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Tag "urban form"

Transformations towards opening the waterside of cities particularly in Europe are taking place for the last fifteen years. Rivers and lake side areas are being discovered as recreation areas of high value. What was formerly waste land or industrial area has very often been brownfield for some time and is redeveloped, very often turning the city functionally inside out, introducing a new front.

Particularly Rivers are passing through central areas where cities can develop a potential for focused activity and attraction. London is developing this topics, but also Rotterdam, Berlin, Basel and so on.

Paris Plages
Image taken from Wikimedia / A view down onto the Paris Plages. With sand the river front road is transformed in to a recreation zone for one month.

Paris has developed a special take on this, with a very much temporary solution. The legacy i sometimes tricky to just change and Paris runs some major road infrastructure along the Seine that they are not willing to reroute. However, temporarily it is during summer transformed into a beachside with sand and palm trees.

It goes with a extensive cultural program, including art fairs and concerts. There are all sorts of activities running like Tai-Chi and reading clubs organised by the library. Of course a game of Boules has to feature too. Actually Pétanque is played at Paris Plages.

Paris Plages
Image taken from parisplages / Plan showing one of the locations just across from the Centre pompidou in central Paris.

The project ‘Paris Plages‘ started in 2002 and has taken place every summer since. The authorities announce “The summer transforms Paris. The cityscape dons greenery and the riverside thoroughfares become car-free resorts. The Paris Plages (Paris Beaches) operation kicks off on or around 20 July and lasts four weeks.”

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Letters and signs are a fundamental part of communication and make it possible to transport information. It extends on the spoken words by enabling shifts in time. The information is conserved to some extend and can be transported.

Writing dominates the urban landscape and there are plates of information everywhere. This form of extended communication can be very visual and is therefore preferably used over any other sort of information method. Nevertheless it is a very intellectual form of communicaiton and not at all intuitive or natural.

Since letters can be found everywhere one could accidentally stumble over some typographic symbols in the built environment. Lisa Rienermann found the whole alphabet in the streets of New York, somewhere between the roof line and the sky.

Type the sky
Image by Lisa Rienermann / Project Type the Sky – A photographic Alphabet Awarded by the TDC New York 2007 and :output foundation 2008

Another great source for spotting things of course are aerial images and Google Earth is the tool of choice for typography spotters. Darren Dub has found the all over the world. He says: “Alphabet collection using google earth. This was made for my typography class. I found all of these letters after countless hours of searching google earth.” The music is “Where is my mind?” by the Pixies. Some of the locations include: Munich, Madrid, Seattle, SF Bay Area, Prague, Miami, Beijing, Rome, Amsterdam, Tokyo and more.

More letters on Google Earth spotted by Rhett Dashwood in the state of Victoria, Australia between 2008 and 2009. This is the way to get to know your backyard a little better by looking for something in detail and you’ll discover a lot of other things accidentally. Dashwood has put online a map with the alphabet marked and it is possible to click through and discover Victoria by the letter.

Typography in Victory on Google Earth
Image taken from Rhett Dashwood / Over the course of several months beginning October 2008 to April 2009 I’ve spent some of my spare time between commercial projects searching Google Maps hoping to discover land formations or buildings resembling letter forms.

The artist Christopher LaBrooy has picked up on this sort of spotting and taken it further, speculating about the typography of famous architects and their trademark style. As a speculation he developed his favourite architects name spelt out as built letters.

Image taken from Christopher LaBrooy / Typography design based on the architecture of Tadao Ando. I picked out my favourite buildings as a basis for developing some expressive letter forms. Included are : Chikatsu Asuka historical museum – Water temple – Naoshima contemporary art museum annexe.

Image taken from Christopher LaBrooy / Typography design based on the architecture of zaha hadid. With this piece I focused on capturing zaha’s formal language rather than reference specific buildings because i am very interested in her drawings and paintings from the eighties.

Via WebUrbanist and Gizmodo.

