What Is the Urban?

Registers of a World Interior

Charles Rice

Charles Rice is an architectural historian, theorist and critic, and Professor of Architecture at the University of Technology Sydney. His research addresses questions of the interior across art, architecture, and design. His first book, The Emergence of the Interior: Architecture, Modernity, Domesticity (Routledge 2007) discussed the domestic interior as a category of the nineteenth century, charting its impact on key developments in architecture and design into the twentieth century. 

Professor Rice is coeditor of the Journal of Architecture (Routledge and RIBA), and has coedited several collections of essays. He is a 2015 recipient of a Graham Foundation grant for his forthcoming book, Interior Urbanism: Architecture, John Portman, and Downtown America (Bloomsbury 2016).

He studied at the University of Queensland, the London Consortium (University of London), and the University of New South Wales. From 2010 to 2014, he was head of the School of Art and Design History at Kingston University London. He has also taught at the University of New South Wales and the Architectural Association.

After the Street

Urban structures and street structures appear inextricably linked; their relation is part of the given-ness of the urban. The street grid is the icon of the urban, and ‘street life’ the index of urbanity. Yet the urbanism (and urbanity) which defines the contemporary global city, especially with its multitude of sidewalk-dwelling citizens, has learned less from the supposedly essential examples of cities with ‘great streets’, and more from the conditions which challenged the street in the aftermath of post-war Federal Urban Renewal programs in the USA. To discuss this claim, the paper will focus on the discourse of the street as it emerged in architectural and sociological research in the 1970s, alongside an analysis of the uncoupling of complex internal organisation from exterior form evident in major architectural projects of the period. Rather than the overcoming of an existential threat, the return to the street and street life evident since this period can be seen to be the apotheosis of an interior urban sensibility incubated in the atriums, foyers, concourses and skybridges of the controversial ‘new’ American downtowns of urban renewal.


Iowa State University

Department of Architecture

April 4-5, 2016