Featured Quote: John May

A bypass road from Beit Jala, Bethlehem to Gilo Tantur.

Checkpoint 300, from Bethlehem to Jerusalem.

"Planning is the method by which modern violence is done; clean, unspoken, 'just' violence.  It is less an act of design than an act of war, less cooperation than conquest, less color and light than sound and fury."

John May, from Verb Crisis, 2008

This is part of a collection of quotes related to cities. They don't necessarily reflect our views, just things that may be interesting. Please feel welcome to add others.

Credits: Images of bypass road and checkpoint 300 from Benjamin Leclair-Paquet, a resident of Decolonizing Architecture.


  1. Reading that quote was exciting. Then my eye moved further down the page and saw the wishy washy disclaimer and my joy was extinguished.

  2. Hi Greg,

    I understand that reaction. Because of polis' strength and continued goal of being a truly collaborative effort with thirteen regular contributors around the globe, I just write that to ensure that I'm not understood as speaking for the whole group with selected quotes. Usually they simply serve as platforms for discussion and points of reflection. I should clarify that I find John May's quote enticing and I do agree with the concept that planning's potency, and perhaps its unique capacity for cruelty within a neoliberal framework, is comparable with that of outright violence. Often I find the matrix of actors and conflicted interests from which the spatial distribution of cities emerges uniquely difficult to resolve and impervious to direct intervention through traditional means.

    This to me is echoed in Keller Easterling's writings:

    "Some of the most radical changes to the globalizing world are written not in the language of law and diplomacy but rather in the language of architecture and urbanism . . . the notion that there is a proper, forthright realm of political negotiation usually acts as the perfect camouflage for a rich medium of subterfuge, hoax and hyperbole that finally rules the world"

    While this interpretation can be seen as quite bleak, I think it does open a window of understanding into the urban development process, particularly in contexts of weak or non-representative governance, and perhaps suggests that designers and planners target their work more toward influencing these subtexts rather than through typical modes of professional-client architectural production.


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