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A guest post by Martin Gittins from Kosmograd newsfeed, contributing to the second Ecological Urbanism discussion hosted by Annick Labeca, Taneha Bacchin, DPR-Barcelona and urbanTick.

For a while, I was contemplating buying the Last House in London. It appealed to me, the idea of living at the very edge of the city, as far north as it is possible to go, on the outskirts of High Barnet. But on closer inspection it turns out that it isn’t the edge of the city at all. Next to the house is a cemetery, then a paddock and stable, and a little further on 2 golf courses. Then there are a couple of fields before you get to a pub, then the estate of Dyrham Park Country Club (one of a string of large country estates encircling London), then a gypsy encampment, the M25 motorway, and the curious environs of South Mimms, a village consumed by a motorway service station.

Image taken from Google Maps / The area to the north of High Barnet appears to be lush, verdant, sward, but on closer inspection reveals a hidden urbanism.

The city has a fractal edge, bleeding urbanity into the countryside, which conversely seeps tendrils of nature into the city. Yet our innate desire to see town and country as two separate realms means that at the edge of cities this landscape becomes a strange hinterland, a secretive fictive space. Development here is almost always ad-hoc, piecemeal, a gradual process of urbanisation – a garden centre or golf course as a vanguard – with the occasional flurry of infrastructural activity, usually a new road, a moment of intensification, seeding new developments.

Interwar planning dogma in the UK threw up the Green Belt (London and Home Counties) Act 1938, designed to stop the untramelled growth of London into the country, to protect against urban sprawl. It arose after vigorous campaigning from the Council for the Preservation of Rural England, and carried with it the overtones of protecting the wealthy country folk, the landed gentry, from the great unwashed lumpenproletariat. (For a town planner Abercrombie was a secret ruralophile). The Green Belt became a politicised landscape, the buffer zone between the haves and have nots. It was a concept that was soon adopted by other metropolitan areas of Britain and then exported to the world.

Image on the left taken from Building Land UK, image on the right taken from treehugger / The Green Belt was exported from London to the rest of the world.

Iain Sinclair, in the wonderful London Orbital, wrote:
“By the time Londoners had seen their city bombed, riverside industries destroyed, they were ready to think of renewal, deportation to the end of the railway line, the jagged beginnings of farmland. Patrick Abercrombie’s Greater London Plan 1944 (published in 1945) still worked through concentric bands: the Inner Urban Ring (overworked, fire-damaged), the Suburban Ring (to which inner-city casualties would migrate), the green belt (ten miles beyond the edge of London), and the Outer Country Ring, which would extend to the boundary of the regional plan.

Visionary maps, in muted Ben Nicholson colours, were produced. Lovely fold out abstractions. Proposals in soft grey, pale green, blue-silver river systems. But as always with the blood circuit of ring roads, the pastoral memory ring at the edge of things, at the limits of our toleration of noise and speed and grime. There must, said William Bull (in 1901) be ‘a green girdle around London’s Sphere … a circle of green sward and trees which would remain permanently inviolate'”.

Image taken from CBRD website / Abercrombie’s 1944 Greater London Plan. View larger image HERE.

Post WW2, with London and other urban areas ravaged by bomb damage and with a large displacement of people, a new vision of London arose. It was led by Abercrombie’s 1943 County of London Plan, followed in 1944 by the Greater London Plan, and led to the New Towns Act of 1946, with its plan for the extensive enlargement or creation of a ring of towns around London within the Green Belt. Stevenage, Welwyn Garden City and Hatfield were the three designated towns in Hertfordshire.

Image taken from CBRD website / Part of Abercrombie’s County Plan of 1943. View larger image HERE.

Image taken from BBC / Welwyn Garden City was founded by Ebenezer Howard but expanded as part of the New Towns Act.

