Episodic Urbanism is a book about the transformation of two city blocks in the heart of Melbourne, Australia. It tells the story of how Peter Elliott Architecture + Urban Design has worked, over the course of nearly two decades, to turn RMIT University’s inner city premises from what was essentially a private fortress into a public-spirited urban campus. Touching on everything from Renaissance Italian townscapes to masterworks of 20th century city-making by the likes of Carlo Scarpa, Luis Barragán and Jože Plečnik, Episodic Urbanism illuminates the unique conceptual framework underpinning the success of RMIT’s rejuvenation.
As the book demonstrates, this framework sits in stark contrast to typical master planning exercises that work to impose a single, homogenous vision. Instead, it privileges subtle, incremental change that is respectful of existing conditions and their history – which in RMIT’s case stretches right back to the foundation of Melbourne. Presented in a visually rich, highly tactile format developed by graphic artist Stuart Geddes, Episodic Urbanism features contributions from several leading thinkers on urbanism and the city, including Leon van Schaik, William L Fox, SueAnne Ware and Robert Nelson.
As an exploration of both urban and institutional renewal, it tells a story about how we might effect dramatic transformation within our cities, without the dramatic rupture commonly associated with ‘renewal’. It is an essential publication for those with an interest in how we can shape our cities for the better, not through erasure and homogenisation but with an appreciative eye to their history, diversity and vitality.