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Tag "urban"

Detached from the mainland, the island stands out from the sea of water. Slowly rises the sandy beach out of the waves morphing into dunes. Other places show sharp stoney cliffs reaching out of the battering waves holding the dry landmass high above.
Islands show themselves surrounded otherness. They are defined by the separation of two different states of being. Prominently represented as wet and dry in the form of land and water, but it applies to other contexts too that draw a clear outline separating itself from the background. Islands have a distinct form that is defined by a boundary distinguishing inside and outside creating two bodies. Being on either side of this demarcation line is part of its identity as an island. 

Image taken from Schalansky, J., 2010. Atlas of remote islands: fifty islands I have not visited and never will. Translated from the German [orig. 2009]. ed. Translated by C. Lo. London: Particular. pp 72-73. / Rapa Iti, Austral Island (French Polynesia)

The Oxford English Dictionary defines island amongst others as: “An elevated piece of land surrounded by water, marsh or ‘intervale’ land; a piece of woodland surrounded by prairie or flat open country; a block of buildings [= Latin insula]; also an individual or a race, detached or standing out by itself; †to stand in island, to be detached or isolated (obsolete).”
There are some combinations thereof, most interestingly the: “island-universe  n.  [apparently translating German Weltinsel (von Humboldt), though the term is attributed to Sir William Herschel] a distinct stellar system, such as that to which the sun belongs, occupying a detached position in space. As used for example in: [1845   tr. A. von Humboldt Κοσμος I. 93   Unter den vielen selbstleuchtenden ihren Ort verändernden Sonnen..welche unsre Weltinsel bilden.] 1867   A. J. Davis Stellar Key to Summer Land vi. 32   The expression ‘Island Universe’ was suggested by the immense distance of the fixed stars from our Sun and Planets; giving the impression that our Solar System occupies an isolated position in the boundless ocean of space.”

This identity created by the boundary internally supports a cohesiveness, a sameness that identifies against the otherness outside. Through its uniformity, the form issues power and asserts control over the territory created. Islands are models of the world [German: Weltmodelle] as the philosopher Peter Sloterdijk writes in Sphären III [Sloterdijk, P., 2004. Sphären 3. Suhrkamp. pp. 311]. Such an observation is based on the fact that islands are singularities that are separated through the framing powers forming the boundary. It is the isolation that makes the island. In the way it is isolated from the surroundings it hosts an experiment of totality becoming a world-model.

By framing the formation of a small world model, we imply an act of creation. Based on the Italian verb “isolare” [isolate] – we can visualise the meaning of making an island in the sense of doing. One would think of the water as the principal none subjective agent to form islands by building up sediments or volcanoes pushing out material creating islands as found objects. But are islands merely the results of mechanical processes? Besides water and other natural forces are there subjects that produce similar results?

Image taken from Wikipedia / Izanagi (right) and Izanami (left) consolidating the earth with the spear Ama-no-Nuboko. Painting by Eitaku Kobayashi (Meiji period)

A story from the Greek Mythologies tells of a great battle between the gods of Olympus and the Titans of Mount Othrys, the old gods. The fight turned into a throwing contest of large rocks. As recounted by Danke Graves: “ Discouraged, the remaining giants fled back to earth, pursued by the Olympians. Athene threw a vast missile at Enceladus, which crushed him flat and became the island of Sicily. And Poseidon brought off part of Cos with his trident and threw it at Polybutes; this became the nearby islet of Nisyros, beneath which he lies buried” [Danke Graves, 1960 (first published 1955). The Greek Myths. Online: http://www.24grammata.com/wp-content/uploads/2011/12/Robert-Graves-The-Greek-Myths-24grammata.com_.pdf].
Japanese mythology has its own story of the creation of Japan with its many islands as told in Kuniumi (literally “birth or formation of the country”). It is the story about the literal “birth” of the Japanese Archipelago through a mating ceremony by the two gods, Izanagi and Izanami.
Islands are a result of practice; they are places of both death at the end and birth as the beginning. The isolation hence is not only brought about by the sea but even more so in the form of life and death. 