New Towns, heavily inspired by Ebenezer Howard’s Garden City Movement, were conceived as places that would not be allowed to grow too big, and maintain a healthy relationship between Town and Country. Certainly Howard thought that Garden Cities could be self-sustaining communities, solipsistic enclaves, with just enough people to support just the right amount of amenities, light industry and offices, enough to provide employment for all the inhabitants. It’s a concept that was also mooted for the flawed ecotowns boondoggle of the late 2000s in the UK. But, inevitably, any town is plugged into an infrastructure larger than itself, and so there is a network of transport links, water and sewage systems, power lines and telecoms links that has grown up to meet the needs of these towns.

Image taken from CBRD website / 3 types of arterial road junctions. Abercrombie’s Greater London Plan included proposed layouts of road junctions, but gave little thought to what might happen around these junctions, outside of the city.

This infrastructural life support system criss-crosses the green-belt, connecting the towns of Hertfordshire together and plugging them into the beating heart of London. Physically it also carves the landscape into a number of small, leftover spaces. It is into these leftover space that secret urbanism seeps in, the parasitic typologies of golf courses, garden centres, caravan parks, and those other things that spring up along transport interchanges, such as business parks, retail parks, travel hotels, distribution warehouses. The Green Belt seems in places to be little more than one or two fields that keep a satellite town, Bushey, Potters Bar, Broxbourne, from merging into the Great Wen of London.

Image taken from Geograph.org.uk / The Green Belt, as it is today. Retail park, London Colney.

‘Abolish the green belt’ is an provocative clarion call that periodically raises the hackles of the folks in the Shires, the Home Counties home guard, whether it comes from design figureheads like Kevin McCloud or anti-establishment tyros like James Heartfield. The problem with a Green Belt is that it does nothing to really save the countryside from the encroachment of the city, and instead of presenting sprawl, actually encourages it. But rather than simply abolish it, we need to recognise it for what it has become, and design within it.

The green belt has become not a verdant sward of pastoral beauty but an interzone of pure infrastructure. Instead of resisting the growth of the city, and pretending the resulting drosscape doesn’t exist, a new form of continuous urbanism is required, one that can operate at a variety of densities, with points of stim and dross, to use Lars Lerup’s terms, more consciously defined.

Sinclair, Iain, (2002) “London Orbital”, London: Granta Publications
Lerup, Lars (1995) “Stim & Dross: Rethinking the Metropolis.” Assemblage 25, Cambridge & London. MIT Press


Martin Gittins writes the Kosmograd newsfeed, a blog largely about architecture, disurbanism and urban identity, viewed primarily through the lens of Soviet Constructivism. Trained as an architect, but now working in the field of interactive design, Martin lives in north London with Ms Kosmograd, 3 children and a collection of bicycles. Martin spends most weekends cycling around Hertfordshire considering the ‘problem’ of London. Martin also writes occasionally at SuperSpatial.

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Around the topic of the city and urban areas, one word is omni present in the discussions. ‘Density’ seems to be the key term to a whole range of aspects. This incudes not only questions and explanations but also definitions. Very often density is used to define or characterise certain aspects, but frequently this is based on visual material. For example high-rise buildings are an indicator usually associated with high density and brick buildings with low density.

A recent NAi Publishers book by Meta Berghauser Pont and Per Haupt examines afresh this topic of density and urban spaces under the title ‘SPACEMATRIX – Space, Density and Urban Form’.
One thing is obvious from the beginning and this is refreshing, it is an approach to density that does not start from the visual and does put a lot of effort into developing a whole framework of characteristics of density from a simple, pragmatic mathematical point of view.

Calculating density might be the obvious thing to do, but looking back there hasn’t been a lot of other publications on this topics actually looking into the math of the topic. Other than in building regulations one might not find a lot about actual density figures.

Image taken from SPACEMATRIX / Spread from the book showing the central matrix. This is the tool to relate the 79 example projects.

