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— urbantick

February 2012 Monthly archive

How exactly are we using light? Are we lighting what we need or are we lighting the surrounding plus everything else, wasting energy? Light has become a resource in our western societies that is being taken as a given available with the flick of a finger.

Street lights are recorded to be as old as 1405 in the city of London. Back then lanterns were to be hung outside houses along major roads. Several standards and specifications were released for the candles used. Only in 1807 the first gas lams were introduced into Golden Lane in London to replace the oil lamps.

Europe light pollution
Image taken from Architect / Street lights and context lighting above the urban area in the background.

Street lighting has come a long way since then and today all urban roads and alleyways are lit. Actually over lit in most cases emitting much light unnecessary into the sky. A lot of the lamp designs are very ineffective emitting the light upwards were it disappears into the sky without brightening the context.

The same is true for many privat light around houses, front and backgardens. Light in the dark is only really effective if it is directed at a surface and the lamp design should reflect this. If not unnecessary light pollution is produced affecting the environment. We have reached quite high levels of light pollution in urbanised areas, with most parts of Europe are.

Europe light pollution
Image taken from Wikimedia / Europe being light. False colours show various intensities of radiation, both direct and indirect, from artificial light sources that reach space.

This pollution is causing foremost wast of energy but also has direct environmental impacts. This is known as ecological light pollution. Nighttime light may for example interfere with the ability of moths and other nocturnal insects to navigate. Lights on tall structures can disorient migrating birds.

These problems have only begun to enter the public discussion and some cities around Europe have started to redesign lighting concepts for streets and squares as well as other infrastructures. This is usually done in lighting masterplans were the existing and the new light sources are taken into consideration.

FOr example only last week a proposal to dimm the light on A roads in the UK during ‘quiet’ times was presented by the Highways Agency according to BBC. It is however argued for under the umbrella of cost saving rather than environmental points.

Light not only just purs like a liquid, but if it would it could look like this. Energy and light saving visualised beautifully by Sunday / Paper. Via The Atlantic.

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Traditionally Geographic Information System (GIS) have been exclusively run on the Windows platform. Only very few applications run on either cross platform or exclusively on the Mac. This is part two of a review and introduction to Cartographica, a Mac based GIS software. Find part one with a general introduction HERE and the working with section HERE. This third part is looking at the mobile version for your iPhone or the iPad.

The GIS software are generally quite heavy software packages and with all them functions packed in use a fair bit of processing power. A mobile client is not quite the first choice as a platform for such an app. However, the field is where you get your data from, check on changes or record problems. Having a powerful GIS bases system right there to record the information and look up details makes your life so much easier and quite a bit more fun.

With the new quite powerful handheld devices running iOS this has become a reality and both iPad and iPhone rund GIS packages. Cartographica is offering a Cartographica Mobile app, currently at version 1.1 available now from the itunes app store.

With it you can take data with you out into the field. This is as simple as dropping files into your itunes. It will natively read shape files for example. Each file can be accessed from the mobile app, including layers.

Testing this HERE is a download link for Boris Bike station locations in London from the Guardian Datastore. The data can then be droppend into itunes and opened on the iPad.

Image by urbanTick / Accessing the data on your iPad. Here showing the Boris Bike station location around London. As a background OSM is used by default.

You can then zoom in and get to the details that are stored with each data point. This is flexible and can be adjusted to the need even out in the field. As done here an field for photo is added and for each location an Photograph can be recorded and linked in directly form the iPad.

Image by urbanTick / Accessing the data on your iPad. Here showing the Boris Bike station location around London. The details can be accessed individually.

Beside looking at the data and access it new data points can be created. There is a plus button at the bottom of the screen or by keeping your finger on the screen also will bring up a zoom functions with witch a point can be manually located. Alternatively the GPS can be used to add a point at the current location.

Image by urbanTick / Adding data directly on your iPad. The cross zoom helps definitely place a new data point.

Image by urbanTick / Adding data directly on your iPad. The pop up dialoge lets you fill in the preset fields. Those can be manipulated on the go and new ones can be added or old ones deleted.

Image by urbanTick / Adding data directly on your iPad. Using the iPad camera to add photographs of the location, or anything else.

What can’t be done on the go is any processing. The station platform of Cartographica offers a range of tools to analyse and visualise the data (see previous post HERE.) The mobile verson as of now does not include any of this. As such the mobile app goes as an addon rather than a replacement. It is intended to take the data with you check, extend or create and bring it back for analysis and further processing.