Images by DigitalGlobe; via the CSIS Asia Maritime Transparency Initiative; and CNES; via Airbus DS and IHS Jane’s. Fiery Cross Reef. From Reef to Island in Less Than a Year. Published as Watkins, D., 2015. What China Has Been Building in the South China Sea. The New York Times. [online] 31 Jul. Available at: [Accessed 4 Dec. 2018]

Fast forward from the past to our modern time humans have the means and the tools to create islands. The creation of islands is a power play of politics and territorial claims. Such as it is for example currently underway in the South China Sea. See for example Derek Watkins for The New York Times, 2015. What China Has Been Building in the South China Sea.

Terra-forming and land creation is a big business to exert power and influence.  Islands too are created for cities in Dubai or Amsterdam.
Islands are no longer found objects but made objects of the island building modernist. From finding to making implies that the islands are networked, the isolation is bridged by (inter)action. Morphosis have created the term “Connected Isolation” [Mayne, T., 1993. Morphosis: Connected Isolation. Architectural Monographs (London, England) ; 23. London: Academy Editions. ] to describe their work alluding to their efforts in planning and architecture to bridge the isolation of objects and create links to the surrounding. It is a critique of the modernist practice to isolate living through the division of function. Housing as the absolute isolation, the last island, my house is my castle, is cultivating the feeling and culture of the fencing-in of space.  Morphosis suggests that breaking free of the shackles of modernism means (re)connecting the islands.

Humans with their technology regularly create islands. However, not all human-made islands are the same. Sloterdijk distinguishes between three types of island creation. Firstly this is the detached or absolute island such as a boat, an aeroplane or a space station. This type transitions from water to air to space describing clearly the notion of isolation. The second is the creation of an atmospheric island such as conservatories or greenhouses where a kind of nature island is imitated by technical means to create specific conditions. And thirdly the anthropomorphic island shaped by the being-together of tool-wielding humans. It establishes a cradle like situation, an isolating breeding ground for society very much as a community. While the first type is static in itself, the second one focuses inwards, and the third type is focused outwards.

To sustain the creation of islands, it is embedded in a range of social practices. To maintain the condition or the community creation is ongoing. In the case of the city, this is to say that everything we deal with is ultimately tied to the social and cultural practice that created it and that it is creating in turn.

Image by Wolfram Hoepfner, Ernst Ludwig Schwandner, Institut für Ärchologie, Lehrbereich Klassische Ärchologie – Wickelmann-Institut, Humboldt-Universität zu Berlin. / Insula as found in Piräus with 8 house units. 5th Century BC. Reconstruction drawing.

The urban island that is defined not so much by the division of land and water, but by the segmentation of land through usage, ownership, political designations, function, buildings, atmospheres, infrastructure and so on.
Going back to the definitions in the Oxford English Dictionary, another meaning of island is historically tied to meaning urban block. The Latin form of “insula” was long used by the Romans to describe a block of houses surrounded by streets. It was however invented as a planning instrument much earlier and applied for example by Hippodamus von Milet while planning the city of Piräus. This block, usually eight houses, is surrounded by the flows on the street. It is the static home, versus dynamic traffic or private vs public.
The city is a conglomerate of a vast number of diverging interests and practices. This cacophony of activity keeps the urban fabric in a state of constant change and transformation. Layer upon layer of development forms the evolving identity of place. The city, in turn, is shaped ultimately by the social and cultural practices it enables.
Within the city, some interests often start alining to assert greater power. Such an alignment can be based on interest, function or location. Communities are formed as smaller units within the larger city because their members have overlapping interests. An important factor is of course location or proximity, but it could be economic or social benefits that bind communities together. Translating these communal interests onto the land means creating some kind of boundary, to occupying this territory by creating an urban island. This territory becomes the identity and is the source of power and control. 
The same concept that leads to the creation of territory from each community can be scaled up to the city itself. To control and plan internally the land is broken up into manageable chunks – communities, a perspective that leads to a range of additional questions for planners. What is the nature of the unit we are working with, who is pulling strings, how is power distributed and is everything as it seems?
On the other hand, even within the islands, social practice, everyday activities and physical structures lead to the creation of distinct places, some of which themselves wield enough power to create their own identity and form an island of their own. We want to call them Objects. Such objects mainly come to life through their capacity to map memories and project desires. Larger than life, these are the drivers for the islands created by Situations through practices.
To sum up, the city can be visualised as a set of islands stacked and enclosed on different scales like Russian dolls. Each with its own set of Objects and Situations asserting the power to form a territory. 
The question now is, however, what happens along the boundary lines and in between the islands? Is there such a thing as the in-between and who shapes it and what qualities does this space have? There too must be ways of exchange some form of trade, traffic and overlapping interests across these borders. Just like a living cell structure, there are ways and means to mitigate this hierarchical structure in the no-mans-land between land and water, between same and otherness, between the form and its context.

