Against Urban Perfection, Towards Collective Alternatives
- Examines the rise of the smooth city and counters it with a clear critique
- Offers a starting point for challenging the obsession with urban ‘perfection’
- Presents a framework for collectively working towards ‘porous’ alternatives
Author: René Boer
Visuals and design: Kees de Klein
June 2023, Valiz supported by Creative Industries Fund NL | pb | 272 pp. | 19 x 12 cm (h x w) | English | ISBN 978-94-93246-20-1
René Boer (1986, he/him) works as a critic, curator and organizer in and beyond the fields of architecture, art, design and heritage. He is based in Amsterdam, founding partner of Loom - practice for cultural transformation and editor at Failed Architecture.
Kees de Klein is a graphic designer, visual artist and art director based in Amsterdam
- (Only in Dutch) Click here to read the interview with René Boer about Smooth City by Teun Dominicus in Het Parool (9 June 2023)
- (Only in Dutch) Click here to read the review of Smooth City in architectenweb (20 June 2023)
In the foreword of Smooth City, René Boer writes about changes shaping the city center of Amsterdam nowadays: how the streets once known for their roughness, are now characterized by homogenous aesthetics, minimalist shopping windows and shiny Uber taxis. These are typical characteristics of the ‘smooth city’: a city in which the urge for ‘perfection’, efficiency and control is constantly increasing. It is a kind of city which is sterile, clean and layered with new technologies, which makes urban life seemingly ‘perfect’ and frictionless. It can be questioned, however, whether there is still place for divergence from norms, forms of friction or any alternative in the smooth city?
René Boer argues in Smooth City that this new version of urbanity undermines the democratic nature and the emancipatory potential of cities, and hardly leaves any space for experiment, non-normativity and transgression. Although the book states that the desire for a safe, clean and well-functioning urban environment is understandable, it also provides a framework to challenge this obsession with perfection and to instead collectively work towards porosity in the urban realm. Smooth City offers a critical analysis of the origins, characteristics and consequences of the smooth city and brings some very welcome reflections on the urban reality we are currently living in. The book also contains a series of ‘smoothscapes’, collages made by visual artist and graphic designer Kees de Klein, reflecting on this smooth urban reality.