The core of the book definitely is the ‘Spacecalculator’. This section explains the different factors and calculation methods, but then also introduces how the different numbers calculated for different projects can actually be compared in the ‘Spacematrix’. In addition this section is followed by a whole catalogue of 79 built examples aken from Amsterdam, Berlin and Barcelona.

In additiona to the book this section is available online at http://www.spacecalculator.nl/. A tool that many planners and offices will love. A click on the ‘Spacematrix’ brings up a list of projects that are cose to this value. Each individual project is documented with images and plans. This provides a good sense of what the density factor produces and how the same factors can vary in appearance. So for your next competition were you are working on a whole block or estate, this is the reference and source for density example!

Image taken from spacecalculator / By clicking on the left hand matrix a selection of examples pop up with the related density come up. Each project is documented with additional details.

The book is otherwise structured classically organised in to concept, history, variables, urban form, performance, practice and qualities as a conclusion. However in the light of the approach via the mathematical way this provides a great background. In this sense the authors have managed to merge the technical core element of the density calculation with the rest of what we know from the density calculation. This rich background of the topic as it is discussed in the book might also be partially because the content is based on the authors PhD research work undertaken at the TU Delft. The Thesis was successfully defended in late 2009. And how fresh, surprising and new books based on PhD thesis’ can be was only recently demonstrated for example by the book Grand Urban Rules by Alex Lehnerer.

The book is beutifully designed by Studio Joost Grootens as was the extremely beautiful book ‘Atlas of the New Dutch Water Defence Line’. In this sense even though the topic is approach from a mathematical perspective and suporte with a lot of theoretical background information it is a joy to read. A must have for every planning office and the chance to finally move beyond abstract discussion, starting to develop an individual approach with each project.

Image taken from nijhoflee.nl / Book cover.

Pont, M.B., Haupt, P., 2010. Space Matrix: Space, Density and Urban Form, NAI Publishers.

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Spearheaded by the current energy, financial, and climate crises the sustainability agenda has called upon planners, architects, and urban designers to rethink profoundly the ways in which we build our cities. This, however, is not the first time when modern society is faced with such an imperative. Roughly one hundred years ago, in the beginning of the twentieth century, the explosive growth of cities during the industrial era posed a similarly overwhelming challenge. Thus, before we embrace wholeheartedly and without reservations the new emerging paradigm of sustainable design, it is worthwhile to consider the historical experience of western society when faced previously with the heroic task of redesigning the city.

The unprecedented rate of urbanization in Europe and North America towards the end of the nineteenth and the beginning of the twentieth centuries, produced a number of severe urban problems related to congestion, overcrowding, pollution, and public health. The western civilization produced two strategies for addressing these issues. The first one was an instinctive response based on the idea of decentralization. Thus, over the course of the twentieth century, the processes of suburbanization were effectively fuelled by a confluence of economic, cultural, and political forces stretching the boundaries of cities to engulf ever-greater patches of their surrounding landscapes. The second response to the challenges of rapid urbanization was based on the principles of the emerging modernist movement, putting its faith in the application of science and technology as a way of combating all social ills and advancing society forward into a new era of universal progress. In the context of city planning, this line of thinking called for massive reorganization of the urban fabric with the goal of increasing the efficiency with which cities performed their functions.

Image taken from Integrated Sustainable Design / In North America, more and more of the landscape is being converted to what has been called the wildland-urban interface, where urban sprawl takes over natural landscapes, as seen in this aerial view of the expansion of Albuquerque, New Mexico into the surrounding desert landscapes.

During the twentieth century, the two strategies (suburbanization and modernization) were applied simultaneously throughout the western world. The market-driven economies placing emphasis on suburbanization, and the central command-driven societies emphasizing modernization defined the two extremes of this range. It should be noted that to a great extent, both of these strategies achieved their goals. They reduced overcrowding, rationalized and improved the delivery of urban services, and offered to a great share of urban residents better quality housing (both in the form of suburban homes and high-rise urban dwellings) compared to the slums and squatters of the nineteenth century industrial city. However, both of these strategies created their own set of urban problems, which became very obvious toward the end of the century. The fallacy of modernist planning (the separation of uses leading to the demise of urban vitality) and the negative social, economic, and environmental impacts of urban sprawl are extensively documented in urban literature and need not be recounted here.