This text appeared in the handout for the DS19w Design Studio Handout for the advanced professional planning studio at University of Calgary, Faculty of Environmental Design in the winter term 2019.

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The busy city is one of them in recent years much overused mental images. It is busy of course and major hubs such as London even more so. The rise of mapping and visualisation since 2005 supplied a wealth of actual images and renderings illustrating the busyness of urban areas in colour and depth, not just in numbers.

Traffic is, of course, one of the foremost topics here perfectly lending itself to the subject. It is a bit of a self-fulfilling prophecy though using the rush hour to illustrate the madness of the daily migration. There you are, look at how busy the busiest airport in the world is.

That is the conundrum much of the recent debate around urban area management is facing. It is revolving around the established assumptions continuously enforcing them unable to break the spell to reach beyond. If we keep looking at the numbers, lines and trailing dots not much is coming from it any longer. Even the excitement is subsiding, and insight is scarce.

Where are the real hocks to wring some insight from the pool of information? Is it visions that are lacking or the absence of a coherent urban concept to frame the question?

Video taken from the Guardian / Layers of London air traffic build up over 24 hours – video animation. “A video animation shows the layers of air traffic associated with each of London’s five major airports over a 24-hour period. Made in July last year the visualisation illustrates the buildup of more than 3,000 flights a day handled by air traffic controllers as well as more passing over the capital”.

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The term urban is widely considered to be equivalent to busy, bustling or crowded. It is synonymous with active and associated with density, services and manmade physical structures.

The extend of all these aspects however is very much a subjective quality rather than a quantity. In large parts these expectations are conditioned through experience and vary greatly depending on location and context.

If the conditions are disrupted however they generate a moment of surprise. Very much so the video Urban Isolation by Russell Houghten. Where is everybody? The backdrop of massive infrastructure suggests otherwise, but the streets are empty. An earlier post refers to the same topic with work from photographer Matt Logue.

Video taken by Russell Houghten on Vimeo.

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The UCL Urban Laboratory brings out a publication under the title Urban Constellations, summarising five years of work since the LAB was established in 2005. The LAB was set up as an interdisciplinary work group within UCL bringing together architecture, engineering, anthropology and film studies with a focus on urban. With urban Mattheew Gandy the Director of the urbanLAB and also editor of the publication sees encompassed far more than in the bounded term city. This is then also what the publications aims to achieve, drawing out and identifying critical themes and opening a discussion around them.

The collection explores themes such as new forms of political mobilisation, the effects of economic instability, the political ecology of urban nature and the presence of collective memory. The section Excursions documents artistic interventions in the urban context by 5 artists.

urban constellations cover
Image taken from Footprint / Installation The Games are Open, with materials recycled from the 2010 Olympic & Paralympic Winter Games Athletes’ Village, by Köbberling & Kaltwasser, 2010.

The other four parts of the publication are Urban Lexicon outlining popular topics in the urban discurse, Crisis and Perturbations depicting strong influential shaping process, Places and Spaces as a showcase of concrete examples of urban studies and Projections linking the theoretical discussion to other fields such as art. A preview of sample page can be found on the publisher JOVIS website as a HERE.

Each essay, of which there area total of 42, is intentionally short. As Gandy outlines in his introduction, the aim was to create little vignettes of aspects. With this linking it to Sigfrid Kracauer’s work and use of the term urban vignettes. Similarly is the link established to Walter Benjamin via the book title Urban Constellations which link to the use of constellations by Benjamin. With this Gandy aims to underpin a close attention to detail of everyday life.

The essays are written by a selection of mostly well known scholars. In most cases they are related to the context of UCL with for examples Jane Rendell and Ian Borden form the Bartlett School of Architecture.

The essays are of very good quality and interesting to read although as mentioned very short, at most four pages. However, the main aspect of the publication is how it highlights the current state of the urban discussion. And this is if there is one, but more likely there are many. As Gandy himself already summarises in the introduction the essays draw form the remains of the modernist planning umbrella to examine how the urban context managed to cope, both with the domination of a religious planning doctrine based on technology and the decline thereof.

