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CYCLES in Urban Environments

CYCLES in Urban Environments Investigating Temporal Rhythms

Fabian Neuhaus

Dedicated to Malik



This book is based on the Masters Thesis

I would like to thank all these different people

I wrote for my MSc in Urban Design at the

who supported my work on this report and

Bartett School of Architecture at UCL. For this

throughout the year here in London.

work I was awarded a Distinction.

First of all I would like to thank my family, Malik

It is now transformed into summarizes



book and

and Sandra who took some part in the research


work and supported me always with whatever

urban phenomenon as well as a section were

they could.

initial findings are translated and used to

Special thanks go to my tutor Olaf Kneer, for

extend on a proposal of a floating city located

his support, all his superb inputs, critical

in the Thames Estuary in the UK.

questions, and in general for his good mood

The publication also incudes in the addendum

and positive nature, not only but particularly

a number of essays written in the context of

during the work on this report.

this investigations.

I would also like to thank my classmates Jeff Ho, Luis Suarez, Thiresh Govender and others,

fan, April 2010

for their inputs and critical remarks about the work during the development of this report but also throughout the whole year. Thanks go also to Anika Mittal and Juergen Haepp with whom I developed the AKA project that became the testing environment for the second part of this report. All the basic ideas in connection with AKA and some of cAKA are developed by the three of us together. Special thanks also go to my professor Colin Fournier certainly for his inputs, but also for his invitation to take part in this course and especially for his offer and encouragement to stay on the course and finish my Masters here at the Bartlett School of Architecture in London. This year of studies in London was only possible with the financial support of the Stiftung fur Architektur Geisendorf. fan, September 2006


Abstract This book explores the appearance and

Juergen Haepp and myself earlier during the

impact of cycles in urban surroundings and,

Urban Design Course at the Bartlett School of

in a second stage, their potential for an urban

Architecture. The previous AKA project is taken


as a base to test the potential of cycles for a

Cycles appear in any part of life. Examples

new proposal named as cAKA.

can be found in time, economics, environment

The new proposal builds on the ideas of a

... and they can be seasons, days, technology,

floating city in the Thames Estuary as a new



development for the growth of London in the

happenings like rush hour or basic needs such

Thames Gateway. It is not the aim of the cAKA

as eating and sleeping.

proposal to answer all the remaining questions

Cycles appear through a wide range of scales

on the earlier project, but to densify certain

and often without referring to them.

aspects of cycles within the environment of a

They appear out of subsystems evolving over

proposal. The research work therefore acts as

time and generations. The peculiarity of cycles

a source of many new aspects to be looked at

is the fact that they are closed systems in

in this very special environment of an urban

terms of their repetition. Each cycle repeats

development on water.





itself along its script. This applies a particular rhythm to urban life. But as they are not


synchronized they interfere/overlap with/sit

Cycle, Cycles, Rhythm, System, Urban system,

on top of/disturb/... one another. This can be a

Arkway [AKA], Thames Estuary, Clockbank,

source of movement and action in urban life. A very abstract picture for this could be a clock

Word count

mechanism - of course, here all the different


wheels are working closely together for one goal - but maybe cycles in a system are doing this too, just in a different sense, in the sense that the urban system adapts to it. The first part of the report is about research work carried out during the month of July 2006. I observed my personal interaction with the city in terms of different cycles in order to explore different types and their impact. The second part translates different conclusions from the research work onto a proposal based in the Thames Estuary. This work builds up on the AKA project developed by Anika Mittal,






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INTRO c On Cycles Changes and recurrence are the sense of being

In one of my earlier essays in this course, I

alive - things gone by, death to come, and

wrote on system theory. I thought of the city as

present awareness. The world around us, so

a system in relation to the system theory that

much of it our own creation, shifts continually

evolved from Bertanalffyâ&#x20AC;&#x2DC;s work on natural

and often bewilders us. We reach out to that

systems [Bertanalffy, 1968]. I looked at this

world to preserve or to change it, and so to

theory of systems and subsystems and how

make visible our desire. The arguments of

they are constituted out of elements, how

planning all come down to the management of

they define their dynamic borders through

change [Kevin Lynch, What Time is this Place,

relationships between themselves. â&#x20AC;&#x153;The whole

p 01].

is more than the sum of its partsâ&#x20AC;&#x153; [Aristotle, in

This short research work aims to explore

the Metaphysics].

the impact of different cycles on the urban

I can imagine cycles to be an element in this

environment of a city. The more I try to search

picture of a system. It could be the element that

for cycles in my surrounding, the more I see all

brings in a third aspect, the aspect of movement.

actions going in cyclical operations. It seems

This can be all different kinds of movement -

to me as if the city life is kind of programmed

pedestrian movement or material flows; or

along these patterns of repeated actions in daily

on an abstract level just the representation of

routines. Due to their repetitive pattern it can

life and time. Besides movement, the cycles

be easily compared with a computer program

introduce a tool of constant feedback inputs

that just repeats its commands along a defined

through repetition. On this basis the system

string of codes. But for me, cycles in real life

can take decisions and deal with changing

seem to be more flexible, more adaptive and

environments and different impacts.

more playful.