The point that I am trying to make is that we should examine very carefully the principles of sustainable urban design before it is too late to deal with its unintended consequences. I am afraid that efforts for such critical evaluation are still lacking or easily drowned in the euphoria of embracing the new green agenda. My main concern is that sustainable design principles, if they are too rigorously applied, can easily become a dogma that can threaten the most salient feature of cities – the intensity and richness of social interaction reflected in the complexity and richness of urban form. This can happen on several fronts and disturbing parallels could be drawn with the dawn of the modernist movement.

Image taken from arc1.uniroma.it / Le Corbusier, Plan Voisin, Paris 1935.

One of the most alarming overtones heard among the ranks of the most radical sustainability proponents is the notion that the severity of the environmental crisis, coupled with the needs of today’s profoundly transformed society, call for a complete redesign of the built environment. The rejection of the past and its structures is a familiar rallying cry of the modernist thinkers, best exemplified by Corbusier’s Plan Voisin. Luckily, most sustainability proponents exercise considerably more constraint in their public proclamations, but one is often left with the impression that appreciation of the existing urban fabric does not rank very high on the sustainability agenda.

Related to that is another point of concern deriving from the narrow interpretation of sustainability. Quite frequently, particularly during the last couple of years, sustainability is equated with minimising energy and resource use. I am afraid that applied to the urban realm, the dictate of resource efficiency can produce similar outcomes to those generated by the push for greater functionality which dominated modernist city planning during the previous century. Following such rationale, for instance, one can easily make the argument for the wholesale replacement of the energy inefficient historic housing stock of many cities around the world.

Another analogy between modernist and sustainability ideologists is their shared belief in technology as a main tool for accomplishing societal goals. This time around, the reinstatement of technology as a liberating force comes not in the form of a shiny machine, but as a delicate organic membrane wrapped around the body of the building, a network of sensors draped over the city governing the self-regulation of its interlinked systems. The digital delirium of the twenty-first century has replaced the fetishism of the machine championed one hundred years ago.

Recently, the notion of flexibility and fluidity characterizing natural systems has been pulled in to serve as an inspiration of architectural and urban design. The fluency of space, both interior and exterior, has been emphasized as form-shifting buildings and nomadic public spaces adjust to the ever-changing requirements of a highly dynamic urban reality. The permanence of architecture and the built environment, one of the city’s most reassuring psychological traits, is replaced by an overly responsive environment eager to please the users in whichever possible way.

These are just a few thoughts, admittedly rather dark ones. Overall, I am rather skeptical of the ability of societies to learn from the past. Yet I hope that the experience from the attempts to redesign the city during the last century could bring some humility and insights to our efforts toward sustainable design.

This Guest post by Kiril Staniov forms part of the discussion in the urbanTick series on Ecological Urbanism.


Kiril Stanilov holds a Professional Diploma in Architecture from the University of Architecture, Civil Engineering and Geodesy, Sofia; a Master of Community Planning from the University of Cincinnati; and a PhD in Urban Design and Planning from the University of Washington. From 1998 to 2008 he was an Assistant and an Associate Professor in Planning at the University of Cincinnati where he taught courses in urban design, physical planning, and contemporary urbanization.
Kiril Stanilov’s research interests are centered on explorations of contemporary patterns of urban growth and change, and the role played by public policies in shaping urban form transformations.