Further more it highlights the shift in approaches with the disappearance of bullet-point lists and the replacement of solutions with possibilities. The field seems all very vague and there are very few topics or even cornerstones the community can take for granted.

This is a very tricky position for the professionals to be in as with a lack of operational directions of development other disciplines are threatening to take over urban planning. Of course it is once more technology and the quantitative sciences promising anything they can even think of under a new umbrella of Smart Cities. It is of course no coincidence that here again the terms city is pushed as it represents exactly what Gandy described as too restrictive.

Qualitative research into urban environments in general is currently mainly exploring the boundaries of structuring aspects of dogmas and predefinitions. This is of course essential to understand more about the nature and the complexity of the urban context. On the other hand it would be healthy to start directing these efforts towards a more applied and pragmatic practice. As such the publications makes an effort to actually apply such a practice and combine the dismantling of modernist’s remains with a application of findings. Things can be taken from there.

urban constellations cover
Image taken from amazon / Urban Constellations book cover.

Gandy, M. ed., 2011. Urban Constellations, Berlin: JOVIS Verlag.

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Its here, the urbanTick book is out, published by Springer. It brings together the edited work from this blog as well as external experts introducing specific topics. Its a big collection of thoughts on temporal aspects of the city, including projects, research and theory.

UTbook04 Cover
Image by Springer / Book cover, Studies in Temporal Urbanism: The urbanTick Experiment.

This book is very much about what the name urbanTick literally says, about the ticking of the urban, the urban as we experience it everyday on the bus, in the park or between buildings. It is about the big orchestrated mass migration of commuters, the seasonal blossoms of the trees along the walkway and the frequency of the stamping rubbish-eater-trucks. It is also, not to forget, about climate, infrastructure, opening hours, term times, parking meters, time tables, growing shadows and moon light. But most of all it is about how all this is experienced by citizens on a daily basis and how they navigate within this complex structure of patterns. The content of this book is based on the content of the urbanTick blog. Blogging about this topic brought together a large collection of different aspects and thoughts. It is not at all a conclusive view, the opposite might be the case, it is an exploratory work in progress, while trying to capture as many facets of the topic as possible.

UTbook05 UTbook01
Image by urbanTick / Book Studies in Temporal Urbanism: The urbanTick Experiment. Some example spreads. Editor Fabian Neuhaus, published by Springer.

The publication Studies in Temporal Urbanism: The urbanTick Experiment is structured in seven chapters with each being introduced by an invited contribution in the form of an essay. The chapters are: Cycle Study as Basis of Adaptive Urbanism (con Jeff Ho); urbanMachine; Memory: Collective vs. Individual Narratives (con Zahra Azizi); timeSpace; Body, Space and Maps (con Sandra Abegglen); bodySpace; Urban Narratives of Time Images, or the Drift of Alienation (con Ana McMillin); urbanNarrative; Mental Maps: The Expression of Memories and Meanings (con Matthew Dance); Location Information; From UrbanTick to UrbanDiary; UrbanDiary; Footprints, a Regeneration Process (con Luis Suárez); Review. This is wrapped up with a Bibliography and a complete Index covering all chapters.

On the back cover Professor Mike Batty introduces the book in his words with:
That cities pulse and resonate like the human body is an old idea which until recently has remained just that. But in this pioneering book, Fabian Neuhaus shows how we can begin to make sense of the myriad of rhythms and processes that make up the city, by combining new technologies available on smart phones with our intuition expressed in mental maps to generate a new understanding of how cities function. This book stands in the vanguard of new work about temporal cycles that define the city and it is mandatory reading for all who profess to understand how cities work and for everyone who wants to discover how we, ourselves, make the city work. Michael Batty, Bartlett Professor of Planning, CASA, University College London

Its great to finally have it available as a printed version. A lot of thanks go to the contributors for the essays, but also to all the people who granted publication rights for the many illustrations in this publication. Of course thanks also go to a number of people who helped in one way or another with input for the blog or support for the publication.

The publication is available as printed version, as e-book or also accessible on the Springer website directly as pdf.

Studies in Temporal Urbanism Cover

Neuhaus, F. ed., 2011. Studies in Temporal Urbanism: The urbanTick Experiment 1st ed., London: Springer.

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Cities are in constant transformation with building stock constantly changing. It is a renewal process from within that is loosely guided by urban planning regulation and sometimes through a masterplan or planning vision. This process is paced at a slow cycle compared to everyday buzz, but can have a rather fast turnaround if one is at a distance.

