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Tag "urbanMachine"

Strong concepts and approaches in planning, shaping and maintaining urban areas are very scarce these days and it is more a ‘we figure it out by ourselves’ climate. At least if one dwells in the romanic admiration of past epochs. Looking back, from a different standpoint, puts a different perspective on things and relating this to current or upcoming tasks, one is tempted to believe everything was simpler and better in the old days. (But it was not! as a statement to move on.) Still the lack of a strategy, an overall idea or a concept one can relate projects, processes and task to is a problem. Not so much for the quality of the output or the individual project, but for the discipline and the communication. So much effort needs to be put in for the translation or the connection that too often this is neglected. In this sense it hinders the progress, the richness and the ability to react on different levels.
A approach that has been recently dug out and is now published in a book with a lot of contextual information and supported by case studyes illustrating the point is by Luuk Boelens ‘The Urban COnnection – An actor relational approach to urban planning‘ published by 010 Publishers. The concept of an actor oriented practice contrasts directly with the traditional retrospective analysis of studies. The benefit is the concrete aspects of the examples as well as the suggestions and solution orientated conclusions well suited for a globalising but fragmenting world. Speaking of globalisation, this, I believe, forms an important part of the context in which this publication stands. On one hand reflected in the choice of case studies represented in the ‘referencial argument’ presented as ‘boxes’ or special inter chapters, looking at Denver and Dallas-Fort Worth, the Pearl River Delta, Tokyo, Buenos Aires and Sao Paulo. On the other hand this reflects the topics raised in the current debate concerned with global phenomena as well as the vanishing identity of local areas.
This is obvious a massive task, but strikingly successful. By touching on and integrating a multidisciplinary perspective on planning, economics, social geography and governance this starts to paint a holistic picture. Explained in a few words, Jaqueline Cramer, Minister of the Environment and Spatial Planning, tried to summarise the concept as: “It’s not them, it’s just a whole lot of us.”
For me this is the central and most important argument for a new approach, claiming back owner ship of the urban areas, the spaces and landscapes. It is not a service out there that we enjoy, its not a shopping mall and its not a place we payed for an entry ticket! On the contrary as Cramer puts it it is us, we make the city.
This of course brings with it the responsibility a;; of us have to carry, the most normal thing in the world, one could argue, has become the privilege of the elite role models.
The content of the publication is structured in two parts. First as a ‘scientific argument’ in five chapters: ‘Dutch spatial planningin transition’, ‘Main and brainport planning 2.0’, ‘Transnational communities’, ‘Institutional order via association’ and ‘Outlines for a new planning future’. This is followed by the second part of the earlier mentioned ‘Referential argument’ in two chapters: ‘A relational tale of metropolises’ and ‘References as suggestion for further research’.

Image by 010 Publishers / Spread 60-61 ‘The Urban Connection – An actor relational approach to urban planning.

The examples in the ‘boxes’ examine one example each in specific detail and wider context. The first box focuses on Rotterdam: from staple port to main port and further. Here the usual historical facts and stories are presented, but with a special focus on the actors. In a lot of detail the individuals or companies are portrayed to find out about their role and actions in a wider context. This not only makes the story a lot more interesting but actually allows for an additional perspective. It does require to some extend a courageous stand to tackle the historic problem with this sort of a standpoint, since the author has to leave the tall platform of objectivity and take on a more subjective position. This is, as beautifully demonstrated here, however very beneficial.

Image by 010 Publishers / Spread 108-109 ‘The Urban Connection – An actor relational approach to urban planning.

In the chapter transnational communities South America stands a the centre with a focus on Buenos Aires and Sao Paulo who both are largely immigrant cities, not least based on the fact both are founded by European Colonials, the Spanish and Portuguese respectively. These immigrants forme large communities in these urban areas and in general identify clearly with the place. This is for me a very interesting point of view that is argued here, how these transnational communities play a major role in the running of these cities portrayed as actors and not as usual as part of the problem. This completely changes the picture and disarms all the standard arguments and solutions on the spot. A joy, opening new perspectives that were thought to be lost in the haystack.

A book that outlines an approach that doe not only sound promising but actually looks promising. The richness of examples and concrete conclusions and suggestions make this a perfect starting point for experts of the trans disciplinary field and global community to change their minds and perspectives. For many I imagine this will be spoken from the heart. Finally something to hold in the hands as a ‘leitmotif’ for everyday practice.

The book can also be found online at Google Books for a first read, but as usual the previe is restricted in parts.