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Cities are growing and more and more percent of the world population are living in urban areas. This is a fairly well known and often quoted line. However how this might come to look like we don’t know yet. Will we be living in a massive city island surrounded by desert, jungle, mountain or water? Or might it be a continuos city spanning the whole planet, very much in the sense of the Small World timeLapse produced last year in London?
In the laboratories of the ETH in Zurich, Kaiersrot manufactured a arge cale model of such a small world city using digital manufacturing techniques. The ‘design’ of the spere is generated by an algorithm and then manufactured from cardboard in a PappPlot tehcnique, were sustainable card board is cut and glued together by a machine, layer by layer.
The product is described as “It is a city on a sphere, but not necessarily a global city, maybe a city globe: endless – or better – beginningless. There is neither periphery nor center. The city’s openness is simultaneously based on its seclusion. Once within one can never leave again. The city has a specific form; its physical presence is obvious. Nevertheless, the city can never be experienced in its totality.” And yes it becomes difficult to map the sphere on a flat piece of paper. This is interesting regarding urban planning. Not only a spherical city can not be mapped entirely correct on a flat paper, but it serves very well as a obvious example of the complications of perspective and reality.
It was shown at the International Architecture Biennale Rotterdam ‘Open City: Designing Coexistence’ last year, with Kees Christiaanse from KCAP as the curator.

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A book with a great question: what do we owe the planning and building rules? An for a change, this is a different approach to try and explain what the urban form, the urban morphology is and where it comes from.
Traditionally, this seemed very easy, being simply the sum of all the individual buildings. becoming more complicated with for examples Kevin Lynch’s Image of the city were the idea settled that individuals perceive the city and this in turn influences how we understand and then obviously it became even more complicate with the introduction of the social dimension as a informing parameter of the built form, as for example in ‘the Social Logic of Space’.
So it is complicated and the search for the identity of the place is going round and round.
Going back, picking up a very pragmatic element and start rolling up the question from a completely different angle could be a very good idea. This is what I thought when I saw the book.
Grand Urban Rules by Alex Lehnerer and published by 010 Publishers “is a tribute to the city’s will to form…”) as it says on the book back cover. The concept is then, nevertheless introduced using two aspects. One is to base it on the building rules or regulations exemplary taken from cities of central Europe and the United States with the exception of Vancouver and Hong Kong. The second aspect is then already the social connection with the statement “Setting standards is first and foremost a cultural act.” So we are back in the social business, but that is most likely a very good move.

Image taken by urbanTick / Book spread with an overview of urban rules.

The book might encounter a difficult problem, a certain resistance from readers to engage, specially from practitioners side. Very often the rules and standards are something that is seen as a negative force engaging in the creative process. This often creates the two sides of the planning an building process. On one hand the authority setting out the rules and on the other hand the planner or architect who has to ‘implement’ them. It often ends in a battle between the two. To some extend this is ok and part of the ongoing process of finding and defining the position of the current culture, to refer back to the statement on the book back cover. But too often this ends in useless, consuming debates.
Refreshing then here, that this publication manages to completely avoid this topic and present, discuss and ‘implement’ regulations as a positive part of the planning process. As you start diving in to the publication and flip through the first 51 pages skimming all 115 examples chosen here you kind of forget about the battle and the misery it turns most debates into. Slowly but steadily a feeling creeps in to your mind, that actually this discussion is a lot larger than the battle between the parties of one building and the personal emotions involved and that it could actually be a cultural, society based discussion that authority and planner could lead and develop together.
Having said that, the book is much more fun and not at all as heavy as my thoughts on this topic. It is actually fun and present the ideas and concept with a certain implicit humor that you will have a constant smile on your face as you read along, that it very rear with architecture, planning publications.
It presents the ‘2h Shadow’ used in Zurich, Switzerland “A high-rise may not place a neighboring residential building in shadow for more than two hours per day.” and the ‘London View Management’ “Through the heights of the adjacent buildings, the upper space around the cathedral shall remain unencumbered by visual interference. Tall structures will be permitted to stand in the cathedral’s view shadow.” or the ‘5-Story Rule of Paris’ “Buildings cannot be taller than the height residents and users are prepared to climb using stairs. For buildings without elevators, this threshold has been reached at a height of five stories.” to name a few examples.

