Discussed by Matthew Pilling
Thursday, 31 March 2011
Discussed by Matthew Pilling
Monday, 28 March 2011
Supriya says 'If you have any data,images or any information please share it!'
The following film from 1938 shows a vanished world of self-assured imperialism. Connaught Place features at about 6.40
Friday, 25 March 2011
Reviewed by Meliz Kusadali
The author of the Urban Space, Robert Krier was born in 1938 in Luxemburg. He ranks as one of the most influential urban planners and architects of post modernism. As it is also clear in his book ‘Urban Space’, he has always taken the historic repertoire seriously. For him, continuity and aestheticism are ways of reviving what he regards as the art of architecture that lost its way in modernism. The aim of the book ‘Urban Space’ is to search how the traditional understanding of urban space has been lost within the modern cities. By explaining the terms of urban space and its structure, he has examined whether the concept of urban space retains some validity in contemporary town planning and on what grounds.
Chapter 1 analyzes the typological and morphological elements of the urban space. The term ‘urban space’ can be simply described as external space in town. It is seen as open, unobstructed space for movement in the open air, with public, semi public and private zones. Furthermore, the ‘concept of urban space’ is to designate all types of space between buildings in towns and other localities as urban space. If we take the aesthetic criteria into consideration, every urban space has been organized according to its socio-political and cultural attitudes.
Urban space has been structured in similar laws to interior space. For example, in the category of interior space, we would be talking about the corridor and the room. Similarly, square and the street are the basic elements of the urban space. The only difference is the dimensions of walls which bound them and by the patterns of function and circulation which characterise them. In brief descriptions, square is produced by the grouping of houses around an open space and the street is a product of the spread of a settlement once houses have been built along the available space.
Morphological Series of Urban Space
The author gives various examples for a morphology of urban space within this chapter, there being an almost inexhaustible range of possible forms exists that are mostly from our historic town.
For example Hanover Square in London from the18th Century is an example for orthogonal regular ground plan with four central intersections. Piazza Navona in Rome is an example for a geometrically complex form. It is a combination of several spatial forms and many streets enter the square. Place Dauphine in Paris is a regular triangular square that is extremely rare in the history of town planning. These are usually formed by two roads forking. Although these forms are clearly obvious in town planning history, in our modern cities they are criminally neglected in the author's view.
Chapter 2 examines the erosion of urban space in the 20th century. The erosion of urban space is an ongoing process which has been with us for the last fifty years in the guise of technological progress. This era has started with the invention of new military technology. New weaponry neutralized the defensive systems of cities. Consequently, city walls were demolished and allowed armies to simply walk through the city. The need of protection had imposed a new discipline on every town: its construction, rebuilding and expansion. However, the colossal pressure for expansion of cities led planners over rapid decision making on town planning which has resulted with unstructured developments. Architecture was a low priority. Functional, constructional and capital concerns were being the most important issues of the day. Additionally, the influence of industrial building on the urban planning is another catastrophe. It leads to numerous misconceived developments which caused the impoverishment of present-day architecture. For example: The movements towards a purely functional or constructional orientation. The developing proposals of planners for new ideal cities during the 20th Century and 19th Century industrial building has taken away the control of the concept of urban space and architecture. Krier finalized this chapter by showing his illustrations to support his thesis that modern town planning dominates over the concept of urban space which has largely fallen into disuse.
From a distant view, the spatial continuum of a cohesive traditional urban structure can be compared to the barriers which channel pedestrian movement. If there is a gap in the barrier, it should cope with the shortcomings in the system of orientation. The spatial arrangement of the modern city is composed of forlorn and isolated sections of barrier, battered on all sides by every conceivable stream of activity and with no margin left for meaningful activity or orientation.