Image by 010 Publishers / Book cover ‘The Urban Connection – An actor relational approach to urban planning.

Boelens, L., 2009. The Urban Connection: An Actor-relational Approach to Urban Planning, 010 Publishers.

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The publication has been reworked and we can now feature an updated version of the preview. See previous version HERE. We also offer a few more pages for you to read. Not much sorry. Each chapter is lead in by an essay, each written by an academic or professional with a specific interest and expertise in the particular topic. It will set the scene to the topic and beyond.
The book is illustrated with 400 tiny graphics in black and white. The content is full indexed to find tags easily. References and links in the text are fully ported and are directly accessible through the blog, so no tedious typing here.

Contributors: Sandra Abegglen, Matthew Dance, Jeff Ho, Ana Rebelo, Luis Suarez, Zahra Azizi

The preview below is really only a preview. Intro and outro are more or less complete, each chapter is only present with the first page of each section. But it should give you an idea of what the book will be like.
Anyway, also the cover now goes bold very much in the sense of the recent trend of pimped publication. You can see this as an homage to all these books that appear big and bold, but actually have some really ephemeral content. Feedback welcome! If you would like to have a look at the full publication drop me a line and I can give you access.

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There are things and things in our material world, that are not the same. Some things, especially if they inherit the ability to change between different forms and states or even context, are contradictially received. This phenomenon is known in all areas, but it is particularly distinct in the context of the environment. More so because it is so consequently denied.
And I am probably taking it a little far here, but a great deal of the sustainability debate of the recent decade is related to this denial of context and integrativity of more than a century of constructing and theorizing environment. So in this context the debate about how and especially why we should build ecological or sustainable buildings and cities makes more sense. Because of the radical and to a large extend successful exclusion of anything unplanned, uncontrolled we now are doomed to sit out the debate around how to live a life on our planet and to learn to accept that everything is part of the plan even and particularly the planner. This is a tuff one, I know, but there is no return, we have to obey the culture we live in (@geno).
Beauty might lie in this. Louis Sullivan wrote a poem to one such banned commpanion of the environment:

“I made a little one to a weed the other day. I like weeds: they have so much ‘style’ to them and when I find them where they grow free they seem most interesting and suggestive to me. I think I’m something of a weed myself….And then there are so many of them, and they differ so much in shape, colour and arrangement; the form follows the function so beautifully as you would say. I wish I knew the names of the little rascals; then it seems to me, I could talk to them better.” (David Gissen (2009), Subnature. p. 154)

In his book Subnature – Architecture’s Other Environments, published by Princeton Architectural Press, the author David Gissen goes to a great length to shade light on different aspects of denial of context in the practical and theoretical construction of environment. It is a book that you probably wouldn’t take first down from the shelve in the store, but not because it is not good written or pleasant looking (the opposite is true), but very likely because the topic puts oneself against so much practice and cultural conventions, that it might still be hard for people to take this step of acceptance.
It is worth it, moreover it is necessary and I believe this publication is only the start of the theorization of a movement that has developed tools and practices to allow numerous completely forgotten dimensions to feed into the man made environment.
Gissen has positioned the book very cleverly out of the main line of commercial sustainability debate and with this can avoid all the unnecessary discussion around the education of professionals and can concentrate on actually discuss concrete examples, approaches and theories on this subject.
The book is organised in three parts. Part one is on darkness, smoke, gas, exhaust; Part two is on dust, puddles, mud and debris; Part three is on weeds, insects, pigeons and crowds. A not on first blink self explaining structure, but as you dive into the content a skeleton that starts to make sense as Gissen continuously feeds the reader with examples. An this is really the strength of the book. The author has illustrations for most of his arguments and subjects. This is really brilliant and pulls the reader in immediately. It is not one of these “I tell you to to this!” books, but a real discussion of the subject matter. THe examples are not presented as right or wrong, but as a way of reading something, leaving it open for the reader to read more into it or read something completely different from it. This is something very few books mange to do, creating this platform for an debate between professionals.
For the conclusion, I realize that I have actually given away very little on the content of the book, but I guess this is a good thing in this context. There is little point in me repeating what David Gissen has put so beautifully and engaging in print. This is simply a must read, if you are prepared to take the plunge and be prepared to see the world, and definitely your work, with different eyes.
For further and detailed reviews visit Landsacpe+Urbanism or Archidose or see the authors blog for a 11 point list on Subnature.

Image taken from HTcExperiments / Alternative book cover, showing the work by Jorge Otero Pailos.