This brought about a second picture of how to

The first picture I had in mind of cycles in the

look at the city.

city was the mechanical clockwork like the

I would like to introduce the origin of the idea of

ones used in analogue watches. But the further

looking at cycles. The AKA project of a floating

I developed this research and later transformed

city in the Thames Estuary, developed in a

it into the project, I realize how deeply the

group with Anika Mittal, Juergen Haepp and

cycles are connected to actual urban life. And

myself earlier in this course, talked about a lot

this life is probably the essential element of the

of different things like reconfiguration, process

city, the one thing that makes any environment

and self organisation. But the main topic from

lovely, enjoyable and familiar.

the beginning was mobility and movement. We had the picture of total mobility that would



surprisingly a lot of car brands advertise their new models. Alongside this came the images of the new Disney-Pixar animation movie Cars, that will be on display soon. Each of these themes applied a specific message and atmosphere to the urban environment and most of us got the information. Taking a broader view, the changing rhythms of advertising displays - tied to the rhythms of product innovation - creates a consonance and interesting dialogue with other city rhythms such as cycles of urban regeneration and decay [Anne Cronin, Urban Advertising: a Machine for Thinking?, Urban Design, winter 2006, issue 97, p.10-11]. But what was more interesting for me about these examples is the way the city surface is changing and I was able to observe this change of material cycles on this example. If cities are continually made and remade, advertising must be understood as one of those elements that constitute the urban [Anne Cronin, Urban Advertising: a Machine for Thinking?, Urban Design, winter 2006, issue 97, p.10-11].




With this background of research work on cycles through my observations in the city of London I go back to the AKA project and apply certain new aspects. It is on the one hand a tool to develop a project; but, on the other hand, it is also kind of a test run to see what certain aspects of cycles as described before really mean in a urban environment and whether the interpretation is useful.





Supply Unit - the Weekly Cycle Every unit has a self sufficiency of something between one and two weeks. This means they can store goods, fresh water, energy and waste. The need to empty and refill can be served on different locations. Ashore there are fixed stations similar to gas stations,and in the structure there are supply units that do this job. This crawler applies a cycle on a weekly scale to the single units in the structure. The supply unit picks up rubbish and waste water, but it also supplies units with fresh water and energy in different forms. It travels along and sometimes through the structure from unit to unit and reaches out with its flexible arms to attach to them and exchange goods. The tentacles are used to pump waste and water. As the structure keeps changing the Crawler adapts to these changes as part of the structure. It doesn’t have a fixed route, but the Crawler has a certain speed so that one can calculate its arrival approximately. But the units can change their location according to the Crawler’s path in order to get supply. To ask for supply one can put a request on the area’s intranet and the Crawler automatically generates a new path. There is no need to be at home, supply will be done automatically.



Connections to land are good and the exchange functions in both directions, through the existing pier of Southend on the east side. On the west side, there is a fairly strong connection to Canvey Island. This connection is affected by the tide and only operates during high tide. The sandbank appearing during low tide attracts lots of people from these existing settlements to come out to Clock Bank. The flow of people goes with the movement of the tide. Interconnections between the AKA areas is very strong. Clock Bank and Nore an especially well connected due to their central location. There is exchange of people as the two complement in usage terms. Nore is more business orientated; Clock Bank is more focused on retail. Usage The character is mainly dominated by a mixture of shopping, entertainment and culture. It is comparable to Soho in central London. Narrow streets, small hip shops, nightlife, and a special ambience is achieved by having different cultural groups inhabiting zones. The part time open space is a very important part of the Clock Bank identity. It brings in some leisure activities. Cycles On a yearly scale the natural seasons affect the structure in terms of number of inhabitants. During winter there are far fewer people actually living here and therefore housing is exchanged by larger structures. During summer the housing units move back in

>Clock Bank comparison - central London,

and larger structures are pushed out. The

Soho [upside down], showing Hyde Park, Oxford

economical cycle of the retail business affects

Street and the British Museum.





>This page: CBcanveypoint with activities and landscape contours of the tidal area. >>Next page: CBcanveypoint on two different days with each two conditions of tide impact.



Day-time activ

Night-time act





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