The aim of Chapter 3 is to understand the author’s viewpoint for redeveloping a city. Krier has suggested possible approaches to reconstruction for various parts of Stuttgart. The former coherent urban structure of Stuttgart was destroyed to a catastrophic extent during the Second World War. The heart of the city was broken up into a large number of small islands battered by waves of heavy traffic. In Rob Krier’s schemes for Stuttgart, he tried to win back downtown of the city for pedestrians, without excluding the car in the process. In practical terms, this means using redevelopment to weld together seamlessly the isolated areas at those critical points, whose significance for the pedestrian’s spatial awareness was eroded during the post war years because of costly civil engineering programmes. Particular attention is paid in these studies to restoring the continuity of spatial experience within an urban context. Additionally, he designed streets and squares for pedestrians, harmonised as closely as possible with the existing structure and showing the utmost consideration for the legacy of the past.
The book is very useful to understand the town planning achievements of the present and the past. It is also a well-structured book which gives an historical summary of town planning and how it has been a miserable failure in the contemporary town planning.
The following conclusion can be drawn from the review; the rush of rebuilding and the priority which is given to the traffic and to the other technologies rather than the people’s need resulted with scattered buildings with no proper spatial planning. This has proved the thesis of author that the traditional concept of urban space and its structure has been lost within modern cities.
Friday, 18 March 2011
A review of the 1994 book by Angela Heaney.
The author, Peter Katz, is a design and marketing consultant based in California, San Francisco and Seattle, Washington.
He studied architecture and graphic design at The Cooper Union for the Advancement of Science and Art in New York and now lectures frequently on urban issues to universities and citizen’s groups.
The aim of the book, and the New Urbanism movement, is to address many of the critical issues of our time: the decline of America’s cities, the rebuilding of its disintegrated infrastructure, housing affordability, and crime and traffic congestion, while trying to return to a “cherished American icon: that of a compact, close-knit community.”
For the majority of human history, people have gathered together for mutual security and to be close to critical resources, however, Katz believes that with the introduction of the automobile and a host of other factors, it provided an opportunity for people to disperse and in the post war era, suburbia became the lifestyle choice for most Americans.
He believes this new way of living fragmented America’s society – separating friends and relatives and “breaking down the bonds of community,” of which the devastating consequences were disregarded for some time.
This book is structured by essays and 24 case- study projects, put forward by the leading figures of the New Urbanism movement that emerged in the United States in the late 1970’s. The intention of the New Urbanism is to suggest alternatives to the present sprawl and isolation that they view as a consequence of decades of poorly planned suburban growth.
The designs of the New Urbanism integrate workplaces, shops, housing, parks and civic facilities into close-knit communities that are both “charming and functional.” The ability to walk is most important, however, cars aren’t excluded. Public places are the central core for these designs which can be made up of sites for parks, schools, churches, meeting halls and other civic uses. Affordability is a significant consideration in the design process-a wide range of housing types are intended to meet the needs of all levels of society. Most of these neighbourhood communities are planned to comprise an efficient connection with the larger metropolitan region, through the use of transit, both bus and rail.
The New Urbanism is concerned with both the pieces and the whole, and according to Peter Calthorpe, one of the founding members of this movement, there are two principles of urban design to the region. Firstly, urbanism should be applied regardless of location- in suburbs, new growth areas and the city. The second principle acknowledges that the entire region should be treated as a whole- socially, economically and ecologically.
With regards to a growing region, Calthorpe rejects any attempt to limit overall growth or allow it to expand uncontrollably, maintaining that both actions would result in either further sprawl or disagreeable traffic, congestion and a loss of identity. As an alternative, he suggests that growth at the region should be accommodated first in infill and redevelopment, to utilize existing infrastructure and preserve open space, and then in new growth areas and satellite towns that are within transit proximity to the city centre.
Peter Calthorpe’s work is centred on TOD- Transit Oriented Development, “an attempt to regroup the suburb into a density which makes public transit feasible.”
Each of these strategies is central to the thesis of a New Urbanism:
“…that a regional system of open space and transit complemented with pedestrian friendly development patterns can help revitalise an urban centre at the same time it helps to order suburban growth.”
An additional focus of the New Urbanism movement is TND – Traditional Neighbourhood Development; proposing a model of urbanism that is limited in area and structured around a defined centre. This composition was first implemented by Andres Duany and Elizabeth Plater-Zyberk, directors of the architecture and town planning practice DPZ, in Miami, Florida.