Gissen, D., 2009. Subnature: Architecture’s Other Environments 1st ed., Princeton Architectural Press.

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Visualisation of the transport network of Washington D.C. over 24 hours. Developed by Rahul Nair in Processing. It is visualised in processing with a data set from WMATA transit system. The transport network has made their dat available through the open Google Transit Feed Specification (GTFS). If you want to have a go the set is available from HERE. It has been made available to allow for the third party development of application, especially mobile applications for travellers. This way the transport provider hopes to source attractive and convenient applications without having to pay for it. A good plan I guess. However, what I didn’t know is that there is a whole lot of feeds available through this GTFS schema. The list can be found HERE, only US, but pretty cool.
Beautiful how the the dots buzz around. The back and forward pattern is not as obvious as expected, for this the D.C. area is simply too busy. The overall pattern of an ebb between two and four in the morning is something one would expect, however it seems surprisingly short.

Second try can be found HERE.

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Infrastructure plays an important role in our everyday life. It is the part that drives the urbanMachine. In recent years the work and especially the design of the infrastructure ‘objects’ has received a lot more public attention. The idea of ‘beautiful’ infrastructure ‘objects’ has obviously settled by now and this demonstrates the new Nai Publishers publication ‘The Landscape of Contemporary Infrastructure’ by Kelly Shannon and Marcel Smets. Probably this public shift has to be seen in a wider context, than simply the recent times. The conceptualisation of the urban alias infrastructure derives from the time of the industrialisation through to the futurists and mainly catalysed by the modernist movement. The importance of ‘form follows function’ for the trends of ‘iconic’ objects in architecture of the late nineties and early twenty-first century have translated onto infrastructure work. Traditionally this was the field of engineers but has consequently been taken over by architects. The gradual importance of the architect is reflected in the book, all the projects are classified first by the architect and if applicable followed by landscape architect, engineer, developer or artist.

Image taken from The Landscape of Contemporary Infrastructure / ‘Tunnel Artifice’ (1988-2008) by Architects Renato Salvi and Flora Rucjat-Roncati / on page 146-147

The book demonstrates the contemporary state of infrastructure design on a palette of projects drawn from around the world. With its 74 examples the publication could be called a encyclopedia of infrastructure projects and to some extend it claims to be a register of archetypes. Archetypes might be a bit too ambitious but icons definitely. It features the Yokohama Port Terminal by Foreign Office Architects (1995-2001), the Oresund Bridge and Tunnel by Architect Georg K.S. Rotne and Engineer ASO Group, Oresund Link Consultants (1992-2000), the High Line Park, by Architect Dillier Scofidio + Renfro and Landscape Architect James Corner Field Operations (2005-2010), the Orient Station by Architect Santiago Calatrava (1993-1998), the Millau Viaduct by Architect Foster + Partner, Bridge Engineer Michel Virlogeux and Landscape Architect Agency Ter (1993-2005), the Toledo Escalators and Car Park by Architect Martinez Lapena-Torres Architectes (1997-2000), the Hoenheim-Nord Terminus by Architect Zaha Hadid Architects (1999-2001) and the Curitiba Bus System by Architect Jaime Lerner (1966-1990) to name a few of the known examples. However there are gems to be discovered between the known examples, for example the Leidsche Rijn Bridges by Architect Maxwan Architects and Urbanists (1995-2005) or the Casar de Caceres Bus Station by Architect Justo Garcia Rubio and Engineer Jaime Cervera Bravo (1998-2003). The bridges documented in the book are really nice and the appearance of bridges has changed quite a lot in recent years, however on the other hand it still seems impossible to design a similarly beautiful rest place for a high way.
The content is structured into four chapters. The authors have chosen not to go with the common categories of infrastructure classification. The taxonomy here is structured into mobility ‘Imprints of Mobility on the Landscape’, physical presence ‘Physical Presence in the Landscape’, movement ‘The Perception of Landscape Through Movement‘ and public character ‘Infrastructure as Public Space. The authors explain their decision: ”… at a time when computer-refined search engines and availability of information are so prevalent, the mere compilation of cases has become rather senseless. Such a catalog risks becoming quickly outdated and will necessarily be incomplete. A taxonomy of design attitudes, by contrast, should remain valid over time.“ It could be argued against this approach, however the taxonomy is very consistent develop for this publication. In this sense it makes perfect sense and together with the detailed introductions to each chapter drive the book. It could almost be said that this is really the feature that distinguishes this book from any other collection of infrastructure projects. From this view point the examples can be seen as mere illustrations. However this description would not live up to the richness of the individual example. The fact that each projects documented on a spread also live on this independent level makes this publication a must have.

