Figure-ground: history and practice of a planning technique
Figure-ground plans show the footprints of buildings and the pattern of unbuilt voids in urban space. Compared historically they reveal the erosion of the public realm over time and provide an analytical basis for tissue repair. The paper traces the communicative power of figure-ground technique to its roots in gestalt psychology, and follows its revival from Colin Rowe’s studio at Cornell through to controversies in post-reunification Berlin. The impact of computerisation is discussed and the paper ends with illustrations drawn from current practice in the representation of urban past, present and future.
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