opposition between technē and mousikē, passing through Kant's concepts of the beautiful and the sublime, Nietzsche's opposition between the Apollonian and the Dionysian and ending up in Wölfflin's fundamental opposition between the Renaissance and the Baroque, it maps out this oscillating trend in history that favors the organized opposite full of rules in some periods, and the romantic one full of freedom in others, to provide a framework to explore endeavors that challenge those extremes in an attempt to take advantage of the benefits of both, as in  18th century picturesque, John Habraken's approach and Stan Allen's concept of infrastructural urbanism. Within this framework, it examines projects where we explore at Pontifical Xavierian University, innovative approaches to urban and public space design that empower inhabitants to shape their own city (bottom-up), whilst maintaining a sense of order and composition through designed structures (top-down) that challenge Leon Battista Alberti's foundational criterion of architectural beauty: you can neither add nor subtract any element without destroying the harmony achieved.

Pages:339 to 352
Section: RMIT University: Master of Arts (Art in Public Space)
How to Cite
Perilla, O. (2020) “Third Way Interventions in Public Space and Urban Design”, The Journal of Public Space, 5(4), pp. 339-352. doi:

Author Biography

Pontificia Universidad Javeriana, School of Architecture and Design, Aesthetics Department
Colombia Colombia

Oscar Perilla BArch (RIBA II), MA (RMIT) is an architect, an artist and professor of architecture at the Pontifical Xavierian University, Bogotá, Colombia. Founding director of ASDF arquitectura and the periodic event Drink Tank, he has been a lecturer, professor, guest critic, thesis supervisor and jury at undergraduate and master's level at schools of architecture, art and design of Colombia's main universities. He has been distinguished with the 'Certificate of teaching excellence' in 2016, 2018 and 2019 by the Pontifical Xavierian University in Bogotá, and projects developed under his supervision have received nominations and awards in the United States, Chile and Colombia. He has worked as an architect in Melbourne, Australia for different architecture firms and has practiced independently in the fields of art and architecture in Melbourne and in Bogotá. His work has been published in Australia and Colombia and has been exhibited in different public and cultural spaces and galleries in these two countries. He has also written for the Colombian newspaper El Espectador. Oscar is a registered architect in Colombia (CPNAA), with accreditations in Australia (VETASSESS) and the United Kingdom (RIBA II), and holds a Master of Arts degree in Art in Public Space from RMIT University.


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