Image taken from The Landscape of Contemporary Infrastructure / ‘Dutch”Orgware“’Leidsche Rijn Bridges by Architect Maxwan Architects and Urbanists

Nevertheless, two points of critic need to be raised. The first one is the conceptualisation of infrastructure in independent ‘objects’. This approach clearly follows the iconic presentation of architectural projects of the OMA or Herzog and de Meuron type. Yes, it is a good way to reach out to consumers beyond practitioners and experts, as they are served with ready to consume glossy images. It fits the current, self promoted architectural ‘Zeitgeist’ of iconic, distinct, clean projects. However it misses the opportunity to establish infrastructure as something more than an ‘object’, but rather a collection of ‘objects’ or even better a network. Of course the bridge was contracted with this architect and delivered as such, but it is part of a national or maybe international network of highways. The same can be said of train stations, airports, tunnels and even car parks. More than architecture (building) projects the infrastructure calls for the context it is embedded to be considered. Take a new tram line e.g. ‘Floating Boxes’ Alicante Tram Stop (2005-2006 by Architect Subarquitectura on page 198-199. The ‘architecture’ is lovely, a brilliant example, but isn’t there a lot of infrastructure missed out concerning the tramline connecting ”a sting of towns along the Mediterranean coast“ ? The only example that actually makes use of a map to illustrate its extend and interconnection is the Qingai-Tibet Railroad from Xining to Lhasa by Engineer Li Jin Cheng (2001-2006). It has to be said, however that the authors do mention aspects of networks and context in the introduction texts, but it is largely absent from the individual project documentations.

Image taken from planningkorea.com / the tram stop at night

The second point it the selection of presented project. There is a lot of infrastructure been left out. What about Dams e.g. the Thames Barrier; Canals e.g. Panama; Pipelines; Power Stations; Military infrastructure; research facilities e.g. Antarctica stations or space missions or CERN; environmental disaster preventions e.g. storm surges, walls and dams; grids e.g. telecommunication, power; … The short answer might be they don’t fir the iconic criteria if this was one, but the long answer might be that the field of infrastructure is simply too vast to fit into one publication and this would call for a Volume 2. As the present publications makes it on the list of must haves, a volume 2 is definitely something to consider. Table of content available from HERE.

From urbanTick 4

Image taken from Nai Publishers website / a sample spread introducing the La Granja Escalator project by José Antonio Martínez Lapeña & Elías Torres Archit, which could already be called a classic example.

Shannon, K. & Smets, M., 2010. The Landscape of Contemporary Infrastructure, Rotterdam: NAi Publishers.

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Kevin Lynch’s book ‘The view from the Road’ is on one hand a really interesting and straight forward investigation on how to describe and classify aspects of the city from a particular viewpoint. On the other hand it is also a beautiful narrative engaging with the subject. Aspects of mobility are important in the preliminary conception of urban narrative as a succession. Graham Shane points out that Foucault identified the ship as the heterotopia par excellence mainly because of its quality of mobility and time (Shane 2005, p.252). Shane introduces the narrative as: “Because of the increasing speed of travel and communications, the Picturesque landscape entered into the narrative of the journey and city”. A series of projects and investigations fit into this approach of the narrative. For one, this is John Brinckerhoff Jackson with ‘The stranger’s path’ (2000) where he describes the town from the perspective of an arriving stranger (male) and how the town is read as a sequence of elements resulting in a aggregated narrative. There is also, in the light of Brinckerhoff Jackson, the Venturi and Scott Brown investigation of a similar object, but from the perspective from behind the wheel of a car. The same is true of Kevin Lynch’s narrative in ‘The view from the road’ (Appleyard, Lynch. 1964). They all document the scenography and choreography of movement and flows within the city or town but also beyond and into the landscape. This to some extent could be called the narrative of the machine, in reference to the urbanMachine and the functional city.

Image by Kevin Lynch, Donald Appleyard, – The View from the Road, detail -taken from chass.utotronto.ca

timeLapse of a road trip through Toronto
Toronto drive time-lapse from Adam @ Unit3 on Vimeo.

Appleyard, D., Lynch, K. & Myer, J.R., 1964. The View from the Road, Cambridge, MA: MIT Press for the Joint Center for Urban Studies of M.I.T. and Harvard University.

Jackson, J.B., 2000. The Stranger’s Path. In Landscape in Sight. London: Yale University Press.