Reasons are various, but include material lifecycle and shift in activity and economics as well as trends and fashion to some extend. Most likely it is all of this and a couple more all at once. However the transformation is, even though repetitive, not a back to back replacement of physical form and neither is it a like for like exchange.

The dynamics of urban renewal can include long term decay, derelict elements, brown fields, building sites and so on. There can be rather long periods of slow or non development where the area is not actively contributing to the wealth generating, money making economy of the trend areas of the city.

Nevertheless, these areas might have a value and are still space, a scarce resource in the urban context. With this such places can become very valuable places for specific activities and society groups. At low or no cost urban places can be taken over and used for individual ideas a concept very often built on a temporary or opportunity concept of usage.

Berlin Badeschiff
Image taken from null-euro-urbanismus / The project Neuland was initiated by the planning department and focuses on making empty spaces accessible and usable by the local public.

In various cities these mechanisms of transformation have been turned into partly institutionalised processes with officials having recognised the value and power of mainly cultural and social themed temporary uses of vacant urban spaces. A number of cities across Europe and America are picking up on it with Vienna (partly discussed earlier HERE and HERE) and Berlin being pretty pro active.

Jovis Publisher has in 2007 published a summary of projects and discussions around the topic with a focus on Berlin. The publication Urban Pioneers: Berlin Experience with Temporary Urbanism edited by the city of Berlin, the Senatsverwaltng fuer Stadtentwicklung directly has now been reprinted in 2011 and is available again.

The publication features projects around temporary usage of vacant sites, portraits concepts of space occupation and the reclaim of urban territory lost to barriers, hoardings and borded up windows. The origin of these spaces in the publication is described as mainly down to changes in the economy, with older industries disappearing, the developing of new production and logistics systems including technology and supply. Also demographic change is discussed in the publication as a factor.

The projects presented range from gardening, often guerilla gardening to golf and alternative housing projects in trailers and tents. There are also skaterparks, openair theaters bars and accessible green spaces as well as cultural venues, local centres and educational institutions that found a home in reclaimed properties.

One of the very first and very public projects was the Badeschiff (Bathing Ship) in 2005. It is a wooden platform leading to a floating pool in the river Spree. It has become very popular with locals as well as tourists and is a model that is in use in various other cities too. A few sample pages are available form HERE.

Berlin Badeschiff
Image taken from slowtravelberlin.com / The Berlin Bathing Ship in the Spree in summer. In winter the bath is covered with a tent structure and turned into a sauna and relax world.

The publication details these projects in depth with not only a mere description but a presentation and discussion of the technical aspects, such as development timeframe, initiative, the role of the local authority, ownership, the legal framework and financing models. There is for each project as a description of the main hurdles and conflicting interest. With this the publication manages to lift the discussion form the mere wow a cool, trendy project to a proper discussion of urban space usage, urban redevelopment as well as local initiatives and bottom up planning and discurse. As such it can be a handbook for both planners and initiatives lead by local groups or even individuals.

For once urban spaces are not just to be used, but to be shaped, programmed and activated by the public that is you.

urbanPioneers cover.indd
Image taken from Jovis / Book cover

Senatsverwaltung fuer Stadtentwicklung ed., 2007. Urban Pioneers: Berlin Experience with Temporary Urbanism. Bilingual, reprint 2011, Berlin: Jovis.

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This will be some relate, but maybe thrown together rumbling over a trip to Lisbon with bits and pieces of a conference and various thoughts and discussion extracts that link to this particular context. Being on the road usually brings up numerous new perspectives and lines of thought that might initially not be directly related to anything in particular but later on might as well find their way into a more contextualised form.

Visiting places as a tourist can often be quite frustrating. You are always the outsider, you stand out unable to step in to the secrets of the place. Scratching the surface and trotting the main paths with your fellow visitors. The guides direct you to what ever thousands of visitors have seen before tell you a little about the history but never really what you want to know and leave you in the dark about the real local narratives and secrets.

Lisbon Oriente Station
Image taken from skyscraper city / The oriente train station in Lisbons new quarter built by Calatrava for the expo in 1998.

See a place and learning about a place are quite some different things. This visit to Lisbon makes no exemption and the best probably is to accept and keep on walking, with open eyes continuously processing and combining trying to fit the puzzle pieces together reshuffle and attempt a new combination, establishing links both in terms of orientation and local practice whilst sucking ip the atmosphere of a quite unfamiliar place.

