Backcover: Binational Urbanism has the potential to become one of the most interesting forms of life in the twenty-first century

Earlier in my career I was based in Chicago but I was working in Nigeria and also doing some graduate work in the summer in England. The longest trip I packed for was 60 days in the same suitcase and it covered a month in England and a month in Nigeria. It was a tough time in my life, but it was also kind of utopian as well because there are certain advantages to being highly mobile.

In Germany today there are 1.8 million Turks. Every year 93.5% of those people travel from Germany to Turkey at least one time, that is nearly 1.7 million Turks across all strata of society who regularly travel between cities in Germany and cities in Turkey.

Looking at the lifestyle of this population, Bernd Upmeyer develops a theory of a new form of urbanism in his book Binational Urbanism. A binational urbanist is someone who because of the practical matters of their lives spend their time living in oscillation between two different countries. This is a thoughtful book with an interesting approach to researching the design space. In fact, after reading this book, it seems that the hybrid state of binational urbanism itself is a design space.


Upmeyer’s book masterfully untangles a knot of urbanism with a dexterity in the research that we don’t often have patience for. He untangles the knot when it would be easier to cut it out, and that act of untangling is why it matters to the design process. Each of the ten expressions of urbanism emerged from the data rather than being determined a priori and this ability to trace categories of a particular urban experience to a specific population means that any design decisions grounded in this analysis will be more meaningful for the users. His research makes design work meaningful, and he shows that it is not that difficult to do. Like I said before, if you read this book for no other reason than to learn how to do this caliber of design research, then you will have in effect taken a master class from Upmeyer.

Ryan Dewey is an installation artist and a consulting cognitive scientist. Later this year his book on spatial practices Hacking Experience: New Tools for Artists from Cognitive Science will be released from Punctum Books. You can read more about his work at RyanDewey.org or get in touch on Twitter at @RyanDewey. This review was first published by Archinect on July 19, 2016.