Image taken by urbanTick / Book spread discussing the London View Management

Using these 115 examples the book then develops a clearly structured understanding of rules and regulations by comparing situations, implementations and outcome of different locations. For this it uses plenty of illustrative examples and makes beautiful use of illustrations. By the way the book is designed by Joost Grootens, who also did ‘the New Dutch Water Defence Line’.
To sum up, this is a brilliant read and a book that could lead a new and much more open debate around the implications and possibilities of identity of the place.

Lehnerer, A., 2008. Grand Urban Rules, Rotterdam: 010 Publishers.

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I have been talking a lot recently about the creation of space as a synthesis of body and body movement. The idea is directly linked to observations or better visualisation method used for the UrbanDiary data.
The track log is simply points with a lat/long coordinate and a time stamp. However it can be assumes that around this location up to certain distance, depending on physical objects, the environment is experienced. Regarding the sequencing along the clock time information, these experience multiply and over time create a spatial corridor.
Purely by thinking of the body as a physical object moving you can imagine the same creation of ‘space’. This idea heavily draws on the use of memory, of the fading ‘space’ and the imagination of possible ‘spaces’.
To illustrate this idea of choreographed movement here is a series of dance moves that create the space along a clearly defined stepping sequence.
Image taken from chas.utoronto.ca – T’ai-chi footwork

The instruction to Thriller – taken from Nada Mas

For the Thriller instruction here is the original for more facial expression! check it out.

Thriller from Mauro Firmo on Vimeo.

If you have noting to do over the weekend here is the step by step youtube instruction.

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The discussion around space is a complex topic and it seems that architects and planners are amongst the people having the biggest difficulties defining it. The reason might be lent two the fact that they have to deal with a unequal pair or space as in the construction of physical objects as well as the creation of space as a resulting void. This shall not be read as a final definition of the nature of space. It is only a attempt to collect some examples on the discussion around space.
I would like to start with the widely accepted idea of the figure ground representation of built form. I believe this technique is derived from the Nolli plan of Rome, invented by Giambattista Nolli and published in 1748. In essence it is the representation of physical form in black, leaving the void (space) in between white.

Image taken from the Nolli Map Engine 1.0 by James Tice and Eric Steiner

You guessed it, this is the ultimate claim of objectivity implemented in the plan. However, usually it is claimed o be in use only for visualisation and communication purposes. Nevertheless it also contains the implementation of truth and the establishment of power through the plan.
Bill Hillier describes space in his book ‘Space is the Machine’ 1996 as: “Space is, however, a more inherently difficult topic than physical form, for two reasons. First, space is vacancy rather than thing, so even its bodily nature is not obvious, and cannot be taken for granted in the way that we think we can take objects for granted” (Hillier 1996, p 26). He continues however with “Space is quite simply, what we use in buildings” (Hillier 1996, p 28). And finally he comes up with an astonishing example of a spatial description (and this is the reason it stands in this context to the Nolli plan).

Image by Hillier, taken from Space is the Machine, Fig 1.22 on page 30

For me this image represents two things. For one this is the statement of intent to follow the tradition of the Nolli figure-ground representation as the visualisation for space, and secondly it raises the question of what exists outside the black line. To some extend, I think, the question is answered with the implied assumption that space is taken in a Euclidean sense as a container, a box that you can put things in and arrange them – boxSpace.
In architecture many famous example of the employment of the Nolli Plan can be found. See for example Ado Rossi.
His take on architecture and the representation has largely influenced the Soglio study and the in this context developed representation techniques. The study on alpine architecture in the village of Soglio in Switzerland was conducted by the Institute of Architecture of the University of Applied Science Basel and lead by Michael Alder.