Its usually the subtile elements and little details as compared to the familiar context that stand out the most. Here in Lisbon as compared to London these are the sound, the smell and the space of the city. The three are probably diametrically the opposite of what you’ll find in the UK and especially in London.

Strong smell are common in Lisbon and you can find them everywhere usually before if at all you will find out about the source. From pleasant to truly awful there is everything. In terms of the sound, based on the dramatic differences in terms of space, architecture and topography the sound scape appears to have very different qualities. There is a lot more transition noises from activities blending into one another. A lot more activities take place in semi public spaces with a lot of balconies and loggias being involved. Then there are taler building and different street with-building hight relations transporting sounds into upper levels of buildings you might not associate normally with a ground floor situation.

Spaces are vast here in Lisbon. From the airport gates to the tube stations, train stations or university reception areas, everything is triple the size one would possibly assigne for the usage. Very impressive and completely changing the way enclosures are navigated used and finally perceived. Spaces flow a lot more here.


One of the talks at the 7VCT conference here at the Nova University was on Biomimicry and the promis of sustainable design based on such a concept. Various very beautiful and striking reference images were sown by Guorreiro during a tour do force of visually linking biological structures to urban physical form.

The occurring question of course immediately is as to how can one explain the linking of organic to man made other than visual similarities? Especially if we look at the creative capacity of people, the factors of decision making of the individual, also resulting in a cultor of space and space making.

Prof Mike Batty put it nicely in his comment during the sessions discussion time that in terms of energy consumption and optimisation of ‘the’ spatial problem this can be the result. With such a explanation the visual argument is extended and especially moves away from a direct comparison where people and cars in the road shall be see as blood cells transporting goods to the houses.

There is no doubt that there are similarities but there also are striking differences. Of this the capacity to take decision being one, but also the longevity of persistance being an example. if a mouse dies the same cells are very unlikely to reemerge as a mouse since the new baby mouse grows insed its mother, for the mouse being a mammal. However, a house is very likely to be built on the very same plot since this plot is guarded by boundary lines and the neighbouring property is likely to be owned by somebody else and at a very different stage of its live cycle (maybe there is a thing with local similarities though). This results in the discussion around boundary and finally organisational rules as sit would be extended to the discussion about culture and society in the next step. How do people live together in cities. Rules govern the structure, but they are not universal, its a trade off and locally emerged in regards to very specific conditions.

Taking this further these very same conditions however allow also for her consistence and persistance of the urban structure for a long times much beyond the individual inhabitant. Thus guaranteeing the built urban structure to develop and persist at a very different time scale. It is not down to a single planing act or the work of a generation that cities are stil there, but to the fact of social structure and the inscription of social structure manifested in physical form that lead to the continued existence of cities.

Cities rarely dye. Although there are some examples, there are even more stories of cities being rebuilt after great disasters. The earthquake of Lisbon being one or te fire of London. Nearly every city had its great fire actually , see the Wikipedia list of Fires. There is a very particular resilience about cities they don’t often die. Although thinking of it it might be the case that there are some examples to be fond.

The point is though that there are structures in place managing the functionality beyond the individual how ever important the single cities might be. This is what the pattern of activity and everyday structure is describing, inscribing activities in the urban morphology. THe word most overused in the past two years in this particular context is resilience. The capacity to withstand impacts and forces running against the everyday structure of the place.


To come back to the paper presented at the conference about the similarities between organic as in natural and planned as in organised one of the examples was the plan of Lisbon before and after the earthquake of 1755. The intention was to show how similar ‘natural’ growth is to planned growth since the planned result bears similar to the previous setting. The question being what is order and how does it emerge.

Lisbon map before 1755
Image taken from strangemaps / The city of Lisbon just before the 1755 earthquake that destroyed most of the existing city. The square and the gates to the city are already established structures. So are the linear streets following the topographical conditions.

This comparison makes an interesting example for what the organisation of order can produce. However, to argue based on this that there are similarities between ‘natural’ growth and ‘planned’ growth.

There are clear restrictions linking the two stages of the urban fragments. The first image shows the old city of Lisbon just before the earthquake in 1755 and the second plan shows how the planners headed by Manuel da Maia laid out the rebuilding plan. The bold option with a complete restructuring of the Baixa area was chosen by the king as the plan to be implemented.