Shane, D.G., 2005. Recombinant Urbanism: Conceptual Modelling in Architecture, Urban Design and City Theory, Chichester: John Wiley & Sons.

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Once more a nice timelapse for the approaching weekend. I think the title of the clip actually is a bit misleading, or a t least it unveils to much of the detail about making it. However the coours and the blending in is really nice and makes you wana go to Liverpool street for a lunch break.

Lunch-Time-Lapse Thursday 09-04-09 from Ace Renegade on Vimeo.

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TimeLapse are always nice and here is a really nice example of old school photography squeezed into an animation finally with the new technique. Further more it fits into the chapter of urbanMachine and is the actual manifestation of on e of Antonio Sant’Elia’s futurist drawings outlining the urban utopia.

Image by Antonio Sant’Elia via Wikipedia

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In term sof the environment we live in there is alot of hidden function, that we are not aware of at times. Normally we do not want to know about everything that is going on in the city and a lot of them can not be seen from the everyday perspective. Still the city machine is rumbling and rotating: in the air, behind the block, around the corner and underneath our feed.
A intriguing visualisation developed as an ad for the metro madrid by lahuellafx

Metro de Madrid: “Transparente” from Shinichiro Matsuda on Vimeo.

same approach used for an ad for foxsportsdesign this time for an HD sports channel.

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One thing leads to another – it could be called a sentence of very old wisdom. But somehow it is also part of our daily experience. A lot of the actions we take will have some form of impact on how we do something afterwards.
As for my day there are some elements that are interlocked. I need the key as I leave the house to lock the door, I can take the tube that would be faster, but on the bus I can read something and it is not as crowded, both ways I need my travel card to get on. The packed lunch depends on the left over of the evening before and the daily hits on the blog depend on what time I upload the new post. Early is good for European readers, whereas later it will be picked up by readers overseas. On the way back the transport issue applies again and if I am late because I wanted to write this additional email, I have to take the tube to get home on time where I will need the key to let myself in.
Our decisions are not only driven by what it is, but by the consequences it might have. I suppose this is called planning.
Still, there are a lot of moments when things are not going according to plan and even this will influence everything there after. Here in Britain, superstition has quite a tradition. Things like not walking under leaders, black cats, numbers and so on are part of people’s decision making process moment by moment.

On an individual daily level it might look as described above. These aspects apply to the whole range of scales too though. On the level of city infrastructure an incident can have the same consequences. An accident on a road in central London will disrupt the commute of thousands of commuters. Greater events, such as 10 cm snow can bring the city to a stand still. However, it somehow works most days and this is all we care for. The city can be imagined as gigantic machinery with hundreds of thousand little elements switches and circuits that work in sync. The most quoted visualization in this context is probably Metropolis, the city machine.

Image film still – Metropolis 1927 by Fritz Lang

What actually happened behind he scene of the real city and how it all works together hardly anyone cares, maybe no one even knows. For a large city it is hard to imagine, that there is one person that REALLY knows why and how everything interlocks. Imagine if this person were superstitious, would the city still work? This would probably turn the whole city into fear over a certain aspect.
This might even be the case with London. Everyone is very excited about 2012 with the Olympics to be held here in London. But on the other hand it does put on a lot of pressure and certainly sparks some fear.

However the aspect of interlocking events have been subject to great works in the world of art. The artists Peter Fischli und David Weiss created the famous movie “Der Lauf der Dinge” (The Way Things Go) in 1987. Similar to a chain reaction a motion is unleashed that travels through a setting, constantly changing its form, shape and character. On youtube the full movie is available in three parts. Surprisingly the movie manages to build up a tension carried by curiosity over the just 30 minutes. As a metaphor for an urban machine it works rather well.

Part 01

Part 02

Part 03

The same topic has been used for a car advert by Honda. It is obviously modeled on the above original. There are even some direct quotes.

A very recent interpretation of the theme was hyped on the internet the last week. This time a fundamental shift has taken place. From the very physical and body / object centered original the latest interpretation has replaced the physical aspect with … technology I suppose. The different elements do not touch to pass the motion on any longer. It is all magic here. Nevertheless it is a great demonstration of RFID technology.

Nearness from timo on Vimeo.
Through metro

Even though some of the fundamental aspects of the original “Der Lauf der Dinge” is missing here does it very much resemble the daily life of interlocked actions. It is not so much the curiosity, but the familiarity that builds up the tension in this new example. It is realized by Nearness, a collaboration of Berg and Timo.

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