They state that the fundamental organizing elements of the New Urbanism are the neighbourhood, the district and the corridor. Neighbourhoods are urbanized areas with a balanced mix of human activity- such as dwelling, shopping, working, schooling, worshipping and recreating, structured on a fine network of interconnecting streets that give priority to public space. Districts are similar to neighbourhoods, however are dominated by a single activity. Districts rely on a connection to transit and interconnected circulation that supports the pedestrian and creates a ‘sense of place.’ The corridor is the connector and separator of neighbourhoods and districts and it is characterized by its visual continuity. Its location and type are determined by its technological intensity and nearby densities.
“The New Urbanism offers an alternative future for the building and re-building of regions. Neighbourhoods that are compact, mixed-use and pedestrian friendly; districts of appropriate location and character; and corridors that are functional and beautiful can integrate natural environments and man-made communities into a sustainable whole.”
The form of the New Urbanism is realized by the deliberate assembly of streets, blocks and buildings. “Buildings, blocks and streets are interdependent. Each one contains to some degree the ingredients of all the others.” Elizabeth Moule and Stefanos Polyzoides apply this strategy to the New Urbanism; they believe the building of the public realm has been handled with little regard for those it actually serves and the quality of life it generates and so, they aim to focus on, “a shared space in society which brings people together, to relate to one another and/or to be separate.”
Streets are not to be the dividing lines within the city; they are to be the communal rooms and passages within a network of connectedness and continuity to encourage a mix of uses. A variety of streets will exist on a hierarchy based on their vehicular and pedestrian loads and their architectural character will be based on their arrangement on plan and section.
The block unfolds both the building fabric and the public realm of the city and allows a mutually beneficial relationship between people and vehicles. Ultimately, they should be designed and configured to prioritise the pedestrian.
The building follows three key principles; use, density and form. They are to be designed by reference to their type, not solely their function, to allow for multiple adaptations over time. Buildings should form the public realm, express the importance of public shared institutions and improve the daily working and home life of the citizenry.
Furthermore, each street, block and building shall be typically designed and presented in the form of a code to follow the “American tradition of safeguarding the public realm.”
“The judicious application of codes is to result in a diverse, beautiful and predictable fabric of buildings, open space and landscape that can structure villages, towns, cities and the metropolitan region.”
The New Urbanism advocates an ambitious agenda for the building and rebuilding of our neighbourhoods, towns and cities and it is a clear step in diminishing the present sprawl and isolation in many poorly planned suburban growth areas throughout America, yet, how influential will the New Urbanists be? It is evident that public sentiment is gathering behind them; local government and planning institutes are following New Urbanists ideas to reconsider land use patterns that generate excessive automobile use and countless firms and planning agencies are embracing the New Urbanist strategies in redevelopment plans, design review guidelines and zoning laws. However, many new developments are adopting these ideas only superficially, as motifs to enhance their marketing strategies and a number of critics argue that the New Urbanist projects emphasize visual style over planning substance.
The concept of the New Urbanism seeks to revive the public realm, which is being increasingly privatised, and revitalise cities and communities that have deteriorated over time, mainly due to the excessive use of the automobile and the consequences that it left. Nevertheless, the types of communities the New Urbanists envision are unlikely to emerge from design initiatives alone. Once a project is completed, layers of community organisation will develop.
Toward an Architecture of Community, the book’s subtitle, is what this book is primarily about. Yet, there are questions to consider; will the beautifully drawn neighbourhood open space truly be public or will it be controlled by a private home owner’s association? And will community facilities such as day care centres, churches and meeting rooms be available to all?
The New Urbanism is a noteworthy step forward; however it is only a step. At best, it has significantly refocused the public’s attention more strongly on how the design of our communities has a very real impact on our lives.
Friday, 11 March 2011
The final film prepared as a contribution to the University of Warwick conference THE POSTMODERN PALIMPSEST: NARRATING CONTEMPORARY ROME. The film was made by MA A+U students Preeya Vadgama, Kathryn Timmins, Angela Heaney and Chen Xu.