Lisbon 1785
Image taken from intbau / The city of Lisbon after the replanning following the 1755 earthquake that destroyed most of the existing city.

Still as seen in many examples of reconstruction efforts, for example in London after great fire and after the second world war bombing with some of Abercrombies plans for the restructuring of the city, there are a lot of constraints that can not just be swept away as if it were a fresh plan. Landownership and established routes as well as other infrastructure or topological conditions make the rebuilding more of a puzzle task than a grand design effort.

There are of course some top down examples of restructuring such a Hausmann’s Paris plan or maybe some water dam projects in China were restructuring at such a scale is taking place.


Of course being in Lisbon makes it worth mentioning agani the visualisations developed by Pedro Cruz for the city traffic. These were covered in earlier posts HERE and HERE. The data stems forma survey covering traffic on the roads of Lisbon recorded over the period of one month. These animations developed in processing using explorative algorithms together with testing a range of analogies. Visually these representations are very captivating and stimulative in a number of ways. and on top it just loks pretty, very important too.

Having experienced a little bit the city of Lisbon over the past two days let me read these renderings in a different way. Some of the arteries have an distinct image attached and lend to read the network in relation to the topography and feel for urban identity.

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It hase come a bit out of fashion to build new cities. It sort of comes in waves or trends when suddenly a lot of cities are being planned and built, but then the ide dies out again. The Romans build a lot of cities, then it was quiet in Europe until the Medieval times when cities came back into fashion with market rights and privileges but really was a topic during the renaissance period. Of course during the industrialisation cities were all the topic again but for all the negative reason, leading to the planning of new cities, the garden city idea. Later on during the 20th century the New Town movement brought us some new settlements. Since then with the acknowledgement of the associated problems, the conflict between structured objectivity and perceived livability.

Skolkovo Innovation Center
Image taken from Univers Utopia / A drawing of the city of Palmanova near Venice.

The ver idea of a new city and the theories around building a new place however are kind of persistent. Its a sort of statice vision. With the search for better conditions and the idealistic vision of the sustainable city, the beginning of the 21st century was marked with a few city planning projects mainly in connection with the boom in the Middle East. One of the projects Gateway City with the Dead Star by OMA and the other project, Masdar City by Foster and Partners.

Russia has not hada prestigious urban planning project for a while and has now after the Middle East boom relaunched the idea of planning a new city. Here again the focus is on technology and innovation with the promise of better quality, better conditions and of course peace of mind with numerous sustainability promisses.

The new development lead by French planners AREP Ville is branded as the Russian Silicon Valley (Press Release) using big global companies to demonstrate the attractiveness of the plans. Amongst them are according to the Fast Company Intel, Nokia, Siemens, and Cisco

The new city will be planned in Skolkovo just outside Moscow. The project came out of competition that also featured for example OMA, Foster and Partner, ARUP or Albert Speer.

In their article the Fast Company puts it as: “The 15,000-person, $4.3 billion city will feature five zones, each focusing on a different area of research: IT, nuclear, biomedical technologies, energy, and space research. Residents will get the benefit of picturesque tree-lined walkways, bike paths, and foot bridges. And, presumably, free-flowing vodka.” The cities project manager, Viktor Maslakov, is quoted as saying: “The pedestrian will come first, followed by cyclists and public transport. It will be linked to Moscow by high-speed trains taking 17-20 minutes.” This will mean a very drastic change in Russa, where the car is very much still the dominating the traffic landscape.

Architects plan for the town to generate its own electricity using solar panels, wind farms and wells that tap into geothermal energy.

Skolkovo Innovation Center
Image taken from the Fast Company – Overview of the new planned innovation centre by AREP.

With the latest series of cities, from Masdar to Skolkovo, the talking of new cities has change quite substantially. It is now about figures and performance, about technology and numbers. The city has become a product in a sense, usually branded as a science park with inovation cluster promoted to save the global problems. Where New Towns still had this strong Garden City ideology to improve peoples live, enable them to live in their individual house and play a role in the local community. The science cities are positioned as global hubs for urban nomads on business trips bringing fresh ideas and reinventing the wheel. These new cities are promoted as entities in a global market with very little concept of locality beyond icons.