Image taken from ‘Soglio – Siedlungen und Bauten’ – Ground Floor whole settlement

This example takes the idea of figure-ground to the level of the settlement. It completely relies on the rule of accessibility as the guide for spatial representation. In this sense it is what Hillier is talking about in his example. Space is the vacancy between for the human body impenetrable material (I should say object here I guess). In this sense you could probably also call it an accessibility map or a walking guide.
This is then how Hillier introduces the space syntax concept of space description, as a sequence of, for the human body, accessible spaces.
He says: “…related space, almost by definition, cannot be seen all at once, but require movement from one to other to experience the whole” (Hillier 1996, p 26). Interesting here for me is that to some extend this raises some critique on the figure-ground idea of space, as it employees movement ‘to experience the whole’. But more of this in a following post.

As a physical manifestation of this concept here an example I recently came across on A Daily Dose of Architecture. In some sense this is the above space Box concept in built, including the fabrication and installation process.

Images by FNP – The project ‘S(ch)austall’ as published by DBZ-online

Alder, M. & Giovanoli, D., 1997. Soglio: Siedlungen und Bauten / Insediamenti e construzioni 2nd ed., Birkhäuser Basel.
Hillier, B., 1996. Space Is the Machine: A Configurational Theory of Architecture, New York: Cambridge University Press.

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To continue from the post on the origin of architecture, which I have to admit wrote in a haste, there is an interesting talk by Greg Lynn on his project ‘New City’. It continues the debate with a lot of critique on the contemporary state of the city, but especially critique on the way the city is thought of, not only if we take virtual representations as indicators of the general understanding of urban aspects.

Image by imaginary forces – Screenshot taken from NewCity clip – the New City toroids.

Earlier this year Greg Lynn has given a talk that was broadcasted in the Seed Design talks series with the title ‘New City’. He was talking about a recent project he had on exhibition at the MoMa. It was the idea of developing a virtual world from an architectural point of view. His analysis of existing spatial and especially architectural representation in virtual worlds is quit interesting. I do not really have virtual world experience, like Second Life or something, but this is to some extend down to the visual representation. To me the graphics are simply ridiculous, why should I use this to represent my virtual self if I cannot identify myself with it? I can however identify with the graphical language used by Lynn. But then I think, this represents a very specific social grouping thorough factors like, culture, education, background, financial situation, location and so on. Whether you choose one over the other is not an as free decision as we might like to think of it as.
However this might be a side line of the debate, in terms of the evolution it is obvious that Lynn very cleverly positions his work in this context. His introduction makes good use of and plays well with the expectations of the audience. He knows exactly what this social group is looking for.

The most interesting aspect Lynn is talking about in this presentation to me is his critique on the spatial configuration. He says: “The world is not…ah..its not a globe. I mean I do think… I, I, do think Google Earth is fabulous, but the idea that you go on the internet to see what the world looks like and you find this kind of 15th Century globe sitting there, that you spin around on it on an axis, is … is very strange to me. (at 05.50 in the seeds clip”
So what the come up with is a series of rings called toroids, that are interlocked to replace the globe. it is an interesting idea and has a logic to it as he is talking about it. However there is definitely critique in terms of space, distance, separation and so on. However the visualisations are pretty sexy and this is probably what it needs to be.
However what I am really not convinced by is the actual representation of architecture. This has a long way to go. It looks at the moment like space box renderings. They are following a gravity model to structure activities, but the dealing with the actual form of something needs to be developed.
Especially in the context of the concepts of space and time as social conventions. The current model of space and time could be described as being based on the idea of a market place as the definition of a location and a time. However this would also needed to be radically rethought in this proposal, especially as Lynn introduces this new city as “a new sort of encyclopedia”. This would move the framework from the trade focus towards a focus of knowledge and this might generate a space time construction based on the library as the location and the past as the time.
However have a look at the talk it is only 20 something minutes so a good clip for the lunch brake.

Seedmagazine.com Seed Design Series

Here is an interview with Greg Lynn where he discusses the propsal.

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