Book Chapter

Is there a normative science of the built environment?


There has been a long-running debate within urban morphology around the ‘description-prescription’ problem. The central question is whether we can derive prescriptions for new development based on descriptions of existing and historic development. The debate is sharpened when we seek to make the descriptions provided by urban morphology more objective and scientific with the expectation that an objective, scientific description should not, in principle, be normative. This chapter continues the debate by taking up the idea of normative science as introduced by CS Peirce and extended by JJ Liszka. In brief, Peirce’s notion focuses on the relationship between human purposes and the performance of our constructions in seeking to achieve those purposes. In exploring how the idea of normative science might help build the bridge between urban morphology and planning and urban design practice, the chapter points to the importance of teaching and asks, do we necessarily operate within the realm of ethics?

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Kropf, Karl

Oxford Brookes departments

School of the Built Environment


Year of publication: 2021
Date of RADAR deposit: 2021-04-26

All rights reserved.

Related resources

This RADAR resource is the Accepted Manuscript of Is there a normative science of the built environment?
This RADAR resource is Part of Morphological research in planning, urban design and architecture [ISBN: 9783030664596] / edited by Vítor Oliveira (Springer, 2021).


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