reading: Counting (on) Change by Roger Sherman

Sherman’s essay on property in the book The Infrastructural City highlights a different attitude to the phenomenon of property as it relates to urban form and development. His argument has to do with the fundamental legal basis of property. Generally within architecture, urbanism, and real estate we think of property as a boundary: an ownership in relation to land that is delineated to a particular place and all that it contains. However, property could be more accurately defined as a “bundle of rights”. This bundle of rights, of course, has the potential to be unbundled or subdivided, offering a cooperative, mutualistic, or parasitic relationship. The examples in Los Angeles that Sherman gives demonstrate some ways that the boundary concept of property could be de-emphasized or used in a less divisive manner and is more a process of negotiation, which could encourage architectural and programmatic coupling.

Later in the essay, Sherman makes clear that the moral of this has very much to do with designing within volatile conditions. He points out that these examples are ones in which these relationships are integrated “post-facto” and highlight the ways that an existing condition could adapt to changing conditions. However, he is also calling for a form of design that would specifically be conceived with variation over time.He compares such a strategy to children’s games such as Cat’s Cradle and Chutes and Ladders and specifically comparing it to game theory. He suggests that there needs to be a balance between top-down and bottom-up approaches. He suggests that “form comes first, and becomes a conceit for the unfolding of different and unexpected futures.” His brief summary of this theory brings to mind comparisons to Delanda’s writings of military strategy and organization and its own interest in game theory. Sherman’s essay then seems valuable particularly when put in comparison or as a transposition of Delanda’s concepts.

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