Nevertheless, Cartographica Mobile does integrate with a network and multiple users including live updating. This opens up possibility for collaborative work on the move and in the field. This is very need and helpful in many cases.

The Cartographica Mobile version is available from the itunes app store at a price of £54.99 or the equivalent of your currrency. It is available world wide. The Cartographica workstation software is available form the web store at a price of $495 and as an academic student license for only $99 for one year. This is tremendously good offer, especially if compared to some of the other packages prices.

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The Cold War years are usually presented in terms of the military force and an ever expanding resource of military equipment. This of course includes foremost the nuclear weapons both sides the West lead by the U.S. and the NATO and the Communist East lead by Russia.

Architecture however, played an important role in cicvil defence and the preparation for a potential third world war. There was far less attention payed to the fact that all nations had programs running to prepare their societies for the case of escalation. Tensions there were enough.

Nuclear war was the ultimate danger and with images and evidence form Hiroshima and Nagasaki preparation was part of civil defence programs also in the U.S. In a new book Fallout Shelter: Designing for Civil Defence in the Cold War published by University of Minnesota Press, David Monteyne presents these U.S. programs from an architectural perspective. This detailed investigation ranges from the propaganda to built examples and examines closely the role of the architect as the middle man between government and civil society implementing a plan that is further reaching than simply the provision of shelter. Find Fallout Shelter: Designing for Civil Defence in the Cold War for great prices with these Amazon Promo Codes.

DIY shelter
Image taken from etsy / DIY fallout shelter for your back garden.

As Monteyne points out in his introduction it effectively is a contract between citizens and government exchanging provision for shelter and quality of live for cooperative behaviour. He refers to Foucaults biopower as a political relationship. Essentially building shelters was and in some cases still is, as we’ll discuss further on, the physical implementation of goals and powers of the welfare state.

The book explores in seven chapters the background, the planning, the implementation and the potential influence of shelter provision programs in the U.S. The programs were mostly about information and education but of course also aiming to build shelter provision. For this the architects were a key alley and the American Institute of Architects (AIA) launched a series of design competitions together with the Office for Civil Defense (OCD). The aim was to promote good planning and preparation for shelter provision. A series of designs were presented as winners, both built and as projects.

In the last chapter Monteyner goes a step further and applies his observations and investigations as an interpretation of an architectural style. He goes as far as arguing that this focus on shelter and bunker design has effectively led to an specific style, not a new one, but Brutalism?! Well thats something new and of course he has some evidence, the famous Boston City Hall. The basic argument is that Brutalist architecture looks a bit like bunk architecture so the origin of Brutalism is to be found in these government programs during the early Cold War times having shaped a whole generations concusses.

Boston City Hall
Image taken from Wikipedia / The Boston City Hall that serves as an example as to how bunker design has lead to the Brutalism movement.

Boston City Hall is at this point is the famous and widely debated example in the U.S. and serves well since it has implemented to some extend the requirements for fallout shelter. Interestingly the term Burtalism however is claimed to be coined by the Smithsons from the United Kingdom based on Le Corbusier in the context of CIAM. So not really an American connection there and all in all a bit too early for these programs that were run in the fifties and sixties mainly.

Reading the shelter guides these cold war programs produced and the resulting designs one can not help but smile. It amazing how naive the designs are and how improvised. For example there are guides on how to build a wooden shelter in your backyard and even the Boston City Hall project, the famous bunker style building has implemented shelter space on the eights floor?

It seemed to work and to some degree the American officials seemed to gain some sense of preparednes from these exercises. To everyone else these plans must immediately seem strange. If all you need to withstand a nuclear war is to build the entrance of a house not in line with the corridor to prevent fallout from penetrating deep into the house we ar all save.

American architecture is not generally well known for going deep underground and if possible basements are avoided at any cost. Very much so in terms of shelter and fall protection provision. Not even these programs have seriously considered building bunker underground, as the Boston City Hall projects demonstrates. Shelter can happily be provided on the eighth floor?!

The way this infrastructure of bunkers and shelters is described in the publication does echo practices for example in Switzerland. The small country in the heart of Europe is well known for its specific bunker infrastructure. On the military end this infrastructure was designed to guarantee the independence creating a réduit in the alps. On the civil side planning for large scale shelter infrastructure started a early as the 1930s. These efforts were geared towards the provision of shelter everyone in the country. Doring the 1980s this was achieved, making Switzerland arguably the leading provider of shelters.