Urbanisation is however still trending to increase and as Mike Batty discusses in his Commentary in the latest Environment and Planning A volume 43 is likely to increase. Batty discusses the urban growth from looking at the historic development and out of this developing a longterm perspective. He calls it ‘When all the World is a City‘ as the predictions are that everybody will be living in cities by the end of the century, but also points out the there are indications that it is likely not all will be connected to the giant cluster.

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Time lapse video, as the title suggests, is much more dramatic as a time collapse. But its not far off and the notion of time folding into, or between the frames could be quite an interesting term. All of them imply the dropping of steps or frames, quite beautifully.

Video shot and directed by by Jean Grimard Gauthereau on Vimeo. He actually also composed the music to with the clip. It is great and creates a beautiful ambient to go with the flow of the scenery. He has some more very lovely clips on his vimeo page, for example the ‘Like a Dream‘.

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What has the study of urban phenomenons in common with medical examination? Both could be described as studying a ‘body’ and trying to find explanations of it’s ‘functions’ in the wider context of ‘elements’. This is in both areas a rather practical and realists view with a dramatic functionalists angle.

The rational definition of the city as a body, as for example discussed HERE, has its fascination and many famous urbanists are or have linked to this visualisation. It does convey a certain familiarity in its illustration. However it is far from an abstraction and thus is not very helpful. It only shifts the problem in question from one complex into the other one.

CT Brain Scan
Image taken from Wikipedia / Computed tomography of human brain, from base of the skull to top. Taken with intravenous contrast medium.

However, since both fields are struggling with their respective complexity it could be an option to transfer techniques for examination. This is what Martin Krieger proposes in his new book ‘Urban Tomographies‘ published by University of Pennsylvania Press 2011. Krieger proposes to transfer the techniques of exploring phenomenons through a large number of examples as for example used in CT scans, a technique where organs or other ‘elements’ are envisioned through numerous individual slice images. It is used to generate a three-dimensional image of the inside of an object from a large series of two-dimensional X-ray images taken around a single axis of rotation.

Basically many small frames are used to piece together the larger whole. This is useful since organs can be visualised and examined without actually having to open. These sort of scans are often used in parts of the human body like the brain where surgery is extremely difficult.

Transferring this technique, with all the necessary alterations, to the field of urban analysis is an intriguing proposal. Especially in the context of the current hype of massive data sets and large scale collections, the term tomography seems an appropriate umbrella. It already has its coining which is relatively balanced. However literally translated it would be closer to something like a laydar scan or mesh model used for 3d representation of urban environments such as in the lates OVI Map 3D.

Krieger’s interpretation or migration however, is going further and proposed a more applied and somehow qualitative rooted interpretation of the concept. Many little documentations of the topic to investigate will together represent the larger whole not only physical but also socially and culturally. He explains: “Urban tomography, with its dense and multiple perspectives in space and time and type, allows for exploratory analysis of the world in front of us. … Multiple perspectives viewed in parallel, and re-viewed, allow for seeing it all, again and again, so that you begin to figure out what it is you are seeing: flows, phenomena, types – not individuals.”

Urban Tomographies Cover
Image taken from Urban Tomographies / Urban Tomographies store front

In his investigations Krieger focuses on Los angeles and includes photography as his main method or study. Besides this he also integrates sounds and the recording thereof into his investigations.

The book begins by introducing tomographic methods and the principles behind them, which are taken from phenomenological philosophy. It draws from the examples of Lee Friedlander and Walker Evans, as well as Denis Diderot, Charles Marville, and Eugène Atget, who documented the many facets of Paris life in three crucial periods. Rather than focus on singular, extraordinary figures and events as do most documentarians, Krieger looks instead at the typical, presenting multiple specific images that call attention to people and activities usually rendered invisible by commonality. He took tens of thousands of photographs of industrial sites, markets, electrical distributing stations, and storefront churches throughout Los Angeles. He also recorded the city’s ambient sounds, from the calls of a tamale vendor to the buzz of a workshop saw. Krieger considers these samples from the urban sensorium in this innovative volume, resulting in a thoughtful illumination of the interplay of people with and within the built environment. With numerous maps and photographs, as well as Krieger’s unique insights, Urban Tomographies provides an unusually representative and rounded view of the city.

Urban Tomographies Cover
Image taken from Urban Tomographies / Book cover.

Krieger, M.H., 2011. Urban Tomographies, Philadelphia: University of Pennsylvania Press.

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