It is a general requirement in Switzerland to built a shelter as part of every housing project ranging from a single family house to an entire block. Depending on the size of the project and number of inhabitants the shelter has to provide a certain capacity. Currently there are, according to the Swiss Federal Office for Civil Protection FOCP, about 360’000 individual shelters built as part of buildings and in addition some 2300 communal shelters. Hereby a shelter in general is a sort of mini bunker in the basement of every building constructed after 1963.

shelter details section
Image taken from Kanton Schwyz / Detailed section drawing showing the emergency exit from a standard single family house shelter space. Requirements including distances and dimensioning are based on standards applicable through out Switzerland. Note also the shown solution in case of high ground water.

There are clear guide lines for the construction of the shelter, the provisions and the equipment necessary. Every opening has to have a massive concrete door to completely seal the space. There is ventilation equipment required, designed to withstand gas and fall out. In addition there are simple bunk bed constructions and basic facilities such as dry toilets required.

Larger buildings such as community centres provide shelter for a larger number of people ranging from 30 to a few hundred. All are real bunkers constructed in full concrete, at least 25 cm in thickness with completely sealable openings, basic infrastructure equipment, toilets, beds and cooking facilities.

In addition infrastructure projects sometimes have been used to extend capacity of shelter place capacity. For examples the highway tunnel ‘Sonnenbergtunnel‘ in Luzern was build with the capacity to transform into a massive bunker if required. It would have provided places for about 20’000 people. This includes sanitary facilities including a small hospital unit, large kitchens, ventilation infrastructure and bunk beds and so on. In case of emergency each tunnel entrance would be closed with a specially designed massive concrete gates to seal the entrance. The entire length of the tunnel be used for cubicles with bunk beds. It was calculated for 1m2 of floorspace per person.

Sonnenberg tunnel gates
Image taken from Luzernerzeitung / The large gates of the Sonnenbergtunnel shelter in Switzerland were last closed in 1987. The gate is constructed on sight and is curved to withstand great pressure.

Sonnenberg tunnel is since 2005 no longer in operation as a shelter unit. It can still be visited with a guided tour though. The city of Luzern has in connection to the complete renovation of the highway A2 developed a new Civil Defence concept and provides the capacity in shelter places elsewhere. However, through out switzerland a number of other such invisible underground civi defence infrastructure buildings are still being maintained in order to provide shelter in case of war or nuclear fall out.

Switzerland has in many ways optimised and multiplied the implementation of shelter provision for the civil population. Reading it under the aspects David Monteyne presents in the introduction to his publication the outreach of the state to discipline the population to good behaviour in exchange for welfare did work and still works very well. It can be argued that the Swiss population and the architects as the implementers of these outreach programs cooperate well. However, the implementation of the shelter infrastructure is taken much more serious in its mechanics in Switzerland than according to Monteyne it was in the US. And from a Swiss perspective to speak of a specific bunker style (believed to be brutalism) to emerge from the state requirements for shelter seems absurd. This is mainly dueto the fact that Swiss planners have always decided that shelter or bunker facilities only really make sense if they are implemented in the basement and never tried to somehow fit it in above ground. As such the shelter has never been visible and therefore did not influence the ascetics of the aboveground appearance necessarily.

Die Zivilschutzanlage Sonnenbergtunnel in Luzern
Details taken from: Heierli, W., Jundt, L. & Kessler, E., 1976. Die Zivilschutzanlage Sonnenbergtunnel in Luzern. Schweizerische Bauzeitung, 94(46), pp.689-699.
/ Map of the Sonnenberg highway tunnel near Luzern in Switzerland showing the location of the built shelter. The bunke was designed to provided space for 20’000 civilians in the case of war. Constructed between 1971 and 1976. The shelter was finally closed in 2005.
Details taken from: Heierli, W., Jundt, L. & Kessler, E., 1976. Die Zivilschutzanlage Sonnenbergtunnel in Luzern. Schweizerische Bauzeitung, 94(46), pp.689-699.

Building shelters underground could be an explanation why the required provision of shelter had and still has a much higher acceptance through out the civil population. Without it being constantly present in the everyday environment it is much more a background infrastructure than an style and other functions are not overloaded by the required provision of shelter but extended.

Nevertheless the book presents a very distinct characteristic of the last century and the period between 1950 and 1980. Whether it lead to a distinct architectural style can be debated. What is of specific interest is to compare the different approaches to the provision of shelter as well as what these approaches tell about how the civil society deals with chaos and order, the manipulation of the collective and the individual and the role of planning and architecture in a wider society context.

Fallout shelter design Book cover
Image taken from amazon / Book cover.

Monteyne, D., 2011. Fallout Shelter: Designing for Civil Defense in the Cold War, University of Minnesota Press.

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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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